Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Circle


I'm innocent!

I've committed no crime.

Call my daughter, she'll tell you, I was home around nine.

You can't do this to me, don't take me away!

For what injustice was done, the guilty must pay.

Upstairs to a room, with the light shining bright.

Men, they surround me, their hoods dark as night.

And there, right before me, that circle of death stand.

Waiting, smiling darkly, for the next one to hang.

I’ve told you already, please listen to me.

I couldn’t possibly have done it, I’m innocent you see.

I was there that night, that much is true.

I saw what happened, I always knew.

Take off your hood, show your face!

Come down from the gallows and take my place.

Let justice be served, let me go.

I cannot conceive that I'll never know

If the person who really committed this crime

Will ever admit to being there around nine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pet Peeves

And now we begin our interactive portion of my blog. I’m blatantly stealing this idea from a fellow blogger. Names have been changed, but yeah, it’s theft pure and simple.

As a former Social Services worker, we vent…a lot. But in a creative and constructive way, mind you. We get it all out and we are able to move on.

So let’s vent! Let’s make a list of our pet peeves. OooOoO…I’ll start!

Grocery carts. Yes, grocery carts and their drivers. In my humble opinion, there should be driving and parking lanes in the supermarket. Complete with grocery cart police, tickets and jail time for the worst offenders.

When you go into a grocery store, generally, so do about 700 other people all at the same time. It gets very busy and very crowded. I start breaking into a sweat as I cross the threshold. Oh, this is gonna be bad, I think to myself. It’s a science to try to manoeuvre my cart without crashing into anyone. I loosely follow the rules of the road to try to cope. Stay to the left, pull into the curb to have a closer look at the food items.

I’m waaaaayyyyyyyy too polite. Do others afford me the same respect? NNNOOO!!!!!! It’s mayhem! Every shopper for themselves! If they see something interesting two feet away, they abandon their carts IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE to go and have a look!!!!!!! Oh God, I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking of it. So, you have a few people trying to be orderly, most people just out for themselves and the rest of us have to try to figure out how to get ‘round these inconsiderate shoppers who seem to be wandering off muttering “look at the pretty colours!”

But the worst, the absolute worst, is when they gather in groups. I think they have a cult or something. And they have their monthly meetings - you guessed it- in the middle of the grocery isle on a Saturday afternoon. I think they chant about broccoli or something.

Outwardly, I suppose I look frustrated an annoyed. A smart-mouthed comment may slip through my lips. Inwardly - there's twisted metal everywhere as I lob a hand grenade into the centre of the mass to clear a path.

So, what about you? What’s your pet peeve?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Chaos Theory II

I feel I have to take another run at this chaos theory of mine.

I have definitely discovered what was bothering me so much - all of this uncertainty, this not knowing. It took me straight back to my childhood and that was a place that I didn’t want to re-visit anytime soon.

So that’s the what.

I guess the question remaining is - why? Why have I given up stability and security to live in uncertainty?

I remember trying to start my own business in the past. Dozens of times. At the very first whiff of doubt and indecision, the first time stability took off running down the road, I tucked my tail between my legs and ran home to the man. Security was mine once again in the comforting blanket of 9-5. I knew deep down inside, that I was not a risk-taker. I did not have what it takes.

But that burning feeling in my stomach refused to go away.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my backpacking trip across Europe. Now there’s chaos and uncertainty for you. You have yourself and whatever you’re carrying on your back and that’s it. You need to get up every morning, find a place to stay, find food to eat, get the most out of the city you’re in, stay safe, have fun and do it all over again the next day.

There were some pretty hard moments. I remember crying on the phone to my best friend…I was tired, I was hungry, I was scared….but I remember asking her, “I’ll remember the good times, won’t I? I’ll remember the good times more that I’ll remember the bad times, right?”

And I was right. I remember my last fearful moment. I was somewhere in Italy - Verona, I think. Riding in a small van with other backpackers to get to the local hostel. The area was run down, the streets didn’t look safe. It was not the pretty part of Italy. I was getting nervous, wondering what the hell I was getting myself in to.

It didn’t improve much when we pulled up to the hostel. It was a ruin - literally. There were large holes where the walls should have been. I took my gear and went up to the reception to check in. I remember that my bangs were in need of a trim, so I asked the man at the desk for a pair of scissors. I must have looked depressed because he asked me if I was going to do myself in with the scissors.

Sighing deeply, I took my dull scissors and went up to my room. I dropped my backpack and went exploring. The hostel had a central stone courtyard that everything seemed to be built around. Looking up I saw clothes hanging from lines running out of the windows. I dejectedly sat down in an archway on a stone step.

As I planned how to get out of this place, I heard a baby cry in the distance. I slowly raised my head and started to notice my surroundings. As the baby cried, I smelled the sweetness of the wind. I began to notice the greens of the grass and the plants. The architecture of the building was stunning. It must have been ancient, yet it still stood, battered but not beaten.

Something about this place began to speak to me. In its silence, it insisted that I see what was right in front of me. Something changed in me then, my fear fell away. I connected to the rhythm and the flow of the universe. I just relaxed, I just breathed. There was no yesterday, there was no tomorrow. There was only now, this moment, and it was glorious.

So many magical moments happened after that. If I was in need, I just relaxed and opened myself up to the possibilities. And something always came my way. It’s a powerful feeling, living in the moment and using almost pure instinct to drive you, to move you, to choose your direction. To stop, take a moment, ask yourself what you need and sit quietly in contemplation until the answer becomes clear.

In a nutshell, that seems to be what I’m striving for now. I say I’m having my mid-life crisis. But lets face it, I’m way past the mid-way mark. Not much chance of me making it to 88. So there is precious little time left.

I’m looking to slow down and listen better to what the universe has to say to me, to reconnect to its magical rhythm. I feel it’s trying to tell me something, to send me in a certain direction.

I need to listen now. I need to see. I need to be.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Chaos Theory

There’s stability, and then there’s chaos. Two separate ends of the spectrum.

There’s something about chaos. It draws you in, pumps you up, sucks you dry.

Growing up, chaos was the norm. Growing up, and then reaching adulthood, chaos still reigned as I attempted to recover from my childhood. Stability did not live there.

It took a lot of energy to live in the epicentre of chaos. It was hard to relax, because I never knew what was going to be around the corner. Would I have a place to live? Food to eat? A job? Family? Love?

The longer I endured chaos, the stronger I became. I was a survivor. And I took pride in that. I didn’t let the bastards get me down. I beat the odds and I made it. It took a long, long time to realise that being survivor is quite sad.

But the human spirit is a wonderful thing. The edges of the rifts and chasms in my psyche eventually grew together. Perhaps the seal was not as straight as it might have been, but it healed.

It began to heal when I took control of my own life. When I took control and provided to myself, the love that should have been given to me freely. It began to heal when I started to make healthier, less self-destructive choices for myself. When I chose people to be in my life because they treated me with love and respect. I surrounded myself with good, loving people. My friends became the family that I chose. My love and loyalty towards them was fierce. Conversely, I could cut them off without hesitation if they hurt or betrayed me, and never look back. I lived in a very black and white world.

And gradually my world became infused with shades of grey. Edges softened. Everything was kinder, gentler, easier.

Stability had arrived. It unpacked its bags and settled in for the long haul. Security was mine. Eventually I completely and utterly forgot all about chaos. It was a distant memory, part of the past, never to return.

Until now.

Until, my midlife crisis. Chaos is back! It has kicked security and stability to the curb! And let me tell you, they’re none to happy about it! I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I’m constantly working a 3-tiered system. What has to happen today, what has to happen in the near future and what has to happen next year.

I have started my own business and no one told me that I had to become reacquainted with chaos to accomplish it! No one told me that security and stability would high tail it outta here at the first sign of trouble! Expressions like “flying by the seat of my pants” and “I’m gonna have a stroke” have entered my vocabulary with alarming frequency lately. I took up smoking again. I gained 15 pounds. Yup, this is chaos all right. I know it well.

At first, I was incredibly distressed to find that chaos had returned. I mean really, really distressed. It was most unwelcome. What good did chaos ever do for me? I felt that I was taking ten steps backwards. That I was a failure for bringing all of this uncertainty and instability into my life and into my husband’s life. I think I believed that this path had to be well thought out, smooth but with a few manageable bumps in it. Challenging, but not impossibly so. Something to get the old blood rushing a bit.

And all of that was about right. Until the start-up phase of the business ended and we had to get down to brass tacks.

I have discovered that it’s a good idea to have a limitless supply of money if you want to start your own business. It’s for the best, really. A lot less stressful.

And then I woke up and fell back to planet earth. Face to face with chaos, my old nemesis. It was going to be him, or me and I wasn’t planning on laying down and dying anytime soon.

I took off my rose coloured glasses and ground them beneath my foot. I smoked my last cigarette. I ate my last brownie (with vanilla ice cream on top). I turned to face chaos. It was time.

I held open my arms and embraced all of the uncertainty that was bound to come our way. I wrapped my arms around chaos and stroked it's head as it lay against my racing heart.

I had been letting chaos catapult me back to the past. But I will never go back there. What’s different now is that I have a foundation that I have never had before. Friends, family, the love of a good man. A deep and abiding belief in myself. I realised that I had to have faith in our ability to make this plan work. When times are lean, we will do what we must to get through. We will survive. And in surviving, we are moving forward. Growing our dream every day, every step of the way.

And there’s nothing sad about that, is there?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If You Wanna Be My Luvaaaaa

For the modern woman, dating can be such a quagmire. What are the rules? When do I declare my undying love? When do we have sex?

When you are in, shall we say, a dry patch...there's only one way out of it, and that is to get you a little sumthin' sumthin'.

Now, if you're looking for Mr. Right, you are not allowed to give him any sugar right away. You have to wait and you have to get to know each other. It's a fact.

But you will spontaneously combust if you don't have your engine tuned up. Therefore, you have to get your lube job elsewhere.

So, basically, you need to separate "Potential Mr. Right" and "The Mechanic", if you know what I mean. They each have their skills and abilities, but they must not be considered for the same ....job.

You wouldn't go to the hair dressers to buy eggs, would you?

So the rules are different for Mr. Mechanic and for Mr. Right.

Mr. Right:
- No sex for three months
- No declarations of love before you have sex
- No talk of marriage, co-habitation, key exchange in the first year

Mr. Mechanic
- Have sex, lot's of sex
- Do not inquire as to his health or well-being
- Do not ask any questions that are designed to get to know him better
-Chose him purely on his physical attributes. But, in a particularly lonnnngggg dry spell,prepare to invest in paper bags that are roughly head-sized

And finally, for variety, purchase a vibrator, whip up a tiny suit for it on your sewing machine and introduce him to all of your friends as your new luvvaaaaa....

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

You’ve met a man and he’s simply dreamy. You’ve been seeing each other for a little while now and things are going really well. So far, he seems to tick quite a few of your boxes. Let’s face it, though, you’re not 21 anymore.

You’ve had to whittle most of those “must haves” on the list down to a few basic hygiene requirements and a criminal record check.

You’re past the “Will he call?” stage. Oh, he called all right. You are having hot sex all of the time. You are a veritable sex machine. You spend every single waking moment together. When you’re not together, having hot sex, you’re talking together on the phone. For hours.Usually about how hot the sex is.

You think he may be “THE ONE”.

You know you shouldn’t, but in a slow moment at work, you doodle your first name and his last name together on a piece of paper. Upon threat of death you would never admit it, but you have pictured that walk down the isle. You see that off-white-off the-shoulder dress as clearly as you see your own increasingly lined reflection in the mirror.

So when you see him tonight and the first words out of his mouth are, “We have to talk”, you try not to get too excited. You immediately picture him asking if he can leave his toothbrush in your bathroom, a pair of his knickers in your underwear drawer and maybe, just maybe, he wants to exchange house keys.

But you know in your heart of hearts that “we need to talk” is never a good thing. Ever. It’s always, always, always the door that opens into Dumpsville. You’ve been here before, you know what it looks like. You’re intimately familiar with the terrain. The roads in Dumpsville are all paved with broken hearts.

Mostly yours.

And sure enough, he tells you his tale of woe, ending with the classic “It’s not you, it’s me”.

The different variations of “It’s not you, it’s me” include such gems as:

“I’m just at a point in my life where I need more space”
Translate: You suffocate me

“I’m not at a point in my life where I can make a commitment”
Translate: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free

“I’m not good enough for you, you deserve better”
Translate: I was only ever here for the sex. It was never going to be anything else for me. Now that you’re getting so serious, I’m outta here

“I just don’t know what I want right now”
Translate: I’m bored and I’m off to find a new conquest

So, unless you plan to get thee to a nunnery, dig out that vibrator, get in a supply of wine and chocolate, and start calling all of those girlfriends that you ignored because you were so caught up in your new, whirlwind relationship. Have a good cry, rail against the injustice of it all and sing,“I Will Survive” at the top of your lungs repeatedly.

Because you will.


You will eventually pack your bags and move out of Dumpsville. You’ll get a new home in Independence Land.
Your address will be something like,

Ms. I. Value Myself
123 I Am A Strong Beautiful Woman Street
I Respect Myself,
Independence Land

And should Mr. “It’s Not You, It’s Me” ever darken your door again, he would find himself most unwelcome.

Because you are no longer going to settle for anyone other than Mr. “I Love You Just The Way You Are”.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Great Divide

How did this happen?

I woke up one day, and I was middle-aged. I am on the other side of the hill, and going down fast. My ass landed at the bottom of the hill over a decade ago and my boobs are joining them as we speak.

When you hang around with people who are your own age or older, you don’t really realise so acutely that middle age is upon you. Your friends all come from the same era or earlier, so they have lived through their own era, and likely yours as well. They know how, in your heart and in your mind, that disco still lives. They understand the cultural significance of shoulder pads. They get it when you say, “The 90’s sucked, man”.

In your day, musicians in music videos were fully clothed and did not simulate sex for 2.5 minutes in the name of their art. They sang their song and made awkward dance movements, end of story. Occasionally, creative songsters tried for more artistic interpretations of their masterpieces, and this usually involved psychedelic colours and strobe lighting.

I’m astonished to say that, in my day, there were no computers in school, no cell phones, no ipods or touch pods or pods of any kind. No laptops, notebooks, no PDA’s. No printers, no fax machines. You get what I’m saying? No technology, baby. We communicated by written or spoken word. Someone talked, we listened. We considered our response and replied in kind.

So where am I going with this? I’m going to the workplace. Throughout my long and illustrious career, I have generally worked with people who were similar in age to myself. As I got older, so did my clients. As I aged, I moved away from working with youth to working with older people. Somewhere along the way, a rather large rift opened up in the universe. A great divide was created and I didn’t even know it was there. I’m talking about working with younger people.

OH MY GOD!!!!!

What’s happened out there? Was there some sort of biological chemical warfare that only affected young people and no one told me about it? Did I miss the news that day? Did it infect them through their cell phones? Whatever it was, it seemed to affect their attention span. They can’t keep focused any longer than a gnat can. They’re BORED . They need constant stimulation and can only follow the “no cell phone in training” rule for 10 minutes. Training lasts 6 weeks. You could see them twitching, it was actually quite funny. They’ve actually given up hiding their cell phones under the table and text openly now.

But the worst is the ignorance. In my day (here we go again), we were taught to respect people in authority, like instructors for example. It’s not rocket science. If the instructor asks you to do something, you do it. If they are talking, you are not.


Apparently not. This must be an old person’s philosophy. I need to “get with it” quickly. Is it now rude to be respectful? Is it respectful to be rude? Have the tables really turned that much?

What caused this chasm deep in the earth’s crust, I wonder? With the youngsters on one side and me on the other. Does it really matter? I’m not sure that I care. Face it, I’m too old to give a damn.

At this point, I just need to survive it.

Perhaps along the way, the youngsters and I will find a way to build a bridge across that great divide and live together in harmony.

If not, I hear I can always work from home.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Moment I've Been Waiting For

In my life, I have found that there are dreams to dream.

Dreams of faraway places that you want to visit. Dreams of things you want to do in life. People that you want to meet, things that you want to accomplish.

For me, these dreams have lived in my head and in my heart and in my gut. I’m not sure if they’ve resided in any other body parts, I’ll have to think about that.

And these dreams, these desires build up and develop in you from the things that you read, the people you meet, the experiences that you have. I remember being an impressionable young thing of about 24 or so. I was at work, on a break in a dingy basement room. And a girl, I believe her name was Anna, had just returned from a back packing trip. Before I met Anna and listened to her talk about her trip, I couldn’t say that international travel was officially a dream of mine. It took root in my heart, and by the end of that day, it was.

I fulfilled that dream seven years later. And until I did that, I don’t think I fully realised the impact of fulfilling my dreams, either. Dreams were dreams, after all. They lived in various body parts and were a wispy, vague, far-off sort of concept. Until I fulfilled that first one.

Oh the power of fulfilled dreams. When I saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time, something that had only previously existed in a book for me became real. My world became very small after that experience. The planet became a finite thing, something to be discovered one step at a time.

After that trip, I learned that dreams can come true. As a matter of fact, that trip concluded with me meeting my current husband, another dream come true! And now I am fulfilling another dream. This one has lived in my gut for as long as I can remember. Borne, as I have mentioned, from the teachings of my father. This dream was to start my own business. My goal was to launch on May 1st 2009.

Better late than never, my husband and I launched Scotia Vacations ( on May 27th 2009. This last year has been a huge learning curve, and I still have so much to figure out. I don’t think my brain is big enough to hold all of the new things that I’ve learned. I can’t say that the launch of the business has given me one giant “Eureka” moment. The pleasure has been in the journey that has lead us to this point. The thousand little eureka moments that I’ve experienced along the way. Things like facing absolute terror along the lines of, “What have I done? Am I crazy? What do I know about cottage rental businesses? This is our life’s savings! What if I get it wrong????” and simply surviving. Not just surviving, but accomplishing something that I am very proud of. Realising that I am now doing exactly what I want to be doing.

Facing my fears and doing it anyway.

I am so lucky to have this opportunity. I know that others may have similar dreams but be restrained by their life’s circumstances. For me, and for my husband, it is the right time and the right place.

The moment I have been waiting for.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trailers For Sale or Rent

Rooms to let, 50 cents.

No phone. No pool. No pets.

I ain’t got no internet!

I ain’t got NO internet!!!!!

As I write it, I still don’t believe it. No internet. I think you can sense my shock and dismay, can’t you? Sorry, I think I’ll be ok.

We have made the great move to rural Nova Scotia. Two life-long city folk, used to all of the conveniences of city life. It would appear that time has stood still in many parts of the world. A phenomenon that we hadn’t even considered.

In addition to no internet, I do not have cable (or any television signal at all) or a mobile phone. Nor are we attached to municipal services for water or waste disposal. You know what I mean by waste disposal, don’t you? Flush the toilet and where does everything go? Chances are, if you’re reading this and you know me personally, you’re likely a city person as well and have never had to think what happens to your poo when you flush. Boy, have I had to think about it, in minute detail, no less.

But back to the internet. Cable and mobile phones are available here, don’t let me mislead you. I am in the process of arranging to receive these services. But this region, and many rural regions in Canada do not have high speed internet. What, you may ask, is the alternative to high speed internet?


Yes, you got it, dial-up.

I remember when the internet first became widely available in the home. Oh the anticipation. Sit down in front of the computer, dial into your internet connection. Oh the excitement when you heard that electronic handshake as your computer connected to the wide world outside. My heart still skips a beat when I imagine that sound. And, for the last few years, imagine it is all that I’ve had to do once high speed entered our daily lives.

When we first arrived here, I refused to get dial-up. Refused to believe that it was all that was available to me. And that’s where things got interesting. I’m trying to remember when the last time was that I have lived without internet service in my home. I guess I’m going back to the early 90’s. About 15 years of having the world at my fingertips.

I use the internet for everything. Any question I don’t know the answer to? Look it up on the internet. I do all my banking and a good deal of my shopping on line. But mostly, it made my world a whole lot smaller. Like most people, I have friends and family spread out all over the world. Email is the mode of communication. It’s instant and informative. It’s an amazing way to keep in touch. Webcam changed my life.

I can’t remember the last time I actually wrote a real live letter. Snail mail, so to speak. Until recently. Oh, I used to love writing and receiving letters. But, as video killed the radio star, so too did internet kill the “write it down in a letter and pop it in the mail” method of communication. So, this week I dug out my trusty pen and paper and wrote an honest-to-God letter to an 83-year-old friend. She has internet, but I had to send her a letter since I’m not yet connected. Go figure.

I really enjoyed it. It was lovely. I must confess, I didn’t really use the pen I dug out. I typed the letter on the computer and printed it out. Hey, I’m only prepared to go so far. But I did enclose the letter in a note card and I certainly wrote on that. And I addressed the envelope by hand as well (I normally use the printer for that too).

And I’ve recently received a letter as well. It was so nice to imagine the personal thought that went into writing and sending me that letter. There’s a lot involved, isn’t there? Dig out the paper, write the whole letter out. Stick it in an envelope. Address the envelope. Buy a stamp. Put a stamp on the envelope. Actually get in your car and drive to a mailbox. Get out of your car, open the mail slot and pop it in. I’m tired just thinking of it.

And I’ve had to speak to human people a whole lot more. Go in person to places, instead of contacting them via mail. My laptop looks so forlorn and incomplete. The WI FI button mocks me. I weep when I read the automatic message balloon that says “no wireless connection available – anywhere – ever mwaahhaaaa!” I pretty much live in the post office and the library these days. The post office because I have to write to people instead of emailing them. And the library because they have free WI FI!!! It’s only a 20-minute drive to get to these places. So convenient.

So, I didn’t, I couldn’t take no for an answer. The people at the phone company know me well now. Moving day arrived and after I had been in my new home exactly 30 seconds, I called to enquire about high speed. I had heard nasty rumours floating about that high speed was not available everywhere in the world, and definitely not here. As you know, their answer was “Nope, sorry. Dial-up for you, I’m afraid.” I asked to speak to someone higher up the chain of command. Each phone call involved stating my wishes and waiting two or three days to have someone call me back, you must realise. So, the second person up the ladder called me back. They had checked it out and the answer was definitely no. Despite the fact that my next-door neighbour, who only lives .3 of a kilometre away from me, has high speed, the answer was still no. They had checked their maps you see. I asked to go up to the next rung on the ladder and I was introduced to the lovely Marie. My new favourite person. The buck stopped with Marie. Initially, she said no, too. But she agreed to check into it further. Marie was great. She called to give me regular updates, most of which were leaning towards a no again. And then, it happened. This week, four weeks after moving in, the no turned into a yes. They were going to hook me up with high speed!

Letters be damned! I’m getting connected again. The trip down memory lane was great, but hey, we’re talking internet here. It was like imagining living in the days before television and electricity. Sure, in those times you coped, but you didn’t know any better, did you?

That’s the good news. In the bad news department, it’s going to take about 4-6 weeks to get connected.

And the bad news?

Until then, I have to go on Dial-up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Risk Gene

For as long as I can remember, our father brought us up with the belief that you should “never work for the man”. He believed that true freedom lie in being self-sufficient and making enough money to support you and your family by working for yourself.

This fostered in me, and I believe in my siblings, a life-long dream to be self-employed. To get up every morning and go to work for yourself. To be a business-owner, an entrepreneur.

Unfortunately it also engendered in me, a deep and abiding dissatisfaction because I had to work for the man in order to support myself. I say had to work for the man because, while Dad inspired this dream deep within me, he did not pass on the equipment that I needed to make it a reality. So, if my siblings are anything like me, they’ve had this ball of unfulfilled longing in their gut that they have been unable to act upon for most of their adult lives.

I’ve tried to tease away at that nasty little ball several times over the years. After I’d been working in social services for 10 years, I realised that I wanted to get out and do something else. Starting my own business was a vague idea in the back of my mind. It grew into a clearer picture of perhaps owning my own teashop, or my own bookstore. No lofty ideals, just something simple. I’ve now been in social services for 23 years. So, for the last 13 years, that little ball of unhappiness and longing has been growing teeth and biting me in the ass. I’ve left many jobs in the helping field, vowing never to return, planning to walk off into the horizon of self-employment. I’d save a bit of seed money, quit my job and try to make a go of it. I never get through the front door. In fear and panic, I’d quickly spend my seed money and crawl back to the man with my tail between my legs, that nasty ball forever nipping at my heels.

I now recognise that what my father failed to pass on to me was the risk gene. Striking out on your own is like embarking on a roller coaster ride. Your planning and preparation and saving get you on to the ride and clink, clink, clinking to the peak at the top. Fear and uncertainty are just two of the overwhelming emotions that you have to learn to cope with when the roller coaster dips over the edge and you take off, spiralling out of control. They are not my favourite emotions. In fact, I’d do just about anything to avoid them. I can now identify that in the past, I crawled back to the man at the very first sign of either one of them.

The key to developing the risk gene is to ride them out. How do you ride them out? With planning, research, knowledge and, when that roller coaster hits it’s highest peak and begins it’s decent into the fear of the unknown, you need, quite simply, blind faith. I learned that you will need to encounter these peaks and troughs every couple of weeks or so. Things will go smoothly for a time. That’s the roller coaster clinking towards the top. Then, something will happen, some frightening factor will hit you, and the ride will take you down that steep drop and into the abyss.

I cannot stress the importance of blind faith. You’ve run your numbers, you’ve studied all of the variables, and you’ve done your research. But eventually, you’re just going to have to go for it. And, in going for it, you will have to accept that you simply don’t know everything. Something’s going to present itself to you, something you don’t know the answer to, something you have to adapt to. So, you hang on to the sides of the cart and launch yourself over the edge, submersed in faith. Faith in yourself and your ability to handle whatever comes your way.

I’m not suggesting that you recklessly risk everything that you have. I think you have to set your parameters before you start. How much money do you have to invest in your venture? How will you support yourself while you try to make a go of it? What would happen if you lose it all? Do you have a back-up plan? In other words, define your boundaries and decide what you are comfortable risking. And then, hop on that ride.

Part of the fun is learning how to stretch those boundaries and still be comfortable. Because, I guarantee you, you will have to stretch them. For example, I learned that my initial research was flawed. I had a budget and a timeframe in mind to start up this venture and neither was accurate. My budget was way too small and my time frame was way too short. And so in the first few months, the peaks and troughs were quite steep as I adjusted to a more realistic budget and timeframe for start-up.

If you give yourself over to the risk, you may just be entering the most exciting phase of your life. It’s a huge learning curve relying on yourself, relying on your own decisions. You are essentially providing your own security system, something the man previously did for you. It takes some getting used to. You live much more in the moment, and that’s a thrilling place to be. It vibrates with life. I feel like I’ve spent the last five months studying at the University of Living.

Here’s the good news. The peaks and troughs haven’t disappeared for me yet, but they have become less extreme as I’ve adjusted to coping with the unknown. While I still fear them, in a way I hope they never completely disappear, because they are actually what makes this journey so exciting. They really keep me on my toes, and every day I learn more and more that I can rely on myself.

I’ve never made it this far before. Usually by this point my dream of starting my own business, that little ball of discontent has been suppressed in my return to the 9-5 grind, my return to the security that someone else has given me, my return to the man.

Now, I’m just completing the purchase on my first property and expect to launch my business by May 1st this year. I’ve educated myself, I’ve stretched myself and I’ve put myself out there. So far, I really like it. I am truly fortunate to have been given this chance to try to fulfil a life-long dream.

I now believe that the risk gene is something that you can develop. It lives within you, ready to be tapped into whenever you are.

And I’m ready.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On living rurally

It was my husband’s birthday this week. We celebrated this Saturday with dinner out and tickets to a Matt Minglewood show.

Living rurally, this took quite some planning on our part. The fact that we’re old meant we had even more planning to do. Because we’re living so far from any major (or minor) metropolis, our entertainment budget hasn’t really been dipped into very much over the last 3 months. So this was gonna cost a little more, but we were going for a celebration of blow-out proportions.

I don’t think we really meant it.

A few weeks ago, imagining all sorts of shenanigans we would be getting up to, we purchased our tickets to the Minglewood show and the planning began. We would both drink to excess together. Normally we would have to take turns being the designated driver if we wanted to involve alcohol in our evening. This doesn’t hold much appeal for us, so we’ve never really done it. We miss alcohol. So this Saturday we planed to be reunited with it in style.

Now this event began at 9:30pm according to the tickets. I’m not ashamed to say that 9:30pm is my bedtime. Settle down with a book and read until you fall asleep time. Not drinking and cavorting time.

So, we had an afternoon nap. No way could I have made it without one. All part of the plan.

In order to drink to excess, we would have to figure out how to get to the venue. We could certainly drive there, but how would we get home? And how would we get back to get our car? Would the car still be there the next morning? We’re city people, you see. We haven’t got a clue how to manage many aspects of rural living. Another time, let me tell you about septic systems. But not right now.

We settled on calling a taxi. We called ahead to see how much it would be to get us to the big event. We carefully explained to the 12 year old girl who answered the phone at the taxi company, what our address was and where we wanted to go. In a voice reminiscent of any self-respecting valley-girl, she assured us that it would be less than 10 dollars. Thanking our lucky stars, we ordered one for that night at 7pm.

Well, the meter hit ten dollars in less than five minutes from the house. It’s a 30-minute drive to the venue. We watched with dread as the meter ticked over five cents every second or so. We cursed that 12-year-old girl silently as the meter ticked, and ticked, and ticked. We cursed ourselves for believing something that was too good to be true.

Needless to say, the travel portion of our entertainment budget was definitely hitting the blowout proportions. As we alighted from the car, we realised it would have been cheaper to stay overnight at a local motel.

While the event was supposed to start at 9:30pm, we alighted from the car at 7:25 pm. Also part of the plan. Due to our advanced age, it was incomprehensible that we could attend the evening’s festivities without a guarantee of a place to sit down. We’ll have dinner first, we said to each other. When we finish dinner, we’ll start renewing our relationship with alcohol. The time will fly!

The time did not fly. Dinner came five minutes after we ordered it. We were finished eating by 7:45pm!

So we started drinking. It was one of those nights where you just could not get a buzz on. But we kept on trying. We're troopers like that.

At 9:15pm, you could feel the excitement building. I could also feel my head pounding. I was developing a hangover before I finished drinking. This was all my idea, I was responsible for the blowout. It was a lot of pressure! The clocked clicked slowly past 9:30pm. No Matt Minglewood. 9:45pm…nope, nothing. Surely he’ll be here by 10:00pm? 10:00pm came and went, no Mr. Minglewood. We’re nearly asleep in our drinks by this time. We’re starting to get pretty cranky, I gotta admit it.

Finally, the star of the show arrives at 10:15pm and he’s on the stage by 10:30pm. All the waiting was worth it. We got our money’s worth from his first song. He rocked the joint.

By this time, I’m getting into the swing of things. I’m enjoying the social aspect of the night. I’m talking to fellow patrons, making new smoking buddies. Smiling and nodding politely to the excessively drunk and effusively loud ones. When the police arrived to take another fellow patron away in handcuffs, I was delighted. Oh, the excitement.

But alas, I did not have the staying power. As the clock ticked past midnight, and my coach turned back into a pumpkin, my head continued to pound. Somewhere around 12:30am, I knew I was beat. Defeated. I had only wanted to hear Mr. Minglewood play one certain song. I realised that he wasn’t going to play it until the very end, and I was going to miss it.

With resignation that this was the reality of growing older, we tried to call a taxi. This began another interesting portion of the evening. Taxi companies don’t seem to answer their phone at 12:45am on a Saturday night. I was starting to get concerned. A sweet waitress even held one outside for us. But my husband chose that moment to go to the bathroom and someone stole our ride from us.

We chose another strategy. We would wait outside and ask the next cab that pulled up to radio one for us. These taxi drivers have been working bar closing time for years, you could tell. Their strategy was to just nod and smile politely.

Finally, the impossible happened and the same driver that dropped us off, pulled up and offered to take us back home. We were eternally grateful. Our conversation with Barry the taxi driver was one of the highlights of the night. He was lovely.

Finally, many expensive lessons learned, we were back at home.

We had a good night. We really did. But it was such a hassle, I don’t think it’s something we would really do again. Not via taxi and not three hours before the main event anyway. We need to learn how to socialise rural-style.

Seems to me, a lot of the problem and expense was in trying to accommodate our reunion with alcohol.

We could probably eliminate alcohol from future events.

But I don’t think we really mean that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


One of my goals for this mid-life crisis is to cast off some of the fear and anxiety I hold around me like a security blanket. My nickname is Neurotic Nelly. I’m a self-confessed control freak. If I’m not in control, I’m likely huddled in the corner, a quivering mound of insecurity. I don’t want to be Neurotic Nelly anymore. I want to be Positive Paula.

I have a sort of bucket list of things I’d like to do before I die. Most of them strike a cord of terror in my gut. Which would explain why I haven’t done them already. Here’s the condensed version of my list:

1. Go to Australia.
Sounds pleasant and rather exciting, don’t you think? Not so easy to do when you’re phobically afraid of flying. Now fulfilling this goal would require me to be suspended at unnaturally elevated heights for an extended period of time, at a high rate of speed. We’re talking minimum 18 hours here, depending on the departure point. Being a Canadian living in Scotland, I have flown over the ocean quite a bit over the last ten years. My coping method included large amounts of alcohol and graduated to large amounts of alcohol mixed with valium. Got so as I was pretty drunk when I landed. I was in Rome once with my husband, and when I de-planed, I naturally had to pee really badly. I rarely make it as far as Customs or the baggage carousel without having to run to the nearest toilet. Come to think of it, I drink so much before I get on the plane, I always have to pee before take-off, when everyone’s getting settled in their seats. So, we had just landed in Rome and I got to the ladies room and commenced my business, so to speak. Well, I locked myself in the toilet stall. Could not figure out how to get out. I don’t think there was anything particularly difficult about the locks on the toilet stalls in Rome, I was just too pissed to figure it out. I’m shouting “Hellllooooooo…..heeeelllppp me pleeeeeeasseeee”. I’m not upset, if anything I think it’s hilarious. Two German girls had to talk me through unlocking the toilet stall door.

Funny story. I am not a good person to sit beside on a plane. If my husband could get away with it, he’d settle me in my seat and go to the opposite end of the aircraft. I can be embarrassing. I always advise my seatmate that I’m a scardey-cat flyer and ask them to please ignore me and tell them I’ll be fine. Well, I was seated on the isle (naturally, so I can be the first one out in the event of a crash landing. And also 'cause I have to get up to pee so much) and there was a really sweet fellow to my left, and his wife was on his left. Drink service had passed and I had a happy glow in my belly and I was wondering what’s so bad about this flying thing anyway? Dinner service begins and thankfully, it includes free wine. We’re all getting along famously when we hit a really bad patch of turbulence. BAM, we drop down a few feet. I immediately become hysterical. It’s what I do. We’re all clutching on to our trays as the plane bounces about. In the mêlée, the sweet man to my left grabs my hand and holds it through the whole thing, comforting me. I’m declaring loudly that this is not normal. “I’ve flown a lot” I say, a note of doom in my voice, “and this is not normal”. I’ve got the sweet man beside me terrified. Of course, things eventually settle down and I look around and take stock. I am not dead, the plane has not crashed. I’d like to finish my wine to celebrate not being dead, but it’s nowhere to be seen. The sweet man beside me looked sheepishly down at his lap and confessed that he drank it. Turns out he didn’t have enough hands to hold his wife’s hand, my hand and make sure my wine didn’t spill over during the turbulence, so he sucked it back! Bless him.

This story actually has a somewhat happy ending. I realised it was getting pretty bad after the above incident. I was at risk of being arrested for being an obnoxious drunk on a plane. How embarrassing would that be? Last year, for unavoidable reasons, I had to fly something like six times in two weeks. I reached a few conclusions. Bars in Canadian airports aren’t open at 6am like they are in Scotland. They won’t serve alcohol on a Canadian flight before something like 10am!!! It’s physically impossible to maintain that level of terror when you have to fly that many times in quick succession. Once these fates conspired against me, I had to accept that I would be unable to control what happened once I got on that plane. And I will not stop flying. I may be frightened, but I have never let my fear of flying keep me grounded. I still get scared, but I seem to have let go of most of the abject terror. Turbulence and I are still mortal enemies, but I no longer get stinking drunk just to get on a plane. Since then, I have actually flown without having a drink! Ok, it was a one-hour flight. But a one-hour flight is like seven hours in phobically-afraid-of-flying-time. So perhaps a little jaunt to Australia is in my future after all….

2. Go skinny-dipping.
Have you ever gone skinny-dipping? It’s fabulous. I’ve done it once during a family camping trip. I was 12 years old. I’m surprised I was that outgoing. I was not enjoying the whole camping experience. I spent most of the trip whining because there were no electrical sockets to plug my hair dryer into. (Wow, some things really don’t change!). There was nothing but trees around for miles! I was bored. At least I could go swimming. I don’t know what made me do it, probably boredom, but one day I got under the water and tugged my swimsuit off. I pushed off the bank and it was glorious. What a feeling of freedom and release. I’ll never forget it. I’ve never done it again. The closest I’ve come was to go sunbathing topless in Greece. That was almost as good. Very liberating. I resolve to cast off my inhibitions and go skinny-dipping as many times as I can as an adult. If you don’t like what you see, may I suggest you turn the other cheek?

3. Sing on stage.
I’ve always been told that I have a good singing voice. Now that I’m older, I realise it’s not true. People were just being kind. But I still love doing it anyway. I sang in school plays, in the chorus mind you, where I could hitch my wagon to the melodious, in-tune voices of others around me. One of my favourite things to do is to turn up a much-loved song and belt it out at the top of my lungs. My hairdryer is my microphone and I always finish the song to a standing ovation. (You realise this is in my head, right?).

Secretly, I want to be a pop star. In my heart of hearts, I know there’s not much call for middle-aged women who weigh 750 pounds and can’t carry a tune. Ok, there’s Rita McNeil, but she can carry a tune and what are the chances that the market can support two of us? Not that I hold a candle to our Rita.

My dirty little secret is that I love the American Idol show. I know that I could so get to Hollywood! No way would I be one of those deluded audition-ees who are simply gobsmacked when Simon smacks them down like the dogs that they are.

So, let’s recap. I’m middle-aged, I weigh 750 pounds and I can’t carry a tune. Sounds like karaoke night to me!

Finally, I'll share with you the reason I wrote about fear today. Today I went sledding (note the above description of my good self). As an adult, I have only been sledding down a driveway. Hugely fun, but not frightening in any way. Today I was invited to another sledding hill all together. It was high, it was steep, it was fast and it was icy. I sat down on the sled at the edge of the run. I contemplated my mortality. I decided that I was too afraid to do it. I was so very disappointed in myself. Once again, I was letting my fear rule me. I spoke sharply to myself, let out a gut-wrenching scream, and pushed myself over that “cliff”. It was fantastic. This time, I won the battle that I rage with my fear.

I took no prisoners.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We bought skates. Yesterday. My husband and myself. Both of us. We’re not spring chickens, either one of us. My husband is a bit older than me, he’s 61. I’m 43, and I weigh 750 pounds. Ok, I feel like I weigh 750 pounds. Most of it is between my boobs and my knees, and sinking fast.

My husband was born in Scotland and I have lived there for the last 10 years until recently. One of the many reasons I love Scotland so much is because the weather doesn’t really go from one extreme to another, like Canada. Where we lived, it was pretty much even all year round, hovering pretty close to a few degrees above or below zero in the winter. We never had need to purchase a shovel. In the summer, we’re talking an average of about 18 degrees. To illustrate, I have the whitest legs in the world. They look like appendages you would find on a corpse. They haven’t seen the sun in the last 10 years. See? Not too hot, not too cold.

So then we re-locate to Canada. In the winter. My goodness I forgot how limiting snow can be. It’s pretty tricky to drive in, isn’t it? And it’s generally very cold, and wet. I must admit, we spent the first few snowfalls cocooned in our room in a rather unpleasant state of shock. We trembled at the sight of the first flake. We were ruled by the tiny little bastards, those harmless looking harbingers of doom.

Slowly, we are starting to metamorphose. We’re getting through our “firsts”. The first time being snowed in. The first time driving on slippery roads. The first road trip in the winter. The first time getting stuck in the snow (in a graveyard no less, that was fun). We are now the proud owners of two shovels. As far as road travel is concerned, we’re pretty much set. Due mostly to the kindness of friends and even strangers, and a ton of money (it’s not cheap to prepare your car for winter!), our car is pretty much equipped with winter get-stuck-in-the-snow-could-be-stranded-for-hours supplies.

Once we reassured ourselves that we were unlikely to die of hypothermia in our car when it careened wildly off the road and into the snow in a thousand differently imagined scenarios, we started to branch out a bit. To look at snow as, while not necessarily our friend, maybe a little less than our enemy. To be frank, we were looking at declaring a truce. It started the day we went sledding.

It began innocently enough. We were visiting with friends who had three children of sledding age. They wanted us to come out and watch as they had their fun. Grimacing at the thought of spending any length of time in the company of snow, we traipsed outside and watched the kids, camera in hand. They were having so much fun. Echoes of winters past started running through the halls of my brain. Days when winter was embraced and not avoided at all costs. Hours spent going down the hill, feeling like you could fly, oblivious to your soaked skidoo suit and your runny nose. The anticipation every time you climbed back up that hill. Knowing the next run was gonna be the fastest yet!

Suddenly I was pushing a child aside, grabbing her sled and going down hill on all fours. Now in my mind, I was a sleek, speedy, sledding fool. The subsequent pictures have proven otherwise. 750 pounds on all fours crash-landing into a tree do not a pretty picture make. But boy, did I have fun. Don’t get me started about my husband. We sledded till we dropped. We outlasted the kids. We laughed until we cried. I can’t remember the last time we had so much fun.

Suddenly, winter wasn’t such an evil beast. We weren’t going to invite it over for dinner and drinks, but we could spend time in its company without running for cover. We had made our truce.

Yesterday, a friend related excitedly that the pond next to our house was close to freezing over and would soon be ready for skating on. We jumped up, drove to the nearest sports store, in a snowstorm no less, and bought ourselves a pair of skates each.

Could this be heading for an all-out love affair?

Perish the thought.

I’ll let you know how the skating goes before we talk commitment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Well, I have no idea how I did it, but I deleted my entire blog. My apologies to everyone (ok the one person) who has commented, I’ve lost everything and had to start over again. My URL was no longer available either, so I had to make up a new one.
Luckily this happened when I only had two posts up. Should this have occurred after a particularly prolific period, it may have signalled the end of my blogging career. I don’t know if I would have had the patience to cut and paste everything as I’ve found myself having to do now. Not to mention all the settings and uploading all the photos…

So, sorry…I’m new at this. Let’s hope I don’t destroy anything else or I may take it as a sign……not meant to blog…no blog for you…bloggus interruptus…

Wish me luck.

Growing Old Gracefully

Gracefully, ha! What's graceful about it? For one thing, there's the hair. Facial hair. More than one kind. The first one to appear was a thick, black hair sprouting from my upper lip. A moustache! I was growing a moustache! As if that wasn't bad enough, they started popping out from under my chin. Fast forward to a full beard just like granny used to have. Just great. I am now the fastest plucker in the west. But that's not all. I go to sleep with all extra hair plucked to within an inch of its life and every few months I wake up with a thin, white hair about two inches long on my cheek. How is this possible? I swear it's not there the day before, it just magically appears in the morning.

And have you noticed that writing gets so much smaller as you get older? I hit 39 and suddenly started squinting at regular-sized print. By the end of that year I was the proud owner of my first pair of glasses. Now at the ripe old age of 43, I seem to have to hold the book pretty far way in order to make out the words. The size of the print in any book I want to read is now a serious consideration. I've avoided the large print section at the library, but it's only a matter of time.

I remember, way back in the 80's, staying up past 9:00 at night. Now, I twitch if I'm not in the immediate vicinity of my bed by 8:30pm. Pull an all-nighter these days? Well, ok if I set aside three days to recover.

I also find that professional people, you know, like doctors and lawyers, they're all starting to look like they're 12 years old. The other day, I went onto the liquor store and jokingly asked the 9-year old serving me if she wanted to see my ID. She never cracked a smile. She sent me a smouldering look that said, "Move on Grandma, you're so not amusing".

Now the night sweats, they're just charming. No, I didn't pee the bed, I just soaked the sheets with a lovely sheen of perspiration. Very attractive. I know I'm soaked with sweat during the night because I feel it when I get up 5 times to go to the bathroom!

This is bad. I think I'm going bald. I'm not a good-looking woman. My best feature is my hair. And I think it's falling out at an unnatural rate! I may have to fashion a comb-over, just like my father. This is very upsetting. I really feel bad for men who suffer from premature baldness. Is there such a thing as hair plugs for women? I don't have the kind of face where I'd look good if I shaved my head to cover up the fact that I was bald. Sinead O'Connor I am not. How do ugly women manage hair loss?

I have so much to look forward too, and possibly in the not-too-distant future. I really dread those wrinkles you get around your mouth that make it look like a bum-hole. How do you cope with that for goodness sake?

I think growing old gracefully is so hard because in my mind I'm still 24. And in this deluded mind of mine, I expect to look in the mirror and see a young, unlined, facial-hair free reflection. My mind is no longer connected to my body, I think. My mind thinks my body can go like the freakin' energiser bunny. My body reacts in a more age-appropriate manner and tells my mind where to go. Loudly and painfully.

Grow old gracefully? Maybe if you're skinny with a full head of hair and really good-looking with great skin. Plastic surgery, and lot's of it, seems to be the only solution to me.


Well hello out there. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. Glad you could join me. My name is Donna Watters Dickson. I am a Canadian citizen who has been living in beautiful Scotland for the last ten years. This year, I decided to have a mid-life crisis. Could I just buy a sports car? Oh no. I had to pack up my husband and the rest of our lives and move us across the pond to Canada.

Oh, and I also retired from my 23-plus-year career in social services. Am I trained to do anything else? Nope. And I'm only 43, not quite retirement age yet. So, to translate, I'm unemployed and far from everything my husband and I hold dear.That's the scary bit. The exciting bit is that we've signed up for a bit of an adventure. Yes, we're far from home, in a strange place, don't know anyone and I don't have a job (Oh God, when do I get to the exciting bit???).

Ok, here comes the exciting part...we're far from home, in a strange place and I don't have a job. We're living a bit more in the moment right now, exploring our surroundings and looking at what prospects present themselves to us. Not many people have the same opportunity, I know. Life ties and binds us sometimes. We had our share of ties and binds, but we cut what we could, and tethered others in the care of friends and family and set off.So, I guess this blog is happening at the start of this adventure. While I wonder what tomorrow holds, I think I'll take it one day at a time for now. I may still buy that sports car yet...