Friday, October 29, 2010

Teenagers These Days

Barbara: I read this appalling article the other day about a family who came home to their house after a two-week holiday only to find that it had been invaded by a group of teens and used as a party-pad for several days. The kids had destroyed and vandalized the whole house, drinking all the booze and leaving the telltale signs of their sexual escapades in virtually every room. The worst news: the group of teens was known to the family, friends of one of the daughters, each of them receivers of much family favour, from carpooling to pizza-hosting. Apparently, the daughter’s keys had been stolen from her purse and, knowing the family was going to be away, this group of hooligans broke in and wreaked havoc. Oh wait, it gets even worse: despite knowing the names of each kid (the idjits signed their names in a coffee-table book), the police couldn’t press charges because it was too difficult to confirm who had done what. And it’s too expensive for the parents to take any of them to court for nebulous pay-off. And wait, there’s even more: the parents of the kids, despite the fact that the police told them in explicit detail what went down, did absolutely NOTHING. No repercussions (as far as we know) for their children’s heinous actions. And okay, there’s even worse: the teen daughter whose ex-friends perpetrated these crimes? Have all shunned the daughter. Starting a landslide shift away from her at school. She’s the pariah.

Read the article; it’s a fascinating peak into the ugly side of humanity in a horrific car wreck kind of way.

Thing is, I read this article the day I was hosting a houseful of teens myself. My daughter was celebrating her 17th birthday and had asked for a party and sleepover. Because she asks so rarely, my husband and I were happy to host it. I know a lot of her friends and I like them and trust them. But I have to say, the article put the little demon of doubt in my mind. After all, the events described above happened in my own city. Maybe not far from my own home. How could I not consider the possibility of mayhem in the wake of a houseful of teenagers?

But the party went ahead as planned and it was a resoundingly positive experience. Sure, there were a lot of them. And oh my god, the noise. Even the white noise of so many voices is disarming. Never mind the throbbing music, the laughter, the shrieks of delight (no, I mean, SHRIEKS). But they were adorable. They knocked politely at our bedroom door as they arrived to say hello, adding that they hoped they weren’t being too obnoxious and thanking us profusely (oh, and exercising their newfound skills at ego-boosting: we were the kindest, sweetest, most forthcoming, best cooks, chillest peeps EVER). I mean, it was awesome! And when it was all over (the next morning really because several of them slept over), they cleaned the house and proffered more profuse thanks before they went their adorable merry ways.

Teens these days? Despite the above article, I think they get a tough rap. Sure, there are some bad apples. And their immature followers. But so so many of them are decent, wonderful, thoughtful beings. With a lot on their minds and in their hearts. Remember those days?

Deb: Oh, I do indeed remember those days, Barb. And trust me, we were wild and we could party! But we never ever would think of destroying our friends’ parents’ property in any way. I read that article too and thought, “Wow, was I a teen on another planet?”  We would get drunk, stoned, and silly but we were always careful and respectful of our friends’ homes. Even in the park we had a sense of “this is our neighbourhood” and we would not harm a blade of its grass. Okay, we would puke, sure, but that’s good for the soil. So it was so foreign to me when I read that article.

And yeah, Luke had a party here a month ago and same deal as Michele’s party. Respect, noise, drinking, loud noise, eating, drinking, noise ... and respect.  WAY more good teens than bad on this earth. Not news though, right? 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

_SENDING_ Your Love

Luke and Megan
Deb: Recently our wonderful son and his delightful girlfriend celebrated their second-year anniversary––and Facebook was all aTwitter with it! I am not on Facebook, but my husband is and he was telling me about their public outpouring of love for each other and the resulting outpouring of love and support from their friends.

My first thought was, I wonder why they didn’t just email each other privately? These are their deepest most intimate thoughts of love that they are sharing with anyone who has ever friended, poked, or added them. What a funny generation they are, I thought. Nothing is private in their world.

And so I wondered, If love is declared in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, is it still love?

And then I thought about it and how we are always accusing this generation of being distant and removed, of living in a digital world and not touching each other. And I pondered it and realized, this IS their touching.

And more than the technical aspect, truth be told, they are doing what lovers are meant to do. They are proclaiming it loudly for all the cyber-world to hear. Instead of shouting it from the rooftops, they are literally bouncing it off satellites, which in a gorgeous way makes their love out of this world!

Now I know this isn’t for everyone, as some people are very private––which is perfect if it is perfect for their love’s expression. But if you are the type of lover who wants every Tom, Dick and Harry1982 to know your beeswax then why NOT press send when your heart soars?

So I pulled my prude stick out of my arse and thought, Yes, my darling boy, sing love’s praises whenever and wherever you can. Be proud of love in any form! When two hearts love as one, it is so strong it should explode––to infinity and beyond!

Barbara: Ack! “If love is declared in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, is it still love?” LOVE that.

This reminds of when I was first introduced to Facebook (not even a year ago) and noticed there was a “relationship status”. Newly introduced to these public displays of private lives, I worried that all these online teens and young adults were not only having to navigate the fickle seas of love, but also suffering the drama of being added to profiles or not added or, worse, deleted after a break-up. It just brought back all those super-vivid memories of my own adolescent experiences of love, romance, and (agonizing) betrayal, forcing me to imagine them compounded by the piercing gaze of the public forum.

I stuck my nose in too and urged my girls to not have a relationship status unless it was a really, really serious relationship. I mean, how can young people not be drawn to constantly spy on each other’s romantic status (or statii, thanks, Gae!)?! Or at the end of an affair, not wonder in pain how they could be so easily forgotten? Or––as in one friend’s mortified experience––find their profile boldly announce their newly single!!! status, adorned with a floating heart. Newly single?! Her heart had just been ripped unceremoniously from her chest and flung hard against the wall. In her heartbroken despair, she had thought it wise to change her relationship status from “in a relationship” to not, without realizing Facebook would proclaim her availability for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to check out. Yeah, baby.

But I have to say, you make an excellent point, Deb. Being able to proclaim your love is a wonderful and precious thing. Love is a wonderful and precious thing. I have also urged my girls to believe in it wholeheartedly. Even if it only lasts a few months, weeks, days, or even moments. It is a commodity in any shape. And we owe it to our world to have it echo off every forest tree and household wall and orbiting satellite. Shout it from the rooftops, kids. We want to hear you.   

Edited to add: Hey everybody, we placed 3rd in the 2010 Canadian Blogger Awards Personal category. Thank you all sooooo much for supporting us! We are thrilled!

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Don't List

Barbara: The other day, Deb and I were working on a script and we were looking for some touchstone differences between a husband and wife for one (funny) scene. We asked Deb’s husband for some input: what bugs him about his (mostly perfect) wife? It didn’t take him long: when they are snuggling in to watch a movie at night (an activity that Deb has probably just rallied for), it is always a matter of seconds before a telltale ping of an email sounds and Deb’s eyes glance sidelong to her computer (this is really funny when reenacted by our Deb, btw), and only a matter of a few more seconds before Deb must––MUST, I tell you––sidle over to the computer to just––JUST, she swears––peak at what the email might be. Movie on hold. Probably not for the last time that night.

We laughed and laughed.

Beyond the laughing, I didn’t say much. But oh I could recognize Deb’s actions deep in my bones. Lately, it seems that I’m on my computer 90% of the time. If not to write with Deb, well then there’s my other screenplay, a novel re-write, 3 TV show concepts, and 3 other co-written projects. If that’s not enough, I’m blogging (case in point) and emailing and facebooking. The computer has become my other arm. And, you know what? I’ve been waiting for this kinda busy. I remember years ago watching in wonder as a busy colleague opened her datebook and it was FILLED with appointments, jobs, and meetings. I was still a fulltime actor (which means you only work a few handfuls of days a year) and new mom to 2 kids, and I would have given anything to squeeze in a few more commitments. I wanted my day-timer to be FULL. I wanted to be busy busy BUSY.

Be careful what you wish for. Today I found myself with a rare day “off” (after hosting a houseful of teens for my daughter’s 17th birthday––love you, sweetie!). I kicked up my heels and picked up a magazine. Haven’t done this for AGES. And it was lovely and relaxing. And then I got to the inevitable article that was going to burst my happy little bubble. It was an article about how overworked and overwhelmed we all are now. Especially women. With our appointments and jobs and commitments. And that we––here’s the stinger––wear our busy-ness like some kind of badge of honour.

According to the article, it’s one part true need, one part over-extending ourselves, and one part indulgent self-absorption (what, me?). We are making our own worlds. Like busy bees on a mission to build that perfect hive. Then it gets worse: apparently if we never turn our busy-ness off, we might in fact be giving short shrift to the bigger picture of our lives … because there’s no quiet time to really meditate on our choices.

The article does go on to say that it could also just be a phase. You know, you’re crazy busy this month (or week or day), but not so much the next one. It all levels out. So which is it? Coveted (even secretly) busy-ness, menial self-absorption, or a simple and inexorable life-phase?

Deb: Honest to Pete, I was roughing out my post for Wednesday and this was the subject. I love it! But I was a little thin in the fleshing-out department, so this, as it turns out, is perfect. I can respond with the smattering of thoughts that I had.

What I was going to say was that I am constantly amazed by the fact that the thing that can catapult me into the best mood, the happiest headspace, the most solid stress-free zone, is simply––TASKS COMPLETED! I find myself buoyed by the organization of the rec room. I am struck with giddyness when I reconfigure the dog drawer. I dance for joy and dream the dream of innocents when the ironing is done. And I don’t even need to pick up a magazine afterward. But if I do, I turn the pages distracted with giddy self-satisfied thoughts of clean drawers and raked leaves.

This, I was thinking is the adult version of “hitting the clubs”! But instead of false eyelashes and slinky dress, I am all unwashed face and overalls. And deodorant? “I don’t need no fucking deodorant!” That can wait till day’s end and my well-deserved shower! And it’s a long, long shower because I am standing under the hot water reveling in the tidiness of it all. I don’t even notice the shampoo in my eye, so focused am I on the memories of the day’s clean, neat, orderly hours. 

Ahh memories ... like the corners of my mind. Hmmmm, still have to get to those. Another day perhaps. 

And PS: Voting for the Canadian Blogger Awards for Best Personal Blog 2010 closes tomorrow at noon. Thank you all for supporting us! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don’t Bring Me Down!

Deb: Recently a friend was talking about an aspect of her appearance that she hated, lamenting about it. I said that I didn’t agree as I thought she was lovely, which is true. She then said––referring to said appearance-challenge––that I should know what she means given that we share the same atrocity. 

Well, I don’t mind telling you that it bummed me out for a month. A full fucking calendar month … of a 31-dayer! Firstly, it bummed me because I DO NOT SHARE THIS ATROCITY WITH HER! And secondly because ... SHUT UP. Don’t suck me into your whirlpool of despair!

A few weeks later another friend was talking about one of our dear friends and her considerable talents. She said (referring to her own perceived lesser talent) that just like US (she and I), she was just not up to snuff in this particular talent-arena. This bummed me because number one, I DO NOT SHARE THIS LACK OF TALENT, and number two ... SHUT UP. Don’t suck me into your whirlpool of insecurity.

Misery adores company to be sure, but if you have issues, they are your issues. Attaching me to them won’t make your problems go away! All they will serve to do is either make me feel badly about myself or make me resent you for your lack of tact.

Oscar Wilde said, “It is not enough merely to succeed, my friends must also fail.” I do NOT subscribe to this theory. I cheer my friends. I support my friends. I talk my friends up! I network and name-drop my talented friends and try to work with them whenever I can. In fairness, my enemies can fail. Don’t care really. But ... it always pisses me off when I am sucked into the black hole of jealousy and insecurity that I didn’t sign up for!

So talk me up or leave me out. But as the song says, “Don’t bring me down. No, no, no. Don’t bring me down”!

Barbara: God yes, Deb! I have a loud enough inner-voice that has no problem pointing out all my ineptitudes, weaknesses, foibles, and failures. I don’t need a well-meaning friend to add to the chorus. Especially a “well-meaning friend”!

It’s like the pea in the princess’s bed. After you walk miles in the rain and finally collapse in relief atop a tower of feather-soft mattresses, there it is: the godforsaken pea. The test, the irritant, the destroyer of everything fought so hard for and preciously gained. And now your sweet sleep of self-esteem is totally screwed. 

We’ve been everything from “gossips” to “highly competitive” to “crazy spenders” (and a gamut in between). And sorry, but NONE of these things describes me either. Unless we’re talking about Scrabble with my sisters in the middle of a designer sample sale. Wait, what were we talking about?

Anyway, Deb, you and me and the readers of this blog and a bunch of other people, we’re totally awesome.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tapas Friendships

Barbara: It might sound a little demeaning to call a friendship “tapas”. After all, tapas are just little dishes, none a full meal on its own. But think of it: each one is still a chip off the ol’ appetite, a palette-whetter, a delicious morsel in its own right. So maybe not so demeaning, after all, huh???

With the explosion of social networking, I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about relationships suffering because people are now isolating themselves on the internet, hiding behind “false personas” and “superficial connections”. I have to say that in my experience (so far, anyway) nothing could be further from the truth.

Thanks to Facebook and blogging and email, I have never enjoyed so many tasty hors d’oeuvres of friendships in my life. I get to keep up with old but hardly-seen friends and I get to meet new ones. I know these are not the same as real-life, in-the-same-room, no-holds-barred, you-know-all-my-secrets kind of friendships, but they have turned out to be pretty scrumptious just the same. And very satisfying.

These tapas friendships offer a lot of different flavours in one sitting: the spicy one, the soft one, the sweet, the crunchy, the wild. Each “dish” feeds a different need in me. And each one has sustained me in a different way, much like the finest meals have done, just in smaller portions and in more unexpected preparations.

Tapas friendships seem to offer a lot of unconditionals––maybe because there are so few expectations. No one takes it personally if you don’t engage with every thought. And support is so easy to offer because there are no grudging personal histories. Oh my god, the support! Who had this kind of support 10 years ago? I mean, really? I never even knew it possible to feel such warmth and affection on such a grand scale. And who doesn’t thrive with extra and unexpected servings of attention, love, and encouragement?

In fact, we might be on to something. Maybe we can get rid of those chunts who insist on using the internet to spread hate and villainy by feeding the world one tasty morsel of loving friendship at a time. To one deserving diner at a time.

So don’t be offended if I consider you my tapas. Trust that it means I think you’re tasty and satisfying. And if you let me have yours, I’ll let you have mine.

Deb: I love the tapas friendship. Because in my experience––to your point, Barb––the tapas friend has surprised me again and again. It seems like tiny little tapas (yes I know tiny is redundant), but when the chips are down it serves up as a main course complete with salad, soup, and your choice of rice pudding or chocolate mousse. Because the bottom line is ... people constantly surprise me. Friends I have expected the world from, have sometimes let me down, and friends I expected very little from have stepped up and killed me––just killed me––with kindness and support.

But it does not matter because ultimately, I will happily take all the love and friendship you can give me. At this point in my life I relish every kind word and motivating speech. I will take any positive words, accolades, reinforcements, regards, kudos, loves, likes, or “she’s okay”s that you can offer. Bring me the antipasto of friendship and I will supply the bread and the oil. Happily and gratefully.

And PS: we made Round Two (last round) of the Canadian Blogger Awards for Best Personal Blog 2010!! We want to thank you all for supporting us to get to this round. You are the best readers ever!! Voting closes Oct 26 at noon for this the final round. Apparently you can vote once a day (edited to say: once every 24 hours) … but only if you love us once a day, even just a tapas little :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zumba Me!

Deb: I started taking Zumba lessons in September. For those of you who don’t know, Zumba is a major cardio workout with a Latin twist. We samba and mambo and generally shake our money-makers ... which after fifty is defined as "loose-change-maker".

But something happened to me in Zumba class. I decided that I didn’t care if I was the worst one in the class and the reward for that is ... I’m not. Not by a long shot. I am the oldest by a mile and I am bending the deepest and breathing the lightest. My arms and tummy are not rock tight, it’s true. They are not even sand tight, but I’m moving it, mama, and LOVING IT!

I spend one quarter of my time in Zumba trying to get the moves just right and trying to work it to the max. I spend the other three-quarters thinking, “Look at me, Ma, I’m doing it!!!” Honest to Pete, I am tickled to death with myself.

I don’t even think it’s just the fact that I am not awful at it. The real joy comes in the “don’t care” package. Finally after all these years of caring what people will think of me in any and all classes, auditions, and public appearances, I DON’T. And the freedom is worth more than all the calories I am burning. When the gal who owns The Joy of Dance cautioned me that another class I was looking at––lyrical jazz––is tough, I said that I did not at all mind being the worst one. She was surprised and thrilled.

Now full disclosure­­––will tell you that I do dance and have always been athletic, but I do NOT excel at dance at all. In the living room, I am Pavlova and Gwen Vernon (edited to say: Gwen VerDon. Blaming it on middle-age) wrapped up into one. But my issue is the steps you see. The dreaded memory. So as I am moving, I applaud myself when I remember the step and I shake my small-change-maker till I get the next step that I just forgot. But mostly I smile. Big shit-eating grin on my face, I tell ya! After the first class I went up to the teacher to say, “Thank you, I love this class!” And she said, “I know, I could tell”. My heart swelled and I walked away like the Cheshire cat, proudly wearing my Zanadu headband, saying softly to myself, “Atta girl. Well done.”

Barbara: Oh, Deb! Love how I’m picturing you Zumba-ing in the streets, gathering us all behind you like the Pied Piper of free-spirited, don’t give a fig, need a good shimmy and shake, middle-aged (or whatever aged) converts.

I loooooove to dance. Always have. But I am completely lame as a performer of dance. Can’t follow a routine to save my life. But put me on a dance floor with no expectations, no matter how many people around or how bare the floor, I will let loose. As if to save my life.

Trouble is, I don’t have too many invites to shake the ol’ money-maker. The hubby isn’t game. At all. And all the best intentions my gal-pals and I have to cut loose at some club kinda go by the wayside, stymied by distance, work, or pressing responsibilities. Deb, you may have inspired me to join your club. Lead me on, oh Cheshire Cat. Lead me to your dance floor.  

And here’s a little something to maybe inspire you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Kind Of Mother Am I?!

Barbara: Call me crazy, but I’ve finally decided after twenty years of motherhood that there is no sure-fire prescription for parenting. After all these years of being an adult, I can confirm absolutely that kids of unbelievably amazing parents can still stumble and fall (sometimes spectacularly, sometimes heartbreakingly) and kids of terrible, apathetic parents can turn out unbelievably amazing. No great revelation, but still, it seems worth repeating.

They are them. Simple as that.

Why bring this up now? Well, my older daughter just turned 20 yesterday and––while there is no melancholy at all, believe it or not––it did inspire me to reflect on the job I have taken so very seriously for all these years. 
Stefanie at 20
What kind of mother am I? Given that both my daughters are almost grown (the younger one will be 17 in two weeks), I can say with all confidence that I am thrilled with how they turned out. But I am hard-pressed––and this is NOT me being a martyr––to take much of the credit (see above).

Sure, I think I did a pretty good job. But then, as we all do, I committed to the life-lessons I thought were important and worthy and didn’t commit to the ones I thought were incidental and mundane. Clearly, we will all disagree on which is what. My husband and I certainly sometimes did. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just say we always worked it out.
Stefanie at 14
For right or wrong, I’m pretty lenient. Not compared to a lot of parents, but on the sliding scale. Take Stefanie, my now 20-year-old. She is a burgeoning fashion designer. She has always been artistic. When she was a young teen of 14, she decided she wanted to dye her hair pink and pierce her upper lip. I balked. There was no health risk in flamboyant hair and a harmless piercing, so why was I balking? 
Stefanie at 14
Then I realized, I was worried about what people would think. And then I realized I didn’t want my kids to ever EVER make their choices based on what other people thought. Sure, they should understand that people might indeed judge them, but they shouldn't live their lives making choices out of fear. That epiphany shifted my whole parenting mindset.
Stefanie at 15
When Stefanie was rocking this look above, she remembers walking past an older couple and the woman whispering (loudly) to the man: “She looks like she could kill someone and not even care.” My daughter: sweet, peace-loving, fashion-curious, 105 lb-soaking-wet Stefanie.
Stefanie at 16
Stefanie at 16
Stefanie at 17
Stefanie at 17
I also let my kids stay out late. We live in a big city and I grew up in one. The city has taught me one thing: bad things happen at any time of day. So I don’t have a problem with late nights per se. Within reason, of course. Not on a school night. And I must know where they are and that they are with friends. They text or phone with updates. Otherwise, I am a believer in adventures, in exploring, in engaging in the social circle.

I also support their friendships with boys. I know they’ll like who they like and if we give them too hard a time about it, then that critical door would just bang shut between us. I hate “the door” and do everything I can to keep it open, even if I sometimes only manage to keep it slightly ajar.

I’m not preaching to try and convert anyone to this style of parenting. I know what worked for us won’t necessarily work for the next kid (see above) … or their parents. My choices might have been radically different had my children been any different. The trust they’ve received from us is trust they’ve earned.

I don’t regret the fundamental choices I’ve made—maybe I will after they go to therapy––although I do have a roster of dark parenting moments that I deeply regret (clutching my 9-year-old’s hand in angry desperation when she refused to eat her sandwich because it was “gross” during a social brunch for which we paid too much money––when money felt very precarious––and seething at her through gritted teeth to “eat the fucking sandwich.” If you know me at all, you know a) how out-of-character that “fuck” was, particularly directed at my precious––and very young––daughter, and b) I am not given to clutching arms and seething through gritted teeth. It was a dark day that I will never forget. My daughter? Says she has no idea what I’m talking about.)

What do I think I did well? I listened. I listen still. Again, not a martyr––I do it for me as much as I hope it benefits them. Nothing like a long car ride on the way to a soccer game or after a party to hear the best, the worst, the funniest, the strangest, the scariest, the most hopeful parts of their lives. What kind of kids are they? The very best.

Deb: Oh dear God, don’t we all have those moments as parents? The moments of which you are not proud. I still cringe at the memory of my 12-year-old boy asking me gingerly if he could walk to school with his friends …  instead of ME and his friends. Yes, folks, he was 12. Go ahead. Say it. Yes, I deserve your scorn.

And of course my attempt to make learning about sex an open, honest, and healthy discussion between a boy and his parents ended with my darling son cautioning me that he did not need to know quite that much information. Or the time he went to school and attached to his Thomas the Tank Engine sweater courtesy of static cling was my black thong, which the boy told his little friends was “Mummy’s eye patch.” And, ahh yes, the time I was at wits’ ends with him over schoolwork not done, and I pulled the car over, put it in park, turned around and screamed at the boy, “Well, I think it’s time to BUCK UP, ME BUCKOOOOOO!!!” So unaccustomed was I to reprimanding this easygoing child that the phrase just popped up from the old Disney pirate movie section of my brain and out of my mouth. OH, what I would not have given for it to have simply been “Fuck”!!!

And for the record, Barb is a great mom who has a similar general parenting style to mine. Let them be who they will be and allow them their rebellion if it doesn’t hurt them or others. Worked for me and clearly for Barb. We are the proud mistake-makers of three lovely human beings. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Um.....Yeah.....So, Anyway.....

Deb: Barb phoned me late this afternoon to remind me that it was my blog-post tonight. I always have an issue on a long weekend––as I am sure you all do––because Tuesday becomes Monday in my mind and the week leaps forward on me. So, long story short, I just got the message now––5:30––and I have to shower and go out to dinner for 6:30 and I will be home too late to write a post. SO ... hmmmnnn. What’s new? How are all you guys? Lovely weather, huh? Wow, do I ever have a big bruise on my foot. Still have the weird pounding in my left ear. Just had a good workout. I am watching Brothers and Sisters while I work out and it gives me twice the weight loss benefits. One, because I am sweating, and two, because I am crying. Only one episode to go though and I will be finished the latest season. Hmmmn, so anyway, how are you guys? What’s new? Had a great turkey sandwich today with mayo and cranberries and stuffing. Heaven. Really. Bliss. Uhhh, errrr, Barb and I had a really frantic workday today, but actually got lots done. It was good. Yeah. It was really good. Yeah. Ummm, Barb loved her sandwich too. I have a wart on my finger. What’s that about? Never before in my life. Maybe I am turning into a witch. That would be okay. Give me something to blog about. My doctor is burning the wart off. Keeps coming back. I think this time she might have gotten it for good. So, hey, great. Right? Fingers crossed. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh … so I am loving my Zumba classes on Saturday. Fun and great workout…………….

.................................................................................. just got back from my shower. Rushed, but really nice. Hot water and soap. Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ bout.

Anywho, it is 6:13 and I gotta go. For realsies. So, yeah, my point of view is meditating today. Shant wake it. Anywhooooooooooooooooooooo...

Barbara: So you feel it, too, Deb? I am so in the same head-space today. Just kinda out of it and wanting naps and drinks on the front porch. And yet, there’s all this … stuff … to do.

Oh! Just found out that we were nominated for a Canadian Blog Award in the Best Personal Blog category … if any of you want to vote for us. But, of course, you don’t have to. But it would be super-awesome if you did. But no worries.

Anyway, because it’s that kind of day and we really need to leave you with some kind of food for thought, we’re going to post what is maybe the funniest thing we’ve ever seen. Truly. Plus you get food for thought from Ricky Gervais. Which is kinda a neat combo. 

PS: Man, those turkey sandwiches were awesome. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I Noticed

Barbara:Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, but the thought of writing a post about all the things I’m grateful for—while very worthwhile (I am a huge fan of gratitude, HUGE)—felt kinda, how do I say … uninspiring. As a wholehearted devotee of the emotion, gratitude is something I try to revel in daily, not just over turkey and mashed potatoes.

But as a somewhat beleaguered possessor of an always-churning, usually-racing, problem-solving, conundrum-facing, event-replaying, needless-worrying, very busy mind, I thought I would use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to shut the ol’ blabbermouth of a noggin up and just plain notice stuff. Little stuff. So I took my dog for a walk through the urban residential area where we live and I opened my eyes.

I noticed that on a beautiful warm autumn day a lot of men like to wash their cars. But not one woman seems to.

I noticed that swarms of gnats can suddenly appear out of nowhere and enshroud your head, getting stuck in your eyelashes and down your mouth. I noticed how really gross that is.

I noticed that if several bright red splotches on the ground appear in my peripheral vision, I will immediately and without doubt assume there was some horrible crime for which these splotches of fresh blood are the only remaining evidence. But then on closer look, I noticed that sometimes fallen maple leaves can turn so vividly red, they look exactly like splotches of fresh blood. I also noticed that I can feel quite embarrassed at my ridiculous assumptions even if no one else is privy.

I noticed that a lot of cyclists like to wear the Lycra outfits favoured by Tour de France athletes. I wonder why. I noticed not everyone looks very good in skin-tight Lycra. But then they’re exercising, so good for them.

Down by the lake, I noticed that when swans tip their heads and upper bodies over to troll for food, their white elliptical butts look exactly like elegant vases bobbing on the water.

I noticed that a woman’s perfume can waft across the air from quite a distance, even if it is very delicate. I noticed how much I like the scent of delicate perfume.

I noticed that most people when they pass you will not look at you, but if they do and you smile at them, they will usually (but not always) smile back. One older woman’s face went from dour and angry to the most angelically beautiful smile I’d ever seen. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. I noticed how I didn’t like the people who didn’t smile back.

I noticed the house by the lake that’s been abandoned for the thirteen years we’ve lived here has its garage door open and its years of ruined contents spilling out. Maybe someone will finally fix the place up. I noticed an old pillow by the gate on the grass; it still had its pillowcase on and was spattered with grime and dust. It looked like a nap by the gate had been intended then abandoned many years ago. I noticed that the house still looks like it’s haunted. And maybe the house is haunted because nothing except the pillow and garage have changed in all these years, even though the house is on a beautiful property with a primo spot by the lake.

I noticed that when two young brothers play in the leaves together, even if they are talking about monkeys flying in the sky, they can still have unabashed, unconditional love pouring from their eyes. The kind of unrestrained expression you almost never see pouring from grown-up people’s eyes.

I noticed how good it feels to shut my brain up for a few glorious minutes to notice things. Especially after turkey and mashed potatoes and a serious helping of gratitude.

Have you noticed something interesting today?

Deb: I noticed when I was reading this that my puppy was whining. I noticed my husband’s top lip pushes out when he dresses a turkey and in that moment I took time to notice how much I love him. And not just because he is doing the turkey. I noticed that the pilot light on the fireplace behind my head makes the sound of a tiny roaring fire when not on. Kinda like a fireplace in a mouse’s hole. I noticed that the birds outside who are scavenging the last of the apple berries on our tree all have different personalities, except for the ones that don’t. I noticed that when I hold in my pee while I am completing a task I am really proud of myself, even though someone said it isn’t good to do that. I noticed that when the sun hits our green and white variegated leafed bush just right, it looks like snow. I noticed that my camera charge light is on, which means I can take some pictures at our goddaughter’s birthday today. I noticed that her gift is wrapped but I haven’t yet signed the card. I noticed in the sunlight that the grey jacket I wore today does not match the plaid colours in my new pants. What I thought was a grey stripe, is pale yellow. I further noticed that I don’t care. And I certainly noticed that Thanksgiving ROCKS. Gorgeous warm weather, sunlight, and a smattering of cloud, the leaves giving off glorious colours, the smell of turkey and a beautiful table. And plenty to be thankful for. And thanks to Barb for inspiring me to notice too. I watched the wee Bairn chase a red leaf today on our walk and noticed that I was laughing out loud.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our Canadian and British friends! Gobble Gobble. Or Tofu Tofu!!!

And in a Thanksgiving-inspired homage to “the bird”, here’s a truly amazing bird for us all to admire (you have to watch to the end––it's astounding) (PS thanks, Cheryl, for sharing it with us!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Nuit Blanche

End Game by Max Streicher

Deb: We are so lucky in Toronto to have this wonderful Art Festival called Nuit Blanche, which literally means White Night, All Nighter, Sleepless Night (in French), or Light Night, which is my favourite name for it. Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg still duke it out as to who actually founded Nuit Blanche. Clearly none of these cities has a functioning calendar! All I know is that Toronto was inspired by this wonderful Light Night and now we have our very own Nuit Blanche in its fifth year!  It is a wonderous event for the urban explorer that goes from 7pm to 7am on one lucky October day. The city is jam-packed with hundreds if not thousands of art installations of every kind.

Barb and I have been Blanching together for four straight years now and it has become one of the highlights of our year. The latest we have ever made it to was 2:30am and we were thrilled ... I, who am usually in bed by 11. We have always vowed that although we might not make it all night (as if!) we would focus on what we saw and not what we didn’t see and as a result it has been an unusual, magical, stimulating experience.

Stefanie's creation in her set
Photo by Michele
This year included a special exciting feature. Barb’s lovely and talented daughters were involved in a fashion installation. Stefanie, a budding fashion designer, was selected to compete in a very select collection competition as one of the Ten Most Promising Designers, the theme of which was Belle Epoque. And Michele shot a film and several photographs to enhance the installation that housed Steffi’s modern, ethereal, romantic collection. We started our night at 6pm with Stef, and then moved on to the “official” installations around the city.

Auto Lamp by Kim Adams
When I started writing this Nuit “Blogue”, I was going to talk about the fact that after we got into the body of the night, we were a tad disappointed in this year’s effort. But I have changed my mind. I have decided to stay true to the feeling of Nuit Blanche and the fact that anything can happen, from the tiniest sound to the largest light installation. I also love the fact that there are official installations and fringe installations so you can get a taste of everything from successful world-renowned artists to the young artist with a vision making his or her statement. It is not the grandeur that I need judge, it’s how it touches our hearts and tickles our senses. So in that way, it did not disappoint at all this year, as I was still moved and titillated, and in awe. What I love the most about Nuit Blanche at any time is that it does not take itself too seriously. It has a great sense of humour and irony.

But for me, the best part of Nuit Blanche will never change. It will remain the same from year to year. And that thing that I adore, that I revel in, is the fact that our city becomes ART. The transformation for one special night that is Toronto in glorious sexy movement. Toronto the Good, Hogtown, comes alive and brings with it its citizens in all their unique global colours and traditions, and trots them out in a peaceful, exciting, moving event lasting just one Light Night. The audience as art.
Deb and Luke in front of Arrivals/Departures
by Michael Fernandes

Barbara: Funnily, Deb, I had a similar experience—first I was disappointed in this year’s event, which in the past has had so many incredibly magical moments that I vibrated with it for days afterward. And this year, there only seemed to be a few such experiences. And then I realized: this year, I was so wrapped up in Stefanie’s big moment that most of our evening was spent with her (both before and after her event) that I didn’t see nearly as many installations as I usually do. So, at first I realized my magic was really about sharing with my daughters their creative glory.
Proud Mom and Stefanie
Then I realized there was another magic experience: I ended up spending the evening primarily with my husband. You see, because this event is so precious to me, I have been loathe to share the night with too many people. You know how it is: for each extra person tagging along, there’s extra time catering to their needs (real or perceived) and less time just reveling in the art slash experience. Deb has been my perfect Artner-in-crime (couldn’t resist). She and I move symbiotically through the night and never complain about any of it, never hold each other up, and always seem to want to linger for the same amount of time. And of all the other people I could share the night with, I had the worst, most baddest feeling about sharing it with my husband (sorry, sweetie). Because I was so sure that if he of all people went with us, he would just spend the night whining about lines, crowds, bad art, bad breath, bad karma––no, stop me, not fair. Because he was an AWESOME Nuit Blanche partner. Hiking the city with me while everyone else left early, one by one, for various excellent reasons. He hung in there to the bitter (but relatively early) end (we had to get back to Stef to help tear down her set at 1am). And he was a real trouper. I had completely underestimated his stamina. And we had a bit a sweet romantic revelry. Even if we only had the chance to dabble for just a few short hours of Nuit Blanche when I usually get to explore for a huge 6-7 hours. This was an unexpected treat—where I learned the art of not underestimating the people I love.

So, Deb, like you, I was able to find my way back to realizing the magic of the evening. And, even if this sounds strange to some people, I too really REALLY enjoy the energy that radiates from hundreds of thousands of people thronging together.

As Nuit Blanche is so specific to a few areas, I wonder if any of you enjoy festivals with similar energy, or if this kind of thing goes completely against your grain?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Think My Dishes Are Committing Suicide

Barbara: Maybe it’s the weird energy Deb noted the other day. Maybe it’s the sad state of my kitchen cupboards that we’ve been meaning to renovate for 13 years and have yet to do. But lately our dishes have shown an unusual propensity for jumping out of fingers, from dishwashers, and off tables. And dying. Smashing to the floor and lying there, just pieces of their former selves. Dead. Morte. Tot. Finito.

Twenty-two years ago, we got a lovely set of “casual dining” dishes from my mother as a wedding present. The dishes have done their duty, without question. But I always assumed they were in it for the long haul. You know, serving us lunch and everyday dinners until we were old and shriveled.

Over the years, we even augmented the original set to accommodate our bigger dinner parties and holiday brunches. We didn’t exactly coddle the dishes, but we certainly respected them. Loved them even. They have meaning, after all. Not just the wedding-gift-from-my-mom part, but the fact that they are older than our children and have offered up countless family meals and survived endless childhood shenanigans.

But I ignored all the warning signs. The chip here, the hairline fracture there. I brushed those off as normal wear-and-tear. If only I’d known they were a cry for help! Because now the mass suicide, the lemming-jump so to speak, seems to have begun and will not abate. Every few days, another crash can be heard echoing through our house, another cry of despair, another dish gone from this earth—or at least from this kitchen.

I can no longer turn a blind eye to the rampant platericide. I must accept the fact that my dishes are unhappy for some inexplicable reason and have made the choice one dare not name. I must finally face the awful truth that I live in a dish-functional household.

What shall I do?!

Deb: Buy new ones! I think your dishes are telling you that they are “bone china tired” and that they have “served” their purpose.

Do not despair, Barb. They have served you well and have been hearty and faithful china. They have been exemplary place settings! An idea might be to make something wonderful, lasting, and meaningful out of the chips and have it be art, which would be a fine tribute to your amazing artist Mum who gave you the china in the first place. In fact, your Mum might be totally into creating something fitting out of the dishes for you. Something that would always remind you of homemade meals and family gatherings of yore.

But make no mistake, your dishes are asking you, begging you, to change place settings. Maybe you have not been listening, and as a result, they had to resort to drastic measures. It is hard I know. I would not have seen the signs either. But they have resorted to “place setting suicide” to tell you how they feel. They have gone to pieces over loving you and yours. Let them rest in pieces. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weird Energy––1, Deb––0

Deb: We are in some sort of strange vortex right now, my family and me. So many weird things are going on in our lives. It is a time where emotions and events are stretched wider than Plastic Man (for any comic buffs). The greatest things are happening and the worst things are happening. We have beloved people in our lives fighting for their lives, and the joy of a puppy. We have support and love around us, and hate and bad wishes.

I know that all of us have these things in our lives from time to time, but this––this––is hyper drive, it’s to the max, it’s 3D, it’s life squared. It’s like the world is ending so the universe is trying to give us all things at once. And I don’t just mean stressful things. I have been down that road many times in my life before with the never ending bad news and funeral after funeral and the sad that you thought would never stop being. And even then I could cope. I knew what the beast was. I knew it was bad and sad and that it should bring sadness and so I could handle it.

This is different. It is everything. Absolutely everything. Good bad, sad happy, up down, in out, rich poor, love hate, anger joy, healthy dying, Life is heightened. I am losing things, dropping things, forgetting things, finding things, crying, yelling, laughing, dancing, eating, drinking, and popping Advil.

And worst of all I am panicking. I am losing it. I want to scream. I am feeling trapped and helpless and fed up and powerless. I want to go away from here and I want to stay here. I am employing all of my considerable coping skills and getting nowhere fast. I know this too shall pass, but right now, I am toast. Put jam on me.

Barbara: In classic Deb-style, you still finish with a smile. We can try putting jam on Deb, but my guess is it won’t take. At least not right now.

This post totally resonates with me because (as you could probably tell by my Friday post) I feel it too. And I also feel it’s larger than me and larger than my circle. It does feel to be everywhere, this frenetic incomprehensible vortex that brings madness and mayhem in all its darkness and in all its glory.

Maybe it is like a tornado in more ways than one. Because I do think––as cliché as it sounds––that we are safer in the eye of it. You know, where it’s still and quiet while all hell rages around you.

I don’t know if any of you are experiencing this maelstrom as well, but if you are, I wonder what would happen if we all banded together (in spirit) and decided we would ride the storm in its centre, we would breathe quietly, and we would accept all the whirlwinds around us for whatever they might bring. Because even after that real tornado passes and even after you mourn the destruction in its wake, seedlings of all kinds do push up and grow. And the seedlings can sprout completely unexpected vegetation that may even––after time, mind––bud and bloom the most beautiful flower we’ve ever seen.

Disney World for Luke's 16th birthday
Because—here’s another overworked cliché––apparently we can’t get off the rollercoaster in the middle of the ride. Thank god for the Advil.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Contemplating A Dog's Life

Barbara: The post the other day about wee Bairn making her precious way into our lives made me contemplate the other side of a dog’s life. The side where things gets a bit harder. Well, I guess I also got to thinking about this other side because times are a bit … twisted at the moment, for me and pretty much all those around me. And when life gets twisted, we all get a bit dark and twisted with it, don’t we?

My dog, Chaplin, is my own dear, sweet pooch and, as much as I resisted getting a dog, I don’t regret finally making this decision. Not one bit. He, like Bairn, also started off with no fears in the world. Everything was exciting and wonderful. Every person. Every dog. Especially every dog. If you have one, you know that look dogs get when they spot each other—they’re out for their morning walk and suddenly a fellow-species member trots by and the world stops for both of them, like they’re the only two beings alive on this earth. You half-expect some sappy love-song strains to start up, say “Lady in Red”, as they strain to nuzzle and sniff each other. I always used to say, Chaplin is a people-dog, but he’s even more of a dog-dog.

But that all changed one day when I was walking Chaplin and we passed a large white (leashed) dog who, apropos of nothing, suddenly clamped its jaw around Chaplin’s neck. The master reacted in seconds and all finished okay. But Chaplin was a changed pooch. He was, well, gobsmacked seems the best word. It was like he’d just discovered his best friend was cheating on him.

Now he never looks at dogs the same way, with that innocent joy and heart-bursting love. No, now he growls or retreats shaking behind my legs, or sometimes he even lunges. For what purpose, I don’t know, I hardly see him as the jaws-around-a-neck type. And if the dog is large and white, all the more difficult to soothe him down.

Anyway, all this to say that it makes me wonder if we all aren’t a little doggy in our lives. We too start off sweet and innocent. But if one white dog clamps its steely jaw around our neck, life can change forever after. Yes, it teaches us a valuable lesson that some dogs bite, but it often just ruins dogs for us completely. Suddenly, for no better reason than something bad happened to us one day in the past, we now tend to cower or retreat or lunge out in angry self-defense at even the whiff of large-white-dog-breath.

But should one mean-spirited (or misguided) dog affect everything we try to do from now on? If one person or event or challenge or shock sideswipes us, should we lie in wait every day after for the same thing to happen again? Or can we somehow start fresh, reprogram our brains, and learn to not assume every dog will bite even if we know some certainly will? And in so doing, will we become more accepting, more courageous, and much more present in the moment?

All I know is that for me most, if not all, of my fears and anxieties grip me because of the sheer force of this habit. Ironically, there’s nothing more mundane than a habit, especially a bad one. And habit is a very difficult habit to break. Just ask Chaplin.

Deb: I guess that’s why when I am in a room full of people that love me, I will navigate to the one who doesn’t. Cause I have to sell them on me. Have to make them get the Deb.

I relate to Chaplin on this, but because my brain is bigger (YES, I AM SMARTER THAN THE DOG!), I have found my way around this one. I have really started to succeed in not letting the big dog bully me. I have found more and more that I am making small steps in that direction. My issue is the pendulum. I find myself struggling with the two extremes. I go from “Carpet Girl”––walk all over me––to FUCKYOUYAMEANSPIRITEDBULLYBETTYTHINKYOURPOODOESNTSTINK!

This is my issue. I need to find the middle ground and I am working on it. I can tell you this––and I stand by it 100%––if someone is not worthy of my love and friendship, I move on with no bitterness and no regret. My world and the world at large are too full of sweet pups to choose a bully. I am officially over them.

Chaplin, are you listening? Good dog. Smart Dog.