Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear Blog Family

Dear Blog Family,

With conflicted feelings whirling around us, we have come to the difficult decision to stop our regular blogging on The Middle Ages. We need you all to know that we did not in any way, shape, or form come to this lightly. In fact, we spent many hours talking back and forth, considering our options.

This is not a sad day for us, except that we will miss your voices, your stories, your support. We in no way regret one single second of this 3-year journey; it has quite literally changed our lives. It has changed us as people, and as writers. And it is as writers that we leave you today and move to other writing projects that have been in our hearts, waiting for their day.

As you can imagine, we have poured so much time into The Middle Ages, and with our personal commitments—especially of late—also taking much time, it has left little for each of us to write our … Great Canadian Novel (or fill in the blank). We find ourselves curious as to what will happen if all the energy that has been directed here over these years now gets directed elsewhere. As we said in the blog the other day, “What. Is. Next?” And we just know the same will be true for you when all the kind and loving energy you amazing readers have directed here goes to the next wonderful thing.

We are very happy to have learned so much from each and every one of you. We have shared joy and deep sorrows, compassion and strength. We have together supported each other in grief, and held each other high on shoulders of celebration. We have joined each other for holidays, and we have gotten to know your serious sides and your silly sides in Five Crazy Things. The one thing that kept blocking us from making this choice was … you. But we know we are all the better for knowing each other, and that each of us has taught and learned at least one great life lesson. 

We would love the next week to be about you, if you want to say goodbye, if you want to connect with each other, and if there are any questions you always wanted to ask, now’s your chance. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we won’t post anything new, but will answer your comments here. Then we’ll finish up this week with a Blogging Out Loud on Friday. After that, the blog will stay up. We’re leaving it up because, down the line, if we have any big announcements to make or things we want to share with you in a new post, we can (if you want, you can subscribe on the left-hand bar to get any updates). But we also feel the community that has grown here and the stuff we’ve talked about deserves to be here for any of us who might want to revisit conversations (you can easily search in the left-hand bar for key words, and Blogger will find the pertinent stories for you). Colin can also keep you posted of any of our news through Twitter, and we will keep our Twitter feed live (although probably won’t be there a lot for the next while). Just so you know, after two weeks, Blogger won’t take comments without moderation, but since we won’t be moderating, we hate to have you think we’re ignoring you. You can comment if you want, but just so you know, we might not see it (we don’t get updates) or be able to post it for a while.

Please know, beyond everything we’ve said, that we are excited about the future and about moving forward. And we look forward to this next week with all of you.

Thank you so much and with so much love, Deb and Barbara

Friday, January 25, 2013

Change Is Good.

Deb: We grow from change, I think. I should know as the change surrounding me in my life right now is swirling and whirling and sweeping. Yep. Right across the board, I am feeling these changes. Some of them are wonderful, some are sad, and some are bittersweet. But they all have one thing in common. They are forward-moving. They are taking me to a new place. They have me re-examining and re-thinking. They have sparked me and challenged me and opened me up to a world of new ways of looking and interacting with my world and the world at large.

So I think I am about to be creative in a way I never have been before. At what, you might ask? I don’t know. But I am sooooo open and things are coming to me. I think I am bringing it in, drawing it towards me. I am sure that I am about to find some new and exciting things to fill my head and my heart and my time. Not all the changes are what I would have wished for, but they are also changes I cannot control. So my only choice is to find the joy in them and accept the challenge of making things better. My Dad always says, “Damn, I zigged when I should have zagged.” So I’m going to zig and zag and travel down some new roads. I feel some big lovely changes coming for me, but I am happy to wait for them to arrive. Because I am enjoying the anticipation. What’s next, I wonder?

What. Is. Next?

Barbara: As you well know, dear Deb, but as our readers might not, I feel EXACTLY they same way right now. It’s strange, I was always the woman with the script—this was going to happen, then that. If I worked hard and worked toward my goal(s), then that would happen and so would this, this and this. It was very comforting to have a plan. It worked with my character and with my ideas. But this is the first time I’ve ever thrown the script out—and understood that I have to—in order to move into the next phase, whatever that will be. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have goals and dreams and projects, and I still believe that these are useful and interesting to have, but I’m not dictating in my mind the step-by-step process that (I imagine) will bring them to fruition. Instead, I am going through a process of renewal, one where I am open to anything. Still in the cocoon, mind you, but excited to be here. I, too, wonder what will happen next. Wonder is a glorious thing, isn’t it?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five Crazy Things: Colour

Barbara: When the kids were young, they often asked me which was my favourite colour. (Maybe as subconscious wondering as to which was my favourite child.) My answer was always, “I don’t have a favourite colour because it depends on what the colour applies to.” (And, of course, I have no favourite child given that I love them both beyond measure, and which immeasurable measure is exactly equal.)

But we’ve talked a lot about meaningful colour here, so why not “crazy” it up? Okay, so which 5 colours have significant meaning for you? OR: pick five colours and let us know how they make you feel.

1. Yellow. Makes me happy. Obviously, the symbolic colour of light and sun. Uplifting. I have several rooms painted yellow. Love it.
2. Green. Makes me calm. Zens me out. I would say it’s my “favourite” colour in general, yet I don’t have any green rooms (yet), and very few green clothes (this could change). Nature, mmm.
3. Red. I love to wear red. I love the warm shade against my skin colour. I love the strength of it. I do have a room painted red and have not gotten tired of it (although my daughter tells me she has!).
4. Blue. Strangely, I think I don’t love blue. And yet, flowers, stones, water when blue, sky when blue, all inspire me. I want to stare at blue when I write. It’s possibility. I love blue jewelry (turquoise, moonstone), cobalt glass.
5. Brown. Okay, this is maybe the colour, if we can call it that, that I am most comfortable in: clothing, furniture, accessories. It flatters my colouring. But also for its nature (forgive the pun): branches, soil, sand, stone, wood, riverbed, spring (the season), and on and on. To me, brown is the root of beauty.

1. I love green. My wedding ring is green. Emerald green is a favourite.
2. Turquoise is my ultimate favourite colour. I have always been drawn to its calm beauty.
3. Red is my power colour. I love wearing red. I think red flatters everyone. I adore using red accents with grey.
4. Mellow Yellow, the soft colour of butter is one of my favourite wall colours.
5. Black and white. I know, I know, not colours, but colours I live in and adore!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Shifting Truth

Barbara: It was always hard for me to stake a claim on an opinion. I worried first that my opinion was wrong, followed quickly by my worry that I would offend someone, followed slowly by the worry that I would change my mind. This lineup of worries would march in like a firing squad when my opinion was asked, then they (my worries) would ready, aim, wait. I’d give my silent acknowledgment—message received—and no opinion would be proffered.

And while I believe that empathetic openness has its very important place in life, I have come to see—especially over these years here at the blog—that there’s a kind of rush when you stand tall and say: I believe this. (My first disclaimer to this opinion: the internet has also proven a vile and hateful sounding board for opinions, which are spewed without a care for others’ feelings and often without any real consideration. That’s my opinion.)

Okay, let’s try again—I will stand tall and say: I believe this about myself. If you don’t trust me that I’ve learned to do this, well, there are 569 posts here that would beg to differ. Maybe you don’t believe that I ever found it difficult to express opinions. And maybe you’d also be right—of course, I thought this or that, made this point or that one, but I would only really present (or debate or fight for) these positions with those absolutely closest to me. I trusted them with my (possibly conflicting, possibly difficult-to-hear, possibly stupid) opinions.

Over the years of blogging, I’ve learned to let go of the first and most bloodthirsty worry about truth-telling: that I might be wrong. It’s funny, being wrong in someone else’s opinion turned out to be not such a big deal. I thought it would slaaaaaay me. But no. Turned out to be shrug-inducing. Welcome to the world, we don’t all agree. And your differing opinion doesn’t impinge on mine, and, well, often teaches me a lot about the different ways of the world. So putting my opinion out there actually turns a “confessional” moment into a learning moment.

But here’s the most difficult issue with saying “I believe this about myself”: tomorrow, I might not. And there’s the rub. If I say something today and put it into print, or even into someone’s ear, then that’s how you view me. And what if tomorrow I learn something new that shifts that tender truth into something else?

I read this article the other day about how our personal truths are always changing as we age and mature. They featured a woman who in her 20s was adventurous and outgoing, who was a daredevil and a party-girl, up for anything, a taker-of-chances. But now in her 30s, she’s settled down and is quiet and hardworking, prefers small groups and intimate experiences. She hadn’t changed to fit into a mold, she had changed because, well, she had changed. But she certainly felt herself now as much as she had felt herself back then.

So here’s the thing, regardless of the permanence of internet writings, regardless of the elephant-like memories of the people I share with, I say that the truth I tell you today, may not be the truth I believe tomorrow. But by speaking my truth on any given day, I am racking into focus more and more, ultimately for myself, and possibly even for you.

Deb: Oh my goodness, I love this because I have lived this ... constantly. I have a dear darling friend who says to me often, “But you said you would...” pertaining to any number of things. And she is 100% right. I have and I did. Change my mind, I mean. My only defense. My only lovely defense is that I have changed, my truth has changed, my life has changed. I am proud to say that over the years I have yielded to the wind and gone with the flow. Or should it be that I have gone with the wind? At any rate, my basic principals are in tact regards equal rights for every living creature and peace baby peace. The rest ... is up for grabs. Catch you on the flip side.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Deb Skates Again!

Deb: It was to my delight that I found myself all alone on one of my regular rinks this week. Jazz playing in the background and the feel of the ice on my blades. I. Am. Canadian.

PS This is the Shop at Don Mills.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Teacher’s Pet

Deb: Colin and I attended a seminar on Saturday to better inform us of my Dad’s medical issues. It was two-and-a-half hours of information. It was fabulous and it transformed me. I thought I had a good handle on things, but this class just upped my game and reminded-slash-taught me that there is always more to learn and more to conquer.

We left the seminar after signing up together for three more seminars on different but related subjects. It empowered us and humbled us and delivered to us good solid usable skills.

But here is the funny part. For some reason the gal who was running the seminar (beautifully and casually, I might add) kind of picked me out as teacher’s pet. And I do confess that I did contribute when asked, but so did many others. Oh God, it was embarrassing. I was just trying to share my concerns and experiences as were others, but she just, you know ... took to me! At one point—I kid you not—she said, “Deb, you should be up here teaching this!”  Deb. She called me Deb. I felt like a plant in the audience. I grabbed my husband’s leg and turned crimson and from the very back seat in the room muttered, “Oh, I ... just, oh no, dear God, no ... I’m just here like everyone trying to ... oh dear.”

And then I realized. I WAS MONICA! For those who don’t already know who I mean: Monica from Friends. But I swear to you, I was NOT being a know-it-all, I was just contributing. But teacher promoted me on my first class!

Int. Classroom Setting:
Monica is sitting at a desk frantically waving her hand.

Oh, I know!!! I know!!! I know!!!!

Monica, you ASKED the question.

Barbara: Was it a classic teacher’s pet thing where all the other kids hated you for it, or did they love you as much as Teacher for being so forthright and thoughtful and for covering so many important questions? Because I, for one, would totally, openly and gratefully love someone like you in my medical information classes—it’s the bane of my existence that I only think of the relevant questions AFTER the classes (or doctor’s appointments or seminars, etc). You would have been like a human crib sheet for someone like me!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dear Dear Abby

Barbara: Dear Abby,

I am very sorry to hear you’ve passed away. Especially knowing that your long illustrious life ended with Alzheimer’s. I hope you didn’t suffer too much, and that your loving family didn’t suffer too much letting you go.

When I heard the news, I knew right away that I had to write. I didn’t immediately take stock of the last time I read your column (which was long before your daughter took it over), but I did have a visceral memory from my fraught adolescence of me pouring over those letters to and from you. I would skip past the dire world news and go straight to your advice column. In many ways, that ritual was much like my experience reading blogs now—unrelated people coming together from far and wide to share their humbling, difficult, complicated, tragic, nasty, romantic, sad, confused, loving experiences living in this complex world. For the first time in my life, I saw people bare their souls. For a naïve, inexperienced, soon-to-be woman like me, it seemed impossible that people would be so open and honest, revealing hearts and lives I either related to with every fibre of my being, or ones I was fascinated to discover, or ones I hoped I’d never ever have to encounter.

How did you do it? You were so brave and honest. You were funny. You said things that didn’t offend me, that opened my eyes. You didn’t pander or patronize. You shot from the hip. You were gracious and decent. Wasn’t it hard, exhausting, to be so wise and patient? I don’t think so—because we never heard that it had been either one or the other. You were graceful and kind about your role as therapist to the world (aka North America). You showed us by example that we could learn from our mistakes and change our views in a changing world. You showed us we didn’t need to hide our mistakes and fears behind closed doors, but that we could come out and share them with others so they could learn from them too.

If not for you and the trend you began and the example you set, why, none of us might know how to do this online/internet/social media thing with any social grace. You led the vanguard, baby. You showed the way it ought to be done. With kindness and compassion and good common sense.

Thank you very sincerely from the bottom of my heart for teaching me so much about the human experience. R.I.P.

Love, Barbara

(Dear Readers, if you don’t know to whom I’m referring, Dear Abby was/is a daily advice column that ran from the late 50s to present day. Pauline Phillips wrote it until the early 2000s until her daughter took it over.)

Deb: Dear Abby,
You spoke to a generation, nay, several generations about brave and bold gentility. You were of your time and beyond your time. Rest in Peace.