Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The "R" Word...

Well, it's that time of year again, the time for the dreaded "R" word -- resolutions. Every year we make them, and every year most of last until about -- oh -- January 10th. And then we are back to our old habits again. I decided this year I am going to make a New Year's resolution that will be very difficult to break. It won't take any willpower at all, I won't have to deny myself anything, I won't even have to write it down anywhere so I don't forget to keep it. This is a resolution that, once begun, will keep itself. I have decided that 2010 is that year that I am going to ...

... HAVE FUN ...!

Yes, I am.

That may sound a bit selfish, or at the very least egocentric. We are supposed to put other people first, aren't we? That is what we are taught at a very early age. I have always felt a bit like a kid outside the candy store, watching everyone else inside, loading up on all the goodies. But more than that, I have always felt that I did not deserve to be inside the candy store. I have no idea why I have felt that way -- I just have. All the wonderful things in life that everyone comes to expect, were not meant for me. And I'm not talking about material things, but the things that bring people the most joy -- the intangible things. This past year I have watched many of my friends achieve great happiness -- and I was even primarily instrumental in one instance. And then I do what I always do -- I stand back and observe -- always the spectator, never the participant.

So, this year I have decided it is going to be my turn inside the candy store. I'm not sure how I'm going to get in there, but I am determined to do it.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ... Mark Twain

Happy New Year to all my wonderful blogging friends.


Monday, December 28, 2009

I Remember The Granite Castles...

When I was about three years old, I lived in a small town on Vancouver Island. Life in my town was quite provincial, to say the least. It was a pretty little town, but it was not a hub of cultural activity. Every night my parents used to put me to bed at around 7:00 or so, long before I was ready to go to sleep. I used to lie in my bed and remember walking through a castle made of blocks of granite. On the walls were large hunting tapestries, and I remembered looking up at the tapestries and admiring them. The hallways were lit by candles in wall sconces. I would spend hours walking through the walls carefully studying the tapestries. But of course, I was in my bed in my small town on Vancouver Island, and I can assure you that at the age of three, I had never been in a granite castle. And I had never seen a hunting tapestry, but I very clearly remembered them.

My memory of the hunting tapestries was very vivid, and I could recall the details in them, and the wonderful colors. They had fascinated me and I would study the shapes of the people and the animals, and the scenes they portrayed. I had memorized them by heart, and I could pull them out of my memory banks whenever I wanted, and visit with them from my little bed in my small town. It never occurred to me that I should not be doing this. They were memories of objects that I loved, that had been my companions for hours on end, and I can still remember them.

When I was about 15 years old, I was looking through my father's bookcases, and I found a book called "The England of Elizabeth" by A.L. Rowse. The book described Elizabeth life -- society, culture, politics, religion, art, cooking, and so much more. As I read the book, I had the warm feeling of familiarity, as though I had lived the life the book was describing. The book became like a friend. And then I got to the part about the tapestries.

According to the book, tapestries provided insulation for granite castle walls. They were used in medieval castles and manor houses, where the high walls had only a few narrow doors and windows. By using tapestries specially woven to hang between windows and over doors, it was possible to cover entire walls of bare stone. Suspended a foot or two from the surface of the wall, tapestries reduced condensation and drafts, as well as provided some insulation against the cold. The most popular subjects were hunting scenes, tournaments and battles, Bible stories, mythology, and legend. There were also tapestries of the outdoors, fields, gardens, flowers and woods. The book went on to say, "Both Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey had had a passion for collecting tapestries. Wolsey bought hundreds for Hampton Court, and on his fall, Henry took his entire collection from him -- no wonder that the acquisitive king left some 2,000 at his death." ... A.L. Rowse, "The England of Elizabeth".

How does one explain something like that? I have no idea. All I know is that, as a child, I remembered these wonderful works of art. I used to lie in my bed in my small town on Vancouver Island, and wander through the huge, candle-lit granite halls of the castles, looking at the beautiful tapestries hanging there. I remembered every detail of them, and I remembered them as surely as if I had seen them the day before. For Christmas, a very dear friend gave me the whole set of A.L. Rowse's books "The England of Elizabeth", and once again I can wander through the pages at leisure, reading about life in the Elizabethan era, and remembering...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Welcome To Whistler Blackcomb Mountain

In just a few weeks the 2010 Winter Olympics will descend on Vancouver and Whistler Blackcomb. It will be wonderful, and a lot of fun -- especially for those folks fortunate enough to get tickets to any of the events or to the opening and closing ceremonies. For Vancouverites, there will be a certain amount of inconvenience, but for the most part it will be exciting. Whistler Blackcomb will host the alpine, nordic and sliding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. In case you don't know much about Whistler, here are a few facts -- *y-a-w-n*. Over two million people visit Whistler annually, primarily for alpine skiing and mountain biking at Whistler Blackcomb. Its pedestrian village has won numerous design awards and Whistler has been voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines since the mid-1990s. Whistler was given its unusual name for the whistling calls of the "whistler" marmots, that live on the mountain. Whistler Blackcomb has over 8,100 acres of ski runs. The mountain is 5,280 feet high, there are over 200 trails, three glaciers, 12 alpine bowls, 38 lifts and 3 high speed gondolas all with a combined capacity to lift 65,507 skiers per hour. The highest lift elevation is 7,494 feet, and the longest ski run is seven miles.

I'm not a skier, so for me, the best part of Whistler is the village, and specifically the gorgeous hotels. Here are just a few, in both winter and summer.

Pretty nice, hey? And here is a little video you might enjoy. It's sort of touristy, but it will give you a good idea of Whistler Blackcomb. If you're planning to come to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, I hope you have a fabulous time.

Happy Birthday To Me...

Today is my birthday, and I am not 31. In fact, I am a little past 31, but I am constantly amazed by the "women of a certain age" who just seem to be steamrolling over the women a decade (or possibly two) younger than they are. I found the following list of women who will attest to that fact: Katey Sagal, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Debbie Harry, Queen Noor of Jordan, Geena Davis, Joan Allen, Kim Cattrall, Susan Lucci, Cher, Jane Fonda, Tina Turner, Susan Sarandon, Katie Couric, Lynda Carter, Beverly Johnson, Mary Steenburgen, Goldie Hawn, Ellen Barkin, Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch, Suzanne Somers, Olivia Newton-John, Peggy Lipton, Rene Russo, Lauren Hutton, Diane Sawyer, Cheryl Tiegs, Angela Bassett, Joan Jett, Jaclyn Smith, Sela Ward, Kim Basinger, Jane Seymour, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep. These are all vital women, still winning awards in their fields, still having fun, and still very sexy -- some of them more so than when they were younger.

Katie Couric is well past the dreaded "five O", and she was the first solo female anchor of a weekday evening news on CBS. On December 21, 2009, Diane Sawyer became the second solo female anchor of the evening news on ABC. And the very next day -- on December 22, 2009 -- Diane Sawyer turned 64.

What we get out of life is what we put into it. If we put limitations on ourselves, our rewards will be -- limited. I work with people who drag themselves through the day, do the minimal amount of work, and all they can talk about is retiring. The Black Widow Spider just retired recently, at the age of 55. She spent her whole working life running around saying, "What would this place do without me? What would this place do without me?" Well, when she left, they farmed out her duties to other folks, everything is running very smoothly, and management has decided it is not necessary to replace her. After years of whining and complaining working, it turns out she was redundant and expendable. What a sad testimony to a life.

It sounds kind of corny, but today really is the first day of the rest of our lives, and it is filled with possibilities -- all kinds of wonderful possibilities. It's up to each of us to find out what those possibilities have to offer. Discover what it is you like to do, and make it your passion. And mostly, just have fun -- every day. That's what I plan to do.

Happy Birthday to me...


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day...

Thank you to all my wonderful blogging friends for your Christmas wishes. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too. I sure did. I stepped on my scale this morning, and there is just ever so slightly more of me than stepped on the scale a couple of days ago. But -- what the heck -- it's only once a year, right? Today in Canada it is Boxing Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen. Since the 19th century, it is the day for tradesmen to collect their "Christmas boxes" or gifts in return for goods and services throughout the year. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when metal boxes were placed outside churches used to collect special offerings for the needy, as part of the Feast of St. Stephen. In Canada it is also a statutory holiday, and the busiest shopping day of the year. People line up outside stores the night before, for "midnight madness", when the stores open at 12:00 -- as in midnight -- but not me. For me, Boxing Day is the most relaxing day of the year.

I received some wonderful gifts this year, all things I love. I got some fabulous books -- one set of which I am going to do a post about in the near future. I also received a one-of-a-kind scarf which is absolutely exquisite. My daughter makes them as a hobby, and each scarf is signed and has a name, and they are indeed works of art. Mine is called "Sunset at Spanish Banks", and if you have ever seen a sunset at Spanish Banks, these are exactly the colors, which also happen to be my favorite colors. The scarves are to be worn with a coat or a jacket, or perhaps a sweater. (You can click on the picture to get a better look.)

Now I am off to read one of my books, and have another chocolate. I hope you're all having a wonderful relaxing weekend.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas To All My Friends

For me, one of the best parts of Christmas is midnight mass, and especially hearing the choir and the congregation sing "Once In Royal David’s City”. There is something magical about midnight mass, and it always takes me back to when I was a little girl and I sang in the choir in the Anglican Church. This beautiful hymn was written for children and was first published in 1848 in the hymnbook "Hymns for Little Children". It is traditionally used as the processional in the Christmas Eve service. The first verse is sung by a child, the second and third verses by the choir, and the remaining verses by the entire congregation. This to me will always be the very essence of Christmas.

However you choose to keep Christmas, I hope it is wonderful. Merry Christmas to all my lovely blogging friends.

My Favorite Christmas

When I was about 12 years old, my mother and father decided they wanted a new house. They bought an acre of property in the forest, felled many of the big trees and set about clearing the brush. My mother designed the house herself, and she was a fan of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. She wanted a fireplace exactly like the one in this picture. The house was quite lovely, and extremely ultramodern for its day. My father used to grumble that he couldn't actually sit on any of the furniture, but it looked nice -- identical to the furniture in this photograph. To his credit, he tolerated the furniture for about five years, and then he convinced my mother to buy furniture we could actually use. She relented, and we ended up with a much cozier home.

We moved into our new house just weeks before Christmas. My mother loved her new stove, and made all sorts of fabulous Christmas treats. The Christmas tree had a place of honor by the window, and my dad put Christmas lights on the roof and on some of the evergreen trees outdoors. It looked wonderful and festive. My two older brothers were living away from home at the time, but they were both expected home for Christmas.

On Christmas morning my mother made eggnog punch in her crystal punch bowl, and we all settled down to opening the gifts Santa had left us the night before. My father lit the fireplace, as was his custom every Christmas morning. As each gift was opened, we scrunched up the wrapping paper and threw it into the fireplace. It was a wonderful Christmas morning, with all of us together. Could it be more perfect?

Suddenly we were aware of fire trucks in the distance. Oh some poor family... The fire trucks got closer ... louder ... they stopped outside our house. Our roof was on fire, and the neighbors had called 911. My dad and my brothers rushed outside just in time to see the firemen dragging their hoses and ladders over to our roof, and fortunately the fire was put out before any damage had been done. My mother and I collapsed into heaps of laughter. My father glared at us,

"For cripes sake, what's wrong with you...? Our house almost burned down...!"

But we couldn't stop laughing. Sometimes living on the edge puts things into bas relief, and makes everything so much nicer. The relief of having been to the precipice and back creates a sweetness that perhaps might not have been there before. We almost lost our new house, but we didn't. The large black spot around the chimney was quickly repaired, and the roof was no worse for the wear. The neighbors who called 911 were invited for dinner and drinks a few days later. It was a great ice-breaker.

My mother spoke fondly many times of that Christmas as her favorite Christmas. It's certainly one we never forgot.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wile E. Coyote

In the the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Saturday morning cartoons, I always felt slightly sorry for the poor, hapless coyote. No matter what he did, no matter what ludicrous devices he bought from The Acme Corporation, he could never get the best of the Road Runner. The coyote always ends up burnt to a crisp, squashed flat, or at the bottom of a canyon, usually after falling through a rock cliff. He tries everything -- a rocket sled, jet powered roller skates, earthquake pills -- it all works against him. He once bought a dehydrated boulder that inflated and crushed him. Just once I wanted him to be successful, but he never was.

I don't feel sorry for the coyote anymore. Last week an urban coyote got my family's beloved little tortoise shell cat, and the neighbor's cat, both in one night. We have a real problem with urban coyotes here in the Lower Mainland. They're smart, they're not afraid of anything, and they're very wily. They stake out territories, and in the last ten years they have gone from being urban pests -- along with raccoons, skunks and squirrels -- to being a real threat. A few years ago a 12 year-old girl was attacked by a coyote as she was playing near the beach right here in Kitsilano, and few weeks ago a young woman in Nova Scotia was killed by two coyotes as she was out walking in Cape Breton National Park.

Coyotes regard family pets as their own personal smorgasbord, and for some reason they are particularly fond of poodles. They often have dens in sheds and garages, and sometimes underneath porches, without the property owners even knowing the coyotes are there. They're adept at going through people's garbage cans, and in addition to eating family pets, rabbits, rodents and other small wildlife, they will eat vegetation, fruit, carrion and garbage. Urban coyotes are bold, curious, and wild, and it's easy to recognize them. Males are larger and heavier than females, typically weighing 20 to 35 lbs when full-grown, while females are about 18 to 25 lbs. They stand approximately 18 inches high at the shoulders. They're usually a blend of rust-colored to brown to gray. The coyote resembles a small German shepherd dog, but with a longer, narrower snout and a bushy black-tipped tail. And here is something I learned just recently: Coyotes can and do mate with domestic dogs. If you suspect you have a coyote in your neighborhood, keep your pets inside, because the chances are good the coyote will get them.

Where's the Road Runner when we need him? ... Beep ... Beep

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Three Queens

Buckingham Palace
Wood Engraving
by J. Woods, 1837

I have always been fascinated by the history of the British Monarchy. Love them or hate them, they have been an interesting cast of characters on the world's stage. The inclination in the 21st Century is to do away with the Monarchy and move towards a Republic. That may evolve naturally, as these things often seem to do. But in any case, if the Monarchy didn't exist, we would invent them. Somehow it seems to be part of the human condition. I wonder if we would invent as interesting a bunch of people as we have now. Oh, they seem dull, but trust me -- they're not. Even with the unfortunate, beleaguered Diana gone, the Royals still never fail to entertain. Three of my favorite Royals were the longest-reigning Queens -- Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. These were not women who sat back and allowed themselves to be pampered. Well, okay, maybe they were pampered, and they lived in unimaginable wealth and privilege. But they were also the CEOs of an enormous world-wide organization. It is said of Queen Elizabeth II that she is one of the most politically astute, savvy and knowledgeable people in the world today when it comes to politics and current affairs. Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria were no dummies either. When each of these three interesting women became Queen, they were all much younger than silly Paris Hilton is now.
Queen Elizabeth I was 25 years old when she ascended the throne, and she remained Queen for 45 years until her death in 1603. Her reign was called The Golden Age, and for me it is one of the most fascinating periods in history. When Elizabeth first came to power, England was an insignificant country, and when she died England had become a major power, both nationally and internationally. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Elizabethan period was the cooking. Many amazing recipes were created in Queen Elizabeth I's day. New foods such as tomatoes and potatoes were introduced from the New World, along with exotic spices from the Orient. An Elizabethan home would employ dozens of servants, each with a specific task. Dairy maids were used to shape butter into equisite shapes such as swans and various fruit. Sugar was the equivalent of $300 a pound, and because of this only the mistress of the household was permitted to work with sugar. But wonderful desserts were created during the Elizabethan Age and they are still used today.

Queen Victoria was 18 years old when she ascended the throne -- a teenager. She was younger than most people are today when they first leave home. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and 7 months, longer than that of any other British monarch before or since, and her reign is the longest of any female monarch in history. The time of her reign is known as the Victorian era, a period of great industrial, political, and scientific progress. Queen Victoria was married to her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and had nine children. Prince Albert died of typoid fever in 1861, and it was rumored that Queen Victoria married for a second time -- to a household servant by the name of John Brown. When Queen Victoria died, two items were placed in her coffin. One was Prince Albert's dressing gown, and the other was a lock of John Brown's hair. On her finger she wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother.

Queen Elizabeth II was 25 years old when she ascended the throne, and as of today is the eldest ever reigning monarch in British history. She will have to reign until September 9, 2015 when she will be 89 years old to better her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. During Queen Elizabeth II's reign there have been 11 different Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, and numerous Prime Ministers in the Commonwealth Realms of which she is (or was) also Head of State. She has known a total of 138 Prime Ministers and 12 U.S. Presidents during her reign. Both her mother and her Aunt Alice lived to be 102, and the Queen is healthy so she could very well live another 20 years. If that is the case, her heir to the throne -- Prince Charles -- will be 81 years old when he becomes King, and his son and heir -- Prince William -- will be 46. The British Monarchy may possibly fade into the sunset along with the British Empire after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Many people feel it is becoming irrelevant in the 21st Century. Only time will tell.

No matter what happens to the British Monarchy, these three women will continue to be fascinating chapters in world history.

Oh, Gosh...!

Here on my boring-little-blog I love controversy and debate. There are so many wonderful things to discuss and I have never wanted my blog to be about "whiskers on kittens" and "snowflakes on mittens". We have enough of those types of blogs already, in my opinion. Not that those aren't wonderful blogs, mind you, they're just not the style I prefer for my blog. Sooooo.... *deep sigh* .... having said that, I hope my recent post did not offend anyone. It was not meant to offend anyone -- it was simply my opinion of something I found yesterday that shocked me. Well, it certainly seemed to cause some controversy and debate, to be sure.

Someone very brilliant recently did a blog post saying that people who get a lot of followers sometimes end up pandering to those followers, rather than staying true to their own vision of what they want their blog to be. After reading that post, I was inspired to get my blog back on track. But maybe I have ventured into dangerous territory, for which I am not prepared. I have very strong ideas and opinions about things, and occasionally I like to post them here. I guess if I do, I should have my flak jacket ready, just in case...

Gosh, what an interesting group of people we have out there in the wide world. I love it when you all visit my blog and comment. You're all welcome anytime...! Just don't expect "snowflakes on kittens" and "whiskers on mittens". Or is it "whiskers on kittens" ... oh, you know what I mean...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Little Odd-Shaped Pendant

Today as I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, I was cruising through Oakridge Shopping Centre, one of our more chichi malls in Vancouver. It has all the high-end stores such as Edward Chapman, DKNY, MaxMara, Michael Kors, Guess, Femme de Carriere, Birks, Rodeo Jewelers, Ingledews Shoes, and all the rest of the usual suspects. Oakridge Centre is large and airy, and all the ceilings throughout are made of skylights. At Christmas time there is a wonderful display with Santa and all his little reindeer, and the children love having their pictures taken there.

As I was cruising past one of the jewelry kiosks that was set up in the mall concourse, I saw a little necklace that caught my eye. It was made up of pink gemstones, and I thought it was quite pretty. I thought perhaps a little girl I know might like it for Christmas. It had all the prerequisites, it was quite dainty and it was pink. And the stones looked like quite good stones, not cheap looking, but rather nice. The pendant on the necklace had an odd shape, and I picked it up to have another look, and I quickly dropped it. I felt as if my fingers had been burned, and a feeling of revulsion went through me. The little odd-shaped pendant on the dainty pink necklace was a swastika.

I know the swastika originated centuries ago as a lucky charm in many of the Eastern cultures, and it has an ancient long-standing history with many other cultures as well. But in more recent history it has come to represent something else, something malevolent. It is banned in many countries, and it will never be able to be redeemed. I certainly hope the little odd-shaped pendant made out of pink gemstones doesn't end up under the Christmas tree of some unsuspecting little girl, who will wear it to school to show all her friends.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Perfect Christmas

In Canada, this is the weekend that most people traditionally put up their Christmas trees. When I was a little girl, my father and I would look around all year for a Christmas tree -- "There's a good one...!" -- and a week before Christmas we would go into the forest, cut down the tree and bring it home. My mother would haul out the Christmas lights and decorations and we would decorate the tree. I still cannot get used to the idea of putting up a Christmas tree at the beginning of December, or even the end of November. It doesn't seem like Christmas to me until a week or so before Christmas, when the season begins, and it ends on January 6th, the Epiphany. There is something magical about seeing the familiar old Christmas decorations, and the colored lights reflected in the glass ornaments, and the whole world is transformed into Christmas. And every year, after the tree is decorated, someone always has the special task of placing the Christmas Angel in her location of honor atop the tree. I was so excited the year I was old enough to do it.

Christmas is a lovely time of the year, but it can also be very stressful. Expectations are high, and often folks find it difficult to live up to them. Every year, Christmas is expected to be more perfect than ever, and every year the reality of life intervenes for many of us. I have been reading through the blogs lately, and everyone seems to be having such a perfect Christmas, I wonder how I can possibly measure up. Everyone's tree is perfect, you all have perfect families, perfect homes, perfect Christmas trees, perfect Christmas cards. How do you do it? You're a hard act to follow. All your Christmas baking is done, with your recipes and photos of your perfect Christmas cookies posted on your blogs. Your presents are all wrapped, and I am still trying to figure out what to buy people for gifts. I feel a bit like a deer in the headlights of a car. Christmas is only a week away, and I am still thinking.

Last night I received the sad news that my family has lost their beloved family pet, one week before Christmas. Everyone is heartbroken. Losing a family pet is never easy, but a week before Christmas is just awful. Through sobs, my daughter said, "How can I celebrate Christmas when my children have lost something they love just a few days before?" I have no answer for that. I guess there is no answer. It's very unfair, to be sure. All I can tell her is that she has a beautiful home, a husband who is a Rock of Gibraltar, two beautiful children, and so much else to be thankful for, even if it doesn't seem that way right now. So I wonder, how many folks' lives are filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows? Is everything really so perfect? Christmas is not just a few days -- or in some people's cases a few weeks -- it is a spirit. It is the time of year when we turn on the lights against the winter darkness. We gather with the people we love, or the crazy sister-in-law, brother-in-law, (fill-in-the-blanks) we tolerate, and for a little while everything is okay -- better than okay -- maybe even perfect.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Is Cool...? Move Over, George Clooney

How many of you were cool when you were in high school? Come on now, 'fess up. Were you cool? The chances are you weren't even close -- even if you were George Clooney. High school is that period of our lives that most of us look back on with certain edits in the memory bank. We were full of uncertainties and anxieties, and everyone else looked cooler than we did. Am I right?

Last night I attended Phinnaeus's Christmas concert, and it was wonderful to see all the middle school children maturing into adults. Some of them still looked like children, a few of them already revealed glimpses of the adults they would become, others looked as if they still had a long journey ahead of them before they would find their personas. The girls are all lovely at that age, with their shiny hair and sweet faces -- even if they don't think they are.

The kids I knew in high school who were considered the "cool" kids -- the "in" crowd -- almost always grew into adults who were perhaps not so cool. Maybe they didn't have to try as hard to find out who they were, they were too busy being worshipped by the plebeians. After graduation, when everyone went their separate ways, the cool kids no longer had their adoring audience. The "geeky" kids went off to university, and discovered that being a math genius or a literary intellectual really was "where it's at". Ten years later, at the high school reunion, we realized that that fat balding guy over in the corner -- drinking a little too heavily -- was the fellow all the guys had once wanted to be and all the girls had wanted to date. It's almost a cliché.

So last night at Phinnaeus's concert, it was fun to look around at the kids, and try to predict which ones were going to be cool when they became adults. Usually it's the kids with the inner cool -- you know the ones -- they're so cool, they don't even know they're cool. And yes, a certain young man I know falls into that category. Move over, George Clooney.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Elin, Toss Him Back...

Do you ever get the feeling the whole world has gone insane, and you are the only sane one? Or, perhaps it's the other way around. You're completely barmy, and everyone else is normal? Lately, every time I turn on the TV, no matter what news channel I'm watching, the headline news story seems to be about Tiger Woods and his indiscretions -- over and over -- ad nauseum. The analysis seems to be the same - can his career recover? Will his endorsements come back? Can the marriage be saved? Well, I think his career will eventually recover, even though his reputation will never be the same, and the Tiger Woods jokes and cartoons will continue for years. He will be the poster boy for stupidity. As far as the marriage being saved, why on earth would any wife want to "save" that marriage?

Tiger broke a sacred and physical trust. In my opinion, a marriage is based on love and intimacy. The act of making love between two people who love each other is the sharing of that intimacy. In essence, their physical bodies belong to each other and to no one else. Is there any woman out there who loves her husband, who would be anything less than repulsed by the fact that he is (please excuse the crudeness here) dipping his quill in someone else's inkwell? Would she really want it back afterwards? The most intimate part of his body has been intimate with someone else's body. And to find out that he has done it with at least 14 other women would be devastating.

I have always wondered about women who can turn a blind eye to their husband's continuous indiscretions. It was said that Jackie Kennedy knew about JFK's ongoing dalliances, but she ignored it. How can a woman ignore something like that? I don't understand it. Does she have ice water in her veins? That magical silver thread of love and trust and loyalty would be forever broken.

A friend of mine once told me that, on the night she got married, her husband told her he fully intended to continue having relationships with other women. Can you even imagine? My friend stayed with him for 10 long, unhappy years. She is now happily married to a man who cherishes her.

Elin Woods is probably going through the most unimaginable humiliation and grief, and I wish the media would leave this story alone. Today the Associated Press named Tiger Woods the athlete of the decade, and as a golfer, he probably deserves it. As a husband, I think he needs to be thrown back into the ocean.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Meryl and Amy

In the past couple of years, I have seen Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in two movies together. The first was "Doubt" in which Meryl plays Sister Aloysius, the principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx. Amy Adams plays Sister James, a young, naive teacher at the school, and she finds herself butting heads with the hard-boiled Sister Aloysius. Both of their performances are seamless, and there is a wonderful chemistry between the two actresses.

This week I finally got around to seeing "Julie and Julia". I'm sure all of you have seen it, but in case you have been living on the dark side of the moon, it is the story of Julie Powell, a blogger who decided to cook all 524 of Julia Child's recipes in her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She gave herself a deadline of 365 days to finish the project, and she blogged about it as she went along. The blog was later made into a book and then into the movie "Julie and Julia".

Meryl Streep is the reigning queen of cinema, and long may she reign, but in this particular movie I felt her performance was a bit synthetic, almost like a museum piece. Meryl called on her usual tics and quirky mannerisms, and combined with Julia Child’s tics and quirky mannerisms, it became a bit distracting. She had Julia Child's voice and awkward characteristics down pat. I found myself watching her segment of the movie thinking, “Oh, what a good job Meryl Streep is doing mimicking Julia Child”, instead of being engrossed in the movie. It’s always a bad sign when you’re aware of someone’s acting. To me, it felt more like a caricature, such as we might see on "Saturday Night Live". But I think I am probably the only person in the entire known universe who has this opinion of Meryl Streep's performance in this role.

Amy Adams as Julia Powell, on the other hand, was more engaging. She was warm, real, and relaxed. Amy Adams has a lovely way of speaking, quite meticulous, and her performance was seamless. She was entirely believable as a young woman from Queens who has bitten off more than she can chew -- so to speak. The day-to-day successes and failures of her ambitious project put her into highs and lows with which we can all relate. Her total physical, emotional and psychological collapse when she burnt the boeuf bourguignon she was preparing for an important dinner, was funny and sad and somehow poignant, and my heart went out to her. At the end of the movie, Julie receives the devastating news that Julia Child has heard of her and does not approve of her. Julia called her "disrespectful". I have read Julie's blog, and she drops the "F" bomb -- a lot. I can understand why Julia Child would not approve of that, and I wondered why it is even necessary to do it. She continues to do it to this day on her blog, and all I can think is, "Why? It's a cooking blog, for crying out loud. Is the "F" word really necessary?"

Meryl has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Julia Child, and she will probably be nominated for an Oscar too. I love Meryl Streep and she is always wonderful, and I think it's really difficult to take on the role of someone who is already an icon. The movie is a lot of fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. Don't watch it while you're hungry. You'll come away craving cheese soufflé and chocolate mousse -- and lots and lots of butter.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Vagaries of Life

Buttermere Lake
Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband's plane crash on a lake on Vancouver Island. It's odd how life can turn on a dime, and how in an instant, dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of lives can be affected. Certainly for most people, nothing is ever quite the same again. My husband's parents never really recovered from the devastation, and it definitely had a negative impact on my daughter's life. I was very close to my father, and I cannot imagine growing up without a father, as my daughter did. Fortunately, my daughter's children are very close to their father, as well as to their mother, and that is important. Children need two parents, and nothing is ever quite right if they don't have them.

A couple of weeks ago there was another devastating plane crash off the coast of British Columbia. Eight people were on board, and only two survived. Two of the victims were a Vancouver doctor and her six-month old daughter. The doctor's husband and another daughter were not on board, and their lives have been irrevocably changed -- forever. A couple of days before the plane crash I had had the occasion in the course of a business day to write a letter to the doctor. Two days later, when I saw the news of the crash, I thought, "Omigoodness, she will never see the letter."

The vagaries of life...

I believe that, for the most part, life is filled with joy. Along with the bitter comes the sweet. One of the most incredible taste sensations is chocolate and salt. I think the average "set point" for most people is to be happy, or at least serene and content. We cannot prevent the capricious unpredictability of life, but we can learn to be happy again. So, whatever misfortune has befallen you along the way, I hope today you have happiness in your lives. You definitely deserve it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

War Is Peace

A couple of days ago I originally posted this blog post, but then I thought it sounded sort of sombre -- which it is not meant to be -- so I took it down. However, I have had a few enquiries about it, so I am putting it back up. Occasionally thoughts run through my head and at the time I think those thoughts, I decide to do a blog post. But some of my thoughts don't fit into the trend that blogging seems to be going towards lately, and that is one of gentle people all being very nice to each other. I wish I could be like that, but sometimes I am just -- not. I often have strong opinions about various issues, and I know that not all folks are going to agree with my point of view. But when I started my blog, I wanted it to be a place of controversy, discussion and debate -- at least occasionally. If I had one wish in life, it would be to host wonderful soirées every evening, where people could discuss music, art, culture, politics, philosophy, literature and so much more. Great ideas would be exchanged, and everyone would have a wonderful time. People would be welcome to join in -- or not -- depending on whatever they wished. I love hearing new ideas and new points of view. We may not always agree with each other, but there is nothing more exciting than stimulating conversation, don't you agree? I have never stopped reading a blog because I disagreed with their point of view. I have stopped, however, when I have become bored.

So here, in its original form, is the blog post that I took down, and I am now putting it back up.

Some things that are very obvious to other people, often elude me. I sometimes need things explained to me. So, I am a bit puzzled about something. The President of the United States won the Nobel Peace Prize -- not for something he did -- but in anticipation of something he was yet to do. Resolve world peace? And so a few days ago he accepted his prize at the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway. This is the part that needs to be explained to me, in language I can understand. Obama won a Peace Prize -- which is no small feat -- and at the same time he just escalated the war in Afghanistan, agreeing to send 30,000 more American troops, which of course will mean troops from other countries as well -- including Canada. We have already lost 133 Canadian lives in Afghanistan. That is 133 too many Canadians to have died in some God-forsaken country on the other side of the world.

In his acceptance speech in Oslo, Obama referred to "war as an instrument designed to secure the peace". It reminded me of Newspeak in George Orwell's "1984" -- "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength". I guess anything can sound reasonable, but it still doesn't make any sense to me. Al Qaeda is in so many countries, from Sudan to Hamburg, Islamic terrorism won't be stopped by escalating the war in Afghanistan. And now the American people face another war, and young men and women face another few years of killing and dying.

When I was a little girl, and we didn't understand the dangers of mercury, we sometimes used to play with it if it spilled on the ground from a broken thermometer. Have you ever tried to pick up mercury? You can't do it. Beads of mercury are impossible to pick up. This is what it's going to be like, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda. It can't be done, and it's too late.

I really do hope the American President earns his Peace Prize. I wish him all the best, but I think he has a long road -- and a reality check -- ahead of him. I think of all those young men and women who will be deployed, who may be spending their last few weeks at home with their families, and my heart breaks. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.

Beauty And The Beast

I think Sophia Loren was -- is -- the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Not only is she physically beautiful, but she is elegant, ladylike, and earthy and sophisticated at the same time. She looks like someone I would love to know. Oh, heck, she looks like someone I would love to be. She is famously quoted as saying, "Everything I have, I owe to spaghetti." I saw Sophia Loren in person about 20 years ago, and I was gobsmacked at how much more beautiful she is in person than on screen or in photographs. She has aged gracefully, and now at the age of 75 she is in her 91st movie ("Nine"), and she is currently filming her 92nd.

Last night I was reading an article about Sophia Loren in "People" magazine, and she referred to "finding and losing the love of her life". Hmmm... I thought ... who could that be? So many men had proposed to her, including Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. Who was the love of her life? Well, of course, it was Carlo Ponti, the man to whom she was married for 41 years until he passed away in 2007. She was madly in love with him from the moment she met him, and she admitted that he was the only man for her.

What makes a person beautiful? Is it physicial beauty, such as Sophia Loren possesses? Or is it something else -- something deeper. Are we attracted to a person because of how they look? Or do they become more beautiful because we are attracted to them? It's the theory of "Beauty and the Beast". We all know the story of Belle and the Beast. Belle is held captive by the beast, and every night she dreams of a handsome prince. She is convinced the Beast is holding the handsome prince captive as well, and she tries to find him. During the course of her captivity, Belle grows fond of the Beast and finds herself heartbroken one day at finding him dead. She weeps over his body, and her tears revive him, not as the Beast, but as the handsome prince she had dreamt about. Did her tears transform him into the handsome prince, or was it her love for him that did it? Did he actually remain the Beast, but handsome in her eyes because she loved him? I have often wondered about this.

What would a beautiful woman such as Sophia Loren see in a plain man such as Carlo Ponti. He was her handsome prince. We all see people who catch our eye, and we think are beautiful. But they can become more beautiful, or conversely, less beautiful, as we get to know them. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it is in the heart of the beholder. Physical beauty can fade -- it can change -- but a soul does not. A soul remains beautiful. Anyone who finds love like that is indeed fortunate.