Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

A year -- another year -- has rolled by oh so quickly. Does time speed up as we get older? I remember being a kid and every day lasting a year. Now, a year passes in a day. Sheesh. Slow down, wouldja?

Today is a day of reflection for me and many of us, je pense. We may be making lists of resolutions, determined to become better people... or we may be planning on going out and getting shit-faced. I am home, with my pets, in my beloved little run-down condo, cozily nested between the Plateau and The Village. I am happy to be home tonight.  I am sick with a cold, and I have a lot on my mind, too.

I bundled up earlier and took my beloved Chewy dog out for a walkie in the deep snow, playing with him, watching his joy at getting stuck in the snowbanks, licking the balls of ice from between his toes. I swear, this guy has a perpetual smile on his face. It wasn't always like this. I adopted him just over five years ago. He was one of my foster dogs.

As a volunteer for Sophiesdogadoption.com, I have been on the front lines for about 10 years. I have seen some sick sick things ... a puppy who was punished with a pot of boiling oil, a dog who was used as bait .... so many horrific things that it makes me wonder what is wrong with so many people. We don't really know Chewy's story. Sophie thinks he was probably a squeegee dog. He was found in Jarry Parc, where he had been roaming for 2 days. A moving day dump, no doubt. He was then passed around from foster home to foster home. He was even adopted once, but the guy sent him back. I was baffled why no one wanted him. He was a great dog ... sure he had his issues. But he was clean in the house, very smart and well-trained. Except for stealing squeeky toys. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to break this habit.

He was a sad dog. He was afraid of tall men. He was afraid of brooms. We could not touch him on his back. He was afraid of children. He was afraid of hockey sticks. I shudder to think. My boyfriend at the time ... let's call him Funky Cat ... and I adopted him. After about a year, he became such a gentleman (except for the squeeky toy thing, and the killing squirrel thing). Just a terrific dog.

I am grateful for Chewy. He makes me laugh when he plays so hard. He is my love. I will do anything for him. I almost died for him last January when he fell through the ice in Lachine. I stood, watching him drown, and acted. Did not think, just got on my hands and knees and started crawling towards him. We never took our eyes off each other. He held on until I crawled out for 30 or 40 feet, the ice cracking under my knees ... until I reached him. I grabbed hold and pulled out my chunk of ice dog and crawled back. He lived!

I thank the Gods and the Angels for holding that ice up until we got back. I am grateful for this.

I feel like I reel from one emergency to the next. I am still under the burden of trying to save my cat two years ago.  A lot of stuff went down (I previously posted about this) and I lost a lot -- friends, a baby, etc etc. But I learned a lot too. I learned who my friends are. I am grateful for this.

I am grateful I can continue to save dogs with Sophie. I am grateful I have a great job as a prof here in Montréal, at a great college, where I have some pretty terrific students. They continue to amaze me with their big hearts.

I am grateful for Maggie, and her family who has adopted me. I am grateful for Dana, who let me share Christmas with her and her husband and their 2 cats. I am grateful for my good friends, close and far. Sheryl, you saved me. Donald, you are my hero. Bonnie, I love you. Patinski, Liam and Tim. Gin and Mark, you guys rock. I am grateful for FB for putting me in touch with my high school gang.

Even though I am down with a bug, I am grateful for the myriad invitations I have for tonight. I am grateful for my warm home, with food in the fridge. Wine ready to open, if I so desire.

So I end the year on a bittersweet note. I have a new crisis to face in the new year. I am scared but am determined to face my MRI bravely. If you read this, send me your prayers dear friends, that my brain is okay, and this constant vertigo will go away.

Happy New Year and I pray you all stay safe tonight and every night!


The Older I Get, the Less I Know

Today, Monday December 17 2012, just before the apocalypse and I am standing in my kitchen, feeling ... helpless. We reel at yet another senseless tragedy ... but shooting children?? Good God. A young, extremely intelligent and troubled young man walked into an elementary school in Newtown CT and shot a bunch of little kids. What? Is this a tasteless video game ad? 
And this most recent shooting spree follows so closely on the heels of our own sad memory/commemoration of the massacre of so many young women December 6, 1989. A young enraged man walked into the École Polytechnique and shot 28 people. He separated the men and the women, targeting women. He claimed he was fighting feminism.

The mind reels. The soul hurts.

Today, December 17 is a snowy fluffy white and gorgeous day here in Montréal. I feel helpless. I stand in my kitchen, watching my dog Chewy  roll joyfully in the snow in my backyard and I am terrified. I cannot imagine the pain of the those poor parents. 

Imma bake bread. The staff of life. Better than being paralysed with fear and helplessness, I suppose. I will bake bread and I will share it with people. I am using this recipe, with a few minor changes on my part, from one of my favourite food blogs.

I feel guilty that I don't suffer personally and that I am grateful for peace today.

I am going to stay in my jammies, drinking tea and cooking all day in my safe kitchen. Fuck it, I am cracking the vodka.


Don't Go Away Angry. Just Go Away.

How do you deal with a very sensitive personality? It is all very well and good to be Zen-like and say that other people's behaviour has no effect on you. Is it true that the happier you are, the less offended you get at unintentional and thoughtless comments?

What if, say, there is a person at work who is such a character? Dealing with people at work is a trickier  dance. We are expected to work together for a long time, maybe even many years, so we have to be colleagial and respectful and mature.

Yeah right.
What if there is someone who stomps around and stops talking to people at the drop of a hat. Spurns colleagues in the elevator? Defriends people on social media? After the second or third time of this, how does one react?

Do you give in to this tyrannical behaviour? It is a form of control, after all, non? Do what I say, act how I want you to act, or I withdraw my precious friendship. My love is conditional upon you pleasing me. 

One of the biggest problems with this kind of problem solving, and I use that term very sarcastically, is that you never know what you have done wrong. People who are easily offended are offended at everything and everything can set them off. 

You can choose to respond in a myriad ways. One is of course, ignore the high school ridiculousness of it all and stay professional. Two is to also be hurt and withdraw. And three is to point and laugh. Every time you see this person.

I like number 3. That won't get me killed at all.


Smells like Fall

Night falls quickly and tis a cold wind that blows through Parc Lafontaine. Perfect condition for hunkering down with a blankie, a scary movie, a beloved and a plate full of deliciousity. I was in the mood for asparagus, or as I like to call them, asparaguys. (I don't know why.) It's been a long week at work -- cegep teachers are in the midst of end of semester chaos -- and I felt like some comfort food. Risotto with asparagus and mushrooms. Have I mentioned I am now vegan ... 99% of the time. At home, all the time. I cook me to mati, as the Greeks say; which means I rarely measure. I got a pot, and crushed some garlic, which I threw into said pan with olive oil and fresh greek oregano from my summer garden. Salt. Cook it a bit. Add the arborio rice. I wish I could find arborio rice in whole wheat. Stir stir stir. Add bright green asparaguys and shitake mushrooms while there is still water in the pot. Stir stir stir. Add pepper and a splash of tamari. Stir stir stir. Serve in pasta plate and enjoy with a glass of red wine. Salad on the side. "Insidious" on Netflix. Ahhhhh. Deep sigh of relief.


Loud and Noisy Breakfast

Last night, Thursday, my favourite famiy, the McGoldings came over for supper. Robert of this fame wanted to have "breakfast for supper" while we watched the first Indiana Jones movie. Mum Magnolia and RobGold came over first with Edgar the giant poodle and we gardened whilst drinking Pina Colada dacquiris. One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon with my fave people.
Next to arrive was Colin, the 13-almost 14-year old. Then big daddy Andrew arrived with what we were hoping was some big and good news. We had rose "champagne" chilling for this moment.

All the while, we are cooking and talking and laughing and dogs are barking and there is a lot of noise. Really, does it get any better. What a beautiful day!


The End - Pearl Jam

You know how there are songs that are there during the defining moments of your life? Last year, I was going through some rough times, one of which was the illness and ultimate death of my best friend, Milo the cat. Yes, I know, some people may snicker at the grief a person goes through when their animals die. Perhaps snicker is too harsh? Some people don't get it. I can understand that. As long as one is compassionate, that is all that matters.

Milo lasted two weeks after his diagnosis of a particularly aggressive form of adenocarcinoma. I tried to save him. I was unsuccessful. During this time, I listened to The End, by Pearl Jam over and over and over again.

I can no longer listen to this song without falling into shreds. Eddie Vedder captures such melancholy, such pain, such enormous misery in this song.

Well done, Pearl Jam.

Feel good post

You know sometimes when you are feeling blue and you come across something that makes you realise, it's not that bad. Just hang on?

Well, I read this a while ago. And it helped. You may recognise this young man from a little show called Gigolos.

Anyway, I liked the post and I have added it here.


Don't hate, appreciate!

I have been noticing lately, particularly on my Facebook wall, a lot of ... what is the best word? Resentment perhaps ... directed towards those of the teaching persuasion. I notice it now especially during the early humid languid days of July. Sunday nights are interesting. I or one of my kind (teachers, professors, instructors) are out for dinner or drinks with friends when someone inevitably checks their watch:
"Oh crap, it's after midnight. Must go home. Working tomorrow."

Then the look of death:
"You're not, are you? Oh, how I wish I was a teacher and had the summers off!!"

This is always said with resentment.

Yes, I admit, we do get a nice holiday in the summer. Whereas many of my friends, highly educated or trained professionals in their field, be it, plumbers, electricians, doctors, IT people, only manage an inhumane one or two weeks, we are blessed with more time. I will remind us all that one month is standard in Europe. Most civilised.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that we do not get EIGHT weeks off even though it may appear thus. We are working, even if we are working at home. We are planning, creating, photocopying, ordering books, scheduling etc etc. This may not seem particularly grueling to people who still have to get on that metro, subway, tube, streetcar or bus at 7.30 am, but let me remind you that during the school year, we do not work a mere 8 hours a day.

My (estranged very wealthy) brother and his wife used to love taking the piss. They would constantly say things to me like: "Oh, if I had the chance I would go back to school and be a teacher."

Yes, because they just give away Master of Arts degrees.

Must be nice to start off at $60,000 and not work for the summer.

Where is this magical kingdom and are they hiring?

What I would like to remind these people however, is that they are not there when their children are crying in my office, over many things. Abuse -- mental, psychological, familial, sexual. We are the frontline to protect young people.

They are not there when we get home after a 12-hour day and have to: make dinner, help with homework, do laundry, clean the house, do the dishes, walk the dogs, and oh yeah, MARK 40 ESSAYS.

Or 40 EXAMS.

With detailed comments.

Or make notes for our meetings, attend conferences, hold office hours, plan lectures, plan notes, plan entire courses.

We have no social life for 10 months of the year. You must realise we need our piddly 8 weeks of vacay, which isn't even 8 weeks.

Why do you think teachers have such a high burn out rate? Why so many are alcoholics. YOUR CHILDREN ARE DRIVING US MAD.

But I still love my job and feel blessed to have it. I would never ever however deign to put down someone else's chosen profession.

Food for thought?


Let the pity party begin!

It has been a challenging, trying almost year for the peawry. The fun began I would say last August when I posted the fateful "Life is good" status update to my Facebook. I should have known better. I am Greek origin. We do not tempt the Gods like this. But I was feeling good and happy and content about where I was in life. I had just met a lovely gentleman -- or so I thought. I had many good supportive friends -- or so I thought. And beautiful happy healthy pets -- or so I thought. The next day began the lesson which was to show me how wrong I was.

I thought I had been through all the crap already. I lost my parents young, had a very dysfunctional family where none of us every learned how to resolve conflicts in any peaceful form (and that is all I will say about that). One of the worst weeks of my life occured as I drove to my father's funeral, while my beloved dog was in surgery for testicular cancer, while in the midst of a terrible terrible divorce. I thought, "Okay, okay, Universe, I give up. You win!"

I had some peace for a couple of years. I lived with a boyfriend. Then we broke up the same day my youngest brother unexpectedly died. He was autistic but that had nothing to do with his death.

I bounced back of course. What choice do we have really? I threw myself into animal rescue. The best way to forget our own pain is through thinking of others, no? That and work. I adopted another dog. Then another.

And I of course had my amazing cat Milo that was the weirdest most emotional cat/dog I have ever had the pleasure to love.

But then last August I stupidly put that Facebook status up and the Gods punished me for my hubris. The very next day it began. Oh, it started small. I left my bag on the metro ... student assignments, agenda, some money (not much!) a few things like that. My contact lenses. It never got turned in.

A bike got stolen.

I sprained my wrist and had to wear a brace. For weeks.

My cat started to get sick.

The boyfriend started to not care about the cat. And wondered how I could be so upset. "It's just a cat."

I should mention he was moving here from far away to start a new life. That didn't work out.

I had a miscarriage.

A woman I greatly admired and loved died way too soon from breast cancer, leaving a young family.

My cat died, leaving me with a massive -- many thousands of dollars --vet bill. I had just finished paying off my brother's funeral and got stuck with another bill for almost the EXACT SAME AMOUNT. Ah, universe, how you make me laugh.

The cat died in my arms on a Sunday at 3 am.

I dumped the boyfriend because of the coldness and lack of support. I lost a couple of women I thought were friends for the same reason.

Cue me crying, wailing dramatically to the Heavens. Woe is me!!

I continued to rescue dogs because that is the only thing that saved me. I was suicidal, you see. The bills, the bouncing cheques, the venomous reactions from ladies I thought were my friends, the loneliness. I wanted to see my cat, my parents, my brother. I felt there was nothing here for me.

But I learned I was really really lucky. I learned there were a couple of people who cared. More than a couple. One woman, let's call her Magnolia, drove me back and forth to the hospital, even while she had her own kids to look after, her own ailing cat to worry about. This woman is an angel.

Another woman, let's call her Borealis, did the same. She sadly lost her cat shortly after too.

A fellow animal rescuer from New Jersey took pity on my and sent me a package, a gift from the gods, that saved me.

Another woman, let's call her Dany, wrote to me to check in on me when I had disappeared.

These angels saved me. These angels made me see the good in the world, that people do care, that people help each when the going gets tough. That they are not just friends when every thing is good.

For, you see, it is easy to be a good friend when all is happy singing and dancing and drinking wine. It is those who are there when you are crying over your dead parents, or dead baby brother, or dead baby, or dead cat that we must cherish..

I cherish these people more than they will ever ever know. These are the people that can call me day or night, and say, I have a problem. And before they hang up the phone, I will be beside their side.

I am a lucky lucky woman indeed. And I am grateful.


Drunk Woman Washed Up On Beach

Ah, childhood memories of family vacations come by. But, how in the heck did my home movies end up on Youtube?