Saturday, 23 April 2011


According to Jennifer James, author of “Women & the Blues”, we need to have enemies as part of our personal growth. She mentions that historically, women needed the support and approval of the community (including other women) in order to have security; so we all learned how to be "nice" and "popular." However, an independent life lived with passion and integrity means one is bound to offend or irritate someone, somewhere, and thus create enemies.This doesn't mean being judgemental or hyper-critical of others, or constantly fostering discord to gain attention, nor taking umbrage at every variance from one's own views. James comments, "Enemies are a test of our honour, not an excuse for giving it up." She seems to be advocating instead that women save the energy we waste on trying to get everyone to like us (doesn't work anyway), and gain energy and insight from our exchanges with worthy opponents.
Most of my old enemies have faded into the past. None of them seem to have any impact on my life, and haven’t for a long time. This is partly due to the fact that, for some years now, my social life has also faded into the past. Not being really big on multitasking, I’ve focussed in on my immediate family and our issues, especially raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to cultivate friendships or enmities. My current lack of enemies is also partly due to the fairly common human trait of avoiding conflict, especially as we get older and want to cut down on those sudden spikes of high blood pressure. Yes, I admit, as a younger woman, being aggressive and engaging in a heated argument over ethics or politics, was indeed quite a turn-on. At fifty, I get plenty of heat just standing still, and added stress doesn’t help matters.
But, I do still hold grudges, especially against those who really deserve it. Like the ones who pull their nasty passive-aggressive stunt, then withdraw, and refuse to engage in open debate. The ones whose personal dramas wreak havoc within an organization, and who then take no responsibility for cleaning up the mess they’ve made. The school principal, She Who Shall Not Be Named, whose stubborn and wrong-headed approach to “discipline” nearly screwed up my kid’s life. But she needs a whole essay to herself.
In spite of a tendency to hold grudges, there are a few old enemies out there that I am curious about. If I ran into one of them, would I react instinctively to all the old damage, by putting up my guard and being self-protective? Would we immediately pick up the thread of the old argument? Would it be possible to either resolve, or let go of, old conflicts? Would I find that I, unexpectedly, like these people now?
As my husband and I come to terms with the life-long implications of our child’s diagnosis, and as we watch her progress and mature, we are making small forays out of our social isolation. We’ve each dropped some old relationships, reinforced others, forged new friendships, and are beginning to make social connections based on our interests. I’m looking forward to meeting some new enemies. And besides personal relationships, what about diversity and richness in our language? As well as all the friendly phrases having to do with connectivity and cooperation, people also need on occasion to be at loggerheads, to fall out, bear malice, be on bad terms, at daggers drawn, feel disaffected, estranged, irreconcilable, experience discord, hostility, rancor, animosity, aversion, and get to know a few antagonists, foes, opponents and snakes in the grass.

Recently I read a short piece in the Globe and Mail, announcing that an ancient, indigenous language spoken only in a certain area of Mexico, is now in danger of extinction. It's an oral language with no written expression, and it seems that the last two living remnants of this language live in the same small community. But they're no longer speaking to each other. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Spiritual Necessity of Dog Poop

Morning is my best time to write. It’s a great time to do the cryptic crossword puzzle, too... or start on a housecleaning chore that will take me well into the afternoon. So, best to just sit down and start writing. I’m still a bit embarrassed by my writing. I shy away from anything too ambitious, I worry over what others will think: too academic and stuffy, or too naive and clumsy? My daughter helps me cut through the crap.

She told me all about inventions while we were out walking the dog one day. Apparently, every path in life has dog poop on it here and there, and if you never step in the dog poop, you’re not an inventor.
These are words to live by. How sad and how boring for the people who never step in the dog poop! There it is, so generously strewn across their path, but – ew, I can’t get my expensive boots dirty, or ew, I won’t look very hip if I step in that. All those unwritten social rules that keep us all in our place, and stop us from changing anything. Always look acceptable to others. Never make a mistake. Avoid bad smells. Thank god, at the end of the day I won’t be able to say “Hurrah! I made it all the way along my path and never learned a thing!”

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


By way of introduction, my main purpose in starting a web log is to share some of my writing (but not all of it...) completely free of charge. Please enjoy 1. a winter haiku, now that spring is here, and 2. a short short story about a short short girl.


Digging through
Snow with stiff fingers
Prying loose a fallen key


2. (tentative title: Small Change)

“It’s about time,” Julie remarked when she saw her mom’s face hovering over the toaster slot. “Can’t you ever get up on time?”
“Quit wiggling.” Her mom, after a gasp of fear when she saw where Julie was, had unplugged the toaster, and was now looking more annoyed than frightened. “Do you know you could have turned the elements on, bouncing around like that?”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it...” As soon as she realized she was safe, Julie had made her usual transformation from scared child to scornful ten-year-old.
“It’s not yeah, yeah, young lady, it’s NOT yeah, yeah. “ Beth used the knob at the front of the toaster to elevate her daughter. With great care she lifted Julie out of the toaster-slot and set her down on the counter. “It’s what the hell -- I mean heck -- are you doing climbing around up here? You’ve been told!”
Julie brushed a few crumbs from her tiny jeans and t-shirt. She was small, slim, with wispy blond hair and surprisingly large blue eyes, which she used to her advantage at moments like this. She blinked up at her mom, looking contrite, but gauging when it would be safe to smile.
“Sorreee...not that I’m trying to make excuses or anything, but – I like climbing. You know I’ve always liked climbing and exploring. Sorry I got into a bit of a problem there...”
“Problem? I’m not sure I even want to know how you got up here in the first place, but you better believe this counter top is off limits until I say otherwise. Got it?” Mom could be a bit militaristic at times. But the corners of her eyes were starting to crinkle up just a bit. “Honestly, I don’t know any other parents in this neighbourhood who are fishing their kid out of the toaster this hour in the morning.” Julie’s lips pressed hard together, trying to keep from smiling quite yet...but when her mom scooped her up to snuggle against her housecoat, they were both laughing.
Half an hour later, Beth drove into the drop-off area at Julie’s school, and smiled down at the cup-holder by her seat. Julie unbuckled the tiny harness that kept her in her improvised seat, and reached up to kiss her mom good-bye. A teacher’s assistant was waiting nearby to take her to the Special Needs room. Julie grimaced. “Mom, when can I move into a regular class? I know you won’t let me take me the bus. But come on...I don’t have a disability. I’m just small, is all.”
“You know I’m working on it, honey. The official line is, it’s hard to find resources to purchase educational materials in your size... it’s hard to find materials, period. Meanwhile, if you’re in the Special Needs room, you get somebody who’s paid to help turn pages, type your answers into the computer, all that stuff.” Beth rolled down the window and handed Julie over to the teacher’s assistant. “And sweetie, about the toaster incident this morning. I’m serious about your safety; you know we all have to follow the rules so that nobody gets hurt. Bye bye.”
“Ok, bye mom. And don’t worry about me. This is school, I won’t be getting any big ideas here.”


Thank you for reading! And please let me know if you, or a young person you know, would be interested in following the adventures of a very small girl with very big ideas.