Friday, June 30, 2006

Pink Rose

One of these days, I'll photograph something other than flowers, but not yet...

Canada Day to all who celebrate it - have a great long weekend!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

And Here We Are, In Heaven

The opening act was the Paul James Band and can I just say where have they been all my life? He/they were absolutely fantastic (and, according to the website, available for weddings – I should think about getting married), played for a good 40 minutes and completely made me forget who I was there to see, which took some doing as I been hero-worshiping this woman for years. Decades, even. I’ve wanted to see her perform live for... well, I can't remember for how long, but it was a fantasy, really – I never thought it'd actually happen. Then one day, purely by coincidence, I saw the ad saying she'd be appearing at the Hummingbird Centre and I rushed out with my trusty credit card and got tickets to see

I was nervous. The hype in my head had built this evening up so high there was no way she could live up to it. I was nervous, because the vast majority of performers sound better on the CD then they do in person. I was nervous because I couldn't bear to have Etta not be as good as I thought she'd be.

She wasn't. She was better. She made a large hall feel like an intimate little club - she was charming, funny, sexy, just plain incredible. When she sang the first few notes of the first song, I clutched at mor (who I’d dragged with me), partly to communicate 'oh, good lord, she's good', partly to steady myself. Honestly. I had to steady myself, she was that good. There is nothing on her albums that prepares you for the live performance – it was like being in church. Like being in the presence of something greater-than, something sacred.

And then she sang my favourite love song, At Last (well, it's neck and neck with Out Of the Rain, also by her). It gave me chills, it made me weep, I forgot to breathe. It was transcendent. Towards the end, I remember thinking that now I could die a happy woman. The Danish part of me, the part that abhors hyperbole, challenged that as over-the-top, but y'know? It's true. This, naturally, doesn't mean that I would want to die anytime soon, but it definitely was one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime moments that makes me grateful for my life. I feel blessed to have been there.

(did I mention she was good?)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Random June

I saw The DaVinci Code. It is awful. In the beginning, I honestly thought they were using the wrong movie – some sort of revival of a 70’s horror thing. Then I saw that it wasn’t and descended into 2½ hours of movie-hell. Tom Hanks looks singularly constipated throughout, Audrey Tautou is horribly miscast, the script is pedestrian and the only time the screen came alive and held my interest was when Ian McKellen was in a scene, completely stealing the movie out from under everyone, including the director. He was a joy to watch, even as everyone else was reduced to amateur status in comparison. They castrated (sorry, no better word for it) the story and followed the book too closely, when unnecessary. Don’t waste your time.

And speaking of movies… I may have mentioned this before – it’s as bit of a soapbox with me – but I’ll take the chance of repeating myself as it’s a natural segue: Just because you can make a movie that’s 2 (or more) hours long, doesn’t mean you should. Admittedly, I love a tight story so much that I've been known to get out the red pen when particularly provoked by a long-winded author, but still... (I should probably take the time to mention that it's not like I'm completely crazy and return the book, complete with corrections, to the editor/publishing house. After finishing, I usually follow Dorothy Parker's advice when she said in a book review: 'this book should not be cast aside lightly, it should be hurled with great force’. I love Dorothy Parker). I feel the same about movies and have recently rented a few that were 90 minutes or less in length and the better for it. I highly recommend The Ice Harvest and A History of Violence. Loved both of them and was in utter awe of everything about the latter (watch the special feature to learn from a master).

Apparently there's a new trend. Not even Sarah Jessica Parker could make this look good.

After my recent post about the increased cancer risk with TNF blockers, it was brought to my attention that Enbrel was not part of the study mentioned on the news and that it would be studied separately. However, Enbrel still brings with it an increased risk of lymphoma and I am guessing that eventually they will find much the same result. Besides, the risk is more than worth it.

The first time I saw Russell Crowe act was in The Sum of Us - a wonderful little Australian movie about parents and children and what it means to love. It had personal resonance for me on a number of levels and started a... let's call it a 'fascination' with Russell Crowe. A few years after that, Gladiator came out and the rest of North America jumped on the bandwagon. Somehow, I was quite convinced that all it would take for great friendship to spring up, was for Russell and I to meet (yes, I am aware that this makes me look utterly ridiculous, but I am willing to do almost anything to entertain you). I still think he's a wonderful actor, but the 'fascination' has abated. That is, until a friend of mine who works in the film industry told me that Mr. Crowe may be in Toronto, filming a movie. I have done a lot of deep breathing since and have successfully squashed the urge to do something insane that would engineer a meeting. Mostly successfully. It helps a great deal that, as I may have mentioned fairly recently, I am far too shy to meet someone I admire without instantly turning into a babbling idiot. That would be bad. Very bad.

And speaking of excitement (I am 'en fuego’ with the segues today)... I am ridiculously excited about the upcoming Big Brother All-Stars, which starts on July 8 - another three months of scheming, the Chenbot and her ‘but first!’ and watching mostly vacuous, self-obsessed and thoroughly entertaining people trying to out-maneuver each other. I can’t wait! Vote here for your favourite contestant to get into the house.

Five years ago, I had a Blasts from the Past summer, wherein a number of people from my past came back into my life – one purely by us accidentally being in the lobby of the same funeral home for the same 20 seconds. I will always be grateful for two sad occasions resulting in me reconnecting with a woman who makes my life better and who gives me someone with whom to have breakfast every Friday, despite us being in different time zones (hi Dawn!). Fate’s a funny one. And it may be happening again. In the past week, I have been contacted by two people from my past and given that things tend to go in threes, I am looking forward to seeing who the third one’s going to be.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It's Just Me

Remember the episode of ‘Sex and the City’ in which Miranda buys her own apartment? The one where people keep assuming that she’s married and she has to constantly correct them, saying “it’s just me”? Yeah. That one. One of the reasons I love ‘Sex and the City’ is how wonderfully it reflects life as a single woman in her over-35 or so. Admittedly with a lot more hot men and more fabulous clothes than generally populate my life, but still…

Recently, during a very irritating week, I had reason to think of Miranda when on two separate occasions, people assumed I couldn’t be anything but married. Because that’s what you have to be, right? The rant about myths, stereotypes and single women will keep for another day, but the two events need sharing.

First, I talk to a company related to another type of TNF blocker, as the Enbrel side effects were getting on my nerves (I’ve since found ways of dealing with them). We talk about my private insurance and the rep asks me if I’m “under my husband’s policy?”. I wonder why she even asks the question, but tell her that I’m not married and it’s my policy, thank you very much. Ten minutes later, I have to be transferred to another department and she clicks me over after saying “thanks Mrs. Andersen”. Sigh…. Get to the other representative to provide personal information. I'll call her Jocelyn, as, not coincidentally, that was her name. When she greeted me, she called me 'Mrs. Andersen' and at the time, I didn't correct her. I wasn't in the mood. A little later in the conversation, she asked for my marital status and I told her I was single. About three minutes after that, she said 'have a nice day Mrs. Andersen'. I sit growling and vexed with myself for not correcting her.

A couple of days after that, I was talking to another person in another company about something entirely different. Again I was transferred, again someone - at this time a man - greeted me and called me Mrs. Having learned my lesson, I corrected him. 'Ms.', I said. 'Oh yes,' he laughed avuncularly, 'we have to be politically correct'. About 47 different responses raced through my mind, ranging from 'why would you assume I married?' To 'you've patronizing asshole!', but as there were so many in my brain, tripping over each other to come out of my mouth first, the moment passed and instead I got rid of him as soon as I could. Then sat and seethed for about 20 minutes. Grrrr.

So, in the year 2006, there is still an automatic default into Mrs. and you’re still thought cutely feminist by men for not wishing to be identified by your marital status. Come a long way, indeed...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Friendship, Gratitude (And A Bit Of Knit Porn)

Blogging has taught me many things, chief among them how nice people are. I’m pretty sure that people who don’t blog/read blogs don’t quite get it – they tend to get stuck on the “and you’ve never even met this person, but s/he’s your friend??” thing. Come to think of it, that’s the reaction I’ve received whenever I’ve spoken of internet friends – I started on the net in the early 1990’s and was thought extremely strange (if not outright pathetic) by most people. These days, that boggling of minds seems to have abated a smidge as more and more join the bandwagon, but still… friends? That you’ve never met? How odd.

From my end, not so odd. When the technicalities of going out involves advanced planning in terms of transportation, attendant schedules, etc., friendship easily evolves into something non-geographic, something not necessarily requiring face-to-face time. Very few of my friends originated in ‘real life”, many of them still exist purely in the ether of internet or telephone. Sometimes I wonder whether the hours spent on the phone or in email deepens relationships so much faster. Whether non-face time opens you up sooner and perhaps at times more authentically. Whether consistently not being in the same room brings you soul-to-soul in a way that takes years the “other way”. Which is not to say that the more traditional way of making friends isn’t wonderful, as well, but it’s a very different way of doing the friendship dance.

What has brought me to this state of pondering is gifts I've received recently from new and old friends and today’s all about public expression of gratitude. At Christmas, Ken - who I met online 12? 14? years ago and who has since become part of my chosen family - gave me this: an alpaca shawl (modeled by someone who prefers to remain anonymous). Although I'm stretching the concept of 'recently' (hey, it's only been 6 months!), it is so beautiful that I had to show it. I don't know which pattern this is, but Ken might provide that in the comments.

More recently, I got a package from AlisonH - who I met in blog land just this year. The most beautiful pink shawl that will look perfect with a white T-shirt. And no, I don't know the specifics about the yarn and pattern on this one, either, but I'm sure if you check the comments, Alison might give you more details.

Another present from a blog friend arrived not too long ago. Michelle told me that some of my words had brought an image to her mind and I should have it. She is a great artist and I have the exact perfect spot for it.

I first met John, my brother-in-law, 10 years ago online (holy crap, John, it's been a decade already!) and we were friends for two years before he moved to southern Ontario and swept my sister off her feet. John’s contribution to the pile (I’m overwhelmed) was his post on Friday, June 16 - my father's birthday. Far has been gone five years now and I still miss him terribly. John's beautiful words helped me shed long-stored tears and once my grief was released, it took with it tears for other losses and I feel lighter for it. (somehow, I can’t do a post-specific link to John’s blog, but scroll down. After you’ve read his Father’s Day post, which is equally lovely).

Michele - another Michele, only one 'l' - and I met each other in the more traditional way, at university in October 1982 (holy crap, Michele, we’ll have our silver anniversary next year!). We’ve been through everything that life could throw at us together and still somehow like each other more now than we did decades ago. This weekend, Michele helped me clean out my storage room. Mere words do not convey the magnitude of the task - I am by nature a 'collector' (some people might uncharitably use the term 'packrat') and in the 10 years I’ve lived in my apartment, the room has not been cleaned out. It is so beautiful now that I am tempted to bronze it. Or go get my neighbours so I can show it to them.

I’m a lucky woman.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Other Team

This post is a multi-purpose one. First, it gets me off the blogging hook relatively easily, as I have a list as long as my arm and entirely too little time in which to be efficient. Second, it panders shamelessly to members of The Other Team (i.e., non-dogpeople) and third… well. It fulfils an obligation to two creatures who got a little huffy about the dogs (“dogs drool, cats rule” was one quote) - my other nephew, Jag (here seen on his favourite perch - photo by a TinkParent) and the mistress of my house.

I mentioned last week how much I resent naps. Don’t get me wrong – naps can be wonderful, particularly when they’re a treat. When they are necessary, it gets to be a bit of a drag. I call them my Mandatory Rest Period. However, there is one MRP-related tradtion that always makes me smile.

It starts off with Mojo insisting that she lie on my stomach (under the blanket, naturally) to receive an extended cuddle, including vigorous rubbing of ears and occasional washing of my hands. When she’s had enough of that, she crawls out, sits up against the wall and engages in her pre-nap grooming ritual. After that’s completed, I’ll hear a mighty rustling, meaning Mojo has assumed one of her favourite sleeping positions, used only when I'm in the bed, too. If I look up, this is what I see:

My cat’s nuts. But awfully cute.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

By Any Other Name

Lately, a few people who have only been exposed to my name in written form have asked me how on earth that’s pronounced. Don’t feel bad – no one on this side of the pond (OK, outside of Denmark) knows how to do it without a quick tutorial. I once read a book – I’ve forgotten which; it had something to do with a dragon and King Arthur - in which the dragon mentioned that Danish wasn’t a language, it was a throat disease. There might be something to that claim.

Do all children want another name than the one their parents gave them? I did. Well, sort of - more of a variation on it. I wanted to be Lena, which I thought more exotic and glamourous, not Lene. I wished for it quite fervently, although I never went so far as to insist people call me that. Instead, they called me Lene - not surprisingly, I suppose. In Denmark, everyone knew how to pronounce it. The first ‘e’ isn’t like an ‘i’, but definitely an ‘e’ and the final ‘e’ is pronounced like the ‘e’ in ‘the’. Clear as mud, right?

Just how clear this is to people outside of Denmark was brought home to me when we moved to Canada. I quickly learned to introduce myself as ‘Lena’ when meeting people in person – thus handily fulfilling my childhood dream (by the way, not nearly as exciting as my seven-year-old self imagined) - but once the written version got involved, things deteriorated. Even when it appeared after a verbal introduction.

I’ve been called Lini. Lenée (as in Renée). Lean, fer fuck’s sake. I vividly remember the day I graduated with my B.Sc. There we were in Convocation Hall – hundreds of co-graduates (with assorted family members), all dressed in black robes, all very excited, nervous and overwhelmed by the pomp and ceremony of the situation. Our names would be called by a very official-looking guy in robes and we would move up before the Chancellor of the university, who’d drape the (fake)ermine-lined hood over our necks in front of almost 2,000 people. I waited for hours and finally, it was my turn. The culmination of four years of hard work, public recognition of my academic accomplishment, all that shy young pride and mindboggling momentous milestone wrapped up in one brief moment. And then… Dude calling the names? Called me Lenny. And then mangled my middle name, as well. If the neverending speeches and funny hats worn by the senior faculty hadn’t already moved things into the surreal and giggle-inducing for me (I respond badly to solemnity), being called Lenny certainly kicked it over the edge.

These days, I essentially answer to almost anything, including ‘hey, you’. Although I do prefer Lena.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Going to the Dogs

Being too busy having fun this weekend to even think about blog entries - I know, how selfish of me - I provide a small photographic essay on on of the activities: Woofstock. Yes, Woofstock. A festival for and about dogs. I have never seen so many dogs in one place at once.

The welcome wagon.

Cool ride.

From the tiniest...

To the biggest (and when you're sitting down, boy are these big...).

And then we found a patio with a view. Perfection.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Living with Boys

It’s Friday and I’m ending the week on a light note.

My friend Sidney* has two boys, one very much a teenager (Jack) and one on the verge of becoming one (Evan). Which can make telephone conversations with her highly entertaining. Over the past years, I’ve kept a record of things I’ve heard her say to the boys. Herewith a brief sampling:

The dumpster is not a play area.

Sidney: What are you doing?
Oldest child: Piercing Evan’s ear.

The crickets have escaped!

The knife is not a toy.

If you hang up, I will break your hand.

Why are you eating a piece of glass?

Don’t wipe your nose on my shirt – use a Kleenex!

Do not jump on the trampoline with the cat in your arms.

Why are your pants in the freezer?

Do you have any funny kid lines?

* names changed to protect the tender dignity of teenaged and almost-teenaged sensibilities.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Reminder

One night a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a hyperventilating mor, telling me to turn on the news rightnowthisveryinstant! Which I naturally did, as I always do what my mother tells me. Well, when it suits me, anyway. The women in my family are very much like cats that way.

The reason for the maternal order was a news report about TNF blockers, like Remicade and Enbrel. It talked about how drugs like these apparently triple the risk of certain types of cancer. I knew there was an increased risk, but I hadn’t known it was that high – even allowing for several grains of salt due to standard media fear-mongering and half-reporting, it felt a smidge beyond my comfort zone.

For a while now, I’ve been struggling with finding joy again. The winter was hard on me – my pain levels increase with the cold - and after months and months of dark and dreary, I’d misplaced my optimism. I’d remember last year, before the fall’s neverending whiplash took over and wouldn’t be able to connect to that sense of wonder, of being madly in love with life. My dream had became a reality and once past the honeymoon period, I had to find a way to live with the reality bit – in the fantasy, there never is any crap, is there?

At first, I regretted watching the report – after all, I’ve worked really hard to repress that knowledge. Then, fairly quickly – within minutes, actually – that changed. Talking about it with my poor, freaked-out mother, I told her, very bluntly, why I am taking that risk and in so doing, reminded myself of something I’d almost forgotten.

Because I believe that without Enbrel, I would likely be dead. Because if Enbrel hadn’t stopped the progress of the arthritis and the pain, I believe that either my body would have shut down or I would have exited by choice because it had finally become too much.

I may bitch about my pain or struggle with finding acceptance of new limitations, I may resent having to rest for a couple of hours every day, I may be furious that I can’t dance anymore, that I’ve become sort of fragile, that I won’t be able to hold the Tinks, my lovies, for much longer because they – as babies tend to do - keep gaining weight, that I have to spend a good 5-6 hours a day just maintaining my disability, pain levels and new and interesting crap. That I likely won’t get back to where I would like to be, that maybe this is it.

But here’s the thing. In between all the things I have to do and despite all the things I miss, I am alive. More alive than I’ve ever been. I’m writing, making new friends and present with old ones, kissing my lovies, taking pictures, seeing the world and my place in it differently than I ever have before. I am becoming who I’ve always wanted to be.

For years – decades, really - I’ve been saying that I wanted to live, not merely exist, yet mainly just… existed. These days, I am living. And grateful every day – even the days where I’m angry or feeling low. I choose life. Life. With all its messiness, pain and joy. With all its risks.

I choose life.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I Wish I'd Done That

I have this thing I call a Life List. It contains all the things I want to do before I kick the bucket – not surprisingly, it’s an ever-evolving project.

On my list – or rather, my List – are languages I want to learn (Spanish, Zulu, Irish and more), things and places I want to see - the space shuttle lift off, the Grand Canyon, St. Lucia (because my father, who travelled all over the world, once told me it’s the most beautiful place he’d ever been), Uluru (because… well, duh), things I want to do – skydive (maybe next life), touch a tiger (some day, I’ll tell you how Ken managed that one and became forever Da Man in my book) and… well. I’d also like to get over the instinctive urge to curl up in a whimpering ball of panic every time I see an equation.

On the fantasy part of my List… wait, ‘fantasy’, you say? Being ever organized - and no, that’s not another way of saying anal-retentive - the List is divided into ‘feasible’ (see above) and ‘not gonna happen’. The latter contains the more impractical, nonsensical and… a-hem outré things that I’d love to do, but am too realistic - or cowardly - to believe will ever occur. Skydiving has moved over here. Having tea with people I admire (like Clint Eastwood, Nelson Mandela, John Cleese and the list goes on), which will not happened because not only do I not move in circles where this would be possible, I’d also become mute with shyness and make a complete fool of myself. Crash a party for Mikhail Baryshnikov (no, wait… already did that). Work with Jacques Cousteau, which unfortunately is now too late. Own a horse and ride it. Have enough money that I could donate a truly staggering sum to MSF. Go on a photo safari to Africa.

And dumping a box of lemon-scented detergent in a fountain.

Deep in my soul, I nurture a fervent wish to some day buy a box of detergent, find a really effective fountain, wait for a beautiful summer’s day, pour in the detergent and sit back to watch the bubbles flow. I have sort of a plan (and we shall not discuss what it says about me that I have an actual plan). It involves calling an official person in the City and discussing my funding of the clean-up. We shall also not discuss what it says about me that I am incapable of doing this without permission.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who has this dream.

What’s on your List?