Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Sanity Clause

Deb: I knew if I was going to retain my sanity this holiday season, I would have to employ the Sanity Clause. Specifically, I employed the Sanity Clause regards my holiday prep and decorating.

Now, Colin and I usually have a friendly rule about Christmas tunes and tinsel. Given that his birthday is November 30th, we made a pact to start Christmas on the 1st of December. And not until said date, would we make with the trimmings and the ringings and the donnings.

This year however, I knew that I would not have a decorating day as in years past. There would be no circling the 1st or 3rd or even the 10th and claiming it as day to decorate, day of decor, deck the halls day.

I decided, with my husband’s blessing (have I waxed poetic about this man lately?), to festoon our home one surface at a time, one day at a time. I did the mantle for an hour on a Monday, the table for a half hour on a Tuesday, the stairs garland for twenty minutes on Wednesday ... you get the picture.

And now, as I write this, our home is done. It’s early, yes, even too early for me. But it sure is lovely. And it’s so nice to come home after a long day with nary a twinkle in your eye, to find your entire home twinkling for you.

I have also been signing ten or twenty Christmas cards a night so that I will not find myself two weeks from now screeching, “The CARDS, I’ve got to do the CARDS!”

So here I am, as a result of the Sanity Clause, able to focus on Mom’s transition home instead of fretting about surfaces un-festooned.

Usually I am 80% finished with my Christmas shopping by now, but this year I am 2% done. However, the beauty is that when December hits, I will leave my perfectly decorated home each day and hit the stores. And I will employ the Sanity Clause once more by doing my shopping just one hour a day. This will grant me the grace and patience with my parents I might otherwise be lacking, if I was feeling overwhelmed. It will also give me the gift of enjoying the hell out of buying the gifts. Or as it’s known in Section Four, Article Two of the Clause: Gift Squared.

And when Christmas parties start to lift their lively toasts, my glass will be raised among the reveling throngs and I will be thinking, “I’m having fun. I’m feeling festive. Peace on Deb”.

Yep, that’s what I am giving myself this Christmas. Peace. And the best part? It’s free.

To borrow from The Trouble with Angels’ Mary Clancy, the Sanity Claus has been “my most scathingly brilliant idea ever!”

Barbara: Let it be said here that Deb has Christmas times 10 compared to me. She has literally 10 times the family (and probably friends!), and 10 times the familial obligations, buying gifts on behalf of many members of her family as well as her own. I’m telling you this because I want you to know just how much work she faces each holiday season. Enough to stress the catatonic. And yet, she welcomes and celebrates the festivities better than any little elf I know.

I, on the other hand, have noticed how much less stressed I am this year thanks to 2 rather significant reasons: 1) my kids are big (and home) enough to help, and 2) with age comes experience. I have nailed the holiday season down to a ritual I can almost—not quite, but almost—do with my eyes closed. That said, I also think Deb’s idea is genius: one detail at a time, steady as she goes!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Barbara: The other day when a friend was going through a really anxiety-ridden experience, I was reminded just how important it is for us to remember to breathe. And the more riddled with anxiety we get, the more important it is that we breathe! In out, in out. Remember?

Madge posted this beautiful stop-motion photo-montage to her FB the other day. It is a gorgeous meditation on breath. And also has a great message at the end.

Monday, November 28, 2011

But It’s All For You

Barbara: I didn’t know what I was going to write about when I sat down at my computer today. Deb, Colin, and I have been ruminating alternate titles for our upcoming demo-pilot and that’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about lately, so I did think that maybe I’d find myself writing about that. But then I realized I kept thinking about this conversation I had with a female acquaintance the other day, which has now niggled deep into my brain and which I would love to un-niggle with you guys.

This woman had finished teacher’s college a couple of years ago and is now trying to find her way into the system. It’s a tough field with tons of competition—and I will add, also sometimes frustratingly occupied by teachers who are sick of the grind and the grist and who offer their students little by way of encouragement or inspiration. She bides her time—as so many young teachers do—by substitute teaching. We found ourselves in quick catch-up mode and she was telling me that when she goes into the schools, every single high school student tells her that they want only one thing from their teachers: to be seen for who they are. That’s it. See me. Hear me. These kids, she said, were almost unanimously engaged, interesting, thoughtful (as in full of thought), but many of them felt they were being marginalized by sweeping stereotypes: the bad one, the rude one, the druggie, the apathetic, the asshole. She could only shake her head and wonder why they weren’t being heard, on the one hand, and why they were living by the label, on the other.

One of the “worst” of the bunch, a student who was routinely “bad”, began an extended confessional with her. She discovered a highly intelligent, passionate but frustrated kid. When she asked him why he didn’t work up to his potential, he asked why he should bother: no one would recognize it anyway. My heart broke for him and others like him. Kids who might never find their voices because they feel like they’re caught in an echo chamber—a vast, hollow and futile void.

But then I also remembered my parental philosophy, one I constantly remind my children of (and one I constantly have to remind myself of): we are hunters and gatherers of information. We search out and find what we need amongst the endless details of human life and natural phenomenon. The more stuff we catalogue and the more stuff we pay attention to, the more information we have in our arsenal to use for our own lives and for the lives of those around us. In the end, it can’t matter that there is an apathetic ear or ears in our periphery. As hunters, the prey doesn’t, after all, come to us; we have to seek it out. As gatherers, we have to keep doing a kind of archeology our whole lives long, this sifting through of mountains of detritus to find our own nuggets of gold.

I hope that we can all remember that we need to keep searching. And we don’t do it to impress teachers or loved ones or parents or some faceless “audience”, we do it to enrich our own lives, to find our own waypoints, messages, secrets, answers. Which might, incidentally, also turn out to impress our teachers, our loved ones, our parents, and/or some faceless “audience” out there, but that’s not the important thing. The most important thing is that we see our world. Not that we are seen in it. 

PS Let's keep a thought for Deb and her mom on the big move home today!!

Deb: Barb, I love this and I just had a conversation yesterday with someone about the concept of “seeing our own world”, but we did not phrase it just like that. You have now given me a phrase to encompass those feelings: “see our world”. This is my favourite part of the living experience. The hunting, gathering, and learning. Knowing that we will learn until the day we die is, on its own, a reason to want to be here. I remember a time of fear in my life when I actually tried to shrink my world. It was during a time when I was afraid to fly. Now I am at a point where I want to expand my world, explode with sights and sounds and knowledge. Because to “see my world” is to “love my world”. 

Friday, November 25, 2011


Deb: Mom is coming home. Monday. That was going to be the subject of my blog. Because I am rejoicing. We all are.


I am also spent. We all are. You know how it is when a crisis winds down and you find yourself unable to move, peep or pontificate?

That is where I am at. Between a bed and a sleep place.

So I will take this time to say thank you. Thanks to each and every single one of you who reads the blog and comments, reads the blog and doesn’t, reads the blog on Facebook or reads the blog when it’s shared.

And to each of you who have reached out and made me feel packed in support, I thank you.  I really truly felt your love, advice and shared experiences coming at me at the speed of blog. And I took each comment to heart.

We are moving to the next phase, the one that opts us out of all the previous confusion and pain and sends us toward the optimistic future. And we have every reason for optimism.

Mom is coming home.

Barbara: Yay, Deb!!! Not that you’re spent, of course, but that your mom is going home. And that the village made sure she could get there. Wow. So impressive.

Okay, I have to make a call-out to our blog peeps now. I would like to send over some yummy easy food for Deb’s parents to heat up, but really have no awesome “casserole” recipes. I cook on order, in the moment. I go—yes, every day—to the store and get my supplies. I’m not and have never been good at the plan-ahead. Hence my dearth of good meals that can be made ahead and frozen. Maybe portioned-up for the 2-person meal.

If any of you have any great recipes you don’t mind sharing, I would be so very grateful!!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Film Conscience

Deb: The boy has a regular gig on a site called “That Guy With The Glasses” where he does Luke Mochrie’s Film Conscience, which are movie reviews. Given the fact that so many of our followers are writers, I thought I would share this fun one the boy did on “what makes a great movie great” because it basically talks about good writing principals. It’s a fun, easy watch that I thought you guys might enjoy.

He is in his fourth year of school and now taking a year-long course on Horror Genre Studies. Yes, you read that right. Cool, huh? This was the boy we sheltered from anything scary until he was 12! And there’s the irony.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Wanna Cop Your Lingo

Barbara: I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay right now and I have a couple of young characters that have fun with cool speak, making up their own lingo as they go. That said, I wanted to do some research on what’s the latest in jive talk (that I know “jive talk” is not the latest hip-speak and used it anyway shows just how not-trippingly this stuff rolls off my tongue).

So I’m doing my research and don’t I run across several websites and blogs that go on rants about how modern slang is being appropriated and—as a result—un-cooled by soccer moms everywhere. Okay, I’m no longer officially a “soccer mom”—LOVED those days—but I can still say that my feelings are hurt. And I feel something of a retort rant coming on.

I like my words, peeps!!!!! Love them, in fact. I want access to all of them, not just a select few that were coined in “my time”. I want to diss, to be down, to lurk. I want random experiences and stellar calls. I want to wear bling (only sometimes). I want to feel stoked or psyched or pumped (well, okay, maybe not so much, but I want to reserve the right!).

I remember when I was in my mid-twenties having a rare argument with dear friends when they took the outrageous—to me—stance that rockers like the Stones should pack it in in their forties (their FORTIES!) because rock was for young people only. I would have thought that this ‘tude was outdated until I watched a recent episode of The Debaters (a Canadian show where comedians are given two different sides of an argument to debate). The subject was the same: should old rockers “be allowed” to rock, or should they pack it in. Obviously I’m of the mindset that if someone wants to do something—and what’s more, possesses the talent for it—they should bloody well keep doing it, regardless of age.

Same with the language thing. I get that appropriating language from the streets or from younger generations can make you look like you’re “trying too hard” or like a fool (worse, if you use the word incorrectly—remember “foshizzle”? Did anyone use that one properly???). But I’m telling you now: I want those words!!!! I want all of them. You throw something cool and exciting and fresh into the mix, I want to get my hands on it. Or my mouth, as it were (or does that sound creepy?). Anyway, my point is the same. Don’t release a nugget into the word-o-sphere and then get all greedy and selfish about it.

Tell you what: if you give me “dippin” (for, you know, when I want to leave a party and have to grab Phil’s arm and say, “Hey honey, we’re dippin’,” you know stuff like that), then I’ll give you “malarkey” (hey, it’s an evocative word and really should be brought back).

Deb: Barb, you my girl are the cat’s meow! I agree with you 100%. I too love me some words and I will say anything I damn well please. And like you, I may just bring back “23 skiddoo” and “oh you kid”. But I do think that each generation feels that they own their own slang and hipisms and they do and they should. Me, I’m just a random happy camper. Where’s the beef? I don’t know. Don’t think there is one. After all ... love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Precious Video

Since yesterday's post is so vivid, today we thought we'd post something sweet and precious (like all of you!). More discussion is still and always welcome on Monday's story. But this is great for an "aw-wow". 

If you've seen it before, watch it again. It just makes us happy!

Oh, and here's part two!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mourning Living Losses

Deb: Peaks and valleys are the best way to describe what my family has been going through lately. We are at that stage of life’s path where we are faced with the fork in the road. There are no signs pointing the way, no Lonely Planet guide giving us tips. We are hunting and gathering information and hoping to God that the right decision is arrived at.

My Mom’s foot has steadily improved and she is ready to be discharged from the hospital to further recover. But recover where?

The month-long stay in the hospital—between the trauma, drugs and the prone position—has produced both a pressure ulcer (bed sore) and a total loss of strength. She is now what they call “a two person transfer”. She can no longer transfer herself from bed to chair or chair to toilet. So of course the inevitable phrase “nursing home” reared its head. A blow to all of us and the specter of it has caused sleepless nights, tears, and endless circles of discussion. Add to that the sickening exposés on nursing homes on the front pages every day. The timing could not be worse.

My particular pain, which has itself developed like an internal pressure ulcer, has been in the unwanted job of holding Mom and Dad’s future in my hands. Honestly, I can deal with anything, but the agony of knowing I might make the wrong choice has been more than I can bear. I have spent endless hours researching and talking to our stellar team of support at St. Mike’s hospital who are working tirelessly to make this transition an easy and correct one. St. Michael's hospital is called Toronto’s Urban Angel and I could not agree more.

A few days ago I took my Dad home after a hospital visit. We had a particularly frank and painful discussion in the car and when I left him he said with tears in his eyes, “Debra, we trust you implicitly.” Any daughter would love to hear that but, while I was struck by the sentiment, I could not help wanting to run from this responsibility of trust. I spent the night thinking about this and how it was overwhelming me, and suddenly it hit me. I do not have the responsibility. I have chosen wrongly to own the responsibility. The only responsibility I have is to share with my savvy, very with-it parents, every single thought, every single option, every single fear. They deserve nothing less.

I realized, somewhat stunned, that this was just occurring to me. The simple fact is, we are all in this together. I was trying to do what I always do, trying to “handle it all”. I was putting this on myself.

The good/bad news in this scenario is that Mom and Dad’s bodies have betrayed them. Their minds have not. They can take all my information and offer good solid opinions. My job is to gather, shape, and offer it up. They do tend towards not wanting to cause me grief and stress, so I must keep it on track or they would just take the path of least resistance. I had this honest talk with them and Mom said, “Whatever happens, Deb, it will be because it is the best for us. This is a decision we will make together and it is not solely on your shoulders.” And a team was born.

It is still painful as we try to jump hurdles and dodge medical bullets. But I no longer feel I am falling down the rabbit hole. This past Friday we turned a corner. As soon as I identified the source of the pain, I think we all gained strength from the knowledge. The fact is, knowledge is power crept up on me again for the fiftieth time, bringing with it peace and purpose. How could I have missed that the agony was coming from mourning? We are mourning. And we have done it many times before. So why doesn’t it present itself to me each time with, “Hi, it’s me again, mourning.” But, like Dorothy, I seem to just have to learn it for myself over and over.  We have mourned before. We mourned Mom’s loss of independence when she had the stroke and we rose above it, turning her lack of independence into freedom. We have mourned these last few years as Dad has lost his independence and we continue to work towards good healthy solutions. And I look at them as my Dad takes Mom’s hand in the hospital as they say goodbye for the night. They are going strong, forging ahead. This generation continues to astound me with their strength and fortitude.

I guess the bitterest pill for all of us to swallow, is that we hold the secret of who they were. The care team, despite their best care and attention, see two old people at the end of their lives. The other day as an O.T. was giving me the results of my Mom’s cognitive test, I started to ball like a baby. The O.T. said, “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Do you want me to stop?” I said through sobs, “NO, I need this information! It’s just that, I wish you knew them, really knew who they were. You don’t and it’s breaking my heart.” My parents were the ones! They were the hosts, the entertainers! They were the centre of their circle. My Dad would cook like a pro and my Mom would dance the night away. They were the last to leave every single party! And it’s killing my soul that no one knows this. I wanted to scream, “Please, see this!” 

But I didn’t. It’s not their job. But I know it, and everyone who knows them knows it, and I guess that has to be enough.

The other day as we sat in Mom’s hospital room, my Mom said, “Jimmy, did you ever think we would end up this way”? To which Dad said, “No I didn’t, Anne”. I said, “Would you prefer the alternative? You have lost all your friends and you are still here.” As sobering as that comment was to digest, they sat for a moment and then smiled, knowing that despite all they are facing, they are happy as hell to be here. My parents love life in a way I wish every human creature did. They deeply mourn their lost family and friends but are in no hurry to join them, even at almost 85 years of age.

One of the Care Team experts, in an effort to assess how well I was doing as caregiver, asked me three questions. She said:

1. Are you feeling any resentment around taking all this on?
2. Are you feeling guilty?
3. Are you stressed?

And I answered.

1. I am not feeling resentment. I am so grateful that I have Mom and Dad and it is my great honour to care for them and about them.
2. I do not have any guilt. I have no reason for guilt and it is a waste of my time.
3. Hell, yeah, I’m stressed!

This week I would answer, “Hell, yeah, I’m stressed, but one tiny epiphany is melting it away, one crisis at a time.”

We will move forward together to make the rest of their life a party. Because as fate would have it, they are still the last to leave.

Barbara: Deb, I just want to thank you so much and from the bottom of my heart. I can’t tell you how, on the one hand, it’s hard to see you go through this and, of course, even harder to see your parents go through it, but on the other hand, your experience has also taught me an incredibly important thing or two.

My parents are all—knock on wood—healthy right now. But I know that can change in a flash. I find it interesting and important to remember that people—even those in medical crisis—are often capable of making, or being part of making, those critical decisions that will affect them the most. Of course, I also get that a lot of people can't––or won't––make good or useful decisions for themselves. But let's assume this is a case by case. If at all possible, they should not be outside that discussion. And we can't take on all the guilt and pressure that comes from making these hard choices. How brave and forthright of your mom to say it in so many words, that she takes responsibility for choosing whatever fork in the road you all travel down. And how lucky your parents are to have such a loving, faith-full Dorothy to hold their hands along the way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Creative Future

Barbara: I was born in the sixties and grew up in the seventies. They’re always looking for an apt moniker for my generation—we’re too young to be Boomers and too old to be X-ers. What are we in a nutshell? I think we were the first generation to be the You Can Have It All-ers, or the Don’t Do Anything You Don’t Love-ers. We were raised to believe that we could and should follow our dreams. I suffered no obstacles growing up and choosing acting as my university degree and then my career. No one wanted to see me or my peers pursue anything we didn’t love, to see us stuck—like so many before us—in boring, soul-sucking jobs. Call us Generation Maybe: maybe we can do it, maybe we can’t.

Because, of course, reality hits and many of us found ourselves needing to balance our talents and dreams with the drudgery of paying bills and sending our own kids into their bright futures. Getting the balance right between love and necessity has been excruciating at times. Do you still tell your kids they can do anything they want? And how many of those kids now struggling with failing worldwide economies will give up on creative lives, and how many of them are destined to be the future of our creative culture? Our writers, our philosophizers, our artists, our dancers, singers, musicians. You know, those people who make life worth living, who bring it its poetic beauty, its incomparable ability to turn a mirror on life and say: Yes, this is what it looks like if you step back a bit; this is your tragedy, your struggle, your strength, your frustration, your petty greed, your jealousy, your epic courage.

Maybe it’s my own life experience that wants to play this rather sobering thought against an amazing experience I had a couple of weeks ago on a film set. This production is the best possible example of how we can support the creative geniuses of tomorrow. As an added bonus, it nurtures those geniuses who come from at-risk backgrounds and who might never otherwise have the chance to explore—and then discover—their unique voices.

The REMIX Project is a non-profit organization (recently awarded Best Youth Organization by Toronto’s Now Magazine) that dedicates itself to bringing the arts to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and neighbourhoods, offering them the chance to explore their talents and skills in a safe, nurturing environment. And most importantly, developing those skills so that these young people can have a serious foothold in the business of the arts. Their City Life Film Project is the component that deals with film and, together with Temple Street Productions, they provide not just the training but the mentors and the equipment and the extensive crew that filmmakers need to bring their visions to the screen. Participants have to apply to get into the program and are chosen based on their storytelling skills, and then after a 3-month intensive, three projects are chosen for production.

I had the incredible honour of working with one of these brilliant voices of tomorrow. Kimberly wrote the script loosely based on a day in her own life when, as a lonely, disenfranchised 14-year-old girl, her mother had a postpartum breakdown. A 15-minute short, it goes from scary to heartbreaking with breathtaking speed. There were only four of us as actors on set: the one playing the child, the one playing the mother, one as the stepfather, and myself as the doctor. Kim had to not only create a visual story through the camera, but she also had to take the actors deep into the heart of her real-life crisis.

We actors had to find gut connections to this story and convey them in an honest and soul-baring way. This is not an easy task for an actor. It might seem so, but it takes an enormous amount of trust and courage. Kim, barely 20-years-old, actually took our hands and expertly guided us into the mire. She was articulate, passionate, compelling and direct. In all my years on a set, I’ve rarely worked with a director I trusted as much as I trusted her. I knew if she didn’t see it on-screen, she wouldn’t be shy to tell us we needed to go “150%”. I’ve also never worked with a director who so directly related to their on-screen story that each creative discussion and each scene ended with their face bright and open, tears rolling down their cheeks, heartfelt expressions of gratitude or wisdom or personal confession pouring from their mouth. They talk about the directors who get naked with their actors for a love scene; this director got emotionally naked with us—and yet never forgot to do her very difficult job as a director. Kim has it all.

At the end of the day, I did what I do repeatedly with my own kids: I told Kim—despite every indication that it is a an exercise in futility to be an artist—to keep following her dream, to never let anyone tell her that a young black woman couldn’t/shouldn’t direct, to keep telling her stories.

Maybe in life, we can’t do what we want to do all the time because of bills and obligations. Maybe we have to get a “joe-job” or even a good one but one that doesn’t feed the soul. Maybe we will feel frustrated because we can’t be full-time artists. But maybe, just maybe, we have to keep forging ahead with our stories (or music or paintings or ideas) in every other moment there is. It would be a terrible shame and loss for all of us to lose even one Kim to “cold, hard” reality.

Thanks to organizations like REMIX for allowing these dreams to breathe and grow.

Deb: This is such a fascinating subject, Barb. On a personal level, the only way I can relate to it is through the boy. The boy who wanted to be a surrealist when he was twelve. We encouraged him. When he was thirteen and wanted to be an actor, he asked us what it would be like to be an actor in the theatre. We said, “If that is what you live for, then the art on your wall might be the posters from your shows and your passion can be the fact that you get up each day and get to do what you love. If for any reason you have the desire for stuff—houses, belongings and the ilk—then you might want to match your dreams to a dollar sign. But make sure they are still your dreams.”

I think each generation has a share of this. I was born in 1954 and my parents supported me 100%.  I think there were parents through the 60’s, earlier, and right on down the line who did not support this theory, but I think there were many, including my parents, who did. There were also artists who became same despite their parents. It is the way of the world. Your parents are artists so it was a no-brainer for them, and lucky for you.

Your experience on this recent set was a game-changer and I think that is FABULOUS FOR YOU!

But, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I side with you and with the Kim’s of the world.

Follow your Dreams. Life is short. Life can be sweet. But follow your dreams. It is essential to survival. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moneyball And Writing

Barbara: Just saw Moneyball, the latest Brad Pitt film. It is so good. Better, in fact, than I thought it would be. It’s funny, smart, sweet, sport-induced-exciting. And extremely well written. I kept thinking there was something about it that reminded me of The Social Network—another film I love love love.

As I was watching Moneyball, I described its style to myself (in one of those internal, random and ongoing monologues I often have with myself) as “quiet poetry”. Yes, there’s something distinctly poetic about it, but it’s not overt, over-the-top, or cloying (not that poetry is those things, but I hope you know what I mean!).

I didn’t know going in who had written the script, but there was a moment 2/3 of the way through (if you must know, it was when the Red Sox owner is talking to the Pitt character) and I sat back, awed by the wonderful language. The owner riffs on baseball and its practices, and he speaks the way many of us aspire to speak: with authority, with honesty, with singular insight. It is the perfect “speech” … without sounding like a speech. And then I knew it—it HAD to be Aaron Sorkin. At the end, the credits rolled by and there it was, his name as co-writer (alongside Steven Zaillian—no slouch in the writing world either). He has officially become my screenplay writing hero.

Is there a writer whose work you'd be able to pick out of a lineup of writing excerpts (if you didn't know the piece)?  Who is your writing hero?

Deb: I love Aaron Sorkin too. But my writing hero for film is still Woody Allen. And oh how I envy you a film on a Wednesday afternoon. Well done!

Barbara: I envy myself too, Deb ... except I saw the film and wrote my little love letter, like, 2 weeks ago. On a weekend night. Sometimes you just gotta blog when you gotta blog. (although I'm gonna guess you'd give a lot for a weekend movie night too, though, huh?)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Liver to Brain

Deb: Yesterday I was at a dermatologist who was checking out my litany of new moles, bumps, calcium accumulations, and other markings of that ilk.

Upon examination of the offending marks, she proclaimed them safe and removable, music to my ears.

So I asked her to identify the marks for me so I would know what they were and how to gage their normality if they started to increase in size, colour, or shape.

She responded by saying they are “wisdom marks.”

“What what????!!!”

I looked at her. She was dead serious. She was selling me on the “wisdom marks”. She was working me on the “new age, age”.

Her intentions were good, granted, but as I looked at this young, modern, educated doctor, I thought, “Wow. You are being trained to say shit like this TO ME! You are being told that this is what I need to hear.”

Does this mean that the onset of wisdomy warts and clever, devious moles brings with it an ability to go back in time and pass Grade 11 Math????????

Me thinkith notith.

So here is what you need to know, doctor. I reached my Holy Shit Trinity years ago and I have grown with the vernacular of liver spots to age spots to wisdom spots. And just so we understand each other, referring to my brown tea-stained facial spots as wisdom does nothing to conceal the fact that I am fine with it, thank you very much.

Liver spots should be my only worry.

ARE we really that fragile?  I don't think so. I'm not.

Barbara: Weird, huh? I mean, I’d rather they didn’t use euphemisms at all, but called them, I don’t know, the official Latin term, or something equally medically official sounding. I’d rather offer a resounding “huh?” than be pandered to (egotistically-speaking). And with the endless shifts and changes to the aging skin/body, it’s nice to believe our vocabulary could actually develop exponentially. Might make up a bit for the wisdom spots ... er, liver spots ... er, lentigos (???). 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unleash Your Compassion

Internationally renowned Steven Page headlines evening of Music and Laughter with an All-Canadian Line-up to support Animal Welfare
Comedian Colin Mochrie and Actress Debra McGrath Host
“Live and Unleashed featuring Steven Page and Friends” to support Ontario SPCA

Lights, camera...woof!  The Ontario SPCA invites animal enthusiasts, music lovers and theatre buffs to spend a night of laughter, music and entertainment at the “Live and Unleashed featuring Steven Page and Friends” onMonday, November 28 at 8:00 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.  Tickets are limited and available at
Hosted by hilarious husband and wife team, comedianColin Mochrie and talented actress/comedian Debra McGrath, the evening will include performances by Canadian funk sensation Planet Earth and award-winning saxophonist Matthew James — all in the name of helping animals and directly supporting the lifesaving work of the Ontario SPCA.
The evening is themed around a young dog named Rocky who is a shining example of the lifesaving work the Ontario SPCA performs every day.  Severely abused, neglected and close to death, Rocky was rescued by Ontario SPCA investigators and captured the hearts of hundreds in the GTA.  Thanks to love, nurturing and medical care, Rocky is now on the road to recovery and has been given a chance for a new life and a home.  And in an inspiring announcement live at the event — Guests will meet Rocky’s new family for the first time! 

“I’m so excited to be participating in this fun yet important event!” says Steven Page.  “As a dog lover and owner (if that’s the right word!), I am grateful for the work of the Ontario SPCA.  Live & Unleashed is going to be a great evening of music and entertainment and guests will truly make a difference supporting all of the animals in need across Ontario.”

Event Listings/Interview Opportunities
What:             Live and Unleashed featuring Steven Page and Friends Hosted by comedian Colin Mochrie and Debra McGrath
            When:            Monday, November 28 at 8:00 p.m.
Where:           Roy Thomson Hall
Why:              To support lifesaving work of the Ontario SPCA 
Who:              Steven Page (Formerly of the Barenaked Ladies) with opening acts PlanetEarth and Matthew James

Deb and Barbara: On a related note: we really want to draw your attention to the Save Stich sitch. Our friend and fellow blogger, Hollye Dexter, has an unbelievable story about how her adopted dog has become tangled in a legal nightmare. Read her story/history here and sign the petition!  If you can, buy the really good stuff on the fundraiser to support Stitch's plight. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

How We Chose Our Excellent Trip Package

Barbara: As there was a lot of news to share about our upcoming trip to Costa Rica (thanks to the Costa Rica Tourism Board!!), we decided to tell the story in two parts.

In our original post two Fridays ago, you read about our shock and awe (and wonder and gratitude) at receiving this gift. Well, in this post, we’re going to tell you how we chose between the five different packages on offer.

Each package includes four tours, three different areas and hotels, and three different landscapes in the paradise that is Costa Rica. It was a hard, hard, HARD choice!!

Costa Rica is distinct in that it has so many different eco-systems in one small country: rainforests, cloud forests, dry forests, high lands, low lands, wetlands, beaches, Caribbean coast, Pacific coast, coral reefs, etc, etc. It also has the great distinction of trying to build its future on the firm and beautiful foundation of ecologically sound practices and a staunch commitment to the betterment of its people. To the latter point, over 95 % of Costa Ricans are literate. This speaks volumes about a place, doesn’t it? As for environmental sustainability: according to the Environmental Performance Index, they are ranked third in the WORLD, first in the Americas! These two points alone endear me to this amazing country.

So, as Deb described in our last post, we hemmed and hawed over which package to choose. And if you’re curious, you can go to the Costa Rica Facebook page and peruse the various packages (click on Terms and Conditions and a pdf file comes up that also outlines each trip)… This is also where you can enter to win a trip like ours.

How to narrow down the marvelous choices??? Okay, so don’t laugh: first we eliminated any terrifying ones. Okay, so laugh if you must. But neither Deb nor I could consider the white water rafting package in Adrenaline Happiness. The guys, if you’ll recall, had little say and basically sat back and watched our confabulations, bemused smirks on their faces.

So Deb and I narrowed it down to the experiences we really wanted to have: meet the locals, check; tour nature and see wildlife with a knowledgeable guide, check; see the volcano, check; go to the beach, check; eat well, check; have options of more tours, check; horseback riding, oh my gosh check.

Several packages suited all these criteria. So finally we googled the hotels and the scales were finally tipped by the tranquil, romantic settings found in the … Romantic Happiness package! Doesn’t sound as exciting maybe as Adrenaline Happiness or Adventure Happiness, but to us it sounds like perfection.

We’ll spend two nights at El Silencio Spa and Resort in a tropical cloud forest.
Two nights at Arenal Springs Resort and Spa at the base of the Arenal Volcano.
And three nights at the Harmony Hotel on the beaches of Guanacaste.

We will meet the Maleku Tribe and they will perform a ceremony called “God-Nature-Man” in native costume and language, and then teach us how they do their handicrafts (sooo excited for this).
Hike through the cloud forest led by a Naturalist guide.
Go horseback riding in the wilds around the volcano.
Take a sustainability tour at the Harmony Hotel.
And have the additional option to surf, yoga, zip-line, aerial tram, etc etc (see how yoga is sandwiched between the other more adventurous stuff?!)

So there you have it. A package to end all packages. Every hotel seems to have wi-fi so it’ll be easy for us to keep you posted every day on what we’re up to. I can’t wait to share this experience with you guys!

Deb: ARE YOU KIDDING ME???????????????

Okay, I’m fine now. I just had to express my glee!
We are going to have such fun and we are going to love sharing with you.

Just wanted to add an extra FUN video bonus here.
This video of a future bride and groom went viral. Then, during an interview on the Anderson Cooper show just last week, they also received a wonderful Gift of Happiness to celebrate the start of their marriage. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stepping Up

Deb: There are times in your life when you need people. You may hate that you need them, but the current and present fact of your life is that you do. I am not an easy ask. I think I have mentioned that before. I decreed years ago that I would be always the bestower and never the bestowed. Asking for help is something I struggle with. But that rug has been pulled from under me of late. As it turns out, you don’t have to ask for help when the help arrives before you can muster the courage to ask.

When my Mom had her emergency almost a month ago now, I was a big pond away. My two “stepupsisters”, Cheryl and Mary, were all ready on it. In fact they discovered the severity of Mom’s condition and stepping up got the ball rolling and was ultimately responsible for saving my Mom’s leg. They moved swiftly with no questions asked. They just did what had to be done, pushing their own lives of laundry into literal and figurative baskets. They put the proverbial band-aid on the gunshot wound until the doctors could assess and scramble to help her.  And stood by her so she would be daughtered until I could get home.

Knowing they were stopping their own clocks to step up, I thought I better get the extended family involved simply to be there for my Mom and Dad in the form of visits or phone calls. So I called my cousin Scott. He and I grew up more like siblings than cousins. His Mom was my Mom’s only sister in a family of six kids and they were extremely close. We lived down the street from one another, shared the same schools, holidays and events. Scott is three weeks older than me and his twin boys are a month older than the boy. Our boys are close as well, to our everlasting joy.

Again, I was not looking forward to asking and again, I did not have to. Before I could finish the sentence regards Mom’s precarious circumstance, his plan was launched. He called key family members, got to the hospital, liaised with the doctors and nurses, picked up and delivered my Dad, cared for my Mom, made her laugh when she was scared and kept me informed every single step of the way until seconds before my plane took off from Heathrow.

That night he and his stepupsister wife Lorette were at the hospital. My Dad had already gone home when Scott and Mom were informed that they still might have to amputate.  Mom was clearly upset but resigned to doing what needed to be done to prevent the further spread of the gangrene. Scott texted me and I phoned my Dad from London to tell him, and he was devastated. I turned to Colin and I said, “It kills me that he is sitting along at home trying to come to terms with this information.” Just as the last words were out of my mouth, my text chime rang in with Scott’s words, “Hey, Lorette was just thinking that it is so awful that your Dad is sitting there alone with this news and wants to go over, make him tea and sit with him for a while. I’ll stay with your Mom. Is that okay?” Colin and I were sitting in the theatre when I got this text and I burst into grateful tears. Spent the whole first act trying to stifle my crying and part of the second act sleeping it off on Colin’s shoulder. It was awful when I realized I would have to wait a day to get out of London, but wonderful knowing I was being more than represented.

The next day when I landed in Toronto, I arrived to copious texts from Scott reporting important details, including the fact that they had done an angioplasty which might just save her leg. His diligence breathed hope into my panic for that trip from the airport to the hospital. A trip I did not have to take alone thanks to the third stepupsister, Barb, who was there as my shoulder and my chauffeur. Arriving in her hospital room was like showing up to a party. Cheryl had just gone home to tuck her daughter in, Mary was there, my brother Craig and his wife Jacquie, and Scott had just left knowing I was on my way.

In the days to come I would marvel at friends and parents of friends and cousins and uncles and aunts who more than stepped up with phone calls and visits and flowers, balloons and candy. Erica, the gal who cleans our homes, has been twice, our friend and dog walker Claude has been three times. All I have heard this last month is, “What can I do for you?”, “What do you need”, “What does your Mom need?”, “What does your Dad need?”  Also there have been the silent steps of people who just show up and visit or phone or bake or send cards, treats and balloons.

I can’t say that this really showed me who my friends are. I already knew them well in friend and family form. They are the people who step up. Now it’s my turn to step up with thanks. Rather than say, “They will never know what this has meant to my family,” ... I’ll make sure they do.

Barbara: Okay, out and out bawling now reading this. The step-ups are a remarkable bunch, aren’t they? I’ve known your cousin Scott from your get-togethers over the years, Deb, but my appreciation and admiration for him just skyrocketed.

And I will also say that Deb’s gratitude has absolutely spilled over in this time of need. I can’t tell you how often she has marvelled at the support you’ve extended her here on the blog, at the many hours her friends and extended family have spent visiting her Mom at the hospital, at the kindnesses bestowed all around.

You know what else impresses me—and this from visits to both your mom’s hospital and Nana’s—the step-ups in the medical system. We hear so much complaining abut indifferent or remiss healthcare (a situation I don’t doubt), that it’s worth a shout-out to those tireless men and women who bring their best selves to their job at the sickbeds. We notice you too. Your good humour, your patience, your respectful care. We bow to you. We thank you!

PS In honour of today's Remembrance Day––talk about stepping up––a sweet and beautiful video. Here's the explanation that goes with it:
A lone young Belgian boy is waiting to salute the Canadian troops passing by who had been attending a memorial service. Such class from our Canadian troops - watch what they do for this little boy. The "Eyes Right" command is the biggest compliment troops on parade can pay and is reserved for dignitaries in reviewing stands. Every now and then something just makes you smile!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Deb: With all the talk this week on our blog about Meteors, or rather asteroids (detailed info courtesy of Rigel) I got to thinking about early man and all the “firsts” for mankind.

Can you imagine what the cavemen and women thought when they first saw a meteor shower? Or a TOTAL ECLIPSE?

Over the ages eclipses (or is it eclipsi?) were not as they are now––Celestial Entertainment viewed on our Flat Sky screens. They were Holy-shit-the-world-is-ending, panic-making, poo-your-loincloth events.

But it always thrills me to think of that very first moment, the moment that eclipses (sorry) the fear. The essential moment where the original geek stepped out of the terrified throngs and said, “Ahhh, yeah, you know what? I’ve been keeping track and, uhhh, I think I see a pattern here with this thing ... and what’s more, it’s kinda cool.”

We can only imagine many times in history where one voice of reason turned panic into logic, fear into learning.

So often in my life I get asked, “What era would you liked to have lived in?” Don’t even have to ponder this. Like Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I would not pick one era. I would set my Way Back Machine for every thrilling moment in history from Grog the cave man sparking a fire to Steve Jobs linking the globe. I would scalp a front row ticket for “Eureka!!!!” ever single time.

A friend of mine has the most exciting of hobbies. He is an eclipse chaser. I asked him today what he has seen this particular year and he replied, “Nothing. The universe has been quiet.”

Wow. Quiet. Wow. Resting on its laurels, I assume. Who can blame it?

Please check out this link to enjoy previous and future years when the Universe is brazenly showing off.

I give you: Dave Makepeace––Eclipse Guy. Enjoy!!!