Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I remember on one of my many trips to Dublin we were reading side by side on her patio, birdsong trilling around us, the scent from the overhead baskets of tomatoes and strawberries perfuming the sun warmed air.

"You know," she said, "You're the only one in the world I can do this with. Isn't it perfect?"

Perfect. Yes.

There are multiple aspects to grief, thousands of manifestations. An enormous sense of never being the same. Ever again. And that's just one.

In spite of myself I go to the labelled email folder last night. Helen. Thousands of emails. It's like a compulsive first bite of something decadent, sinful and addictive.

And I realize some things that weren't obvious to me before.

She played her buttons close to her vest. She didn't let too many people in. Maybe it was the long history we had. Nothing could sever the trust, the implicit faith in that shoulder always being there. That acceptance. The sheer unconditionality of it. I really don't feel that way about anyone else. I always think I will be rejected, abandoned, condemned and shunned once I show you the inner me. It's happened far too many times before. It's my default setting. Therapy hasn't helped. It's like a permanent internal condition akin to an irremovable birthmark. Part of my psyche. And we knew these things about each other. In particularly bad patches we would sign off: "Remember I love you."

And we meant it. All warts exposed, all insecurities, all struggles. It didn't matter.

We'd speculate how we could do better, help each other climb over the stiles of our challenges and pain.

We'd talk each other through depression and bafflement over loved ones' behaviours.

And a little nugget:

A Canadian friend emailed me yesterday and said:

"Remember that day in Ballydehob and my nails were all a mess and Helen went off immediately and bought me stuff to deal with them."

I'd forgotten.

She'd only known my friend for a couple of days.

But her caring expanded to friends of friends of friends.

I miss her so.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Books of 2014

Here I go again with the books I read, tossed, trashed and adored in 2014. 88 of them! Imagine! I never quite reach my target of 100, though I do try.

The best - my five star ratings for 2014 though not in any particular order. If you want to read my more detailed critiques, click on Goodreads and find Wisewebwoman. I must say I was pleased there were so very many good books in my list. They far outweighed the disappointments.

The Very Best
Benediction - Kent Haruf
Heft - Liz Moore (2nd time!)
Flight behaviour - Barbara Kingsolver
The Breakwater House - Pascale Quiviger
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill
The Pure Heart - Susan Hill
The Quiet American - Graham Greene (re-read)
Friend of my Youth - Alice Munro (again)
A Long, Long Way - Sebastian Barry
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
House of Hate - Percy Janes
Private Life - Jane Smiley
The Novel - James A. Michener
The Stolen Village - Des Ekin
All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews
Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry
The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham (re-read)
The Gingerbread Woman - Jennifer Johnston
The Temporary Gentleman - Sebastian Barry
Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman
The Rich Part of Life - Jim Kokoris
The Road Past Altamont - Gabrielle Roy
The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Here is the complete list:

(1)Benediction - Kent Haruf*****Fabulous, lyrical read
(2)Heft - Liz Moore (again)*****
(3)Abide with Me - Elizabeth Strout***
(4)The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout****{BC}
(5)Astray - Emma Donoghue****
(6)The Sentimentalists - Johanna Skibsrud****
(7)The Spinning Heart - Donal Ryan (Thanks #1 Bro!)****
(8)The Breakwater House - Pascale Quiviger*****
(9)The Dinner - Herman Koch***
(10)Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver*****
(11)The Last Child - John Hart (loan)*couldn't finish
(12)The Book Thief - Markus Zusak*****
(13)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (loan) - Rachel Joyce*****
(14)The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim
(15)You Before Me - JoJo Moyes****
(16)The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill*****unputdownable
(17)Darcy's Utopia - Fay Weldon***
(18)The Pure Heart - Susan Hill*****
(19)The Night Lawyer - Michelle Spring - 0- tossed-bilge
(20)Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan {BC}*
(21)The Ministry of Special Cases - Nathan Englander
(22)Dancing with the Virgins - Stephen Booth *avoid
(23)A Closed Eye - Anita Brookner****
(24)Justice for Sara - Erica Spindler***
(25)A Bit of Singing and Dancing - Susan Hill****
(26)Habits of the House - Fay Weldon****
(27)Until Proven Guilty - J.A. Jance 0(dreadful)
(28)Injustice for All - J.A. Jance tossed
(29)Trial by Fury - J.A. Jance tossed
(30)The Quiet American - Graham Greene *****(again)
(31)Friend of my Youth - Alice Munro (again)*****
(32)The Risk of Darkness - Susan Hill***
(33)A Long, Long Way - Sebastian Barry*****
(34)Private Life - Jane Smiley*****
(35)Death on the Ice - Cassie Brown{BC}****
(36)Burial Rites - Hannah Kent****
(37)Still Life with Breadcrumbs - Anna Quindlen****
(38)Wild - Cheryl Strayed*****
(39)The Evolution of Jane - Cathleen Schine{BC}0
(40)A Candle in her Heart - Emilie Loring***(for its archaic time)
(41)Trading Places - Fern Michaels 0 awful(from Emma)
(42)House of Hate - Percy Janes*****
(43)The Orenda - Joseph Boyden**
(44)Incidents in the Rue Laugier - Anita Brookner****
(45)Silent Wife - A.S.A. Harrison****
(46)The Novel - James A. Michener*****
(47)Stalking Irish Madness - Patrick Tracey (loan)***1/2
(48)The Stolen Village - Des Ekin***** (thanks D!)
(49)The Betrayal of Trust - Susan Hill**(I'm offya now Susan)
(50)Rails Across the Rock - Ken Pieroway
(51)The Deception of Livvy Higgs - Donna Morrissey -dropped, bored stiff
(52)Spadework - Timothy Findley**
(53)Beacons - Joseph Dobbin (not rating, a friend)
(54)The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham (re-read)*****
(55)All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews*****
(56)The Ocean at the end of the Lane - Neil Gaiman 0 awful
(57)Big Brother - Lionel Shriver***
(58)Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry*****
(59)Certainty - Madeleine Thien* 1/2 way through I just didn't care anymore
(60)The Shadows in the Street - Susan Hill**
(61)The Boy who Walked - Michael Friis Johansen 0 too dry
(62)The Gingerbread Woman - Jennifer Johnston*****
(63)The Temporary Gentleman - Sebastian Barry*****
(64)In the Heat of the Night - John Ball****
(65)The Survivors Club - Lisa Gardner***
(66)Ghost Light - Joseph O'Connor****
(67)A Goat's Song - Dermot Healy***
(68)Piano Teacher - Janice Y.K. Lee{BC}**
(69)More Then 50% - Hilda Chauk Murray**thin material stretched far
(70)The Endless Knot - Gail Bowen**
(71)Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman*****
(72)The Rich Part of Life - Jim Kokoris*****
(73)No Turning Back - Ida Linehan Young***
(74)Grass - Sherri S. Tepper
(75)The Road Past Altamont - Gabrielle Roy*****
(76)Wild December - Edna O'Brien 0 awful
(77)The Girls - Lori Lansen**
(78)The Help - Kathryn Stockett*****
(79)Cuffer Anthology 2013 - various
(80)Frog Music - Emma Donaghue**disappointed
(81)The Secret Place - Tana French***
(82)Split - Tara Moss *
(83)The White Bone - Barbara Gowdy* second attempt, couldn't finish.
(84)I've been Working on the Railway - W.Chafe***
(85)Cop Town - Karin Slaughter****
(86)The Ghosts - Mary Swan (struggling - it was a gift.
(87)Burying Ariel - Gale Bowen**
(88)Hold Tight - Harlan Coben***


Thursday, January 22, 2015


It is in noticing the small things and being cheered, even slightly, by them that we give ourselves a bit of a gee-up and then other gee-ups start to pile up quite nicely.

The husband and adult children of my darling friend were overjoyed when I created a closed group, members only, for my friend Helen. I called it "Helen's Circle" and I posted some of my pictures and then one of her sons posted a baby picture of her and I found our Confirmation picture and put that up. And we cry a bit but the joy is there too when we look at her and the portrait of her and the World's Most Impossible Dog (she was a dog rescuer and worked tirelessly for the Dublin SPCA). And this dog? I don't think any dog was ever more despised. It bit, it barked, it was completely and totally unlovable and this opinion was shared by all her dog-loving family and friends including me. The dog, Robyn, laughed all through her obedience classes and then proceeded to bite her husband every time she saw him and after that snack would bite the hand that fed her (mine, a few times).

So those eggs? Ramana had posted about the wee things in life and I thought to keep my eyes open for them. I got the ceramic eggholder in a thrift shop for a whole dollar but it gives me unremitting joy when I put my hardboiled eggs in it. And the eggs are happy eggs from my friend who names her chickens and gives them the run of the place. These eggs are art.

And my office missed me when I was away. They bought me an espresso maker, one of those old-fashioned stove-top ones. I do whine about not having strong coffee. They fixed me. Sweet, yeah?

And I get a message to come for dinner from dear friends for Sunday evening. Always beautiful company and beautiful, thoughtful food.

And I start a project tomorrow that will enhance my community in a small way I hope.

And some lovely phone messages that I finally played yesterday.

So I'm counting my eggs.

They are many and they're all delicious.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A famous writer said this to me a long time ago: "The more material you send out the more you'll be rejected and you know what? The pain of rejection lessens."

It does. Seriously. A short 2 hander play I've been trying to get staged for a while now was scheduled to be performed in February. But cutbacks. Now the powers-that-be inform me that they can now only put on 3 plays for the festival rather than 5 and mine didn't make that particular shortlist.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

My Lips Are Sealed for Now.

Do you ever feel you'd love to write about something that's really fogging up the old spectacles but you know you can't. And you sit on it and stew on it and privately journalize it and think there might be a short story or even a bloody novel in it but there isn't. The words stream on and there just isn't any way of getting rid of it, it is fraught with anger and sadness and a kind of resignation and despair and you'd love to spit it out at the world.

You know?

And you can't. Because of breached anonymity.

So many of you out there writing long and hard for years on such a platform as this must know whereof I write. Of which I write. Of.....

I suppose a good old suck it up might work, down the road that is. But right now and for the past while? It makes me seethe. It's not an uncommon loathsome behaviour I witnessed but I haven't seen it written about before. And I can't seem to work my way around disguising it. That breached anonymity thing you see.

I mentioned my dilemma to a family member and they had a great time with it - acting out how TV programmes handle such matters with changed names and disguised voices and descriptions. To the point where it took on a life of its own amidst our helpless laughter.

But this was no laughing matter and quite serious. And the desire is burning within to put it all out there rather than privately.

So I'll distract myself and tell you I returned from dear old Ireland today.

And yeah my heart's still broken and it all feels so surreal and I'm dying to tell her all about it and I can't.

So there it is.

Hence the picture I took of my three beloveds up above.

To cheer me up.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Healing Gifts 2

One might never meet someone or talk to them but when you do, pow, in the first 20 seconds you have an ease and comfort that is astonishing.

It was this way with a young woman who came up to me at the removal of my BFF from her home to the church.

"I know you. " she said simply.

"Yes," I said, "Of course. You're Gillian."

And we hugged and cried.

BFF had loved the ex-partner of her elder son's. Like we do. We hate to witness the breakup of our children with those we become fond of and whom we consider "ideal".  For us, the elders, perhaps, but not for those who move on.

Against the odds BFF remained close to Gillian as both her son and Gillian moved on to other partners and started families.

BFF was a tower of strength when Gillian ' s 1st daughter died at 5 months. I remember the daily emails from that period (BFF & I exchanged 1000s of emails). I had two miscarriages so understood a little of the grief and relayed words of understanding through BFF to Gillian.

So to finally meet her was wonderful. She adored BFF and was devastated by her death.

And the best news of all was that she's now the mother of two healthy little girls.

And yes, we're staying in touch.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Healing Gifts

Three to be precise.

The first is a very old friend and in the way of busy,  we lost track of each other. She had 6 children and I, single working parent pre-interwebz what does one do to sustain a palship?

She wasn't a friend of my now deceased BFF but felt driven to trek down to the south side of Dublin from her north side home to the funeral. She's never done anything like this in her life as she doesn't drive and finds the complicated 3 system transit necessary to do this daunting to say the least.

But she did it. And here we were today at Wynn's old hotel in Dublin catching up for 5 hours. Her children are all scattered, her husband dropped dead on the El Camino 4 years ago and she rattles around her big old house by herself. A traditional housewife,  she had to learn how to write cheques after her husband died.

I always knew even when she was 18 that she would be an Irish mammy. She always knew I was far too independent in my thinking to ever settle for that.

And you know what? After 40 years, the love was there, the openness and the honesty.

And yes, the laughter. And the memories she has of my beloved mum are priceless.

"I could have you come live with me forever," she says.

So next time I'm in Dublin,  yeah, I'll have her give me a test drive. Forever can change to never in a heartbeat.

There's something so healing about all of these events and that's just my 1st story.

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Monday, January 05, 2015


I have a clearer understanding now of the old expression "words fail me." The inadequacy of language to convey the depth of sadness, the never-agains of death, the disbelief, the overwhelming loss, the guilty rage of the eternal screaming of WHY?

Why not? Is flung back against me. Why do we consider ourselves and our beloveds so immune from the chilly skeletal fingers of the Reaper?

I am glad I returned to Ireland. Glad I was there for family and friends. Glad I let myself be comforted by dear ones. Glad to hook up with a long lost friend who showed up at the funeral with the dim hope I'd be there.

But the enormous loss. Words are completely inadequate.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

An Aside to an Aside

For those of you concerned about Ansa's pets, allow me to reassure you.

There is a situation up the road with a subsidized independent living series of cabins for seniors and mentally challenged citizens in that they are not allowed to have animals, clotheslines, outside picnic area, planting a garden, etc., etc. I know. Cruel and unusual for people raised on the land with animals and a high level of social interactions.

So what they do is: feed any strays that come around but can't risk losing their living privileges by taking animals indoors.

Mama cat is extraordinarily well fed and sheltered (obviously) in my barn and her three kittens are thriving and safe from coyotes.

I am not interfering with this process in any way. There are many feral cats around here generated by people who can't afford to spay or neuter (most) or are careless. Cute puppies are also let loose when the cuteness morphs into a 100lb mastiff and usually they wind up as roadkill. Tragic and awful but a problem us animal lovers can't solve. I do not condone such callous treatment of animals. The nearest shelter is over 100K away and it is inundated with animals after Christmas and it doesn't pickup.

I've had many cats over the years along with dogs. And may choose to adopt one of the kittens in time. Or not.

Together with Ansa, I keep an eye on the wee creatures and I will feed them if needed but up to now the residents of the home are doing a fine job.

Too fine as you can see!

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Aside

I have a factotum that I've written about before by the name of Leo. Well, Leo has fallen captive to the charms of a woman. The less said about this woman the better.

As a result of this, however, Leo has been neglecting his duties here. His firewood retrieval from the barn is sporadic at best so I've been getting my lumber myself. A challenging task with a large fish pan and a rope followed by some hefty towing down the meadow to the house. But I am grateful I have the physical energy to do it.

I had wondered for a while about the secret life of my dog, Ansa. I love when animals have secrets, a whole other life we are not privy to.

Ansa would take off up the meadow and go missing for a while and then come down to the back door grinning. She's a dog that portrays joy beautifully. See above. I wondered what was causing her such mirth and delight.

When I went into the barn today I noticed a flurry of activity around the corner where the cow was kept in the old days.

And there was Ansa playing with a momma cat and her kittens. Ansa had adopted pets behind my back.

It made me very aware of the hidden joy that can be found in what I had perceived as dismal drudgery in getting my wood from the barn to the house.

I only have to look more deeply to find a glint of gold.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaving Normal

In times of fierce and unrelenting grief, I notice this:

Reading is too intense, requiring too much concentration. Toss.

Even an intelligent TV series like The Good Wife Season 3 requires more brain cells than I can fire up. I have to replay and replay and the threads evaporate as readily as they hove into view. I miss key information, I get frustrated. Toss.

A friend, through her father's lingering death played endless games of FreeCell on her laptop. This was a good thing.

People don't share what they do on a deathwatch. There I said it. Deathwatch. Horrible word.

And why not the distractions? You can only stare and cry and moan so much, right? Then there's knitting. I tried that. I get frustrated. That concentration thing. Toss.

And there's the telephone, the chatter seems meaningless but then what can people say? The odd few I reach out to are never home. And tripling my efforts to connect is more energy than I can summon. Hell, getting dressed is climbing Everest.

I find my family is immeasurably supportive and understanding. Bricks. We don't realize this until we're going through hell. They support me through my missing daughter, through health issues and other miseries. They say the right things like "take care of you, don't forget."

So I fire up FreeCell and get intense about that. And Mah-jongg.

And yesterday I show up to this Boxing Day bash and to my surprise I stayed and had those wonderfully distracting conversations with authors and artists and doctors and others who knew nothing of my deep pain. And that was a good thing until I got home and I felt guilty for forgetting even briefly, like I was on a short vacation.

And innocuous stupid news services on line that normally insult my intelligence I now find gripping.

And I wonder where elusive and lovely Normal is.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sorrows Come

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." - Hamlet.

There are so few people to run to when your heart breaks. At least for me.

My first thought, like a homing pigeon, was my sister. And she's out, wherever, whatever, 'tis the season.

Then my best friend.

Crazy that last thought. For my heart breaks for her. I can't run to her anymore. Or she to me.

I haven't written about her in a while. I wanted to live in my fantasy world where all would be well and she would be miraculously cured and we'd be back to the world of our daily emails with our lives laid bare to each other.

I had a long conversation with her husband today.

And it's dreadful news indeed.

The waiting game has started.

A tiny part of me knew this but I'd look at her picture on my wall and say: "Not you. Never you."

"Her life was writ so large!" said her husband a few hours ago.

Yes, it was. Like yesterday, I can still recall her running beside me as I biked home from school. In our over 65 years of friendship I don't recall us once having a fight or disagreement. We traded clothes and boyfriends and would comfort each other in the early losses of our mothers. We acted on stage together. We sang together. And on. Far, far too much.

So here I am blogging.

I don't feel there is anywhere else to turn to at the moment.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Solitary Moments

The beach. Yesterday.

Sometimes I am all alone and the pain and joy of living in this world overwhelms me.

Odd that.

I mean: I would never share, in anyone's presence, these tears. They are private.

Right now is one of those times.

When I've been over-peopled and have finally found myself alone by choice.

I mourn the death today of a dear long term blog friend no longer with us who shared every step of the dying process with her friends. Her bravery, love and courage in the face of a far too early death and a very tragic life inspires me and continues to do so.

And still.....there's always more to it.

It's that time of the year, isn't it?

Where so much hurts.

And so much inspires.

And there are memories.

And losses.

And yes, tears flow.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

In Sync

Where I live

There's an enormous comfort to being in sync with others, isn't there?

To throw out thoughts and ideas, maybe argue a few points or laugh, or stick in an old jibe (ball-hopping we would call it in my family back in the day)or hang out a favourite old petard to test the temperature.

I looked around the fire last night and there the three of us were, curled up around our individual books, sharing the odd thought or passage with each other, the only sound that of the dog dreaming in little yips at our feet and the crackle of the logs in the fire, sated with a full candlelit meal in our bellies.

I loved cooking breakfast for the three of us this morning. Times are more precious when one realizes they are rare now, with Grandgirl in the middle of 3rd year university, heading off for India in May, still on the Dean's Honours List (her term results came in yesterday, yay!) and Living the Life.

I love how she debates economics and has such a good grasp of the volatile oil prices and their economic effects on all.

Life is good.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014


I get more charge out of spring, more bang out of the changing amber colours of autumn.

No, I'm not a Christmas fan. And truth to tell, never have been. In that way of things I made up for my lack of enthusiasm when my children were small. I'd have loads of people in, gallons of drink and food, hundreds of gifts stacked up against the blinking lights of the tree. And I'd still feel empty and try and fill the emptiness with alcohol, feeling defective and wondering what the eff was wrong with me anyway. As if all could be resolved and I'd be happy and jolly if only I could find the right button to push within myself.

Years later now and I do have the answer. I don't join in the merrymaking hysteria around me, the carts pouring out of Walmart and Costco loaded down with Chinese tat, grumpy, cranky faces at the helm, glaring at the world. Yeah, that was me. I can relate.

Now it's all very simple. Grandgirl has flown out here to the edge for 8 days and we (Daughter, Grandgirl, me, Ansa the dog and Sam the cat) will just spend it quietly, mainly in front of the fires in each others' places. Exchanging meaningful small gifts on Solstice and just hanging.


Together is such a powerful word.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Imagine No Possessions

I think the most beautiful version of this song is by Eva Cassidy, who died far, far too young. Much like John Lennon himself. I've always found it somewhat ironic that John Lennon would write about no possessions, etc. when he was so incredibly wealthy. But there you go. We aspire. We all aspire.

Which is all in the way of saying that I am simplifying even more. I'm looking at the artifacts, the sentimental artifacts like china tea services (2 full sets) Waterford crystal tchotchkes - far too much, glasses, bowls, jugs. Platters, casseroles. You know. Glassware for vast parties of cocktailites with pinky fingers lifted. I've no idea why all this stuff surrounds me, still holding the spirits of long-dead aunts and grandparents and parents (the gifters). It seems like there was a world where all this was important but no more.

I take the bling out for an airing at my annual Nollaig Na mBan and then back it goes again into sundry cupboards to entertain the spiders for another year. It has to go. I'm a bit too distracted to start ebaying or kiijiiing, the bubble-wrapping and running to the post office would drive me mad.

So I wrap and box and wonder why the hell this stuff has trailed me around to so many houses over the years. Became this unwanted liability, this deadweight of possessions choking me.

I saw a post from a friend about lightening herself of possessions. 10 a day for 100 days. Just 10. And the thought appealed. And I've started to evaluate everything in my life.

And I know exactly where all the books are going.

Now the movies are nudder story.....but I may have the solution for that too.....

Any hints or thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Joys of the Simple Life

Daughter gave me a bread maker. I'd always wanted one but couldn't justify the cost. My wrists are the weakest part of me and kneading dough was always a challenge, so I'd make my Irish soda bread and leave yeasty concoctions to professional bakers.

See, she had this rather nice one she'd used before she became gluten-free for health reasons. It's hard to believe these kind of machines exist. They do ALL the work. You just measure out all the ingredients and put them into the unit in order. And push a button.

I can't tell you what this means to me. The scent of baking bread filling up the house fills up my soul.

I'm a pioneer woman, making her own yogurt and jams and breads.

There's no stopping me now.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Bravery, thy name is Ansa

My dog is getting very old.

Oh lawd.

According to the people she was taken from, she will be 16 in January. Extreme old age for a mainly border collie mixed with a vast unknown canine gene pool.

Arthritis, cataracts, poor old dear. Every morning, I give her a low-dosage aspirin for the arthritis. The stairs are becoming a huge challenge for her. It breaks my heart.

I've trained her to never go in front of me and to wait for commands when it comes to the stairs.

But these commands fail us badly when it comes to those stairs. Today, she fell down them again as she tried to go up and landed safely in the lower hall. She will not go ahead of me up the stairs even when I raise my voice.

I've got mats everywhere so she staggered up from her fall and went off to her downstairs bed and I went about my business upstairs only to find her curled up in her bed in my bedroom when I came out of the utility room. She had silently followed me up, in spite of the fall. Her love/protection of me outweighs her fears every single time.

It terrifies me that she will do serious harm to herself one of these days. She is smart enough for a "slow" command as she would always race down the stairs. Now she comes down slowly as she's also tripped coming down. I wait for her at the bottom, my heart pounding.

She still greets every day with joy, eats well and is continent even though she's drinking more water than usual.

In the moment: that's my girl.

As we all need to be.
In spite of.
Because of.

She has taught me so much.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Outport Stories

There's this couple. Nobody likes to visit them as he is an angry old bastard, pushing 90 and his emotional baggage could knock you sideways.

I'm a CFA* so I don't have any kind of history with them but his niece, who avoids him, filled me in. He calls me now and again and if I can spare the hour, I visit Denis.

Twenty years ago, he built this house, a truly lovely spot overlooking the bay, a long, long ranch of a log house, finished in polished wood inside, a house built for great parties with white leather sofas and a big roary fire and a dining room full of hand carved pieces. Except no one would ever come to those parties.

He's tried to sell the place for 4 years but he was so nasty to deal with purchasers ran.

He and his American wife retired here, his place of birth, from Boston where he had a successful construction business but, according to him, he was run out of Boston by the mafia, he had inadvertently married into a Mafioso family. According to him, as I said. And he was unwilling to pay them "commission" on his sales.

Within three months of coming home to live, he banished the wife and took up with his girlfriend of forty years before who moved into his house when the bed was still warm from the wife. He tells me that the wife (the mother of his children) was a b****.

In that way of karma, the new partner, Ellen, has been most unhappy for about 19-1/2 of those years but had sold up her own place in anticipation of the Great Romance and had nowhere to return to.

So there they are, the house was sold ("it was an insult, that price," he says to me) and he was selling all the contents and moving down to Boston to an apartment because "the b**** had poisoned all their children against him." And he needed to fix it. "Good luck with that, pal," I thought.

Ellen told me when he went off to the bathroom that in spite of the fact he thinks she's going to move to Boston with him, she's not. Her daughter is picking her up on the closing date of the house - a week from now - and she's riding off in the sunset with her. "This separation was a long time coming," she says.

Then apropos of nothing really, she fetches a box and out pours all these documents.

"21 birth certificates," she says to me, "Me and my sisters and brothers."

My only reaction to this kind of history, and I've seen so much of it here and in Ireland is: "Oh my gawd, your poor mother!"

She started to cry.

"21 children in 22 years," she said, tears pouring down her cheeks, "And dead from kidney failure after she delivered her last at the age of 46."

"What happened to you all?" and I'm crying too.

"Farmed out everywhere, the eldest was a new bride herself and raised 4 of us including me but our father took off for the Boston States and we never saw him again."

Women are and were such disposable grow-bags for the patriarchal RC church starting with the ban on contraception and proscribing alternative forms of sexual expression.

Around the many fires of my childhood I'd be unobtrusively tucked in a corner, and would overhear the women chat about sex and how awful it was (we'd call it rape today) but that "it was his right and the priest wouldn't like it if I refused."

What a truly grim business it was then. Not to mention the fear of another pregnancy.

Our foremothers were the unsung real heroes.


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hold Still. Do Nothing.

One of those things that's hard to believe. I've always had dead straight hair. I envied my little sister's curls, the most curly hair you could possibly imagine. One of my daughters inherited it. Neither of Sister's daughters did. They got mine, straight and true. And then, yesterday morning, I wake up with curly hair. So many curls that at our annual card party last night everyone remarked on my "gorgeous perm". I didn't explain it wasn't a perm, as I knew it would sound like a lie but magic. It's still curly today. Me like. Lots.

My mind wanders down weird alleyways. I was wondering what would be the last smell of someone's life? It must be awful if you're in hospital and inhaling cabbage/antiseptic/urine/faeces/floor polish/bleach as your very last breath. Something so sad about that. When it should be lavender. The ocean spray. A good curry. Wild roses. A baby. I warned you I was weird.

I was out and about in a cardigan today so it looks like the freakish winter of last year is giving us a pass. Very mild, a few cold nights but on the whole back to our normally mild early winter. We usually don't get snow until February. Fingers crossed for a green December.

I was practising going around without any money on me. I know. Weird again. An experiment. And people, seriously, kept giving me money. I was asked over to a house as Commissioner of Oaths (I know, me, hysterical, right?) and the couple stuck $20 in my pocket for witnessing some papers. And then last night at the party, as everyone "knows I don't drink otherwise it would have been a bottle" I was given $50 as part of the card playing "profit-sharing" plan. The organizers have now converted the normal annual donation to the church as an annual benefit split amongst the card players. The RC church threw the seniors out on the street over a year ago when they closed the parish hall (land donated and built free by residents) and put it up for sale. We now have a new town hall, town owned and operated, a truly lovely space, and everyone is delighted. And next, this morning, the post mistress comes over from across the bay and buys 6 of my cards for $20. So within a day or two I have $90 without lifting a finger.

This could have something to do with my brand new curly head, you think? Magic.

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