Thursday, 23 November 2017

Stress, Anxiety and Meditation

It makes sense to me that meditation would be characterized as quieting the mind.  Stress, to me, feels like layers of noise: people asking for things, things I've said, phones ringing, email notifications going off, etc.  Sometimes the sounds are real, sometimes they are only in my head.  I find peace when I am able to turn off each layer of noise, real or imagined.

I remember a time when the noise was foreign.  Times grew turbulent, layers of noise grew, and eventually they would be turned off, one by one, and we would return as a family back to peace.

Or maybe it was all an illusion.  If I'm being totally honest with myself, I stopped hearing silence when I was thirteen.  I just stopped turning off the noise.

They say you get better at handling stress with age and experience, but I think a critical piece to this is downtime.  Without it, you're just inflicting perpetual damage.

I have always considered myself a healthy person, but if this year was an indication of anything, it was that I am not.  And if illness is a result of a weakened immune system from stress, then I'll start with turning off the noise.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

I'm annoyed...

...about a lot of things, not the least of which being people who feel a compulsion to blame me for things that are out of my control.

Someone asked me why it mattered. I wanted to say that it was because I need everyone to work together, and they do not want to be collegial. But now that I write this I realize that not everyone will be collegial, and I know that. So it seems the more important question is: how do I encourage teamwork in an environment where we have defectors?

Friday, 4 August 2017

I hate it...

...when I have to honestly look at a situation and ask myself, "Why does it bother me so much?"  I hate it because it invariably means that there is something deep, something underlying that I don't yet realize is the real reason.

As quickly as it came, it went.
Like a matchstick
Finding friction
Striking fire,
Illuminating the monsters
That I kept hidden in the dark,
And extinguishing abruptly
From my panicked reaction.

That was him.  I don't know who he was.  Now he's gone.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The other night...

...as I sat on the phone with a colleague, who happens to be on vacation, trying to draft something for work, I glanced at my clock and realized it was past 11 pm.  I had been at it since 5 pm.  I thought, "I always figure there's no harm when I do a thing or two in the evenings, that it's just one email or a small task, but it never actually is.  It's realistically a few hours, or my evening.  It's my dinner plans getting interrupted, or company getting ignored."

No wonder I'm tired.  I need to be more cognizant of the tiny tasks that are exhausting me, then take the time back.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

And we're back!

I didn't think I would bring this blog back. I thought I was done when I deleted it last December. I suppose I knew deep down inside that it wouldn't be permanent. My breaks from it never have been, so why would that change now?

In truth, I was only going to open this blog so I could search for some things I'd written years ago that I wanted to share with someone new that I'd met.  I got to scrolling and remembered how much joy I found in capturing my feelings. Written expression has always been a big part of my identity, and while a blog is not a requirement to write, without one, I have failed to do any.

I can think of several reasons for this, the most salient being that I haven't gotten to know anyone new in a little while.  Part of the fun of writing was expressing my thoughts and feelings to share it with someone who cared to read it.

I've been in need and in search of inspiration to motivate me. I have been questioning my existence for months now. I always thought it was people who inspired me because of the impact they had on the world, but it's more than that. It's also the direct impact they have on me. I'm looking for connection.

I might have to finally admit it. I might be lonely. Not in a romantic way. Rather, in an intellectual way. Is insightful conversation still possible in this age?  Or is it a dead art?

I'm not so desperate for connection as to search for it, accept it from anyone, or even expect to find it. I'd still choose loneliness over knowingly compromising my interests and concerns and opinions just to have company.  That I know for certain.

Sometimes I forget...

...how grateful I should be that my parents were so liberal with me.  Don't get me wrong, the older I get the more I appreciate it.  I just ... sometimes forget that not everyone was afforded the liberties that mine had so unapologetically given me.  It is inconceivable to me that I would defer to my parents - or anyone - for their permission to do .. anything.  I would come to them for advice, to discuss my thoughts on ... whether or not to join band, quit pageants, attend a trip, go to a party, watch a movie, read a book.   I have never had to seek permission. I sought advice.  So when I chat with a friend, and hear about how their parents wouldn't let them do this, or banned that, demanded this, or refused that, I actually find it perplexing.

It makes no sense to me.  Now that I'm well into my thirties, thinking about this makes me chuckle.  It explains some huge failures in communication I've had with people over the years.

There was never going to be anyone who made me do anything. I have always, and will always, do what I think is best, and that decision will always be my own.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fairy-tale endings

Unlike the clarity with which we'd started our relationship, there was never a clear end to it.  The relationship lingered for years in limbo, where we were cycling through being apart, trying to be friends, trying to see other people, and trying to work things out.

For my incredible memory, it is odd that I don't remember all the details.  I do remember 'the final straw'.  It was early in 2011.  It facilitated the events that led me to meet my business partner for the restaurant in Baltimore, and eventually wind up miles away and busy for an extended period of time.

I also distinctly remember the last time we saw each other face to face.  It was after I'd returned from Baltimore.  I remember feeling like everything I was so afraid of--settling down, commitment, building a family--was no longer scary, and that I was finally ready.  It was one-sided, however.  He wasn't ready this time.  He reminded me of what he'd told me when first we'd broken up: that he needed five years to get over how I'd hurt him.

In that moment, I decided that if this was the man that I wanted to build a life with, then I was going to fulfill his request.  I wasn't going to push this time to get my way.  I was going to appreciate this man for who he was, and do as he requested.

So, I waited for that five year mark.  

Unbeknownst to me, he was counting from a date two years earlier than mine.  Such are the perils of poor communication.  Only in May of this year did I learn that five years was up for him the year before, while I was patiently waiting for another year.

I've had some months to digest this.  He wanted to but didn't reach out to me.  Why?  I can no longer sit back and hope that he'll understand that time apart doesn't heal our wounds.  We do.  We do with effort, time, patience and care.  Without any of those things, we have nothing, and nothing is all we have now.  There was a time when our lives were so intertwined that he was part of me.  No longer.

So much for fairy-tale endings.  All I ask is that if you know what you want, go for it without apology, without restraint, without indifference.  

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Suggestions

Uninvited apparitions
appearing hauntingly in the night.
Softly whispering suggestions
that you've sincerely tried to fight.
But your body can't deny
the truths you bury out of sight.
The frustration will illuminate
what the tension will incite.

One spark will light the fire,
and one breath will fan the flame.
One touch and the reminder 
of why to me it was you came.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Tools

The people around us
serve us as both
mirrors and lenses,
two very handy tools
for understanding ourselves
and the world around us.  

Just remember
that both can distort the image.  

You need to understand the tool
in order to get the most
out of using it.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Kidney disease

My father passed away six years ago, several weeks after going into cardiac arrest on Valentine's Day as a result of massive kidney failure.
We didn't know his kidneys had been failing. Our family doctor did, and he knew that my father hadn't once seen the nephrologist to which he'd been referred in all the years that he'd had the opportunity.  It took me years to accept that he was a grown man and knew exactly what he was doing through the time that he had ignored it.  He had been a pre-med student, after all.
For years, I felt like I should have seen the signs and daily beat up on myself for failing him. I also harboured a lot of anger and resentment toward our former family doctor.  The truth is that my father was not in good health, and between the excema, gout, several strokes and various other ailments, we just didn't see the symptoms.  We couldn't have, and he lied about it.  My mom had taken care of him on her own that whole time.  We were there, but she bore the brunt of it.  Knowing now how truly unwell she was, I become overwhelmed with guilt whenever I think about it. I wish I had helped more. And though it was always a priority for me, I had my own cross to bear at that point in time in my life, a story for another blog post.
Our family doctor retired a year or so later.  My father's situation aside, I am just disappointed with his treatment of our family and the loyalty we gave him in spite of it.
It wasn't long after my father passed away that my sister and I started paying really close attention to my mom's health.  It, too, was quite poor. It had always been. We had always accompanied our parents to their medical appointments but we trusted that they were listening to the doctor.  My father's passing changed that.  I learned that my dad refused treatments and medications for anything and everything. Accordingly, we began to watch our mom's health like a hawk.
I learned quickly that she didn't like to take her blood pressure medication because it made her nauseous, that she requested but was never given an alternate drug, and that she had been almost blind in her left eye for and indeterminate length of time and was due for a vitrechtomy.  She did manage to take sufficiently good care of her diabetes.  She really liked her endocrinologist and enjoyed visiting him. 
But my father's passing really affected her.  They had known each other since they were little children, growing up in their small town of Atimonan during WWII.  They were there through each other's other relationships, friends, family, school, and first jobs. They watched each other grow into adulthood before they got involved and married.  They remained strong while my mom came to Canada for work seven years before my dad followed in the 70's.  They started a whole new journey having me and my sister in the 80's.  I watched my parents weather rough storms where we didn't know if we would have a place to live, or food to eat.  I watched every disaster and the closeness that ensued.  In old age, I watched them go for walks together; enjoy morning coffee; watch Raptors, Leafs, tennis; stay up all night playing Scrabble trying to beat each other.  They were life-partners; through anything, they knew they'd be by each other's side.  And although she never said it, I know she missed him. For all her femininity, she is the toughest lady I know--there's what I saw as her daughter, but also what we had heard about her life before us.
It was only months after we lost my father that she suffered a series of strokes and was put into critical care--incidentally at the same hospital where my father had been admitted earlier that year--and I would learn what it truly meant to be a caregiver.  Up to that point, we thought we had been really active caregivers for our parents, having watched them both come in and out of the hospital for various health concerns since we were little children, but it was only the start.  This was the hospital stay where we learned that my mom's kidneys, too, had been failing and were already down to 15% functionality.  This was when I learned the consequence of not managing your blood pressure.  This was the event that robbed my mom of the dexterity in her fingers, preventing her from being able to administer her insulin shots. This was the stay when I learned simultaneously how superior the hospital's medical team was to the team composed of our family doctor and series of specialists to whom she'd been referred, and how immensely important it is to have family at the hospital to advocate for the elderly for everything from preventing doping patients with morphine to shut them up, pushing back on pressure to admit family to nursing homes, and demanding more information and tests.  All of this was foreign to us; we had no other family here in Canada or friends going through this at the time.  Our parents were old enough to be our grandparents.  I was 27 and had to learn quickly how to manage this, getting my education, paying all the bills and my own mental and physical health.
To be continued.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Boop

When we started seeing each other, Nick would poke my nose and in a robotic tone, say, "Boop."  Amused but perplexed, I would ask him why, and he would just do it again.  Poke, "Boop."

Months passed, and I stopped asking.  I just always laughed whenever he did it.

Then one evening, when I was feeling really sad about something, he poked me on my nose and said, "Boop. It's your smile button. It never fails. Push the button ... Boop!"

This was cute for a couple of reasons.  One was that he had kept it to himself for perhaps over a year.  Second, that it worked infallibly and I'd had no idea.

I wonder how many more smile buttons I have, and how I'll find them.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Insomnia

Most nights I can't sleep.  I'm hurriedly awakened in the middle of the night to greet silence, alone in my room, by what has to be my own unconscious thoughts creating this persistent unease. I'm scared.
For all my foresight, I can't suppress the unpredictability, incalculablility of what happens next.
Is it lonely?  Will I be alone?  Will I care?  Will I have pushed everyone away?  Will I have preferred it? 

When my work is done, the homework finished, and other burdens laid to rest, who will I be? 
Perhaps it's this question that plagues me in my sleep.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Boredom and Gratitude

I don't feel like writing these days. Instead, I have spent a lot of time going back over old posts, seeing where my head was at. Man, I was sad.  I was sad for a long, long time.  I feel estranged from the person who wrote these posts, not in a way that suggests regret, but rather just because of the distance generated from the passage of time.

I don't know how else to explain it than to say simply that I have never been happier, and the happiness is rooted in a contentment with everything.  It is more than acceptance.  It is certainly not indifference. It is gratitude.

There were years there when I feared that I wouldn't find this peace, that I would spend the rest of my life searching for it.  Maybe I'll lose it again, but I doubt it.  It seems more something to build on than something that I move through cyclically, because if it isn't, I expect it to mean that I'm not learning.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The outfit

Scent can evoke memories.  We know this.  So can visual cues.  An outfit can do this for me.  I can look at a dress and it can bring me right back to a moment in time.

Perhaps it's time I purge my closet.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Dust Settling

Everything happens in good time, so let it.  Can't rush dust to settle; it has the opposite effect.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Gratitude

It's only 8:38 a.m. on this Sunday and I've had the chance to check in with four really close friends this morning.

I woke up this morning thinking about being single and how at times it feels as though I have this endless well of love and no one to shower in it. Then my friends remind me that this is not true.

I love and care so much, so deeply.  And the reciprocation from all of these wonderful people makes me feel so grateful that it brings tears to my eyes.

I wish everyone could feel this.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Walls

I could see you
Through all the walls you'd built.
Entrapped by all the suffering
And pain and all the guilt.

I climbed to the top to reach you.
To extend to you my hand.
Unwilling, you declined and I
Wanted to understand.

I dove in, I did not tear down
All the walls you'd built.
I surrounded myself with all your pain
And suffering and guilt.

And when I had my answers
To what brought your walls about,
You still had not taken my hand
And I could not climb out.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Love

I think love can look like a lot of things besides marriage, a house and kids if we open up our minds and try. The key word in there is "try".

Nick taught me so much about life and love. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed, but he showed me I was wrong. So much was immaterial. 

Relationships require trust, respect, loyalty and honesty to thrive.  Those four values can bridge gaps created by superficialities like age, socioeconomic status, and distance.

Now I know.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Generosity

Where it all began: in grade eleven, Daniel was moved to be seated beside me in Mr. Muccilli's French class (and Frank was seated in front of me, as usual). Admittedly, this wasn't when we first met. Daniel likes to tell the tale of how we were introduced to each other the previous year: he complimented me by saying I looked like I was in Grade 11, and I told him he looked like a "niner". But anyway, we really started talking in French class. Around the end of October, and after deciding that I "liked" him and all of my girlfriends were sick of hearing about it, they all pitched in to buy a ticket for him to the Halloween Dance. (I had my own ticket.) School dances weren't his scene. I went to all of them, and had never seen him at a single one. So I was surprised when my friend told me that when she had called him to give him the ticket and invite him to come that he agreed.

There was much more to that night, I know, but I mention this story for one very important and seemingly insignificant reason: he sang to me. Like every (every?) teenage girl, I fantasized about being serenaded, or at the very least, singing a duet with the boy of my dreams. That night, he and I were slow dancing through some fast song when he sang "Kiss The Girl" from The Little Mermaid into my ear, and then we kissed.

I was so impressed with Daniel from that evening. Daniel is by no means (no offense, Daniel) a singer, nor does he even like to sing for fun. He had the courage to step outside his comfort zone and do something that he really didn't want to do for me because he knew it would make me happy. It was better than any song anyone had ever sung to me.

Because of the sincerity and symbolism of it, this is one of the best gifts I have ever received. I knew then the way I know now that it wasn't something that he'd do for just anyone, and that is what made it special.

Perhaps it helped that I knew him well enough to know how special the effort truly was: it's hard to assess the meaningfulness of a gift when you aren't very well acquainted with the giver.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Caregiving

My tagline mentions caregiving, but I don't have a single post about it.  Let this be the inaugural one.  My sister and I have been exposed to the world of elderly caregiving since we were teenagers, so we have a lot of expertise in navigating the full gamut of services this city, province and country have to offer.  CCAC, Wheel Trans, tax benefits, etc.  We have done it all.

There was a time when it was daunting.  We felt lost, alone, and very confused.  Now that I see my friends beginning to embark on this journey, I realize that all this experience will help me help them.

We are only alone if we don't let people in.


Friday, 25 March 2016

Spring Thoughts

I used to go for daily walks alone, and write in a little notebook.  I still have many of these notebooks.  Around the time that I stopped doing this, I was forewarned that I would.  A then-new friend from whom I've since gained significant insight on life, love and everything in between, told me that I wouldn't need to anymore. Even if that's true - that I don't need to write to myself - I do miss the benefit of seeing what changes such short periods of time could bring.  It was a reminder of how unpredictable and exciting life could be.  I tended to capture all of the little things that get lost in the constant shuffle of daily life.  Perhaps, should I resume, it would not be because I need to but choose to...

Looking back at older versions of myself through the lens of age and experience makes me feel content.  It's been an interesting tale.  I wonder what the next three years will bring.





Friday, 5 February 2016

The Story

I had originally written this back when he was first charged.  I hesitated to post it. Now that we're watching the trial, I thought, you know what, I called it.
__________________

I can see so many parallels between what I experienced and the accounts described - anonymous and not - by Jian's alleged victims.  Well, Jian just lawyered up with one of the best.  Forgive my cynicism but I have no faith that he could be charged as the criminal that he allegedly is in the eyes of the law ... any more than any of the other predators out there who haven't faced penalty or reprimand.

If I could say something to all those out there who cannot understand why the victims would not come forward, then it would be this: not all crimes are criminally punishable and coming forward only means reliving the experiences over and over again until the legal proceedings conclude.  These women aren't seeking legal judgement any more than I was when I was in their situation.  It was just to share the story; to expose the truth; to cast doubt on the image of this seemingly perfect man.

It is a financially and emotionally draining process to pursue charges, even when you have proof that would hold up in court.  In my case, I had a team of lawyers who, knowing we had a solid case with medical records and more, advised me to instead focus on myself and not on seeking justice.  Why?  They told me that libel suits would be launched against me following any criminal charges I laid, and that I would be held up for thousands of dollars in legal fees defending myself against false attacks on my character, while having to relive the emotional trauma over and over again for years to come.

I shared my allegations; he backlashed. It resulted in my having to endure 6 full days of interrogations regarding the events in question, and one full year's worth of attacks on my character that took the form of several hundred page documents "supported" by "testimony" and pedaled off as "evidence".

I documented everything thoroughly and supplied my extensive evidence.  I did my part.  The rest is on their heads.

I feel satisfaction knowing that my account brought it to a shade of grey. Without it, it most certainly would have been painted black and white. I can't control how the shades of grey are perceived. I am giving you my account of the story.  That is all I can do.

If I could say anything to the women, then it would be this: I'm glad you told the story.  The story is important.  When I'm on my death bed and I look back on my life, I will be proud that I told it, that I wasn't censored into silence by fear of the repercussions.  The rest was out of my control.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Time--Qualitatively, Introspectively, Retroactively

I met a kindred spirit this year, and I regret to say that I discovered it too late.  He's leaving.  Rather, I should say, he has left.

I don't meet many anymore.  Perhaps I never did.  I haven't thought about it.  I haven't had the time.

One of the last discussions we had was about time.  He warned me that it would pass ever more quickly with age, and I retorted that I had found the solution.  I related a story about how I had received that very same warning when I was twenty-five, a warning I very diligently heeded.  In fear of passively watching the years slip past me, indiscriminately melding into an indiscernible collection of past events, I decided to take action!  I would make each moment memorable.  What better way to slow down time than to ensure that each moment was filled with memorable things, places and people.  It was logical.  I spent the following years refining the process, taking on exciting new opportunities, trying a variety of new activities, and getting to know a lot of interesting people.

It's eight years later, and I believed I had worked out the kinks.  The years have been discernible.  Each had a character; or, at least, I retrospectively assigned it one.  It's hard to say which is the case.  This should have felt like success.  But the other day when this kindred spirit kindly warned me that time would pass ever more quickly with age, and I proudly regurgitated my usual logical solution-as I've so done since first formulating it when I was twenty-five, something felt amiss.  I remember everything, regardless of any interesting characteristics; with or without any prejudice.  I remember it all.

It was a gross miscalculation.  I understood the concern to be that I would lose track of all the details.  Accordingly, I formulated a solution centred on slowing down the perception of the passage of time, namely making it memorable.  But my thinking was fallacious!  Effort to make each moment memorable is required assuming that without it, I would forget.  It's so striking.  It's so obvious an implicit premise.  It's so pessimistic.  It's so ... disappointing.

I didn't need to go out of my way to make each moment so special that I'd remember it.  I was going to remember it, anyway.  Problem solved.  So why was it still so unsatisfying?

Though it wasn't good-bye, if age has taught me anything, it's that it probably was.  We parted ways on book recommendations that would "trouble" the other.  By "trouble", I mean "afflict intellectually".  It has been a long while since I've been "troubled" by a book.  It's been even longer since I've been excited to read one recommended to me. I wished I'd told him that.  Instead, I blamed the work environment for how rare it was.  The truth was that even in environments where it was expected to have been commonplace, it wasn't.  It meant a lot to me that I could inspire someone to be excited about a book.  It meant a lot to me that I could be excited.  Most importantly, why have these final exchanges been troubling me?


And it was in feeling so troubled that I realized the answer. It's how I knew when muttering it that my formulation was wrong. I have been so busy making everything exceptionally memorable, retroactively ascribing meaning to moments in time, when the actual problem was that I haven't been moved.

What's tragic about losing the years is neither that we age nor that we forget. It is when we are not engaged emotionally. Even worse, it remains tragic when we are. It's terrifying that a moment could be so riddled with emotion, making an experience simultaneously beautiful and sad--beautiful because of how precious those feelings are; sad because it's fleeting. 
It is ok if I can't recall it all. It wasn't the content of the hours. It's what I felt as I filled them. This has been my failure - in logic, but also in life - as of late.

To 2016!  I hope this year is filled with lots of peace, love and happiness.




Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day

My father was born during WWII.  He and my mom told us so many stories about growing up in the mountains in the Philippines.  It didn't click in till we were older that they were only in the mountains to escape the war.  Their hometown of Atimonan was invaded by the Japanese the year my father was born.  It was a port town, an entry point.  It was burned down during the war, with all city records, including birth certificates.

My grandfather on my father's side fought and died during WWII during what has come to be known as the Bataan Death March.  I was born 40 years later in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The destruction of the records made it almost impossible for anyone from that town to emigrate to Canada.  My mom and dad did, but no other member of our family was able to join them.

Since that time, Japan has issued an apology to the Americans for their losses.  I don't think they did the same for the Filipino POWs who lost their lives in that death march.

When I think of Remembrance Day, I think of this.

#LestWeForget

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Family Trip

I can only remember going on a single family vacation with my parents and sister as an adult.  It was a long weekend trip to Niagara.  We went to Niagara often, so I was disappointed that it was the destination. We did do new activities, though, so it turned out to be a really nice trip.

This mini-vacation comes to mind for two reasons: it conjures up fond memories of time with my late father, but also because of how we all planned to but chickened out of riding the cable car over the Falls.

We're a family of chickens, and when are all together, such chicken-ry is magnified to incredulous proportions.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Missing the Point

I logged into Facebook today, and noticed that someone posted a screenshot of a spam text message that included an image of an overweight, middle-aged woman in lingerie with a caption akin to "I don't know how this person got my number".  The following private message conversation ensued:

Carolyn Ursabia

Hey, you probably shouldn't circulate that photo without the express consent of the person in it, even if it was spam.

Anonymous FB Friend O'Mine
Hi Carolyn, I don't know if spammers have copyright protection, though I highly doubt it and I know of no legal precedent on the issue. Assuming spammers do have copyright protections, I believe this usage falls under the 'fair use'. Despite that while I don't agree with you, I decided to take down the post given that in hindsight I should have anticipated someone would have probably made fun of the woman displayed in the image which was not my intention and the random spamming was what the post was aimed at.

Carolyn Ursabia

It wasn't the copyright issue. It was that it seemed you didn't know the sender, and so you didn't know if that picture was actually permitted to be circulated. Suppose, just as an example, that that picture was an intimate photo shared between a couple that has since split up, and the spammer was circulating the photo because they were angry at them. When you don't know the sender, you don't know the source of the image. That was my only point. My personal message to you was more for your protection and I apologize if it was taken in any other way. Take care.

.
.
.

*sigh*


Monday, 16 February 2015

Armani Sunglasses and The Tavern

I often tell stories of my time in the U.S.  I stayed in woodsy northern Maryland, worked in Pikesville, and regularly ventured to NYC, DC and into Baltimore. I used local websites, The Food Network, FourSquare, Yelp and word of mouth to develop my 'to hit up' list of top restaurants, bars, live music venues and clubs.  I visited these venues one by one, often solo, but not always.  At the outset, I saw it as fun but as I trained in restaurant management, it quickly turned into research and business.

One important bar-restaurant that I needed to see was the Mt. Washington Tavern.  Known to locals as "The Tavern", it was known for being a great hangout that offered great food in a great atmosphere.  I should have tried to catch their dinner service or grab an evening drink, but I was never going to make it with my work schedule, so I eventually decided to go to The Tavern for a lunch. It's a lot like the Madison in Toronto: a collection of bars, each of which with its own character, shoved into a large mansion-like building.

We were seated in a very well-lit area for lunch.  It was empty with a skeletal staff.  There was one server, one busboy, one hostess working but not in my area, and no front-of-house managers visible.  The food was prompt. I had the beet and goat cheese salad and found it disappointing.  It would have been nice if they beets were drained better, and the goat cheese was warm.

After lunch, upon getting into my car, I realized that I had left my sunglasses on the table.  They were Armani Exchange's brown square butterfly style and matched everything I had.  I was in a rush to get to work, so I called The Tavern from my car while in the parking lot, and spoke with the hostess.  I told her where I had left them - on my table by the condiments.  She put me on hold briefly, then came back to say she didn't see anything on my table.  I was surprised because I remembered where I had left them and it had been less than a minute, but decided it was my fault for leaving them.  I headed straight to my restaurant to get ready for our happy hour opening.

Several hours later at my restaurant, I chatted with my bartender, Bryant, and the patrons about it.  Bryant interrupted, "Do you mean those really pretty brown Armani bugeye ones that all the girls are wearing these days?"  I nodded in affirmation.  He then asked me if my server was a young female.  I said yes.  He told me, "Yeah, those were stolen."  All the gentlemen at the bar agreed.

This was my first introduction to the difference between Toronto and Baltimore.  I was so used to Torontonian waitstaff, who would reasonably wait a least a week before claiming finder's keepers on personal effects left behind by patrons.  I decided that I was going to get my sunglasses back.  Several gentlemen offered to accompany me and be my "muscle", but I politely declined. I told them, "I got this."

As soon as our dinner service looked like it was under control, I headed out.  It was about 9 pm, 8 hours after the incident.  This venue had several entrances; no main one.  I entered through the same entrance that I used at lunch and spoke with the hostess.  Let's call her Hostess A.  Hostess A was not there at lunch. I asked her about their lost and found processes, and described the pair of sunglasses I had left earlier that day.  She told me that they have a lost and found at each hostess stand at each entrance, and she offered to check.

I watched her check by where we were standing and not find them.  She told me that she wanted to ask the hostess at the nearest entrance, let's call this one Hostess B, since Hostess B had been working all day.  The other stand was about 10 m away, and I watched their exchange.  Hostess A approached Hostess B.  Hostess B looked at me then spoke aggressively with Hostess A.  Her hand gestures looked like she was telling Hostess A what to do.  Hostess A appeared taken aback and changed from pleasant to uncomfortable, with tensed eyebrows.  I found this very interesting.  All the while, the busboy from lunch walked by.  I stopped him and asked him if he bussed the tables in my area at lunch.  He said he did.  I thought, "perfect!"  I asked him if he had seen a pair of brown bugeye sunglasses left at my table from lunch.  He said yes, and that he had picked them up and put them in the lost and found.

I looked back over at Hostesses A and B.  Hostess B now decided to approach me while Hostess A stayed back.  Hostess B told me that she had been there all day, but that the sunglasses that I described were not retrieved.  I told her that I just spoke with the busboy who confirmed that he had picked them up and put them in the stand.  I looked her square in the eye and asked to speak with the owner.  She went into the kitchen.

A floor manager came out.  He said that the owner was not in.  I explained what had happened and requested: (1) a copy of the lunch staffing schedule, (2) the name of my server, and (3) the owner's contact information.  He walked to the back.  I waited about one minute before he came back out appearing panicked and in tears.  He told me that his sister was the server at lunch, that she was in class until 10 pm and that he could return my sunglasses  at that time.

I didn't report the server, my sunglasses were returned, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Or did they?

My sister and I had our second sets of tires stolen last Thursday.  We left them in our parking spots in our building's parking garage. We knew there was risk in leaving them out, but it was a shared risk: everyone in my building left their extra sets of tires in their spots.  Unfortunately, only ours were stolen.

This theft reminded me of the sunglasses.  I asked everyone if they could have moved them before I believed that they were stolen, and I was comfortable with my loss so long as it was my fault. Once I realized that it was the handiwork of a liar, I had to do something about it.

My sister and I have filed police reports, and will be meeting with our building's security to review the security tapes tomorrow.  We may never see the tires again or get any remuneration for our trouble, but the hope is that the perpetrators will learn that they cannot get away with theft.

..but will these thieves ever learn?  I am pessimistic.

Post Script
The Tavern was burned down some time later that year, an event that inspired many to message me to tell me I 'didn't have to do it' because I got my sunglasses back.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Sunday Morning Crash on the Gardiner Expressway

At 5 am on Sunday morning, I was driving home from Etobicoke-Queensway.  I had stopped for a tea at Park Lawn before hitting the road to get home when I decided to go south and take Lakeshore across the city then hop on the Gardiner at the Jarvis on-ramp.

Just past Humber Loop, I approached a purple car going about 35-40 kph in the passing lane.  It looked like a 90's Cavalier or Saturn - I wasn't paying close enough attention.  There were no other vehicles on the road. This is why it was so memorable.  I passed that purple vehicle going the limit while in the middle lane.  I think it was at this moment that I put a target on my head.

After passing, the driver decided to accelerate and pass me.  The car then settled directly in front of me, swerving in the lane.  I lowered my speed and stayed back so I could keep an eye on it.  I wanted to call the police to report that this driver was intoxicated, but my phone was turned off inside my purse in the back seat. I decided to follow with caution.

The driver alternated between slowing to below 30 kph to force me to pass, and speeding up and swerving in front of me.  I weighed my options, considering alternate routes as they approached but decided to stay the course to Jarvis.  Any streets north to the Gardiner would put me in a dangerous residential neighbourhood.  At least Lakeshore was wide, well-lit, and had few lights.

The car was tracking behind to my left when I caught a red light at Bathurst St.  It then crept forward and stopped directly to my right.  The southwest corner of Lakeshore and Bathurst is brightly lit with a gas station there, but I chose not to look over.  I did not want to make eye contact.  I did not know if this person was following me.  I let out an audible sigh of relief when the driver then signaled to turn right, and slowly rolled into the crossing, and held my breath at it stopped, cancelled the signal, and reversed until it was once again just to my right.  All this while stopped at the light was red.  All this while I plotted my next steps.

The Jarvis on-ramp would be from the right lane, the purple car's current lane.  I decided that when the light turned green, I would switch to the leftmost lane to avoid being near the intoxicated driver, accelerate quickly so I could gain distance, then switch back over to the right lane in time for the on-ramp. I was ready.

In moments, the light changed.  I crossed the intersection.  I switched into the leftmost lane. I caught green lights and gained a good distance ahead of the purple car.  I could not see it in my rearview.  I was almost home free, when I hit a red light at Jarvis St, right in front of the on-ramp.

Disappointed, I stopped and while stopped I could see the headlights of the purple car reappear in my rearview and approach from a distance. I sat at the red light and watched it pull right up to my rear bumper.  If I crept one inch forward, the purple car crept one inch forward. The driver was mocking me. Regretting the missed opportunity at Bathurst, I glared at my rearview mirror now desperately trying to get a good clear look at the face of this intoxicated driver who had been following me for the last 11 km, but all I could see was outline of a head through the accumulation of dirt on both of our vehicles windows and shadows cast by his headlights.

If the driver exited his/her vehicle, I decided that I would run the red light. Otherwise, I would wait. Either way, I'd soon be on the highway, where there were other cars, and mine was faster.

We waited.  The light turned green, and I gunned for that on-ramp.  The driver followed but couldn't keep pace. I gained a good distance and kept an eye on the purple car in my rearview mirror.  Without fail, there it was gaining speed, approaching me.

I began to plot my next move.  If I didn't lose the purple car on my way home, instead of leading the driver right to my place, I would circle the DVP-northbound, 401-westbound, 427-southbound, then Gardiner-eastbound until I did.  I was mid-thought, when the driver suddenly lost control and collided with the middle guardrail, sending sparks flying.  The vehicle was then propelled forward from the impact, and rolled backward across the expressway to the furthest right lane where it came to a stop.

In shock, I continued driving.  My first instinct was to turn back and help, but I was on the highway just ahead of the crash so I couldn't.  My next instinct was to report the collision, but I didn't want to risk diverting my attention from the road to get my phone, turn it on, and connect the Bluetooth.  My final instinct was to stay the course because that vehicle may have still been drivable, that driver may have still been conscious, and I had no reason to believe that the pursuit was over.

...but it was.  With focus, I completed my route and arrived home safely, uncomfortably recalling what I had just witnessed, and knowing what it was that I had just narrowly dodged.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Feeling Young

My birthday is tomorrow and I have to admit that I've been feeling a little older lately.  Just lately.  I usually make a concerted effort to feel young.  However, I haven't been going to the gym as often, or getting fresh air.  I haven't practiced guitar or done any singing.  I haven't even written anything. So...

I walked to work today.  I strode on by past the stalled traffic, the tense drivers and their impatient passengers.  I smiled as the wind air-dried my freshly washed hair.  I felt alive as I walked over the bridge that crosses over the 404 and looked down at the parking lot below.

In 2009 (I think I could be rewriting history), I vowed to drive my car to work every day for a year.  I improved my driving in leaps and bounds but the process changed me.  I became a chronic driver.  I began to drive everywhere.  But I grew up as a pedestrian.  I used to carry a backpack, rely heavily on my Metropass and felt carefree without the baggage of a parked car anchoring me down.  It was freedom.  I need to manufacture some freedom.  Maybe this is the form that it will take for now.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Falsificationism vs. Verificationism

Falsificationism was first introduced by Sir Karl Popper. It is a methodology of science. In particular, he introduced it as a criterion to demarcate science from non-science. It is also one response to “The
Problem of Induction”, where induction is another means of obtaining knowledge. Falsifiability states that the truths of science are arrived at through a series of conjectures and refutations. Because of the
problem of induction, we cannot consider truths that were arrived at inductively as “justified”. However, we can be “justified” in showing the falsity of a statement.

An example of a falsfiable conjecture: All orbits are circular. The way to falsify: find one that is not.

An example of an unfalsifiable conjecture: Scorpios are secretive. There is no clear test to disprove this.

//

Verificationism is the view that a statement only has meaning if there exists an empirical test to prove it (regardless of the practicability of such a test). “Meaning” is defined as having truth-value (that is, it can be true or false).

An example of a verifiable statement: Mercury’s orbit is circular. Why? Because we can observe that this is true or false.

An example of an unverifiable statement: Scorpios are secretive. Why? Because there is no empirical
test that would show this to be either true or false. Actually, I’d say that saying that it could be true or false is a false dichotomy.

Interestingly, NP-complete problems are technically verifiable, but not practically so.

//

Popper was a critic of verificationism. To Popper, scientific truth could not be arrived at by “verifying” a conjecture. Since induction was not "justified”, “truth” could only be arrived at through “conjectures and refutations”.

But Popper’s criterion of demarcation (i.e. his falsificationism) was a methodological norm, and not a theory of meaning, as verificationism is.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Search for the Marble

In December 2012, I ventured to Havana, Cuba on a last-minute solo excursion.  Before departing, I asked each of my friends what they wanted from Cuba.  Most asked for cigars and rum, but one asked for a single, Cuban marble.  I thought it was a joke, given the embargo in place since the 60's.  They wouldn't manufacture marbles in Cuba, so where and why would I find one?

After arriving in Cuba, I met a gentleman named Habib.  Habib was a friendly, seasoned solo traveler from Montreal, also there on a last-minute solo excursion.  Minutes into meeting him, I knew that he'd be the perfect travel companion.  (It also didn't hurt that he spoke several many different languages fluently, including English, French and Spanish.)  I advised Habib of my need to purchase local cigars, rum and a Cuban marble.  He laughed, and agreed to help me with my quest.

And 'quest', it  sure was.  Every day, after sleeping in, having lunch, and sunning on the beach, Habib and I would catch up at the taxi/bus stop then head into the city.  From there, we would go for a walk through the streets, visit an attraction/museum.  Every evening, we would have dinner at a different recommended restaurant, then end each night with a live show and dancing.  So, we spent every afternoon wandering the city streets.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of street vendors at/near each tourist attraction. Everything on the list was easily found ... except the marble.  Inquiring about a marble with each vendor led us down some unexpected paths.  It didn't take a lot of prodding to convince each one to take us back to his/her place to show us their full inventory.  We weaved in and out of back streets and housing; were shown private collections of decades-old goods carefully preserved for resale.  And why?  Because no Cuban vendor - even with a fluent translator in Habib - could understand the concept of a marble.  We were shown collections of marble-made products, some of which I purchased for their rarity and beauty.  However, not only no sign of a Cuban marble, no understanding of it.  We used hand gestures and drew pictures.  We described their use.  Nada.

I have since lost touch with the person who requested the marble.  I'm sure it was a joke, but it turned into a fun adventure that took me through the backstreets of Havana, uncovering a variety of treasures I stood no chance of otherwise stumbling upon.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Perfectionism and Accomplishment

My elementary school French teacher went above and beyond the curriculum to teach those who wanted to learn.  I really appreciated the extra effort she put into challenging me.  When I was in grade 7, this French teacher decided to give us a half-day diagnostic French exam that touched on everything she'd taught us over the years.  There was a total possible 200 points.  I scored 198. Every other student scored under 100.   I remember this exam because I cried when I got it back because I lost 2 points.  I couldn't have cared less how the rest of the class did.

And although I think my ability to not compare myself to others was laudable, the degree of self-criticism was not.  It was symptomatic of a level of perfectionism that has haunted me since.  I will never be "perfect".  I know there is no such thing.  However, it has taken me a long time to find comfort with that.  I miss major milestones, and downplay my accomplishments.  It is a difficult exercise for me to brainstorm my contributions ... to anything.  I tend to focus on everything I aimed to do but did not.

Anyway, this is all to say that I had a wonderful last couple of years.  And before I downplay to the point of forgetting, here is a list of things that I did (or didn't do):
  1. I bought a Jag. I call her Kitty.
  2. I took golfing lessons and discovered I can drive well past 200 yards consistently.
  3. I bought a new Fender guitar and started guitar lessons.
  4. I took some lessons in boxing and did some TRX training.
  5. I fell in love with Vibrams.  I now own 2 pairs.
  6. I started cycling or walking to run errands.  To help with this, I bought an amazing Detours Freemonster Flap Pannier.  I save gas and get fresh air and exercise.
  7. I went rollerblading for the first time in 7 years.
  8. I went to a Jack Johnson concert at the Molson Amphitheatre.
  9. I visited Wasaga beach for the first time in years.
  10. I went for a hike at the Cheltenham Badlands twice this summer.
  11. I got a Canada's Wonderland Season's Pass this summer and for the first time in my life I went on all the biggest roller coasters, and spent time in a bikini at the water park.
  12. I've watched every blockbuster that has come out, but only blockbusters.  If there aren't good movies out, I don't go to the movies.
  13. I cut my hair, manicure, and facial budget.  They are frivolous treatments.
  14. I cut my restaurant budget and started cooking again.
  15. I didn't move! I did find a new apartment and am planning a move in the imminent future, but I managed to stay put for a few years.
  16. I stopped drinking, clubbing and going to bars.  I just enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner.  I don't have time for the other stuff.
  17. Although I cut my spending on clothing, I've picked up some pricey staples: a black Hilary Radley wool winter coat, a grey Helly Hansen raincoat, a champagne Rudsak winter coat, and a Nooka Zem Zot Mirror in Steel.
  18. I and my sister got through a draining year for caregiving through my mom's a hip fracture and hip surgery, starting dialysis early, and a sepsis infection.  (My mom is doing exceptionally well and is in good spirits, I should add.)
It's been a great couple of years.  I only expect it to get even better.

Wishing everyone the same,
Carolyn

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Eminem vs. Macklemore

Eminem's writing is introspective; Macklemore's work is socially conscious.  They're different.  They can't be compared.

It's on my mind because I'm tired of 'angry Eminem' and I don't want to see Eminem evolve into a socially conscious rapper.  His ability to delve into human psyche is unparalleled in rap, imho.  So these forays he's made into American politics have just been disappointing. I think we need to hear from a happy and balanced Em.  I want to hear about the successful Em who never succumbed to industry pressure. I think he'd elicit deep emotions of happiness no other rapper could express because he has rich lyrical content and expressive vocal style.

Fans need their stars to grow with them. Else they outgrow them.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Problems, Changes and Growth

You can learn a lot about a person from (1) the list of things they complain about and (2) how often that list changes.

The former will tell you how much that person challenges him/herself.  The latter tells you how successful they were at overcoming the challenges.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

So Long, Frederick

I traded Gus in just before the big 'Ice Storm of 2013'.   Good thing, too.  I don't know how well he would have held up in that storm.

The thing was, in my haste to complete the trade, I wound up leaving several many personal effects in the vehicle.  One such item was my toy Plants vs. Zombies conehead zombie, whom we (I and the Boyfriend) affectionately named Frederick.  I noticed Frederick was missing only days later when I thought of him.  I kept him in Gus' trunk as he was part of our driving amusement and nothing more.  Given my generally unpleasant dealings with the car dealer, I elected not to go back to rescue him.  It was sad, but I decided that a $10 toy from HMV was hardly worth the effort.

Today, over a month later, I thought I'd check in on the sale of my old car.  I popped open that dealer's website, found the ad for Gus, began to scroll through the pictures and was very amused to see this one:


Frederick!  Laying prettily to the left of the steering column.  So close, yet so far.  

I'm not sure why the dealer would let Frederick remain in the vehicle while photographing it for sale.  I am happy to know he wasn't just thoughtlessly discarded.  I feel a bit of disappointment knowing that he's there, and that I'm unwilling to go back for him.  But mostly, I'm inspired by the prospect that the little guy is fated for more adventures, beyond what he experienced with me.  

So long, Frederick.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

TMJ, Braces, and Dreams Come True

My jaw first locked up when I was 21 on the eve of the first major program I had ever run.  I was advised to see a dentist but was also advised that registered massage therapy and time could heal the pain.  I opted for the latter since I didn't have coverage then and didn't want to go broke fixing a problem that time could potentially heal.  Unfortunately, time loosened my jaw but it never stopped the pain.

Three years later, I awakened one morning to find myself with limited range of motion for my head; any move I made put my neck into spasm.  It was constant whiplash.  I was diagnosed with torticolis and was told that it was my posture while sleeping, and stress.  I was told to get registered massage therapy and to destress.  The clicking worsened and I noticed a physical change in the position of my lower jaw.  It had shifted to the right.

Later that year, the migraines started.  I couldn't find the trigger.  Accordingly, I could not determine a treatment.  I stumbled upon the diagnosis really by accident.  My mom suggested that I go see a Filipino dentist whose office was downtown.  I visited to discuss dental and orthodontic work, but what I stepped out with was a set of x-rays, explanations for failed motor skill tests and a diagnosis for TMJ.  It turned out that I had a rare overbite and tooth rotation combination that was creating and worsening my TMJ.  In layman's, my tooth alignment progressively caused my jaw joint displacement.  Registered massage therapy and time were never going to heal this problem.


Treatment entailed wearing a daytime and a nighttime mouthguard.  They were designed to prevent the pinching of the nerves that run through my jaw joints.  The idea was that wearing them would reopen the space that should exist between the upper and lower mandible, and that slowly being weaned off them would create a stable jaw that didn't require a prosthetic to prevent the pinched nerve.  Once that happened, I could get orthodontics not for aesthetic purposes, but to help to realign my bite so as to prevent this going forward.

Anyway, years of pain, discomfort, planning and execution have brought me here: 30 years old with braces! To boot, I have these things called biteturbos affixed to the back of my top front teeth which is preventing my upper jaw from touching my lower...  Until my jaw begins to realign, I will not be able to chew anything.  My orthodontist said that the average length of time required to wear the braces is 2 years.  Here. We. Go.

My nightguard was molded around my teeth.  When I wore it, I would dream that they were braces, and that my teeth were realigning, so that every morning, I awakened disappointed by the reality that they were instead being carefully held in place. Yes, braces hurt and being unable to chew anything puts a damper on my dining habits, but now when I dream my teeth are realigning, it's because they are.  2 years?  5 years?  More?  It doesn't matter.  I'll take it over unending migraines, and compromised motor skills any day.




Monday, 18 March 2013

Randoms Cuss at My Gus

I recently purchased a Smart Car.  I named him Gus. Something about it made me want to call it Gus.  (There are pictures of Gus in my Instagram gallery.)

The view from Gus' passenger seat.


We are all creatures of habit, I think, to some extent.  (I don't know, off-hand, how true this is.  I am not a neuroscientist, and where normally, I would take a moment to look up some documentation to support such a statement, on this, I will just go by anecdotal evidence.)  As much as I do spontaneously, there are just some strange things that I am very consistent about.  One such thing is where I go to tank up.  There is an independent, full service shop near my place that has very low rates.  Unless I'm in another city, or there are unmitigated circumstances, this is where I go to tank up.

The other day, I had my window rolled down while I was tanking up, and I overheard a gentleman say "Fucking Smart Car" under his breath, as he walked past.  He didn't look at me, or the car.  He wasn't looking to instigate anything.  He just ... said it as he passed, and I just happened to hear it because I had my window rolled down.

What's interesting is that since this little incident, I've noticed that this actually occurs often.  If I'm sitting parked in my car, and people walk by, I can see at least one person mouth the words "Fucking Smart Car."

I shouldn't be surprised.  This purchase has polarized my friends, and been a source of amusement for my co-workers.  I just wanted an inexpensive vehicle that was good on gas in a traffic-heavy city where I prefer to drive, and am often alone when I do so.  I didn't think anyone (or everyone) would care so much about this purchase.

In a city plagued by traffic and unreliable transit, I find it remarkable how much hate there is for the Smart Car.


Monday, 4 February 2013

On Getting Trapped In A Stairwell

The other day, I was trapped in a stairwell.  It is the one that leads to street-level from the off-campus, privately-owned lot that I would occasionally use.  Whoever was managing the grounds that day just failed to unlock the street-level exit, and I was trapped until another patron tried to exit. (This was, of course, because of all possible days to have left my cell phone in my car, this was it.)  I was trapped for almost an hour before that happened.

I still remember the moment when I pushed on the door to exit to street-level, and it wouldn't open. It wasn't quite panic that I felt, but it did hit me pretty instantly that without my phone, I had no choice but to be patient.  I couldn't waste energy on pounding on the doors with opaque windows, or on calling out to every car that passed.  For one thing, any passerby should/would be wary of helping a person on the other side of an opaque door. For another, if the passersby were in vehicles, it was likely that they wouldn't hear me as they drove by.  This is why I imagine none of the people, or passing vehicles helped me when I tried to call out to them for help.

After the first half hour of being trapped, I thought idly about how long it would take before anyone would notice something were the matter.  Would anyone in my office notice?  Would they know who to contact?  How to contact them?  The answer is my sister.  But would she even know how to locate me?  Would she remember that she has access to my Google Latitude location?  And if not, would she know that she has all of my passwords so that she could look up my latest Google Latitude location?  I set this up so that if I were ever in trouble on one of my miserably long solo road trips and I didn't get to notify anyone, at least the handful of people who have access to my Latitude would be able to locate me.  In my case, it really was just a matter of time until someone else parked and tried to exit.

Not all of us are so lucky.  Some of us get permanently trapped behind metaphorical opaque windows, not knowing how to woo the next passerby for help, should there even be one to pass by.  Some have similarly as encrypted methods for being found so that even when it is determined that you're in need of help, and that somebody wants to, no one knows how to get to you.  Some of us will die in our stairwells.  Sometimes, help never comes.

Until I don't, I feel like I let him down.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dream Parts

When I was in my O.A.C year, I was cast in one of the lead roles in the high school production of Grease. I felt like my singing, and public speaking had come a long way over the years, and I felt so humbled, and honoured to be cast in the role that would best fit my personality and skills after so many years of going through the grind in other roles to just get experience.  It was a bit of a dream come true for me at the time.

I spent the weeks leading up to opening night feeling like it wasn`t really happening. I felt as though, at any second, I would be yanked from the show, and my part recast. It didn`t feel real until the show actually went on.  And when it all ended, it especially felt unreal when I got a standing ovation at curtain call on closing night. I can still hear the cheers.

That was when I was eighteen.  I haven`t felt that way since.  I went back into the grind, without knowing what I was grinding for.  There have been `roles` that I`ve played, and `reviews` would tell me that I did quite well, and though I may have earned a `standing ovation` or few, it was not the same.  They weren`t `dream roles`. ...not until now.

It`s almost `showtime`, and I plan to earn that standing ovation all over again.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Solo Travel: La Habana

I went on a last-minute solo vacation to Havana over the holidays.  I have been asked why.  I will answer in parts.

As regards the location, I was looking for something (1) affordable that (2) had a rich and interesting history, and that was (3) safe.  Havana was an obvious answer.  Cuba is an affordable destination with flight + hotel + meal packages as low as $100/day year-round, and the local dining and entertainment costs at pennies compared to any Canadian/America/European city.  Cuba is known for its low crime rates.  (For the time being, I will pass on sharing my thoughts on why this is .)  Finally, Havana is a city with a rich history, and its current state reflects it.  Although I spent the peak of each day on the beach, I didn't stay on the resort.  That would have been a bore to someone like me.  [Aside: The weekend prior to departing, I caught a documentary entitled Last Chance to See Castro's Cuba.  This gave me a current snapshot of Havana, and what exactly to expect when I walked through the streets.]

As regards the reason why I went solo...  Ask any solo traveller why they do it, and the answer will always be because of the freedom.  Solo travellers naturally gravitate towards each other.  At least, this is my experience.  When I meet a new one, I like to ask him/her why he/she does it, and I always get the same answer.  No one to please.  No one to plan for.  You do everything at your own pace.  You are neither dragging, nor being dragged along to places.

Finally, as for why I went last-minute, well, let's just say that there were a number of things that I had to celebrate this year, and I decided that it was important that I oblige.  Also, I find it generally exhilarating to test my planning skills as a reminder to myself of what I am capable of pulling together on the fly.  Between work, school, and family, so much of our lives are planned.  I try to squeeze as much spontaneity out of my personal life as possible.  I don't advise having no preparation, because that's foolish.  However, with proper preparation, I can walk into any city, and, day-by-day, meet people, and do local research to discover and determine the most interesting path to take.  It never fails.

Alright, back to my trip.  There is a lot to discuss, so I will be breaking it down into smaller topics in the weeks to come:

Coin-Sorters, Their Opposites, and New Year's Resolutions

The story of a homeless man who was given $100,000 by a film director was recently related to me.  The fellow was offered free counsel from a financial advisor, but he turned it down.  In a nutshell, he blew the money and is back on the streets.

Not everyone is a coin-sorter.  Some people are the opposite.  I'm tempted to call them poisonous, but maybe that's just because that's what they are to coin-sorters like me: they jam me up, and leave me unable to function optimally.  In isolation, they exist without opposition.  Imagine swamplands, with weeds, and wildlife: organic, natural "disarray".  Who am I to say what is best?  But what I can say with utmost certainty is that they are dangerous for me.

I've been "sorting coins" lately.  I fear the repercussions of what will happen when I get jammed up with the return of my "swampy" personal associates.

It's the start of 2013.  One of my New Year's Resolutions is to tackle this issue.  I can't turn everyone into coin-sorters, no, but can I find a way for us to happily coexist?  Oh, more than that - can I find a way for our lives to intermingle?  Can we mediate a solution whereby I can feel productive and enjoy a sense of accomplishment and growth, and they do not have to change?  This is the question.

Advice welcome.  Please submit.

Friday, 14 December 2012

I Want

Oh, I want to feel things.
Would you please playfully pluck at my heartstrings
With frenzied, feather-light fervour?
I humbly beseech you to make me sing
A serenade of soft, sweet sounds
That assemble into songs I've never sung before.

Oh, if you could, I'd beg for more!
You'd have me on my knees -
Tantalized by your reprise -
Imploring that you never cease
Building me up to a blissful release
Before permitting me to collapse in rapturous reprieval.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Appeal to Readers

Okay, I've said this before, but I read my site stats daily.  Besides numbers, they tell me fun things like what posts you're reading, how long you're sitting on a page, what posts you're clicking on and from what page, etc...

I know you're reading.  I like that I don't know who all of you are, but I would like to request that you comment.  From the monotonously banal to the extreme opposite, all comments are welcome. I've made it as easy as possible - all commenting restrictions are disabled.  You can do it anonymously, without providing a valid email address, and without having to prove you're human.

Now go! Make your presence known.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Inconsistencies

All of you read my blog with tunnel-vision, not catching the gaping holes in the stories that comprise my life. (Or maybe you don't and I just don't hear about it.)  I imagine part of it is the layout that I use. The rest is ignorance and indifference.  

It is no accident on my part: I do not want it to be easy to string together the events of my life.  What ties us together - you, the reader to me, the writer - are the emotions, the ideas and the sweeping generalizations that I make. The details of my life are of little consequence... to you.  To me, they are everything.  I do not write frivolously. There was inspiration behind each post.  I just never share it.


***

At my most trying time, when I sat impatiently in the bubble into which I had been forced while I awaited  judgement, I had no control over the outcome.  With every bit of energy I could muster, I did the only thing I could do: I fought what I thought was a losing battle because it was the single most honest thing I could do.

***
(Rewind to a couple of weeks ago.)

"Carolyn, I want you to know that I never thought less of you," he said to me across the table. We hadn't spoken in about two years, even though I'd seen him one year ago - when it all ended. The words came unsolicited, unprompted, and unexpectedly.

I had spent the last two years letting go of every aspect of the battle that was out of my control: what other people thought and what other people did.  I spent the last year trying to find peace and joy in knowing that it was all over.  I tried to find pride in that I had endured.  I had learned to quiet the voice inside my head that yearned for vindication. That need only fueled my anger and strengthened my discontentment with the world.  It made me want the things I could not control.  However, hearing these words mad me burst into tears.

I had once declared publicly that I did not need to explicitly hear one's reasons for abandoning me, but I was wrong. I soaked up the words the way the roots of a drying flower would water after a drought. It was overwhelming and revitalizing.

"I thought I was alone."

"You weren't."

***
(Rewind back to early 2011)  

"What are you going to do if you return?"  She looked at me earnestly, expecting an answer.  I didn't know why she was asking.  She kept asking me such wasteful questions.

I won't be returning, I thought. Period. Not a single person in their right mind believes it is a possibility.  Why should I entertain it?  The focus should be on what I'm supposed to do when all of this wraps up; when the inevitable happens and I have to sign papers forcing me to pretend the last few years of my life didn't happen and I have to start anew, ten steps back, with a gaping hole in my life that was filled with whatever filler I was legally advised to regurgitate when asked.

"I will never go back."

"You're going to walk away from every plan you've set up for yourself, from the entire life and experience you've built, as if none of it ever happened?  You're not going to fight for it?"

"Fight for what?!  To be in a world that could do this to me?  That would deem me guilty without so much as a fair trial?  Without an opportunity to speak?  I have been censored into silence. The truth has been twisted and I have been crippled, unable to defend myself.  All I can do is await the inevitable. No, I will not go back. I will find a place where things like this can't happen."

***

Except, places like that don't exist.  I was also wrong about what was inevitable.  When the ordeal concluded, I neither won nor lost.  It felt as though a gag was removed, my hands were untied, the lights were turned on and when I had the courage to look around I found that no one was there.  I was left standing alone, stripped of energy and confidence, unsure of how to proceed.

I wondered how I would rebuild but I realize now that I did not have to. Not all was lost. I was never alone.

December 2012. Remember this time, everyone. This is when I showed the world what I was made of.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sweet Caroline

This was from my helium balloon karaoke 30th birthday party.  You can't miss my grand entrance in the second verse.  The night was filled with fun, friends, and great memories. Thank you to everyone who came.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

True Story.

ID Cards, Photo Albums, and Games


Just after my father's funeral, a small group of us went out to dinner.  When we got to the restaurant, my mom and my sister walked in first, a close friend and I next, and the rest of the group came in behind us.

There was a sign posted indicating that seniors are entitled to a discount, so Marlene pointed it out to mom. "Mom, get your senior's card out."

Flustered while hurriedly sifting through her purse, she responded, "I don't have it!  You have it.  You took it last time..."

"No, I didn't!" Marlene interrupted, but you could tell she wasn't certain by how she reached for her purse.

"Oh..." my mom smiled. She had found it. She pulled it out, and handed it to Marlene who offered it to the host who politely declined to view it.  "You will just need to show it to your server.  Come with me.  I will show you to your table."

Marlene nodded in acknowledgement, slid the card into her back pocket, and followed the host.  My friend and I trailed just behind.  I looked at my friend, pointed to Marlene's pocket, and said, "Remember that. That will be important."

Marlene and my mom were seated opposite each other at one end of table, and my friend and I were seated at the other.  Fast-forward to the middle of dinner..  

"You have it!"  "No, you have it!"  They pointed and yelled at each other so loudly that we could hear them from our side of the table ... over all of the people between us ... over all of the noise in the crowded restaurant.  They were each completely convinced that the other was wrong, yet both were searching their purses.

My friend whispered to me, "Are you going to.."  I waived him off.  "No, no.  Not just yet.  Five more minutes. Let's see if they can sort this out."

***

As far back as I could remember, my dad kept all of his private documents in his favourite leather briefcase. It had a combination lock on it.  We all knew the code, but it was his personal briefcase, so we never touched it.  He would smile when he would say, "These are my very important documents."

***

I moved out way back when.  I couldn't be there.  It was hard for me.  When I left, I told my dad I had to do it.  I told him that I wished I could help him, that I knew he was getting older, that I knew he needed me, but that I had to do it from a distance.  I had to take care of myself first. I knew that then. And .. I did what I had to do.  I needed space; a place for myself that could remain untouched by everyone around me.  I just felt like I was constantly following up on everyone else, making sure everything was in order, and I wanted to stop.  So I left.  I visited occasionally, but I admittedly disappeared for months at a time.  

It was shortly after I left that my mom and dad's wedding album disappeared.  I would come over, and Marlene would blame my mom, my mom would blame my Marlene, and my dad just sat back, only to occasionally intervene to quiet them.  It was never a particularly pressing issue.  Neither of them could wholeheartedly confirm that they were not the culprit, but they each still blamed the other.  All they knew for certain was that the album was not to be found, and each considered the other responsible. 

***

As the executor, after my father passed away, I had to go through all of his final expenses, and close up his accounts, etc...  To do this, I needed his personal documents, so, naturally, I looked to his briefcase.

I set it down in front of me, and paused.  I looked at it.  I teared up just touching it.  My dad wasn't secretive about its contents.  He was just protective of it.  It was one spot that remained untouched by the chaos that surrounded it all of these years.  "He needed that," I thought, "if I were anything like him."  I thought about all of the times I had popped it open in the past.  It was as a young child.  I found his old university report cards.  I found some letters from family.  He had certificates and awards.  He had cards.  It was all entertaining stuff to read.

I loved my dad, and I loved to learn about who he was.  After age six or seven, I was past the briefcase. I was on to listening to stories he told me about his life.  I got older, and I moved on to interrogating him about it.  I got even older, and he began sharing the inspiration to the wise words he'd spoken to me all me life.  We talked about his youth, his family, his education, his romances, his social life, his travels, and what he wanted me to take from all of it.

I rested my hands over the lock, and turned each piece to fit the correct sequence, and popped open his briefcase for the first time in about twenty years.  What I found, to my surprise, sitting well-kept, and safely preserved inside was the missing wedding photo album.  

I was taken aback.  All these years, he watched them bicker when he knew.  "Oh, dad."  I found the documents that I needed.  "When I thought it was over, and you were gone, I was wrong.  You saved me this."

***

(...back to the dinner)   I continued to eat my dinner while I listened to the sound of their voices escalate, and when I decided it was time, I walked over.

Standing by the end of their table, I asked calmly, "When do you each last remember seeing it?"

I realized that I didn't know why I was asking.  They never appreciated it when I lectured them.  I pulled it out of Marlene's pocket (it was sticking out), put it on the table, and smiled.  I walked back to my seat, and they went on as if nothing had happened.

It's who they are.  It's who people are: they vary. They are not all like me.  I can't expect them to be.  I was never good at that.  My dad knew it, and lived with it, carving out a space that no one touched, not because they couldn't, but because they all loved him enough to know what it meant to him.  I think it's my time to do the same.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

On my drive in to work this morning, I thought about my father.  I thought about how I had to explain to my mother that we had to agree to the DNR.  I thought about how I had to organize the funeral.  I thought about all of the final decisions that I had to make.  I thought about all of the hard conversations I had to have.  I remembered it.  I didn't hesitate.  I looked at each situation, made a decision, closed my eyes, inhaled, and ...

Friday, 23 November 2012

Telephone and Urban Legends

I first began participating in public speaking competitions when I was in the fourth grade.  It was a surprise to everyone - my peers and teachers, alike - that I would be able to do it.  I was shy and introverted, but I was very well-received by my peers and they consistently unanimously voted me in to represent them at the annual Legion public speaking competitions.

In the eighth grade, I delivered a speech that was more like a 5-minute comedy act about dating.  I discussed what it meant to date at the age of 13: what it felt like to have a crush, to ask the object of your interest out on a date, the awkward talk with the parents for permission and dealing with rumours about your crush.

Oh, what I would do for a copy of that speech.  Actually, if I tried, I could probably recount most of it. I do remember incorporating a bit about the 'telephone' game.  It was about rumours, how quickly they spread and how they mutate. My more liberal elementary school administrators appreciated my candour.  The Legion did not.

It was what happened after the competition that remains most memorable.  One of the judges stopped to hand me a ribbon for my participation and pose with with.  She plastered on a tightly held smile, and with her gaze on the cameras, she leaned in close to me and condescendingly whispered Watch out for those rumours!  The smile was wiped off my face.  All I could think was that I was just telling the truth the of matter.  Why is that an issue?

So the other day, when a true story in which I played one of the main characters came back around to me as a rumour:
(1) two years after the fact;
(2) from the most unexpected source;
(3) through what had to have been at least 20 "telephones"; and
(4) grossly inaccurately to the point where my character had been morphed into an unrecognizable form, namely a young male (which happens to be fortunate because it could then never actually be tied to me),

it was the recollection of reciting my speech on dating that came to mind. It didn't matter how old I was when I wrote it.  It didn't matter what the story was.  It was the idea that with each transmission, the story underwent a transformation.  It was understanding that no one cared for the truth, even though that was what they claimed they were interested in. It was that I knew all of that even as a naive 13-year-old. Experience has only ever reconfirmed this for me.

How does a story change over time?  In what ways and why?  It isn't always unguided.  Some transformations are the crafty handiwork of unconscionable people.
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