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Friday, December 30, 2005

THE SHADOW OF HIS SMILE

FRIDAY, Dec. 30/05

It's been a difficult few months getting through the grief of losing my dear friend Anibal. I have sometimes wondered when the tears would stop, and just when I think they have, I'll suddenly burst into weeping again often quite unexepectedly on buses or while walking down the street. I've tried to keep busy, occupied with happy pursuits, not dwelling on the loss. Most of all, trying to erase from my memory those last weeks when he was suffering so terrible, had grown so thin and the horror of watching him losing it and slip away day by day. I realize now, I was quite traumatized by that experience.

The most fantastic gift that has come out of this ordeal is getting to know his family. We have made such a beautiful connection, and I have grown to love them like the are my own children.
This week the girls came for lunch and two of the youngest grandchildren -- sweet little kids, so shy. The girls and I had such a lovely visit and while they were here we phoned their Mom in Chile. It was so good to talk to her. She told me how she had showed A. all around her house and took him (his ashes) to the beach where she's erected a little shrine so he'd have some solitude (which he would like). She said "He's happy now." And I'm sure he is.

I'm hoping in 2006 to go to Chile to visit her.

Then last night, when I was walking home I met A's son. We hugged and had a brief chat. It was like another 'gift', a glimpse of A. That same smile, the way he looked when he was younger and thinner. His son, like him, is apparantly a writer and has inherited his dad's journals. I would very much like to get to know him the way I have become aquainted with the girls, and I'm sure that in the future I will. Most of all, I know that Anibal is happy about this, and now when I 'see' him, I visualize him the way he was before he got so dreadfully ill: especially that big shining smile of his.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'M DREAMING OF A WET CHRISTMAS

FRIDAY, Dec. 23
We had our cold, frosty weather a few weeks ago. Even a few snow flurries. Now that it's almost Christmas it has turned mild and very wet. Rain, rain and more rain! Some of the mountain ski resorts are having to close because of the melt-down spoiling the ski season which had got off to such a great start. I do hope that it isn't this mild in the Interior or it will ruin the ski/snow-board holiday my daughter and grandson were going on. I did hear from my sister and another friend who lives in the South Thompson that it is rainy and mild there too. My friend and her gang had planned a sleigh ride for Christmas Eve. Last year she said it was canceled because of the extreme cold. This year it may be canceled due to the extreme wet.

Well, all the shopping is done except for the wine which I'll pick up in the morning. Today I got all the makings for the "Life's Great Dinners" menu I always make for Christmas Eve:
cornish hens in sherry sauce with pate, rice, tiny peas and a crab bisque for starters. My guests will bring the appetizers. I am looking forward to this as we always have a jolly time. So I'll write more details about it after the weekend. Guests will include my son Steve, his wife Sue and various friends. I always like to invite those who have no families here -- the orphans -- so it makes it special for them too. I'm so used to the big family Christmases of the past and I miss that so this makes up for it.

I'm trying to be merry and gay but there is such an underlying sadness, still grieving over Anibal. I wonder how long it will take before I am over the sorrow? But this weekend I must try to stay above it and enjoy the festivities. Christmas is a happy time, a time of Peace and Love and Goodwill to All Mankind. And especially a time for family and friends.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND I HOPE SOME OF YOU HAVE A WHITE CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

REMEMBERING OLD FRIENDS

SATURDAY, Dec. 12

I went to a senior's luncheon today at my Dad's old Church. A number of the people who used to belong to the Young Couple's Club when I was first married were there. One of them is also an old school chum, from our teens. And one is the daughter of a very dear friend, my hiking buddy, who passed away 16 years ago today. Her family and mine were very connected, like an extended family. And Paula is almost like a surrogate daughter.

It happened that during the luncheon they held a memorial for several of the Church members who have passed. One of them was a very old family friend, who died this week. Emmett knew my family when Dad was the pastor of a prairie church back at the end of the depression, when I was just a little kid. His family, including his cousins, were the only African Canadians around the area. They were very poor, but I always remember Mom saying that their house was so clean you could eat off the floors. Emmett and his cousin Macky used to attend Sunday School at Dad's church. A favorite story about them was that one Sunday they arrived at the service late, coming straight in up the aise to the front, dragging along a wagon full of beer bottles that they'd collected on the way. Emmett would laugh that low chuckling laugh of his and deny he was involved in the prank. "Must have been Macky," he'd say.

Years later when Emmett moved to the Coast, after the war when Dad returned from overseas and was offered this Church here, Emmett saw his name in the paper and came to the Church to see Dad. He has attended ever since, faithfully, right up til his illness and passing.

There were lots of stories told about him today, we all had to smile, remembering. There were also remembrances for several other old family friends, and friends who had chummed with my husband and I when we were all in the Young Couples Club.

The lunch (dinner) was turkey and all the trimmings. Church dinners are always special affairs. And after carol singing and various other amusing activities, they gave out gift bags to everyone which I thought was a very sweet gesture.

It's always a very nostalgic time for me to return to the Church. It holds so many of my personal memories as well as family memories. My father and mother were well loved and I was asked to say something about them during the memorial. I know they would have been pleased. It's so nice that I've kept some of the same friends from my Church days, including my friend who will accompany me to Malaysia in March. She is the girlfriend (my namesake) who I have known the longest, since I was twelve and we first moved here from the East.

And last night I went to a small party for my other very close and dear friend Rosie who I have known since I first met my husband. (She was a chum of the daughter of my husband's partner).
And Suzaki, who is coming for dinner tonight and an evening of dancing, I've known for over 30 years! How fortunate I am to have kept these precious friends all these years!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

BACK WITH THE LITTLE ONES AGAIN!

TUESDAY, Dec. 6

At last, after two months of no daycare work, I've been offered several shifts. So today I'm off to be with the little ones again. How I've missed them! I had begun to think that I was 'officially' retired and resigned to that. But I am grateful for this renewed interest in my services. In particular at this time of year when money is scarce and I have no other work to generate it.

Things have been going along well this past weekend and forward. The party at the Cottage last Friday was excellent. I never did find that red blouse. Instead selected from my wardrobe archives my Chinese embroidered silk scarlet jacket. Combined with black slacks and high-necked silky shirt it looked terrific. And my copper-tone hair was a hit too. All those compliments certainly were welcome after two weeks of feeling really ill with flu symptoms and stomach aches.

On the weekend I went for dinner and a movie with Kitty and Ingrid. K. is returning to England today and we'll sure miss her and her computer techie husband. Sunday I stayed in, watched the snow falling, and by the time I wanted to go walking in it, it had turned to rain! Yesterday I spent a pleasant afternoon with my pal Astarte, then George came by for awhile so I could share the extra frozen goods with him that Kitty had given me. (My freezer is bulging!)

And last night at my writer's critique group, when I read the revisions on the latest chapter of "Shadow", the reviews were good, very positive. So I was pleased and relieved. It's a tricky part of the novel to write and I've felt a bit stalled and overwhelmed with it.

No writing today. I'm working a full shift and again on Friday. And starting with the daycare Christmas party Friday evening the weekend will once again be party time. It's that time of year again, and the social calendar is starting to look full!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

THE ONGOING QUEST FOR THE RED BLOUSE

THURSDAY, December 1
This is the second day of the on-going quest for the red blouse. Maybe I should have titled this THE RED BLOUSE DIARIES.

I wrote yesterday in my writer's blog about my search for just the right red blouse which I want for my festive costume. The one I'd seen on the Drive proved to be rather cheesy and not exactly what I'd had in mind. So yesterday I search one of the big malls for hours looking for one. No luck. And today, I searched some shops downtown. No luck. One last try tomorrow on the Drive and after that I'll give up and settle for something out of my closet. I did want red
though, to go with my new copper-streaked hair.

I tried my new 'do' out on my Memoir lady friends today when we went for lunch, and everyone liked it. And again tonight, with another group of ladies (writers) who got together for our annual pre-Christmas dinner. I wore my coral-coloured sweater tonight and it really enhanced the apricot shade of the hair. So perhaps if I can't find the right red I'll try coral.

It's the big party tomorrow night at the Cottage Bistro. The Kozak's Sixth Annual Christmas Blues Bash. My son Steve's band is playing and as well there'll be other drop-in musicians.
It's the first big party of the Festive Season and I'm really looking forward to it!

These days I'm trying to get out of the depressed mood I've been in since A. died, so I figured that a change of appearance would be a good start. Too bad there's not some magical way of suddenly losing 20 kilos, but that will be my next project as I intend to join Weight Watchers s.a.p. And get back to the gym again next week. I realized, while looking at clothing, that if I didn't feel (look) so lumpy I'd be able to have a wider range of choices for what to wear. Ugh! I hate the state I'm in right now. It's just not comfortable.

Anyway, I feel I'm on the right track, and my mood is lifting. Soon I'll be feeling my old self again. After all the holiday season is coming and there's so many wonderful social events already marked on the calendar. And it's not as if I don't have anything to wear. My closet is crammed with stuff. It's just that I had my heart set on something RED.


Monday, November 28, 2005

'TIS THE SEASON

'Tis the Season to get jolly....Fa la la la la lala la la....

It's that time of year again...almost December and the Christmas parties and get-togethers are starting up. This week is the beginning of a month of festive activities.

Lunch tomorrow with the grad class ladies; lunch on Thurs. with the Memoir ladies; dinner Thursday night with a little group of writers who meet only this time of year; and on Friday night...The Annual Kozak Christmas Blues Bash at the Cottage Bistro.

My son Steve, his wife Sue and me have been hosting this grand affair for the last five years, entertained by my son's band the Westcoast Blues. As we all live in apartments it seemed a good idea to have a party where we could have live music and dancing, so we chose the Cottage as a venue as that's where Steve hosts the Saturday afternoon jam sessions.

It's always an event to look forward to. We invite as many people as we liked and there's a lot of musicians drop in to jam with the band. So it's a highlight of the Christmas season.

I must go shopping this week for my Christmas costume. Have my eye on a nice red Indian cotton top to wear with my black velvet pants and some red spangly slippers so that's my first choice. MJ gave me a sequined jacket but that's a bit to dressy for the Cottage and I'll save it to wear at our Scribbler's party next week.

I've started my Christmas shopping. I've only a short list this year and have some ideas what to get on my limited budget. And in a week or two I'll lug the box of decorations down from the closet and start decorating the apartment. I already have the lights up on the windows cause I leave those up all year round.

It's a season of happiness and good will and I'm trying, each day, to get out from under the cloud of despair that I was in after A's death. It's getting easier, though I am still thinking of him constantly. I'm sure the Christmas spirit will help me get over the broken heart. I love this time of year!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

GREY CUP WEEKEND

SATURDAY, Nov.26
It's the Grey Cup weekend for football fans here in sunny Vancouver (yes, sun - not rain or fog!)
This dredges up a lot of old memories, going back to the days when we used to live up in Edmonton and were ardent Edmonton Eskimo fans. These days I rarely take an interest in football, prefer other kinds of sports and I'm not so much of a spectator anyway.

The two teams: Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes, are kicking off tomorrow. Of course there was major disappointment for the local fans when our B.C.Lions failed to make it to the final but that's the way it's gone for them this season.

The Grey Cup playoff is always the biggest excuse ever for major drunken debauchery and disorderliness and starting last night in our town the parties were off to a good start. I wouldn't want to be downtown this weekend, not even to see the parade. I don't really care whether Pamela Anderson is parade marshal or who is. Football is just not my thing. And anyway, I saw the Santa Claus parade last Sunday. Guess I'm just a kid at heart!

This weekend brought back a lot of past memories -- all the Grey Cup weekends we celebrated in Edmonton, parties that lasted for days, cases of booze, trays of snacks, wild days and nights. It seems to me that the Eskis were usually the ones who were playing the finals and usually the ones who won. (So of course I'll be cheering them from afar this weekend!) We'd usually gather at our place -- I had the reputation of given the best parties -- and would start very early on the morning of the Game. Generally everyone was pretty well soused before the game even started (and judging from the antics downtown last night -- two days before -- the same thing happens everywhere.) Of course, if your team won you'd really be off celebrating high-style.
And the party generally lasted the entire weekend. I think that somehow the party was the main event and the game was just the excuse to get wild and crazy (wilder and crazier than usual!)

Knowing the way the young toughs in this town misbehave I'd be surprised if this weekend there isn't a call for extra cops (lots of them) and even the riot squad. The roving bands of drunken louts have had a reptutation in the past of tearing up the town and vandalising everything in sight. All the name of sports? Fun? What??

I found it more fun when I've been in Greece during major soccer playoffs and the merriment was usually cars full of fans driving around waving banners, shouting and honking horns. Of course a lot of wine is imbibed there too, but it always seemed a lot more 'civilized' to me...unless of course you happen to be in a place where a British team is playing and the rowdy beer-swilling Brits
(Manchester fans, etc) have to live up to their reputation of creating havoc and mayhem.

Not for me. I'll enjoy the sunshine and peace of my neighbourhood today and all weekend, except tomorrow when we are invited to a friend's downtown and will no doubt get caught up in the pre and post game rioting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A GOOD START TO THE NEW WEEK

TUESDAY, Nov. 22
I'm feeling much better this week, though still not 100%. Today I went to watefit for the first time in months. It felt so good to exercise and swim again. Afterwards I spent some time in the whirl-pool tub and also the steam room. When I got home my friends MJ and B. came over to visit and B. helped me with some techie stuff on my computer. So now I'm all set to do some more writing. So far yesterday I started adding literary content to my Searching for Alexander story and also editing stories for my classes. Today I've edited some stories and then I'll try to get something done on the novel, or at least finish the revisions on the Alexander story. At least I feel on the right track once again.

It's been easier too, dealing with the grief. Now when I pass by A's empty apartment I don't feel so sad as I no longer feel his spirit is there. It's empty. Everyone is gone. Of course I will always have memories of those last three weeks, and will I ever pass by the bedroom window without remembering that he died in that room? But yesterday I didn't burst into tears once, though there was the occasional lump in my throat. And I haven't today, either. That's a good sign.

I have lots of activities and invitations for the rest of the week including lunch with his family tomorrow as well as day browsing around the Drive with my dear friend Cheryl. Thursday I have a lunch date with M. and maybe Rosie is coming to town this weekend. Social events galore. I think I'm even going to get my hair done. Planning a new cut and maybe even some copper highlights in the blonde. Have to consult with my stylist about that.

It's time for the Festive Season and a new beginning. I want to feel happy again!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

SUNDAY, November 20
It's that time of year again...the funny fat guy in the red flannel suit is here already!
I was invited to join my friend Anne's family today for the annual Santa Claus breakfast at the grand old Fairmont Vancouver Hotel. This meant getting up super early -- even before my bird had roused himself. Off we went with the two little fellows, Charming,MisterYusuf (5)and Omar the Magnificent (7), two of my favorite boyfriends.

It was a lavish buffet breakfast served in the hotel's posh upstairs banquet room with crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs, and beautiful Christmas decorations all around. The food was excellent, though with my upset tummy I was really not able to enjoy it as I should have. The young lads thoroughly enjoyed themselves, occupied happily with the various toys and colouring books and pipe cleaner projects provided to keep children happy until Santa should arrive. They even wrote their Santa letters. Omar said he wanted a dog and a wand (he's a Harry Potter fan) and as an after thought to go with the wand: a cat. Yusuf wanted a remote racing car and another 'big huge truck'. They both had their photos taken with Santa and then we all trooped out to the street where their dad had set up chairs for us curbside to watch the parade.

A foggy, chill November day today, but no rain! We had to wait quite awhile for the parade to start and it was rather cold but the kids were amazingly patient. The streets were jam--packed with people, lots of children of course, but the adults seem to enjoy these events just as much. I know the parade and Santa Claus always brings back a lot of happy childhood memories to me. I was remember as I sat there, how when I was about 9 or 10 we all went by train from Stratford to Toronto to see the Santa Claus parade. I've never forgotten it because I was sick with the flu that day and didn't really enjoy any of it, including sitting on Santa's knee. I still have the photo of me, looking terribly miserable.

My favorite part of the parade is always the pipe bands, those kilted bag-pipers and the tall band Major twirling his long baton. Of course the final float is always jolly old Santa and that reminds me of the famous Santa Claus suit story. When we first came to the Coast after the war, my father, the Pastor of a Baptist Church, organized a wonderful Christmas program for the Sunday School. Santa was due to make a visit, but it seemed there was no Santa suit. So my creative Mom, the expert seamstress, made one out of the big Nazi flag Dad had brought home from overseas. I've written about this in a memoir: "How the Nazi's Helped Santa Claus". That Santa suit lasted years and clothed the annual Santa to entertain the Sunday School kids until I think eventually the moths had a feed on it.

So, this was the first of the festive entertainment and party season. It seems a little early still, but time creeps up quickly. My son, his wife and I always organize a family Christmas party at the bistro where he hosts the Blues jams on Saturdays. We have the invitation to our annual do ready to send out, happening on Dec.2, just a few weeks away. It's always a blast although this year he's had to ask a cover charge in order to pay the band, and we've decided not to provide appetizers for the tables like we usually do. Neither of us are financially able to do anything more than to provide a great place to party and dance and hear some excellent Blues.

I guess in a week or two it'll be time to bring down the boxes of decorations too!
'Tis the Season to be jolly!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

SOMETIMES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU'RE DOWN

THURSDAY, Nov. 17

I have felt so sick the last couple of days and horribly depressed. The antibiotics really didn't do anything for me except give me a terrible stomach ache and the runs. Perhaps today my ears are tiny bit unblocked, but certainly not completely. And on top of it, that flu shot I had Monday has made me terribly ill. I don't know how I got through the day yesterday. Had a class at night and coming home waited for ages on the street for buses in the freezing cold.

Today I dragged myself to my last Memoir group as it was our pot-luck-lunch. Afterwards, I didn't enjoy my usual nice walk up Robson browsing in the shops. I was almost doubled over with stomach pain. Came home and went to bed with my birdie nesting in my hair and cooing sweet things to me between kisses. "Pretty bird, pretty bird!"

There was also a welcome phone call from A's daughter inviting me to join her , her sister and mom for lunch next week. They had moved everything from his apartment Monday, a kind of closure for everyone, but still very sad.

I stayed in bed all afternoon and then my friend's daughter phoned and said she had something for me.
She arrived at the door with two laundry baskets full of canned and packaged goods collected for a food drive by the Ishmali scouts which she is involved with. She said she thought I could use them. And I sure could! There was far too much there for little old me though, so I sorted some out and put a few things in the lobby for other tenants, and when my friend George called I invited him over tomorrow to help himself. He's worse off than me, as he hasn't even a job!

Then a nice email from another friend who wants to come and have tea with me tomorrow cause she knows I need a friendly hug.

I'm fortunate to have this network of caring people around me, phone calls and emails from all sorts of friends saying comforting things. Tonight, I dreaded going out to my travel writing class though. I felt so sick. There were only two people there but we had a a good class anyway and afterwards I was offered a ride home. I was so grateful for that!

People really do care and come through for you when you're down and I appreciate this so much. Hopefully I'll start feeling better soon, and get back to my usual perky self.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

S.A.D. ON A FULL MOON NIGHT

TUESDAY, Nov. 15
The weather has been so gloomy lately with only a few breaks of sunshine. I am not feeling myself, generally sad and maybe it's partly S.A.D. (Seasonal affective disorder) although it's probably just the state of things. I'm still overwhelmed by grief and often at unexpected moments. And for two weeks now my ears have been blocked and aching as a result of sleeping in my windowless bedroom for three nights during those cold rainy nights.
Yesterday I went to the doctor and insisted on some antibiotics. I'm hoping they will cure the problem as I'm tired of feeling like I'm under water and can't hear a thing.

It's been hard to concentrate on my writing. At most I just made a few notes. Last night I workshopped part of the new chapter and today I tried to start the revisions but didn't get much done. The afternoon was made pleasant by a visit from my friend Rosie and her sister and another friend. So we spent a few hours sipping wine and talking about travel, mainly a trip to Wales they plan to make (a destination I love as that's where my Dad was from.)

On my way from the bank today (my only excursion out -- and another reason for feeling depressed: the fact that I'm completely broke again!) I passed by A's apartment and it looks like it is empty now. When I was there Sunday afternoon they were hoping to get it all cleaned out and leave. I hope they remember to keep their promise to stay in touch. It's hard going by there, remembering those last three weeks. And I suppose the memory will stay with me for some time to come.

So, with more rain on the forecast, lots of new snow on the mountain, and cold weather I don't feel much like going out, but have to teach classes the next two evenings. This is the last week for my Memoirs and Prompting the Muse class. One more week and Travel Writing ends.
Then I'm unemployed til the end of January. I'll really have to try and get out of this slump and focus on my writing now I'll have lots of time and little excuse.

Friday, November 11, 2005

REMEMBERING

FRIDAY, Nov 11 REMEMBRANCE DAY
This is the day we remember the veterans of the wars, and pray for peace. On this day I also have a vivid memory of Remembrance day last year. I'd had a call from A. and he wanted to come over to discuss things, mainly the recent death of Yasser Arafat. Then the talk turned to Veterans and the Remembrance Day services that had been held that day. He made some disparaging remarks about this and as I was already in a bad mood due to a head cold and stewing over some grievances I'd had with him in recent weeks, I jumped on him and challenged what he'd said. How dare he put down the veterans! After all, my father was one, he'd been a chaplain at a field hospital in WW2 and was awarded the MBE for his compassionate service. That was probably the first time I challenged A. I was very cross at him and let him know. The evening wasn't going too well, not our usual fascinating conversations. He could be so controlling and critical and I wasn't about to let him get away with it.

Later on, he was using my computer to check his e-mails as I stewed in the living room. There was no way he was going to leave my apartment that night without me confronting him on the issues I was upset by -- his criticism of me, rude behavior and the many times he'd hurt my feelings.

Afterwards we were watching late TV and then before he got up to leave I confronted him. He was shocked. What? Him hurt my feelings? How? When? He'd NEVER do that, he said. After all, he considered me like a member of his family!

How petty things sound when you try to describe them. I felt like an immature school-girl, yet I knew I had to explain what it was (and how often) he had said or done things that really cut me to the core. I chose to bring up an incident that had happened a few weeks before and of course got a full explanation of why it had happened (if he'd explained these things at the time I might have understood -- still the evening in question he really was being thoughtless and rude to me!) He asked me to call to his attention any time there-after that he was rude or critical of me. Did I? Yes. Did it ever change things? No. It was all part of the man's nature, and when I observed his interaction with others, in cluding family members, and got to know them better during his hospital stay, I realized that was the way he was. Yes, he DID treat me like a member of his family. And I see now that perhaps the reason why he felt free to criticize me was because he trusted me and I was his peer.

In the end of course, before he died, he had made amends. But what a shame that he had not done so long before. Yes, I'm sure he had many regrets, just as I do.
And today, remembering that evening a year ago I wish I'd spoken up sooner, said more to him. But we had parted on friendlier terms that evening though there were things that still hung heavy with me and for the next couple of months I was often upset with him. One thing I realize now was this: He was likely ill even back then. For sure from January of 2005.
And that dark cloud he seemed to have enshrouding him so often was perhaps not his own melancholy and negative spirit, but the fatal doom of the cancer that was secretly eating away inside of him.

It's good to write these thoughts down. One must remember not only the happy times, the loving times, but also the difficult times. There are many regrets. He said, that week before he died, that he'd had a feeling for me from the first time he'd seen me, and that he really truly did love me. So why wasn't he able to make more time for me, to spend more of those lovely, rich evenings we used to have, talking and philosophizing?

But...it's time to let go now. A time to remember the man for what he was and what he gave me. There was so much I learned from him. And now he is gone, I feel such a terrible loss.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A MUSICAL TRIBUTE

MONDAY, November 7.

Yesterday a pena was held for Anibal at a small Chilean restaurant. Luckily my friends has reserved a table as it didn't take long before the place was jam-packed, wall-to-wall with people, mostly from the Chilean community, who had come to pay their respects to A. and his family.

His friend H. had arranged a beautiful musical tribute for him, so there was a variety of Chilean musicians providing a wonderful afternoon/evening of song and instrumental music.
It was a happy event, although there was an aura of sadness at the loss of our dear friend. At one moment, when they were playing one of his favorite songs, I broke down and hid my face on Suzaki's shoulder. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop crying and tried hard not to make a drama so perhaps nobody noticed. I know it will be hard for quite some time, when I go to the LQ and hear those songs. One bolero in particular always gets to me because I have a memory of dancing it with him while he translated the words to the song. I loved to dance with him although it didn't happen that often. I always felt as if we 'fit' somehow. He loved to sing and recite poetry and he was an exceptional dancer. Usually he was just playing the music (percussion) and singing with the band so he didn't always get chance to dance. But I recall a party at my house when he was showing a friend's daughter how to dance the proper steps and it was quite remarkable how good he was at it. I also know he was a musician for all his life, played the guitar and percussion instruments. I have a clear memory of the day he told me he'd lost his guitar at the pawn shop as he didn't have the money to collect it. He was heartbroken as it was part of his life, but he was too proud to ask friends for money to get it, even his best friend H. If I had been able to for sure I'd have helped out, but he knew that I was usually as 'poor' as he was.

Music was his life, as was literature (writing and poetry). So it seemed fitting that H. would have arranged this musical tribute. I think we could all feel his presence there, see his dazzling smile and although there was no room to dance in that little cafe, surely he was dancing and singing as he watched us celebrate his life.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

MUSIC ON A RAINY AFTERNOON

THURSDAY, Nov 3

It's been a rough week what with the window-smashing incident (no, it's not fixed yet!) and the funeral on Tuesday which I managed to get through quite well. The rain has been pelting down (like the sky is crying along with me) and it's cold. Somehow the plastic and blanket over the window has kept the draught out but so far these incompetent landlords haven't fixed it. I'm preparing to take action!

Today I had a Memoir class downtown. Patrick met me and we joined a couple of the women for coffee and sandwiches afterwards. Then Bee suggested we go back to her place so that Patrick could play the piano for us. She lives in a luxury apartment near the Park and there is a large lobby room with a grand piano that nobody ever plays. So MJ, Bee, Patrick and I went there and while he gave us an impromptu piano recital we lounged on the posh setees and enjoyed! Meanwhile the rain was pouring down outside while we listened to the beautiful improvised concert that Patrick performed. He 's amazing.

Then we trooped up to Bee's posh 11th floor apartment and sat around drinking wine and talking for awhile longer. Afterwards Patrick and I walked through the park and along the seawall back to get our bus. It was wet and cold but rather mystical, with a thick haze over the Bay so the ships anchored out there were barely visible, like ghost ships, as was the skyline across the Bay, and the water was so still it appeared as though we were looking down on clouds.

I was half drenched by the time I got home, but it was a pleasant afternoon, and something I needed. I'm feeling so broken-hearted, trying not to dwell on the great loss I feel, and diverting myself whenever I can. Unfortunately, I'm coming down with a chest cold, likely because I've been 'down' myself. So I must try to doctor myself a bit as I don't want to be sick. There's still more events happening this weekend, including the pena for Anibal at the Chilean restaurant.
I wouldn't want to miss that. And the lady phoned from the tropical bird sanctuary saying they have a bird for me so I hope that soon I will have another little feathered companion to keep me company.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

AN EMOTIONALLY SHATTERING TIME

TUESDAY, November 1

Yesterday was one of the hardest days yet -- a day when the full realization came that A. is gone and I'll never see him again (except in my dreams and memories). We went to the viewing and that was a little easier than I'd thought because really, it wasn't him there -- it was a thin shell of a stranger, not the vibrant, smiling A. that we all knew. But on an off all day and later during the night I felt devastated.

Friends came over for the evening -- a pot-luck Hallowe'en party and video night (that great movie "Ed Wood", so appropriate for the night.) Fun and having good friends with me helped distract me from my grief. Then, something absolutely shattering happened.

It was 2.30 a.m. I was just checking my email before going to bed. Suddenly a loud BANG! which sounded to me like a gunshot, and my whole bedroom window shattered into hundreds of pieces of sharp glass shards scattering everywhere. I jumped up immediately and dialed
911 for the police, then went to look outside. I'd heard a woman's voice shouting and footsteps running at the time the window broke, but no cars. When the police came, they asked if I'd noticed anything. Til then I'd been convinced it was a gunshot. But when we looked there was a brick, right behind my computer chair, and the whole bedroom was full of shattered glass.
How that brick didn't hit me on the head, I don't know. And if I'd been in my bed I would have been covered with glass shards. Somebody was watching over me, that's for sure!

We believe it was people from across the street. And today I found where the brick came from, broken off the ornamental walkway in front of my building. Whether or not it was a case of mistaken identity of my apartment I don't know. I only know I was darn lucky to have escaped injury.

So all through the night I kept waking, and every time I woke I was in tears. I cried the whole night through, couldn't sleep properly, not only because I was thinking of A. but because of the scary incident of the shattered window.

Today we attended the funeral. I was scared I wouldn't be able to emotionally stand it. But I surprised myself. No tears. (Maybe I cried them all out last night?) The funeral was tasteful and comforting. Then we all went to his apartment for a little wake with lots of food and music. So this day went well for everyone, just the way he would have wanted it.
And tonight Patrick and I are going to the theatre to see a play directed by a friend. A good way to relax and end these emotionally shattering times.

Monday, October 31, 2005

THE DAY OF THE DEAD -- A REMEMBRANCE

MONDAY, Oct 31 HALLOWE'EN

It is somehow appropriate that today is the viewing of my friend, that this weekend was the 'Day of the Dead" celebrations in many countries including Latin America. And his daughter told me today that every Hallowe'en he'd take the grandchildren out trick-or-treating. She said he loved Hallowe'en. Me too. It's always been a spooky but fun time for me. And tonight, I've invited friends over for a pot-luck video night to celebrate -- a 'day of the dead' remembrance. We're going to watch that marvelously funny film "Ed Wood" which seems oddly appropriate.

Patrick and I passed by the apartment today and had a little visit with his daughter and wife. Patrick had brought them gifts from Germany -- the gift he'd brought for Anibal (classical music) he gave to Anibal's wife and there was a box of special sweets for the rest of the family. They were so touched, both were in tears. Anibal had talked to them about Patrick, told them that he had an 'angel spirit' in him (true!). He would have been so touched to know that Patrick made a special trip from Germany to see him. But of course, he is looking in on us and I'm sure he will know, somehow. A shame though, that Patrick will only get to see him for this last time at the viewing tonight. And tomorrow is the funeral. But at least he has gotten to know the family and this is truly special for him as it has been for me.

I have bought a white rose to take. I'll write on the card this line from "Hamlet"
" Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

To tell the truth, my heart is breaking. It's just beginning to sink in, the reality. He's gone and I'll never see him or talk to him again. Dear, dear Anibal, I loved you so much!

Friday, October 28, 2005

PINK ORCHIDS FOR A BLUE LADY

FRIDAY, Oct 28.

Yesterday, one of the ladies at my Memoir group brought me some beautiful magenta pink orchids. She said she'd seen them and knew she must get them for me. When I told her about my friend's illness and impending death, she said then that she knew there had been a real reason why she had bought them so spontaneously. And true, it was an appropriate gesture, which I really appreciated. I meant to write this entry yesterday, but didn't because I had a class last night. And this morning, I got the call. Anibal died at 8.15 a.m. today in the arms of his loving family. He has gone peacefully to that beautiful garden full of flowers that he described to them where he said people were waiting for him. He was alert enough to squeeze their hands, just as on Wednesday he had been alert enough to recognize me, say my name and smile at me. It's that smile of his that I will always remember.

Be at peace, dear friend. You were loved and will be missed by many. When I hear that music you loved so much I will remember you. But I'll try to keep on dancing and smiling back at you. You would want that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

STARTING THE NEW WEEK

TUESDAY, October 25
Yesterday I accidently posted my writer's blog on this site, but I decided to just leave it here and recopied it on to "Living the Writer's Life" as well. It was quite a strenuous and exciting weekend and I'm all recovered now, ready to start this new week fresh.

Something troubling, though...I went to visit A. yesterday and he seems to have taken a turn for the worse. I hope it's just one of those 'bad days' but it looked pretty grim. I promised to visit again today but I'm stalling off til later. It's so emotionally draining, keeping the 'stiff upper lip' and all that (yesterday his daughter told me how they'd been talking about me -- how I'm always so positive when I come to visit. She doesn't know about all the times I cry when I get home.) This weekend my German friend Patrick is arriving on a special trip to visit A. so I hope and pray that he will rally again before then. It is meant to be a huge surprise to boost his spirits but the last couple of times I've seen A. he's been out of it -- the meds are muddling his brilliant mind, not eating properly and distressed and depressed. It's such a tragedy!

One good thing this week is the end of the teacher's strike, so tomorrow I can resume teaching my night school classes and the money will once again come trickling in. I've somehow managed to get through the past two weeks with generous donations from Guardian Angels and yesterday a friend paid me back some money unexpectedly which I'd forgotten I'd loaned her. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Today, I joined my former grad class ladies for our monthly luncheon. One of them fronted me enought to buy lunch which was generous of her. I will be so glad to get out of this deep financial hole I seem to have plunged into since the summer. But it's pretty clear now that I am NOT going to get any more daycare calls. It seems I am 'retired' now whether I wanted to be or now. Funny business going on there. I had a talk to with a co-worker and it's the same old story -- the director seems to be pushing out the long-time staff in favour of her relatives and other Asian girls much less (or not) qualified. An unhealthy situation but I've seen it happen over and over again in daycare. And that's one reason why I gave up working full-time some years ago.

Anyway, I have lots of work to do with my writing, trying to finish my novel and get some more travel stories written. So it's a matter of disciplining myself to get busy and focus on the task at hand (which I should be doing at this very moment!)

Monday, October 24, 2005

A WEEKEND IN LITERARY LAND

"You can declare at the very start that it's impossible to write a novel nowadays, but then, behind your back so to speak, give birth to a whopper, a novel to end all novels."
Gunter Grass (1927 -) The Tin Drum (1959) bk 7 "The Wide Skirt"

This weekend was the Surrey International Writer's Conference (www.siwc.com) and I was a volunteer (mainly because, being a poor full-time writer I can never afford to attend it otherwise.) I was thrilled with the jobs I was given: to introduce several of the authors and agents for their workshops. I was also able to attend a few of the workshops where I was either a door monitor or just sitting in. I made a lot of notes, and will include them here to share the information with you other writers who sometimes visit my blog site.

I introduced Deirdre Knight of the Knight Agency. This is what she had to say about the Author/Agent Relationship:
There will be several good agents, so start with the right person. Keep a good personality fit. You want someone who likes the full scope of what you are doing. Agents are the managers of your careers. Regarding blogs: Blogs help you equip yourself better.

I monitored and sat in on an exception lecture by Michael Slade, crime/suspense writer. Interestingly, this is his pen name. He also co-writes with his daughter. He used to be a lawyer and is a dynamic speaker as well as a high-impact writer!
Suspense: How to Avoid the Mistakes That Break It.
Keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Start with action, explain later. Hook the reader with the first line. Every chapter ends with a hook too.
Write the last sentence in the book before you write the first one. Then you know where the payoff goes and the plot will all move to this point.
Make it tough for your hero. Give him a worthy villain.

I introduced a B.C. author who writes Memoirs. This is what Luanne Armstrong had to say:
Memoirs are a best-selling genre these days. You can make a brilliant story out of ordinary life. ("Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard was an example of this.
Attention to details is important in a memoir. Involve the reader. Turn the focus on to ordinary things. The memorist's job is to get under the story: What happened? Why? Ask yourself "What is the story beneath your story?"

At the workshop for "Why Anne Boleyn is the Poster Girl for Historical Fiction" I introduced agent Irene Goodman. She told us: The story must capture the imagination of the reader. Write with authenticity. Write what comes from the deepest part of you.
The time for historical fiction has never been better than now. Her agency looks for stories with strong, interesting women heroines drawn from real historical characters. (The agency also handles other genres.)

It was quite a thrill for me to be chosen as the introducers for three best-selling authors:
Jean Auel, Diana Gabaldon and Terry Brooks for the workshop: "Worlds that Were and Worlds that Might Have Been" This was a panel discussion with a lot of input from the audience. Here's some of the comments the authors made:
Terry Brooks, author of the best-selling Magic Kingdom series -- "The Sword of Shannara" etc.
On World-building: It has to resonate in a way to make sense. There must be a level of believablity - a willing suspension of disbelief. He says he outlines everything but doesn't necessarily do a lot of research.

Jean Auel ("The Earth's Children" series, most notably "Clan of the Cave Bear")
says she starts with a story idea, researching and makes lots of notes, and then makes a bare outline. She is still using the origianal draft of "Clan of the Cave Bear" to build on her newest novel in the series (book six).

Diana Gabaldon, author of the best-selling "Outlander" series, warns that researching can be a pitfall for historical writers. (Be careful you aren't just researching and not writing!) Research and writing feed off each other. Interesting pieces of information can trigger plot ideas.
She writes in bits an dpieces (randomly) rather than in a linear way.

They all said: Keep working at something! You need to keep writing! Trust your instincts!

Both Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte, a B.C. writer, are very popular presenters at the Surrey Conference. I was pleased to be able to introduce Jack Whyte for his interesting workshop on "Description". Jack Whyte has a series of books about the Arthurian legends and Roman Britain and is currently writing a series on the Knights Templar. One thing he emphasized was: Don't over-describe. Description is crucially important. Set the scene and sescribe what is visually relevant. In "telling" you have to "show" Don't use complicated words. Keep it simple. Don't give too much detail. Leave something to the reader's own imagination.

I also attended a workshop on Blogging: A Writer's Tool by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor.
Blogging helps you break out of writer's block. It keeps you in touch with other writers and puts your words out there. She says she always replies to comments on her blog site!

I sat in on two workshops with author Jessica Morrell. One was "Nail the Ending" in which she pointed out: The final lines are important. Make your ending satisfying to the reader. Spectacular endings may seem false. Keep your work true to itself.

In the lecture : "Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches -- Bad Guys in Fiction" she suggested:
Work on the back story of the antagonist or villain. Create a plot so the secrets of the back story come up toward the end of the story. She went over the various types of antagonists and their personality flaws, traits etc. She said an unlikeable antagonist is difficult to pull off and has to have an extreme personality. (such as Don Corlioni). Anti Heros are somewhere between villain and protagonist and often seen as an outsider. (Willie Loman). Is he redeemable?
Multiple point of view works best when you have unlikable protagonists in your story. The come-uppance in your story can't be contrived. Usually the unlikable character brings himself /herself down. Show your characters are like us, not unlike us, by presenting their back-story. Where did they go wrong? What made them into the kind of person they are now?

I found this workshop relevant to my own novel in that I have a multiple point of view with many of the historical characters portrayed as anti-heros - and one distinct villain! In fact, I created a couple of fictional 'heros' for my novel because so many of the key players in the fall of Alexander's dynasty were anti-heros or antagonists. This particular lecture also gave me some good insights and ideas for strengthening the real heros of my novel. I have also built up the characters of several of the women involved because historians gave them bad press and in researching their lives I realized what strong women they really were. In fact, there's a couple of them who deserve books of their own!

It was a great conference and I was so glad I was able to participate, although it would have been even more excellent had we been invited into the lunches (especially the genre lunch) and dinners. We did manage to schmooze a ticket for the Saturday dinner with the keynote speaker award winning author Jennifer Cruisie. And on Sunday we sat in on the keynote address by Diana Gabaldon who is a delightful person.

I came home yesterday (Sunday) totally exhausted, my head full of ideas, burning with inspiration. So this week I am determine to focus entirely on my novel writing, although I'm happy to learn the teacher's strike is over so my night-school classes will resume this week too.
Lots to write. So little time! Better get to work right now!

"Really, the writer doesn't want success. He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall - 'Kilroy Was Here' - that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see."
William Faulkner (1897-1962) From "Faulkner in the University (1959) session 8


Thursday, October 20, 2005

THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT!

THURSDAY, Oct. 20

The on-going teacher's strike is now managing to completely muck up my life. Although I have been in solidarity with their cause (and now so are a number of other unions, causing general strikes in various areas of the province) it has now dragged on for two full weeks. I am informed by the VSB that if it doesn't end by the 27th the entire Fall night school program will be cancelled. As it is, I've been out of work for two weeks now (though last week at this time I was very sick and would have had to cancel anyhow). This means, of course, no pay. I was expecting a substantial cheque over the weekend and otherwise would have had the foresight to set some extra aside (what, I don't know, as I am constantly living on the edge and frankly I'm sick of it!)

Besides the schools being closed, I was unable to go to waterfit this week as the pools and fitness centre and library are also closed at my community centre as it's part of the school.
This weekend I'm introducing writers at the writers' conference, an assignment of great honour for me. Then I heard that tomorrow all the CUPE workers are striking in solidarity with the teachers. They claim this won't affect transit but you can bet it's bound to as I would imagine a number of the drivers won't cross picket lines. It's imperative I get out to the suburban hotel where these events are being held and I can only get there by sky-train/bus. Fortunately my friend Suzaki is also volunteering and has kindly offered to let me stay at her place tonight as she has a car and lives near the hotel.

I stopped by the bank this afternoon to collect my last $20 and discovered that I am actually overdrawn because I forgot about my apartment insurance. This was about the last straw! I was walking home feeling very despondent wondering what the hell am I going to do, penniless for the weekend (and informed we volunteers don't get supper provided as I'd thought we would). Who came bouncing along toward me but J.P. the French chef who has indeed become my Guardian Angel. He greeted me with his usual sparkling smile, hugged me and asked how I was. I moaned a bit, complained about the strike and all. He said "Oh, you need money?" and whipped out a fistful of bills, insisted I take them. It was a lot of money! I said I couldn't possibly take that much. He said to take what I needed and when I was only going to take $20 he insisted on me having more. $60! Wow! I was speechless. Said I'd pay him next week, but he said not to worry. I swear this guy has been put on earth to look over me. This is not the first time he has come to my rescue, the first being the very first time I met him, the night I had my wallet stolen. He is really a special person and a true Knight in shining armour coming to help the damsel in distress. I had wondered recently if chivalry was dead. But I can see that it really isn't!

Now, hopefully the strike will end. soon. Because if it doesn't, I'm out of work until January!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

FIGHTING THE FLU BUG

THURSDAY, Oct 13

I've been so ill the past couple of days I had to cancel a few events including my Memoir group. My other two night school classes have been cancelled due to the teacher's strike. But one important thing I needed to attend was the orientation for volunteers for the Writer's Conference next week. I couldn't even get out of my bed so I was unable to attend and hope that doesn't cancel me out as a volunteer. (I see they have me down to introduce a few of the presenters/authors so that will be a great opportunity!)

As soon as I got sick, I realized that perhaps this is why my friend A. has been feeling so ill since he got home from the hospital. All his symptoms sound similar. I hope that's what it is and not something far worse. He was doing well in the hospital but since arriving home last Friday he has been steadily sinking into a deep depression and saying he didn't feel well. He can't afford to get any bugs because of his serious condition and no doubt his immune system is right down.

It's unusual for me to be sick too and I can remember when the last time was that I felt so grim. Hopefully by tomorrow it will have passed. At least today I'm able to be up and about. Yesterday I couldn't even leave my bed.

Friday, October 07, 2005

KEEPING MY NOSE TO THE KEYBOARD!

FRIDAY, October 7

Today is a writing day and just as soon as I make my (late) breakfast I'll be here at the keyboard writing away! It's another gray, wet day so good to stay indoors although later I must hike up to the Drive to buy the groceries for the Thanksgiving dinner I'm having Sunday.
I've invited my son Steve, his wife Sue and two bachelor friends, my Havana Buddy and George.

My friend is coming home from the hospital today so that will save me a lot of trips downtown as he lives just around the corner from me. I pass by his place nearly every day at least once and I have an invitation to drop by any time. It's so much more convenient and it will be much better for him to be in his own environment among friends and family members.

Tonight is my son's early birthday bash at the bistro where he hosts the Blues jams, so I'm meeting Havana Buddy there and a couple of girlfriends. It's sure to be lots of fun. It will be another busy weekend as far as social events go and I also intend to write as much as I can. I'm not feeling so stressed or distracted now so it helps me to concentrate more on my creative endeavours.

Night school and Memoir classes went well this week but now the teachers have gone out on strike it means that next week's night school classes may be cancelled. The VSB has promised to add more days on the end of each session to make up for lost time. We have to honour the picket lines and support the teachers who have been bamboozled once again by our dictatorial provincial government who has 'ordered' them not to strike. They're doing it anyway. Bravo for them!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I NEED TO WRITE!

SUNDAY, Oct 2. Another cold rainy day on the Wet Coast. We got teased with a couple of days of sunshine and last night that all ended. Looks like it's socked in for awhile now. Autumn is definitely here!

I have been itching to get back to work on my novel all this week after making several pages of notes but between classes and hospital visits I haven't had a moment when I could sit down and get my head around it. Usually I get myself going on the weekend, but this one has been busy. After getting an S.O.S. call from A. yesterday because he was lonely and wanted company, I dropped all my agenda and headed downtown. Was a bit dismayed with the other woman showed up as well. Seems he'd also called her. However I out-stayed her and was there til late afternoon when his daughter arrived.

Today I intended to get errands and chores done that I hadn't done yesterday. I didn't even go out last night I was so exhausted. So this morning I got the summer clothes put away and should have ditched a lot more than I did. Really, is it necessary to hang on to so many old t-shirts? I need a whole new wardrobe but can't afford one right now. If I chuck out all the 'old' clothes, that will be practically my entire closet. So I have to wait....again....

Instead of writing today I ended up meeting my friend Radio Girl and going to our favorite coffee bar for a late lunch and a long chat. The place was packed with rainy-day folk who had the same idea as us. We had an exceptionally great lunch with Italian sandwiches and a plate of appetizers, latte, etc. And spent some pleasant time flirting with a little pinky baby who was sitting next to us. Later went shopping and then walked home in the downpour. Not a nice day at all, but we made the best of it and had fun.

Now I feel the need to write, so I am hoping I can focus this evening and get back to where I'd left off last week. I really need to seriously discipline myself now. There's just been too many distractions and some of the time, when I was feeling so down, I couldn't write.

So, just writing in the blog is a start. Get's the creative juices flowing. And I hope this little conversation with myself does the trick!

Monday, September 26, 2005

BEING KIND TO MYSELF

MONDAY, Sept. 26

I stayed in all day today and actually got some writing done. It felt good to be emerged in the novel again, that other distant world with the characters who are now like old friends.
I didn't even notice the weather outside was mild and sunny. I needed to stay here, in my protective bubble. Actually I was nursing another stomach ache that started after breakfast. All I'd eaten was yoghurt and an apple so I'm not sure which was the culprit. I'd say the apple.

I worked away with the intention of later going to the hospital. But the stomach ache wouldn't go away so I phoned there about 2.30 and explained I wasn't feeling well and would come perhaps tomorrow, definitely Wednesday. His voice sounded weak and barely audible, but I think he said he was having a better day. I felt bad though, as he was alone, and I know he likes company. After that I kept getting periods of great sadness.

Just before the writer's group was to come here this evening, I got a call from my friend who has been out of touch since I was so angry with her last week. It was good to talk, but I don't really feel things were that resolved as it ended up with the onus being placed on me. Anyway I'm letting it go. No use ruining a long friendship over pettiness and I think I made my point.
Everything was okay at the meeting tonight, friendly though somewhat distant. No hugs, no well-wishes, not one single word of comfort regarding A. Others were more sympathetic.

Still I have such a great empty feeling, a hole in my heart, and I just feel like I want to cry and cry but if the damn bursts it's never going to stop flooding so I'm holding it in.

Tomorrow might be a better day, lunch with the grad class ladies and maybe a hospital visit in the afternoon. And other things planned during the week to fill in the spaces and keep my mind occupied. Then there's the writing. I just have to tidy up these last pages and that's the end of Part IV (yay!) and a whole new section coming up, part of which is pre-written. So it's kind of exciting and I just hope I can keep focused on it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE

SATURDAY, Sept 24

Parts of this week were so good, and parts were really rough. Those rough days are the ones when my friend is suffering. Monday and Wednesday turned out to be good days, but emotionally exhausting. Wednesday was also my first night school class (Prompting the Muse). It turns out they made it six weeks instead of eight and also failed to deliver my handouts to the school. So I was stressed over that as well as the long day at the hospital.
By the time I got home that night I was completely exhausted and ill with stomach cramps.

Thursday I was sick, cramps and flu-like symptoms that have been plaguing me at least by mid week for the last few weeks. I know it's stress but it's also food-related. In this case, the 'comfort' food I ate Wednesday -- a mushroom burger, fries and some pretzels for a snack when I got home from class. So I suffered all day Thursday but had a Memoir class in the moring and a Travel Writing at night. Went straight home to bed with the heating pad.

My apartment is freezing. More hassles with the landlords who refuse to turn the heat on although it is now Fall the temperature has dropped considerably. I have threatened to go to the Tenant's Right's Board if they don't fix my thermostat and turn on the heat. I suffered all last winter with the same problem. They are such liars and cheats.

Friday I was reluctant to go for a hospital visit, but as I had to go downtown I did. A. was not having a good day and wanted me to sit and hold his hand. It's the meds he's on making him anxious and I am afraid they are going to make things worse for him (morphine). I didn't stay long, enough for me to feel really upset. When I was waiting for a bus I started to cry and could hardly hold back the tears.

I had a birthday invitation that night at an Irish Pub and went, t hough my stomach was aching. It turned out to be a very nice party with some excellent people and in no time I felt better. Later went to the LQ though, and immediately got into a blue mood, wished I hadn't gone there. It was so hard.

Today two friends wanted to visit A. so I phoned him and he was very weak and sick, said he was having another bad day. So we didn't go. Instead, met my friend for coffee, later ran into another friend and passed the afternoon. Tonight, determined to have a good evening, I went with my Havana Buddy to an excellent concert to hear Mariza, a Portugese fado singer. (A woman with the most amazing voice I've ever heard!) Even though I kept reviewing the situation with A. in my mind during the concert, I found myself relaxing and the stomach ache went away. After the concert we went to the LQ and it all turned into an excellent evening.

I am so fortunate to have these kind friends around me to help me through this rough patch. I feel as if I am swimming against the tide, barely keeping my head above water at times. But caring friends are around me and I am safe.

Tomorrow I'm going to surround myself with writers at the Words on the Street Writers/Readers festival at the Public Library. And later my pal George is coming for dinner. He's been so good, phoning me nearly every day to ask how I'm doing. So I know tomorrow I'll be in good hands once again. My life savers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS

TUESDAY, Sept 20

A lot has happened in one week. First, by the end of last week I was feeling pretty down because of lack of money, friend's illness, night school class cancelled and computer crashed!
What more could go wrong. Had words with a friend on Sunday which really upset me further, though Sunday afternoon was great fun doing a photo-shoot for my pal Lyn who has amazingly lost 170 pounds since last year and looks fantastic!

Monday (yesterday) I went to the hospital and spent six hours there, a very worthwhile way to pass the day, helping my friend out and keeping him company. Our private visit and conversations were moments to remember. I opted out on going to my writer's critique group because he asked if I could 'cancel' my meeting. It meant a lot to him, and a lot ot me to be able to stay with him.

Today I felt quite exhausted, emotionally and physically. But before noon came, there were already two answers to prayer: I got a paycheque from the daycare covering the days they hadn't paid me for last week. And a letter from the gov't saying they were raising the rental subsidies for low-income seniors (me!). What a bonus!

My friends MJ and her techie husband came late this afternoon and while she took me out for a delicious Ethiopian dinner on the Drive, Brad fixed my computer....at no cost to me!

Three blessings in one day! I feel so fortunate, and grateful and thank God for answered prayers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

KEEPING BUSY

TUESDAY, Sept. 13

It's good to have lots to do and in that way you don't spend too much time dwelling on unhappy thoughts. Since the weekend there was a remarkable improvement in my friend's condition (which could be temporary but we must always hope for the best). So my visit yesterday was quite different from the one last Friday.

I've been having some good times with friends since the stressful time last week. Sunday my writer gal friends invited me to a lovely lunch at the grand old Sylvia Hotel, in the dining room overlooking the Bay. Later in the afternoon I ran into another girlfriend up on the Drive and enjoyed her company for awhile then got home and had a nice dinner with George and a long insightful talk during the evening.

So by yesterday I felt much better and spent the morning writing. Then I went to the hospital and was delightfully surprised to find A. quite perked up and in less pain than before. The visit was full of pleasant surprised (for me and him) and other people dropped by to make it even cheerier. After I left the hospital I went ot have dinner with my pal M.J. who is such a terrific cook! Then we went to our weekly critiquing goup. I read the draft of what I'd written in the morning and got favourable commentaries on it. That kind of rounded out the whole day for me.

It occured to me that I can not put my own life on hold because my friend is so ill. I have to take care of my own emotional health and if I am so stressed and sad like I was last weekend, then I am unable to write and enjoy my life. So today I got up early with the intentions of going to water-fit, but when I got there the pool was closed for maintenance. So I came home and spent some hours writing again and preparing my program for the Memoirs group that starts on Thursday. Tonight I went downtown to the West End Writers and chaired for the last time. It was a huge meeting, 18 people, many of them new, making a very stimulating night.

That excellent young man Wes was there who I met last year (he was in my Prompt the Muse class in the Spring.) We rode part way home on the bus together. I find him fascinating, so articulate and interesting. I hope we can keep in touch as I really like him and feel he has great untapped talent as a writer, just needs more focus (I think he told me he has ADD).

I just got home and I feel more relaxed than I have for awhile. In the morning I'm going to make some of that special avocado/zucchini puree soup for A. and take it to him tomorrow afternoon. I'll visit whenever I can (daytimes) because next week my night school classes start and I'm going to be very busy. I know A. will understand that and appreciate that I'm using my time doing writer's things, having a bit of fun in between. He knows I won't forget him. How could I? But I also have my own life to live.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

HOW CAN YOU ABANDON YOUR FRIENDS?

FRIDAY, Sept. 9.

A friend of mine who recently broke up with her Chilean boyfriend has nothing at all good to say about Chilean men (my friend A. included). She has ranted on to me on more than one occasion, the most recent being yesterday, advising me to "Forget him. They are all liars. Don't give him your sympathy."

I find this poisonous tirade not only disturbing but offensive. My Chilean friend is in the hospital (in Palliative Care, very serious) with cancer. Should I abandon him?

I think not. And especially today when I went there and found he was alone and suffering so terribly from pain. (Apparantly they are readjusting his meds) How could you ever imagine abandoning a friend when they are in such a plight? I sat with him all afternoon, holding his hand and comforting him through the terrible spasm, in between talkiing and sometimes philosophizing about life. Why has this happened to him, in just three months? Has he done something bad to deserve this?

I cannot imagine how anyone could abandon anyone in this situation. And the attitude of my friend is highly disturbing. What kind of woman is she? How can she be so cruel-minded toward her fellow man just because he is of a certain ethnic background?

Perhaps it's situations like this that bring out the true nature of people. For sure, I am seeing her in a new and clear (not so nice) light. But no matter what, I will not abandon my friend.
No matter how tough it gets, I 'll be there for him, holding his hand and encouraging him to be brave.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A GOOD BEGINNING

MONDAY, Sept 5.

Summer's over, now it's Fall
Quite the nicest time of all!

It sure felt like Fall tonight when I was walking home from my friends, bare feet in sandals and a light jacket. No buses in sight so I had to walk all the way, freezing!

But it's been a good beginning to this week. Perhaps starting yeterday (Sunday) when I went to visit A. and ended up going to Mass with him, his daughter and grandson in the hospital chapel. That set the tone for this week, I think.

Today I had a two-and-half hour filmed interview with this man from Toronto for a docu about older women and relationships. Rather fun. I talked so much my jaw hurt. Funny!
I wonder how much (if any) of the footage he'll use? I know I kind of look dorky on film but the interview was fun.

Then tonight I went to my Havana Buddy's to watch an excellent docu about Fidel Castro. We also watched a DVD of Arturo Sandoval at the Blue Note in New York. P. had already given me a copy of the CD but to see the concert 'live' was excellent. He basically plays the same sets he played at the jazz concert here. Really excellent music. We also watched several cuts of a collection of Saturday Night Live shows that were very amusing. Drank Mexican beer. Ate pizza and taco chips with salsa. A very nice evening!

When I got home I found out my "Sailing to Hades" article has been published in one of the weekly newspapers and I found it on two sites on-line which makes me happy. Not that it pays a lot but just to finally see it in print is always exciting!
www.travel-wise.com and www.vancourier.com (under travel) It think it also get published in a couple of the Valley newspapers.

So tomorrow I really hope I can get some writing done as well as a visit to my friend. And in the evening I have to chair the writer's club downtown. Might even go to waterfit in the morning if I get myself into gear early enough. I feel like I'm on a roll!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

MUSIC THERAPY

FRIDAY, Sept 2

On Wednesday night this week, the guys from the band that my friend usually plays with on the weekends, went up to the Palliative Care ward and played a concert for him and other patients who were able to attend (most just heard the music from their beds). It was one of the most heart-warming experiences and truly a wonderful and therapeutic thing for my friend.
Several of the group from the LQ attended as well as his family members and grandkids. A couple of patients dropped in, one with his family, and other people stopped to listen. It was great to see A. participating, even trying to sing along although his voice is hoarse right now from the radiation. One thing the event showed us was what a 'family' we are, those of us who are regulars at the LQ. And the warm and loving cameraderie that is between us all.

Today when I went for my visit, he was looking bright and happy and much stronger. Evidently yesterday his daugher arranged for a harpist to come and play for him. More music therapy! Apparantly the harp has been used as a healing instrument for centuries. So he meditated while the harpist strummed. Definitely the best kind of medicine for him.

I went out for some of my own music therapy tonight, but unfortunately my favorite dance partner wasn't there. The crowd was mostly strangers, and it was a strange energy too. But as usual the music was excellent and I enjoy just sitting and listening and singing along.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A NEW WEEK BEGINS

MONDAY, Aug 29

Wow, the month is almost over and soon it will be the end of summer and Fall time. The weather is still quite warm so I hope by the weekend I'll get another swim in the pool by the Bay.

This weekend was pleasant. Yesterday I went to see a lovely movie "Ladies in Lavender" with those amazing women Judy Dench and Maggie Smith. Afterwards my friend came for dinner. When we got to my place she opened her car trunk and there were bags and bags of groceries that her daughter had bought for me. I was so awed by this -- another act of kindness by a generous friend! There was everything from pizza to strawberries! Although I do get my cheques this week, this will certainly cut down on my grocery expenses. I'm ever so grateful!

After dinner and a long talk, I just relaxed for the rest of the evening. My TV is giving up the ghost so I don't watch it much at all these days. Just played on the computer and did X-words.

Today, with money in my pocket (at last! Yay!) I went downtown to visit A. Took him a red rose. It was a nice visit, though he seemed bewildered today, a bit beaten and looking old. But at least he'd eaten something nutritious. And he appologized for not being able to talk as his voice was hoarse (from the treatments, apparantly). While he was sprucing himself up I went to the lounge and had a long and interesting, (also revealing) talk with his youngest daughter. It was good to talk more intimately to her and good for her to be able to express things to me. I think it was special for both of us. As I was leaving he said "I'm going to get well!" Good to hear a positive statement. And I agreed, "Yes you are!" And he thanked me for the rose, and my love and my caring. His daughter and I had a good warm hug, and then I left.

I felt good after that visit and talk. We all have to work together to help him get through this. And don't forget to pray!

Tonight was my writer's group -- always good to be with my writer friends. I've even had a few good laughs today. So it's a positive start for the new week.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A BETTER DAY TODAY

SATURDAY, Aug 27

After the horribly down day all Friday (except when I was writing poetry in the Gardens with the group of poets from Pandora's Collective), I ended up having a much better day today.

Yesterday I could hardly stop the tears. During the outing to the park (you can read the poetry I wrote on http://wynnbexton.blogspot.com ) I was in a good space and the Muse was certainly present. But in the evening I went to the L.Q. to dance and had to keep leaving to go either into the washroom or outside as I was so teary. Especially when the band played that song young William sings which A. had been translating for me last week. I couldn't hold it in any longer and dashed outside, just heartbroken. All during the evening to I was touched by the fact that A's friends kept coming over to ask me how he was and how I was doing. And then the evening took a positive turn when that lovely Frenchman arrived. We sat and talked and he has this marvelous smile that makes you want to smile back. He bought me a couple of drinks and then he walked me home. It was like (once again) he was being my guardian angel!

I went to bed last night just sobbing (in spite of my excellent company going home) and this morning I woke in the same mood but willed myself to get over it. Then I got a nice email from my Havana Buddy offering to loan me money for groceries (which I needed). I am so touched by the kindness of my friends! So we met and then I went grocery shopping and kept running into people along the Drive and stopped to chat. It was a bit late when I got home so I had a late start going to the hospital. I wanted to take A. the poetry I wrote yesterday, also 2 avocados and a peach as the hospital food is gross beyond words.

My stomach was upset when I left the house (as it has been all week). I was so afraid that other person would be there. But she wasn't, just his youngest daughter and grandkids. So we had an amazing visit, such sweet conversation. And in spite of it all he looked good and is keeping very cheerful. They came in to give him his meds and that means shortly after he's nodding off, so I left. But I felt so good. No stomach upset either! And came home feeling much more light-hearted and hopeful. Now I'm cooking a special good dinner (eating late, European style) but it smells delicious and I am going to enjoy my relaxing evening at home. No more tears tonight!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

TRYING TO KEEP IT TOGETHER

THURSDAY, Aug 25.

Maybe this will turn into a record of me trying to keep it together while I wait and hope and pray that my friend recovers. These past days though, it seems as if the situation is pretty grim. There are so many stories, nothing up-front, variations of diagnosis and I am finding it confusing. He won't talk about it straight and his daughter told me if I want to know I'd have to ask him. But reading between the lines, and having had a lot of experience in the past with people (dear friends and family) who have suffered from cancer, I can see this isn't going well.
The other night when I was there he looked fine, perky, happy and eating well. By yesterday they moved him to Pallative Care (ominous!) and since then he's been nauseated and not eating. If he doesn't eat he won't gain back his strength. And putting all the stories together I am beginning to see that perhaps his cancer has metastacized. Tonight he daughter talked about taking him home, getting a nurse in etc. I just don't know...

Our visits are very special to me and precious, considering they might be the last. And I am feeling really uncomfortable about the way another certain person moved right in from the beginning and is acting the role of 'girlfriend'. Tonight when I went there she was sitting on his bed holding his hand, and when she left, whispering sweet things to him. Up until he went into the hospital she had another boyfriend but suddenly she's taken on this new role and she seems to know all the inside details about his condition etc. I don't want to feel jealous or possessive over him but he and I have been friends for four years and I feel that she's pushing it a bit. Even the card she wrote to him was more like a love letter. Well, I'm trying to deal with this in a most dignified way. It isn't right to be playing tug-o-war over this poor man who is so ill.
But I don't want anything spoiling my visits with him. And stuff like happened tonight leaves me feeling very awkward.

Another thing that happened today was when I was having lunch with a friend to discuss Greece she started going on a big rant about Chilean men and said some very hurtful things such as "I don't know why you bother with him. He's not worth it." And other very nasty things. She's had a bad experience herself and seems to be full of poison over it.

By the time I got home tonight I felt a wreck. Just sat out on the balcony awhile looking at the sunset and having a cry. I can't let myself slip into depression over this but to tell the truth, if he doesn't make it I'm going to be totally devastated.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

THIS WEEK SO FAR

TUESDAY, Aug 23

I've been trying to get back on track with my writing schedule this week and so far, so good!
Yesterday I did a few hours work and in the evening the writer's group came so it was my turn to read. I got very useful and encouraging critiques, so today I did some editing and made notes to finish off Part IV. The ideas are flowing now. The Muse is there on my shoulder giving me hints and ideas!

After my few hours of work today, I headed for the beach. Summer's drawing to an end and in another couple of weeks the pool will be closed at Second Beach. I still haven't gone swimming in the ocean though, so perhaps I ought to do that soon. I usually head for the beach in the mid-late afternoon. When I got there today there weren't too many people so I nabbed a deck chair and was able to lounge in the sun for awhile as well as have a couple of excellent long swims. The pool water is so pleasantly warm!

By six thirty I decided to head along the sea wall and caught to bus to the hospital.
A. was sitting up looking very well again tonight. Shortly after I arrived some other guests came too and he was very pleased to see them (the guys from the LQ). I was going to leave but he asked me to stay so I hung out until about 8.30 then left because he still hadn't eaten his dinner and was hungry. The hospital food is a disgrace. He suggested I should write a story about it and I certainly will if I get more info. It's so disgusting his daughter says she'll take photos of it. The meal she showed me tonight looked like vomit! So she's bring bringing him suitable and delicious food from outside and his friend arrived tonight with a big bag of fruit.

So tomorrow is another day at home, writing and doing some errands I need to do (checking up on my own health and well-being). I'll go and visit A. again on Thursday afternoon. At the rate he's going we hope that he'll soon be able to get out. He's finished his radiation now and it's only a matter of time. And, of course, we're all praying for a positive outcome. But it's looking more hopeful at this time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

NEWS UPDATES

SUNDAY, Aug. 21.

It's been a good weekend so far. Friday I visited A. again and this time he was so much improved, looking himself again, sitting up dining and talking. We had one of our wonderful long chats, so I stayed longer than I'd intended as he wanted me to. At one point he was listening to a song he wanted to translate for me and he was actually singing! It was so great to see him in such good spirits. Staying positive and hopeful is part of the healing process and I felt in my heart that he will get over this. He asked me if I thought he would beat it and I said he certainly would. He's a survivor and he'll do it! I pray a hundred times a day that he will.

I'm finding distractions to keep myself from being preoccupied with A's condition. Yesterday I had my good friend George here for dinner. We always have such nice visits and long talks. Our history as friends goes 'way back to the '70's. So I prepared an Italian meal, he provided the Italian wine and we had quite an enjoyable evening. Watched the video of the "Arturo Sandoval Story" which has the soundtrack of Sandoval's amazing trumpet playing. A very nice evening! And I managed not to let myself slip into any sad thoughts about negative possibilities concerning A.

Today I'd thought of going to the beach later on but my girlfriend called to remind me of the Latin Days celebration at the local Trout Lake park. So we're taking a little picnic and meeting some friends of hers there. That should be a lot of fun and no doubt we'll run into a lot of our friends there (Hispanic ones and otherwise). Maybe even do some dancing. (I missed out on my dances with the Greek on Friday night as I arrived at the L.Q. too late and he had to leave.)

So, for the most portion of today I'll concentrate on writing. Got to catch up and keep my mind occupied with creative activities!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

PRAYERS FOR HEALING NEEDED

THURSDAY, Aug 18

After I delivered the reading material last Saturday, I had several phone conversations with my friend A. He tried to explain the situation of his health problems to me but I wasn't sure if he was in denial or if the situation wasn't so serious. He asked me to come to see him. So today, back from my four day reunion holiday at the Lake, I promised I'd go. Then I got an email and also a phone conversation with a friend who'd been there earlier this week. It seems the prognosis is not at all good. He does have cancer and is undergoing radiation treatments.

I went there today, expecting the worst, but it wasn't quite so bad or upsetting as I'd antipacated. Yes, he is very ill, he's very weak but was a good colour today and cheerful.
We had a good visit. I talked to his daughter in the hall awhile. Both of us were nearly in tears. She said "I'm a Christian" and I said I was too. She said, "He says as long as two of you are gathered together I will be with you." And I said, "Yes and He is with us." I told her how fond I am of her father and how I pray for him every day. This is what we must do. Pray that the treatments will heal him. Keep the Faith. Send up good thoughts and positive vibes to the Cosmos. And ask for healing prayers. I believe in Miracles, and I pray that God will provide one for my friend.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A DAY FOR HONOURING HEROS AND REMEMBERING FRIENDS

SATURDAY

When I went up to the hospital this morning to drop off some reading material for my friend, I got caught up in the largest military funeral parade that has been held in this country in many years. It was in honour of Ernest (Smokey) Smith, Canada's last living Victoria Cross winner who single-handedly fought off a German tank unit back in 1944.

I hadn't intended to watch the processional but the Church where the service was held happened to be right next to the hospital. And I'm glad I did happen upon it as it was a moving moment in history, honouring a Canadian hero. When the entourage of veterans passed by there was loud applause from the spectators that lined the street. I thought of my Dad, and how proud he'd have been to attend the ceremonies. Dad was a veteran of WW2 too, a chaplain stationed in an army hospital unit in Belgium and Holland. He was awarded the M.B.E. for his compassion and bravery.

Later I dropped by the daycare to help them celebrate their 20th anniversary. They had a BBQ with entertainment for the kids. A very nice family affair.

I was so pleased, when I got home, to find a phone message from my friend A. who called me as soon as the nurse had delivered the package to him this morning. And since then we've had three conversations. He was very appreciative and asked me to come to see him, which I'll do next week as soon as I'm home from the Lake. He is weak and ill but recovering slowly and it doesn't appear as if he has cancer -- at least not according to what he explained to me. But he's obviously been very ill. So he asked me to keep my fingers crossed that all goes well and that he gets better soon. And of course I'll pray for him also. But it was so good to talk, to hear his voice, to hear him say "I miss you too!"

So now I can go off to the Lake for that special reunion with my grandson and daughter and know that for now, all's well!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

WHEN FRIENDS NEED OUR PRAYERS

TUESDAY.
I've had a feeling for weeks that something was very wrong with my friend A. Before I went to Greece he had confided in me that he was worried and scared about the possibility that he had something not right with his stomach and the doctors had 'found something'. I worried about him all the time I was away because he didn't reply to my emails. But when I returned, he contacted me and I saw him one night, looking thinner but quite well, and he explained he had been in hospital but the outcome had been positive and he was on the road to recovery.

He's contacted me a couple of times since then, said he really wanted to talk to me but never showed up. Some friends saw him the other week and both said he didn't look well or happy.
It made me wonder if things were not as good as he'd thought. But as he's often a dark and brooding man, we also contemplated that he might suffer from serious depression.

He has not been to the L.Q. since before I left for Greece and this weekend I really missed him, could feel his presence around, and so I asked his friend how he was. I was told A. was fine, he had some 'little problems' but everything was okay. That was just a cover-up. Because last night I found out A. is back in hospital and he has cancer.

Evidently he didn't want anyone to know and yet it's important for him to know his friends care and are supportive. Today one of the friends is going to find out more -- what hospital he's in etc -- I'm sure he doesn't want visitors, yet I feel that sooner or later I must go and see him. We need to talk. We'd had a long, though tempestuous friendship. (I loved him more than just a friend. ) When I got back from Greece, he emailed me and said he really wanted to talk to me, that I was 'different from the rest'. I know over the past few years we have confided a great many things to each other and I always respected him and valued our friendship no matter how often my feelings were hurt or I felt he was being insincere.

I've lost three very dear men friends over the past five years to cancer. He knows this, and perhaps wanted to spare me more heartbreak. Roberto, my soul-mate/brother/friend died in Athens five years ago of throat cancer that spread through his body. Four years ago my dear shepherd Mitso from the village, who I loved so much, died unexpectedly of lung cancer. This April, right before my trip to Greece, my other buddy Graham died suddenly of colon cancer.

These are just some of the recent deaths of friends and family members, and mostly all from cancer.

I believe it's terribly important for people who are ill with this disease to try and keep a positive outlook and fight with all their strength to beat it. A. needs to know his friends care and are praying for him. I am feeling very sorrowful about this news. Because of circumstances, I've tried to put him out of my mind, move on, but deep down I knew it was not possible to abandon him and now more than ever I feel a need to see him, talk to him, pray for him. I don't want to let him down in this very serious time of need.