Monday, February 28, 2011

And The Award Goes To…

Barbara: Before I announce the recipient of my honourary Academy Award, let me explain the whole Oscar “phenomenon” as it exists in my house. First of all, growing up with dreams of being a successful actor had the usual effect on me: yes, if you must know, I did indulge in imaginary Oscar acceptance speeches; yes, they were emotional and heartfelt thank-yous to my beloveds, and yes, oh yes, they far exceeded the 45-second time allotment. I have watched the Oscars every year for as many years as I can remember.

That said, I’m not actually much of an awards show watcher. I mean, there are so many: the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the SAG Awards, the Canadian Geminis, and on and on. It’s as if I have an ingrained limit and one show a year fills it to capacity. It’s kind of the same with sports. I almost never watch sports on TV, but when the Olympics are on, just try and interfere with my viewing pleasure.

Okay, so we’re clear on where I stand on awards shows in general and the Academy Awards show in specific. So it shouldn’t be a great leap for you to imagine the almost religious ceremony I build around watching the show. I like to stay home, en famille (where I won’t miss a thing), I watch the pre-show arrivals and mock the inane banter that comes from the mouths of the clearly nervous interviewers, I watch (or watched) the Barbara Walters special, and I only go to the washroom during commercial breaks. Years ago, I told my husband I would not be cooking on that night. Ever. My husband and I mostly share the cooking ritual here in a your-turn-my-turn kind of system. Well, it doesn’t matter if he cooked the night before, on awards night it is never, ever (did I say that already?) my turn. Hollye said it the other day: the Academy Awards is like my Super Bowl.

And Phil has gamely met my demands unflinchingly, year after year. So here’s where we get to my honourary award. There was a time when he simply prepared, you know, easy stuff like chicken wings or ribs. But then a few years ago he got it into his head that he was going to make a themed dinner (themed to the nominated movies, a menu found, I think, on Well, martinis were served with dainty hors d’oeuvres, plates were brought heaped with seared tenderloin and sautéed veggies and mushroom risotto, dessert was served with sparkling wine. It was a glorious feast. So glorious, in fact, that my daughters and I fairly swooned for the couple of hours it took to eat. We may even have glanced away from the ceremonies a few times to acknowledge his masterful meal.

And so, much to my husband’s chagrin, a ritual was born, one that would forever after scoff at plain old chicken wings and ribs. I’m not sure how thrilled Phil is that he has been swept up by our manic devotion to his culinary services, but he continues to step up and outdo himself. This year: French onion soup, and cassoulet with duck confit, both made from scratch (French theme in honour of Inception’s setting). 

Black and White Brownies courtesy of my Younger. Mmmm.
Oh my friggin god.
Thanks, sweetie, the award definitely goes to you.

DebA well deserved award, Phil! Hope you didn’t burn your hand while cooking and drop the F-bomb like Melissa Leo!

And speaking of bombs, how about that hosting job last night?  Wow. Reaching out to young people?  Please! Young people are not idiots and are not going to tune in unless they want to. I love both Anne Hathaway and James Franco, but dear God they were miscast in those roles. At least she seemed to be trying and wore some great dresses.

Anyway, what a lovely tradition you have, Barb, with Phil at the kitchen helm. My husband has also done this for many years (but not last night as we had just flown in from Vancouver and went to an Oscar party). He has in the past themed a course for every movie. Now that it is ten movies, he will just have to pick the most inspirational I guess.

But his finest moment is the year he did: “BENJAMIN BUTTON Mushroom Soup”, followed by “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE Mini Curry Burgers”, followed by “THE READER Potato Latkes”, followed by “MILK Fruit and Nuts Salad”, followed by “FROSTED NIXONS cake.”  Great taste and good laughs with each course. What more could you want?

So, for best achievement in an Oscar-themed evening, the winners are Colin and Phil. I ate my chocolate Oscar, but still have the memories!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Adam and Bob

Deb: My dear darling friend Cheryl and her little girl Mel have been featured in the blog before, amusing us with Mel’s great insights and funny observations. The following exchange took place this weekend and prompted my idea for the blog. The story is told by her mom, Cheryl:

So Rob, the newly ex husband of my friend Donna who just passed away, has for some God unknown reason given my cell phone number to someone named Curtis who thinks he knows me and is my long lost pal. I haven't a clue who Curtis is. He's called me twice, the second time today on our way home from church. When I got rid of him I was ranting on to Mel about the situation and she said, “Well, maybe Adam forgot to tell you.” I asked what she meant and who Adam was, that the only names in the story were Rob and Curtis. “You know”, she reiterated, “Adam. Adam just didn't tell you.” And then it came to me: I must have said “I don't know him from Adam.” Clearly she felt Adam, whoever he was, had sadly neglected his duty to introduce Curtis and me......Much as I didn't want to ruin future fun, I explained about the expression.

I love this story for any number of reasons, but for the purposes of this blog, it’s because I love the old expressions and I love finding out their origins. After Cheryl sent this to Barb and myself, I googled the origin of “Don’t know him from Adam”. Here’s what I got:

The form commonly used is 'not to know one from Adam's off ox,' meaning to have not the slightest information about the person indicated…. 1848 the author of a book on 'Nantucketisms' recorded a saying then in use on that island, 'Poor as God's off ox,' which, he said, meant very poor. It is possible that on the mainland 'Adam' was used as a euphemistic substitute. The off ox, in a yoke of oxen, is the one on the right of the team. Because it is the farthest from the driver it cannot be so well seen and may therefore get the worst of the footing. It is for that reason that 'off ox' has been used figuratively to designate a clumsy or awkward person.

In other words, the expression started out differently, with "God" rather than "Adam" as the term, and people who feel uncomfortable talking about "God" colloquially substituted "Adam."

One of my favourite expressions is “Bob’s your Uncle”. Here is what I found out about it. The top theory is the one I have always believed, but as you can see, it has some holes in it:

One theory regarding the origin of the phrase is that it refers to Lord Frederick Roberts. Roberts was an Anglo-Irish soldier, born in India, who fought and commanded in India, Abyssinia, Afghanistan, and South Africa. Roberts was one of the most successful commanders of the Victorian era and was cited for numerous acts of gallantry. His finest hour was perhaps the lifting of the siege of Kandahar in 1878 in which he marched a force of 10,000 men over three hundred miles from Kabul, winning a battle and successfully lifting the siege. Well respected amongst his men, Roberts was affectionately referred to as 'Uncle Bobs'.

Generally meaning 'all will be well', and often used to indicate a successful outcome, the phrase "Bob's your uncle" was a term originally used by Roberts' men to boost confidence among the ranks and imply that all would be well under his command.

Another explanation is that the phrase dates to 1887, when British Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury decided to appoint Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland in an act of nepotism. Lord Salisbury was Arthur Balfour's uncle. The difficulty with that explanation is that—despite extensive searching—the earliest known published uses of the phrase are from 1932, two from 1937, and two from 1938. (See these and other quotes in American Dialect Society list archived posts by Stephen Goranson.)[1][2]

Another theory is that it derives from the slang phrase "All is bob," meaning that everything is safe, pleasant or satisfactory. This dates back to the eighteenth century or so (it’s in Captain Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue of 1785). There have been several other slang expressions containing bob, some associated with thievery or gambling, and from the eighteenth century on it was also a common generic name for someone one didn’t know. Any or all of these might have contributed to its genesis.[3]
In London and York, it can be heard of someone stating "Bob's yer Uncle", and then upon hearing this, a woman nearby may respond "and Fanny's yer Aunt!"


Barbara: Great idea, Deb! I’ve often wondered about certain expressions, but never thought to look them up. Okay, I’ll go first—the expression I that I’m curious about is “for the love of Pete”. Here’s what I found:

This phrase and phrases like "for Pete's sake" are euphemisms for the phrases "for the love of God/Christ" or "for God's/Christ's sake" and hail from a time when those phases were considered blasphemous. Nowadays phrases like "for the love of God" are commonly used, but the euphemisms are still used. Why Pete? Most likely it is a reference to the catholic Saint Peter.

Biblical origins. Think of St Peter. Think of the omnipresent medieval church and think of hitting your thumb with a hammer. You can't swear, else the local priests will have you up before the Bishop and the Lord alone knows what the outcome of that will be, so you exclaim, in appropriate tone of voice, "For Saint Peter's sake" and carry on erecting the shelves. This phrase was amended to "For Pete's Sake" in later, less religiously oppressive, times.

Or this: ….the exclamation for the love of Pete seems to be slightly older (it’s recorded in print from 1918). In turn that reminds us of for the love of Mike, which is older still, from the 1880s. This last expression seems to have been a euphemistic cry to replace for the love of God, which is known from the early eighteenth century as an irritated exclamation. Another well-known exclamation, for pity’s sake, seems likely to have been an influence on the choice of Pete. As a result, at some point around 1918, Pete joined Mike as the person to invoke when you were impatient, annoyed, frustrated or disappointed in someone or something, both men being stand-ins for the God that it would be blasphemous to mention.

But, strangely, there’s also this: 'Love of Peat', on the other hand, is an Irish expression describing the main characteristic of a home loving individual who spent their days crouched around a peat fire.

Don’t forget to give us your faves. We don’t just enjoy ranting and raving, we like to learn stuff too!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Deb Got Mad At Me

Barbara: The other day Deb bit my head off.

True story.

It took until today for her to ask my forgiveness.

Deb and I trying to look sexy (with no makeup on
during a ski holiday). Pretend we're mad.
I guess it’s small comfort that she was so contrite about it. She admitted much to me in her apology. She claimed to rue the day. She told me that she deeply regretted her outburst and felt terribly guilty. She even told me that she felt so badly about it she had to confess her transgression to her other best friend––much to that friend’s shock. She wanted to make sure I didn’t hold it against her too much. That we were okay with each other.

I don’t know, guys, it’s hard to offer forgiveness for an affront when … you … didn’t … notice … the  … affront.

Deb and I are not only friends and co-writers, but we are soul sisters. I can’t even imagine her doing something or saying something that would anger me so much as to require contrition, forgiveness, or lost hours of worry. If she bit my head off—as she claims to have done—well, chalk it up to a bad day, or a legitimate but of-the-moment disagreement between two usually compatible friends. But I swear to you—and I am usually a very sensitive soul—I DID NOT NOTICE. I have no idea what she’s talking about.

After we established that the transgression had indeed occurred, we—as dear friends are wont to do (and one of the reasons I LOVE having dear friends)––discussed what actually went down. Turns out Deb wasn’t actually mad at me in that moment, but just irritated in general, and I was the (completely oblivious) target of a momentary (and frankly very subtle) outburst.

An oldie but a goodie.
You know what? Shit happens. Irritation between friends is par for the course, especially those accidental or unintentional clashes. Comes with the territory. And you know what I especially love? That Deb talked to me about it. That we could talk about it together. We are all human in our transgressions, but some of us are also wonderfully humane in our approach to them. Deb, I tip my hat to you. Of course I forgive you, but I also love you for it.

Just, you know, never let it happen again.

Deb: Barb, my neck is soaked with tears. They were orderly tears when they left my eyes, but I was so moved by your loving generosity, I spilled the rest as a result.  Hormones. Yep.  Bad few weeks. But muddling through, and surviving quite nicely, thanks so much.

Thought it was done though, the menopause. Wasn’t, as it turns out. Was not done!!! Still. Hanging in there and working it through. Hmmmnnn.  Official menopause was easier. At least I knew that it was awful all the time ... but on the other hand, at least this time, as willy nilly as it is, I know what I am dealing with. And more importantly, that I’m not going mad. Always an important point when one takes stock at the end of one’s day.

Thanks Barb xoxoxo 

P.S. As I said to Barb earlier when she called me to offer her support, I wish for each of you who are not there yet, a safe, giddy, funny, lovely crossing into menopause. And if it is not thus, I will be your MenoYoda. Something every gal should have. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way (dancing might be involved)

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way With Gae

Barbara met Gae just about a year ago in her absolutely first foray into a public forum. She noticed right away that Gae was special: honest, sincere, supportive, funny. Then she discovered that Gae was an exquisite writer with two beautiful blogs––Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words and That Wee Bit Heap––and a first novel coming out in May called The Pull of Gravity (don't forget to click "like"). When Deb and Barbara began blogging a little under a year ago, Gae was one of our first regular readers­­––and we are richer for it. If only she could get her damn comments to post!

Gae: So, Deb and Barb invited me in for a three-way, and seriously, who would ever turn that down? I’m sure when they did, they were hoping for something poignant yet clever, witty yet moving, and instead I’ve offered them something merely ridiculous. Perhaps tomorrow, they shall return you to the sublime. But for now, ridiculous it is.

Because, well into my 40’s––and with my presence on facebook ever-growing in connection with my second career as a writer––I’ve noticed a sort of interesting new phenomenon: I like to make a fool of myself in virtual public. Or at least I seem to enjoy sharing my foolishness with others.

For example, the other night after a rather invigorating run on the elliptical, I went to “dismount,” missed my footing (with the pedals still cycling) and catapulted myself face-first off the elliptical onto the floor. Why YES, it hurt (did you not just read what I did?). And yet, my honest-to-goodness first thought, after the excruciating pain in my right knee and ankle and left cheekbone subsided, was, “Oh man, I wish I had caught that on tape!”

I mean, it was hilarious, so why wouldn’t I want to share it to the great pleasure and humor of my adoring virtual friends?

Or take, for another example, the fact that I, a complete and utter non-dancer who absolutely cannot bring myself to get up in front of real people in real life to boogie unless I’ve tied one too many on, decided it would be entertaining to post a clip or two of me dancing badly to some rap music the other afternoon, an act which seemed to leave a majority of my friends speechless, but also highly entertained.

So, what is it about this public making a fool of myself that has me wanting to return to it time and again?

Barbara: Okay, Gae, I would’ve LOVED to have seen that elliptical-tumble on tape! Just the thought of it makes me laugh. And yet the thought of ME making a fool of MYSELF is still kind of iffy. I WANT to be funny for my peeps, want to entertain them with my pratfalls, yet still have a bit of a block in that regard. But in the spirit of pushing my limits, I will join you on the virtual dance floor. (The thing is, put me on a real dance floor, I feel like queen of the room, put me on tape, I feel like Elaine ugly-dancing on Seinfeld, remember that? Make sure you observe the lip-smoosh, my signature move, which feels great, but looks super dorky…on me anyway.)

Deb: It’s funny, this notion of making a fool of oneself. I guess one person’s fool is another person’s entertainment. I guess if we were attaching the phrase to our outgoing behavior then, yes, I would have to say I am a fool. I was, from a very early age a very rare thing for a kid in the 50’s––a GIRL class clown. Now because I was a good girl who followed the rules, I didn’t actually act out in class. But at recess, I was holding court with everything from Monty Python recitations to Laugh-In sketches to the singing of Mad Magazine songs. ”Watchdog in the Night” sung to the tune of “Strangers in the Night” is still as fresh in my mind as what I had for breakfast.

But I never thought of myself as playing the fool. I was just being me. So where is the line, I wonder?

Some years ago on a ski trip with Barb’s family, my front tooth fell out as I bit into a bagel at breakfast. Yes, you heard me! Now I had two choices in that moment. One, to act as embarrassed as I maybe should have been and to make everyone feel badly for me, or two, to do a Hillbilly character with my tooth out and make everyone laugh? As you have already surmised, I did a Hillbilly soliloquy. Was I a fool? I don’t know. Didn’t feel like one. Maybe that makes me more the fool.

I watched Gae’s little dance and thought the following: sweet, cute, funny, open, charming. “Fool” didn’t enter my mind.

Gae: Barb, oh my god, the lip smoosh! Not signature, because I do it too. And yes, totally not sexy. But sexier than the hillbilly tooth that has me peeing in my pants, and seriously laughing out loud. *fights urge to get camera and film the hillbilly tooth reaction.*

Anyway, I got to wondering what it is about this making a fool of myself that has me so turned on? Maybe, in truth, there’s something liberating about being at a point in my life where I can.
For most of my teen and young adult life, I worried deeply about what people thought of me, and, of course, to some extent, I still do. For sure, I never thought I was pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, poised enough, or special enough (and maybe there’s still a part of me that doesn’t). But I did learn how to fake that I did.

And the amazing thing about that was, all the time I was feeling insecure and deficient but faking it, the people around me––especially women––resented my “perceived” perfection. Female friends, especially, didn’t get how hard I was trying because none of it really felt good enough. I never felt free to be less than great at something, or better yet, plain bad at something. So, I maintained a certain façade. Which in some weird way also backfired.

Until recently.

It’s as if I’ve discovered how freeing it is to share my glaring imperfections with others, as long as we are all laughing. (We’re ALL laughing with not at me, aren’t we?)

And I like it. I like being able to be less than pretty at times, less than talented, and less than coordinated for sure, and to share it with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I crop, edit and control the amount that goes out there, but still, baby steps. This is me. Here I am.

Barbara: I soooo relate to this, Gae. In my own way, of course, with my own insecurities and cringes. But I definitely grew up feeling that self-induced pressure to be perfect. I think I believed if I was perfect then I would be less of a burden on the people around me. But then I also remember feeling like all eyes were on me all the time (and not in a glamorous way) and I HATED it.

I have worked hard to get over that. I remind myself that I am not everyone’s everything, so they don’t really care that much how stupid I am, or how much spinach is in my teeth, or how my shoes don’t match my outfit (well, for longer than a nano-second anyway, which doesn’t count). And I’ve mostly conquered it too. I belong in my world and I want to take up my allotted space in it.

Would it be great if I could also invite people to laugh with me (and/or at me)? Absolutely! Either way, here I am. This is me.

Deb: The real irony of the acting out in public, or the “fool” behaviour, is that I cannot do it in my profession. Let me be more specific. I cannot do it in auditions, which is why I don’t do them anymore unless forced. I am so outgoing as a performer that once I have the job, I’ll try just about anything for a laugh. And yet in the audition itself, I get feedback like “forgettable”, “too low-key”, “not exciting”, “no energy”. The audition is the ONE place in my life where I am loathe to make a fool of myself, or more to the point, I am afraid I WILL make a fool of myself. The fool is with me in the introductions and out in the waiting room and in the car on the way home. But helping me get a job­­––NO SIR! 

So here I am, this is me. Would you hire this girl? 
PS Deb, Barb and Gae invite you all to post a link to your own dance in our comments section. We want to start a dance dance revolution. ... Wait, has that been used already? Anyway, do it.

Thanks to Michele for the great editing! We love you!

Gae Polisner is the author of the young adult novel The Pull of Gravity (Steinbeck and Star Wars guide two teens on a whirlwind road trip to keep a promise to their dying friend). She wrote The Pull of Gravity as an homage to the character-driven fiction she loved as a teenager, by the likes of Zindel, Konigsburg, and L’Engle. When Gae is not writing (or off being a lawyer), she can be found with her family, or swimming in the open waters off Long Island. The Pull of Gravity will be released on May 10, 2011 from Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux. It is her first (published) novel.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bye Car

Deb: My Dad is just about to turn 84. At Christmastime, after a year of serious consideration, I asked him to give up his car. It is time. He and I went for a drive one day and it was NOT good. He was swerving into other lanes, running stop signs and doing a solid 10 below the speed limit.

It was an awful moment but I have to say, he handled it with grace and resignation. He knew that it was getting to the point where he might hurt himself or, worse for my Dad, someone else. That is a scenario from which he would never recover.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but my Dad is the kindest guy. Empathy, tenderness, and kindness just burst out of him.

So, he relented. And today we are donating his car, a 1990 Buick, to my old high school for its Auto Shop program. He loved this idea as it was killing him to think that the car would go right to the scrap-yard. After all, said he, “It’s not the car’s fault. It’s still running great.”  It has a bit of rust, but as Dad pointed out, don’t we all? It still runs like a charm, so we are going to drive it up to the school this morning and drop it off. Dad is coming with us to see it safely inside the shop and to say his goodbyes.

I can totally relate to that, as I have stood weeping over every car I have ever let go. I weep grateful tears over the car that has kept me safe, the car that has witnessed all the little stories the boy has imparted on our drives to school, the car that has accompanied us to parties and funerals and concerts and road trips.

So I know what Dad is feeling today. His car was his business partner for many years so the miles and successes and failures of every venture are wrapped up in those four wheels and a chassis.

But more than that, Dad is giving up his independence. No more shall he jump in the car on a whim and take off for destinations unknown.

It is a huge shift in our lives too, as they are now dependent on us for everything: food, meds, dry cleaning, appointments, and the like.

We have made our peace with that. I knew on the day I told him it was time to stop driving, that our lives would go into a tailspin of constant chore activity. We are still adjusting to it. We are into the everyday of it right now, remembering to ask Mum and Dad every time we go out what is wanted and what is needed. We are settling into it quite well, I have to say.

But his is the greater task. He and my Mom are trying to overcome their biggest trial. They are trying to push past the guilt of us doing every single thing for them.  When I went over yesterday to deliver the new version of the wrong pens I had bought for them, they were both crying about the situation. I try to remind them that it is our honour and pleasure to help them out. I remind them of the years that they schlepped me around and did for me, came for me and went for me. I remind them of how they took us in when we came back from L.A. and turned their lives upside down to make room for us. And they know. But still. I know what they are going through. They are trying to maintain their status as the parents as we struggle in this role-reversal tug of war. I get it. And there by the grace of God...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Something To Get Mad About

Barbara: I’m not super-political and I’m not an educated advocate, but I do want the world to be a better place. I don’t particularly like to get mad at stuff, I prefer a more moderate approach: accept things you can’t change and work diligently to change the things you can. But there are always going to be those irritating things that come along and slap you in the face.

Environmental issues generally drive me crazy. I mean the stomach-churning, ire-raising, head pounding impotently against the wall kind of crazy. Why? Because it seems like such a simple and obvious corollary: if the world is dirty, we must clean it whatever the cost.

I’m going to digress for just a moment here (it’s my blog and I can tangent if I want to). Deb did a PSA (public service announcement) recently for Greenpeace that is posted on the internet. It is absurdly funny. Tear-wiping hilarious. And absolutely bang-on message-wise: Corporate Obtuseness and Political Support romance each other to become the “perfect” power couple. It’s so funny that I asked Deb if we could post it here. It’s so persuasive that it reminded me of my own recurring outrage at environmental destruction and my desire to get this off my chest:

I understand that corporate polluters will have to undergo expensive and time-consuming overhauls to clean up their act; I accept that this is a big thing to ask industry to do; I know that jobs could be on the line and I realize that my job isn’t one of them. But if I got cancer and the only way for me to survive would be to change my diet from a processed but relatively cheap diet to a healthier but substantially more expensive (and more time-consuming) one, I would do it. I would also encourage any friend or family member to do the same. It would be obvious: eat poorly, get really sick and die a slow, painful death; eat well while investing time and money into my health and … wait for it … enjoy a long, healthy, and abundant life.

I just don’t see the political and corporate sense in looking at the short term (ie, immediate financial gain, no required change, impressive quarterly returns—and who the hell made “quarterly returns” the be all and end all???) when the long-term reality is so bleak (hey, there won’t be no quarterly returns if there ain’t no world).

So—besides getting frothing mad—what do I do? The basics: we sort our garbage 3-ways (recycle, organic, and garbage), carry reusable bags, choose food with its ecological footprint in mind, invest in industry with a conscience, make points from time to time in public forums. Laugh and laugh at Deb’s satire. And then share it with you!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Memories

Yes, Deb is still at it
Deb: There is so much written about this day. Newspapers, magazines and television are filled with the highs and the lows of this beautiful/stupid/ romantic/commercial/ depressing/useless/sweet day.

Everyone loves a lover, right? But what if you have no lover, or have just lost your lover, or are still searching for a lover or are in a loveless relationship. I have read endless spewings about the ugliness of Valentine’s Day and how the pressure to love and be loved on February 14th is rammed down our throats.

Valentine’s Day when you are a child is so sweet. I have such lovely memories of paper lace doilies, cardboard cupids, scissors and paste. I remember to this day when I was in grade one. We had all spent the day before making our little Cupid pouches to collect all our cards the next day. I went home that night with my list of friends and my Mom said, “We are giving to each child in your class or to no one at all”. I know that this is standard practice today, but I assure you it was not in the 50’s. My Mom, bless her heart, taught me a lesson that day of what grace and love is. I was so excited by this concept and rushed to school with a full heart.

There was a little girl in my class: Wendy. She was not popular and some of the kids made fun of her. I remember her sitting there, eyes downcast through the whole process, trying not to see the teacher repeatedly walking past her desk. As my pocket began to burst at the seams, I became so focused on her, staring in disbelief at her empty cupid pocket. Suddenly her face lit up and she looked over at me, smiling a shy grateful smile. It is one of those photographs the mind snaps and keeps forever.

So Wendy, this Valentine’s Day, I send my love to you. I hope you are having a full rich life with a Cupid pocket that is spilling out onto the floor.

Barbara: This story is so sweet, it may have made my Valentine’s Day, Deb. I do remember the cards and excitement of the day when I was little, and while I’m sure my pocket would NOT have been bursting at the seams, I actually don’t associate any ill feelings with that classroom tradition.

Today, I guess I’m conflicted about Valentine’s Day. All those sentiments you hyphenated above? I go through all of them on an hourly basis on the days surrounding Valentine’s Day. For my husband and I, one year it feels like a forced holiday, the next like a welcome celebration. Some years we’re all about the little presents and the dinners out, and others we hardly notice the date, never mind acknowledging it with any kind of pomp and circumstance. And this doesn’t have anything to do with our affections for each other. This year we’ve had an exceptionally affectionate year and neither of us are really into the Day at all. He may get a little something in the spirit of love (you can use your imagination if you want), but I’m still not exactly sure how we’re going to spend the evening. We didn’t make a dinner reservation (last year we did), but we will still probably make an especially nice dinner and watch a movie. Mmmm.

Bottom line, as much as I may not get all wrapped up in it, what’s wrong with a little romantic to-do? And if it includes sending out love to the friends in our “class”, I can’t sign off until I’ve sent you each, dear readers, a little candy heart and my Valentine hugs and kisses. 

And click here for a Valentine's card for you from us!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Flexing Those Art Muscles

Barbara: As most of you know, I’m also an actor in my other life. Thing is, lately I’ve noticed that acting has been fading more and more from my consciousness. When my agent phoned yesterday with an audition, I actually gulped and admitted sheepishly that I’d “forgotten I was an actor”. Since acting is something I’ve spent so many years loving (even obsessively), I had to ask myself why this strange phenomenon was happening.

I’ve always known that acting is not something you can do on your own. It’s maybe the only art form to which this applies. You can write, paint, sing, play music, even dance completely on your own and without an audience, but acting by yourself is kinda against the point. The beauty of acting is that you’re playing off others, getting swept up with them, creating something in tandem with a writer, director, other actors, and an audience. Which made me realize, upon deep mullation, concerted mullitude (I love a good mull), that this fading grip on my love of acting probably has a lot to do with the fact that my acting muscles have gotten flabby. Even though I had a good working year, there is nothing like doing something of your art every day, or every few days, certainly at least once a week.

Here’s the rub: art muscles DO get flabby, or they never get toned in the first place. We seem to have this overriding belief that one is born with talent and that’s the end of it. And while I do believe that talent is a wonderful component of art, it is nothing without practice, practice, practice. And with every practice session, that talent becomes more and more innate, more accessible, more fluid, more MUSCULAR.

So it’s no wonder that acting is receding out of my consciousness like a waning tide leaving sea-bottom detritus in its wake. That detritus makes me think I’m an actor, but it also mocks me, reminding me that there should be abundant water here, but there really ISN’T. Nothing to swim in, nothing to bob in, nothing to tread.

I hope I don’t sound bitter—because I promise I am not. This is merely a result of my mullingations. And this is what I think I need to add: for those of you compelled to act, I suggest you find a group of like-minded folk and do it together on a regular basis. And for those of you compelled to write, dance, paint, photograph, sing, draw—Just Do It. If you don’t, there might not be any muscle left to flex, or worse, no desire to flex at all.

Deb: Oh my goodness I hear you, Barb. Weirdly my dilemma is similar and yet different. I have probably had the busiest of my acting years since I turned 50. I am flexing and using those muscles and yet ... bla. I joke all the time now that I HATE THE ACTING. Bored with it really. Someone famous said that she loves it between the words “action and cut” and I get that. But really for me, the bloom is off the rose. I much prefer being the human me to the actor me. I have grown to hate the early rising, the poking and prodding by hair and makeup, the little “actor cells” we reside in, the waiting around, the wardrobe fittings, the technical aspect of it, and frankly the doing of it. Of course when it’s really cooking and the scene is over, I feel proud and sometimes pumped, it’s true. But the rest, oy, am I over it. If you had told me this 30 years ago, I would have been aghast. I was so ambitious.

I do love the stage, though, if it is shared with the perfect people and material. It is immediate, rewarding, fun, and there is a true sense of control and a glorious connection with the audience. But I hate the sound checks and the backstage waiting and doing the same damn thing over and over again.

Are we sensing a pattern here? I feel sick about this because I sound so damn ungrateful. And I’m not. I just wish I had the dough to write and travel and be with the people I love.

Man, I guess I needed to get this off my chest. My hands just flew over the keys. I could be doing some horribly shit job and yet I am lucky enough to be in a creative field. Haven’t really figured this one out yet. It still shocks me every time I say, “I HATE THE ACTING”. I guess that, just as we are different people at different times in our lives, it would stand to reason that we crave different things at different times, huh? Of course, this may just be a phase, but if it is, it’s a hell of a long one. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cyber Sock Drawer

Deb: Sitting after breakfast cleaning up my email. Delete 40 email and ... oh wait, I didn’t mean to delete the one from my cousin Anne ... I have to rsvp to her 50th birthday party. No problem ... go into deletes and it’s ... gone. Gone and ... gone.

Okay, need your help here, folks.

As I type, this is also happening to my husband. His exact words right now are “I just forwarded an email to myself. I have the date that it was sent, I have the account it was sent to, it’s not in trash ... What the hell?"

Where does it go? And why?

Everyone I talk to says this happens to them but nobody seems to know how to fix it.

And really, can we blame it for fucking with our minds? We have, after all, deleted it. We have sent it a clear message that it is unwanted, redundant, fit for trash. No wonder it hides.

But please, Delete Message, I am looking for you. I was WRONG to delete you. Mea typa! Come back, li’l message, come back.

If there is anyone out there who knows the whereabouts of my messages, starting with my cousin's and ending 6 months ago with the one from the guy at church who supplies the Free Trade Coffee, could you email me? I PROMISE NOT TO DELETE IT!

Barbara: Deb is not kidding. This has happened to me repeatedly. I can’t tell you how often I have looked for an email in any one of my files (not just delete, btw), and have NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND IT!!

It’s not just frustrating, it’s weird. Why do I have thousands of inconsequential email piling up in my folders and when I need to find one specific one, it’s not there? Like Deb, this is a serious (well, pseudo-serious) plea for answers, not just a rhetorical question!!!  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reading 101: The Page-Turner

Barbara: I’ll get to the reading 101 potion of this post in a moment, but first I want to ask why are we so good at doing what we love when we’re kids––easily ignoring the nagging reality of chores and duties––and then when we get older, we only heed the nagging reality of chores and duties because we no longer have TIME to do what makes us feel good??? I mean who among us hasn’t heard or given this excuse: I would read a novel/write a novel/exercise … when I have more TIME. This ties in to the bigger question: why do we always stick with the more exhausting, traumatic thing in our lives when we know the pleasant solution will make our lives better and richer (I will break up with that lead-weight of a friend/lover/job when it’s a better TIIIIIIME)??? Let’s just say that that question is beyond my scope.

Okay, so now to reading 101. I have heard so many people bemoan the fact that they don’t have time to read books (*cough* my husband *cough*) and so they don’t. Even I have been known to slap that ol’ excuse on the table from time to time. Add to that the depressing news in the daily papers about the demise of the publishing industry, and it makes a person despair the future of writing, especially fiction writing. And just as I was despairing, my husband started reading again … a lot. And watching his rediscovered ardour made me reconsider the often critically-maligned but ever-popular “page-turner”.

I’ve been trying to write a working novel for the last like, oh, give or take a month or so … TEN years. The verdict was always the same: writing okay, narrative drive lacking (or bumpy or inconsistent, etc, etc). So I’ve started to pick up some “page-turning” books to get a sense of how that driving narrative works in successful stories. And, man, it’s been fun!! There really is something magical about being so caught up in a book you can’t (as I found myself doing this morning) put it down while you’re also trying to load the dishwasher or eating your breakfast of fried eggs on toast.

I have read some brilliant literary books in my time: Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, Gil Anderson’s The Outlander (no, not the page-turning British one, but the brilliant Canadian one), among others, and they certainly have narrative drive on top of their utterly breathtaking language. But I’ve never found myself simultaneously soaping a steaming hot frying pan while also balancing the 2-lb hard-cover in the crook of my elbow and peering through newly-acquired reading glasses. The truth is, I will always fundamentally prefer literary novels, but on the other hand, man, that Stephen King guy sure knows what he’s doing with a story. And he’s no hack with the language either (unlike many of the other page-turners I’ve tried).

And so today I realized, the novel will never die. It can’t. Because it (regardless of its pedigree) is an experience that is of itself. It is heart-pounding, life-changing, mood-lifting, emotion-swelling wonderfulness. The novel is dead? No way. Long live the novel.

Deb: LONG LIVE THE NOVEL. Yes, I agree! I am also one of those people who struggles to find the time to read. I Iisten to books on CD in the car and go through one a week but I can sit with an actual book for months. I know that people will always read, but I wonder how many generations from now will actually finger the lovely pages of a book. I love reading my KOBO but I also love gently cracking the spine of a new book and the smell of the leather and the teeny sound of the flip of pages. I hope humans continue to love the actual book. Only time will tell. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Storm Of The Century!!!

Deb: Everywhere you looked, every news channel, every paper, every stranger in line at the grocery store, everyone was talking about it. It was going to be the STORM OF THE CENTURY and it was coming to our city!

Thirty centimeters of snow! That was guaranteed. Beyond that they weren’t sure, but they knew it was going to be bad. Stay off the roads! Close the schools! Batten down the hatches! So we did. People by the thousands cancelled appointments, rescheduled meetings and stocked up on food for the one day shut-in.

And then it came. Started easy, with light flurries and then ... well, then it kinda stayed easy with a few more flurries ... AND THEN ... well, I guess it kinda blew around a bit like light flurries are wont to do. And then it kinda piled on top of each other till we were held captive by six full inches of snow.

I am sure the Mayor had the army on Stand By, but instead I have no doubt that the army all went for dinner and drinks. And it would have been easy to get to any restaurant or bar, given that there was no one on the roads. We were all holed up protecting ourselves and our loved ones against the STORM OF THE CENTURY ... Century ... century.

Even the Salvation Army would have been overkill for this tiny little storm.

Honest to Pete, we had more snow than this before Christmas and no one batted an eye. But dutifully prepared, my husband and I had the shovel ready by the back door to dig a path for the dogs to get to the back of our yard to do their business, lest they be swallowed up by this tsunami of snow, this looming wall of powder.

When we opened the door the morning after the STORM OF THE CENTURY, the dogs looked at us as if to say, “Yeah, don’t bother with the shovel. We got this one.”  And they ambled down the stairs with the ease of a spring day. They knew. They were embarrassed for the weather too.

And yet, it’s not the weather’s fault. It’s just doing what weather does. It’s just being weather––raining here, storming there. It’s the messengers of the weather that are responsible for this debacle. The media weather porn distributers. STOP IT. BE RESPONSIBLE. STOP IT.

I’m embarrassed for us now. Sucked in again. Oh well ... sure is pretty though.

Barbara: Sigh. I wanted a true snow day, a true “we’re stuck together” excuse for eating chips and playing games and sitting around the fire when otherwise we would be working or schooling. Sadly, I even stocked up on provisions the day before––including those supposed-to-be-guilt-free-chips-because-it’s-a-snow-day, and prepared myself for snowful abandon. Except one daughter still had school and the other had “too much homework” (blah blah blah) and my husband decided to take on those “storm ravaged roads” to find only mildly slushy coverage and no one in the way. So I ate those chips, yes I did, by MYSELF, while skyping a work day with Deb (love that skype––don’t get me started). And it’s so not a “snow day” if you’re still working, even with a beloved, even with a bowl of chips.

Storm of the century? I hardly noticed it for all the disappointed whining (mine).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Does Mourning Become Her ... Or Is She Just In The Way?

Barbara: One if the joys of blogging, certainly for us, is that we have a forum for our opinions. It’s liberating and exciting to get to be honest, to delve into the psyche. Even if we don’t always agree with each other, or you don’t agree with us, we absolutely agree with ourselves! 

But I find myself in a conundrum this week. I actually don’t know what to do, don’t know how I absolutely feel about it, and so can’t make up my mind. At first I couldn’t even blog about it—it felt too personal to describe this process. Funny, huh? The end result of any of my musings: okay to reveal; the process: too painful. Hmmm. Anyway, Deb encouraged me to write about it, feeling that if I was struggling, maybe other people would want to a) know and b) know they’re not alone if in similar shoes. So here I am, fodder for your advice, opinion, and personal experiences.

There is a funeral this week that I am struggling to decide whether I should or shouldn’t attend. Normally, this is easy territory for me. If there is a funeral significant to me, of course I try my utmost to go. Even funerals of people I don’t know … because the departed was someone important to one of my beloveds. But this week there was a funeral that was big––big in import, big in profile, big in devastation, big big in loss. I had no direct link to the deceased or the family, but my beloveds were deeply involved. And because of that I felt this loss deeply. I also felt compassionate love for the grieving family because of how well I “knew” them through the connection to my beloveds. So part of me thought I should be there, felt I would regret it if I didn’t pay homage. And the other part of me knew that this was a big enough funeral that I could actually be “in the way”. I wouldn’t be providing comfort to the family or friends (who don’t know me), and probably wouldn’t be able to provide comfort to my beloveds (who would be otherwise occupied). A mutual friend described this conundrum really well: we don’t want to be, or look like we are, “death groupies”.

And yet the energy still vibrates around this question, because a life is only lived once and begs to be remembered and celebrated. Is there such a thing as “in the way” at a funeral or memorial?

What would you do in my place? And why?

Deb: Barb, I will give my answer through your words. “I had no direct link to the deceased or the family, but my beloveds were deeply involved. And because of that I felt this loss deeply. I also felt compassionate love for the grieving family because of how well I “knew” them through the connection to my beloveds.”

In a nutshell, my friend. Thank you for coming. I may have been occupied, but it will always mean the world to Colin and I that you came. You now share our friend. The only difference is you got to know him after he was gone. Xo

Edited to say: Barbara wrote her post before making her decision and Deb responded afterward. Barbara wrestled with this decision until the last moment, but absolutely does not regret going at all. And still wants to know your opinion … even if you disagree with her choice :)