it’s no secret that I’ve been a bit of a hermit over the last year. I’m not entirely sure why that is so, but I know that my intolerance for discomfort is largely at play and the stupidly extreme, unpredictable weather patterns don’t help. I just need to be some place that doesn’t dip past -10 C or above 25 C and fuck the fucking humidex. I’ve also come to appreciate home more. I had a lovely love placate my angsty heart not too long ago by saying “why wouldn’t you want to be at home? you pay most of your monies for that home. all of your toys are there. it’s HOME.” and yes. it is home and I’ve been devoting a hell of a lot of brain space to it, but that’s another post for another time.
somehow, though, social media is my knight in shining social butterfly armour. in the last little while, I’ve had a number of friends use it to reach out and let me know that I’m missed or new friends reach out to say “hey, let’s do a thing because I’d like to get to know you better!” and how cool is that? how nice is it to be missed or thought of?
it is very, very nice.
last night the mister and I went to function at the home of a very talented new artist friend and holy hell, did my ego get buffed. I ran into some folks I hadn’t seen in a very long time and was greeted with hugs and love and genuine “I’ve MISSED you!” and I got to know new artist friend better and have her pass along some love from another new friend about how and who I am in my writing style and was asked by another new friend to scope some music he’s written and offer up some lyrics to go with it.
like, dudes, these people barely know me, but are entrusting me with everything from helping them create an online presence for their various endeavors to writing songs with them.
my mind is blown.
I’m totally gloating right now.
I’m not even sorry.
I am not good at malls, but I’d been dragging my heels on picking up some basics like tanks and lady-shaped tees and such for so long that my poor mister was probably ready to call it quits the next time I said “ugh. I have nothing to weeeeeeear!” and that meant heading to The Mall (we have but one, really)
I don’t panic or anything when it comes to malls. I actually did have a wee panic attack as I was prepping my bath because there was an itty bitty spider in it and the panic wasn’t because I dislike spiders, but because I didn’t want the poor thing to die in my tub and I couldn’t catch it as it just balled up, readying its self for its demise in a sea of curly hair and artisanal soap and pumiced off flesh. I daresay the poor critter likely did meet such a demise due to mutual bloody-mindedness; I needed a bath, dammit. it refused to be removed. it was a stand-off and I had all of he power, but little control. these are the things I panic about.
anyways: malls. I just don’t like them. I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to being able to get the goodies I require to live within a few blocks of home from a great selection of local goods suppliers with whom I can engage in banter that is meaningful (“did you catch that show the other night?” “planning on going to such-and-such event?” “wanna grab a beer later?”). we have, like, real relationships and I dig that. mall people are all…a bit like vultures. be they staff or patrons; everyone’s out to get theirs.
I dragged my heels today, too. I didn’t leave the house until about quarter to two when I went to bed last night thinking I’d be headed out by noon at the latest. I drank a glass of wine before I left.
once on the bus, I was happy to disappear into people-watching mode. there was one lady in particular who caught my attention. she must have been in her late 70s or early 80s and had a sort of calm, but radiant joy about her, but like about her. it was a bit like bearing witness to Mrs. Claus out on the daily: she wore really smart, acrylic, red-rimmed glasses, a lovely, flowy, midi-dress in off-white and black floral print that somehow managed to not clash with her very nicely-coiffed, very silver hair and seemed not at all bothered taking up space with her walker. I imagined a million times over telling her “you are incredibly pretty” because she is, but the sentiment was backed with so much – “you remind me of my great-grandmother” and “I hope to be like you one day” and “please tell me all of your secrets!!! especially the ones that involve butter tarts and men!!!” and I don’t think I could have even mustered “you are incredibly pretty” without it being awkward, but damn. I want her confidence as a walker-dependent, roly-poly grandmotherly-type one day and I’m not gonna lie, she almost made me miss my mall stop.
surely I’m not the only objectifier of grannies. right? no?
I did make it to the mall, but not before a stop at Michaels. 40% off days are my undoing. I bought so many toys.
I also bought the tops that I went for. a lot of tops. 10 for $100 after taxes.
but also toys.
I probably need to get out more.
is there a culinary tradition that is about NOT seasoning food? all about food that tastes like itself? if so, I wanna play on that team.
don’t get me wrong, I adore and often use the plethora of herbs and spices that make for delectable, complexly flavoured dishes, but sometimes, I just want really, really simple food like tomatoes that taste like tomatoes and steak that tastes like steak.
that’s exactly what I made myself last night for supper:
I found a lovely little New York strip loin steak at the grocer’s while I was foraging for food on my lunch break.
I heated some olive oil in my heavy cast iron pan over medium-high and seasoned it with just a wee pinch of salt, tossed the steak in along with some halved cremini mushrooms. I let that cook for about 7 minutes, flipping the steak halfway, then, while the steak rested, I added two handfuls of arugula and a quart of whole grape tomatoes to the pan and stir fried until heated through.
the results were so delicious, but most importantly, the flavour of each ingredient was true to itself. precisely what I was craving.
this time last year was a particularly dark period in the history of Mel that not too many people know about. when my sprogs moved in with their dad, I lost 30% of my income and had a very hard time catching up to the point where I could make reasonably regular child support payments. it took a couple of months and, though their dad got quite a lot of breaks from me when he was the payor, he was not as glad to return the favour. he took me to court and, extra sadly, exagerated the amount I owed. I didn’t fight it and so my wages were garnished by 50% for most of last summer. so, while things were looking on the up and up in so many facets of my life at that time, I was basically in financial jail and that’s a really depressing place to be. it takes a real toll on your psyche when you’re working 3 jobs just to make ends meet and too tired, angry and broke to do you. all of that AFTER going through a court system which is harsh on fathers, for certain, but incredibly, indelibly judgmental of mothers who “allow” (that was a word used by a duty counsel lawyer I spoke with, as if my sprogs didn’t have minds of their own and was not at all the worst judgment I heard in the process, but I’m not going further into that – too painful) their children to leave their home.
art has always been my go-to in such situations. when in doubt, art it out. but I had the joy in that squeezed out by a mother who was full of praise in public, but hyper-critical behind closed doors. she was also rather good at volunteering my services FOR FREE – “oh! you need a poster done? I have a daughter who is an over-worked, exhausted single mother who can do that for you FOR FREE!” “oh! you want custom drapes for your cottage? I have daughter who is an over-worked, exhausted single mother who can do that for you FOR FREE!” all while telling me how much better a job she would do, but not taking any of these “opportunities” on herself and exploiting my inability to say “no”.
I’m sure you get the picture of how the joy can be sucked out of your favourite activities with experiences like that. reason 183 that I no longer have a relationship with my mother.
anyways, I’ve been working on it, but I cannot lie: it has been scary. my head has been so full of negative self-talk that I began to believe, which makes it really difficult to sit down and believe you can do a thing. but I’ve been doing it and then my amazing mister tossed in a game changer in the form of a SUPER DELUXE spirograph set. who knew that a mathematical toy that required a lot of concentration and precision and MATH created for making pretty, flowery, if very precise designs could help me get back into the flow and be so inspirational? I guess I did as I’d been wanting one for years, but the experience of doing it was pretty magical.
fast forward a few months and I’m making psychedelic spiral doodles of snakes and butterflies and fishies and learning all about watercolours, a medium that has always intimidated the fuck out of me, and signing on to do a group art show all about bikes.
the inspiration was overwhelming. this is a thing I struggle with constantly, but BIKES! there’s SO much there! so much that I dragged my heels on getting started on all but collecting supplies until I finally hashed out a do-able, if simplistic concept: doodles inspired by songs inspired by bicycles.
in between deciding on my concept and beginning work on my pieces, my fairy godmother passed away and I dragged my heels even more and even contemplated dropping out of the show. I had a catch-up evening of sushi and wine and solid and much needed one-on-one time with one of my lovely loves and was describing what I was doing as “paint-by-numbers of my own, very simple drawings…that include spirographs, but I’m ok with paint-by-numbers and simplicity. I’m learning and I just need to do this show because I’ve too long shoved aside my need for creativity in the name of what others think I should be doing.” …or something like that. it was a very liberating thing to say because I believed every word of it. the following night I got back to work again.
and I did it. I wanted to submit 6 pieces and only did 5, but I did it. the daughter did too. we were scrambling with getting our submissions in some kind of mountable format at the 11th hour, but we did it and it felt really scary and really good.
what I submitted is all a bit silly and simplistic and include nebulous purple beings in alien landscapes with spirograph bits, but they all taught me something and all have a place in my heart:
title: guess we’ll never see poor Madeleine again
inspiration: apology song by The Decemberists
title: y avait Francis et Sébastien…et puis Paulette
inspiration: À Bicyclette by Yves Montand
title: I might be trapped in a world going backwards
inspiration: Hadron Collision by Propaghandi
title: I’m as Happy as the Dolphin
inspiration: Acoustic Motorbike by Luka Bloom
title: Angel Cake for You and Me
inspiration: Bike Ride to the Moon by Dukes of Stratosphear (aka XTC)
it was fun. it was very, very vulnerable-making. of course it’s I’m still entirely a work in progress because one little art show isn’t going to undo a lifetime of prioritizing the needs and wants of others over what brings me joy, but it’s a start and it really solidified my commitment to doing the work.
I’ve signed on for a 30 day online drawing course that I hope will help me get back into the creative habit more than I hope it will teach me any new skills, though that would be nice too.
a few hours ago I learned of the passing of one of the most righteous human beings I have ever known; my aunt Judy Bagshaw, my fairy godmother.
I know, you’re thinking “you mean “godmother”, Melanie”, but nope. I had a fairy godmother. I’m sorry if you didn’t have a fairy godmother/father/person and remind you that it’s never too late, but there was never any doubt to me or anyone who met her that she was, in fact, a fairy godmother. She didn’t have a magic wand or anything, but when she descended in a puff of perfectly donned frosty eyeshadow and thick mascara and infectious giggles and the voice of an angel who really liked coffee and pure, uncompromising love, one could not deny being in some sublime, magical presence.
Her magic was making people feel special. I remember feeling a bit jelly, a bit threatened upon learning that she had other special people in her life. She was MY fairy godmother. I didn’t want to share. I wanted to be her special goddaughter. I had a title, dammit! But such was her magic that giving of herself to so many others never ever diminished what she and I shared together.
Her magic was making people feel equal. When you shared space with Aunt Judy, it was a sacred space in which no one was too young or too old or too rich or too poor or too gay or too straight or too ambiguous or too sick or too weird or whatever to break bread, have a coffee and share a story with.
Her magic was learning the stories. Not just listening, but learning them. Putting them in her heart and holding them because we can’t each do all of the learning to be done through our own experiences because we just don’t have the time for that, but if we learn the stories and learn FROM the stories of others, we grow stronger and sturdier and have a chance of making the world a better place.
Her magic was knowing when it wasn’t her story to tell.
So much magic.
So much love.
So much fairy godmother dust sprinkled to SO many people.
Aunt Judy’s friend, Skyla has an amazing Evil for Judy thing going onhttp://www.skyladawncameron.com/2015/05/evil-for-judy/
Even if you didn’t know her, it’d be awesome to raise the magic and spread a little fairy dust.
peace and love,
ok. I suck at scheduled writing, but I already called that foul.
we seem to finally be out of the grips of winter. don’t get me wrong, in my wee Canadian heart of hearts, I know there will be more winter, but this reprieve from the claustrophobia-inducing, unbearably cold temperatures is very welcome and I’ll take what I can get. like, this winter was seriously cold stuff that had my anxiety cranked up to 11 as there was no escaping it and, as someone who tends to make their way around life on foot, incredibly limiting and so also depressing. “shack wacky” doesn’t even begin to address how I was feeling about it all and then there was a $200+ heating bill, then a $300+ heating bill and then, to make that shit worse, going into the last days of The Coldest February in 115 Years, the pipes in our 160 year old home. I’ve been here for 11 years and never had that happen. after 6 days of 4-way negotiations between us, the city, plumbers and our landlady (who is really on the ball when it comes to stuff like this, thankfully) we finally got water into our home by way of hooking up a hose to a neighbour’s water supply. it’s not elegant, but it works.
the whole thing shed light on the value of having neighbour-friends. we had no less than three neighbours open their doors to us to grab water and showers and such. our most immediate neighbour even gave us a key to their place to make use of as and when needed. “you guys are basically family” he said when I protested and thanked and thanked and protested. I’m surrounded by some seriously sweet people.
to make it all even worser worse, it all came down just as I’d overextended myself in terms of work. I had two translation projects (one of them HUGE and both with aggressive deadlines) on the go and we’re about to release a new version of our product at the day job and I could feel the seconds on the clock ticking away for every moment I spent NOT working and dealing with water issues instead. further to that, I was grumpy and anxious on edge and wanting to get things sorted and nervous about having our landlady into our messy home made even messier by several days of no water and tracking water and dirt into the house. and my lover was grumpy and anxious and on edge and feeling a little helpless as I’m currently the one with all of the negotiating power as I’m the one with the name on all of the things. so yeah. it sucked, but luckily (again) my man is the kind of guy who is really responsive when I call timeout for straight talk so we can vent a little and realign our priorities and remind each other that we have very different approaches to these kinds of situations even if our goals are the same and walk away from it with a list of things to set in motion so we can tag team it better next time. le sigh. that is such a nice thing.
so, we have water. I am now out from under most of the grueling slash-job buses that left me without a day off since mid-February and I get this whole weekend off (youpi!) and life goes on.
among the mess and confusion, it occurred to us that we’d been living together for a full year and hadn’t killed each other yet. I’ve been reflecting on that quite a lot lately and how it’s all such a trip and how all of the visions I had of co-habitation got blown away pretty early on due to me getting played for some icky financial stuff, issues with sprogs (ach! my motherhood!) and some other odds and sods that all culminated in some pretty big identity crisis type shit that I’ve had to devote a lot of time toward in really boring, practical ways (and that I’m only just recovering from now) along with the typical trials and tribulations of learning to live with each other and be in a romantic relationship. but holy Mary mother of pearl. a year! even if all that we’ve grown dissolved tomorrow, I could look back on all of the learning and growing I’ve done with nothing less than the feeling that my pitcher is full.
this article reminded me that, over the years, I’ve had a some dudely, writerly friends come to me for advice and perspective on writing kickass women into their oeuvres and, over the years, I’d forgotten that one of my first recommendations was to go back and read Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners and REALLY read it – not for a book report or an essay, but to read as a proper voyeur looking into the lives of people who have a narrative pushed upon them and how that works against their agency and is possibly THE BEST adventure in the divination (because, duh, “The Diviners”) of identity ever written. Morag is pulled into narratives that try to strip her of agency all through the book (I mean, she’s wrapped in Rapunzel and Mary Magdalene and a whole lot more – Laurence really makes it easy for us by laying it out in terms of references accessible to we North Americans) and does a lot of “whatever! I do what I want!”-ing, where other characters don’t fare so well because they play into the external narrative that is set against them.
and I hear a chorus of “but I HATED that book!” screaming out through the ether. and fine, you don’t have to read that particular book if you don’t want to. my real point is that, if you want to write strong women into your stories, you need to read books written by women about strong women. there’s a whole world of them out there.
but c’mon…Morag even has a superpower and I’m not going to tell you what it is.
she also kicks ass.