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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Time to Escape

As I  sit here at my  writer’s retreat, after having done some serious writing and reflecting I am allowing myself to  do some lighter writing.  I have decided that it is "time to escape” from more serious matters and write this post which I have been thinking about for some time now.

A while back I had arrived home from work one day and saw an envelope in the mailbox. Since I had recently ordered some glasses I was expecting a package so I was not overly excited and just left the package sitting there for a while as I went about my routine after work activities. I walked the dog, fed the cats, and got ready for dinner.  After a while I remembered the package and decided to open it, and to my surprise it was not a pair of glasses at all, but a lovely gift from the West.

         I call this gift a special gift because it IS special. There was no real reason for this gift except for the thoughtfulness of two lovely women I have come to know.

              As a writer I will say, I have received my fair share of journals as gifts, all beautiful, all special to me, all close to my heart and very  much appreciated. I have in mind (Or in actual use) a very real purpose for every journal.  I will say though, that this one was beyond any expectations I might have. 

              First, it was for no other reason than to spread some kindness, secondly, it was unexpected; thirdly, it was absolutely beautiful and personalized. This one made me cry. I cried because it was so thoughtful and I felt so fortunate and grateful to have these kinds of people in my life no matter how far they are from us geographically.

              The journal has a beautiful leather bound cover, and on the front images of bicycles going uphill, on the back a single bicycle rolling downhill; I love this image.  It has embedded on the front cover the words “Time to Escape”. This is a reminder of the fact that we do need to take time to escape from daily routine. I am writing this post partially as a thank you to these women and partially as an escape from structured writing.

The The journal cover also has flowers and my name on it.  I love it and will definitely use it and have it for a very long long time.  I intend to use this journal as an escape whenever I need to, starting today as soon as I am done this post.  Thank you Donna and Aud. I do appreciate your kindness and will make sure your gift gets well used.  
NO:  Note: The makers of my beautiful journal cover have a company called Manypawz. They make many many interesting and useful products for animals and their humans. We have been lucky enough to try some of their products and the animals and this human loves them. Check it out.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Being just on the tail end of Pride celebrations in our region, It seems I am again faced with the same questions I ask myself every year. Is Pride still relevant or necessary? What exactly are we celebrating anyway?  If you look back on my blog there will be evidence of my past questionings. Every year also, it seems,  I find an answer.
This year, my answer came to me in the  most unexpected form, my seven year old niece. She is a wonderful reminder of one of the reasons why Pride is still important.
She arrived  for her recent visit to PEI with a great bit of enthusiasm and luggage to match. The first thing I  did was show her her room, she and I still a little shy with each other because I had not seen her for a long while.  We set her up in my partner’s office which aside from some prayer flags above her window and some family pictures on a shelf above her desk is quite “officy”.  Our first conversation went as follows as she set up what would be her new surroundings for the next 5 days.
7 year old: Do you like rainbows?

Me: Yeah, I like rainbows.

7 year old: Does Mary like rainbows?

Me: Yes, Mary likes them too.
(At this point I look around the room for evidence of rainbows. I see none, not one, and since I do not spend much time with 7 year old people it does not occur to me just yet that we might not be discussing rainbows at all).

7 year old: Do you and Mary like rainbows a lot?             
( I am  starting to get it ,and suddenly I  am feeling very  hot and stressed because I am in no way feeling equipped to have a conversation about Pride and rainbows etc…with a 7 year old whose parents and I have not  had any kind of conversation  with about this topic. It all happened so fast.)

Me:  (Secretly hoping we are, in fact, discussing rainbows from the sky and nothing else) “Yes, we both like them; they are pretty, and colourful and they make people happy because it means there is sunshine. (I say this in my best amateur “talking to a seven year old” voice).

7 year old: (Clearly not satisfied with my response, tries another angle confirming my fear, this conversation is not at all about "rainbows") “Are you and Mary married?”

Me: “Omm, no, we are not married”, I say, but not wanting to lie to her, I add “but we are like married.”
(This seemed to be an okay answer, but I knew by her questioning look that she was not entirely sure what I meant, so I continued.) “Well, you know how Mommy and Daddy sometimes call each other husband and wife? Well, it’s kind of like that. (I struggle with my words as she looks at me expectantly with her big brown eyes.) “Mary and I call each other partner; she calls me her partner and I call her my partner.” 

I  brace myself for where this  question might lead, but to  my  surprise she looked completely  satisfied with this response, like it all of suddenly made sense to her. She raised her little arms in the air in relief for having finally reached an answer to her “rainbow” question. She looked right at me...

 7 year old: “Oh, so you're gay?” She said all mattter of fact like.

Me: (Now even though this is a word I  do not use much in reference to myself, I felt it  fit just  right here). “Yes, yes, I am”.  I confirm as she continues to unpack her suitcase, moving on to the next subject completely uninterested in any further info on rainbows etc….

7 year old: Can I open this now? She says in a reference to some to some fun tongue tattoos we had put in a gift basket on her bed.  

Me: “Yes, of course.”

Now, while this seemed a minor conversation for her. I was left enlightened and amazed at her attitude, like us being “gay” was not and should not be a big deal. And for me it normally is not, but adding a 7 year old to the mix made me a little more cautious for lack of a better word here. Not sure what else I expected, but it was so sweet. I believe she merely needed confirmation...from me. The subject never came up again until later when I brought out my rainbow flag to show her and briefly tell her about the meaning of each of the colours.

The next day, she promptly found her bracelet making kit and made me a rainbow bracelet.

I shall treasure it and that moment when she and I both had a moment of clarity. 

So, this year I realize Pride is relevant because the visibility of "rainbow" celebrations everywhere has gotten us to the  point where a seven year old (Who will grow up and form part of the future adult community)  makes me feel comfortable by saying, “Oh, so you're gay?” (like god, why didn't ya just say so kind of tone) but she can start her conversation by asking me if I like rainbows. Yes, I like rainbows  and you, Miss Victoria, A LOT!! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's Not Toronto...

When I  moved here many years ago, I was shocked to learn that the city did not have a public transportation system. It was after all, a capital city of a province. And, even though I might not have used/needed it at that time, I was taken aback not to have the option.
A few years back when the city was considering the feasibility of a public transit system they sent out a survey which I gladly filled out. I confidently said that yes indeed I would use a public transit system. Why not? It would be good for the environment, and also an affordable service for those who have no other form of transportation. At that time I lived in the city and had every intention of actually using the system; however as time passed I  continued to drive to work and use my car to putter around town. I would see the colourful trolley-like buses about town and think you should be taking the bus Za, but ignored myself  even as I scooted around the buses while they stopped to pick people up. I am no longer Catholic, but I think I still have remnants of that deeply instilled guilt because I have always felt guilty for saying I would use it. Silly...I know, but an odd fact.

Although I  no longer live in the city centre (Which would be an acceptable excuse) there is a connector service available where I live. Despite this I continued using my car citing convenience and time management as excuses. So, when my car broke down and suddenly I was without  a vehicle, although I did have other options, I decided it was time to finally try the bus system.

My next work day I woke up  early and made sure I  was at the bus stop at the designated time. This all coincided with a run of particularly cold temperatures in our  region, so I bundled myself up, plugged one earpiece in, tuned into our local CBC morning radio show, grabbed my fresh hot coffee and headed out the  door. The closest stop is about a five minute walk, but not through city streets, through a lovely tree lined trail. At first, it felt odd walking away from the  house, just me, my coffee and  my bag with lunch and dress shoes, but there was a certain freeing feeling about it. I was the only one at the stop, and the only one on the bus for  several stops because the system is dangerously underused, but my bus arrived right on cue.I had fifteen minutes to relax, listen to my show and enjoy my coffee. This relax, listen, sip your coffee thing is not a luxury I  usually allow myself in the hustle of workday morning preparations. Another woman, I observed on the bus must have the same idea, she reads the newspaper every morning.

The bus practically dropped me off at my workplace door 5 minutes before I needed to be there and I just walked right in. No fuss of parking, no worries surrounding if my car would start in the cold, no worries about traffic, or messy slippery roads. I loved it. It was a nice feeling.There was also a nostalgic feeling  from having used the metro bus as a child to get to school. I  didn't realize it had been so long since I had been on a city bus. The ride home was just as pleasant. I  got home a few minutes sooner than normal, so that time management excuse was out the window.

I have since gotten to know the driver a bit better and when he realized that it was closer for me to get on at another location he offered to  pick me up/drop me off there even though it is not an actual stop. The regulars call the driver by name. I heard him offer one older woman the option of waiting in her porch the next morning, stating he would just stop in front of her house saving her the trouble of walking a block and waiting in the freezing cold. Sweet. On those cold  days the  drivers strategically park the buses (As we wait to transfer) in such a way that we need not step out into the cold or touch the  ground at all, but just step from one bus to another. One day last week a woman brought the driver a large hot chocolate. Another time, I am told, they drove around the block an extra time to gather someone who had missed the bus by moments which enabled him to get to  work as usual.

Somehow in our small city, on day two I managed to get on the wrong bus and the drivers noticed two stops in and communicated with each other. My driver asked me if I was going to my workplace, and I was of course, so he informed me I  should get out and get on the bus behind him. Both buses stopped and I relocated, the regulars laughed as I got on the correct bus. I laughed too. All this and I still arrived at work on time with a few minutes to spare. I love our little city.

So, now, my car is repaired and life has returned to  normal with the exception of me taking the bus on a regular basis. It's not Toronto, but for this I am grateful. Grateful  for a bus that will stop where it works for me and a driver who notices I am on the wrong bus.

I would encourage others to use the bus system if possible.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It All Started With the Jeans, The Art of Letting Go.

About a month ago I was in the process of tidying up my closet, purging myself of clothing and things I felt I no longer needed or that I no longer appreciated. I was getting ready for a fresh start in the new year I  guess. I came across a pair of jeans neatly folded and tucked way in on the top shelf. Size 12. I have not been this size in many years. I took those jeans down, held them up by the waist and let them fall in front of me. Examining them, Gawd, did I ever fit into these? The bigger question though, was why were these jeans still with me, still on my closet shelf. It had been at least six years since they fit me. Ah, I reason, these are the jeans that came to Paris with me, these are my roam around  Paris jeans, my "I can wear a belt and love how I  look jeans", that's why I  still have them. Such nice jeans. As I had started folding them again, and reached up to return them to their safe place, I looked at them one more time and decided, Liza, it is time, I flicked them in the give away pile, knowing I  will always enjoy my memories of Paris with our without these jeans.

I feel  good about letting the jeans go, but this post is not actually about my jeans or about Paris; however that decision to let go of my jeans started a whole other series of events...

As I  continued to dig in my closet.

I noticed a pretty pink box with flowers on it. There she was, just like new in her original box, Mrs. Beasley. (For those of you my age you will know she was a very popular doll in the 60-70's). Mrs. Beasley has been on my closet shelf in some form or other for at least 13 years. As a child, the original Mrs.Beasley came everywhere with me. She was unique in that she was not a baby doll, but an elderly woman doll. She was made popular by the TV show Family Affair.
Through the kerfuffle of life my original Mrs. Beasley got left behind, and well forgotten until a conversation happened many decades later in which I was asked if I could have a thing from childhood that was lost what would it be. My mind was immediately brought back to Mrs. Beasley (And of course I shared many many stories about my relationship with her and provided examples as to why I  chose her). That was my answer. Yes, I would not mind still having that doll I stated.

Much time had passed, I had forgotten about that wine-induced conversation, and it would soon become the year 2000. I had no idea that the original creators of Mrs. Beasley had re-released her as an exact duplicate of the original doll with all the  profits going towards organizations that helped children who had been sexually abused.

A very thoughtful woman who was a big part of my life at that time had ordered her, remembering our conversation from long ago. So on Christmas morning 1999 when I unsuspectingly opened the beautifully wrapped box I was passed, revealing a elderly woman doll in a blue polka dot dress, yes,  a Mrs, Beasley doll, I had a surge of emotion beyond description. So many happy memories all at once. Well, it is safe to say that I lost it, emotionally. I was moved , moved for a couple of reasons. First that  someone would be so thoughtful, and second so grateful for the lost memories that had just been magically restored it seemed.

So, Christmas 1999 came and went and Mrs. Beasley was carefully packed into the  little Sprint along with  many other packages for the  return to PEI voyage. For a while, Mrs. Beasley, still in her box,  had a revered place on a shelf in the living room, but after a while she was transferred to the closet and there she lived, always in the  closet, many homes, many closets later until my above described Purge stuff moment.

For some reason, throughout all the changes life had brought, I had not been able to part with this thoughtful gift. This, even though the person who gave it to me was no longer in my life on any level, and even though I had rid myself of all other remnants of that time in my life.

That day was different though. I  took her down from the  closet shelf, opened the  box, took the  twist ties off her neck, pulled her out of the  box, pulled on the string attached to her voice box heard Cheryl Ladd say , "Do you want to play with my glasses?" in a old woman's voice...and nothing. Nothing happened, (Not sure what I expected) except  I wondered what to do with her. So, I  immediately went to  my computer and placed an ad on Kijji.  under arts and collectibles, because I  didn't think she would qualify as a toy and you are only allowed one category I learned.

Mrs. Beasley doll in original box. Doll from 1960's made popular from TV show Family Affair. Perfect condition. Voice box functional.  Re-issued in 2000. Suitable for personal collection or gift giving. Help bring back someone's happy childhood memories.

Three weeks pass and I decided to  pull the ad and keep the doll. Then I noticed an email Subject: response to your Mrs. Beasley ad. 
So, I opened it expecting it to be a collector, a flea market vendor perhaps. I tell myself I  will not let her go for less than she is worth.

Through a series of phone calls and emails that follow I learn he is not a vendor at all, but a gentleman from NL of all places. (This is where I enjoyed my Mrs. Beasley as a child).
     "Me and me daughter have been searching for a this doll for the wife for a long while now", I  heard in that familiar comforting accent.

     "Yeah, she loved this doll when she was a youngster".

He continues.

     "She was so sad after having lost her when her grandmother died and the family home was sold".

     "Ah, I know the feeling". I say.

He further explains where his wife is from and as it turns out we are from around the same area and we are about the same age.

I am moved again, and know this is where my doll belongs now.

I offer to wrap the  doll before I send it off to the Rock because he has told me it is a Christmas gift.
      "No" he explains, "Me daughter and I are going to  wrap it in three big boxes."

He tells me also that I have made his daughter very happy and that his wife will  be so  excited.

At this point I just want to send the doll. I  no longer care about the money (I had already  gotten much more than she was "worth") but my aunt in NL who assists me in  completing the transaction reminds me I actually do care about that.

I magically found the exact right box, the exact packing and I  included a note for the  new owner (With the buyer's permission) 

So, next day off Mrs. Beasleywent to the Rock via Sameday, for some other woman to enjoy, for some other woman to open on Christmas morning, to be moved as she remembers her own doll, her beloved grandmother and as she appreciates her husband's thoughtfulness and sees the joy on her daughter's face.

I feel good about this one. And, even better...I myself, let go of so many things the moment I  sealed that box!