Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I blog because out there somewhere is a cyber crowd that care. At least that’s what I like to believe. Sometimes I even allow myself to believe they care more than the people directly involved in my personal life.

Now this belief is only one small sample of the many things I allow myself to believe that make life truly special. But in my heart I hold bushels of others. Emotional convictions that allow me luxuries similar to material collections of stained glass windows, soft Persian rugs, crystal chandeliers, famous first-rate paintings, and exotic gardens where fountains flow and bronze statues glitter in the sun. So if this is the kind of emotional lush-living I can have by allowing myself to believe a thing, why not allow myself the luxury of believing it? If what I believe supplements the sparse primitive crumbs of love, empathy, and compassion feebly clinging to my DNA that I was born with, why not?

The things we allow ourselves to believe (if carefully chosen) can be luxuries of great worth. Priceless gifts, like precious gems, that come at bargain-basement prices. Gifts that no one can deny us except ourselves. So I accept these gifts that come so cheaply. Why not accept all those convictions (that can never be solidly proved or disproved) that heal heartbreaks and turn the sour notes of life into song?

But then, like any skeptic, I begin to think. Should I be more cautious? Is there a hidden price to pay? Is this kind of thinking a symptom of some toxic phobia that I am unaware of?

Friday, June 23, 2006


You’ve heard it said our minds are like a sponge. Absorbing sentiments from our surroundings, knowledge from books, and skills from observation. But interwoven in all this is the stuff we mop up from fantasy and the stuff we mop up from reality. Now how this stuff is compartmentalized in our heads, I have no idea. But I do know that when fantasy and reality spills get mopped up together, who knows which is what? And this rant is about some of that confusion.

Now when I was a kid, the old woman down the road, had a rather unusual way of expressing her delight when I came visiting with a new flowered blouse or skirt on that my mother had made me. “Eeeeh, it’s so beautiful. I can’t stand to look.” And then covering her eyes with her hands she would turn away.

I never understood it then, but I understand it now. It has to do with the fear of the intangible differences between fantasy and reality. Reality, when it is sweet, is so sweet. But fantasies, if too sweet, are frightening. Like bad luck. And sometimes the lines between the two are smudged.

Now I need to tell you that often in dreams, I find myself on the edge of a deep chasm. I don’t know how I got there but there I stand, balancing precariously. Unable to step ahead, to turn, to crouch, to crawl to safer ground. The drop-off begins its vertical descent at the tips of my toes, and the depth is so distant it is only blackness. Every muscle of my body is contracted into hard knots of fear. I am too rigid to sway in the wind, and even more unstable because of that rigidity. And so, I just stand there, taking silent and shallow mini-puffs of air like I did when I was a kid so the thing under my bed wouldn’t hear me breathing. Only now the fear is that the smallest rise and fall in my chest will send me plunging over the edge.

But yet, there is a small wavering bit of comfort splashing about in my brain. If I fall, I will surely plunge to my death, but somehow I’m not certain that is what would happen. I keep thinking about flying. I don’t remember flying, I can’t say I ever did, but yet I think that if I were to fall, I might fly. I really might. I think the rushing wind of rapid fall would instruct me and I would fly with the fluid grace of a great bird.

But today’s reality is not so much about dreams as the reality of how happy I was when I took my coffee and went out on the deck. I haven’t done that for years. When I was working there was no time and when I quit work there was no deck to sit on. Over the years we discarded rotting boards and rearranged the remaining healthy ones until the deck was nothing more than a narrow perch. But now we have an awesome new deck completely outfitted with patio furniture that YD bought her Dad for Father’s Day. It is an inviting place to be so that’s how I ended up on the deck this morning in a comfy chair sipping coffee.

I looked around me. The sun wrapped me in comforting warmth. The grass was so lush and such a deep green. The long shadows of early morn made everything from the closest tree to the farthest fen and everything in between stand out with sharper relief than my vision normally sees. Each thing I saw framed another and that thing framed another and that another. It was like looking into eternity.

The mound of red petunias in the silver barrel at the gate radiated their brilliance as if they were bathed in a spotlight. The pots I arranged near the house have expanded and bloomed until their purple blossoms are tumbling down in a waterfall of brilliant midnight blue in the shadows and lavender in the sunlight. We have had sufficient rains and the result is that the branches of all the trees are sporting tender silken clouds of that new magic green that is so much more uplifting than the darker green of maturity. The sky is an unbelievable satiny blue with scattered clouds hanging low and tinged in gold. A gentle wind is rustling my hair and the trees and keeping the bugs at bay. Robins are hopping about on the grass and one is perched in a nearby tree singing a truly first-rate melody.

Now I didn’t mean to look at all this loveliness and think of Paradise but that is what I found myself thinking about. The beauty of Paradise. I could not find anything in this vision that I could logically or rationally connect to CNN or this crude world with it’s wars, and corruption, and hunger and want. Laid out before me was something far too lovely to be a common backdrop to any house or home. I found myself thinking of the Old Woman and her expression, “It’s too beautiful. I can’t look.” And I began to understand it.

I wasn’t seeing a common day with a common sunrise. I was peeking into Paradise and thinking, “It’s too beautiful. Can’t look. Mustn’t look.” It was scary. Life suddenly seemed so tenuous. I felt like I do when I am precariously perched over that great black hole in my dreams. Afraid if I look, if I allow myself to absorb it, and it to absorb me, that I will slip from life into Paradise. I want to look away, cover my eyes.

I feel spasms starting in my feet and ankles, moving up my legs, locking the muscles into rigid things. I cannot turn away. Cannot cover my eyes. I am gripped by indescribable fear. Pervasive fear. My breath reduced to slow and halting whiffs. But yet, despite my fear that I might suddenly tumble away from reality and transition to another place, I still find that other comfort. Unproven, but still a conviction that, if beamed up and out, during the swiftness of that transition, the rushing pace of that passage will instruct me and I will fly.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Now I’m sure you’ve heard of the individual that started out with a red paper clip and with that red paper clip which he listed on E-Bay he is trading up to reach the ultimate goal of a new house. And he is making good and steady progress. I guess Hub’s dream is kind of like that, but we are not starting out with a red paper clip. We are starting out with a faint hope and a letter of application that will be eventually transcribed in calligraphy script on a piece of stiff lace-edged original high quality linen that I found in my Grandmother’s trunk. And so the correspondence begins.


If it please Your Majesty, I wish you to consider this application for Knighthood.
The man I want you to consider is Bobby Smith.

If it please Your Majesty, Bobby is a simple man. He has done nothing of great notoriety. He has penned no unforgettable lyrics, composed no music, erected no architecture, written no profound works, accumulated no wealth. He has protested nothing and lobbied nothing.

But if it please Your Majesty, he is brave. He is brave to the point of being foolish, and foolish to the point of being brave. If that were not the case he would not have allowed me to write this application. If it please Your Majesty, how fearless is a simple common man who has done nothing of repute to suggest that he would like to be a Knight.

And if it please Your Majesty, Bobby is affable. Easy to approach and easily approachable. Most of us style our lives in order to assure a place in our afterlife. But for Bobby, it is not the laws of man or Deity that prompt his sense of justice and honor. He has always said he does not want anything he has not rightfully earned. And for this reason, Bobby has never traded up or sold anything above its value or even equal to its value. And he has never sold anything without full disclosure, including that which is anticipated though yet without symptom.

If it please Your Majesty, now that Bobby is retired and his youth declining, I beseech you for realization of the dream that best fits the aptitude that he has displayed while unmindful of any reward. Only last week, in consequence of him suggesting this new dream, I realized that his virtues have never stemmed from competitiveness, self-righteousness or a desire for applause. He has lived his life with virtue because moral virtue is what gave him peace.

And if it please Your Majesty, there is something else. It is a small thing that I hesitate to mention but I know how much Bobby has hated being called ‘Bobby’ all his life. All he ever wanted was for people to call him ‘Bob’. But it never happened. And the reason it never happened is because he is the kind of endearing individual that didn’t fit with a curt, terse name like ‘Bob’. He has been called ‘Bobby’ for an entire lifetime because ‘Bobby’ is the indicator of his magnetism and others immediate perception of his sensitivity and sweetness. So if it please Your Majesty, what a special gift it would be for him to be referred to as “Sir Bobby”. That has a ring of sophistication that removes any childishness from a mature individual’s name.

And finally, if it please Your Majesty, when I asked Bobby what privileges come with Knighthood that make him long to be a Knight, he was unaware of any. So, if it please Your Majesty, then I asked him why he wanted to be a Knight and this is what he told me.

“I saw a Knighting ceremony the other day. Her Royal Majesty presiding, touching the sword to one shoulder and than the other. That same gracious Queen who ruled when I first entered a Grade One class and still rules. I have never understood other’s terms of eternal redemption but in watching that ritual I felt that here, at last, was something with redemptive value like a spiritual baptism. All I know is after watching that I need to be a Knight. And, in retrospect, though I have done nothing, I have done something.”

I was rather taken aback at this comment but as I pondered it in subsequent days, I realized that Bobby is right. If it please Your Majesty, how he has conducted himself might suggest Knighthood, though he be a simple man without a litany of conquests.

Respectfully and Affectionately Yours,

Roberta Smith

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

# 158 WHO DONE IT?

I hate the way everything at my local bank is being dispersed to call centres in distant locations. More on that in my next post. But in the meantime, I think Hub makes a very good point.

He reminded me the other day that not too many years ago our local bank had 12 employees and one janitor. So if any internal fraud or theft occurred, there were only 13 suspects. No more.

Now with links to call-centers for every aspect of banking, so many people are wandering around shuffling through bank files all day and all night that one might as well not even lock the doors or secure the vault. Bank managers have no idea how many ‘cyber-field staff’ are rifling through bank files. And those that do, leave no footprints, finger prints, or physical evidence. Thieves no longer need to get to the cash, all they need to get to is the information. And so, if fraud or theft occurs, even in a small-town bank, there are more suspects than the small group of local employees. In fact, there are more suspects than one could ever count. And with call-centre staff-rotations being what they are (swift and often), many that should be on the suspect list would be lost in the shuffle.

Yet I still see the bank manager locking the door and checking it twice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I DON’T think so…

The other day I saw a talk show hostess insisting that three young men MUST cry in order to cure their emotional distress about a father that was a thief, and a liar. To cure the legend of anger against a father that had committed unforgivable acts that tore their world apart. I found myself wanting to look away from the men's faces when the hostess brought up the crying thing. I felt such a conversation was overly intrusive, particularly in front of an audience. The soul is too intimate a place for an outsider to command vicious stripping and hacking until one feels compelled to cry when every soul and muscle and fiber in their being is fighting against it.

I say this because crying is not a Shakespearean Act, it is a natural spontaneous emotion. And because it has a strong emotional connection like smiling, laughing, dancing, and singing, we cannot do it justice if it is not a natural reaction to something that wells up in the soul. So, that being the case, why would anyone insist that men must cry?

I don’t know if you’ve ever said to your children that they should cry. All I remember saying is “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. There’s no need.” But I also remember someone who insisted I must cry. When my homework was incomplete I remember being berated by an evil cruel Science teacher who after attacking me in a blistering verbal manner, insisted that I stand at the front of the class and cry so that all could see me cry. He forced me to remove my hands from my face so that no one’s view would be impeded as I wept. I couldn’t have been more disturbed if a crowd had gathered round me while I was forced to relieve myself in a bathroom with transparent walls.

I don’t think my Dad ever cried cause I never saw him do it. I’m glad there was never the opportunity for someone to tell him that because he didn’t cry that he was somehow deficient in his soul. He was a very kind man and I am quite certain that an accusation of deficiency of soul would have been far more distressing to him than the battle he had against a deficiency of food. He would have been heartbroken. That kind of deficiency would have been a burden much heavier to bear than the deficiencies of our physical existence.

And Hub is the same kind of man. I’ve never seen him shed tears either (but I did hear an uncommon sniffling sound as he turned his face to the wall the day his doggie died). But outright weeping? Not. He is too practical for that. Life is about finding practical solutions to problems, not sitting around crying.

The whole thing is somewhat similar to the problem I have with bladder shyness. I cannot go to a medical office and provide a urine sample. Too bladder-shy to piss a drop. But that does not mean I can’t piss like a race horse when I am in my own private comfort zone. And I think many men are the same when it comes to weeping. They cannot cry in public, but when emotions overwhelm them, they can match the emotional mush of anyone else. But they can only do it with head turned to the wall, in the privacy of their own pillow where they can keep the intimate value of it intact. Because, truth is, that for them, showing outward weakness creates an emotional monster that is harder for them to wrestle than the tribulations of daily life.

P.S. Of course, then we come to those that keep insisting tears are not a sign of weakness. Give it a break. If that were the case newsmen could weep rivers while reporting the world’s latest disasters and we could all cry at the workplace especially on Mondays.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


In my life, there has been a long line of purses. The purses with zippers, snaps, ties, and some that gaped intentionally in a casual unassuming way. Purses of clothe, canvas, leather or plastic. I remember a time that it seemed I was forever shopping for another purse because the straps stretched or broke, the fasteners gave up, or they became soiled and could not be cleaned. But I tired of it all and eventually all I wanted was a serviceable purse. One that would put at an end to all this purse circumstance. And so, eventually Hub bought me a lovely hand-tooled leather purse.

That purse hung from my shoulder for eight years or more till I was so sick and tired of it, I wanted to puke. But still no sign of wear, soil, age, or wilt. All I could see in my future was me and that purse going on and on and on.

Now please don’t tell anyone this (particularly Hub) but eventually we were in a battle, that purse and I. One of us was going to have to give in and I sure hoped it wouldn’t be me. In retrospect I like to think it was not deliberate, but eventually I started doing things like throwing my purse on the floor in the car and putting my feet on it. I began scraping it on door- jambs and slamming it in elevator doors. Carrying it outside the shelter of my umbrella in downpours. Eating in restaurants with it on my lap as a napkin. Roughly yanking it this way and that whenever the opportunity arose. Doubling the weight and volume of its contents. They say “familiarity breeds contempt” and I had definitely reached the point where that purse with its undying serviceability, was totally contemptible. And so, eventually after another four years, I was able to scar, soil, and deface it enough to toss it out.

And so I returned to the revolving doors of purse shops for a number of years until my daughter bought me a soft grey-colored sports-type bag about six years ago. It is a good purse. It can go in the washer and dryer. Problem is it soils easily, and whenever I want to use it for a special event, seems I always forget to launder it. And when soiled it looks like something from down-on-the-farm.

So yesterday, Hub and I went shopping for non-essentials in the city. And I found myself drawn to the purses. No one can deny that it is time for me to have another purse. I feel like I am rapidly aging and with it comes frequent despondency. Awareness of the quick passage of time taints so many other-wise lovely days, that I couldn’t help thinking that maybe the healer might be a dress-up purse with a bit of a splash. So from the selection of no-nonsense purses, I chose the one that really stood out. A small fabric purse cradled in a mesh of navy beads with a beaded shoulder strap. It was unique, different, and ‘navy’.

Now what you need to understand is that ‘navy’ is a color that seduces me. It comforts me. When I dress in navy and look in the mirror I find that it lends sophistication to graying hair. It is color that rejuvenates pallid skin and widens eyes that age is forcing into small dots. Navy is my saving grace. It brings back the ruddiness of youth. It is a color that exhilarates my body and soul, and refreshes my countenance. Regardless of youth or age, women done up in navy always look smart and classy. So that navy purse beckoned me and I threw it into my cart.

So now Hub and I went to the till with our non-essentials including my navy purse. Hub made a move to place my purse on the counter but he stalled mid-air thoughtfully examining it with a puzzled frown. “Roberta, are you sure you want THIS purse?”

Then the clerk picked it up and said, “Is this a purse? (snicker) as she checked it inside and out. “It sure is different.” (more snickers). The beads rattled like loose change as she passed it over the scanner.

Now only a moment before Hub and I heard this same clerk huffing and snapping at another employee. Her countenance and voice a crystal communication of impatience and disgust. But when she was putting my new navy purse into a bag, her eyes begin to twinkle and suddenly, quite unexpected, she looked at Hub, Hub looked at her and both of them broke into laughter. Serious laughter that leads to knee slapping and bending over at the waist.

At first I was totally dismayed. But not for long. After all, that’s what navy does. It makes one well pleased and happy.

And with that quick bit of recall came understanding and I doubled over at the waist and laughed my ass off as well.


So while we're on the subject of 'purses', tell me about yours. What you like about it or don't like about it. Does it make you happy? Or have you had anything i.e. jeans, curtains, boots, or any other such thing so long that it became utterly contemptible?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I think, inherent in most of us, is the wish to do better, be better, whether that feeling is motivated by the laws of a Deity, or just by a gentle primitive urging. We can, of course, ignore the small voices in our head and pursue with rampant greed all that life has to offer with a total disregard for the hearts and heads we crush in the process. But for the most part, I think human nature gently urges us to be fair and considerate of other human beings.

So, having a common belief that a relationship cannot be successful if it is not built on fair and honest principles, Hub and I have always prided ourselves on doing our best to maintain that standard. From day one, there has been joint access and ownership of all that we had. My money was his money and his money was mine. So with this philosophy, we fail to understand couples that live together with separate bank accounts, separate possessions, and separate bill-paying obligations. Still realizing, nonetheless, that everyone has a right to live their own lives however they see best.

But we don’t operate that way. Both Hub and I have always had an easy confidence that if the marriage should sour amidst hot conflict or gross misunderstanding, neither of us would run with more than our share, although it would be an easy thing to do. Whether or not we are just naively idealistic, like Paul McCartney and his wife, who needed no pre-nupt because they were “SO” in love, I don’t know. I guess Sir Paul thought like we did, but it didn’t work out so well for him. But these thoughts are a deviation from what I really want to discuss. What I want to discuss is in the midst of all this truth and trust is my suspicion that some unethical stuff is sneaking into this relationship.

Now last night Hub did what he so often does. He made a monster bowl of popcorn before settling in to watch TV. And he did something else he always does. He melted all the butter in the butter dish and poured every drop of it on his popcorn. So later, when I was tidying up in the kitchen before going to bed, I found that empty dish and I was truly annoyed. There is nothing I hate more than making toast in the morning and having to dig out frozen, rock-hard butter from the freezer. Too hard to even cut without shattered butter leaping into the air. And then the caution needed to soften that butter in the microwave without converting it to a pool of liquid. So before going to bed, I portioned a frozen bit of butter and put it in a clean butter dish. I then hid that butter dish in a different part of the cupboard.

This morning I spread hot toast out on the counter in readiness for buttering and then began a search for the butter (having of course forgotten by now where my special butter-hiding place was). Hub couldn’t help noticing that I was looking for something. That’s when he piped up, “If you’re looking for the butter, there is none. I used it all last night.”

“But I do so have some butter,” I said smugly. “I hid some in the cupboard and obviously will have to continue to do so if I want soft butter for toast in the morning. Actually I would have a bigger problem with you emptying the butter dish and not filling another except for one thing. When you empty the butter dish, that’s when I eat your chocolate.”

Hub's eyes got big. His mouth dropped open. “Did you eat my chocolate bar?” he asked in shock and disbelief. (Although we have joint ownership of most things, when it comes to chocolate bars, here there is a separation. Hub gets one bi-weekly bar and I get 8 to 10 bars cause Hub is a diabetic and I am not.)

“Do your mean to say that I have to hide my chocolate bar,” he continued. “When did you eat it? Did you stuff it down your throat when I was having a shower or in the bathroom? Or did you eat it when I was outside? When did you sneak behind my back like a common thief and eat my bar?”

“I didn’t hide anywhere and eat it. You know me better than that. I would never be that deceptive. I sat adjacent to you in the livingroom and ate it when you were eating popcorn and watching ‘Lone Star’. In case you hadn’t noticed, I become invisible when you are eating your buttered popcorn and watching ‘Lone Star’. When you’re doing that I can sit at my computer less than four feet from you buck-naked without my teeth, with chocolate all over my face and scratch my bottom with a table fork and you wouldn’t notice. In fact I can even eat your chocolate bar and smack my lips without risk of being seen – or heard! So do what you wish with the butter. It matters not to me.”

So that’s my story. But now I am a bit concerned. I can’t help wondering if this butter and bar business is ethical. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is one of those tiny shreds of contamination that is easy to overlook but yet it can quickly lead to full-scale corruption. God, I hope not.

Friday, June 02, 2006


My Doctor told me quite a few years back that I needed to exercise more, drink less coffee, and eat less fats. And since then, I have had a few more checkups when he told me the same thing. And each time he has told me this, although I listen carefully to his concerns about my calcium levels, bone porosity, and cholesterol count, yet when I leave his office, despite the best of intentions, within a few days I find myself slipping back into the old rut. Fatty foods, too much coffee, and minimal exercise.

And so I recognize my failings. And seeing the way the Medical Community is currently coming down on smokers, with some Health Advocates even going so far as to suggest reducing efforts to treat them, I felt anxious and quite concerned. The message was out there that those with self-perpetrated smoking-related illnesses brought on by their own foolishness or lack of discipline, are individuals less deserving of quality care. And so, with this in mind, the last time I had a checkup, I just had to ask my doctor the all-important question.

“Doc,” I said, “I know what you want me to do and I don’t always do it. So if I continue in my evil ways and I become ill because of it, can I be confident that you will still take the best possible care of me?”

“Roberta,” he said, “I know how easy it is to have the best of intentions but how hard it is to carry them out. I promise, no matter how bad you fail, I will always take the very best care of you.” I knew when he said it he meant it. But what surprised me was this was coming from a Doctor who had every reason to feel self-righteous and judgmental. Sufficient enough to make him want to puke in disgust at my disablement and lack of self-discipline. Particularly since my Doctor is so accomplished, not only in his professional dedication to medicine, but his personal dedication to good health as well. I know he is a rigid, unbending, calorie-counting health-oriented fat-free walk-to-work flex-trained no-nonsense individual.

So in that moment I was so proud of my Doctor’s compassion and non-judgmental care. ‘Here is someone,’ I said to myself, ‘who fully honors the Oath he made when he became a Doctor.’

And so going back to my failings, although I still gobble up too much fried foods, and drink too much coffee, if there is any redemption in it, I now exercise every day. I take the puppies on a long dog-jog each day (rain, sleet or snow), and if exercise is what I need, then I’ve got enough stamps in that department to allow me to be a couch potato for the rest of 2006. Since my last post, I have been helping Hub build a new patio with huge railway ties and more than thirty concrete blocks that individually are only about 30 kg. less than the weight of a half-ton truck. It only took two days to finish. It would have taken much longer but Hub would not bend to the wisdom of my suggestion that we place two blocks each day, one in the forenoon and one in the aft. But I digress (perhaps because of physical exhaustion).

So returning to our original discussion, perhaps it’s an uncommon approach to things but I’ve always felt more import in me being proud of others than in them being proud of me. There is more import in me being proud of Hub than Hub being proud of me and likewise I think there is more health import in me being proud of my caregivers rather than them being proud of me.

What I have seen happening when patients do all that is asked or expected of them, is sometimes they get overlooked. One year my daughter’s 3rd-grade schoolteacher apologized to me for overlooking my daughter because she was so cheerful, cooperative, and well behaved. She told me it wasn’t something she meant to do, it just happened because her attention was always diverted to the more difficult children in the class.

I suspect this kind of diversion can happen with any situation including one’s relationship with their Doctor. Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone should ignore a Doctor’s advice, but don’t give the pride in your efforts too much voice. Because society has a curve of thinking that is about as rippled as forty-foot ocean waves. And the curve of this wave taints the thinking of all professionals as well as the common man. And in a health-minded society pressing hard for healthy living, the assumption may be made, and sometimes is, that healthy living will prevent or turn an illness around when what you need is hard-core medical intervention.

Obviously, I am outside the splash of the swell. No such assumptions will ever be made like that in my case and besides, my Doctor and I have an agreement.