The Abominable Snow List

I love lists. And I hate lists. I love lists of possibilities. I hate “to do” lists. I love the lists of dreamers. I hate the lists that remind me of reality—of the things undone that I must do. I love to read other people’s lists and find out what is important to them. The very minutiae of the everyday and the bigger thoughts and ideas that take us outside ourselves.

I have a book that is meant to be interactive. In order for it to be a complete book, it must be written in, filled out, and created. In order for it to have any meaning at all, I must put pen to paper, jot down my miscellaneous thoughts, dream a little, imagine a lot, and commit myself in words to action. The book is called “the 52 lists project” and is touted to be “a year of weekly journaling inspiration.” It was created (I would say written but there is not much writing) by Moorea Seal and illustrated by Julia Manchik with photographs by Julia and Yurly Manchik. I mention the last two because often we leave these illustrators and photographers out. They should not be left out as they are part of the experience of this little book. They provide inspiration just as the author does.

The book was published by Sasquatch Books in Seattle. There is really no reason for you to know this other than the fact that I really like the word Sasquatch. The vision of a huge white fur matted monster-like human creature stirs my imagination. Perhaps you thought of Yeti or Bigfoot or the Abominable snowman. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (embedded in the workings of my laptop) defines Sasquatch as “a hairy creature like human…reported to exist in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada and said to be a primate between 6 and 15 feet…” I beg to differ with this definition, having been brought up thinking that the sasquatch or bigfoot is a character from the 1964 movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They called him the Abominable Snow Monster.

But I digress…as I so often do. We were talking about lists. And my new book thus unsullied by my pen. Since we are entering Week 48 of 2016 I guess that is as good a place as any to start. List 48 wants me to “List the things you want to add to your life.” And in case I am stymied there is some further inspiration included that just may help move me along in my list making. The author’s note for the list states: “As we transition into the holiday season, we start dreaming about all of the presents and objects that we want. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of gifts, but what is it beyond the physical and tactile that you crave most?” So, I take from the prompt that I am supposed to think a little deeper about my list and go beyond my yearning for a red convertible and some fancy dancey new boots. Hmm…must give that some thought….

Okay, next week, Week 49. Much easier: “List your favourite books.” Well, this one is right down my alley—but I have so many favourite books—where to start, where to start? The prompt asks me to “Reread a chapter of a favourite book to remind you why you first fell in love with it.” Now I am wondering: which one, which one? This whole list thing is not as easy as I thought.

Week 50 asks me to list my accomplishments. Well that is pretty straightforward. But accomplishments are in the eye of the beholder—but since I am the beholder I guess I get to choose. You may not think that driving at night is much of an accomplishment, or finding my other blue sock, but hey—this is not your book! You don’t get to judge.

List the things you want to be known for is Week 51’s assignment. Hmm…. again. Well we all know it is not my gourmet cooking or domestic prowess.

Okay, Week 52. The last week of the year. I am supposed to list the most memorable moments of my year. Is this a test? Okay memory—get fired up. On second thought, maybe I will wait until the New Year and start with Week 1. It tells me to list my goals and dreams for the new year. I can do that—and I still have a few weeks to think about.

In the meantime, I will get ready for the holiday season which seems to be upon us. Now where did I put those holiday decorations when the basement flooded last winter?

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm  Comments (4)  

What Is The Big Deal



It is time to embrace diversity. Time to “cool our jets” so to speak and be more accepting. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have some prejudices, some misconceptions, some things we do not understand, but very few of us are bigots. A bigot, according to Merriam-Webster is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions….one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

I have to admit that I am sometimes devoted to my opinion, but I like to think I am open-minded. It may take me awhile to change my mind, but if I find an argument compelling enough I can be swayed. For example, I used to get behind the motto “let’s put Christ back in Christmas” and was a bit anti “Happy Holidays” and pro “Merry Christmas”. But I have seen the error of my ways.

Sometimes we believe that the very fibre of our beings is being threatened, and when we do, we fight to get back what we thought was lost. But in the scheme of things, Christ was not lost and neither was “Merry Christmas”. We over-reacted, and in that over-reaction, diversity suffers. A friend of mine (yes, you Cindy) posted this on Facebook and I could not agree more. Derived from The ManKind Project, it reads:

I don’t understand

what the big deal is…

If you are Jewish, tell me:

“Happy Hanukkah”.

If you are African American (or Canadian), then tell me:

“Joyous Kwanzaa”.

If you are Christian, tell me:

“Merry Christmas.”

If you don’t prefer those, tell me:

“Happy Holidays.”

I will not be offended.

I will be thankful that

You took the time to

Say something nice to me.

That is really all it comes down to: being nice. Taking the time to notice our fellow earthlings and saying something nice. Niceness is way under-rated yet the thing that most of us crave, nay require, is connection to our fellow human.

As the holiday season is upon us, it is time to let our defences down, not totally—but at least at half mast. What our neighbours just went through with the recent election illustrates my point. Vast chasms of difference separate so many. They are going to have to get over it. Change. Not accept what they can’t change, but adjust to it.

The other day, again on Facebook, a friend put out a plea to everyone to “Just stop!” And I responded with one word: “agreed”. She was tired of the bloodletting, the vitriol, the negativity. Me too. And by the way, we are Canadian. There is not a darn thing we can do about the election. I know that the elephant that is the United States affects us, but we are going to have to find a way to come to some peace about it. We can only hope the elephant does not roar. I do not want us to be complacent. We are certainly entitled to our opinions, but if they differ with reality, we are going to have to find a way to face this new reality.

Sometimes life bites. We just have to learn to chew a bit more thoughtfully.

Christmas is a time for thoughtfulness. A time for those who believe in God and Jesus to celebrate the birth of their Saviour. But it is also a time for frivolity—even jolliness. Santa is the distraught parent’s best friend, and though I hate to admit this, I did use him to “teach” my kids to be kinder when they were small. Yes, I did invoke that old chestnut that “Santa is watching to see who is good and who is bad” a few more times than I like to admit. And it worked like a charm.

Sometimes we just do what works. And if “Happy Holidays” works for you–

it works for me!

How do you feel?

Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm  Comments (10)  

One sick puppy . . . and she needs your help

for all you dog and animal lovers…

Robin Coyle

Hello blogging friends! I jump-started my blogging routine a couple of months ago and then, what do you know, it fizzled. The reason? Who knows!? I’m sure you have all experienced the same thing.

However, I am moved to do a blog post today because this precious 4-month-old puppy needs your help. Help from all of us. Let me explain . . .

Our daughter Paige is a crazy dog lover. Not a lover of crazy dogs, but is nutty over dogs. Actually, we all are. But, back to Paige being a dog nut . . . ever since she met an English Cream Golden Retriever several years ago, she has longed to have one of these gorgeous dogs in her life.

That dream came true in September when this little nugget came into her life.


Look at all that puppy-goodness!

Needless to say, I was head-over-heels in love as well.

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Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm  Comments (2)  

Hallelujah Suzanne


1968-1969. Grade 10. I was 15 when I was first introduced to the “poet laureate of pessimism”, Leonard Cohen. It was English class. Our teacher was Miss Hunt. She was young and fashionable, more cute than pretty, and she had her finger on the pulse of the late 1960’s. I loved English class, I loved the way she taught—yes we tore literature apart, but she put it back together for us in a way we understood—and we did not resent her for it.

I have the ballad “Suzanne” tattooed on my memory. It was exotic and dark, truth telling and honest. Here are a few of the lines that fed my developing mind at 15, and continue to satisfy almost five decades later:

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then he gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover


Chorus: And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.


I loved that she was half-crazy, and that she chose to serve tea and oranges that came “all the way from China”. I know that this is only one of his ballads, but it is the one that introduced him to me, and will live on as my favourite.

I heard snippets of an interview with him on television when he was asked if he was a pessimist, and his reply was wry and funny. He said that a pessimist is “someone who thinks it is going to rain” while he is “soaked to the skin.” He also wondered at receiving a Juno award, and said that only in Canada would a voice like his be rewarded.

An article I read in the Saturday National Post part of the Windsor Star by the Canadian Press (no name was on the article) listed a few of his nicknames, the above-mentioned “poet laureate of pessimism” being only one. He was also dubbed the “godfather of gloom”, the “grocer of despair” and the “prince of bummers.” His songs did not escape his reputation—one of the most memorable descriptions was: “music to slit your wrists by.”

He was aware of his reputation and joked about it, according to the article. At a sold-out concert in 2012 he admitted that, “Sometimes, I stumble out of bed, look at myself in the mirror and say to the mirror, ‘Lighten up Cohen’.”

My second favourite ballad of his is haunting. It is phenomenal in that it makes you feel so deeply it touches bone. Depending on the way the song is used it can be triumphant or chilling. I have heard it used in a couple of death scenes on two different programs—and of course whenever I hear it now I am reminded of those two scenes. On Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon, famous for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton sang Hallelujah dressed as Clinton in tribute to her (and I believe him too). We all have our “feelings” about the way the U.S. Presidential election turned out but perhaps Cohen’s song can lead the healing:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah….


It is no surprise that he was a 2003 inductee in the Order of Canada, or a 2008 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When he was asked “the location of the creative well that spawned his offerings” he said “If I knew where the songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

Admittedly, Cohen’s songs were not “toe tappers” but I would like to leave you with the words of Diana Bass. Her husband owned the Montreal deli that Cohen frequented. She called him, “a lovely man…”


*info for last two paragraphs derived from Canadian Press article

Published in: on November 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm  Comments (5)  

Soar Among the Stars



“Good words are worth much, and cost little.” -George Herbert


I love words. I love the spoken word, although I am not adept at speaking the spoken word. I love the written word—of which you can be the judge at how adept I am. I am more comfortable with expressing myself through the written word, though I long ago gave up handwriting (except when I have to take notes).  I tend to create my masterpieces (?) on my laptop. I think better when I am tap,tap, tapping. My fingers can keep up with my thoughts. When I try to physically write something with a pen, I quickly lose my train of thought—I cannot write fast enough for my short memory.

All this being said, I read something that I found inspirationally true recently, and I will share it with you in the hope that you too will enjoy it. It is a little riff on words and the way they make you feel.  Written by John Blofeld in an essay called *“What Words Does Your Mind Feed On?”, it made me stop and think. So without further ado I present you with his somewhat fantastical outlook on the world of words:

“A mind fed on words such as heaven, earth, dew, essence, cinnabar, moonlight, stillness, jade, pearl, cedar and winter plum is likely to have a serenity not to be found in minds ringing with the vocabulary of the present age—computer, tractor, jumbo jet, speedball, pop, dollar, liquidation, napalm. Overkill! Who would thrill at the prospect of rocketing to the moon in a billion-dollar spacecraft if he knew how to summon a shimmering gold and scarlet dragon at any time of the day or night and soar among the stars?”

These words were written in 2000, so I am sure he would find a few more today that would set his teeth on edge but I think he quite clearly sets out the perimeters of the magic of words. I think we all have favourite words—a few of mine are home, quaint, charming, magic, family….but enough about me. Other people think that our favourite words mean something—most notably creative expert (I would love to add that description to my resume) and author(okay this one too) Michael Michalko. He believes that our favourite words “reveal certain aspects of our personality.”

He mimicked a survey that was conducted in Japan at Hitotsubashi University to find out the 10 top favourite words of his friends, acquaintances, business associates and participants in his seminars. He asked them to freely list, in order of importance their top 10 words that “in some way represented their life.” Their responses from one to ten were: peace, equality, security, prosperity, love, fun, compensation, acknowledgement, freedom and health. He admits that his survey was neither scientific nor rigorous but said he was surprised at some of the words that were missing such as kindness, honesty, honour and integrity.

He conducted the same survey at a nursing home and the ten responses were quite different—the only word on both lists was health. The respondents at the nursing homes listed God, faith, family, health, friends, thanks, giving, honesty, independence and sharing as their top ten favourite words.  We can come to various conclusions comparing the two lists, but I guess where you are on your journey in life determines what is important to you.

The original survey done in Japan is interesting in that it kind of melds the two unofficial surveys Michalko conducted. Japan’s top ten words were in order of significance to those surveyed: effort, sincerity, freedom, peace, love, thoughtfulness, trust, thanks, health and dreams. Their number one word is not all that surprising considering the country’s national work ethic.

An aside: I found a quote on that I particularly like, and may add to my list of favourite words. Mario Testino says that: “My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create possibilities….”

*from Taoism: The Road to Immortality

Published in: on November 1, 2016 at 12:27 pm  Comments (9)