Sunday, May 30, 2010 a good way

Self-portrait Chillin' May 2010

Since the weird virus I had a few weeks back I feel like I've had a lobotomy...but, in a good way. Let me explain.

When I was a fledgling yoga teacher my mentors were, for the most part, middle aged women verging on menopause with households, husbands, children and ageing parents to manage. Aside from teaching yoga, participating in workshops on yoga and being part of a yoga community some of them also worked part-time at "real" jobs (teaching yoga was viewed as a form of karma yoga — selfless service and as such paid a pittance).

In comparison, during the 10 years (from my mid 20's to mid 30's) that I was with them, my life was yoga focused, simple and uncomplicated. Single, with a healthy, happy, family back in Ontario, my time was my own.

Every week we attended a class called Beyond Hatha Yoga offered at Yoga Centre Victoria's digs in the local YMWCA. Here we'd explore the works of Swami Radha through self-study, writing, writing and more writing, then discuss our responses to such questions as: what is an aspirant, who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc.

In that class, on our yoga mats and in meditation sessions, realizations would rise up for a few, brief, shining moments. But, when my mentors returned to daily life, so easily and profoundly was their equanimity shattered that a common complaint was, "I thought yoga was supposed to make you calm!"

This comment has been directed at me by council members in the last few years.

I have informed them that, contrary to popular belief, people who are drawn to yoga, more often than not, are not naturally calm individuals. Yoga reveals what is — both the sublime and the ridiculous which is a no sweat experience for me on the mat or within the confines of a yoga studio, retreat or workshop where all have the same intention and speak the same language.

The challenge is to reside calmly while participating in life as the veils of illusion are peeled away. As we witness the reality of our lives, realize the consequences of our choices, the character of our loved ones and ourselves are exposed (in an often less than flattering light) it's difficult not to loose it, not to re-act unfavourably with anger, sorrow, frustration and all the other unpleasant moods that can befall us.

With the aftermath of "weird virus" my thoughts have been quite clear and my emotions easily manageable; as if someone has altered my sense of time. Urgency is gone, evaporated...poof... and, since time pressure is at the root of much of my anxiety, my emotional state is levelling. I am still aware of things that tick me off, that hasn't changed, it's just that they don't seem to break through to an intolerable level because they don't seem to stick to me. For the time being my hackles are down and my wei chi (defensive chi) is impermeable to negativity. In essence, I have become a good way.

Today I'm bearing witness to the contrast between the "speed" of the Tasmanian devilish flurry that had engulfed me before the weird virus vs its aftermath, this refreshed state of calm. It seems totally unreal, incomprehensible that:
a) I could have gotten myself into such a state in the first place
b) I couldn't see it coming or building up
c) I could only recognize its intensity in hindsight

I know it's probably only a matter of time until I get "spun" and scattered again, but for the moment I am enjoying being in the cool, calm and collected zone and am doing all I can to identify supporting behaviours that are coming so naturally and effortlessly to me now.

I have been working with a weight management (aka weight balancing) client and one of the 4 principles of eating — to eat mindfully without distraction — she finds most challenging considering her hectic lifestyle. As an observer, it seems a simple matter of perspective and prioritizing. I don't ask clients to do anything that I can't do so I too have been eating at least one meal a day mindfully which means no reading, watching TV, talking etc.; just eat.

The idea is simple, as you chew each bite of food 20 times put down your utensils and enjoy the taste, texture, sight and smell of the food, and eating becomes a form of meditation. But, as I eat I catch myself on the verge of engaging in scattering behaviours:
  • Without thought, a nervous twitch reflex prompts me to reach to pick up a magazine, the newspaper or glance at the notes on the side of a cereal box (that's how addicted I am to reading and keeping an internal voice going on).
  • My mind travels backwards and forwards in time like a fidgety child unable to stay in one place trying to get me to come along.
  • I have to fight the compulsion to multi-task, to do something as I'm eating in order to "save time" but, I don't know what I'm "saving" it for. Aside from breathing, what could be more important than fuelling the body; my body?
  • Emotions generate stories that begin to spin themselves in my mind; at other times stories generate emotions all of which threaten to crowd out the senses that are keep me anchored in the present.
Happily, I find mindful eating, intended to bring awareness to a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, is slowing me down, shifting my perspective and increasing my mindfulness during daily activities in a pragmatic way. None of my other meditation practices has done this.

This seems a horrible thing for a yoga teacher to admit, but here it goes. I am becoming aware of what my relaxed rhythm feels like. That there is such a thing seems news to me, it's been that long since I last was in touch with it.

As I bring myself back to just eating, I now notice how violent my "speedy" actions feel; how violent I feel when I violate my relaxed rhythm. When I have the inkling that something else needs to be done at that very moment I'm engaged in eating mindfully it is felt an insult; unbelievable!

How long have I been doing this and in how many different ways?

Fear is underneath it all generating my speediness. Fear that:
  • I won't be able to keep up (with whom or what seems irrelevant)
  • "it" (whatever it is) won't get done in "due" time (whenever that is)
  • if I don't do it right now I will forget it (but the thought inevitably recurs and with it a growing sense of urgency)
To quell the rush of things that increase my sense of urgency I'm setting priorities - 3 per day. 3 things that I feel need to be done come to the front of the line, anything else I elect to deal with is a bonus and everything else can come back another day.

And, for the moment the Tasmanian devil in me is gone. Please, let me know when you see her again. To break the spell, the phrase is, "I thought yoga was supposed to make you calm!"

Synchronic happening observed - as I was in the middle of writing this the other night (Sun May 30th - ignore the time stamp on this post as I worked on it over a few days, finally posting it on Tuesday June 1st) I took a break and came upon a TV show in which Stephen Hawking was talking about Time Travel and he states these facts:
  • "mass slows down time"
  • Time differs in different areas of the earth i.e. time moves slower nearer the pyramids.
This got me wondering. When I feel grounded I feel more present, solid, centred as if my molecules are more collected; my sense of time slows. So, when I feel scattered and spun are my molecules dispersed a little more randomly into the universe making time speed ahead and leaving me attempting to "collect" myself while seemingly forever trying to catch up? Just wondering.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The ball is cast

Synchronicity (I know it is more accurately referred to as coincidence but I use the word synchronicity because it sounds more fun and magical) at its finest:

For this entry blame:
  • Scott Adams of Dilbert
  • and Lynden Blades who hosts a website offering free juggling lessons
  • Rod Kimball of the Flying Kamarazov Brothers
I'll take you back to how it all started. It was a dark and stormy, actually it was a sunny, Monday morning; just last week in fact.

FIRST EVENT - the unexceptionable beginning
While walking with Glyn and Jack down to the beach I began to juggle, and, since Jack knows how to juggle as well, we tried and failed miserably to juggle the 3 balls between us as we walked, so we changed the game. The "juggler" would walk while juggling until they either dropped the balls or lost control in a way that made them loose their rhythm (running after the balls not allowed) after which the balls would be passed off to the other person.

This got me talking about the Flying Kamarazov Brothers who I'd seen over 20 years ago in a venue in Toronto.

Oddly enough there was, at that same time, an informally formed group of juggling animators at Sheridan College during my student animator days and I'd hoped to drop in some time and join the fun. This is what the juggling clubs — now in the possesion of destined juggler extraordinaire Latisha LaFlamme - were intended for. But, the course took all my waking and sleeping hours to such an extent that my family thought I still lived out west and Rod began wondering who belonged to the pink toothbrush littering his bathroom counter top.

SECOND EVENT - the seed is sown
Tuesday night I read Scott Adams blog entry COINCIDENCE which got me thinking wow I really haven't had any incidences in a long while.

THIRD EVENT - a little aside, but still relevant
Next, my juggling balls are well worn, I did a lousy job of re-taping them and they are in need of re-taping or at least repair. So the on Wednesday night I googled how to make your own juggling balls and perused a number of different sites, but the one that got my attention was that of Lynden Blades when he ended his lesson with the request to, "Help me teach as many people around the world, for free, to juggle and spread the happiness around."

To my mind, this is an honourable goal that, just that night before surfing the net, I'd begun considering doing myself. I'm not that great a juggler so go to his site here and my contribution to spreading world domination by jugglers is complete.

Juggling is a happy pursuit. Yes, it can be frustrating but no one is holding a gun to your head commanding you to, "Juggle damn you or I'll shoot you in the foot." It's always, "Dance damn you or I'll shoot you in the foot." Isn't it?

FOURTH EVENT - the completion
Last night I go into my dashboard and find not one but 2 comments have been left regarding my last blog entry. Oh boy, oh boy I was sooo excited!!!

The comments were from some guy named Rod Kimball, OK so it's a bit of a promo, but it's for juggling (and world domination of...) and he's taken the time to comment on the entry, sure what the heck I'll allow it, this time. And, then a small voice says, wait shouldn't yo
u check to make sure this site is one you'd want to have on your blog after all in hypnosis you don't just let anyone into your safe, happy place, why should you let just anyone onto your comment space.

Good point. So, listening to the wisdom of my inner voice I checked it.

OMG, I couldn't believe it: that someone's out there, that they found my site and are also a juggler (How did that happen? This web world is truly amazing.), that they took the
time to comment...AND, AND...that he's a FLYING KAMARAZOV BROTHER! The COINCIDENCE blog that Adams wrote, which I read, set in motion a coincidence stream that has been completed in this very cool, totally unpredictable way!

I LOVE COINCIDENCES they are magical!

Thanks Rod for taking the time to comment (check out comments at the bottom of the previous post - he also teaches juggling) and for your participation in this event. And, thanks to anyone who stumbles upon this site for reading. I hope it's as fun for you to read as it is for me to write. Have a great one and keep those balls in the air!

Everyone needs a cool juggling bag and this is mine. It used to be my alley bag when I was a kid.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kid, Adult...What?

(cartoon copyright Nance Thacker 1990)
(click on image to enlarge)

Red the Juggler taught me and a horde of 8 to 12 year-old kids how to juggle. I should mention that I was 30 at the time.

Catherine "the Great", a former co-op house-mate of mine, had a friend who owned a children's bookstore in Market Square in Victoria, who had a friend who was a juggler — that would be the aforementioned Red, so named for his halo of fabulous, frizzy, flaming, orange hair. Red's claim to fame was that he could teach anyone how to juggle and was going to be doing so "for free" in the middle of square in two weeks time.

Co-incidentally, she was aware that this happened to be something I always wanted to do. As I was perpetually juggling 6 or more jobs at the time: yoga teacher, artist's model, house sitter, cartoonist, and dishwasher (to name a few), it seemed metaphorically apropos.

It proved to be way more fun than the breakdancing class I took a few months later — which was a one-time-only experience, cut short when I woke up the next day to find that I was unable to comb my hair. My neck was stuck ramrod straight and though I could raise my arms up to shoulder height I couldn't get my hands to reach my head. Oddly there was no pain; just no movement, until my chiropractor cracked me out. And when he did, though painless, the action produced such a loud crack that I screamed, I kid you not! His receptionist came running into the room to make sure everything was OK, my scream was that impressive.

I'd subluxed my first rib and he said, somewhat awestruck, "This is not an easy thing to do. I hardly ever see this. What the heck were you doing?"

At the time it seemed perfectly normal to be trying something that fascinated me, but it was downright embarrassing to hear the words, "I was learning how to breakdance" come out of my 30 year-old mouth. The look on his face only served only to anchor my humiliation as I explained that I was, (to my surprise) the only 30 year-old woman clad in yoga gear, in a class of flood pants wearing pre-teen boys with the addition of one "30 something" guy in sweat suit attire. I never found out how the other geezer fared but since I was whipping his ass in the agility department that night I can assume that in another chiropractor's office somewhere in the city he too was getting cracked out.

Anyway, the juggling class was 1 hour of pure frustration. Mostly it consisted of a bunch of kids (and me) dodging each other, running after errant flying balls, getting bonked in the head by errant flying balls, retrieving them from underneath benches and chairs and picking them out of flower baskets, of which there were many in the garden city of Victoria. At the end of the class I stood in line with the rest of the kids to purchase a set of handmade juggling balls for $5. - Red made himself a decent buck that day. And hours later, after everyone else's mother had called them home for dinner, there I remained until finally my passes were met with success and I could claim to actually be a juggler.

Juggling is a form of play and a way for me to relax. Juggling wipes my mind clear of anything else; if you can't focus you can't juggle. Years ago I was told that the women of Tonga juggle to attract a mate, don't know if that is true for them but it worked for me as, "Can you teach me how to juggle?" was the pick up line Rod used before inviting me out on our first date. (He met me at his brother's place and saw me juggle for his nephews.) I can see it all now, hordes of 30 something, single women forgoing make-up and the little, cleavage revealing, black dress in favour of learning the art of juggling to find the man of their dreams. Stranger things could happen.

What brings this to mind is that Rod and I, Glennie and Pam (2 other council members) spent this past May 2 4 weekend at Flo and Jack's place in Port Albert just a 15 minute walk from Lake Huron. It was a fantastic weekend full of laughs, stimulating conversation, great food (Jack is the most amazing cook and he makes it look so easy), fantastic hospitality (Flo is a gracious and doting hostess) and wine.

On Sunday we did whatever we wanted to do which meant that: Flo, Glyn and Pam went into Bayfield to shop, Rod and Jack played 9 holes of golf and I went to the lake to walk, read and meditate. I'd been craving a silent retreat for a few weeks now so I did my own little vipasana session. Though I had only a few hours it was incredibly rewarding. I alternated sitting for 20 minutes with 20 minutes of walking. As I walked down the country lane on my way back to the house I juggled which is not only entertaining but my favourite form of walking meditation.

What was different about this particular weekend was that we played games - scrabble, cribbage, crokinole, bocce ball. Crokinole and bocce we played the way kids do, making up our own rules as we saw fit. Bocce ball on the beach took on its own unique form. As Jack carved the double borders of the court into the sand beach we set up the ground rules.

"What will we do if the ball goes out of the court?"

"The team who owns the ball gets a negative score."

"Negative score! You can't have a negative score."

"Why not?" I asked. No one could come up with a good answer so scores of minus one's and two's appeared and disappeared as the games progressed.

"And if you hit the jack (the little white ball) in such a way that it gets covered by sand then you gain a point." Jack proposed, which we all thought was a brilliant idea and was met with great enthusiasm.

We acted like children taunting and teasing the other team; rallying our own team mate to, "Shake it off, shake it off." when the ball leapt out of their hand and into a negative situation. And when the games were over the winning team high-fived and gloated victoriously.

Finally, playmates my own age!

About the cartoon: yes, this actually did happen years after my first class with Red. I was totally taken aback when, instead of being greeted with child-like expressions of awe, this little middle-aged woman in a kid's body said those very words to me.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Wow, there's somebody out there, not just in here.
Thanks for your responses.

Have a great weekend all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hit Critic

(Cartoon copyright Nance Thacker 1985. All rights reserved.)
(click on image to englarge)
Hi all,
As you can see this blog continues to be a work in progress. Last night, or rather I should say early this morning, I added "reactions" at the bottom of each post so that you can respond quickly and easily with one click. Notice that the response options are all positive ones, yup I'm a wimp.

Sometimes it takes too much time to make a comment in the blog itself, you have to open (just in case you decide to open one) a Google account if you don't already have one and then each time you enter your comment you have to give additional info and decipher and type in the mystery word. Friends comment through my e-mail which is great, but it looks like no one is reading.

What's weird, is the reality that probably very few people are reading this yet here I am typing away as if I have an audience when in fact it's a fantasy that's all in my head — no wonder why writers are all screwed up. It's not like writing a diary which you guard with your life because, God forbid, you don't want anyone to read - I want that garbage (not me) to stay all locked up safe and sound, thank you very much. Nope, this stuff I'm choosing to put out here.

What drives me to do this?

Scott Adams, (I must add that he's the Dilbert guy so has definitely had his share of attention + the monetary benefits of a successful cartoon empire) whose blog I follow, says he blogs for attention (see The Value of Attention and The Attention Contest) . His theory is that writers write primarily for attention and I think he's right on — we will write (artists will paint, singers will sing, performers will perform...) to get our voices heard about anything, most often (for the vast majority of us) for nothing or virtually nothing.

Can you imagine a surgeon just dying to perform open heart surgery just for the thrill of it or your accountant saying, "Let me at that income tax form. I just loooove digging into the old shoe box, sorting out all those tiny, folded up, crumpled receipts, entering each number in its own little space. Ooooh, no, no, no don't pay me. I do it for the love of numbers!" Neither can I.

But artists...we're a whole different breed.

I used to think I write and draw just for the creative release and satisfaction it gives me, but that's a lie. I'm definitely an attention seeker. I was the kid doing flips and cartwheels in the back yard all the while yelling and waving my arms in the air to get Mom's attention. She was a captive audience (the best kind for a child) who could see me from her vantage point on the other side of the kitchen window while she perpetually did the dishes , "Look, look at me. Look at this. Oh my God, did you seeeeee me do that?"

So, I thought reactions might be a good way to go. Just "click" if you think it's funny, interesting or you like it and it's done, no fuss, no muss and totally anonymous. I know it's all so Sally Fieldish - you like me, you really like me — but humour me. It would be nice to know you're out there but if you are out there and you really don't have any comment that's OK too I'm sure on some level I'm getting the vibe.

Anyway, whoever you are, thanks for reading and have a great one!

About the cartoon: this was inspired by a discussion I had with one of my many employers years ago.

I worked for a natural food store at the time and was in charge of advertising and managed shipping and receiving. One particular customer would always find something wrong with her order. I was about ready to tear my hair out as 98% of the time the order was correct. Eventually I handled her order personally, take the order directly from her over the phone, put it together and deliver it myself; double and triple checking all the steps along the way.

I would have the proof right in my hand but she would change her mind (consciously or subconsciously I don't know) on an item or find something to complain about and complain she did. It seemed that events in her life had to fit her theory that everyone but her was an incompetent.

I'd swallow what I really wanted to say and follow the retail gospel of THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

One day after a particular trying interaction with her, my boss and I began to fantasize about what we really wanted to say to her. She said, "I couldn't say it myself but...wouldn't it be great if you could hire a HIT CRITIC to do it for you? Someone who could just go in there and really blast her. How great would it feel like to be a Hit Critic?"

Years later, after receiving my gazillionth rejection letter from publishers regarding my cartoons, I realized that, if there were such a thing, I'd be the one receiving a visit from an all too enthusiastic Hit Critic.

Fortunately the scenario played out in cartoonland and I got Al to take the hit for me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reader's Digest Reject #3

You know 'em, you love 'em and you've been wondering where are all the Reader's Digest rejects that she talked about way back when.

Well, here's another one.

My slightly hearing-impaired, frustrated friend complains to his wife.

"I don't trust doctors. You go in for one thing and before you know it, they send you to specialists for all kinds of tests. The doctor said, 'you have blood in your urine; you have to see a urologist.'"

"You complain about your hearing and they end up looking at the other end?" she asks, puzzled by this development.

So she phones the doctor's office and the receptionist chuckles while relaying this message. "The doctor said to your husband, 'you have blood in your ear; you have to see an audiologist.'"

Rules: word count must be 100 words or less; story must be true.
Word count: 100
And, as per the rules — totally true story.

If you liked this (and who wouldn't) you will want to click on
Reader's Digest Reject #1 — which recounts a sad tale of rejection and revenge

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Turn Around

every turn
Fire of desire
Turn me
Oppression, compression, tension,
Drive me
Deeper, deeper...
Diamonds bursting forth

in Moon-drops

Sunlight dances
on water's rippled edge

(Poem and photo copyright Nance Thacker 2010. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It takes a village

So, maybe you're wondering what happened to Dad after his assessment. Well, pretty much nothing as he passed it within an acceptable range. But more importantly, just the year before when my parents had been together, the social worker deemed them to be a "lovely, little, co-dependent couple." What enabled them to cope was that each compensated for what the other lacked.

Life went on as usual except over time his wallet disappeared with increasing frequency and every once in a while, although he'd driven into town, he'd return home in a cab courtesy of Oakville storeowners who knew who he was and where he lived. And when a bank employee brought it to our attention that he was getting money out of the ATM with the assistance of strangers, Rob began to manage Dad's finances (Rob also became a wallet and car wrangler). Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child but it became apparent that it also takes one to keep an elder safe.

He lived with Mom in the family home until he died after which time the unwelcome spotlight shifted onto Mom aka "The Recluse"who lived alone in the family home with the assistance of her 5 children until safety issues and falls became an issue. Without the ongoing concern for the well-being of Dad aka "Mr. Social" her difficulties became obvious.

After her first solo geriatric evaluation (which I wrote about in The Sentence) she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and put on a drug to slow the decline of her cognitive function. Over time another was added to the mix and a year later its dosage was increased which sent her over the edge.

She began to experience visual hallucinations, people were present that only she could see. She voiced her distress, "Something is terribly wrong. It seems so real. I don't know what's real anymore. I'm in a fog half the time. This is no way to live." Thankfully when we took her off the drug the hallucinations stopped.

But at the next assessment her score had plummeted and after reviewing the numbers the geriatric specialist talked into her voice recorder, "I recommend Edith continue with Aricept and we re-introduce Ebixa to stall the progression of the disease..."

She hadn't even asked us. "No" I said.

"If we don't do this she'll decline at a more rapid rate. Her numbers are significantly decreased since the last evaluation."

"For what benefit? She felt she was going crazy."

"Then there's nothing more we can do for her."

We decided that this would be her last yearly, unnatural, stress-filled assessment. Personally, I felt relieved but also weighed down with a sense of loss and failure.

We might as well get some enjoyment out of this day, I thought, though I was going through the motions, distracted by the verdict handed down to her of a life sentence of inevitable, horrible, decline. So before heading back to the nursing home we went in to the Tim's in the hospital and got a coffee and some "donies" (as she called Timbits). She did not want to take her coat off so as I placed a napkin in her lap I said, speaking distractedly half to myself, "We'd better use this as you're wearing the coat that Jude got you and if it gets stained she'll kill me." Then I happened to look down at the floor and notice she was wearing her good shoes, the ones Rob had found for her. "God I hope it's not raining when we leave cus the shoes Rob got you will be ruined and he'll kill me." I'd almost forgotten that she was there.

She began to laugh, "Well, you can only die once."

She was present, she remembered what I'd said and made a joke in an effort to cheer me up. There was a glimmer of hope and I laughed with her.

* note: I began this on Sat but finished it Tues May 18th, just don't know how to get it to appear in the right order.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Sentence

My mother is wheelchair bound, her memory is failing, and although her desire to communicate seems to be increasing her speech is incomprehensible most of the time but her spirit is kind and she is well loved by all who meet her.

The last few days we've had to make a yearly decision regarding the Life Care Directive - basically a guide of protocol for the nursing home to follow should she suddenly be faced with a life threatening event and family members met with staff to review her progress since the last meeting, ask questions and address any concerns we might have.

This has put me in a reflective mode, so here is a piece I wrote some years back about another aspect of my parents' journey through old age.


The Sentence

The white-coated geriatric specialist quickly glances over the completed questionnaire she holds in her hand. The goal of this geriatric assessment is to ascertain the state of my father's memory and judge, ultimately his competency.

She notes that the questions WHAT DAY IS IT? and WHO IS THE PRIME MINISTER? have been correctly answered. The task to reproduce the drawing of a six-sided symbol has been performed reasonably well for an 84-year-old with "intentional" hand tremours. But his response to the request - WRITE A SENTENCE IN THE BLANK SPACE PROVIDED - catches her eye, as he knew it would.

Watching her; his blue eyes twinkle in anticipation. As she reads what he has written the barest hint of a smile momentarily cracks through her cool reserve. He smiles in return; a visual receipt of a delivery completed.

* * *

A year after his death my mother is faced with the same geriatric assessment. She reads the same request and it puzzles her.


She looks at me, pen suspended in space, frozen in the moment, quietly beseeching me.

"Don't look at me," I say. This is her test. I cannot interfere. Her hesitation is damning. "I can't help you. It's up to you." After an unbearable eternity passes (though in reality I know it has only been a few seconds; it is my sorrow that has stretched time) I give in and coax her anyway. "What do you want to write?"

She laughs shaking her head. Stupid assignment; stupid me, is what she's thinking, I suspect. Then she resumes staring blankly at the blank space on the page on the table in front of her as the social worker waits, checks her watch and notes.

"Write a sentence there," I point, I think that's allowed "anything that comes into your head."

Her hand makes tentative circles in the air just above the page, writing imaginary letters of thought. The moment her pen alights on the paper possibilities evaporate. "I don't know what to write." Her laugh betrays embarrassment and performance anxiety.

"You could write that," I suggest encouragingly.

And so, in her beautiful cursive script she writes:

I don't know what to write.

* * *

Today I smile as I recall what he had written, complete with three exclamation marks:

Getting old sucks!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I woke up several times during the dark hours Sat morning feeling yucky with waves of nausea washing over me, stomach churning, salivary glands secreting, beads of sweat breaking out over my forehead and body, jaw clenching to keep myself from vomiting. Don't you hate throwing up? I do, uugh!

From the tip of my tailbone to my atlas/axis, my back felt like every vertebrae was subluxed causing discomfort from my muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue down to the finest fibres of my body. Oddly, the only thing that didn't hurt was my head and hair. I had all the symptoms of a migraine without the head pain — weird. Since I tend to migraines this was a medical wonder and a small consolation.

I did what I usually do with migraines, I meditated on the pain and went into it. This often helps diffuse it to some degree. I tried various positions: lay on my back in a restorative yoga pose with my chest and head elevated which gives space to the abdominal organs and helps to settle them; then lay on my stomach turning my head and changing my arm positions every 20 breaths or so. The latter is my Mom's remedy for a "tummy" ache which I think has some merit from a meridian point of view as the stomach meridian runs through the front of the body, down the quads and over the top of the ankles and feet (the pressure on the front of the body and warmth is soothing). These efforts did indeed help everything to settle somewhat; enough that I could go deeper.

And what did I find? Everytime a thought or worry came into my head — wham! My stomach would turn. Even the mere inkling that my mind was veering in that general direction was enough to trigger it. When I settled my attention on neutral things, as when I focused on the breath and body position, or, better still combine this with images of a warm, golden, desert plain or a blank canvas it would level out and I'd feel a degree of warmth and calm.

Once I made the connection I tested my theory and sure enough it was so. Every thought brought that churning sensation, most especially these: OMG I'm having a heart attack (Not, or 2 of my clients and 1 friend had had one over the past few weeks too.) and OMG I'm having a stroke. (Can you smile - check, raise both arms - check, speak a sentence - check. Not.)

The nausea persisted the rest of the day and into Sunday as a low laying sour stomach feeling. Within about 48 hours, aided to no small degree by hanging like a bat from my yoga ropes, doing meridian stretches and laying on my back with balls under my skull and glutes it had gone.

Normally I hate being sick with a passion but this time it was different. I had a great weekend! I spent most Saturday sleeping (which I haven't done since... well I can't remember when) drifting in and out of dreams and occasionally rousing myself enough to munch on crackers (the ones "Mooching" Maya hadn't licked) or sip tea or ginger ale which Rod had brought up to my bedside. I'd allow no thoughts of: past, future, things to do or not do, judgements, plans or the like to cross my mind.

I stayed in my PJ's the whole day! And when I got up at 5 p.m. I dove into The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill which was so beautifully written and engaged me so completely that I couldn't put it down til I'd read the last word on Sunday night.

It was as if my mind had reached a point of overload; the only remedy was to give it a rest. The ideal would be to go away, live on a mountain top and just be. So that's what I did, minus going away and living on a mountain top. No phones were answered; e-mails checked or errands done. I let the busy-ness of life drop away once I'd convinced myself that surely the world and everyone in it would get along just fine without my input for 48 hours.

I let cares dissolve into meditation, unloaded my mind through dreams and when my mind had settled enough, I gave it permission to focus on words someone else had written on a page rather than be scattered by those swirling around in my head; I allowed it to become entranced by the author's finely crafted story line rather than be tossed by the gazillion random fretful, fearful, busy ones that normally bubble up in my overwrought mind.

I read without a highlighter in hand, bending any pages or making notes in the margins, which was tremendously freeing (I usually read non-fiction books and articles related to work and am constantly entering info into my brain).

I'd forgotten what a treat it is to be able to just read for the pure pleasure of it.

Late Sunday night Rod was surfing the net in search of a dining room table. He was cruising Amish furniture websites as we're looking for a dining room table to go with some stuff we already have. On one website was a picture of a church and a statement that said they kept Sunday sacred and would be back tomorrow. Not only do they take the day off, they even give their website a day of rest!

It was a synchronistic reminder for me to question how important is the s**t that goes on in my mind or the stuff that I do in the scheme of things that I can't give it a day of rest now and again.

Next time it won't be because I feel like crap, it'll just be because.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

revenge is sweet

(cartoon copyright Nance Thacker 1991. All rights reserved.)
click on image to enlarge

My mother stood with her face mere inches away from the mirror that hung on the side of the cabinet in the kitchen. She often did this on sunny days.

"What ya doin'?" I was filled with an eight-year-old's curiousity because I was an eight-year-old.

"Never mind, go away!" she swatted in my general direction, never taking her eyes off the mirror as she looked down her nose at the offending object and then directed her tweezers with the dexterity of a surgeon.

I leaned in closer too and I was amazed and puzzled by what I saw. Then I began to giggle uncontrollably and point at her face. "You've got hair on your chin!"

She was mortified, which made me laugh all the more. Yes, children...OK, let's take more responsibility here, I could be cruel and I was, unrelentingly so. "You've got a beard just like Dad."

"It's not a beard, it's just a few chin hairs," she sounded like an upperclass New Englander as she jutted her chin out to dig at another tiny black stray and yank it free.

I was in convulsions of outright laughter now.

"You'll get them too." She said, still squinting away, casing out her reflection for more stray, offending outgrowths.

Whoa, what did she say? That shut me up real quick, "No way".

"Yes, you will," she stopped what she was doing, turned and looked me in the eye, "you just wait til you get to be my age and the hormones change... " Then she issued her prophecy, "it'll happen to you too."

I stood like a deer in the headlights as the horrific thought sunk in.

Now the tables were turned and she was tormenting me with glee. "Yup, just wait, then I'll be the one laughing," but she didn't wait; she laughed then and there and waived her tweezers in the air as I ran out of the room. "You'll see."

So, here it is a few decades later. I'm washing my face and watching my reflection in the mirror. I rinse off the suds and as I reach for a towel the sun hits my face revealing a rarely glimpsed angle and there it is, the longest, wiryest, thickest, blackest chin hair ever. Now this isn't the first chin hair experience I've ever had (the date on the cartoon attests to that) but IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO MISS. HOW MANY CONVERSATIONS HAVE I HAD WITH PEOPLE AND ALL THEY'VE TAKEN IN IS THIS HIDEOUS THING WAVING IN THE WIND? WHY DIDN'T SOMEBODY TELL ME!

In a nursing home, not far away, a little old lady is laughing.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I'm in love with these shoes! It's as if the barefoot fairy came in the middle of the night, measured my feet, went back to her workshop and then crafted these little beauties. They have stubby toes and are broad in the forefoot, just like my own feet!

After my Around the Bay 30K walking experience I threw out my blister-maker, toe-holed, 10-year-old shoes but was at a loss as to know what to replace them with. The sandals that held so much hope proved to be duds when 1/2 hour into the last walk with Candy we had to turn back as blisters were forming on my feet again. I completed most of the walk on the way back, barefoot which, though it left me with blackened soles, was a vast improvement in the comfort department.

I used to often walk barefoot around McMaster campus in the early '70's (ah the days of my free-spirited, youth). Through high school and university when I did have to wear shoes they were simple deerskin hide moccasins that I tied on to my feet. And putting these things on feels surprisingly similar.

Without layers of rubber, air cushions, springs and all sorts of gimmicks that the latest style of running shoe offers, I can once more feel the earth, concrete and gravel under my feet. Knowing this most people ask "Doesn't that hurt?" when they stop me to check out my unusual foot ware.

Believe me I've gotten stopped a lot. I can tell you that I was a real hit at Mom's nursing home the other day when one of the little old ladies began pointing and yelling, "Look at her feet! Look at her feet!" everyone came running thinking that some horrible affliction was breaking out amongst the residents only to find a crowd gathered around me and checking out these funny looking shoes. And, just today a woman stopped me in the grocery store's parking lot, "I hope you don't mind me asking but, at first I thought you were some kind of nut walking around in your socks, then I took another look and I just have to see them." After I flashed them at her she exclaimed, "How cute," asked me a gazillion questions and then stated, "I just have to get a pair."

In answer to the it doesn't hurt to walk in them, amazingly not, I think it's because I have to be more mindful of every step. So, not only do my feet feel happy, I in turn feel more grounded and connected to everything around me. I walk and run more naturally with the most impact on the balls of my feet rather than pounding on my heels.

Sure my feet sweat a little in them, but it's not been a problem for me and people don't recoil when I take them off so I know there's been no problem for anybody in my immediate vicinity.

Though I plan to walk Around the Bay 30K next year in them, I'll probably have to buy another pair before then as I'm wearing these everywhere, all the time. Anything else pales in comparison. It's a good thing I'm not a dress wearing kind of gal, that really would look weird.

They are called Vibram 5 fingers (you'd think it would be toes, but it's not), model KSO. I got them at Neworld Runner's Store in Burlington - but act fast, he's running out and when I last talked to him he said that the next shipment doesn't come in til August.