Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"Life changes fast." --Joan dideon Life changes fast. Didion didn't say it in a hopeful way, but from a hope perspective, the fact can be a good thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


As a little girl I planned only two things for my grown-up years: I would have my birthmark removed, and I would change my name to anything but Wendy. In retrospect, these seem like small plans, given that my more focused contemporaries were dreaming of marriage, wealth and career advancement. But I held the theory that once my birthmark had been vanquished and my name changed to anything but Wendy, other things would be able to fall in behind. Now the birthmark, as my mother liked to point out when I mentioned it, was a harmless hill on my left cheek. Covered in soft brown hair it had the texture of a grassy knoll and spanned a circumference that would nicely have framed a fifty-cent piece. “Distinctive,” is what my mother called it in a fruitless effort to free me. Having survived medically necessary surgeries on a variety of body parts, she was disinclined to show any enthusiasm for surgery for beauty’s sake alone. I, in contrast, wrapped in a cloak of surgical innocence, remained steadfastly convinced that no mere operation could rival the indignity of wearing a big, brown, hairy birthmark. “What’s that?” babies would ask their mothers, pointing at the hideous thing. Cringing in embarrassment, I told all who noticed it that it would be coming off my face soon and hoped that Mother would soon come to see the wisdom of my declaration. . Mother said in a compromising tone that, when I was a grown up, I could make up my own mind about the surgery, though she, herself, would never recommend it. On the subject of changing my name some day, she was a little more flexible. Had it been her favourite name for a daughter, she might have been defensive. But Wendy was, in fact, her fourth-favourite. Her favourite name for a girl was Donna, and that name had long since been assigned to my eldest sister. The second sister had claimed Sandra, the second favourite name. The third favourite name, Diane, was reserved for use in case they should accidentally produce a third daughter while trying to have a son. But though I followed Sandra into the family, my mother overheard a conversation that changed her plans while I was still wriggling inside her. My aunt was heard to say that she intended to call her unborn daughter Diane. And so my mother opted for Wendy, publicly pretending—most of the time—that she thought it a good name. It was fashionable in those days to assume that any girl named Wendy must have been named in honour of Wendy Darling, the motherly little girl created by J.M Barrie to stand guard over her family amid the playful antics of the rascally Peter Pan. It’s a great story, and many a modern Wendy is said to be her namesake. I, however, am not one of these. My mother simply heard the name somewhere, and liked it fourth best among the names she considered giving to daughters. In childhood I cared neither for J.M. Barrie’s creation nor my mother’s name preferences. Being a Wendy was almost as humiliating as having a brown, hairy birthmark and I wished the curse of death by mosquito bites on every playground bully who ever called me WindyWendy As adulthood approached I occasionally indulged in tantalizing daydreams about the pleasant life led by a clear-faced woman named Karen, or was it Elaine? But then, before I had found the time and energy to seek out a surgeon, the birthmark sprang to life and grew with such enthusiasm that doctors insisted upon its removal and urged me to sign papers saying I was willing to submit the future landscape of my cheek to a plastic surgeon. It wasn’t until surgery day that I met the surgeon in question, a miserable fellow with all the bedside charm you’d expect of a rhinoceros. By the time I emerged from a half hour with him snipping, tugging, stitching and barking at the nurses, and subsequently survived the ripping off of bandages, I had decided to stick with the name Wendy. Perhaps, I mused, not being personally acquainted with any official name changers, I should leave well enough alone, maybe even try to like the name I was given. Wendy, it is said, is a modern derivation of older Welsh names with similar sounds, Gwendolyn, for example, and Guinevere. But it was J.M. Barrie who made the name famous. Legend has it that a little girl named Margaret Henley adored J.M. Barrie and called him Friendy, except that she wasn’t good at making the R sound. So her term of endearment sounded like Fwendy. Thinking of Margaret, he named his heroine Wendy, and the rest is history. Not surprisingly, dictionaries of baby names claim that the name Wendy means “friend”. Odd at this point to remember that the birthmark and the name once shared space in a single category of my consciousness. For the round, brown hairy birthmark has long since been reduced to a straight hairless scar, while the name has become a friend-maker. Occasionally I am introduced to one of my kind. “Wendy, meet Wendy.” As we smile in a shared greeting, I am only mildly surprise to hear myself say, “Good name, isn’t it?” To read more about the Wendys of the world, go to THE HISTORY OF WENDY

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I get to thinking I would rather be Somebody who can walk a straight line, Shortest distance to the end point, Brief, efficient journey Taking advice from the ones who advise: “Focus on home while at home.” “Focus on work while at work.” “Know where you’re going and how to get there.” Then it’s time to stop and notice That some of my proudest moments Are remnants of the days When the lines of my life went crooked, Accidentally intersected, And taught me something. I learned something new while thinking about my relationship to straight lines. Research shows that human beings do not possess inate ability to walk straight. Read more at Why Can’t We Walk Straight? pride, positive emotions,

Sunday, September 18, 2011


In the interest of interest, one of the ten positive emotions, I decided to spend three Saturday mornings at Grant MacEwan College, Writing Creative Fiction with instructor Kath MacLean. The first class was yesterday. Today I’m experiencing the side effects: homework. First on the list is the task of articulating my goals as a cnf writer. There’s space for three goals. Hmmmmm! My goals! This would be easy if I were a better goal-setter. Sometimes it’s better to move past the questions you can’t answer to the ones you can answer. Second on the list is the task of choosing a book. I am to choose a book that exemplifies the genre that most interests me as a writer of cnf. Shall I choose Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson? Maybe. I do seem to like that book. I have been reluctant to delete it from the memory of my tiny talking book reader. But then, probably any book by Will Ferguson would do. But then there’s a bit of a snag. If I choose a book by Will Ferguson, I’ll wonder why I didn’t choose a book by Gary Lautens. Any book by Gary Lautens would probably do. I particularly like Peace, Mrs. Packard and the Meaning of life. Maybe I’ll choose it. If I choose that book, I’ll wonder why I neglected to choose a book by Greg Clark. Any book by Greg Clark would probably do. I could make it easier and choose Greg’s Choice. That would be a good choice. The only thing is, choosing any of these books would prevent me from choosing anything by Robert Fulghum, and that would be a shame. Any book by Robert Fulghum would probably do. Perhaps the best choice would be maybe—Maybe Not. Come to think of it, it might just be easier to define my personal goals than to choose a single book. Suppose I abandon the task of selecting a book, and consider the other assignment: stating my personal goals as a cnf writer. There are three spaces on the empty list. 1. I want to do writing that helps me think about my world in a way that makes me want to live in it. When I read books by Ferguson, or Lautens, or Clark, or Fulghum, I find I want to live in the worlds they write about. They, of course, are different from me. They have made a living with their writing, which could be my second goal, only it isn’t. If I wanted to make a living at something I’d probably study it on a Wednesday, or maybe a Monday afternoon. I’d be taking a rest from it on Saturday. . 2. I want to chuckle more. Ferguson, Lautens, Clark and Fulghum make me chuckle. But you can’t always be relying on others. I used to have a plaque that said, “Those who learn to laugh at themselves never cease to be amused.” 3. I want to play as I write, to play with emotions, with ideas, with the ever-changing truth. And if the things I write are not exactly true, well, then at least I hope they are entertaining.

Friday, September 16, 2011


THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT BLUE AND GREEN OVER THE PAST WEEK That a lot of people in my world like blue and green together That the tipping point for blue and green together comes when you mix two shades of blue with green before 6 AM That a person who accidentally wears green with blue, even with two shades of blue is still worthy of love.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


“You’re wearing a green top,” he says. “With blue pants,” he says. We are hurrying through the airport. Our seats are confirmed. Our suitcase has hit the conveyer belt. The time is 5:58 AM. I run my hand along the neck of my shirt. It’s smooth, no ridge denoting the change of colour from blue to white. He is right. The green top is occupying the spot where the blue and white top ought to be. I hate him! “You could have told me before we left home,” I grumble. “You could have told me before we sent the suitcase down the line,” I bluster. “You could have just kept it to yourself and not told me until we had the suitcase back and I could do something about it,” I rage. “Yes,” he said. “But it’s early, and I just noticed it, and you usually dress yourself.” He is right again. I hate him. We are proceeding, arm in arm, along the concourse. We are not speaking. It’s quiet here, but not peaceful. I am hearing the voices of my childhood. When I was a kid, adults would tell me important things that every blind child needed to know. When I was a kid, people would say, “You’ve got to learn that people see you, even though you don’t see them. So don’t do things you wouldn’t want to see if you were a sighted person.” Modern English translation: Don’t wear green shirts with blue pants!!!!!!! Wearing a green top with blue pants, I am walking with my husband along a quiet concourse at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning. Quiet though it may be, I squirm under the critical scrutiny of a thousand eyes. Could I have counted wrong? Are there ten thousand eyes, twenty maybe? “Stop a moment,” I say. “I’ll button up my sweater.” The blue sweater now pulls tightly across my front. Only a thin green line shows above. “But we’re going through Security,” he says. “We usually take sweaters off.” “I’ll wear the look of a woman who has nothing to hide,” I declare. At 6:08 AM, wearing the look of a woman who has nothing to hide, assuring the screener that I am carrying no liquids, I try to remember whether, on past trips, I have ever been subjected to a lie detector test. That’s what gets me thinking about past trips. This particular trip is a short trip, all trips considered, only a couple of days. We’ll be home before we notice ourselves gone. I didn’t give its preparation a lot of thought. Maybe that explains why I am wearing a green top with blue pants. Maybe that explains why I didn’t dream the dream I often dream before I take a trip. Here is the dream I didn’t dream. I am at the airport, standing in a line. My ticket is in my hand, my suitcase has hit the conveyer belt. I shiver a little. It is cold in here, and I am naked. Naked? I am naked? Oh no! What should I do? Crouching forward, my right arm stretched across my breasts, my left arm shielding lower parts, the back end fending for itself, I try to think. Should I go home now, leave my suitcase and go home? How could I go home? A naked person can hardly find a service clerk and ask to hail a cab. Shall I simply go on, pretend I don’t know I am naked? People might buy that. They think the blind have no idea what they are wearing. And so it goes, on and on, fussing, figuring, dithering, indecision for as long as it takes for me to wake up. The dream I have so often dreamed, the dream I didn’t dream for this trip, never ends. I never find out what happens next, never have the luxury of making the choice. But on this particular morning, things move along. At 6:13 AM, on the other side of Security, touching the thin green strip along my neck, in that liberated space where we are again allowed to carry liquids, I reach a decision. I have decided not to hate this man. It is, after all is said and done, very early, and I do usually dress myself without incident. Our little trip is so short that it seems a shame to waste any of it hating someone. And ultimately, perhaps the most important thing of all, I actually got a chance to live a milder-and-more-comprehensive version of that tiresome old dream. It’s nice to know it ended well.

Friday, September 09, 2011


And when Lawrence brought in a huge trophy: Employee Of The Week!  That was pride for a mom.


There are teachers in my world
Working through the weekend,
Learning names of students
Writing WELCOME messages
Soothing anxious parents
Making friends with colleagues
Seeking help from mentors
Cleaning messy classrooms,
Bursting with excitement

How could I fail to be inspired?

Friday, September 02, 2011


Joy is: (though not exclusively nor necessarily in this order)
Laughing aloud at something he said in his sleep, and waking him up to laugh with me
Hugging her when she meets us at the airport
Throwing the ball when he leaps to catch it
The warm hello at work after holidays
The nights when all of us joke in the kitchen
The enchanting fragrance of sweetpea, evening scented stock, acidanthra
The juicy chin drip from the fresh fruit of summer
A thousand birds in the hedge and the yard
The days when I grin and ask: “Do you think you might be done needing counselling?” and my smile is returned with a simple: “I truly believe that I am.”