Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yes And ...

Deb: In the world of improv, there are rules. I know it seems kinda funny that there are rules in improv, but there are, and following them makes you a better improviser. An example of an improv rule would be “don’t block” or “don’t deny”. The concept being that to be a good improviser you must accept each idea that is given to you. If I walk into a scene and say I am your long lost sister then you must accept that and go with it and take it farther. To deny my offer serves nothing. It simply stops the scene cold.

“I am your long lost sister.”
“No, you are not.”


“I am your long lost sister.”
“YES, you are!!!! You have my same weird birthmark shaped like garlic.” 

Okay, granted, my example was not funny, but do you see how the scene takes off? Now we are going places! The possibilities are endless.

Needless to say, I have witnessed and, at times, been a part of great improv. I talked months ago in the blog  about The National Theatre of the World who are some of the greats at improv. And of course I am married to one of the masters of improv, as you know. But these people are not great because they are funny, although that is a big part of it. No, they are great because they know how to play the game the way it should be played and that is summed up by one simple phrase: Yes And.

Yes And is key to great improvising. If I make a statement in a scene, you should accept it. YES and then add to it ... AND.

Last week when Colin and I were at Chicago Second City I got to thinking about the Yes And and thought, wouldn’t it be great if we all Yes Anded in LIFE? What if we confirmed and added to every statement someone offered us in conversation?

Even if we didn’t agree with the statement, it would work. You could totally disagree and yet still forward the thought. 

“I think that Picasso was the greatest artist of the 20th century.”
“I hate Picasso. I could paint his crap with my feet.”

Yes Anding would maybe make it...

“I think Picasso was the greatest artist of the 20th century”
Yes, he had an amazing way of looking at the world and I think it’s great that you appreciate his work, but I tend to love his earlier more realistic stuff more.”

We open the conversation while still holding our opinion. We don’t block the person. We don’t downgrade their opinion. We show respect for other ideas and thoughts and we add our opinion.

I do confess that this becomes a stumbling block around, “Don’t you just love Nazis?” However, you still might even be able to Yes And that with:
Yes, I thought their uniforms were very slimming, but I really despised their guts.”

See? A nod to the slim tailored uniforms keeps the ball in the air. The conversation is still afloat.

Seriously though, all I am saying is that especially with venues like Facebook, I am finding that people just ram negative comments at us all the time. And in conversation I rarely hear anyone start a sentence anymore with “In my opinion, dot dot dot...” On the contrary, it often seems that we state things as fact. No wiggle room. I did not like the movie you liked, therefore said movie stank. Do not challenge me.

I find this blocking stance especially irksome regarding the arts. Art is subjective, isn’t it? Isn’t that the beauty of it?

I was never a modern art gal until the boy at the age of four enticed us into its world and now, although I certainly don’t like everything I see, I have grown to not only appreciate it, but to understand its beauty and strength.

“Mommy, I want to go into that room where there is a giant number five balancing on a bloody bird feather”.
“No, sweetie, that’s modern art. It’s scary. We don’t like it.”

Yes And brings us...

Yes, sweetie, that looks amazing. Let’s go in there and see the giant baby head balancing on a feather and it will become your lifelong passion and we will bond over it and as a result we will see modern art all over the world and sometimes it will make us laugh and sometimes it will make us puke and we will have wonderful conversations about it over dinners and we will have wonderful conversations about it over the years and we will meet at modern art galleries when you move away from home and it will be good and it will stimulate us and we will always remember the first time we went there.

Yes And. After all, isn’t that what we do every day of our lives ... improvise?

Barbara: Aw, Deb, you made me both laugh and teary with this one. How can I not laugh at “slimming Nazi uniforms”? But there is a core truth here that hits very close to home for me. Did you know that one of my most challenging times was when I worked with someone who (unwittingly) said no to almost every one of my ideas? It took me a long time to realize how frustrated, confused, and ultimately belittled it made me feel. When I finally realized what was happening, I pointed it out to him—and, to his credit, he was totally shocked. Ironically, this habit was so ingrained that, as we continued to work, his solution was mostly a tentative Yes But. Which sounds better, but is essentially the same as “no”. Worst of all was how I ended up reacting—by turning in desperation to my own crude, heels-dug-in-stubborn and strident no, No, NOs!  *embarrassed shudder* (lesson learned)

What an amazing and wondrous experience it is when someone takes your idea or thought or notion and expands upon it, allowing it to billow up, bigger and wider, until it is airborne and gloriously huge. Yes And is flying and dreaming and collaborating and connecting and relating and hearing. Yes And is the best kind of fuuuuuuuuun.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Compassion Baby

"The Rescuing Hug" photo by Chris Christo of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette
Barbara: I found this on a friend's Facebook page yesterday and had to share it here. It's been circulating for a while, but I hadn't seen it yet. You can read the whole story here on Snope, as they did all the research to authenticate it. Turns out it's a true story of inherent, unconditional love (also published in Life Magazine and Reader's Digest). 

When these babies, Kyrie and Brielle Jackson (love those names!), were born prematurely, Brielle wasn't doing so well. One enterprising nurse decided to "co-bed" the twins and to everyone's amazement, Kyrie snuggled up to her struggling sister and (unbelievable!) tucked her arm around her. It didn't take long for Brielle to stabilize. Two case-in-points: 1) touch and affection are life-saving, and 2) we are inherently compassionate and designed to help each other.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Those Familiar Strangers

Barbara: Have you ever noticed how excited we get when we meet someone for the first time and then find out they’re from our ‘hood? And the further away you get from your ‘hood, the wider the net-of-‘hood becomes?

Like when you’re across town, it’s exciting if a stranger turns out to be literally from the general vicinity of your house. But if you’re across the country, you get excited if they’re from your city. And if you’re across the world, you get excited if they’re from your country.

When we were on our ski trip last week, we took a hot chocolate break at a large communal table filled with other strangers, exchanging smiling glances and little else. Until a group from Germany sat across from us and began asking polite questions about the food. It took all of 3 minutes for banter about the merits of chili over tortellini soup to segue to the fact that my parents once lived in Germany—which, naturally, caused the law-of-‘hood to kick in. Suddenly we were pals getting to know each other, not too shy to ask intimate questions or offer up personal anecdotes. We had nothing in common beyond this tenuous link, but it was … something … something that gave us a starting point to real connectedness.

After our charming respite, we all went our separate ways, glad for the few minutes of camaraderie. Phil turned to me and noted how we seem to connect more quickly to strangers if we feel like we’re all from the “same place”. We wondered about this for a while, hypothesizing that it might be because of our tribal natures, or it might come out of a more modern need to remind ourselves that we are all related somehow. I mean, with our newfangled Heinz 57 heritages, each one of us can find some obscure connection to almost everyone we meet. It truly is 6 degrees of separation.

Now, I’m not saying we need to feel a tribal connection to people in order to enjoy them or want to find out more about them, but I can’t help wondering about how cool it is to experience that thrill of recognition between two strangers.

I’m now looking forward to the day when we’ll be all, “I can’t help noticing from your accent that you’re from the Milky Way Galaxy. Cool, me too. Hey, do you know my pal Deb McGrath?”

Deb: Barb, I relate to this so very much. And let’s face it, since the beginning of time we have been saying to strangers we meet, “So, where are your people from?”

I think that as the world gets bigger with population and smaller with social networks, we crave the face to face intimacy that comes from meeting someone from your village, be it a city, country, or … well … village. I don’t think we do this to exclude or to segregate, we do this to counter the vastness of our planet with the chance meeting of a street party. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cult Neighbours

Deb: Sometimes I think my neighbours are part of a cult. They always seem to know exactly what do in the neighbourhood and when to do it. If the garbage pickup has been changed to a new day, there they all are, trashed to the hilt in neat little rows on the street. Clearly there was a notice sent around. Or was there?

They seem to be on the “culting edge” of all neighbourhood activities that are frequently eluding my poor husband and I. It’s downright creepy how they seem to anticipate every holiday garbage pickup, and every food and clothing drive. They arrive as if out of nowhere at our door with their plastic pod smiles asking for clothes for the poor. As I stammer and scramble to cover, pretending I just left my donation bag upstairs, I find myself suddenly supplying the poor with a Marc Jacobs studded sailor top ... tags still on.

A week before Victoria Day this year, there they were, this time enlisting their wee devil children who stood at our doorstep sporting their perfect spawn smiles, hands outstretched waiting for our twenty-dollar street fireworks contribution.

“Thanks, Mrs. Mochrie, would you also like to bake something for the sweet table?” says Pod Junior with a grin that told me he knew damn well I don’t bake. What kind of evil game is he playing at??
“Yes, Connor, I would be happy to bake something.”

I had to be careful not to let my mind wander to which bakery I would be buying said baking at, knowing all too well that Connor could use my moment of weakness to steal my everlasting soul.

Well, this year I am going to turn the table on these vacant mindless Moonie wannabes. I am not going to bake, by God! I am not even going to fake-bake. Because that’s what they want. They want me to become one of them. They want me to know stuff. They want my husband to stand at the end of the driveway and chat with the other males about tools. And that just ain’t gonna fly. And you know why? He knows NOTHING about tools. Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa. We’re going to beat them at their own evil game. Because I know that they exist only to see us putting out our recycling on the right day or fake-baking for the fireworks, and we are stronger than that, damn their eyes!

So this year we decided to screw with their brainwashed matter. We purchased several packets of extra-long-lasting sparklers. You know, the ones that are safe for the tots because of their long burning feature, keeping tiny hands well away from the flame?

I went down the street to the home of street fireworks organizers, Betty and Bill Zeebub, and thrust my extra long sparklers at them, “Thought we would contribute a little extra this year, guys ... you know ... for the kids.”

This will have their forked tails in a knot, I thought. And it did. They were not programed for this out-of-format, off the grid gesture. But they quickly gained composure saying, “Oh thanks, but now we’ll have too many. You see we did our shopping for this event WEEKS ago.”
“Oh keep them,” I said, “you never know!”

With our sparkler test launched, I laid in wait. If they possess a shred of their former humanity, they will use them!!! They will have to. Who among us in human form would not be thrilled to use the gifted long-burning sparklers?

The day after the event as I was scrambling down the driveway in my housecoat, frantically shoving papers in the bin, the screeching brakes of the city truck rounding the corner ... I saw them. The burned and mangled remains of our extra-long sparklers in our neighbour’s recycle bin.

Maybe there is hope for them yet.

Maybe after this they will slip up again and again, parking on the wrong side of the street, or making too much noise after midnight, slowly but steadily exposing their vulnerable human selves.

As I walked back into the house I felt proud for being even a small part of their human restoration.

As I walked in the house, I heard the city truck screech past our house and I turned to see it drive right by our fully stocked recycle bin. 


As my bin error dawned on me, I am sure I saw a curtain flutter in the Zeebub’s living room and the trace of a satisfied smirk on Betty’s vacant puss.

Okay, Pod Pepes. You won this one. But the battle isn’t over.   

Barbara: …The Zeebub’s!! Oh my god!!! Okay, okay, I think their kith and kin (if such things have kin) live in my ‘hood!! It’s crazy—they truly know every rule and law, and I live in TERROR of their bloodless smiles and perfect grasp of neighbourhood etiquette: “Noooo, the bins are supposed to go here not there, and by the way, it’s really much safer if you back in when you park … you know … for the kids.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Igby Goes Up

Barbara: My daughter showed me this video the other day—it hasn’t gone viral yet so chances are you haven’t seen it yet—that her friend took of her amazing dog, Igby. Sadly, Igby got hit by a car and had to have emergency surgery to repair the damage to his hips. Turns out Igby wasn’t going to take his recovery lying down. No, he had other plans for dealing with his bum sitch. If only we were all so resourceful in the face of adversity!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My 28-Year Lesson

Barbara: Remember the other day when I wrote about quantum steps and how I noticed that, after lots of frustrating and seemingly futile attempts to learn something, I will learn it “suddenly”? Well, welcome to my world of skiing.

I’ve told you before that I am not an athletic person. I wish I were. I love sports, love watching them, love playing them. But I am useless at doing them. The only thing that keeps me “in the game” is my utter child-like embrace of play and my middle-aged don’t-give-a-fuck-that-I-suck attitude. But that doesn’t stop the looooonging from welling up deep inside me to have the game click in, to feel the natural rhythm of it.

Phil introduced me to skiing when I was 16. I loved it from the first hit of fresh, cold air to the last minutes of aching muscles and wind-burned cheeks. But I SUCKED. We skied pretty much every winter since then, and while I did get better and better, the rhythm, the ease, the flow, just refused to penetrate my musculature. It was all jolting turns and tense body parts.

Until 4 years ago—suddenly, I got it! The longest overnight breakthrough in history! Suddenly I knew how to shift my weight, lean to each side, carve my skis as if I’d been … doing it all my life. So my first thought for you today is: It may take a long time, but if I can do it, you too can learn some foreign thing if you a) love it and b) keep at it.
Skiing in Panoram, B.C., 2008: the year I "got" it.
My second thought is that learning to ski is a lot like learning to live well—and I’m going to share my hard-won lessons with you:

Skiing Lessons as Life Lessons
1. Breathe.
2. Relax into it. If you don’t, you’re likely to suffer unnecessary pain. Or pass out.
3. Stay in the “now”. If your mind is somewhere else, you could hit an unexpected bump and go flying.
4. Sometimes you will hit a bump and go flying. It hurts on impact, but maybe next time you’ll remember to breathe and relax into it.
5. It was from learning to ski the bumps (aka moguls) that I became a good skier.
6. You might be skiing with friends, family, or a team, and you will definitely need to be respectful of other skiers on the hill, but the bottom line is, you can only ski for yourself.
7. There’s no better reminder of the two scales of the world around you than when you’re skiing: there’s the stuff that’s right in front of you that will determine whether you stay on your feet or land on your ass, and then there’s the larger glorious world around that—in the case of skiing, it’s pure snow, flecked trees, mountainous terrain, maybe even a breathtaking vista. You want to respect both views without unduly favouring one or the other.
8. And remember to stop and sip the chai latte. There’s nothing like giving yourself a break every once and a while. Your muscles might be a bit tight when you get back to it, but you won’t regret the breather.

And now I leave you with these thoughts to mull over while I hit the slopes—the hills beckon. I’ll check in later, maybe over a chai latte (or gin-tonic, depending on the time of day :-) ).

Deb: Barb, this is so true. Every word you say. What a sweet perfect analogy. I am going skating today and will keep that in mind and my “stop and sip the latte” will be pancakes and syrup for Shrove Tuesday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dance Like You Mean It

Deb: Nothing that Colin and I don't do on a regular basis!
Seriously though. Beauty beauty beauty. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pick Up The Phone!!!

Deb: I love email. Live on the email. It has made my life simpler and I am able to get more things done in a day as a result. Think of how many times we have a huge list of calls to make and no time to do them? Think of how many times we can just dash off an email and make a date, solve a problem, right a wrong.

People often say that technology has interfered with our lives, taken over and removed us from the “each other” of life but where email is concerned I beg to differ. As a result of this faster than light communication tool, I have been able to spend more time doing more things with the people I love.

“Hi Barb. Love to have lunch this month. Here are some possible dates:
Monday the 19th
Wednesday the 21st
Friday the 23
If none of these is good for you, please suggest what might work. Looking forward!
Love, Deb xo”

“Hi Deb,
Would love to get together and:
Wednesday the 21st is great. Say noon at the Queen Mother?
Can’t wait!
Love, Barb xo”

“Hi Barb!
Love, Deb xoxoxo

Okay so that took all of two minutes AND I was sitting in my housecoat and slippers AND we did not slide down the slippery slope of chatting on the phone about everything we were going to gab about during the impending lunch!

But ... you knew there had to be a but. Sometimes email does not do it! At all. Sometimes in fact it can be misconstrued and misleading. Email has no tone of voice, no soul. So, in order to make sure an email is taken in the right spirit I have gone to great lengths to fill said email with tons of LOL’s and :-) and :-( and (tee-hees) and (har)’s. I have even gone so far as to start the email with the following” “Hi just so you know this note is sincere and although the tone might seem irreverent, I want you to know I am being serious.”

At that point it always occurs to me that it might be time to pick up the damn phone.

I have been hurt and have hurt others by sending emails that were completely misconstrued and after the back and forthing we have had to agree to pick up the phone and straighten out the misunderstanding.

Barb and I had one such incident a few months ago. Barb sent a blog to me that I just did not “get”. Now when I say I did not get it, I don’t mean it wasn’t well written or wasn’t clear for that matter, but my brain was overloaded on that particular day and I just could not find my way through it. I responded with that tone and she sent me an email saying that “she wasn’t quite sure what to do with my response” and I took it to mean she was hurt that I had not gotten it. What she actually meant was, that she was genuinely concerned that her blog made no sense and was thinking it was bad and that she would chuck the post.

As it turns out, she was not upset at all with me. She was upset that she felt she had failed to communicate her ideas. I on the other hand thought I had offended her. She was upset that she thought that I thought that I had offended her (breath) and on it went...

At this point we should have employed the pick up the damn phone!  option. And, actually around 11pm Barb suggested doing just that but we did not as I had a mega-migraine and had to be up at 6am for a flight. So we agreed via email that we both had the best intentions and that we were both looking after each other’s feelings. Having smoothed ruffled feathers we said our “love you’s” and went to our respective beds.

Because Barb and I are great at communicating with one another and never have falling outs, we were fine. But there have been other times with different people when it has not gone as well. There have been times when I was so sure that I had been so clear and yet, my meaning was lost on the recipient. 

I am usually pretty good at knowing when to do the pick up but this one showed me yet again that I must be more diligent in this regard.

I love email. Live on the email. But every once in a while I must give a tip of the hat to Mr. A.G. Bell. He knew what he was talking about.

Barbara: You told this story so well, Deb, I have nary a comment to add. Other than the obvious reiteration that intent is everything. And sometimes it’s easy to convey, and sometimes it’s not. And of course our own insecurities and foibles are going to colour our receptors. And so we end up speaking in “defensive mode” about our own shortcomings instead of really reading what the other is trying to say. And sometimes (as I know you’ve discovered, Deb) all the lols and :) and ;) and ha!s in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference in getting past someone’s defense mechanisms (me and my dastardly fear of not communicating well!!) With a live conversation, verbal tone can at least impart intent. Way easier.

But I won’t give up my 2-minute email—no friggin’ way!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quantum Baby Steps

Barbara: I told you I’d share some of my quantum lessons with you, right? Not one to go back on my word, I have a little something for you to chew on today. Plus, I’m still basking in the glow of my teacher’s most mind-blowing words (so far) that every lesson we ever have about the world is essentially there to teach us about ourselves (I mean think about it, every boring math class or droning lecture could actually be getting us closer to subconsciously understanding who we are inside)… No, I didn’t ask how carefully we needed to be paying attention ;).

Now, keep in mind that I’m adapting my ideas here from my own perspective (and limited understanding). In other words, this stuff is from a science-noob trying to keep up with a crazy course while simultaneously trying to translate this newly-acquired understanding to you as if you’ve also never in your life had a class on Physics or Quantum Physics. So bear with me—because my ultimate point is to get us to the juicy life-stuff and not linger in math equations and non-visual concepts.

I always assumed (if I’d ever even given it a thought) that energy built along a smooth continuous course, build and build and build, smoothly up. Like a fire gaining intensity, getting hotter and hotter, in an even, cumulative way. Sort of like this:

But after deconstructing a bit of Planck and Bohr (super-important physicists, yadda yadda), I learned that, in fact, the only mathematical formula that could explain how energy built (or diffused)—and this formula never ever fails when applied to everything we know so far in the universe—is that energy builds in steps. Clunk, clunk, clunk, up and up, or up and down, or down and up, but always by indivisible, chunky steps. Sort of like this:

So how does this apply to the juicy stuff of life? Well, that’s the question!! Because let’s assume for a moment that it does.

Okay, so I’ve been going along in my imperfect life, bumping along, trying really really hard to “improve myself” or “gain greater spirituality” or “develop my thinking” and I am always amazed—and frustrated and PISSED—that even when I get it in my mind, I don’t just get it in my heart. After weeks or months or years of contemplation, the same things will still frustrate me, or evade me, or challenge me. Why can’t I just get over that thing someone did that bugged the hell outta me? Or why can’t I just process my grief? Or why can’t I meditate properly?

And I’m supposed to be so in tune with myself, right? So conscious. But then… but then…

Suddenly, one day, actually one moment in one day, it just … clicks. It all falls into place. I do get it. I forgive that transgression. Or I get over that grief. Or I understand that principal (or that godforsaken computer gibberish). All the hell and fury is just … gone.

And I do feel like I’ve just jumped up a clunky step. After aimlessly wandering along the same level—but gathering, I guess, information or experience or insight—I suddenly find myself closer to being the accepting, cognizant, loving me, the me in peace. And maybe the whole process has been a series of step-after-step-after-step and not a smooth, fluid, and inevitable process at all.

So I did discover that when I applied the quantum logic to my feeling self, the math still worked! And I had learned something too. The question is, does this quantum logic speak to you?

Deb: It does speak to me. I always think back to trying trying trying to have a second baby after the boy was born. It was not to be and I could not get past it. Until I did. Same with leaving my sketch troupe a few years ago. Struggle struggle block block struggle and suddenly I guess it was a quantum cloud that lifted and it was “done”. I guess I am intimidated by the whole quantum show but when you break those molecules down to little old me, I get it. And I so see it working for me. I have always wondered the whys of when you can’t let go and why suddenly you can. Should have paid attention in science. Would have saved myself a lot of pain! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blog Guests of Honour

Hey all,

The Middle Ages has just had a windfall of love and honour as Gae Polisner awarded us a Versatile Blogger award last Monday. Then Lori Landau added to our blush factor.

One of the provisos with the Versatile Blogger is that you’re supposed to pay-it-forward to 15 other bloggers you respect and admire, and so on and so on. Well, it’s a lot of work for the awardee, let me tell you, and what’s more, you’re not really supposed to pay it back, so there goes our chance to honour two of our faves (*waves at Gae and Lori*). Soooo, rather than name our favourite blogs or obligate anyone to do all this work, we decided to take this chance to honour our most avid community members WHO ALSO BLOG. These are our regular commenters, those peeps who come here almost every day and weigh in on all things deep and light, but who also have these other forums where you can chat and get to know them better. This is a list with which you cannot go wrong: these are honest, interesting, and compassionate souls.

If we’ve left anyone off, we’re sooooooorrrrrrrry. We love you too! And, of course, this won’t be the last time we do this, so we can make it up to you…

So, here goes in no particular order:

Gae Polisner for her truly funny and witty comments here, and for her thoughtful observations on her blog on the art of writing, getting published, and swimming the cold East Coast waters IN THE WINTER!! And for the way she loves us (*blushes again*).

Lori Landau for her stunningly beautiful contributions here, and for her nurturing, illuminating meditations on her blog about connecting with your truest and deepest self.

Twins Holly and Kelly for visiting us every day with their bear-hugs of positive energy, but who also reflect on all things near to their hearts (like studying, nursing, and… well, Colin) on their own blog.

Kate, our StubbleJumpin’Gal, who was our first follower and has been here through thick and thin, offering her deeply centred calm and her amazing wry wit—her blog is a treasure-trove of the same.

Dawn who has changed before our very eyes by sheer force of her amazing spirit, and who rarely blogs, but when she does, it’s worth the wait (especially the “Thank God for Delete” post).

Hollye Dexter who hasn’t been by as much as she used to, but she’s got sooooo much to talk about and does so with compassion that will take your breath away.

Lyndsie who has also rarely if ever missed a day to weigh in and who writes straight from the heart and with sweet honesty.

Madge who has one of the most grounded senses of self we’ve ever read, both here and at her place, and who reminds us it does get better the more we learn.

Molly with her 5 kids and hectic life, who joins us here to commiserate and celebrate and who also shares her ideas, troubles, and triumphs on her blog with bright and singular honesty.

Lisa Golden is the political dynamo with the sharp wit of a nightclub comedian and the loving heart of gold of a…wait, that might not very sound nice, but take it from us, she’d like it :-)

Erin who joins us on a regular basis with quiet intelligence and interesting takes on things and who shares all that on her own blog, along with her beautiful writing.

Hart Johnson, aka Tami, aka Alyse,aka the Watery Tart, who has sass and heart in equal measure and who’s not afraid to speak straight, but who also oozes compassion and good sense (and she likes to get naked).

Kelly from NJ with her sweet, gentle observations and her enthusiastic support for all things TMA, and for the stunning photos on her blog.

Of course this list doesn’t include those amazing regulars who warm our hearts and make us think, but who aren’t bloggers (or who’ve just gotten started) like Shalaka and Jo and Becki and DKO and Mary-Jo and Rigel and Sharon and Karen and Anne and Steph and Linda and Annette (garedican) and on and on and, OH MY GOD, just love you guys!

Thanks all. If you want the Versatile Blogger badge, feel free to grab it: y’all deserve it! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sweet Sleepover

Deb: I travelled to Halifax this week to visit a dear friend who was performing in a play there. Arrived on Saturday and left on Tuesday morning. The plan was to see her play, shop, eat, chat and laugh. What wasn’t planned was deep connection.

I know this friend well. Very well. She came to me in friendship much later in life, far later than my other dear friends. I met her six years ago when we started working together on the TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie. We met that first day and instantly knew that we were meant to be friends. As we looked into each other’s eyes for the first time it was like, “Hello there. Where the hell have you been all these years?”

Much to the chagrin of directors, makeup artists, and everyone in-between, we were connected at the hip and at the mouth, as in we NEVER shut up. We could spend fourteen hours a day talk talk talking, laugh laugh laughing, and then we’d go home and start text text texting.  It was a curious joy, this new friendship forged in my fifties. As my friend loves to recount, one of her favourite memories is when my husband said to her and her husband Pete, “We were at the point in life where we thought we had enough friends, no time for more. Then we met you guys”. And it’s true.

Colin and Pete also became friends during this time and they loved and admired each other greatly. Pete convinced Colin to return to the stage after a 23-year absence and do the play Art with him. To my husband’s everlasting joy it remains not only a professional highlight but a deeply personal one as well.

We lost Pete just over a year ago on January 8th, which ironically happens to be Colin and my wedding anniversary. I did a tribute to Pete and Sheila on this blog the day he died, which I went on to read at the two memorial services held for him in Toronto and Stratford respectively.

Sheila and her daughters have just completed their year of firsts without husband and father so it was important to me to go out to Halifax and support her in her first artistic venture of the new year, the beginning of her new life. I knew she would be wanting for company and thought it would be nice to fill that gap. Plus, I missed her.

Isn’t it always the way when you think you are doing something nice for someone and then, surprisingly, the gifts come to you instead? This was the case during our three days together. And this is where I make my case for the value of the sleepover. Dinners and days spent with friends can be rewarding, fun and silly, meaningful and valuable. But what I discovered on this trip was deeper. Often when Sheila and I get together for a night, a day or an event, we end up just playing catch-up. We while away the hours riffing and digressing with rapid fire and sharing the intimate details of our lives side by side in boutique dressing rooms or across a coffee shop table. When Pete was ill we would forge our way through clothing shops, weeping and whispering one second and screaming, “Oh my heavens, this dress is YOU!” the next, and then laughing our asses off at the irony. It was a year of conversation with only one looming subject. No matter how rich the gossip or bit of news, our minds and hearts were focused on Pete—his illness, Sheila’s handling of it, her daughters, their state of mind, our collective sorrow, our fear, her terror, her inevitable life without him and her stoic handling of all of the above.

When Pete died in January we had no idea that within weeks and months she would also lose her darling parents one after the other. She soldiered on and I was one of her many lieutenants, offering thoughts and ideas and just listening, trying to will her pain away but knowing I couldn’t. It was exactly what it needed to be and I was ... “happy” is the wrong word  ...I guess I was ... grateful to be able to serve as shoulder, advisor, court jester. I had so much experience with death and dying and she had none to this point, so I was the perfect person at that time for her. It was a job I wished I was not qualified for, but there you have it. When Pete’s diagnosis first came in, I said to her—and I know this might sound strange—but I said of death and dying, “Sheila, I am good at this. Let me help you.”

But as fate would have it, we helped each other equally the whole time and it strengthened our bond even more.

This weekend was different. As a result of the sheer luxury of time, our relationship expanded. Yes, of course, we talked about Pete, but she in turn listened through my tear-choked voice to my fears and heartbreak around my parents changing lives and this time served as my shoulder, advisor, and court jester.

But it was more, for the first time in a long time. We talked and talked as we walked, shopped, and lay in bed. We talked of dreams and our futures. We talked of God, and our different upbringings. We talked of hopes and wishes, failures and regrets. We talked of aliens and of the universe. We talked of life and the getting on with it in the face of adversity. And we talked of the expanse of love. We talked of middle age and old age and worries and pride and schoolgirl memories.

Last night was the last night of our sleepover weekend and we were both blissfully tired after a full day of Friend. I wanted to be fresh for my flight home to my darling for Valentine’s Day and she for her last week of performances, so we hunkered down to sleep. I LOVE my sleep and always look forward to its coming. But damn, this is one sleepover I did not want to end in sleep. There was so much more to share. And we will. And I, for one, cannot wait. 

Barbara: You guys have been through so much together! Makes me weep. But also so very happy you had this chance to bond in an organic and relaxed way. And look what happened! Girlfriend magic. I’ve had the chance to enjoy a few great adult-friend sleepovers in my time and, you are so right, it is completely different from the lunches or shopping trips or glasses of evening wine. It harkens back to those days of youth when you’re aching to keep your eyes open, straining to stay awake just a bit longer, the deepening darkness like a warm blanket making your secrets and dreams feel safe enough to come out and play.
Sheila snapped this as Deb harmonized with the singer!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So A Bunch Of Gorillas Walk Into A Hotel

Deb: Halfway through watching this I realized I was holding my breath. Not with fear but with pure overwhelming joy! I would love to meet the man in the "middle" and hear about every single solitary feeling he had. Wowie! Once in a lifetime does not begin to cover this!

For those of you who celebrate: Happy Valentine's Day from us to you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Self-Esteem: How Low Can You Go?

Barbara: I met the most lovely young woman the other night. She was stunningly beautiful, but in such a natural way it seemed she never even thought about it: no makeup, long loose hair down to her butt, and comfortable, simple, and as a result sexy clothes and jewelry. But also all the fixings of a real beauty: excellent bone structure, perfect olive skin, and bright intelligent eyes. You coulda knocked me over with a sable makeup brush when she announced a few glasses of wine into the evening that she suffered terribly from low self-esteem.

And as the rest of us women also began to consider self-esteem that night it became clear—and maybe obvious—that this seems to be a universal issue for we women of the first world problems. But why? I know I ask “why” a lot—I’m like that annoying 3-year-old kid who’s just learned the word. But again, it just niggles, doesn’t it? Whhhhhyyyyy?

Okay, so why does it matter that there are more beautiful women out there, thinner ones, or smarter ones? Why do we need to measure ourselves against them—and when we do, why do we consider the comparatives as “shortcomings” and not “differences”? When I was younger, I was always drawn to bitches—and why? Because they made me feel absolutely sure of my place as someone dumber, less sophisticated, and less capable. And mostly because I deemed it so, not because that’s what they out-and-out said to me. Did that sense of my being less-than invade my every waking moment? Not consciously, but I know it manifested in all kinds of ways. I always used to worry that my husband would find someone more attractive and then leave me, devastating my very being. It never occurred to me that if our marriage were to end, it would be because we’d fallen out of love and couldn’t find our way back, and not because of some random, slight, and natural observation that there were, oh my god, yes, some women prettier and smarter than I (again, those bitches I was “attracted to” were also the ones I was most sure would be my marriage-nemeses: naturally Phil would leave me for the opposite of me, right? Naturally I would want them in my life.).
Image (yup, that's me) by Michele.
The thing is, we don’t make our problems better by sassing ourselves and preparing for the worst (i.e.: loss of love). No, that’s how we make our problems. That’s right. We. Make. Our. Problems.

That beauty I met the other night, her self-esteem issues attracted the worst kinds of assholes. And I’m gonna guess that if she were lucky enough to meet Mr. Right, she might actually drive him away by being more wrapped up in how “horrible” she is than in how wonderful he is. I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her how amazing she is and how much she deserves the very best (okay, I did tell her all that, short of taking her in my arms). But the truth is, she is surrounded by numerous people who trumpet her wondrousness. She’s not one of those people who’s alone with no one to love her. But it didn't seem to make a difference to her love of self. In other words, despite every apparent gift and advantage, there are still some issues that have such insidious power … they manage to trump all else.

Hello, low self-esteem. Now fuck off.

I want us to fight back. I want us to tell ourselves how amazing we are. I mean, what have we got to lose? That would be one (more) voice on the planet that’s got it right. And don’t worry about getting all hoity on conceit—conceit has its roots in other problems, namely lack of compassion and dearth of awareness. No, no, self-love is something beautiful and generous and expansive. It swells up your heart and gives it more space to love other people.

I begged that young woman to tell herself every morning how amazing she is until she maybe finally believed it, and suddenly one of our fellow diners shared her story with us: in order to land her dream job, she spent every morning looking at her reflection in the mirror and telling herself she was great and smart and the best one for the job. And you know what? She felt so relaxed and confident by the time she got to her interview that she nailed it. And you know what else? Cutest, sweetest, least conceited person I ever met.

By not looking into that distorted mirror anymore, we free ourselves up to really look outward and see the wonderful world.

Deb: Beautifully said, Barb. This subject continues to amaze and shock me. Not only from the point of view of my own insecurities, but from those whom I deem wonderful and “worthy” of self-love.

Lately when I let thoughts of self-doubt and insecurity take up space in my brain, I say out loud, “Enough. Stop this, poison thought. Get out of my head.” If I do not say it out loud, for some reason it looms large in my psyche all day. So I totally get why the cute sweet gal did that. It works! And some days/weeks I don’t say it once and some days I say it ten times. I think my brain is shocked when I say it and it lays off.

My biggest surprise of late, much like the beautiful insecure stranger you met, was when I read Diane Keaton’s book. Oh my God, she is so insecure. I mean, soooooo insecure. And I thought, Really? YOU are Diane Friggin Keaton! But then I thought, “Yeah, but we see her from the outside and she sees herself from the in.”

Barbara: And here's another look at one of the best expressions of confident self-nurturing. Which, with its amazing spirit, made us all stop and watch and cheer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sunshine Sketches: Sunday February 12th, 8PM on CBC

Deb: Many projects come and go. Some are fun, some are successful, some are a nightmare, and some are special.

Sunshine Sketches Of A Little Town is special.

If you are Canadian, this is a must-see as it is a proud part of our heritage. If you are not, please consider watching as it is great family viewing.  Colin and I have seen a copy and it is delightful, funny, and surprising.
Colin and Deb on set.
Sunshine Sketches was written by Stephen Leacock in 1912. Mr. Leacock  was a humourist and writer of fiction who was born in Hampshire, England in 1869. He came to Canada with his family at the age of six and was educated among other schools at the prestigious Upper Canada College in Toronto and the University of Chicago where he received a doctorate in political science and political economy. He soon became disillusioned with politics (smart lad) and turned to writing, with fiction and humour a specialty. He started out his literary career writing short stories that were published in magazines in Canada and the U.S. and became very popular all over the world. Around 1911 it was said that more people had heard of Stephen Leacock than had heard of Canada. Still true today!!!  :-)

Between 1915 and 1925, he was the most popular humourist in the world.
Groucho Marx and Jack Benny were among his biggest fans. He was a huge influence on them when they were young vaudevillians and fifty years after first reading him they still considered him one of their favourite comic writers.

Sunshine Sketches was shot in the thinly-disguised town of Mariposa, a small town in Ontario that Leacock was all too familiar with. The story is based on fact and fiction or, I should say, fact and embellishment.

This production is a virtual who’s who of Canadian talent, with the great Gordon Pinsent at the helm. We are proud of it and wanted to share. Please consider spending some time with us in this charming little town. 

Barbara: I saw the trailer for this just the other night and it looks fabulous! Beautifully shot and with some great stars (including our dear Deb and Colin). I’m so glad you remembered to remind us, Deb—because TV shows, especially Canadian ones, tend to fall through the cracks. I really want to catch this one!

We couldn’t get the trailer to embed here, but if you go to this link, you can see a really cute (and not too long) making-of doc.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Deb: Full moon tonight and I already feel it, although it is only 4pm. An undercurrent of palpitation in my heart, a building spark of excitement. I have always been besotted with its round cratered self. The Man on the Moon was my first boyfriend, my between boyfriend, my rebound boyfriend, my steady boyfriend.
Painting in my home by Rob Gonsalves
Many people are affected by the moon: “that monthly changes in its circled orb”. Maybe that’s why I love it. Just like a woman, the moon reserves the right to change its mind. It is said that Cancerians like me are most affected by its opalescent wiles.

One of my earliest memories as a tot is looking at the moon in all its pale glory. Like most children I never had problems sleeping. I would go to bed at night and wake up to the morning light. Except when it was a full moon. All my life I have awoken to its gentle luminous nudge. I always figured that this was because the moon was lonely. I surmised that it would go around gently waking like-minded souls so they could bask in its golden glow. Can you imagine what Moon feels like when it puts on its shining grinning spectacle only to have people fall asleep? Trust me, I’ve performed in shows like that!
Painting in our home: The Bedroom by Deloss McGraw
I guess that’s why I can never leave Moon wanting. Not that I have a choice, mind. Because the moon calls on me. I would like to think it’s just me because I am covetous of the Moon, but I know there are others.

But that’s okay because when I am up on a full moon night, gazing skyward towards its opaque teariness, I always feel supported in my quiet gaze.

Maybe that is why I am such a space enthusiast. When the “Eagle” landed on the moon, I could not breath. When Neil Armstrong took his first step I was weightless with fulfillment.
My sketch-a-day sketchbook: the moon over The Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica
If I ever get the chance to go to the moon, I will take it. There is no way on Moon that it could disappoint!

The moon makes me feel whole. I feel like I belong to Moon and Moon 
belongs to me. I have always felt this way as far back as I can remember.  The moon does not seem empty, bleak, or lifeless to me. The opposite rather.

The moon would be my ultimate quiet place. My email would be out of range and I could get a lot of reading done despite the fact that I am a very slow reader.

But would I arrive on Moon and instantly become besotted with Earth? I don’t know. In the meantime, I moon.

I also know that this is why I love cheese.
My sketch-a-day sketchbook: last night's moon
Barbara: Phil and I were driving back from Costco at dusk last night and the full moon had just started to rise in the east, climbing up through the Toronto skyline, a huge, yellow disc just peering down at us—almost a portal it looked so huge. It looked impossibly close, as if it had fallen off its orbit or something. We marveled at it, eyes barely on the road ahead. And then Phil observed, “Why does our moon not have a name? All the other moons have names, but ours is just ‘moon’.”

And it’s always been thus. We wax poetic of moons in literature and examine them in detail in science, but our moon is always The Moon. Interesting!

PS I am also a moon girl, a Cancer and a feeler-of-moon-waves and dreamer-of-moon-dust. Thanks for the lovely ode, Deb.
Last night's moon tangled in the trees of our backyard

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Literal Videos

Barbara: Since we were talking dreams yesterday—and we can keep it up, so keep posting comments over there—I thought it might be fun (and funny) to go the other way today and be literally literal. This made me laugh out loud.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dream A Little Dream With Me

Barbara: Do you like to talk dreams? Because lately a friend keeps asking me to pay attention to them—out of curiosity, but also out of interest as to what they might dredge up—and it made me realize that I haven’t thought about my dreams in a long while.
(Costa Rica: photo by Phil)
I’m not one to believe that our dreams can predict our future or the future or any aspect of it (although I do believe that there is a certain kind of person for whom this might be true). But I do think that dreams are manifestations of our questions or concerns or stresses or even joys.

In the morning when I wake, I hardly ever remember my dreams. It was only several years ago when I was doing some research and was encouraged to really try and remember them that I made a concerted effort to recall details as soon as I woke up. And it worked! Suddenly I could see the strange places I’d been in my dreams that were kinda like familiar places in real life but then not. I began to write the details down in a journal that I kept beside my bed, and that process helped me remember the dreams with even greater clarity. This ritual was so effective that to this day I remember dreams I had during that period. (Okay, there was this one where I’m an amphibian creature crawling around a vividly verdant rainforest floor but I’m also looking at my creature-self from above, way up high from the lush trees, also trying to crane my eyes over the tree-line to the blue sky beyond it, when suddenly my amphibian self says, very clearly over the rainforest whoooosh, “What you’re looking for is not up there. It’s down here on the ground.” Even though it was my dream, I still think that’s a cool, apt life-reminder for any of us, no?)
(Costa Rica: photo by Phil)
Anyway, the cataloguing-dreams thing was just an exercise and pretty soon I dropped the habit and began again to jump out of bed as soon as I woke to hit the ground running. Dreams went back to being what they’d been before, these distant, vague, sometimes unsettling, sometimes blank impressions … and nothing more. 

So I decided to heed my friend’s recent advice and from now on spend a few moments every morning trying to remember my dreams. At first it was frustrating. I couldn’t remember a thing. And what’s worse, I could feel the memory of the dream zinging away from my mind’s-eye like a yo-yo, now here, now gone up from whence it came. But I realized that if I really worked to grab the memory back before it was too far flung(!), the details would rack into focus and I could examine it, turning it first one way and then the other until it made some kind of coherent sense. Now I can tell you with complete confidence that each of my dreams (much like the amphibian dream) has featured me looking for something. But in an intent, calm, and specific way. Either I’m asking people questions, or I’m searching my house (but not my house, rather that weird, dreamly version of it), or I’m off in some distant land, exploring and discovering it. Or—like in last night’s dream—I’m either a newly minted police officer or an actor learning to be one, and I’m taking all these notes and being super anal and asking all these questions about how the sleuthing should be done but also giving my (unsolicited) opinion when I think the sleuthing could be more effective (sadly, this is so me, sigh).

The thing is, I don’t know what I’m searching for in essence through all these dreams, but it does make sense to me that this is the conundrum I’d take into my REM: what is it? what is next? where is it all leading? what will I find? will I know what to do with it when I find it?

There’s a really weird side-note to all this: the same friend who started this interesting dream-quest also reminded me about that pen I lost all those years ago—and she challenged me to be open to finding it. So I’m lying in bed this morning, freshly awake, remembering that police-slash-actor-training dream in all its strange detail and suddenly my thoughts go to that errant pen, out of nowhere. And I get this deeply aware feeling that I know where it is. And it’s an option I’d long ago forgotten. I see it with another person. A person who said they didn’t have it way back then. As I said, an option I looked into and then put aside in favour of searching high and low in my own home. I’m not saying I believe it was stolen, I’m saying I just suddenly felt it was gone to this other, unreachable place. A real pen’s real whereabouts … or a metaphor for something else?

Are dreams speaking to us from some place we don’t ever tap into in waking life, or are they simply a wild kind of movie-version of what we already know? Is it the truth … or is it all just a dream?

Deb: Fascinating and timely subject, Barb—for me too. I am finding of late the insomnia seems to be the order of the day for me. Or I should say, order of the night. 3am to 6am to be specific. My feeling around this is that my dreams and wakefulness are a manifestation of that which I cannot face.

Although my day is filled with positive active movement regards the changes in my Mom and Dad’s life, my dreams are filled with doubt and self-judgment. When I wake up sometimes it is all I can do to shake them. But shake them I do. I know these images and feelings are the part of me that wants to plant the seed of self-doubt. And I guess if I had to choose, I’d take them during sleep rather than during a waking moment, which might affect my life or someone else’s life. So, yeah, I think the dreams are what we don’t and won’t tap into. I also think they are daring adventures that an unused part of our brain’s spirit wants to go on. And if we won’t go willingly, it takes us regardless.

You have inspired me to the dream journal, Barb. I have a splendid one that my husband bought me in Italy. A lovely brown leather deal with the moon and stars stitched on the cover. I will wait till this period of my life is settled and then I will start recording in it, not my dreams but the images and feelings provoked as a result of them. It’s pointless to do it right now though, as I know all too well which part of my brain this oddness and fear is coming from—and why. But soon, I will crack it open. Look out, brain, here I come.