2011

I was sitting in Massey Hall on New Year’s Eve, thinking about doing a 2011 wrap up post. It was about an hour until the doors opened and the space was empty save for a half dozen uniformed ushers on each floor.

The house lights were up so I fished in my bag for a pen and notebook, thinking to write some notes about how generally crappy 2011 was, mostly because of the knee injury. I’d written a few whiney sentences when I heard the sound of kazoos from one of the balconies (the band was passing them out as part of their act). Somebody started the Star Wars theme, and one by one, floor by floor, the ushers all joined in.

There I am, in one of Toronto’s oldest music venues, listening to 20-odd people play kazoos. It’s just as funny as you would think. How can you help but laugh and play along?

The house manager eventually made them stop and go to their positions.I put away the notebook. The dose of silly had been enough to stop me from writing anymore about the last year, but it made me reflect on how much I had laughed in 2011. Yes, I cried and moaned and whined and bitched, but I certainly laughed a lot.

So yeah, I had a knee injury that was (is) painful. I wasn’t able to ride or go for walks, do things I love for a few months. I learned just how inaccessible this city and its transit system really is. I was not able to be as independent as I want and had to rely heavily on other people; asking for help did not come easily.  Dreams had to be shelved, plans had to be changed.

I learned that there are always options. We did other things we’d been meaning to do instead, like go to Montreal for the month-long comedy festival and visit Pelee Island. I could drive in time to go to Chicago to spend time with some pretty amazing women.

As much as I whinged about it, 2011 really was not a bad year. I have had worse. Way worse.

I’ve had years of  heartbreak, the kind that makes you want to curl up in a ball for months, and stays with you your whole life. I’ve had years of unemployment, poverty, poor decisions, betrayal by friends, a bad marriage and a subsequent divorce. I’ve had years of watching my mother battle cancer and lose, years of watching Alzheimer’s take my father away memory by memory until he could not remember my name or who I was. Years where I did not laugh nearly as much as I did in 2011.

Here’s to laughing even more in 2012!

 

1/365

Wandered around the AGO today, taking in the Chagall exhibit. Still entranced by the Gehry staircase, especially as viewed through an original architectural feature.

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a year of my life in shitty iphone pictures

I tried an experiment last year, to take a photo a day for 365 days. I was pretty sure it would fizzle out part way through, like so many of my experiments/escapades/wild ideas tend to, and would end with me uttering the phrase that usually accompanies these moments: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

But here we are at the end of the year and I find that I have uploaded 351 photos to the photo blog. Yes, it’s a few short of a full year, but it works out that I missed only 4%, an acceptable failure rate IMHO. I absolutely enjoyed the project, and will be continuing it here. There was a bit of filler (read: crap), so I’m not sure if it’s going to be daily or not.

One side effect of the year in pictures is that I have a visual key to my year. I’ve spent a good portion of New Year’s Day going through the blog to pick the one I liked best from each month and while not every photo is great (really, few of them are), all are a reminder of what I was doing/thinking/feeling on that day. As my memory is becoming as reliable as a circa 1995 floppy disk, having a trigger to remind me of events is…umm…helpful. The pictures are also acting as reminders of bigger themes that I would do well not to forget.


January:
I returned the cello and bought a guitar. It’s never too late to learn something new or check something off that’s been hanging around on Life’s to-do list for far too long.
February:
I’m not sure which was crazier, volunteering to chaperone 16-year-old girls at an eco-adventure lodge in Algonquin Park in the middle of winter or volunteering to jump in the lake through a hole chopped in the ice. This picture serves to remind me to take advantage of opportunities that are offered to me, even if it’s a daft one. The chance may never arise again, and even if it ends badly it will eventually be a good story.
March:
I borrowed my brother’s car and took a day to drive through the mountains through Banff National Park and took myself out to tea at the Chateau Lake Louise, because some experiences are just for me, and some adventures are best taken solo.
April:
I slipped while walking on a hill and ended up in the emergency department in Boone, North Carolina. Shit happens when I least expect it. And injuries take way longer to heal than they did when I was younger.
May:
I’ve learned that 90% of people are genuinely kind and will give up their seat for those with crutches or canes. However, taking the streetcar in the first place, while in a full leg brace and crutches, showed a certain lack of forethought.
June:
At the writing retreat I found that inspiration happens at the oddest times. This is where my novel really started.
July:
Keith arranged for few day trips to his friend’s family cottage. Everyone has a place that recharges their soul; northern Ontario is mine. It was unasked for, unexpected and I remain grateful beyond words to Keith and Ollie who gave me what I needed before I knew I needed it.
August:
This is the first ride post-injury. I was only able to get as far as the grocery store 2 miles away and it took me longer to get the gear on and off than the ride did, but it was wonderful.
September:
I sat in Chicago’s rush hour traffic for an hour on a Friday of a long weekend, after driving for about 7.5 hours. And I would absolutely do it again; it’s a small price to pay to spend time with some amazing women.
October:
A solo Thanksgiving weekend was spent road tripping in the sunshine. Awesome.
November:
We walked around the neighbourhood where we’ve lived for over a decade, and discovered beauty in the most unexpected places.
December:
The Headstones return. I drank. I danced. I sang. I lusted over Hugh Dillon. It was like 1990 all over again. It was fabulous!

lingerie

I didn’t go out yesterday with the intention of going lingerie shopping. To be honest, I rarely go out with the intention of lingerie shopping. I equate it with going to the dentist or buying shoes; aggravating, uncomfortable, a little soul-sucking but necessary. I can never find exactly what I want, and when on the rare occasion I find something close to what I want and find it in my size, well, it never fits me or looks quite the way I think it should. I tend to stick with what works with little deviation over the last decade or two. My underwear drawer is filled with black cotton thongs (don’t judge, they’re the best undies for motorcycling in as they prevent monkey-butt) and one or two black cotton bras that I replace only when the underwire has finally had enough, snaps and tries to pierce the flesh it’s supposed to support, usually in the middle of a class or a crowd for some reason.

I didn’t use to have such a utilitarian view on underthings. There’s another dresser drawer that contains memories I can’t bear to get rid of; a corset or two, garters & stockings, a leather bra from Northbound. There’s also a pink leopard print push-up bra that I bought on an impulse but have only worn twice, as it’s certainly not an everyday kind of bra according to my middle-aged WASP sensibilities.

“my middle-aged WASP sensibilities”. What the hell? I cannot believe I just wrote that. When the fuck did that happen? When did I turn into my mother? Probably around the time I let myself become bored and unhappy, I guess.

But I digress.

While walking to the car from Best Buy yesterday, I noticed that La Senza (Canada’s version of Victoria’s Secret) had big 50% off signs plastered all over its window so I ducked in on impulse while Keith went on to Home Depot. I walked out a half-hour later with a big grin on my face, clutching one of their large shopping bags filled with tissue-wrapped lovelies.

What happened between entering and leaving the store was neither aggravating or soul-sucking. I went in with no idea of what I wanted, and so was not disappointed when I didn’t find it. Everything in the store fits me now, a glorious side-effect of having to lose weight so I can walk pain-free.

I went a little nuts. I believe the word I’m looking for is binge. And there is nothing in the bag that’s black; lots of purple and blue and red and jungle prints and stripes. There’s cotton, but there’s lace and ribbons too. I did something I have never done, and went a little matchy-matchy.

I know they’re not going to look how I want them to look – I don’t inhabit anything close to a supermodel’s body after all and have about another 20lbs to go before I even get back what I think of as my body. And I know they’re not going to be as mindlessly comfortable as the black cotton. There’s no one going to see them and take delight in them but me.

But fuck it. I really like how they make me feel.

unChristmas is over for another year

We did another unChristmas this year, since last year’s was such a success, i.e. I didn’t cry during the holidays at all. I kept trying to hold onto the past. I don’t have children, all my family are gone or far away, Keith truly doesn’t care one way or the other, and Christmas just doesn’t work the way I want it to with me trying to keep the family traditions alive. So we left the boxes with the decorations in the storage locker, stayed out of malls and made only one foray to the grocery store.

There were nods to former holidays. I made a batch of my Mum’s nuts & bolts. I started unChristmas Day with a healthy shot of Drambuie in my coffee the way my Dad always did. I watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas remembering all the times I watched them with my brother, curled up on the couch in the rec room downstairs. And I watched Nightmare Before Christmas for no other reason that because I like it.

We visited family, and I reconnected with an uncle & aunt I’d lost touch with a year ago. We traveled up North to spend a few days with my brother & sister-in-law and hung out with my nephew, his wife and their two kids. Being around kids at Christmas is hilarious, and these two are funny, smart and lively. It was a great time truly, but we were both happy to hit the highway and head for home quiet home.

What a great day it was yesterday for a drive, cold and sunny. I sat watching the aspects of the Canadian Shield slip past my window (rocks, lakes, trees, repeat) taking pictures with my phone. It made me curse for the millionth time that moment of inattention back in April that caused me to miss getting up there even for day trips.  Even in the cold of winter, these empty spaces fill me with something I can’t describe, but definitely need.

 

 

Headstones


Last night was quite possibly the second best time I have had in 2011. And if that’s the second best time in 358 days then this year has sucked more than I’d thought. I will be glad to see the ass end of it in a few days.

I got home last night happily wired due to a combination of good conversation, good beer, and incredible music. I felt good. Alive. And pretty fucking fabulous. I IMed a friend that I’d felt like 20 years just slipped off my shoulders.

I’ve been thinking about last night’s Headstone’s show all day today. Frankly, it could have been the only thing that got me through this year’s Christmas Eve Day lunch with my father-in-law with a smile on my face.

I danced most of the night, much to the chagrin of the woman beside me who kept giving me the stink-eye. I never encroached on her space, so I’m not sure why the attitude unless there’s a memo I missed indicating that one should stand utterly still throughout a live show and alternate between soberly watching the band and trying to capture it as shitty video on an iPhone.

Fuck. That. Shit.

The first time I saw the Headstones it was 1990 and I was with the man who would become my ex-husband. They opened for The Forgotten Rebels in a small room above a crappy restaurant at the edge of Little Italy. The music was loud, angry and smart, and there was something about the lead singer that held my attention, a delicious combination of dark bad-boy good looks and a fuck-you attitude that I still find impossible to resist. I wanted them to play all night; I was disappointed when the Forgotten Rebels took the stage.

Between then and now, I bought all their cds and saw them every time I could. They split up in 2003 and the man with the fuck-you attitude cleaned up and took up acting, getting gigs portraying cops, husbands and fathers. I didn’t watch after the first episode, not because he wasn’t good but because that’s just not what he is in my head.

I couldn’t resist when I read that the original members had reformed, put out a single and were performing some dates across Canada.  Last time I saw them was 8 years ago, and they were just as good last night, just as tight, just as energetic and just as fucking wonderful as they were back then. The crowd seemed a bit older, but then so is the band, so am I. But some of us (i.e. me) refused to act it.

So yes, I sang and danced to every song. I tweeted how I expected to be unable to walk today, but I actually felt better than I have since April 21. Apparently the knee likes punk rock more than physio. So do I.

I think we’ll do this some more.

 

17 days of holidays

Feeling a little slow this morning. I didn’t go out, but I feel like I did. I asked Keith this morning if it still counts as drinking alone if I’m on the phone, texting, playing Words With Friends and chatting online with friends while I knock back some wobbly pops in celebration of making it through the first term; he assures me that it doesn’t, “at least not virtually”. Whatever. It would have been more fun if we were all in one room, drinking and carrying on but let’s face it, when your drinking buddies live thousands of miles and two or three time zones away, you take what you can get.

The “I will stop being a hermit” project is shaping up nicely. I’ve gone from 17 days of holidays with nothing planned other than family dinners to a pretty full calendar. I had to put it in my Google calendar so I can keep it all straight.

  • 23rd (today) – meeting Jeany at the Headstones show tonight for a night of dancing, drinking and reliving part of a misspent youth
  • 24th – off to Stratford for dinner with Keith’s dad
  • 25th – large, noisy and joyous Christmas dinner at my uncle’s
  • 26th through 28th- Up North to see my brother and his family for a few days
  • 30th – lunch with former boy-toy turned good friend, Dave
  • 31st – New Year’s comedy show at Massey Hall. Keith is on the audio team again this year and it looks like he can get me in gratis. I hope so; it will nicely bookend A Year of My Life in Shitty iPhone Pictures since the first one was at last year’s show.
  • 2nd – brunch with former student turned good friend, Ayesha then dinner to reconnect with Tawny
  • 3rd  – meeting PokerTart for lunch
  • 4th through 6th – cottage getaway with Keith. Three days of sitting in front of the fireplace, playing card and board games, going for walks and reading; two nights of sitting in the outdoor hot tub watching the stars come out over the frozen lake. They’ve just put in WiFi throughout the resort, but I’m going to pretend they didn’t. I’m going to pretend they don’t have cell service either.
  • 7th – Intro to Meditation. I’ve found I’m happier when I do this.
  • 8th – I need to finish my Courses of Study and other teaching paperwork that was due back in September. Yes, September. Love teaching; hate the paperwork. And I do love the whooshing sound that deadlines make as they fly by again and again, don’t you? While it’s a personal challenge to see how long I can go without having to do this tedious paperwork (didn’t do them at all last year!), the demand for them is becoming increasingly stern. Time to suck it up and immerse myself in Ministry of Education curriculum and expectations.
I look through that list and it makes me tired, and think about going back to bed. No, wait. It was getting to sleep at 3 and having the cat waking me up at the usual time of 6 that’s making me tired. I see a nap in my future.
But first, I have to do laundry, go work out and then compose an ode in haiku format for a Words With Friends opponent – prop bets always seem like such a good idea when you’re in the lead.

drain

There’s nothing quite like watching two years of effort swirl down the drain. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was a half-assed effort at best, but if you put it on its side and let it all trickle together then it’s like one year of full-assed effort. Wait. That’s not right. Why do we say half-assed, yet never full-assed? Or even assed? Yet another quirk of the English language, like overwhelmed. There is no verb to whelm, to be whelmed, so how can you have an excess of something that doesn’t exist, in this case being whelmed? I did try saying underwhelmed once on a report card, thinking that since that Sloan song was so damn popular for so long that perhaps it had made it into the common lexicon, but the principal who proofread it informed me otherwise and also said that there were other more diplomatic ways to convey that particular feeling. Perhaps, I countered, but when did diplomacy ever really knock some sense into anyone? We use a few dozen hundred-dollar words to convey something that could have been said in four (ie suck it up buttercup or we all have deadlines or stop being so dramatic or STFU and its sister acronym, GTFU) and so make our meaning so vague you could drive a truck through it. She gave me that look that most people do while I’m ranting and waited until I wound down before telling me in a very diplomatic way that the report card comment was kind of half-assed and I’d need to start over; I rewrote the comment in a very diplomatic way to tell the student her work was kind of half-assed and she’d need to start over.

Which brings me back around to the fact that the universe is telling me (not very diplomatically at all) that the last two years’ efforts were kind of half-assed, and I need to start over.

Fuck.