About a month ago, I took the Fluffy Dog in for his annual checkup. He was perfect in every way except that his left hip didn’t extend as much as it should, and started bothering him at about 80%. The vet suggested an x-ray to see what’s going on with his hip. Because of the particular shot they’d have to take, the Fluffster would have to be under sedation. I had to think about it; that’s a lot of money to spend on diagnostics for something that isn’t even bothering him in daily life yet. Continue reading
A book about how people die stupid and unnecessary deaths makes me feel smart and accomplished just for having survived so far. On the other hand, every time I giggle-snorted at another ridiculously avoidable demise, I was also reminded of the incredibly poor judgement I have sometimes shown in my life, and reminded of just how random luck is, killing some fools and letting others live. I suppose there are more important things to wish for, but I do hope that the manner of my death won’t be a laugh on me. Continue reading
I first read Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within back in the late 80s, and I’ve reread it quite a few times since then. Natalie Goldberg’s writing is clear and uncluttered; it’s a style I enjoy. The book’s contents are divided into very short chapters, some less than two pages. She teaches through little stories and anecdotes, informed by her Zen Buddhism, and full of kindness and generosity. She encourages writers to treat themselves with that same kindness and generosity, and rather than outlining strict rules for writing, she shows how even setbacks or doubts can be approached from another angle and made useful.
I like the book’s easy, intimate, conversational style, and I very much appreciate that Goldberg does not presume to have the One True Path to writing success. Continue reading
Dear Canadians: Have you voted yet? If not, get your butt out the door.
Vote for anyone but the Conservatives. Vote to take back our country. Vote to show you care about protecting our environment, supporting scientific research, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating the children, employing the willing, sheltering the homeless, supporting the arts, taxing big business and giving the “little people” a break, already. Vote for transparency and empathy and compassion and community. Vote for survival, clean water, clean air, employment, health care, education, beauty, art, research, and all the other good things that create a societal fabric.
Vote strategically for whatever candidate in your riding has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate. And don’t give me any “I’m-too-ethical-to-vote-strategically” bullshit, either. We compromise every day, people. Every day you go to work and sell your time / labour / energy for money to pay your rent, you are compromising. Every time you engage in social intercourse and the normal give-and-take of everyday life, you are compromising. It’s a way to sacrifice short-term desires for a greater long-term goal. Let’s get the boot of the “Harper Government” off our necks, vote in a new Canadian Government, and start holding it accountable for its actions.
I’ve barely slept for nearly six weeks. Today, I finally went in to see the doctor about it. I stopped to vote on the way. There was a group of people at the wrong entrance of the building, holding their Voter Information Cards and looking confused. I called over to them “Vous venez voter? Are you here to vote?” They all nodded yes. “It’s over here, par ici. Stop Harper!”
So then I went to my clinic. (Free health care. On demand. No fees or premiums. Using the sick time I have through my workplace thanks to labour activists and unions.) My nurse practitioner had called in sick today, so I had a doctor I hadn’t met before. We shook hands and I asked if he’d voted yet. He was taken aback. “Nooo, I was going to do it on my way home.” I asked him if he knew where his voting station is. “You can look it up at elections.ca, you know. We have to stop Harper!”
Since I was there anyway for the insomnia, and it’s time for my annual checkup, I stripped down and hopped onto the table for my pap test. As I was on my back with my knees spread, wincing at the cold speculum, I was holding my phone up, reminding my social network peeps to vote. Vote! Stop Harper! The chaperone was aghast: “Are you taking a selfie????” “No,” I told her. “I am reminding people to vote. Have you voted yet? We have to stop Harper.”
Go vote. It’s not much power, a single vote. But it’s a power that you have in your own hands. Exercise it. Vote for change. Vote for someone new. Maybe the new boss will be the same as the old boss. But we know the old boss far too well. Stop Harper, and stop letting any boss get the boot on us. Let the new boss make mistakes, and hold them accountable, and expect them to do better. That’s the real power. Get rid of Harper and then get vocal. We are stronger together.
A few days ago, whereshappy posted about getting a horribly disappointing perm when she was eleven years old. That post made me laugh and it made me sad. I remember well how disappointed I was with a couple of perms I had when I was kid. I went in envisioning lovely big loose curls and I ended up looking like a poodle. But my mom and aunt (who performed the act) were so pleased with the results that I pretended I was delighted, although inside I felt uglier and more loserly than ever.
When that first perm faded away, my mom took me back for another one. Continue reading
When you’ve read a gazillion books, it’s rare to be surprised. The pleasure in reading is found in how well the story is told, how believable the characters are, how the writer deals with their variations on the (generally familiar) plot. How’s the dialogue, how’s the worldbuilding, how are the relationships, how’s the show-don’t-tell?
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my most favouritist bestest most fantabulous incrediblest writers ever. She would never, for example, write that sentence. Her writing is so understated and full of the sweet and the painful details of everyday life. Her characters are just so believable and layered; there are no unidimensional villains or angels here. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, and then those good people muddle through and do their best to be good animals (Kingsolver’s the one who inspired my tagline), and to make sense and meaning of the world around them.
Kingsolver’s touch feels so light but really it runs deep and, in my case at least, it is indelible. She treats all the isms with profound delicacy: race and gender and homophobia and disability and class and age and religion and mental illness are all in there, but difference is treated so matter-of-factly that it ceases to seem different and becomes simply the way life is.
I have read this book many times over the years. My ragged copy is over twenty years old. Kingsolver reminds me that even in the face of horrific things, we can be generous, we can be kind, and we can do better next time.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. ISBN 0060915544.
Wait, there’s more! So I was looking for an image of the book to insert into this post and I saw that this book has been banned in some places for sexual scenes and vulgar language. Huh? I do believe I’ve seen far worse on Gilmore Girls. Seriously, I would let any kid read this book. And I recommend it to anyone. Highly. Unreservedly. Insistently!
This book stood out for me because of Poehler’s amazingly positive outlook on life. Sure, things go wrong or things are hard, but overall the attitude that shines through is one of optimism, hope, belief in hard work, trust in her friends, and an understanding of how fortunate she is to be living the life she is, with work that she loves and children she loves.
It was interesting to read about her career so far. What I found especially fascinating was how she has perspective on the early days of her career, when she was unknown, passed over, broke, and struggling. Continue reading
I’m a sucker for a book about dogs. I mean, dogs, right? Nature’s most perfect animal? Except they’re not really natural, I guess. But anyway, what I love even more than a book about a dog is a book about a bad dog, because it makes me feel better about my own unruly beasts. The only problem about true stories about dogs is that they generally cover the whole lifespan of the dog. That is, from start to finish. That is, the dog usually dies at the end of the book. Well, I guess crying is good for cleaning out the sinuses. Continue reading
This is the story of Animal (Jannvar), a young man who was born shortly before a chemical disaster in his city of Khaufpur. The chemical spill affects his body so that he has to walk on all fours, hence his name. The background plot of the chemical spill, how it affects the city and its people, and the collusion between the local government and the American company responsible for the disaster, are roughly based on the Bhopal disaster. Khaufpur is a fictional city, although it does have its own website.
I loved the characters in this book, Continue reading