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Sunday, January 28, 2007

awake and dreaming

A long white curtain is swept to the side of the window in my room, revealing large billowy snowflakes falling from the sky.

Everything is lined with white, as if an artist has run around outside with a soft white pencil, beautifying everything in sight.

These days it’s a little easier to get out of bed. I’ve been making changes, keeping quiet so that I can listen to my thoughts, and trying to let my body tell me what it needs.

For the past four years I’ve had trouble sleeping. What started out as waking uncomfortably early every morning, has switched to me waking several times each night, unable to go back to sleep without sedating myself with heavy food: cereal, oatmeal, bread.

It’s uncomfortable habit that leaves my sleep interrupted and my body confused. I wake every day feeling unsettled; I go through the day heavy with shame in my bad habits and unusual schedule. While everyone was having a good night’s sleep, I was up trying to sedate myself, eating up to three bowls of oatmeal in trying to attain a heaviness that would induce me into a state of REM.

I have days where I feel like a walking zombie. Where no amount of concealer can cover the bags under my eyes. Where words sweep through me like sweet nothings.

I don’t like doctors and I don’t like to ask for help. I have tried several sleeping pills. These magic pills that are meant to knock me out for hours at a time, only make me feel groggy and drugged, as I continue to wake through the night, unfathomed by their potency.

More recently I have visited a naturopath and started acupuncture. I’m much more comfortable with the more natural approach to my body, and feeling positive so far.

And I’m making changes, exercising for the first time in years, taking calcium supplements, drinking green tea instead of coffee, trying to work meat into my diet, and sleeping with a mask in complete darkness.

My sleep is still interrupted, but much calmer, and some nights I only wake once. I feel more in control of my body, and that my self-confidence, which started to disintegrate some time ago, is being injected back into me.

I feel better in the mornings. My body is stronger, and I no longer need to pull it through the day.

I’ve realized that if you want to see change you have to fight for it. Life’s little rewards don’t come for free, but they’re there if you’re willing to pay the price.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

you're my favorite escape

My body aches for travel, but school and an empty wallet have me stranded in Toronto. Luckily, not all hope is lost. If you can't travel out of your city, you can always travel within your city. I've started art classes, photography work, tasting new food, exploring different areas, and spending more time in some of my favourite Chinatown.

spadina streetcar
street veggies
come on in
hot meat
under a dollar
dried food
lady in the light
cafe on a cold day
winter has come
open for business

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Monday, January 22, 2007

a heart grows fonder

As promised, here is my finished profile on Donald Crowdis...

Donald Crowdis, Canada’s oldest blogger, is hunched over a large piece of fluffy pink cheesecake at his country club.

“How decadent! Don’t you hate to spoil it?” He says, raising his wild white eyebrows. Crowdis is a small man with a large grin and a mischievous face.

The 93-year-old muses about life and science on his blog “Don to Earth: A Nonagenarian (90+) Ponders Life, the Universe, and Aging”. His posts range from Cannibalism and sex to old age and science. His unique posts, combined with his age, have put him in the spotlight of CBS, BBC, the National Post, and Boing Boing.

Crowdis writes his blogs out longhand after breakfast each day, and sends his posts by mail to a family member in New Brunswick who publishes them online. He doesn’t own a computer, but plans on buying two.

“Here I am behind on technology and I founded the Ontario Science Centre,” says Crowdis.

He is nonchalant about all the media attention he’s been receiving.

“I’ll beat the brains out of anyone who says I get excited,” he says, smiling.

Crowdis has never asked for attention, it just seems to come his way. “Never do anything for glory,” he says, “the glory soon fades and then you’re just some old idiot.”

“I’m almost man of the year,” he writes in his blog of January 1, 2007. “In the past, I understand that I have been considered for the Order of Canada for my services in museums, libraries, heritage, and radio and television broadcasting.” Crowdis is best remembered as the original host of the CBC television The Nature of Things, a role David Suzuki has played since 1979.

Now that he has a blog, Crowdis can share his stories with the world. “He loves to share his knowledge. My mother calls him the little professor,” says his daughter, Robyn Patterson, 58.

“Do you know how many stars are in the Milky Way?” He asks me. “Something short of a trillion. Do you know how many Milky Ways there are? The same as the amount of stars in each one.”

For every fact, Crowdis has a story. He is one of the last survivors of the Halifax explosion, which tore down his house, took his mother’s eye, crippled his aunt, and separated the family for two and a half years before they had a house again. “By the time I was six and a half I had lived at 7 addresses. I stayed in foster homes and learnt early on that I’m not the boss of anything.” Another story – one that was popular on his blog – tells how his grandfather was stabbed in the back and died outside, behind a saloon in Colorado.

When asked how he spent his birthday, Crowdis pauses. “I think I was worried you would ask that question,” he says, slightly unsure of himself. On Christmas Eve, his 93rd birthday, Crowdis returned home at midnight from the hospital after suffering from a stroke.

Although he looks healthy, he is going slightly deaf, and only has a lung and a third, after his tuberculosis was mistaken for long cancer. “My attitude to the medical world is doubtful,” says Crowdis. Crowdis blogged about the event, saying "it cured me of smoking, a habit that consisted of one cigarette around a campfire or a pipe of tobacco at university reunions. So all is not lost, yet. I've cheered up, and so should you."

Crowdis will never run out of ideas. He keeps piles of notes on different subjects he might explore on his blog. Nothing is too personal: He describes his wife’s stroke. He speaks of not being ready for death: “I would not object to being the oldest human on the planet by a hundred years or so. Or would I? Some things, like sex and good food, might lose their sensory appeal altogether.”

A true gentleman, Crowdis shares more than his knowledge: before finishing his cake, he slides his plate across the table and allows me to finish the last two mouthfuls. I feel my heart grow for a man more than four times my age and half my height.

donald crowdis

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Friday, January 19, 2007

don't make me snap

I've started out as a photographer for SNAP, a local paper that covers events in my area. My first night on the job, I headed out at 11 p.m. to a kareoke night with a singing bartender. It may not have been the coolest bar I've been to in Toronto, but I met some nice people, took a few photos, and got a free drink. All is well in the world of photo journalism.

rockin out
billy bobs
pour me another
singing bartender
purple rain..
hey baby
mike the man
montreal kareoke stars

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

breaking even

It’s hard not to love my father.

He has made a stopover in Toronto after staying in New Brunswick for his mother’s funeral.

He is vibrant and healthy looking, but a fragile version of his usual self. I can’t imagine losing a parent. He has now lost both his parents and is going through the stages of grief.

Luckily he is his mother’s son, and has his two feet planted very firmly on this earth. He knows who he is, he understands his emotions, he speaks and moves with confidence and he takes care of himself.

Sometimes I envy how steady he is. He is healthy, active, curious and always interesting to talk to. He loves to know what’s going on in the world. He has excellent ear and a good name in the film industry. He works harder than anyone I know, but knows how to relax more than anyone I know at the same time.

At this point in my life I'm realizing I need to care for my parents the way they have always cared for me. I have to refuse the urge to be nurtured and return some of the love that has been given to me for the past 20 years.

I take small steps in learning to do this: I offer up my bed, make my dad a simple meal for his sensitive stomach, and most importantly listen. I hear my own voice talk incessantly about my own needs before remembering the importance of listening. He has things to say that are worth hearing, and my ego needs to calm so I can shut my mouth and absorb what he's saying. His needs are just as important-if not more-than my own.

The exchange of nurturing helps bring us to the same level. It doesn’t matter that there’s 40 years between us or that he’s my father, I love the guy for who he is. I want to spend time with him, go for lunch with him, talk to him about my everyday thoughts and laugh so hard my stomach hurts over dirty jokes with him.

Isn’t that what growing up is all about?

here's looking you kid
come as you are
happy dad
butcher's pantry
dad before lunch
art downstairs
type bookstore
mommies who drink
winter wonderwoman
*photos all taken on Queen Street West, Toronto.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

convicted of stealing my heart

She pulls off a red bathrobe, not far from the fiery red colour of her hair dye, and poses naked in the centre of the room.

Around the room everyone is scribbling, trying to get the angle of her stance, the shape of her jaw, and the lines of her curves in charcoal, pencil or pastel.

I sketch like an amateur, slowly learning to manage portions and capture her body shape on my paper. Beside me my friend sketches elegantly, flawlessly, while I allow myself to learn.

We draw for three hours and I learn to love every curve on this woman's body. She is voluptuous, imperfect, and beautiful in every way. I find myself wishing she were larger and had more rolls so I could draw more folds.

After life drawing class my artist friend and I run through the rain to a sushi restaurant. Sick and congested we indulge in fish, rice, soup, plenty of throat burning wasabi and half a pitcher of house wine.

We only leave when the restaurant is closing, and run further in the rain, up to a smoky bar packed with emo kids and punk rockers to yell over the music and carry on our conversation.

Early in the morning we're still talking on his sofa when I get an email. It turns out that Donald Crowdis, the 93-year-old blogger I've been fighting to interview, wants to meet with me at noon.

Beyond my excitement I realize this will allow me two hours of sleep before I run home to shower and trek out to the middle of nowhere for our interview.

The dreamer in me pulls through, takes the subway as far out as I can, jumps in a cab, and I arrive early at his country club looking polished, regardless of my tired eyes.

Crowdis walks right past me and into the dining room. I sit and watch him before checking with the woman at the front desk that he's the right man. He's small and curious looking, and has reserved us a small table by the window.

Over lunch Crowdis tells me to order whatever I want, and that lunch is on him. He orders a small starter soup, and then a large fluffy pink piece of cheesecake. "Well isn't this decadent!" He exclaims before sliding his fork in.

Between pink mouthfuls Crowdis tells me about the stars in the Milky Way, about evolution, about surviving the Halifax explosion, about being the original host of the Nature of Things and how David Suzuki is a miserable little twerp.

He slides over his cake to me before finishing and lets me have the last few bites. When his son in law comes to get him he tells him we're not done. I feel like he wants to stay and hang out with me, and the feeling is mutual. He tells me he'd love to buy me lunch again sometime, and I feel my heart grow for a man more than four times my age and half my height.

I learnt a lot over that lunch. Crowdis is a man full of wisdown and experience. And regardless of all the media attention he's had lately, he doesn't believe in doing anything for glory. "If you do something for glory, the glory soon fades and then you're just some old idiot," he tells me, his eyes laughing.

I left with a list of books I must read, my interview accomplished, and a new friend.

Sometimes I love the places life takes me.

subway convict

*I will post the final profile on Crowdis when it is finished, in the meantime keep up with his witty blog!

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

bloor west village

freshly baked
fruit feast
blind blues man

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Monday, January 01, 2007

looking back on 2006

In 2006 I…

Lived in Paris where I made some amazing friends
looking down on the street

Flew to Ireland to visit my family
leaving Paris

Tasted Pierre Hermes macarons for the first time
choose your weapon

Flew home for Easter in Vancouver as my mother’s birthday present
ikea trip

Learnt a few things about life
truth on a bathroom door

Was taught to prepare a feast from a Cordon Bleu chef
the feast begins

Had a couple of visitors
tell the world i'm here
rainy day

Became an official Paris blogger
blonde bloggers

Had my first professional massage
my bulle

Spent two weeks at the Sea in the North of France with the children
les poissons, les poissons...

Said goodbye to my job as a nanny
when i took care of kids

Spent one week in the South
aurevoire Castelnau-de-Montmiral!

Made a stop over in London
keep right

Experienced my first Indian wedding in Vancouver
cleansing the groom

Moved in with two great girls in Toronto
roomates in wonderland

Took on my first restaurant job

Turned 20

Held my fist photo exhibit
the photographers

Had a couple of catering jobs

Celebrated Christmas in Vancouver
santa baby

And then flew back to Toronto to bring in the New Year, and to work my last night at the restaurant. I have decided to start the New Year with a new job, a better camera, and the same attitude that took me so many places in 2006.


Happy New Year everyone!