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.

echopuppy

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 brainyquote.com 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)  

Please. Please be true.

Published in: on October 31, 2016 at 3:04 pm  Comments (3)  

zoom zoom

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Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm  Comments (4)  

Boo – As The Veil Lifts

My column for this week–once again a bit ahead of time:

Here it comes again. Like clockwork.  Every October 31st. The most loved and hated of all holidays: Halloween. I Googled “Halloween in Canada” and this is what I came up with–a simple and straightforward explanation of the holiday if I ever came across one:

“Halloween is celebrated in Canada on or around October 31. It is a day to mark the single night in the year when, according to old Celtic beliefs, spirits and the dead can cross over into the world of the living. Some people hold parties and children may trick-or-treat in their neighbourhood.”

This seeming innocuous explanation was from timeanddate.com. Such a humble and unassuming explanation of the celebration. It makes me want to scream: “What do you mean it is the single night of the year when the dead cross into the world of the living? And we celebrate by throwing parties, dressing up, and giving out candy?” Is no one else rather perplexed at this? Outraged? What about the dead who come back—are they not put off by our merry making and candy gnashing?

Apparently our carved pumpkins are supposed to keep the dead at bay—they are afraid to come to our front door (or part the veil between worlds and enter our fray) because we put holes in a round orange fruit and illuminate it. Personally, if I were a spirit I would not be deterred by a plant, but maybe I am missing something here. Originally the plant that was used was a turnip. I must concede that I would probably be scared away by a turnip, but not the friendly pumpkin. I guess we turned to the pumpkin in North American because large turnips were scarce. I am not sure we made the right choice though. Perhaps a gnarly squash or large zucchini. Pumpkins are just not scary.

When my kids were little, I decorated two pumpkins like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. I was much more creative back then. I made sure that Bert was fashioned from an elongated pumpkin and Ernie from a round one. I cut their eyes, nose, hair, mouth and ears from construction paper, drew on features, and used black magic markers to colour their hair. I taped their features on the pumpkins (with rounded pieces of tape that could be easily removed) and used my “art” to produce Bert and Ernie year after year on Halloween. Once the kids reached 20 and 25 they told me that it was time to retire the Sesame Street characters. I am only exaggerating a bit here—but I think from this little insight into my life you get the gist that I celebrate the “lighter” rather than the “darker” side of Halloween.

Lately I have been consulting my inner witch for the Halloween season, though I like to think of my alter ego as more Sabrina or Samantha-like than Shakespearean or Wicked Witch of the West. You have to agree that Macbeth’s “Double, double toil and trouble” witches are not as endearing as a nose twitch witch.

Never found Macbeth all that uplifting but as it is the season, there is no better time for an unsettling (somewhat edited) poem from the Bard (you can commence the hand washing now):

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

 

Hmmm, hell-broth—sounds a little like my cooking. Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooky night!

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm  Comments (9)  

This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

home, comfort,magic,sugar plums…..

Live & Learn

patty-maher-ceremony-of-waiting

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?

John Blofeld, What Words Does Your Mind Feed on? “Taoism: The Road to Immortality” (Shambhala, August 8, 2000)


Notes:

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Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 11:43 am  Comments (6)  

Just Doodling Along…

A little Context–I am not only a columnist but also a municipal reporter–hence the Council comments:

 

In my ongoing effort to prove my intelligence (a loser’s game if there ever was one) I picked up a book called “The Doodle Revolution” in the sale bin at Chapters. Written by Sunni Brown, the book cover urges me to “Unlock the Power to Think Differently.” Okay, I will settle for different even if intelligence was my initial motivation, as I am a doodler of the highest degree. I love to doodle—in fact it is the saving factor when I attend council meetings—which are generally quite scintillating, but on occasion a discussion about drains or sewers goes on a little bit longer than its newsworthiness for the paper.

The inside cover of the book names Einstein, JFK, Edison, Marie Curie, and Henry Ford as inveterate doodlers and claims “that these powerhouse minds knew instinctively that doodling is deep thinking in disguise….” I have to say that when applied to my doodling the “deep thinking” is in total, complete and absolute disguise—but I do not mind the company I join—Einstein and Marie Curie are no small potatoes. It is odd that I would put myself in their category as I find myself entering a room and wondering what it was that I wanted.

Digression

I blame it on “doorway syndrome”. According to a researcher from the University of Notre Dame on the website LiveScience “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away….Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.” The article was written by Natalie Wolchoter, who says that architects may consider doorway placement when planning rooms in a building. Open concept anyone?

Back to the Original Topic with no discernable segue:

I doodle because I cannot draw. But according to this book I can draw, I just think I can’t. Words and numbers seemingly have gotten in my way. Brown calls doodling “visual language” and that we are “genetically capable of—generating visual language.” Suffice to say that visual language or literacy is a bit like *Pictionary, a drawing word guessing game, that I am guessing was invented by a doodler. (I have no verification for this other than the fact that it makes perfect sense to me.)

The author says that “to doodle” is NOT to dawdle, to dillydally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or consequence. Nor is it to do nothing. She defines doodling as making “spontaneous marks to help yourself think.” So if you ever catch me at an event doodling when I should be making notes, now you know that I am merely ‘helping myself think’. Doodling is “engaging in deep and necessary information processing.”

Doodling is also, according to Brown, “the arch nemesis of doing nothing.” So doodling makes me a superhero of sorts. I am the enemy of doing nothing, which in this world of super achievers is a good thing. I have never been referred to as a super achiever, so I think I will take a minute and bask in my superheroiness. (yes, I made that word up)

So what can doodling do for you once you have taken off your cape and mask? Apparently it provides you with The Three P’s: Power, Performance, and Pleasure. It extends your mind; helps you with information retention and recall; and not only gives you increased insight and elevated creativity– it makes you more efficient, focused, and relaxed.

Who knew that the 3D boxes I draw, the flowers built pedal upon pedal, the never-ending vines and leaves, the occasional stick figure, and funny faces I spend my time doodling make me smarter, more creative, and relaxed?

Brown is interested in starting a Doodling Revolution and changing the meaning of “art”.

While I am not totally convinced I do believe in one of her “self-evident truths”: “That doodling lives outside of elite realms of high art and design and is a form of expression free and accessible to all.”

I shall now don my cape and mask, and with magic wand in hand, continue to doodle to my heart’s content. And maybe, just maybe, creativity will rear its lovely head….

 

*1985 game invented by Robert Angel with graphic design by Gary Everson.

Published in: on October 18, 2016 at 12:23 pm  Comments (4)  

Autumn

 

A chill in the air

Gives way to sunshine;  light warmth

Finally autumn…..

Published in: on October 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm  Comments (1)  

Relaxed Dinner Parties

My weekly column for your reading pleasure (hopefully):

What do you think of when you hear the words “French cooking?” Complicated sauces? Elaborate cuisine?  The Queen Bee of cooking—Julia Child—who, if given her rightful place, brought French cooking to the masses? French cooking, according to an article on the Real Simple website by Sara Gauchat is not “fancy or snobby. It’s all about layering flavours, mastering basic techniques, and savouring every bite.”

Gauchat says that while French cooking “may seem sophisticated…it’s not rocket science.” It is, she says, “a way of life” and the typical meal consists of three courses—a simple starter (soup perhaps), a main dish (which could be as basic as a quick chicken recipe), and then cheese and fruit for dessert. Admittedly this is the “simple” version of French cooking, where “it’s about the pleasure of sitting down, enjoying family, company, and food” and you “put your elbows on the table and let the meal flow.”

This leads me to the real subject at hand— the “crappy dinner party”. This type of entertainment was introduced to writer Lauren Rothman and is something she waxed colloquially about in her article “What France Taught Me About Dinner Parties.” Rothman says that she “likes to host dinner parties as often as I can” but that in France she learned “that there is only one way for me to hold true to being a frequent hostess” and that is to adhere to the rules of the “crappy dinner party”.

I embrace this philosophy as I am reluctant to host dinner parties for a myriad of reasons:

  1. I was taught that if you invited people over, the house should be immaculate (my house has not been immaculate since I had children—the first of which was born over 30 years ago).
  2. I am not a confident cook. I generally turn out pretty good meals—but I always think that disaster is right around the corner.

Okay, maybe only two reasons, but they are two big reasons. I like it when people just drop by because then if my house is a mess they cannot take as an affront to their sensibilities that I was too lazy to clean up for them. And if it is near mealtime and I have enough food, I am happy to share it. There are no expectations. Crappy dining has few expectations and thus is something I think we should all support. Unless you can afford a caterer or have hired help, then you can just ignore this and go on your happy way. But, if you are like me, I suggest that you sort of plan on having some crappy dinner parties. They do not take a lot of planning other than having something to eat and drink, and being willing to share it with your friends and family.

So here are Rothman’s (somewhat edited) rules for a crappy dinner party:

  1. Embrace the one pot meal.
  2. Buy your dessert.
  3. Go on the premise that everyone loves cheap wine, or if that is not in your budget…
  4. Drink iced water.
  5. Keep clean-up easy and use paper plates.
  6. Be casual with your seating. This means you do not necessarily have to sit at a table or as Rothman advises: “…let your pals plop where they will.”
  7. Tablescape? What tablescape? Only things allowed—a bright bouquet or colourful napkins.
  8. Accept all offers to assist from setting the table, to pouring the wine, to divvying up the dessert. (My addition: help cleaning up)

I have a few more rules to add:

  1. Make sure your house is wade worthy—at least make a path to the food.
  2. Spray the air with Pledge.
  3. Fold a towel by the bathroom sink for guests—preferably not a torn or bleach spotted one.
  4. Take pleasure in the food and people at the table or on the floor or perched on your couch. After all—these are the most important elements in any get-together.
  5. Laugh. A lot.
Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm  Comments (8)