Friday, September 30, 2011

Purple Nails, Purple Nails

Barbara: We’ve talked a lot here about embracing your true self and not bowing to pressure and all that, but thanks to one of my adorable nieces, I have found myself expressing not my true self, but someone entirely different—and embracing her as well!

I don’t know how long the fling will last—probably not long, I’m guessing—but here I am with purple nails.

I was visiting my sister the other day and my 8-year-old niece asked if she could paint my nails. The colour choices were magenta, blue and lavender purple. I may have told you this before, but I’m not a big manicure person—in that I hate the time need to sit still and unoccupied while the stuff goes on and needs to dry, I hate the being all delicate with your hands afterward, because I also really hate the fact that it chips and looks tawdry within days.

On those rare occasions that I do get a manicure, I usually pick something very discreet, something that makes my nails look polished and clean, maybe a subtle French. I do love the way I feel all grown up and sophisticated. If I’m gonna put on any persona, I think I’ll go for “grown up and sophisticated”. But I figured I could make the kid happy, let her have fun with her auntie, and then take the stuff off as soon as I got home. I chose the purple.

But here I am two days later, still rockin’ the colour. It is NOT “me”, it won’t ever be. But I do feel pretty sassy, a bit trashy, and way fun. And that’s a great trip too.

Deb: Barb, you couldn’t look trashy if your life depended on it. Nice to see that the nails stepped up to do some skanking though. Yeah, I’m afraid I can’t give you the other side on this one. I, too, like a subtle polished simple nail. However on my toes I can go ... red ... or pink ... or white. Yeah, I guess that doesn’t count. Did do turquoise last summer for a while. You are a good aunt. She will always remember that you did it without question. And you will always remember that you rocked it for no reason. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hueing It Up—Realized

Deb: I realized that I had not officially followed up on my INSTYLE influenced “Hueing it Up” blog-post. I know that I posted some photos from Newfoundland, but they were more about fun and NFLD beauty and not so much about fashion.  So that is my offering this Wednesday, September 28, 2011! It is a largely pictorial post.

I would be a filthy lying slut if I did not admit to you that I am also posting this particular post because I am having a “crazy getting boy ready to move to Montreal” week and I am grasping at straws. And not the straight up straws, but the mental crazy curly straws.

So for what it’s worth, here I am in “Runway vs Real” world workin’ m’ nautical theme and making use of as few items of clothing as is possible in Debland.

The Boy is stalwart photographer. His tribute includes:
1. Never rolling his eyes once.
2. Always being my fashion “go to” for approval and advice.
3. Being secure in his manhood with both tasks. Xo

Barbara: Deb, you are my fashion yoda. I love to watch your style in all its genius, so I’m happy to blog this way today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Please Don’t Ruin My Good Stuff

Barbara:  As you might have guessed from my ‘tude here on the blog, I’m a pretty effusive person. Thing is, I’m not just effusive on paper, I’m a true effusivist (don’t look it up, it’s not a word). If I love something, I LOVE something!!!!!

We were at dinner the other night (for my hubby’s 50th, yay!) and we tried this really special highly recommended restaurant. It was one of those meals where every bite––even the friggin’ bread they serve are these little one-off bites of baguette or puff pastry—makes your eyes roll into the back of your head. Orgasmic bursts of flavour. Unusual combinations of ingredients but viscerally familiar. It was divine in the truest sense of the word. So as we eat, I’m effusing it up—even the waiter who must get lots of positive feedback about the food seemed surprised at my enthusiasm.

Then my daughter (another food effusivist) and I started to compare notes as to who we would go back there with—and who we wouldn’t. Because, you see, we’re both sensitive to the “rain on your parade” brigade. So we decided we were not going to share our gem with anyone who might just cut the place up (or down). We don’t want it ruined for us.

Just to be clear, this is not a rant against “rain on your paraders”, although we can do that if you want; it’s more an examination of WHY this is so anathema to me. I’m usually a pretty go-with-the-flow person, but when it comes to my beloved treasures, I just shrivel up with disappointment if someone doesn’t love what I LOVE. Why? I’m great with criticism, by the way, or constructive feedback; you can tell me any number of things about myself or my work. Just don’t shit on my diamonds.

So why do I care if my cup of tea isn’t yours? It’s okay if we both love it, it’s okay if we both hate it (nothing like cutting up a thing together), I can even do the I hate it and you love it (because I try and back off the criticism if I know it’s your thing). But why oh why can’t I take it if I love it and you hate it?

We have some friends who I swear are NOT rainers on paraders, and yet every time—EVERY TIME—we recommend some thing or place, they have a terrible experience with it. Sadly, it ruins the thing or place for us.

I should say this: I am trying to get over this. I am trying to fully embrace the things I love, whether it’s music, places, clothes, or food, knowing there’s a whole array of different opinions out there and a whole world of variety to cater to them. I want to fully appreciate my own taste, for better or worse, and to do so I have to celebrate it, for better or worse.

So do I tell you the name of that extraordinary restaurant … or do I keep it a sacred secret???

Okay, okay, because I love you: it’s Campagnolo in downtown Toronto. Enjoy or don’t. Just don’t argue with me about it.

Deb: I LOVE THIS POST, BARB! I too am an effusivist! And, yes, I am always so reluctant to suggest for the same reason. But here’s my simple solution when someone recommends something that does not turn out well.  LIE. For the love of all that’s holy, LIE. If someone you care for waxes poetic with a heartfelt recommendation and you go and do not share their enthusiasm––LIE. LIE LIE.  It always kills me when someone does that “yeah, we really didn’t like it and it was this and it was that ...WHY? What is the purpose of this response? Will it change their bad experience to a good one? Will it change your wonderful experience to a bad one? NO. Neither of these things will happen. It is totally unnecessary. “How did you enjoy the restaurant we sent you to?” “We loved it, thanks.” Easy? YES. Even if you do not want to sing its praises, you can surely find something nice to say. Even one thing. And then change the damn subject. The people who sent you clearly thought you would have the same wonderful experience they had. They sent you because they like you and wanted and expected you to enjoy it. They did a nice thing by sending you. So do a nice thing back. Did I say this before? LIE!  Something I always try to live by: ”would I rather be right or would I rather be kind?” 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Our Taj Mahal

Deb: It’s the last thing I would have expected. My husband and I checked into a hotel in a small town for business. The company we were working for apologized up and down about the level of accommodation explaining that at this particular location it was the only game in town. They assured us the other locations would be better and it turns out they are. Mind you, the other hotels would not have far to come to top our current address.

Those of you who know and read me, are fully aware that I am a stuff snob. I like nice things. Sue me. I do not like to stay for business in a place that I would not stay in for pleasure. I know what you are thinking right now, but I have chosen to be honest rather than admired.

I will state categorically that I am NOT a people snob. Not even close. Don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you make, or how you lace your shoes. I will take you at face value. Things? Not so much.

Our hotel room had scary bedspreads, a shower drain that plugged up when you showered so that you are standing in water up to your ankles, a channel changer that changed the volume but not the channel, mold on the bathtub and floor, and a toilet handle that was so corroded that when you pulled it down you could see right through the tank. Add to that the fact that after I took my first shower (in flip flops, oh yes!) the noise from the drain was so loud and continuous for the rest of the week that we had to close the bathroom door in order to sleep. Okay, so I had to shut the door.  My husband could sleep soundly if he was laying in the shower, lucky bastard.

But the piece de resistance was the smell that started slowly day two and built through the week into what can only be described as dead rotting critter.  The only other room available was filled with smoke and so we chose to stick with Rotty The Reeking Rodent, rather than move. On the last day they managed to move us when a room came up and we slept one night reek-free.

But the biggest shock of that week in the Bates Motel came not in the form of mold or stink or stains or scum or one TV channel. It came in the form of romance. I cannot explain it. Neither of us can. But it became one of the loveliest romantic fun-filled weeks we have ever spent.

To offset the Eau de Roadkill, I lit a scented candle that I brought with me. I cannot begin to describe to you what the scent of lavender does to rot ... well, I can actually: lavender rot. And yet romance prevailed. Oh yes. The motel gods were trying to tear us asunder but we defied their damnation that week. We clicked rhythmically, exactly like the sound of the 6-dollar bottles of spring water dropping into the slot in the third floor vending machine.

If you had seen us laughing, walking hand in hand along the quaint streets, you would have thought that it was because we still had the sweet taste of our pillow chocolate melting in our mouths. If you had witnessed us holding hands at dinner you would have been certain that a champagne and strawberry tray awaited us back at the inn instead of the sickly sweet scent of rodent CSI.

It wasn’t this romantic when we were in Paris for the love of mike. Okay, twelve-year-old boy was in a cot at the end of our bed. Still. Relationships don’t always have as much surprise value as the years go on, so the silly shocking surprise of this week made us feel like newlyweds again.

Now I just have to figure out how to convince my husband that the romance was a one time only deal in such a place as this! Back to the 5-star we go. After all, a snob is just a person who has made a commitment to her high standards. And I for one pride myself on honouring my commitments!

But dumpy digs notwithstanding, I learned this week, especially since the nest is empty, that wherever my husband is, is home.

Barbara: Well, I’m not so much of a stuff snob. Deb knows this. I’m often as happy just admiring from a distance as getting to have it. But here’s where the wheels come off: dirt and smells. This Bates Motel you describe brings out every shudder that I have in my body. Dead critter smell? Noooooooooo! The worst. Mold in the shower? Arrrrrrgggggghhhh! Shiver, shudder, gag, and faint. And then not being able to go somewhere else? This is maybe my worst nightmare.

All this to say that I admire your romantic time that much more. It seems that when little things can so often get in the way of romance, it’s a downright miracle that this didn’t waylay even the best laid plans. So impressed with you guys. But also not gonna be searching for love in all the wrong places. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mother Hen Nit-Picker

Barbara: So I thought it would just be about being sad and stuff. But the worst of that passed after about the first week. Here’s the biggest challenge I am having since my daughter left for college. Cutting the apron strings without also severing arteries.

If you want to know the truth: I’m not proud to tell you. Not even excited. I don’t need a good hug. But in this stream-of-consciousness, speaking-from-the-heart, this-is-the-truth-right-now-but-that-truth-might-change-the-next-minute blog thing that we do over here, that’s the truth of where I am right now this minute. Could be way different tomorrow. I just need to vent. And seriously, I just need to get over myself.

You know all the stuff I said about how close I am with my daughters? So imagine how devastating it is when every time I get off the phone with her, we’ve just waged another battle over something or other. Epic battles, I tell you. We who usually see things so much the same are now at (virtual, over-the-phone) loggerheads over everything, from how late she stays up to how she spends her days. She keeps reminding me that she is the same person with the same morals and the same standards as always, and I keep envisioning that slippery slope that all parents at some point face, where their child turns into this unrecognizable creature with really strange and awful habits. Of course, it CAN happen. We’ve all seen that too. Kids can go off the rails for any number of reasons. But I promised myself (and you) that I wouldn’t live the future ills, I would deal with stuff as it comes, live in the now, not panic about shit that might never happen, not imagine worst-case scenarios.

I’m sure she’s going through her own version of bloodletting string-cutting right now, but I have to leave her to it… Because I have no choice. She’s not coming home to me every night where I can, even surreptitiously, touch her cheek and know she’s not sick, see her eyes and know she’s getting enough sleep, or hug her regardless of which one of us needs it.

I phoned her with a mea culpa last night. I promised I would let her earn her triumphs and make her mistakes. I would try not to wage battle with the deadliest of maternal weapons: “worry”, “fear”, “disappointment”, “dread”.

Wish me luck. Because this is the hard part. Way harder than being sad.

Deb: Oh Barb. I know. They are excruciating growing pains that hurt so much; you think you are permanently damaged. I have felt these myself in recent months as I come to terms with a grown man son. There have been changes in our demeanor but not in our love. And every time I see our relationship shift, I have to remember that. Not clinging, but connecting. And shifting. Yeah. Shifting is the toughest. Shifting is what has been hurting and confusing me. I remember my Mum saying when the boy was baby, “Don’t dwell, because as soon as you do, he will have moved to another phase”. Well said, Mum. So I’m not. Cause he will. Thanks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Deb And Barb Have A Three-Way

Deb And Barb Have A Three-Way With Angie

Although Angie and Barbara were both actors as well, they only really met during prenatal classes when they were both pregnant with their first children. Finding themselves in adjacent hospital rooms, their children born within one day of each other, just cemented what would become a lifelong friendship. Deb and Angie have known each other and been friends since acting classes in university. Welcome, Angie!

Travelling Spring

Angie: This spring, I got to take two trips alone. Being all by my self, I saw a “me” I’d almost forgotten was there.

The first was a clichĂ© all-inclusive trip to a beautiful beach in Cuba, getting my travelling toes wet in a “safe” environment. Jumping in the warm waves and being waited on softened any edges that had been formed.

Then my well-travelled friend, Monique, wanted to show her best friends where she grew up. So ten of us from all over travelled to Brittany, France this June. I booked a cheap red-eye and hooked up with a friend at the airport in Paris for the train ride to Auray where Monique picked us up for the 20min ride to Carnac. We stayed on the ocean in a place her mother still owns. Yes, it was a dream week! We explored, laughed, and had long meals with the stimulating conversation that wine and cheese brings! Who knew I was so funny?? [Okay, some of it may have had to do with my French pronunciation.] But I lived with a group of people, many I’d never met before, and I got to see myself in a new light. Not as a mom, as a wife, or even as the old predicable friend, just me in this moment and who I’ve turned out to be so far.
Monique's buddies wearing the famous Brittany sailor sweater!  We all bought one at the Carnac Flea Market that day. That's me: the short one in the middle with the big grin! 
 I wasn’t going to leave France without seeing Paris, and as everyone else had to be somewhere else, I had four days to myself in that fabulous city. Armed with a wonderful guide book friends had recommended [Rick Steve’s Paris] and its recommendation to stay in the one-star Hotel Stella [filled with “character”, long winding wooden staircases leading to attic rooms with windows that open to the rooftops of the city, all at 240 Euros for all four nights in Paris? Worthy of a blog entry of its own!] I filled each day with adventure, taking in the visual stimulation, choosing when to engage in conversation and even sharing a glass from that fabulous bottle of red at the table next to mine in that corner cafĂ© where Hemingway drank. I came home “well fed” in all ways.
One of the oldest restaurants in Paris. Where a glass of red wine was shared with my dining neighbours!
Everyday life goes so fast and so much information comes at us from so many sources. We deal, we compromise, we care, we choose, we discover, so much of our time is spent reacting to so many different circumstances and it gives us so little time to check in with ourselves. I was so lucky to have this time to revisit and rediscover my “me” and enjoy her company.

Barbara: What a wonderful experience, Ang! It always excites me to hear how people find ways to claim their true selves at some point in their lives. It usually takes a real shift in focus to get us into that zone, though, right?

For me, it was definitely following The Artist’s Way (the book). I was so stuck in the everyday at the time (and not in a situation where I could pick up and take off, as much as I would’ve liked that!) and the prescribed Artist Way “duties” of journaling everyday, of doing something out of the norm, entirely for myself, but also simple enough to flout concerns about budget or inconvenience, made me find my true “me” (as you say, Angie) unlike anything I’d ever done before. It was so easy: take a walk in a cemetery, find 5 different leaves, make a collage of aspirations, go to an art gallery, etc, etc. Out of the comfort zone and into the very mild, very nearby unknown.

I relate in a visceral sense to this journey of discovery you made, Angie. I wish it for everybody at some time. I wish it for everybody several times over their lives.

Deb: Ang, I am so glad you have had this special journey because I know what a lover of life you are. Angie regularly had these great parties called "Goddess Parties" where she would invite wonderful interesting gals from different parts of her life and we would eat great food, drink great wine, sing and howl at the moon. It's funny, Ang, but being alone or traveling alone is not something I was comfortable with until the last few years of my life. I would shop alone, but c'mon, who wants people around when a shopping rampage has reared its head? As Barb said, the alone adventures really started for me with The Artist's Way too. I loved my solitary adventures. But they were not nearly as adventurous as yours.

In October, I am going to have an Angie "Lite" adventure. That is to say, I will be with my husband, but he will be working a good deal of the time. We are going to London for two weeks and every day I am going to get up, and go out and explore. I can't wait. Some days I am going to map it out and some days I am just going to wander. You have inspired me, Ang. But I have one question. If I can "find myself" doing this, can I also "lose myself"? Time will tell.

Thanks for a wonderful inspiring blog-post describing your "me, myself and I" trip.

Angela was an actor for most of her working life and now has a company, Scene and Heard, Inc. with her partner, Cheryl. Her company specializes in communication and presentation coaching utilizing the actor's technique for non-actors. Angie lives in a household of males [a lovely husband, two wonderful sons and two adorable male dogs], so she really appreciates reading this fabulous blog by her dear friends, Barb and Deb. She is thrilled to be asked to contribute!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sunshine Sketches Of A Changed World

Deb: My husband and I are working on a film right now called Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town written by the great and iconic Canadian writer, Stephen Leacock (short bio and great quotes). The film is set in the year 1912.

We are shooting in a gorgeous setting by a lake in Gravenhurst, Ontario. As we shot yesterday in our beautiful lace gowns and tailored wool suits, I felt transported. We looked like we were right out of a Renoir painting. I glanced around at the various activities the actors and background artists were partaking of. Knitting and crocheting, Blind Man’s buff, swimming, tag, or just meditating on the beautiful surroundings.

My mind instantly went to a scenario from the other night at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). My husband and I went to a screening of Adrian Grenier’s film Teenage Paparazzo and we sat through the film surrounded by people texting, taking photos, talking full voice throughout, while snapping their heads around every five seconds to see “who else is here?” It became even more frustrating when Mr. Grenier got up to take part in a question and answer period. He took it very seriously and answered every question with respect and a good deal of thought. We marveled at the din around us as people declared loudly their love and adoration for him. Some of them were live chats and others were on the phone stating in booming voice things like, “he is so gorgeous ... yeah, he’s right here in front of me ... yeah he’s talking ... answering questions ... no, I haven’t seen the other guys yet, but Mark Walberg is here too ... oh hang on, people are applauding something he just said, I can’t hear you ... yeah, it is soooooooooo cool ... I’m going to try and meet him at the party after this.” My first thought was, “yeah, good luck with that, ladies!” and my second thought was, “Really? You love him, do you? Because you clearly do not RESPECT him. You have not shut your great gaping pie holes the entire time he has been talking.”

I looked around and only one out of five people was even trying to listen. The serious people had moved up to the front. When the talk was done and Adrian shouted out, “Let’s party!” I said to my husband, “Let’s go for a bite and go home.” He happily and gratefully agreed, which is saying something since my husband loves nothing more than good free food. But we had had enough of the rudeness and did not want to further subject ourselves to the shoving and the texting and the pushing and the ruding. I know this makes me sound like an old fogey and I know that I am saying nothing new with this, but I will say it once more. We have become a society of boors. Rude boors. No class.

At the time of the event I thought about blogging about it, then stopped myself because I felt there was nothing new I could add. But when I stepped onto the set of Sunshine Sketches, my mind instantly travelled back to the real place in time that we are depicting, and the contrast between these two events was staggering to me. I spent the day looking around and thinking how sweet, how innocent, how intoxicating it all was. This time in my mind’s eye, I could hear the ghosts of a hundred years ago,  “Glorious day today, Mrs. Dinton.” “Your flowers are exquisite, Mrs. Landry.” “I trust I am finding you today in good health, Mr. Aubrey?”

Despite my daydream back in time, I know there are inherent problems with every era, and I know it can be argued that they lived as simply as they did because they did not have any other option. And believe me, I am a big fan of technology. Love it. Find it miraculous. But I couldn’t help but pine for what they had. The lack of technology offered them the opportunity to sing and socialize and indulge in focused conversation. It’s why the children played in the sun, climbed trees, made swords out of sticks and tied love notes up with hair ribbons. I know the whys of it. But still.

I love the time I live in, but as I sat on that set, oh how I yearned taking just a moment’s rest in that world. I imagined myself popping into this picnic, on this day in time.  The film is as close as I will come to that. But it is good enough for a few days to erase the memory of the boors. This month I am a gentlewoman and it is sweet.

Barbara: Oh, Deb, you paint a divine picture. I can smell the grass, feel the sun, hear the quiet thrum of time slowing down and gentling, people communing with one another without cell phones in their hands and twenty social/work obligations queuing up in cyberspace behind them.

I have to tell you about the bistro lunch I had the other day with Phil. We’re sitting beside a table of three young women in their mid-twenties. One of the women is describing her recent experience working in London, England with underprivileged kids; she’s talking about how amazing it was, how amazing the kids were, how much she learned, how cool it was to live in London for six months, how it was hard leaving her new and potentially serious boyfriend…. Okay, you get the gist: interesting enough to prompt me to ignore my charming husband and blatantly eavesdrop.

Thing is, it was like she was doing one of those one-women shows where the actress sits centre stage and looks into the middle distance while she gives an extended monologue. And why? Because her two lunch mates, her (apparent) friends who haven’t seen her lo these six months, spend the ENTIRE LUNCH TEXTING while inserting the requisite pseudo-rapt, “Uh-huh.” “Wow.” “So cool.” “Awesome.” I was this close to pushing my own lunch aside and leaning over so I could be the seriously engaged audience she so obviously deserved.

The only opinion I will add is the one you already mention: I do believe this boorish rudeness has always existed in big filthy cities throughout history; we’ve just changed costume and props. But the idyll you describe has to be kept sacred. We desperately need somewhere to escape to from time to time so we can remember––and re-engage with––our humanity. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Biggest Little Decision

Barbara: The other day I was talking on the phone with my daughter (yes, I’m hanging in there) (she, btw, is flying high) about her course choices at university. She was contemplating how overwhelming and sometimes confusing the sheer volume was. And I found myself telling her that if she didn’t worry about opening herself up to new experiences, if she really paid attention, really listened, she might find herself learning something critical from even the most unlikely course, something utterly unexpected that could impact her whole life.

Later I told my husband about this discussion and he reminded me that he’d wanted me to watch the Steve Jobs video of his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford (you know, the genius behind Apple and Pixar and other such minor accomplishments.) So I did (and I’ve attached it at the bottom here), and within the first five minutes, Steve describes a calligraphy course he dropped into at college out of random curiosity and how that calligraphy course ended up informing the signature design esthetic at Apple (and, as a result, at all their competitors too).

I’ve made a lot of huge decisions in my life. I can feel the whoosh of that leap of faith in my gut. And those big leaps are great and important. But I started to count all the things that have come into my life thanks to seemingly random and innocuous events. And I realized just how many so-called little moments in my life turned into huge turning points.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll describe one—maybe my favourite. On a whim, out of creative boredom maybe, maybe just for the excuse of a girl’s night out, I went to a series of seminars with my dear friend, Angie. They were interesting and informative, but never ended up changing my life in and of themselves (there was no light bulb moment, no epiphanies, no major shifts) … until Angie and I found ourselves in conversation with a director looking for a project and a team to produce it. Angie happened to have a wonderful story idea that she threw into the mix—and a team was suddenly created, a film was soon born. Out of nowhere, out of nothing but chance and curiosity and, of course, creative flow. Now this film went on to be blessed with not just that one stroke of amazing synchronicity, but with many others as the cast, crew, and financing came together in probably record time for film world. Within less than a year we had wrapped production on a little indie film called Expecting that ended up touring the North American film festival circuit (and even won some prizes and accolades along the way), being made into a DVD, and still sometimes airing on Canadian television.

And the cherry on this cake of a story? That project is where I met and fell in love with Deb McGrath and Colin Mochrie. And while the film itself may be far from the buzz now, the memories and this friendship topped all my expectations. Not all our random conversations or crappy course choices will necessarily turn out to be that important, but I can say this: that random conversation certainly ended up changing my life. 

Deb: Barb, to remember that seed of a friendship, growing from such a time as 9/11 still amazes me.  Our friendship quite took me by surprise as you well know. I didn’t notice it at the first snap of the photo, but when I looked later at the picture, it was stupendous.

And thanks to Karen Frazier who just found the trailer for Expecting!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reality Versus My Reality

Deb: Recently a friend shared a recollection with me, my husband, and a group of our mutual friends about an event that we all shared. He was so passionate about this memory and so very detailed that it was stunning.

It was stunning because it barely resembled the truth. The rest of us involved in the event all remember it unfolding in the exact same way and yet it was nothing like our friend described it.

What made it most interesting to me is that on the day the event unfolded, he was the bad guy in the piece. By that I mean that we all feel he made some selfish and self-serving choices that day. The most fascinating part of the whole thing is that clearly his brain set to work on spinning the story that very day. His brain realized that he could not resolve himself to be the bad guy and so his brain set about the task of having the incident rewired. And believe me, when he recalled this event at our social gathering you could tell, really tell, that he believed every single word he was saying. He was truly not trying to pull the wool over our eyes. The event had become history to him, his history. But it was quite a distance from the truth.

And it made me think about perception, point of view, personalizing and spinning. I am the queen of it. I have memories that I hold dear and memories that shock and sadden me, but I wonder: Are they real? Or at least, what part of them is real? Do we all do this?

Is there any real event with one point of view?

Life is like the telephone game. We take, we add, we embellish and we pass it on. It got me to pondering specific moments in my life, old family lore and scandalous stories from days gone past. How much of it is true? Do some moments from life get spun so fast and furiously that they end up without a shred of truth in them?

I know that I like to embellish. I have always liked to embellish because I have been a storyteller since I was a kid and I always wanted to go for the “awe” factor. Ramp it up, keep it interesting, hook ‘em in. I never meant any harm. I still don’t. But I know I do it constantly and without even thinking. If someone says, “Wow, I bought three little bags of groceries and it cost me $120.00! Invariably my story will come out of my mouth as one bag, no meat or fruit––$150!!!  Can’t help myself.

I have been thinking of this lately as I have a dear friend whose husband calls her out each and every time she exaggerates. He feels it is beneath her, and maybe he is right. My husband does not call me out, bless him. I say "bless him" not because I think I am correct in doing this, but because I would be really embarrassed if called out in front of people. Had an old boyfriend who made it his life’s work to call me out.

But it made me wonder if I shouldn’t start to monitor this myself?  And then came the night when our friend recalled this unrecognizable event and I thought, “Yeah, I better.”

Barbara: I’ve always admitted I have a terrible memory, so I’m usually not surprised to find out I’ve remembered something wrong (or forgotten it altogether). But I am often surprised to hear stories through more than one perspective and to hear how much they differ, like in your story, Deb.

As for your friend’s skewed perspective of the past (hisstory, as it were ;-) ), I think this is at the heart of most of our skewering: in order to accept our weaknesses, we alter the truth to turn them into strengths, buffering our psyches with padded costumes.

Siblings will probably have the most opposite memories of childhood events because our immature psyches will twist events as we process them. My mother and I were just talking about that the other day. She was bemoaning the fact that grown children often talk about these catastrophic moments in their upbringing that “scar them for life”, and that their parents usually have no idea that anything profound even happened. As we compared notes about what we remembered from her perspective as a parent and my own as a child, we ended up laughing uproariously at how she’d completely forgotten things that “haunted” me (me sticking my tongue out at her when I was five and she slapping me soundly across the face––I actually remember feeling I totally deserved this), and I’d completely forgotten things that haunted her (calling me a “stupid goat” at much the same age in front of a neighbour—my mother does not and never did think I was a stupid goat … even when I was/am). 

Friday, September 9, 2011


Barbara: I was chatting with a friend the other day when it came up that this question haunts many of us on a daily, even minute-ly, basis. We wonder, we worry, we ruminate, we prepare, we stress out, we––in worst-case scenarios ( ;-) )––even sometimes succumb to a zillion nightmare answers to this question. And so, in trying to prepare ourselves for the worst, we become undone by it before it even happens. Or, ironically, our worries trigger that worst-case scenario.

A friend of mine had a vivid, emotionally terrifying nightmare: her best girlfriend was furious with her, crying and screaming, and the crux was that my friend did not like her friend’s new guy. When my friend woke up, all she could think about was the possibility that she and her best friend might actually have this terrible conflict in real life. Her worst fear was losing this friend. So she pondered all the possible reasons a scenario like this might happen, and then of all the possible ways she could avoid it. She spent so much time imagining every possible permutation of events that when she finally did meet her friend’s new boyfriend, she felt fully prepared. No one—NO ONE—would be able to say she didn’t get along with the guy. Sad twist, of course, is that her best friend believed that she was in fact trying to STEAL the boyfriend. The horrible nightmare came true because she’d been working so hard to prevent it!! (Happily, my friend was able to explain this whole mess and all was understood and forgiven.)

My whole life, I’ve tried to emotionally prepare for the worst. I really believed that if I was prepared, it wouldn’t shock me so badly or hurt me so much when it happened. Thing is—and I know we all know this, but it bears repeating––it’s never what you expect that happens (or how). I have never, not once, been able to prepare myself out of a life shock or drama or tragedy.

Deb actually helped me deal with this suffocating habit by sharing a great coping strategy. She was telling me about her dear friends’ struggle with the fact that the husband was dying of cancer. One of this couple’s strategies was to try and avoid immersing themselves in the emotional turmoil of the worst-case scenario. Obviously, a worst-case scenario had presented itself and that scenario was already playing out in the worst possible way. So she and her husband learned that if they imagined the worst, they were in fact living the scenario TWICE—once when they imagined it and then again when it actually happened. They were suffering twice as much, and wasting precious time in the grips of despair. So they decided to safeguard their present by living in it. Now if you take this logic to our often WRONG predictions of the future, then you see that we are also living the worst-case scenario unnecessarily.

Shit happens. We can only strategize when we’ve good and stepped in it (or had it flung in our faces).

Of course, we can all be prepared for bad scenarios in some kinds of concrete way––take that self-defense class, buy that alarm system, watch what you spend, eat healthily, let your friends know you love them—but having an imaginary script written for all the emotional upheavals that will or might take place in our lives only mocks us when nothing turns out the way we advance-screen it in your minds. 

Deb: This has been an ongoing struggle for me through my life, Barb. I am wired for panic. My people are panickers and I have carried on this fine tradition. But over the last years I have really worked on trying not to go to the dark side and I have made large inroads. I still have my moments, of course, but largely I find that my major knee-jerking has ceased. I stop and breath, and I don’t go there twice anymore. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thank you, Newfoundland

Deb: As our trip to Newfoundland stretched out before us, I knew I would blog about it and I knew instantly that the theme would be gratitude to the people of Newfoundland.

So it’s serendipitous that in the last few days I started reading so many words of thanks to the people of Newfoundland from the stranded passengers of 9/11 who were taken into their homes and made to feel like family.

You have to understand something about Newfoundlanders. They are funny. They are warm. They are fun. And they are the kindest people I have ever met in my travels, bar none.

When I was growing up in the 60s, Newfie jokes were de riguer and I never understood them. It was a stereotype of the time, but one that never resonated with me. But unlike other stereotypes, it seemed to become accepted––it was “harmless, all in good fun.”

I only lived in NFLD for a few years and I was very young, five and six. But my warm memories are so deep in my psyche that my dreams oft time burst with snippets of that tiny recollection.  And I know that my memories are partly Super 8 film and partly stories and slides, but returning has always been a yearning in me. I have wanted to go back and I did with my boys and joined by a girl.  So a heartfelt thanks, Newfoundland, from the Mochrie/McGraths for absolutely everything.

And Specifically:

The chef and the waitress at Ryan Mansion for their charm and fabulous food.

Buddy who chased us out of the restaurant to give us directions when he overheard us asking someone.

The lady we met at Lighthouse Picnics who, when I told her I used to live in Cornerbrook as a child, walked with us and charmed us with her family history. “My grandfather was born in Cornerbrook, his Dad in Deer Lake where my father’s people were ... now he was an Archer and my Mum’s family was McCubbin. I was born Archer and now I’m a McGee, but my husband’s people on his mother’s side are Toohey’s.” And on it went, only silenced by someone shouting “Whale!”  I know that millions of people every day see whales. I know that. But why is it, that when you see a whale you must scream WHALE!!!!!!!!! as if you were the first person to ever see one? Because IT’S A WHALE!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me????? I am walking along chatting about the lunch we just had and “oh, look there’s a ....WHALE!” I giant stupendous mammal is leaping out of the water. He is bigger than our house. So YEAH, WHALE. You bet I’m shouting. Shout out to the WHALE. 

The two gals we met in Quidi Vidi who were picking blueberries to make muffins. Not only did they give us great advice about climbing Signal Hill, but they offered their blueberry stash and insisted we eat some, which we did.

The staff of every restaurant from Raymond's, to the spot on the pier in Trinity Bay where we had fish and chips. Thanks for wonderful warm personal service to delicious meals.

The Rock of the Rock radio station that provided our theme music for the trip.

Fisher’s Loft Inn for their view, their warmth, the details. Rooms with little flashlights, walking sticks and binoculars, great food and a games room that we used every night, allowing me to beat the pants off Luke and Colin consistently with Taboo and Scattergories!!!

Okay, whatever, this is my blog and I am telling the story.

Blue on Water for Sullivan, our host, who pretended my suitcase weighed one pound as he carried it three floors as a result of a broken elevator, smiling and chatting as he went. And to the funkiest en-suite bathroom we have ever enjoyed.

To the gorgeous wait staff at Blue who charmed us through two dinners and three breakfasts, graciously making some of us feel that fish and chips for breakfast was as normal as pie.

To Randy our guide in one of the historic homes in Trinity who was engaging, warm and informative with a stunning accent.


To Lighthouse Picnics themselves for an innovative idea, delicious picnics, homemade lemonade in glass jars, gingerbread cake and cozy blankets.

To the walk-in clinic in St. John's that I went to on day one and who had me sorted and shipped off within fifteen minutes. Within that time I found out a good deal about the doctor’s life and how he came to live in and love this town.

To the handsome young blond man at the roadside diner and grocery store, who came out of the woman’s washroom, as the men’s was full, and said to me as I waited, “A tounsand pardens, me darlin’, but despert times caal for despert messures,” and tipped his cap.

To every single person we met, be it Newfoundlander or tourist, who happened to share the same journey with us as we met at hotel after hotel and shared our stories and mutual love of the place we were discovering together.

 To the Puffins who we visited and who looked all the world like plush animals in frantic flight and with whom we fell in love.

To the volunteers who take care of the Skerwink Trail and keep it groomed and safe so that we can enjoy it’s unbelievable beauty.

And to our son who turned 21 with a glass of champagne at Raymond's overlooking St. John’s harbour and his lovely girl, Megan, who shared this trip with us in whole and in part, and who made it more than a vacation.

And finally to the owner of the Qidi Vidi Brewery who was giving us our tour and who told us this joke:

So a Newfoundlander and his hard-of-hearing wife were taking a road trip in Ontario.
A cop pulls them over. “Can I see your license and registration, sir?”
The wife says, “What did he say?”
The husband says, “He asked to see my license and registration.”
The cop says, “Where are you from, sir?”
The wife says, “What did he say?”
The husband says, “He asked me where we’re from.”
The cop says, “ Newfoundland, are ya? I had the worst sex of my life in Newfoundland.”
The wife says, “What did he say?”
The husband says, “He thinks he knows ya.”

I am convinced Newfoundlanders possess the secret of life.  The jokes on us.

Barbara: What can I say, me darlin’, you weave a magical spell of a wonderful land. You know already, Deb, that Newfoundland is on my Wish List. When I look at those images and hear your story it makes me want to go there all the more. Man, the world is a wonderful, surprising, complex, exhilarating place!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Are You Afraid Of Change?

Barbara: First off, happy Labour Day to all of you who get to enjoy today’s holiday. I, for one, will be reveling with my best bud, Deb. The very best kind of “labour”.

But I do have a topic of discussion I want to throw out there for any of you who might want to play …. So here goes. Like the title asks: are you afraid of change?

The reason I’ve been mulling this question is because I’m back home now after an intense week of moving my daughter into her college apartment (she’s not in residence so there were a ton of unexpected chores to the whole “moving in” thing. Like scrubbing corners and hooking up internet and building beds and waiting for subletters to vacate.).

So I’m back home now and finding myself down in the doldrums. She is happy and I am happy for her and I am excited for the next phase of her life and my own, but mourning periods are sometimes both inevitable and necessary. Either way, they still suck.

And as I was wallowing in the doldrums of my exhausted blues, I wondered––as much as I’m looking forward to it––if I’m not just a little afraid of the next phase of my life. Not because I worry about it in any substantial way, but because this life is going to be inherently different. And then I began to think of all the friends I know and acquaintances I’ve spoken with over the years who are clinging to a way of life or an aspect of their lives that they frankly hate because they are more afraid of change. “The devil you know” and all that.

I was curious so I googled “stress list” and found the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Now obviously there are a lot of truly horrible events on this list, like losing a loved one or getting a divorce. But I also want to point out that a lot of the events on here are positive events like “vacation” and “getting married” and “outstanding personal achievement” (?!). And if you look at the top of the chart you’ll see that the 43 events are rated on a scale of “life change units”. So obviously Holmes and Rahe recognized that “change” is the inherent, measurable part of stress.

So if change stresses us out, are we less liable to instigate it––even if it would benefit us enormously––just to, you know, keep the peace???

Deb: Barb this really got me thinking. Really. I was resistant to change all my life. Could oft be heard to say “I will never...” or “I will do it this way forever”. Since I hit my fifties and particularly in the last few years I have come to embrace change, and in some cases to welcome it. Not, as you said of a tragic nature, but change that brings the unexpected, the surprise the “wow, I didn’t know I liked that” kind of change. And, frankly, I adore it. I say, bring it on!!! Adventure, travel, a new experience, I am there. Our boy’s life is changing and growing and given that I am three years into that metamorphosis, I have come to embrace it. I think I started with faking trying to embrace change, and then evolved to embracing change, with reservations and finally SPLAT––CHANGE, Exploring. Discovering. That is what I want for this period of my life. And trust me, these are things I have really wrestled with this week. So they are fresh and some of them hurt. But they are clear. For me, change is growth. Wow, look at me, all growed up. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hue-ing it Up

Deb: Over the last few years I have employed a packing concept that is working wonders for me. I am hue-ing it up. I am choosing two, maybe three colours and coordinating them for ease of packing and choice.

I used to be the gal who packed 9 pairs of shoes to go with 15 different colours to go with various pants styles, lengths cuts and on it goes.

So I started easy with NYC when the boy moved there. I chose black, grey and cream. If I am feeling sassy (always) I will throw in an accent colour, usually red.

For our holiday to Newfoundland I wanted to take it one step farther. I decided to embrace a theme. So I am going nautical, babies!  That’s right, Seaman First Class McGrath is going to rock it for all the sailor girls. What better place to go nautical than during a visit to The Rock?! My colours are blue (jeans included), white, and red.

I decided to take a page from INSTYLE magazine and pose my pre-suitcase clothes on the dining room table in various combos showing how I can mix and match.

Do I have too much time on my hands? No, actually, I don’t. Just got excited with this idea and decided to have some fun!!!

So the following are pictures of my clothes, and with the boy as official trip photographer I will post shots of me wearing these co-ordinated beauties on the trip.

I should tell you two things:
One: this was born of my attempts to stop buy buy buying every single thing I see, and love love love the clothes I already have. This has been pretty successful.

Two: Everything I took on the trip was 3 to 5 years old, except for five items, which for me is pretty darn good. I span the range from Alexander McQueen to Winners to my fab find in Vancouver—a little blue dress with navy stars that I snapped up for $19.

I have always been good about keeping pieces that to me are classic or that I simply adore.

So please enjoy this silly little exercise and please forgive the pictures. As I am only five feet tall, I could not get high enough to take great shots. Thought of using a ladder as I was drifting off to sleep.  Ahh well.

Barbara: Deb, this is frickin’ genius!! I am a terrible packer. First I hate it, and second, my habit is to throw everything in the bag like some capsized-ship victim who believes she can save her wardrobe as well as herself. It’s panic-packing, even when I have lots of time to prepare.

I love this concept of coordinating the clothes to mix and match. Of creating “outfits” that look good and feel comfortable. I am so going to try it next time I pack (which doesn’t include the latest trip to move my daughter to college—no, that was panic-packing at its most frenetic).

I want to see lots of pics, Missy, of your fashionable exploits rockin’ The Rock!