Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's a Vinyl World

Yeah, yeah, Happy 2012 and all that. Now. LOOK AT THIS!!!

For some reason, I've been itching to buy- and listen to- records. I missed the slight hiss and pop, the album art, even the skips and jumps. This has been an on-and-off yearning for a while, but while I was at the Culture Crawl last month, I saw a suitcase record player in someone's studio, and I was hooked. No complicated (and expensive) hi-fi system. No external speakers. Just a small, funky unit, minimum dollars, and I could start buying used records and become an audio nerd!
Well, after much online research, and then after traipsing around downtown today, I ended up with this little guy for all of SIXTY DOLLARS. And no, it's not as retro cool as the suitcase turntable I originally wanted, but let me repeat, it was SIXTY DOLLARS. And I got it from the drugstore two blocks from where I live. Not only does it play vinyl, it also rips it to MP3 format (so I don't have to haul the turntable or the records up north with me this summer). AND there's a CD player, an FM radio, a headphone jack and USB and memory card ports. I think I'm in love. Right now I'm listening to Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music while I blog. Heaven.
Of course, it wouldn't have been smart to buy a record player and then have no records to actually play, right? Right. So I stocked up while I was visiting Dad in Kelowna. Well, 'stocked up' may be an exaggeration. I bought 6 records.

As well as the aforementioned Duke Ellington album (featuring the Duke himself), we have:
The Police, "Syncronicity" (an absolute '80s classic, in my opinion)
Alberta Hunter, "Amtrak Blues" (this was a shot in the dark. She's great. Now I know)
Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck, "Djam Leelii" (I LOVE jangly, hypnotic, repetitive African pop music!)
Stan Rodgers, "Turnaround" (...and I love Stan. He's a Canadian troubadour, and he died way too early)
a Smithsonian Folkways recording of someone reading the poems of Robert Service. (Two words: Gold Rush)
So while I don't have too many albums yet, I think there's enough variety to keep me going for a while.

January 2nd-
New Year's Day was on a Sunday this year, which means that today (Monday) has still seemed part of the holiday limbo, the last holdout before all the stores reopen and everything gets back to dull, rainy, winter-in-Vancouver normal. The lights are coming down. Soon my little tree will get tossed in the dumpster and Christmas will officially be over. I didn't want to mess around though; I wanted to at least start the new year on a high note, so I've been making lists and crossing off 'To-Do's' as I get through them:
Study for Learner's License
Tally receipts for 2010 & 2011
Apply for a recording grant
It helps that I can now listen to music (records! radio! hee hee!) while I apply for grants and get my tax stuff ready.
The year is young, but so far I've been a good girl.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

Still working out the sizing bugs! You may have to save this comic to your desktop in order to zoom in on it... but if you feel like it, then Accordion Girl wishes you a very happy 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Every Christmas, I want the storybook experience. And the wonderful thing about still being the 'kid' generation in my family is, I get it. I get the lights and the carolling and the solid month of singing, AND I get paid to do it, too. This Christmas Eve, I got a delightful dinner at my mom's cozy East Van condo, surrounded by some of my favourite people. Then I got to lie around, grazing and digesting, on Christmas Day with my mom and her delightful roommate. Then I took the midnight bus to the Okanagan, and now I am at my dad's, where there are more starry-eyed delights, like skating on the local pond (skating! outside! the quintessential Canadian Experience!), a slightly drunken walk through fast-falling snow in the dark, and more rich food than I should have touched (I may go home with a few extra pounds, but by god I have eaten well this week). The only thing that would have made things better up here would have been if my brother and his wife could have come too, so that we could have been lazy 30-something kids up here together. I have transcended the whole Present thing (I got very little in the way of material things this season); the delight is almost all wrapped up in the gift of family and friends, lights and music and snow. I thank the gods, as I do every few months, that I truly LIKE my family, as well as love them.

Here's my secret confession: If my Christmas is like a storybook (and it has been, truly), then I wish that my New Year's Eve could be like a movie. If Christmas is a week or so of childish self-indulgence wrapped in delight, then I wish that New Year's Eve could be a night of sleek, shiny pleasure. Cool Venue. Dancing. Live music. Maybe a chase scene, followed by The Best Kiss In The World at midnight. Am I the only person who feels like this, or do we all secretly long for it?

(Spoiler Alert: I don't think this is going to happen this year. Not the dancing, not the chase scene. Certainly not the Kiss. I will have a perfectly nice time at my friend G's New Year's party, and I will be grateful and happy to attend. And I will refuse, dammit, to lower my expectations.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seasonal Sum-up

Journey Mama wrote a post in bullet points today, and I am shamelessly going to steal this idea, since I don't have a long story to tell you today, just a few shorter ones...

* I realize that I haven't said anything here about how awesome my job is right now. And sadly, it's almost over. Three more days of caroling and then of course, we're done, because Christmas will be upon us. Getting paid to sing is like getting paid to breathe, for me. I'm always kind of quiet before the first gig, letting the chatter of the others wash over me in the car as we drive to the gig. And then we sing, and the loveliness of the harmonies washes over the four of us, and over the people watching, and it's a kind of Christmas-y magic. We've had some great moments, like when a guy spontaneously bought us cookies while we were caroling outside a mall. And a young skater kid watched us all through "Silent Night" and then told us how his Socials teacher had been telling his class about the German & English soldiers who sang together on a Christmas Eve during the first world war. Lots and lots of happy old folks at the seniors residences which are our bread-and-butter gigs. Hitting that perfect, sweet high note at the beginning of a carol and hearing the room fall silent. Balm to the soul, as they say.

* While it's true that Christmas is not the easiest time to be alone, I have been so lucky to stay nice and busy with work, and to have some wonderful friends to see. Yesterday I went skating with my friend Galia, her husband and their two kids, whom I have doted on since they were born. And then I partied with my five wacky friends from C-Level, which is the purely-for-fun a capella singing group I'm in. We drank copious amounts of alcohol, talked about sex, watched "The New Girl" and tried to stumble drunkenly through our favorite Christmas carols. And I've been connecting with other friends as well recently, both in person and online. And although I joke a lot about my eccentric rathole apartment, I actually love it, AND my roomies. Feeling very lucky and loved right now, in general.

* Gonna spend Christmas Eve with Mom and bro and some assorted friends and family here in Vancouver, then bus up to Kelowna to see my dad right after Christmas. Not having any upcoming work (arrrrgh) means I don't have to rush back for anything. Poor mom's in the thick of rehearsals right now, but she's determined to hold this Christmas Eve dinner. We'll all eat way too much, of course, and I'll probably sleep over at her place and lie around digesting on the 25th.

* Only four months and change until I'm back in Barkerville! Hard to believe, and it'll go so fast. I want to take a career exploration course (there are some free ones available) in the new year, and also get my driver's license at long last! I really hope some interesting work comes along, but I hope that I can use this time to create some new opportunities for myself as well. I wouldn't say no to a date, either, before I'm back in the northern wastelands where the men are few, and far-between, and just plain odd. But I'm not holding my breath on that score.

And finally...
This is a time of huge confusion and change and scariness; not just for me, but all over the damn place right now. So when life is getting me down, I just look at this photo, and it makes me smile.

"I am the Goaltending Owl of Christmas!!!"
Merry Merry. Happy Happy. May your days be merry and bright, as the song says. Drink and eat and have fun with whoever you spend your holidays with.
Much love.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Oh man, I was so lost, this week.
This virus came from nowhere and BAM! I was sick, and tired, and so, so low.
"Depression" is such a weighty word, but I could feel it knocking on my doors. I could feel my eyes stretched wide with sadness, with not letting tears fall. I would be walking down my wonderful street, and I could feel my face contorted in a sad, furious mask.
No one left emails. No one called.
I felt invisible. I felt like no one would ever love me again, and that all my friends had forgotten about me.

Yesterday I was raw. I saw the sun was shining so brightly outside, and I decided to walk a long, long way to meet a friend. The walk was longer than I expected, but it was very sunny. Along the way, I took some pictures. My mind was still spinning in a sad, repetitive cycle, but I could feel the sun, and the warmth of the day, and at least some of that got through.

Then I met a friend for lunch and had another walk. It was hard to feel so bad when the weather was doing this, and I was here:

By the time I went caroling last night, I was exhausted. Too much walking and the sad feelings were still there. So I went skating afterwards. Skating on top of a mountain. There were even reindeer up there!

I skated around and around (it's all I can do; I can't do fancy tricks or even stop very well, but by god I can skate in a circle), and after half an hour I was pretty much cured. Skating meditation. The bad thoughts had receded. Even though I lost my cel phone up there I was not reduced to a sniveling mess. And today I woke up and felt so much better inside my head, even though it was rainy and damp and I had to go caroling outside at a mall.
And then I came home and sang MORE carols with a bunch of friends and heard from some other ones online and felt less alone and much more loved.
It's hard, you know? I feel like a wimp saying this and I know there are so many larger problems all around and people suffering and I GET that, I really do, but this is my problem right now. You create this life with someone, you build a family. And then one of you might tear it down and you have to build something entirely new. Where there was once always someone there, for better or for worse, now there are holes. And sometimes you feel as though you might just fall right through one of those holes and there would be no one there to catch you.
So this is what I would say, in the end: I want to be brave enough to pick up the phone more, to make more plans with people I don't know well but want to get to know better. Even just send some encouraging online notes.
I want to be the kind of friend who's there to catch you, if you feel like you're falling. And I want to be caught, too.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Today was a rest day, an all-day-in-bed kind of day. I've been felled by a persistent virus, and after days of pretending it wasn't there so I could keep going through various gigs, I had to admit defeat on my day off. I have absolutely no energy at all; I feel low and lonely and depressed, (the virus at work; I've actually had some wonderful gigs and good fortune recently but it's hard to stay happy after days of feeling shitty), but I WAS lucky enough to have an entire day to rest.
So, I stayed in bed, but I traveled the world via the magic of movies. What better way to take a holiday from a sick body and sad mind?
My journey actually began a day or so ago with the French movie "Monsieur Ibrahim". Today I made stops in '80s America ("Charlie Wilson's War" and "Say Anything"), Belgium ("Moscow, Belgium") and Siam ("Anna & the King", which I'm taking a break from because it's long and not totally grabbing me). I also recently watched "Nowhere In Africa" (Germany & Kenya- one of the best movies I've seen in ages) and "Lost in Translation" (Japan, but more importantly, one of my favorite movies of all time).
People may complain about Netflix' selection, but I'm enchanted by all the foreign movies on there. The only problem I have is deciding what to pick!
Now, of course, I am itching to pack my bags and get on a plane to... where shall I go? I've been drawn to European movies lately, but I'm dying to get to somewhere warm, to a place where I absolutely won't shiver, not even once. Not a resort, not something fake and manufactured for tourists who want to be served everything on a platter. I want a tiny, eccentric place to live in, a new language to learn, a few people to befriend. I want a local market to shop at, and a bar/restaurant I'd be comfortable eating alone in. I want sun, water, simplicity, music. Given my limited budget, I'm thinking somewhere in Mexico where I can learn Spanish and hide out for a week or so. A total change of scene.
Of course, I know what's behind this (and probably sort of behind the illness, too): I am learning to be alone, and it's proving to be a tough lesson. Hence the need for a change of scene, I think. I need to toughen up, but it will take time. I need to learn confidence in my body and my Self, the essence of who I am, but it will take time. I need to learn to ask for help, and for company when I am feeling alone, but that will take time too.
I think the thing is that my whole concept of what is 'normal' has been severely toyed with, so I doubt everything. I left a stable relationship at a time of life when most people seem to be settling down and having babies. I got sick when I thought that I was invincible. I live in two vastly different places per year. I have roommates and live in an eccentric building and I own next to nothing. I fell madly out of and into love but I have no idea what to do about it. There is no roadmap for this life, and I know that everyone feels like this. We are all trying to find our way, and when we glance at the map we can only see the path we've taken, not the road ahead.
I love my life, the weird, winding, rocky, beautiful little path I'm on. I really do. But tonight, I will put the headphones back on soon, press 'play' and start another movie so I can escape for a while. When I get some energy back I'll start planning a little trip, I think. Because there is only so much watching I can do. I need to start starring in my OWN movie.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


oh, her email tonight
out of the blue:
I JUST read your email from months ago-
are you okay??

I thanked her
gave her a brief summary of what she missed:
yes, surgery; yes, breakup; yes, moved and
yes, am okay

re-reading my answer to her it is clear-
There is a difference between what I pitch to people:
I am a professional musician!
I have never been healthier!
'Freelance' means I have my own schedule!
I am single and loving it!

and the murkier depths of reality:
I am riddled with self-doubt about my abilities and my career choices!
I scarf down pizza slices on the way home from rehearsals!
I work out, go running, then bum cigarettes from my roommate!
I am either ridiculously busy or still wearing pyjamas at noon!
I write random, newsy, funny things to a far-away guy who probably wonders what on earth he did to deserve these notes he gets from me!
And in the meantime, my own city is remarkably free of anyone who wants to love me!

the constant struggle:
not to let the pitch and the reality separate too much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to: Day jobs with Accordion Girl!!!

Accordion Girl dreams of the Best Gig Ever. It would look something like this:

Of course, reality doesn't always quite measure up:
Latest installment (it's a bit smaller than I would like, so click on it to enlarge):

Monday, November 21, 2011

So you know how some days you really feel as though you could scale mountains? Hell, some weeks are even like that, if you're lucky. Last week was one of those: I went running, did an epic 12-km hike with my bro and sis-in-law, saw tons of great friends, played and wrote some great music, including my first-ever solo set playing songs that I wrote (!!!)... it was a pretty fantastic week, all told.

Today is Monday. Today, getting out of bed and getting dressed was a pretty big deal.
My phone didn't ring.
I haven't been outside all day and now it's not even 4:30 and it's getting dark.
I meant to get at least 4 hours' worth of practice or writing in and instead I wasted time looking at Facebook and obsessively re-checking my email.
It's one of those days where I feel to my bones that no one will ever love me again, and I might as well bury myself in a pile of chip bags and Kleenex and balloon up to 200 pounds and get 20 cats and knit them all little sweaters.
The weather is gross.

I blame the weather, quite frankly. Last week was mostly sunny and cold. Today it's damp and overcast and my body just doesn't do well with no sun which is a bit of a problem, given that I LIVE IN A RAINFOREST ENVIRONMENT, FERGODSSAKE!

On the plus side, I have been eating really, really good food for the last few days. Some of it I even cooked at home. I'm on a middle eastern kick right now; lots of hommous and tzatziki and cauliflour and beets and lamb.

On the plus side, I did the East Side Culture Crawl this weekend, which is just so fantastic. All these wonderful artists and sculptors and musicians open up their studios and you can walk right in and look at their work (and admire their funky homes). It was sunny and cold all day Saturday and yesterday, and my friend Ari & I took in quite a bit of Art, in between grazing on all the snacks that obliging artists had put out, and gorging on charcuterie and cheese at Au Petit Chavignol. We joked that our crawl had more to do with eating than art, and it was true.

Most of the paintings, jewelry and other stuff, was out of my price range. I did, however, buy this:

In case you can't tell what it is, I will tell you: it's a pretty silver pendant, in the shape of a pumpkin seed. How perfect for moi.

I'm going to admit that this day has defeated me, and curl up with some chocolate and a movie.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The rain, it keeps on coming. My roomies and I, we wear sweaters and cover our windows with shrinkwrap to keep the drafts out, and some of us (by which I mean me) eat too much pasta and other starchy things to keep the damp and the cold at bay.

I sit at the desk in my little sitting room and occasionally I do grown-up things like sort through receipts and study the Learners License manual so I can eventually, finally learn how to drive. More often when I'm in here I'm checking my email, or the inevitable Facebook, but there has been some progress. I have been practicing my music. Multiple times. Writing songs, even. This week, I will perform my first-EVER solo set (all my own songs, at that) at a friend's open-mic night in this new neighbourhood of mine. I can't believe I'll be doing that. It's gonna feel as though I'm naked. In front of people.

So yeah, you DO get more stuff done when you're not in a relationship. Or I do, anyway. I guess I'm going to have to learn how to make time for both, or at least I certainly hope so, eventually. But this is okay for now, it really is.

I biked to my ex's, in the teeth of a ferocious windstorm yesterday. And I looked around at the apartment we had shared for so many years, which he had totally repainted and redecorated, and I didn't feel one pang of regret or nostalgia. We sat and drank coffee together, he and I, and he said I want to tell you something, so it's not awkward later on. I'm seeing someone. And I smiled, and congratulated him, and I was really pleased for him, and still there was no regret, and only a bit of nostalgia when we hugged goodbye.

Today I looked at myself in the mirror and said: This will not do. So I got myself to the drugstore, handily located next door, and spent some time in one of the aisles, and now my hair is a lovely dark reddish brown, with not a bit of grey. I had 2 music rehearsals with various people whom I adore and then I came home and played some more music by myself and I had several messages from more people I adore and one of them (one of the most adored, although he doesn't know it) said: How's life treating you? And I realized that it was treating me very, very well indeed. And then I finished this song:


I was here, or haven't you heard
I'm leaving a trail with the written word
and I'm taking a stand, yeah I'm raising my voice
it doesn't feel as if I even have a choice
I write my name in the sand, though the tide washes it clean
so I don't even know if it was ever seen
Just a trace of my bones against these stones
saying I Was Here.

This is me, I'm making my mark
I'm holding this pen like a candle in the dark
saying This is how I felt, and this is what I did
This is when I was brave, and this is why I hid
I said goodbye to my old life and went towards the new
I went and fell in love again 'cause that's just what I do
with my heart and my hope on my sleeve
saying I Was Here

Sometimes I'm clumsy, sometimes I forget
Sometimes I just spill it all, say things I might regret
It's not always easy to say how I feel
Don't know when I should close my mouth or what I should reveal

I was here, but after I'm gone
who knows if anything of me will linger on
All my mistakes, all the things I did right
will vanish like a shadow when it meets the night
I'll say goodbye to my old life and head towards the new
I hope that when I die I've done the things I wanted to
But wherever I go I'll let them know-
I'll tell them I Was Here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

idiot week.

What a full-on week of idiocy it has been, ladies and gents! I hope someone will tell me that Mercury's in retrograde, or something like that, because otherwise? I'm just a twit, and that's hard on the old ego.

It started last Wednesday, when I moved over to my buddy Gord's place to dogsit and promptly broke his freakin' dryer by overloading it with my clothes. Do you know how expensive it is to fix a dryer? I do. Now. Not to mention that one of my best friends now thinks I'm a moron, although to be fair, he's been pretty nice about the whole thing.

Then I went to a concert on Saturday; a free concert at the library. It was sublime. But... there were not enough seats, in fact there were hardly any. The ground was cold, so I sat on my coat. Which had my cel phone in it. Which reacted to being sat on by displaying an image I had never seen before, a giant "F". I have no idea what that "F" stands for. Is it "Failure"? "Freak-out"? "Fix Me"? "F'ing Moron"? Your guess is as good as mine. I only know that it would do nothing else until I yanked the battery out and put it back in. Which- thank god- fixed it.

And then there was last night. I played at a swanky fundraiser. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I arrived at my apartment, pleased as punch to be home again after being at Gord's for a week. Got in. Took off my coat and changed out of my swanky duds. Decided to go for late-night crappy Chinese food. Closed the door of my apartment, only to immediately realize that my keys were upstairs in my room. The dilemma: wake up my sleeping roomies with The Loudest Doorbell in the World or... call Mom, who has a spare key? The choice was clear: Call Mom. She already knows I'm a twit. I'd like to keep the wool over my roomies' eyes for a little while longer.
Oy vey.

On a more positive note, it really IS great to be back at my crazy apartment, and I'm so pleased that it's starting to feel like home. I've still got no regrets re. the India trip, and I've really been enjoying getting a bunch of stuff done and seeing lots of friends in the last few weeks. Including some I haven't seen in years. No dates yet, but I'm working on enjoying my own company (when I'm not hanging with friends, that is), and I know deep down that that should really be enough for now.

Maybe I should also work on being less of an idiot. That might help my chances in the old dating department...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

decisions, decisions

Yesterday I turned down an interesting work/travel opportunity. Well, not just 'interesting'. Exotic, scary and loosey-goosey might actually describe it better.
It had been in the works for months; an opportunity to travel to India for a week (only a week! So short!) and make music with a mixed group of Indian and Canadian musicians at a festival in Delhi. I'd been invited this summer, but funding difficulties had reared their ugly heads and for months I'd been unsure of whether or not there would be money for me to go. So I'd gone ahead and made other plans, and of course the gods laughed their mocking laughter and some tentative funding arrangements came through last-minute and suddenly, with just over a week before the trip, here I was being told that if I could just run out and apply for a travel visa and then when I returned from the trip if I could just apply for a grant to cover the cost of my plane ticket etc, and ififif, then I could be getting on a plane in a week's time and flying into Delhi.
And I said no.
And yes, there were regrets, but they were so superficial that I had to laugh at myself even as I was having them, because they were almost totally along the lines of what will I tell this person/that person that will make them understand why I said no? and will I be less of a cool person, less of an adventurer if I don't go? Stuff like that.
Maybe an opportunity like this one will never present itself again, and of course I have regrets about that. But you know what? In the space of the last half-year, I got cancer, had major surgery, broke off a very long relationship, worked and lived away from my home for 5 months, fell for people who didn't feel the same way about me, came home, moved house and jumped straight into a busy and demanding work schedule.
I don't have anything to prove.
If I want to stay at home and get caught up, emotionally and financially and artistically, rather than spend 8 days blowing money I don't have halfway around the world, that's okay. If I want to spend next week practicing music and crossing things off my to-do list and planning my future, that's okay too. The trip sounded under-planned and my presence was more due to the fact that they wanted a female musician to be involved than that they had any real idea of who I was or what I did.
I will continue to try and say yes to the very things that scare me the most, because I know that the scary things have the biggest pay-offs, most of the time. But today, as I type this and stare out of the window at the fall leaves and the mountains, I say to myself I am home. And here I stay, at least for now. And the feeling of relief is strong and sweet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

day off.

I'm enjoying what feels like my first day off in a while. There is a large mug of tea at my side, and I'm wearing my Pumpkin Patch hoodie while I type this. Those are two things that give me comfort, but they're also a necessity in my new place; it's such a cold building! On the plus side, it's hard to laze around all day in here; on the minus side... well, it's hard to laze around in here! Reading the inspiring words of Kindness Girl and her sister, Jen Lemen before I get up to do a multitude of chores, big and little, I am reminded to treat myself with kindness today, even as I get some necessary stuff done:

1. Reach Out.
I am still figuring out this whole Single thing. Of course I am; I was with someone for 14 years! And now I'm alone, so there's no default Someone who will see me at my worst, my most whiney and sad and plain, and still love me. But wait, that's not true! I've got friends and family who want to spend time with me, who call me up and make plans with me even around my hectic schedule. And that makes me feel very special. Today, an old friend that I grew up with in Toronto, one of those once-in-a-lifetime girlfriends you whisper secrets to and play make-believe games with, is coming to Vancouver. We've almost drifted out of each others' lives in the decades since our girlhood, but Facebook keeps us loosely connected and every five years or so she comes down here from the Yukon on business and we have dinner. And it's lovely. Sometime this week I'll catch up on her life (as a mom!!! with 3 kids!!! None of which I've even met!) and she'll hear about my life and I'll remember that even occasional friends are so worth keeping. However...

2. Take Time For Yourself.
I told my mom yesterday that I had a day off today, and was there anything I could do for her, as she's very busy rehearsing a show right now. She said there wasn't, but did I want to meet up for brunch? And I realized that although I love hanging out with my mom, I really needed to just take this day for myself, without any plans to meet up with anyone. And so that's what I've done.

3. Find something you want to do, and take the time to do it.
Sleep in. Read. Savour that coffee. I've got a bunch of chores I need to get done today, but it's a perfect Fall day and I want to make sure I enjoy it too. One thing I've decided is that when I head out to buy groceries today, I'm going to bring my camera and take some shots of my fabulous new neighbourhood. And then I'll post the best ones here, so you can meet my new 'hood.

Okay, that's enough planning for now. Time to get out there and enjoy this day off!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

on the flip side of fine

You spent the last week-and-a-half trying to keep it together-
arrival, move, jobs
and with the first real day off, your body shuts down.
Sleeping, to fight something that's wrong inside
something you did to yourself during the move, probably, lifting boxes
Over 4 months since the operation and you thought after everything you did this summer that you were fine, you were healed
But you're not

You turn down work so that you can rest, work you need because you're spending too much
(as usual)
Skip a rehearsal because of the cramping and fatigue; your excuses sounding feeble to the impatient person on the other end of the phone

The cat winds around your legs, stares reproachfully at you when she catches your eyes
You've been staring at that machine for hours, she complains
that one, or the one in the living room, the one that plays the same shows over and over all day
and it's true, you have, and even though you almost never spend your days like this, you feel guilty
and guiltier still for eating your own bodyweight in Ben & Jerry's

You signed up on a dating site for a laugh, scrolling through names and pictures through the day
and ended up deleting your account in horror
I can't do this

You went to a party last night
you drank too much because you were shy
You realized today
that you are distracting yourself
with boys, with friends, with booze, with anything
so that you don't have to spend time alone with yourself

It's after 1am
If you hit "publish", these bare, dark thoughts are Out There for everyone to see
and what does that make you?
Wouldn't it be better not to be so exposed?
This is a kiss-and-tell world; it's not classy or nice to lay it all out there
You are trying to make sense of it all
and to leave a mark, also
to say I Am Here
in happiness and in sorrow, for all to see
including yourself

And the best thing I can hope
is that I will re-read this in a while
and know how far I've come

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I've been saying it all day, out at the Pumpkin Patch.
Happy Thanksgiving, Have a great Thanksgiving.
as they file off the wagon, bags bulging with pumpkins

and so now I take a second to say thanks, myself:

For blue skies and sunlight, after so many days of grey.
For work, especially at the Pumpkin Patch, which still makes me happy after 9 Octobers there
For my new place, eccentric though it may be, which is starting to feel like home
For friends and family, who make me feel loved whether they are sitting across from me at dinner, helping me move house, or sending me smart-ass remarks from a computer screen
For health and strength and resilience, which I am so lucky to have in abundance

With all my heart, thanks..

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This is Accordion Girl.

She has a big red accordion. She also has five other accordions, most of them tucked away in storage. They are called:
The Big Black One (given to her while she was busking at the ferry terminal on the Sunshine Coast. True Story.),
The Little Black One (she's had this one for years. If it was in better shape it would be her favorite.)
The Swedish One (gutted and only useful as a wall decoration these days)
The Playhouse One (given to her by the fly man at the Vancouver Playhouse. People really like to gift Accordion Girl with accordions!) and...
The Button Accordion (the one she can't really play.)
That's a lot of accordions!

Last summer, Accordion Girl worked up North, at a little theatre company in a gold rush town. She wore a hairpiece that made her hair look really curly, and a dress with dozens of ruffles, and she was very happy.

At the end of the summer (well, actually, it was more like autumn), Accordion Girl went back to the big city. At the beginning of the summer, she had said goodbye to someone, and now that she was back in town, she had to move all her things (including the six accordions) to a new place, and start a new life.

She had some kind of weird jobs to get her through the fall. One of them was dressing up in a magician's costume and scaring trainloads of people with a giant fake saw.

The other one was playing her little black accordion at a pumpkin patch in the middle of the country (well, Richmond).

It was nice to be outdoors so much, and sometimes you could spot random celebrities at the Pumpkin Patch, people like Elivis Costello and Tamara Taggart (not together, though. That would be weird.) But although these jobs were diverting, Accordion Girl wanted more from life. Like... a career that maybe meant that her next home wouldn't look so much like this:

Plus, Accordion Girl had realized over the summer that she still had the ability to fall madly, deeply, and very swiftly in LOVE. This was exciting, but it meant that she was never fully in control of her emotions.

Will Accordion Girl find success in her career? Will she adapt to her eccentric new home? Will she learn to be happy on her own or will she be able to fall for someone without turning into a zombie? Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

11:11 pm

(actually, it's 11:12 by now, but 11:11 looked better as a title.)

well, i started the day in my little northern mining town
and am ending it at my mom's place in east vancouver
ten freaking hours on the Greyhound, people
(although it was pretty enjoyable to just sit quietly by myself and just read for ten hours straight. read, and watch the fraser river and the mountains and the fall-coloured trees flitting past. i don't remember the last time i read for ten hours. i most certainly didn't have time to do that this summer.)

i think i'm a bit shell-shocked, honestly.

i mean, the place i left has no traffic lights. not one.
and the town restaurant?
well, last night at the restaurant, we trooped in around 8, amy brought a dvd with her
and so we watched "The Long Riders": my roommate, my two bosses, dave and cheryl, who run the Paw, and Francesco The Italian Waiter-
Movie Night at the Bear's Paw. cool.

here in vancouver the traffic hums past all. the. time.
there are a million restaurants on the drive, but i bet i can't watch a movie at any of 'em
i am uncomfortably aware that my old home and life are just down the street from where i sit right now
and it is so surreal that that life is gone forever
and here i am, at thirty-seven
crashing on mom's floor for a few nights until the big move

going to move in to new digs next week
and get used to the sound of traffic all over again
and look both ways before i cross streets
and remember not to say hello to people on the street unless i know them

going to buy a new bed at ikea
it'll be a double, on the optimistic assumption that perhaps, one night, i might get to share it with someone
(not any specific someone, you understand
i'm just looking ahead to a time when i might have a love life again)

going to re-connect with city friends over coffees and rehearsals and walks
and try not to miss all the friends i made this summer
try to stay connected with them over distance
and trust that they'll be there next year
and that so will i

going to try not to lose my heart to anyone else for a while
take things slow and not fall madly in love after five minutes because really?
Today's Single Women are cool, they date; they don't get all fluttery at the drop of a hat
(um, i think i have a lot to learn. sigh.)

going to accomplish at least some of the things on my to-do lists:
the little, niggling ones like taxes and bills and chores
and the great big ones like travel and creativity and staying fit

autumn's here
old things are dying
new things are on their way

Saturday, September 17, 2011

summer came, finally
two weeks of swimming, sunning, hiking
these weeks of one-show days: less plays, more playing
we celebrated Christmas in September the other day
(because none of us are actually here at Christmas time)
we ate hugely, exchanged presents, sang carols
it was kind of magical
I looked around the table at this 'family' of people I've known and worked with and thought
thanks for this

the next day it was rainy and grey again, summer gone for good

I spent a couple of hours talking to someone last night in the cold outdoors
and he said
that when he hires people, he asks them what they think their greatest achievement is
which kind of floored me
because I realized that although I'm proud of many things I've done
I don't know if there's one specific thing I could point to right away and say this is what makes me so proud
I guess if it's anything, it's
writing music for a (small) hit show
clawing my way back from surgery to work up here
playing in Montreal with Zeellia

so maybe this year is going to be about achievements
no, not 'maybe'
it WILL be about:
making changes
doing things I can be proud of
creating things
making music
making money
being happy
finding balance

speaking of which, that someone I talked to last night is a someone who makes my heart beat a little too fast
someone I love talking to
if I looked up the definition of 'He's Just Not That Into You'
his picture would probably be right there
so, onward I guess
easier said than done, though
but if this summer has taught me anything it's that I'm tougher than I thought
and now summer's over
my time up here is nearly through
and although I know that there will be more hurts to get through, and more confusion to navigate
there will also be tremendous joy, of this I'm sure
new jobs, new place, new life waiting for me down south
in just over a week's time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why I love this place: the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine

I have been avoiding the big city (Quesnel) on my days off, and the last couple of weeks found me at Bowron Lake with family and friends, sunning and swimming. This week I was determined to relax right at home; no cars, no travels, no companions, just me and the town of Wells. If it was rainy, I'd sleep and read. If it was nice, I'd head up Cow Mountain to the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine.
It was sunny.

First, I walked up Lowhee Road, which I'd never done before. Barkerville Gold Mines has some buildings up there, so I didn't go too far, since this is an active gold mine, and gold miners are rather possessive about their property. However, I did stumble upon their top-secret stash of gold! You think they'd be a bit more clever about hiding it...

I crossed the creek, spotting a gold panner along the way (I also gave him a wide berth, since gold-panners are also possessive about their spots and I didn't want him to think I was horning in on his 'claim'.)

And off to the old mine. My fascination with this place is only equaled by my fear of bears, so I am always a little antsy here. Plus, there's something so spooky about old buildings. Spooky, but wonderful.

My favorite building up here.

One day I hope to come here with someone who knows the history of this gold mine, and can tell me what everything is. At a guess, this is an elevator, which either took men down, or gold up. Dunno. The whole side of the building has peeled away, so if you can scootch under some branches which block the trail, you are in like Flynn, and you can explore to your heart's content.

Barkerville Gold Mines is working up on this mountain, so who knows how long this old stuff will remain before it's knocked down to make way for a new mine working? This building has been gutted, probably by heavy snows, but the ground around it is covered in core samples.

My second favorite place: a short walk to a gaping mine shaft.

If you head right, you will be standing on top of a huge tailings pile, where you can survey your domain. Look down, and there is a tangle of machinery which always reminds me of the ghastly Ironworks building in Stephen King's book "IT". As far as I know, Fred Wells' mine was a safe, good place to work, not a haunted kill-site, but the rusty scraps of god-knows-what always give me a bit of a chill.

Speaking of chill, you can feel the mine's cold breath as you approach this shaft. Just a few feet in, the floor is covered in ice.

*A disclaimer: I am far too smart (and too chicken) to enter a mine shaft. AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO! Anyone who goes into a mine shaft is an effin' idiot, and deserves whatever happens to them.*

And down a creepy little path to some more buildings. The Dark Lord apparently reigns here.

There are bits of machinery lying around- who knows what they used to do? Well, someone probably does know. That someone, however, is not me.

Finally I'd had enough of overgrown ruins. The beach on Jack o' Clubs Lake is glorious: strange-coloured sand, shrubs, and stunning views.

I also took a path along the lake for a while. There were claims staked all the way along it.

After messing about on the beach for a bit, I decided to walk over to the highway and the visitors' centre, but the only way there was either through a vile bog, or a wade in the lake, so I chose the latter (although I experimented with the bog first...)

It had been almost a 2-hour hike at this point. I slogged home, wet to the thighs from the chilly lake, and devoured my very late lunch with a huge appetite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

shoulder season

I've been waking up tired these last few days
although I still have lots of energy for the shows-
no, scratch that, sometimes I have energy-
other days I guess I phone it in, a little
except we're pre-telephone in 1869, so I guess I'm telegraphing it in

Don't get me wrong, I still love being here
and most days, I remember that I'm lucky to be here, too
different test results, different surgery, and I wouldn't have been
I have a birthday coming up
and I feel pretty lucky about that, too
even though the numbers are getting bigger and bigger
i still can't believe I'm over thirty, and thirty happened quite some time ago

but Fall comes so early, here
on the heels of a too-short summer
I count evening swims on one hand this year
including one moonlit skinny-dip, which was amazing; I want more
bike rides are buffeted by headwinds with a chill I can't ignore
I bought a warm coat the other day, which I'll need sooner than I'd wish

cold aside, part of me wants to stay here with
a woodstove, a cat, and a box of books to read...
not go back to the city, where things lurk:
taxes, memories, responsibilities, jobs I need but don't like
I'm excited too, though
there will be new places to live, new people to meet, interesting jobs
even love? but I can't even think about that

I guess what is feel is conflicted
I know this summer can't last much longer
Time stretches and snaps like elastic
and what felt eternal is now almost done
and I am slowly learning
to trust in people and places
even when life takes you far away from them
If I did the same thing, stayed in the same town all the time it would be dull
but it is a wrench to know that I have to move on
to start again
scary and exciting both
so I will try and push through the tiredness
and enjoy every last minute here

Sunday, August 7, 2011

reality check.

She comes up to me before the 1-o'clock show. Not much older than me, but the years have not been as kind to her
I remember joking with her and her family yesterday before our 4pm history drama
I was in character at the time: Irish whore, whisky in hand

She says: Johanna Maguire- did that really happen to her? (Irish whore, whisky in hand, dead at thirty-four, beaten to death by her man)
I say yes. Yes it did.

She shows me the scar on her neck
Two vertebrae here are fused together because of the same thing she says
He got life in jail for that.
It just goes to show you, doesn't it? she says. it's been happening to women for so many years.

it just goes to show you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


There's an explosion of hippies in our tiny town; festival-followers, musicians, crew and the like
We Barkerville workers are seasonal, but tolerated, the hippies, less so.
They swim naked in the river/smoke grass in public/pee on our lawns/leave garbage everywhere/make a noise

All this is true, but they are fun to watch, in their swirling skirts and outrageous hair-
and that's just the men-
I stare at this influx of people
My goodness she's beautiful, look at that kid, wow- a gorgeous man (so many gorgeous men!)
a strange reminder that this year, were I the type, I could make eyes at someone, follow them back to their tent
intoxicating thought, even if I am too chicken to try

I love to watch the festival kids
dancing to the bands with no self-consciousness at all
dirty feet and ragged hair
up past their bedtime
until they melt down and are carried away to sleep

And the music-
accordions fiddles guitars singers stand-up bass
We know we shouldn't, with our 8-show long weekend, but we dance
and stay up too late, and shout over the music 'til we are hoarse
Taking it all in, this explosion of noise and people and events

He says bring your clarinet. If I see you, I'll call you up to the stage and you can sit in
And so I will take it out of the theatre for the first time in months
packed in its case
race to the gig after our last show and hope to be seen
So that I can be a tiny part of this festival scene

Saturday, July 9, 2011

on the other hand...

there are clouds sitting like trolls on top of the mountains
no really, I haven't seen more than a teasing glimpse of sun for days on end
my very soul is damp
the Barkerville cat spends her days dreaming on our green-room couch
dreaming of warmth, of foxes, of whistle pigs ripe for the crunching
while outside the rain is sheeting down

bears really do lurk in the woods
and doubts like grizzlies growl and mutter
inside my mind from time to time
the age-old questions, even here:
what am I doing?
where do I fit in?
am I loved?

there are always dishes in the sink
and mud on the floor
and tiny biting bugs that wriggle their way through any screen
and almost no solitude

stand strong, feet firmly planted
and remember to take up as much space as you deserve
remember that joy has its flipside, sorrow
and that both are fleeting, but important
remember that there is no misfortune that cannot be made smaller
by sugar, fatty foods, friendship, music and sleep

there are bumps in the road, even here
and boredom and dirt and frustration
but that doesn't change the essentials
all the good things that are
this I know, deep down

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2 nights ago
an evening trip to a cold, cold lake
there were four of us racing behind trees to change into swimsuits
dashing towards the shadowed water
I was the first one to dive in
and the first one to scream
breath rasping inoutinout as my feet grew numb
but we all dared, more than once
and we have pictures to prove it

then a dusk drive to the middle of nowhere
a place where men once sought gold, built homes
where seven women were wives, storekeepers, whores
where now there is nothing
no ruined cabins, no half-buried treasures
just a fast, icy creek
secretive trees
the danger of bears
and a road becoming overgrown and narrow

If I walked further along
past where we stopped the car
past washouts and fallen trees and old tailing piles
would I walk into history
like those long-ago gold-seekers
so that one day someone would come to this place
and half-hear my voice
in the wind

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I fall in love with you slowly every year
reluctant to arrive here
in your lingering days of spring mud and roof-high snow drifts
you cannot win me over with the ocean
your mountains are no great things, your lakes are hidden away, not easily found

my love is slow-growing
no sudden thunderbolt-
a breath of utterly clean air
ragged clouds brushing treetops
abandoned gold-rush ghost towns
metal roof raindrops at 3am
the sight of a town at sunset
lifting my heart as I come home

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Daytimes up here are easy: breakfast, cleaning, commute, show, lunch, show, rehearsal, commute, dinner, hanging out- It's hard work, but the routine and the company are soothing and a lot of fun.
Night-times, it's harder not to think about the end of work up here and the new life that's waiting for me back home. Okay, it's not just that that's on my mind. There's a lot of stuff, both here-and-now and future, to mull over. There is so much to think about, and it bubbles up into the forefront of my mind when I'm trying to sleep. The night before last, sleep was so long in coming that my eyes had a permanently red sheen all yesterday, and working up the energy for 2 shows and a rehearsal felt like swimming through a muddy bog. My brain literally felt fried. It always makes me laugh when I watch shows like "24" and the hero's been up for a full 24 hours and he's still saving the world; I'd be curled up in the fetal position, sobbing... and that's just if things were going normally- I can't imagine what I'd do in a crisis.
Fast forward to today, and 10 hours' sleep makes life look a lot more bearable... Here I sit, in my 19th-century Irish whore's costume, plugged into the 21st century with the aid of my laptop and the theatre's wireless internet. The 2nd show begins in about 15 minutes. I have an unshakeable feeling that I am exactly where I need to be right now, and that makes the midnight fears- about things like moving, and housing, and love- feel very far away indeed. I tip my water bottle in salute to Johanna Maguire, the Irish whore in question, whose life was, by all accounts, both brutal and short, and whose indomitable spirit I get to try and portray in our 4-o'clock show, 6 days a week. And then I shut my laptop, take a deep breath, and step onto the stage.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

and then...

It's still cold here.
Rain today, cloaks on over giant dresses and petticoats- halfway through June and I still need tights under bloomers!
But this is superficial, because I. Am. Back.
Dusty house, crazy roommates, cooking together and laughing like hyenas in spite of sad stuff. Bliss.
Rehearsals, and shows, and more rehearsals and more shows... and a gala opening to look forward to on Saturday:
3 weeks and a day post-surgery.

I left some things behind in Vancouver:
warm weather (sadly. it's still like earlyearly spring here),
some of my summer clothes (a packing oversight, unfortunately).
And my relationship.
Yeah, I DID just say "my relationship".
Obviously, this is not just MY story, and so I will be brief in the telling.
But after 14 years it felt like time.
It felt like that to me.
But maybe not to the other person involved.
So I got to be the one who dropped a bomb and then left the city.
And he got to be the one who stayed and dealt with the fallout.
I'm not proud of that. But I didn't see another way around it either.

So now I get to be... what?
single, I guess.
I'll probably turn out to be a Crazy Single Cat-Lady.
since I wasn't too good at those games when I was 23, and I certainly don't think I've improved much in the interim
but I guess I'll learn.
Or I'll buy a cat. And then another one. And then...
well, you get the idea.
Anyway, it felt like the right thing to do.

I could say more about this- and I will-
but for now I have a costume to put on
makeup to apply
and a small ghost town of tourists to entertain.

Monday, June 6, 2011

slightly expanded from my latest Facebook status update:

flight to Cariboo: booked for Friday afternoon.
hair: cut and coloured (thank god. I look 10 years younger).
hockey game: game 3 tonight!

Oh yeah... one more thing:
Cancer? Officially GONE!!! Lab results came back this afternoon. Now I can breathe again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

one week in

so- fingers crossed- one week from today i will be back in the cariboo, rehearsing and performing shows. i woke up this morning, looked at the clock and thought: wow. this time last week i was already unconscious and under the knife.
this friday i can:
get out of bed unaided
dress myself
go for long walks, although this makes certain family members nervous
entertain guests
next week i'll have to be doing a whole lot more than that, which is exciting but nerve-racking too. when i think too much about having missed nearly three weeks up there by the time i go back i get a bit crazy, so i've been keeping busy and learning my scripts and a brand-new accent for one of the shows- a dublin accent, very fun.
everyone's been superstars down here, but i'm starting to feel ready for the more rough-and-tumble treatment i'm going to get from theatre royal and the rest of the barkerville gang. there's only one thing...
the pathology report, which i won't get until next week, which will conclusively say whether or not there's cancer in my lymph nodes.
the surgeon thinks probably not.
i FEEL pretty great,
they did the surgery, which is a good sign,
and i have to go ahead and book my flight soon, but...
i won't know for sure until next week, and although my spirits are high, it's another wait for news, and on some level, it's driving me nuts.
so keep your fingers crossed for me one more time, won't you?

Monday, May 30, 2011

at home/what you took

what do i remember?
admissions, 6am. waiting, always waiting.
pre-op, 7am. undressed, anonymous, gowned and stretchered.
strangely not more nervous, feeling the way you do before a big gig or some other thing you can't quite imagine doing
in half an hour i will be unconscious and they will be cutting me open
how do you begin to even be scared about that- it's too surreal.
pushed through cold halls lined with canucks pictures- hockey fever even in the OR- entering the room and seeing them all prepping for my arrival.
the biggest thing that has ever happened to me and i won't be conscious through it
asking the anaesthesiologist where he was from- saudi- and suddenly slipping
into nothing

to a gorgeous view on the 4th floor, i think
slightly weepy, feeling as if i hadn't quite finished dreaming a dream
hoarse from the breathing tube
thirsty, and not allowed to drink
but fully aware, fully alert
looking at the clock: high noon. that means they went ahead with the surgery. it's done, all of it.
taken to the ward
not the gyno ward where new mothers go
they wouldn't want to mingle with us
more waiting
waiting for news
waiting for the surgeon
waiting to get up
waiting to get to sleep
waiting for visits

some impressions:
not too much pain, which is amazing
i've had worse hangovers than this
catheters are surprisingly convenient
walking, when it happens, is surprisingly hard and i do the zombie shuffle around the ward complete with iv drip and ass-exposing gown- what a cliche i've become

knowing- from eavesdropping other patients' stories- just how lucky i am, how my news could have been so much worse, how blessed i am with friends and work and family
but anger, yes, now that begins now that i'm home
you took some things from me and i'd like them back please:
confidence in my health and my body
speed, fleetness
a lifetime of saying i've never had surgery, never even had a cavity, never known how rare i was in this
you took my ability to bear children
took things out of me
left me with doubts and fears and a new vocabulary:
cancer survivor
left me questioning any ache and pain i get: what is this? should i worry?
this can be a dark place and i need to go there sometimes
even as my steps grow stronger
as i return to work- i WILL return to work
as the soreness fades
i will come back here
to remember what you took from me

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's been a long time. I'm so sorry, but I think you'll get it when you read this. There were friends and family to tell first, not to mention the fact that I was just so busy for the last three weeks. I did write, but I couldn't post until now. Here's a selection of posts I wrote but didn't publish right away:

may 1st, 2011
this feels almost entirely too easy.
it's so weird to be back here, because time is doing that stretchy-slidey elastic band thing and it could almost be that i've never been away; there was no ghost train or pumpkin patch or 'brief encounter'. when you have different jobs throughout the year you remember things in terms of work. this was the month i did so-and-so, that was the christmas i went here...
well, this is my third time here, and it's starting to feel like a second home. i got here friday night, stayed up late in a frenzy of unpacking, did the same yesterday. there are only two of us in the house so far; the others arrive in a few weeks. it gives us the chance to settle in, clean, stake out our territory and make things the way we like them to be. i am very lucky in my roommate (the only newbie this year); he likes things tidy (so do i) and so we cleaned and organized things together and this shabby Panabode-style wood house has never looked so tidy or felt so much like a home in my memory. last year it looked like a frat-house most of the time. i think i tackled so many years' worth of cobwebs yesterday that the house realized i was a friend and has made brendan and i welcome here. i felt kind of silly, but i even 'smudged' the house yesterday with some sage i found in the living room. so many years of people staying here, happy and sad, getting along and fighting... it just felt like the right thing to do. i sheepishly admitted this to brendan and he said he agreed.
today was mayday, and glorious sunshine to go with it. such a funny contrast to the deep snow which is still piled everywhere; they had a long, snowy winter here this year. brendan and i hiked through the meadows, on snowmobile trails that were still firm enough to hold us, and also on ski trails where the snow was starting to get so rotten that we sunk in up to our hips every other step. quite a workout! we were out for at least an hour and my face is red from the sun. i hadn't thought i'd need sunscreen quite so early, was more worried about whether i'd brought enough warm clothes!
speaking of bringing things... although i had to pay quite a bit to ship five boxes of stuff up here, it was worth it. my little bedroom is cozy and homey, and as the house fills up with two more people, if i need to retreat to my room i will feel happy there among my things. not that i need to retreat right now. my roomie is 10 years younger than me, and very happy to be here. i was afraid he might be a bit too much of a 'keener', but his enthusiasm is contagious, and after the boys and their distinct lack of enthusiasm last year, this is great. to have already done a hike, on our 2nd day here, is wonderful. we seem, so far, to be able to strike a nice balance between talking up a storm and being silent, between hanging out and giving each other space. as i said, i feel very lucky.
today was so beautiful that this afternoon we even got our bikes out for a quick ride to upper wells (it was a quest for junk food, very necessary after all our exertions!). to be able to cycle, on roads which were clear and dry, but surrounded by many feet of snow... was not something i'd ever experienced before. now the sky has clouded up and our rehearsals begin tomorrow, so i'm glad we snatched the chance to get outdoors while the going was good.
i am keeping my fingers crossed that our phone will soon be working. the people at telus seem to have a hard time setting up phone service for residents of wells and every year there is a weeping and a gnashing of teeth before phone service is hooked up. they promised me 'today', but it's 5:30 and still no dial tone. my sweetie's going to get one more night-time call from the gas station phone box, i guess.

may 8, 2011
i feel such a weird mixture of lucky and unlucky at the end of this first week that i don't really know where to begin. 'begin at the beginning, go on until you reach the end and then stop' is a quote that popped up in a novel i was reading, so here goes...
it's the evening of the first day of rehearsal, last monday. i get several facebook messages from j: 'call me'. so i do. our phone line isn't functioning yet so i call him from the public phone outside the whitecaps motel. i'm worried that his mom has fallen ill, or that he's had some kind of health scare, but the news he has is about me: my biopsy results have come back positive for cervical cancer. i'm reeling, trying to keep it together and take it in while standing outside at a public phone. needless to say, i can't and i start crying but i'm still trying to keep some kind of control, since i'm not in private (although at least wells isn't a high-traffic area, at least not at this time of year). j's obviously in shock as well. anyway, we talk it through as best we can and then i have to go and break it to amy & richard at theatre royal, after the first day of rehearsal, that i may have to leave, that i may not be able to finish my contract here, that i may not even get to really start it. and they are shocked too, and supportive.
and so the week goes by in a flurry of rehearsals interspersed with phone calls to places and departments i never wanted to have to speak to : gyno-oncology, cancer agency, hospital, not to mention family and a few calls a day to j for moral support and updates (at least we have a functional phone at the panabode now, so no more weepy public phone calls after that first night). i learn a few things: first, that things tend to move quickly when you have anything to do with the dreaded 'c-word', and so i have an mri scan scheduled for this tuesday, and the cancer agency has even managed to get that done in prince george so that i don't have to come all the way home to vancouver. i will miss one day of work, the theatre will cancel one show this week, and then i can keep working up here until i fly back home.

Friday May 20th, 2011
How did it get to be almost 2 weeks since that last blog entry? How did I get to be sitting at the kitchen table in a log house, typing at 10pm while the final addition to our household bakes late-night Peanut Butter Whoopee Pies?
We are four now. Me, Maya, Robert and Brendan. Three of us worked here last year, and the new guy is fitting in just fine. Maya showed up tonight and immediately started baking, which is how she settles in. This is a quirk I can live with very easily, although my waistline may not thank her. The Panabode, our house, is cozy and friendly. I think it responds to the love we're showing it, shaking off years of casual neglect; well maybe not shaking it all off, but looking brighter and nicer than it ever looked last year. Not just a place to live, not just a party shack, but a home for 4 very different people who will hopefully be able to get along for the next 4 months.
Not that I'll be here for the next few weeks, unfortunately. My schedule next week is as follows: Do shows all weekend, fly back to Vancouver on Monday night, have a consultation Tuesday morning, have surgery on Friday. And then.... we'll see. I'm raring to get back up here and keep working, but I'm terrified that my body won't be a resilient as I want it to be. And it's a bitter pill to swallow, this knowing that I won't be able to bike or run or fling myself around the stage as i've been doing these last few weeks.

So do you see? I'm typing this back at my home in Vancouver, and the last few weeks feel like a dream; did I really get all the way up north, start doing a show, and then find out that I have cancer and have to fly home for surgery? How could I not be in shock?
I go into VGH early Friday morning for a hysterectomy. A what?! I'm 36 years old, for godsake. I can run, I've biked 15km a day for the last week, I feel healthy as a horse. My spirits for the last few weeks have fizzed like sodapop as I made new friends, learned new songs, tried on costumes and re-entered 1869. Now suddenly I'm a cancer patient. In a few days I will be sore and tired, fuzzy-headed on painkillers. I wasn't ready to come home. I am so afraid they'll forget abut me up there, that the wound made by my absence will heal seamlessly and if I'm lucky enough to go back (which I won't know until after surgery), they won't care.
I miss my life before cancer. I know how lucky I am, but I'm still angry and scared.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Pie

Ah, Spring! When we celebrate the birth of so many new creatures by... eating them. Yum.

The weather is still unseasonably cold, but the sun actually comes out for a few hours these days, and my third (and last, please god) virus seems to be gone. I even went back to the gym today, the first time in almost a month. Good thing, because I leave town in less than two weeks. Two weeks: time's flying by. I can't believe it.

Anyway, J and I had a really annoying meal last night; you know the kind- we went to our local Mexican restaurant and had a totally indifferent meal. Nothing was bad enough to complain about (except the lack of Guacamole on my plate, which the waitress claimed they had run out of- at a Mexican restaurant! On a Friday! until I saw some sitting on J's plate and then she stammered "well, he got the last bit".) It was just a truly bland meal- nothing had any flavour to it, and it wasn't even particularly cheap, to compensate. So today I swore I'd make up for last night's blah experience with a little home cookin', and...

I finally made something from a recipe I found in Saveur Magazine, which is sort of like National Geographic, but with recipes. This is an Easter Lamb Pie, from Sicily. Your basic meat pie, but with a twist: the 'pastry' is yeasted, and is really more like a bread than an actual pastry.
You start out by making the 'pastry'. It's like bread- you use yeast- but also like pastry- you use shortening. Is there anything in the world whiter than shortening? It's the purest white I know.

Then, while the dough is rising, you combine chopped up lamb with herbs and garlic. Lots of garlic.

This should really be done the night before, so that the flavours can marinate the lamb, but that's not essential, unless your Sicilian grandma is around to kick your butt.
Your boyfriend might mock your attempts to make meat pie and document it. Ignore him. Or get your revenge by including his picture in this blog.

But he won't turn up his nose at the finished result. Infact, he'll even help you decorate it:

Baaaaah! Happy Spring, everyone.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Coffee Shop

Last year, I had a few... issues. Basically, I felt like I'd painted myself into a corner. The really bad thing about that is, you can get so panicky about the situation that you can't see a way out. Some people get really depressed about this. I don't think I was depressed. Let's just say I had some angst. Maybe some Weltschmerz. Ennui? Anyway, whatever it was, I felt crappy enough that I wanted to talk to someone. So a wise friend told me about Family Services; I called them up and they put me through the intake procedure and said it might take a 3-4 months for someone to become available.
Actually, I think it was only two months. If that. Someone became available, and every few weeks I'd get on a bus headed south a few blocks and blurt out some of my problems to a lovely lady who had no ties to my life and who listened non-judgementally and sympathetically to my woes for half an hour. Sometimes I'd laugh; sometimes I snorfled my way through a few Kleenex, but it felt necessary for a while, anyway. I think on some level I was hoping that I'd have a momentous breakthrough- you know the ones where the light goes on above the patient's head and they cry: aha! I'm like this because of that! And they cry it all out for awhile and then... no more problem.
*Spoiler alert: that never happened to me.
Actually I still struggle with many of the same issues I had last year: poverty, instability, self-doubt. I know that I will have to work on those things for a long time. Maybe I'm still in a bit of a corner; it's just that it's not a bad corner to be in most of the time. There are friends and family in my corner with me. I have a window there, and most of the time I remember that if I want to walk out of there I may get some paint on my shoes but I probably won't die. Hell, we're all in some kind of corner, aren't we?
Anyway, one of the most therapeutic things about going to counselling was this place:

Most times I'd get off the bus and I'd be early for my session (because punctuality is NOT one of my issues), so I'd go to this coffee shop.
There's a lot of wood there. A pleasant view of the neighbourhood. Food that's actually made there, instead of being trucked in from some mass-producing bakery of blah.
Lots of times I'd take a tea along with me to Family Services, and it would sit with me through the next half hour, along with the kind lady who was listening to my problems.
When the sessions were over (I think the deal was a dozen, and I spread 'em out over four or five months), I wasn't magically 'cured'. My counsellor was sympathetic, but not much of a one for coming up with actual gameplans. But I'd talked out some of my troubles and I headed off to Barkerville and a much-needed injection of work and confidence. And I didn't have any need to be up in that neighbourhood anymore, so I didn't get to visit the coffee shop anymore.
Yesterday I passed through that neighbourhood on the way home from a rehearsal, and went back to the coffee shop for a snack. It was a good time to be there; not too busy, no lineup. They've expanded a bit, which is good, because they get pretty busy sometimes. I had a dark, strong Americano and a lemon tart.

A little boy saw me fiddling with my iPod and said "Do you have any games on there?" I admitted that I did. "Can I see?" he asked, and so I ended up letting him play a few rounds of Angry Birds while his father got him a snack. He was probably around four; still young enough to be totally trusting and careless of Stranger Danger. He leaned against me while he commandeered my iPod and I was happy to let him.
I could probably wrap this story up neatly by contrasting me in my dark times last year (unhappy, uncertain of everything) with this happy, confident little kid, but that feels a bit cheap. I will say that it was good to be back at this coffee shop, which is a special one in a town filled with far too many cookie-cutter coffee shops. It was good to have much longer hair and fewer pounds on me than last year. It was nice to feel the sun trying to poke through the clouds that have been too present lately. It felt really nice to be headed home and not to a counselling session.

We fled south last weekend, tired of the ever-present rain and grey skies of Vancouver. I don't know if it's been a particularly grey winter this year, but it sure as hell feels like it. However, we should have known that if you're fleeing bad weather, don't stay in the Pacific Northwest:

Portland was just as grey, just as cold, and even more windy than V-town. However, it had a few things going for it: it wasn't home, so it had the novelty factor going for it, its downtown is very easy to walk around, and in spite of the grey skies, it's a lovely town with a million restaurants. What could be better?
(An aside, if you'll indulge me: why does Portland have much, much, MUCH cooler movie theatres than Vancouver? Are we really so lame, so apathetic, that we let stupid chains like Cineplex take over all our theatres? Well yes, sadly, we are. When we were in the Land of the Free, we went to a fabulous place called the Living Room Theatres... it was a bar, a restaurant, and several tiny, comfy movie theatres. We lazed in fabulous chairs, alcoholic beverages in hand, and enjoyed a lovely movie experience. And this seemed to be the norm down there rather than the exception. Vancouver NEEDS this.)

We walked miles (we took the train down, so we kinda had to. But I love walking, and J was pretty game). When it got really gross out, we retreated to cool indoor places like OMSI, the huge science centre/planetarium/Omnimax/submarine on the other side of the river. We spent a day scoping out the shops (and bought multi-tools at REI, the US equivalent of MEC). We strolled from one restaurant to the next until our stomachs protested. We relaxed in our beautiful downtown hotel. All in all, it was a delightful 4 days.

Now we're back, and my stomach tells me I should go back on my no-wheat, no-dairy no-fun diet immediately. With costume fittings for my summer job looming, I have to agree. Here's something that fits the bill, although it's unlikely that I'll lose any weight eating it. I justify this breakfast by saying that there was a bag of fingerling potatoes sprouting in a cupboard, and I had to use them up. But really, it's just a way of making my holiday seem as if it's not quite over yet.

Salmon Hash
I had a version of this at the Benson Hotel in Portland. The salmon was pale, smoked and mixed right in with the wonderful, slightly too greasy potatoes. My version uses Indian Candy (because that was what was in the fridge), and my potatoes didn't really "hash". It was still really good, though. (And no wheat or dairy to be found!)

Chop some onions, garlic, and whatever herbs you may want to throw in (I had cilantro, so that's what I used).

Toss it in a pan with some olive oil, and stir until the onions are translucent.

Meanwhile, boil some potatoes.

When the potatoes are soft, add them to the pan, along with some more olive oil, salt and pepper (I like Fleur de Sel better than table salt), and maybe a couple of mushrooms.
Let it all cook until the potatoes are getting crispy on the outside. Then add the salmon and some of the herbs.

Finally, slide a poached or fried egg onto the top, and garnish with more salt, more pepper, and the rest of those herbs. Take it to the table and break the egg yolk so that it covers the hash with warm yellow yolk. Bon Appetit!