Piri Piri Tourtiere Debate

I’m sitting in my car watching the snow fall in Victoria Park. When I was in Portugal I regarded Christmas displays depicting pine trees and snow-covered hills. It’s strange to be in a foreign country and realise that their images of Christmas are your home country’s reality. We live in a Christmas card; why is this the dominant Christmas picture?

I’m drinking coffee and eating a nata tart. I don’t think I liked nata before I went to Portugal and now I find myself daydreaming about them. At  Farm Boy there were four tarts in the bakery. The smiling staff member put them in a box for me – it seemed a lucky omen; four tarts, four kids coming for Christmas! But as I took a couple of steps away and sampled a chocolate croissant, it occurred to me that I hadn’t purchased myself a tart.  There were no more in the display but luckily two steps further there packages of six. One extra tart is a much more easily solved problem.

I had been to Fairview Mall, Kitchener to set up WiFi for my apartment now that I’m moving back there. The staff member who sold me my cell phone plan at Virgin Mobile had offered to let me know when WiFi deals came up, which she did a few days ago. I ran it by my son just to make sure, and then told her I’d be there Christmas Eve in the morning to set it up. It went smoothly and it’s a great deal – if you’re looking for a cell phone package or wireless plan I totally recommend Lisa at the Fairview Mall Virgin Mobile kiosk. Now I’ve got to think of a witty name for my WiFi network. Previously it was called folkiekitten, but things have changed. Things have shifted. I just don’t identify with that network name anymore. If you have any suggestions let me know.

So I found myself down by Fairview Mall which is kitty-corner to Farm Boy. Last night I had looked unsuccessfully for two different food items in three different stores: brussel sprouts and a cottage roll. There’s a good chance that cottage roll just doesn’t exist in Southern Ontario. I picked up a piri-piri chicken last night though, thinking it might be a nice Christmas Eve dinner tie in to my time in Portugal. So anyway after signing for the WiFi, I drove my sleigh over to the Farm Boy to see if they had either cottage roll or brussel sprouts. This was overall a Christmas spending tactical error. I really like Farm Boy and want everything they sell (apart from the seafood, gross, sea-bugs). I didn’t need that hot chocolate. I definitely don’t need eggnog fudge for dessert. I’m just not very good at resisting things that please me. The brussel sprouts were terribly expensive. I stood there in the bright light of Farm Boy googling “brussel sprouts shortage 2018”, and sure enough it’s the reality. I quickly posted about this telling the kids that they’ll be having kale. It’s okay. They like kale. Wandering along to the deli area I was transfixed by their homemade tourtiere. Tourtieres are Christmas food. I picked one up to ascertain the heft of it, and then stood there amongst all the happy Farm Boy customers just pondering tourtiere. It would be delicious; you could tell because they also had half-pies sealed in plastic where you could see the meaty insides. Maybe we should have tourtiere for Christmas Eve dinner. But I already have piri-piri chicken. On the other hand, sweet potato casserole would go much better with tourtiere, though kale could go with either. And if we’re going to have tourtiere and go with a Canadian Christmas, why do I have nata tarts for dessert? Will we just have eggnog fudge for dessert without the tarts? Why do I even have tarts, fudge, a tourtiere AND a chicken? That’s a lot of food, I already spent over $100 last night and now I’m going to spend another $50? It’s a luxury to even consider the possibility of having two Christmas dinners available. It’s a luxury to be indecisive as to what to eat this evening. Trying to decide between two expensive proteins for a whimsical dinner on the holidays it’s definitely a sign of privilege. I’m really lucky that I can afford this. On second thought, CAN I afford this? I have no income at the moment – I can’t really afford anything. My sense of abundance, my sense of being able to afford tourtiere or piri-piri chicken or tarts or fudge – it’s all an illusion. Mind you, when I felt I could afford nothing and so I tried to do without anything – that was also an illusion. Scarcity is an illusion. Abundance is an illusion. All things are allusion but arguably  also very, very real. Is our reality an illusion? These are heavy thoughts, heavier even than the tourtiere I was still holding standing motionless in the deli section.

I watched a happy couple experience a Christmas miracle. The Farm Boy employee (all the Farm Boy employees are always smiling what is with this place) was presenting to them their Christmas dinner in a box. I cannot begin to describe the pure joy and delight on the faces of this man and this woman as the box containing turkey dinner complete with every trimming including directions for assembly was revealed. I decided right then and there that regardless of what this year’s Christmas dinner was going to be, next year I was giving myself the gift of a Christmas dinner box from Farm Boy – providing I’ve worked out the conundrum of abundance and scarcity, or maybe just found a job.

Gathering moss

Sitting at McCabe’s waiting on Improv friends. It’s $8 beef dip, baby. Where’s the beef? Here, dripping hot and cheap like ya like it.

This blog post has no purpose apart from to ooomph me some momentum. I’m talking to real people a bunch now and the voices in my head are getting antsy.

How would the rolling stone translate? A scribbling writer gathers no… tedious inertia? I dunno, that’s awful, tell me what it should be. But the point is if I’m blogging then I’m more likely to post but when I stop for a week, like if I’m unexpectedly slammed by jetlag and wander about concussed for a week, then I don’t blog. I write “blog” on my to-do list and then I don’t ever scratch it off and I feel guilty and like I’m unworthy and all those thoughts that were dealt with in therapy, weren’t they?

OK the first friend is here for our pre Theatre on the Edge beef dips!

Blog, crossed off!

I was going to write about the gloves…

Two days ago I was leaving the hostel and I could see my breath! I hadn’t thought it was that cold: I went back up for my gloves. Putting them on I thought, “Oh! These are the gloves Mom gave me two Christmases ago! I’ll have to call her and… oh. Right.” And it’s a good thing it was raining because I started crying. Which is good, I haven’t cried yet much. I cried when I was clearing out her room after her death, and one other time. Otherwise, I’ve been so burned out by the five years of her illness that her death was more like a break. Now that I’m recharged I can actually grieve.

But I can’t grieve with those gloves because they were stolen today. I was at a wonderful event, Mitote Dia de Muertos. Artisans and musicians and an altar to pay respects for your dead and tacos and it was in this tobacco factory building that’s been taken over by artists. And there was a swing band and the local Lindy community was there. When I was going to have a dance, the lead said I could put my things with theirs, in this big pile of coats and bags. So I did, and I kept my eye on it most of the time. And I danced so much. The dancing was so much fun and chatting with the dancers – it was just like being at a Spanish Hepcats dance might be. When things were wrapping up I went to get a drink of water from my bag and of course, my bag was gone. But just mine. Everyone else’s stuff was safe.

We looked all over but it was no use. Luckily, my phone and cash and one credit card were in my coat. The Lindy fella who said I could put my stuff there, Jorge, walked me to the police station and translated so I could fill in a report. They won’t do anything but he said I might need it if I file any insurance claims.

The worst loss is my journal was in the bag. If I’ve had reason to write about you since the end of August, I’m sorry but some criminal in Madrid has those thoughts. They might not be able to read them mind you because it’s English and I’ve got awful handwriting. If they can read it they can read two months of poems and stories and story ideas and play ideas and travel experiences and thoughts on my mom’s death. They can try to figure out the character sheet Morgan recreated in the journal for me. They can try to decipher my ongoing budget and wonder if I ever finished the to do list of what to do in Europe. If they read it, I hope they’re rooting for me to get into the MA program.

They also have my iPad which they can sell but not access as I used the lost ipad locking feature, thank you Apple.

They have my credit cards and debit cards and drivers license and health card. That sucks. But, it just sucks, it’s not the biggest deal in the world.

They have all the things I carry (and I was going to be out for 12 hours so I was carrying a bunch) to be less crappy to the Earth – water flask, cutlery, reusable food bag, beeswax wrap, handkerchief.

They have my glasses. I have these dollar store cheaters but I don’t have benefits anymore and those were prescription. They have a collection of pharmaceuticals like Advil and paracetamol and allergy pills. I have more of each I think. There was probably some Ativan in there too but given how generally chill I feel about this, I think possibly my Ativan days are mostly gone.

They have some cheap bluetooth earphones that I liked because they match my phone case but I do have better earphones here in the room. They have the power storage I borrowed off Cat. I think they might have the second one too because I can’t find it here though I never carry both so maybe I need to look harder. But if they do, they do.

They have the cardigan I’ve been wearing everywhere and that works really well with this jacket. And the gloves that were the last gift from my Mother, and of course the bag itself. That I need to replace because I need the carry on capacity.

I’m working on getting over the loss of the journal. I started writing down just every thought. But they were my thoughts, they came from me, I’ll have more thoughts. They were some pretty fodder for future writing that will now never happen. Who knows, maybe they’ll mail it to me.

When I got the police report, Jorge joked, “Your souvenir from Madrid!” He felt awful – this never usually happens. That’s why I think I was targeted as a tourist. It’s unnerving to think though that someone was watching me, watching me, watching me. Waiting for an opportunity to steal from me. That’s going to be the hardest part to get over. And I’ll carry less, so much less, almost nothing from now on. Though – I’ve been incredibly careful. This could have played out exactly the same way dancing at Bluesfest.

When we were leaving the police station, Jorge noticed four officers speaking to two young men and the young men were trying to reply in French. So Jorge stopped and translated for them, too. They claimed to be 16 and 17 years old, and to be refugees from Guinea. They looked a bit older. Jorge and his friend who had accompanied us said refugees claim to be minors because they are treated better and cannot be required to leave. They turn themselves in with no ID and the state takes care of them.

Kind of puts an itemized list of lost belongings into perspective.

I’m not actually here for the sightseeing

-seen in Westminster Abbey

My father was 50 when he passed away. His family history, his executive career, his musings to be Mayor of Toronto amounted to nothing; he simply died. I’m turning 50 in just under a year and my slithery lizard brain is whispering “Your time is running out… have you done anything at all?”

When a scene hits a high note, or if a scene isn’t working, those are cues for the actors to “sweep” and end it. The lesson here is that we have control over sticking it out or walking away. Recognizing that we can let something go either because it’s already peaked or because it’s no longer serving us is a revelatory lesson.” Maggie Fazeli Fard. “LIFE, UNEDITED: 10 Things I Learned About Life in Improv” experiencelife.com

My mother loved Mexico. Her retirement plan included winters in Mexico. The tech bubble burst broke the back of this vision, reducing it to several weeks each winter in Mexico. She went once, renting a condo and having a lovely time. The next year her as yet undiagnosed neuropathy prevented her from taking much pleasure in the trip and the year after that she was too ill to travel at all. She never saw Mexico again.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted -” Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”…

Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies. -Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Jonathan Byrd played a house concert in Midland when Morgan was 14. I had just seen him at Eaglewood Folk Festival and brought his CDs home. The concert turned out to be the same night as Morgan’s Academic Awards night for Grade 9. I absolutely wanted to see Byrd and I knew that in a few years Morgan would choose the concert over attending Awards night. But I couldn’t even propose the choice to Morgan then; it would have given the message that I was not much interested or invested in her academic success. I’ve actually never seen Byrd since.

“While I was on the space station, I used Twitter to ask hundreds of thousands of people what they would like me to take a picture of. Resoundingly, the answer was “home.””  – Chris Hadfield. “We Should Treat Earth As Kindly As We Treat Spacecraft”  Wired.com

“In the view from above can you still see Rome, every mother, every child, every street, every home… every god, every devil, every virtue and sin. Everything we know on the head of a pin.” Danny Michel, “Samantha In The Sky With Diamonds”

When you work for a Bank, you spend a lot of time considering and mitigating risk. My days at the Bank involved making financial plans and handling risk. It would be foolish to do this for clients and not to look at your own plan and how the Bank feeds your need for security. There’s the bi-weekly salary, benefits, stock ownership plans and a pension. There’s an annual bonus. If I hadn’t worked at the Bank, I wouldn’t be in Europe right now. But, maybe if I hadn’t worked for the Bank, I wouldn’t have felt the need to go to Europe?

“In India when they train elephants, they’ll take a baby elephant, tie it to a flimsy rope and tie the rope to a flimsy green twig. They’ll do this for a few weeks. When the elephant grows up, their handler can tie the elephant to a tree sapling or small green twig, with a flimsy rope and the animal will not try to get away. Conversely, if you tie the same elephant with a strong chain to a large tree, the animal will break the chain or uproot the tree.” Deepak Chopra, “The New Physics Of Healing”


Autumn began at 9:54 pm last night; day and night were equals.

Around the same time, I entered my fiftieth year. Today is my 49th birthday proper -September 23rd – but as I was born around 3AM in Ireland, my birthday started around 10 o’clock last night while the seasons were in flux.

I can feel them shifting. I love the transitions; when day gives way through dusk to night, when affection tumbles into love, the transport to other worlds when the theatre lights dim and then rise.

I love the relief autumn brings after the sun-baked madness of summer. Just as I think I perhaps can’t bear more heat, can’t handle the long days and restless nights, have sown and grown and harvested enough and want instead to savour and contemplate – along comes the fall.

Bring me the Fall Fairs, painted trees, cozy sweaters and the longing to cuddle for warmth in the evenings. Bring me full larders and the sound of crows in the mornings. Bring me the scent of winter in the night air, mixed with the certainty that there is time yet before winter arrives.

It’s not that I don’t like summer. I wake each summer day excited to feel the sun on my skin. There’s little sleep in the summer; the long days are full and the night is scant. Patios, beaches, deep green trees, fragrant flowers, song birds and music around campfires. I adore summer: I can’t keep it from passing.

The seasons follow one another inexorably and interminably. I breath in the beautiful ache of the transitions. I anticipate and relish the favours of each interval, allowing their changes to wash over and through me until I feel I perhaps can’t take any more and lo, the next cusp arrives.

Early September is Like That

How do people in more temperate climates know that time is passing? Our nights are now cooler, and longer. We spend summer so fevered, rarely sleeping, jazzed up on the anxiety to make each ray of sunshine count. Now we can occasionally stay in at night, maybe read a book. Get a good night’s sleep. Soon, we’ll put on socks.

And now the children go to school. New best friends are chosen and first day outfits are selected and the future writers caress the clean, lined pages of eager notebooks. And teachers go back to teaching and parents go back to day-care drop-offs and everyone resolves to be their very best this year.

Angst and separation echo through September. I flashback to leaving my daughter at Junior Kindergarten and smiling bravely for her, saying how exciting it is she is in school now! and look at all your new friends! and isn’t this classroom fun?!

Then walking around the corner out of view of the classroom windows and crying my young mom eyes out. It is so hard to send our cherished children into the world to fend for themselves. How will she get through the whole day with no hugs?

I don’t think this gets much easier. They grow and are more resilient and are independent and it’s amazing and an honour to behold. But it’s painful too! – the flashback to first year University, dropping off the same daughter at residence and smiling bravely, saying how exciting it is she’s in University now! and look at all your new friends! and isn’t this dorm room… cute?!

Then driving around the corner and out of view and having to pull over because the tears have blinded me. How can I drive five hours away from this cherished child?

This September, my son is releasing a new app. He and his business partner have a huge launch event planned for tomorrow. I can’t pack his lunch for that. I can’t remind him to… to what? I don’t even understand most of what this venture is! He’s doing a Very Big Thing and it’s like I’m watching it over Skype.

The feeling is the same. The angst, the anxiety, the excitement, the pride. The requirement to do nothing while this cherished child walks forward into the world – and increasingly both of them walk into worlds I’ve never seen before. I never want to say “Be careful!” because you don’t write and launch cutting-edge technology by being careful. But if I could cast a protection spell, I would.

(What proud Mom would spend the day before this Big Deal Day writing about mom-experience and not link to her son’s site? here is his amazing networking app )