Driving Forces


I took Driver’s Ed in highschool.  I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but he taught shop as well (I think it was shop, but it might have been math or welding or something else in which I had zero interest), and I found it pretty dry stuff.   The best part about it was giggling with Colleen every time he mentioned the “exhilaration lane”.   I had my 365, as it was called in those days.   My older brother took my out driving a few times, on Golden Beach Road.  Mum’s old Mini was tricky, plus it was a standard, plus my brother was one of the most anxious, nervous people on the planet.  It didn’t go very well.  I took a road test, but failed.  To be fair, I did drive the car into a snowbank. So, yeah, there’s that.

In the fall of 1982, I moved to Toronto to go to York.  As a student, I definitely couldn’t afford to run a car.  We all took transit everywhere, or we walked.   In 1986, I finished my degree, and in 1987, I got married. My husband drove, and we had a number of cool old beaters, including the 76 Buick Regal;  it was red, with a white landau roof and white leather interior.  You could have pitched a tent on the hood.

We moved to Peterborough in 1990, and had the babies in 1992 and 1994.  That’s when it started to become apparent that I needed to learn to drive. It was around 1995 or early 1996 when I called up Young Drivers of Canada.  They assured me that it was for drivers of all ages.  Maybe so, but I was the only 32 year old in a room full of 10th graders.   I remember bringing my older son in with me once, as he wanted to see where I went to school, and the kids oohing and aahing over him.  He was just concerned with the magnetic demo cars on the whiteboard, and caused several rather remarkable driving scenarios.

I didn’t get my full license until after I separated in 1999.  I failed the road test the first time, but once I finally passed, I never looked back.  At first highway driving made me nervous, but soon enough I conquered the 401, freezing rain, and downtown Toronto.   I felt like a real, responsible grownup, finally!  I’m a fairly aggressive driver, but I’m all about the rules of the road, and I’ve never had an accident.  I’ve never even had a speeding ticket (although I came damn close, but that’s a story for another day).

Now, of course, as some of you know, on the advice of a neurologist, I have had to give up some of my driving privileges temporarily until I get my sleep issues resolved.  This has been a major pain, as I can only drive 15 – 20 minutes at a time, which basically limits me to driving within the city.  I  am adhering very strictly to this, as I have no wish to fall asleep at the wheel and kill myself, or anyone else.   I work out of town 3 days a week, and I’ve had to arrange a rideshare.  I’ve had to give up some aspects of my job, like visits to Her Majesty’s guests at Warkworth.  I haven’t been able to go up to Dorset to see the leaves, or to Muskoka, or to Hamilton to see my brother and his family, or to Toronto to see my own children, or just to shop and visit.  I haven’t been able to run down to Cobourg for an afternoon’s thrift shopping.   I just saw a photo of my niece in her Hallowe’en costume, Marie Antoinette, and I hardly recognized her, she’s grown up so much.

It’s very, very frustrating.   I know that driving is a privilege, and I completely acknowledge that having someone on the road who falls asleep at the wheel is not a good thing.  But my wings are clipped, and I have to rely on other people.  I’m not good at relying on other people, as I’ve always relied primarily on myself.   It makes me feel guilty and awkward to have to ask anyone for anything, ever.  It’s hard.   Everyone is very kind, from my supervisor at work, to my new friend with whom I drive to Lindsay, but I am very, very tired of this.

Unfortunately, nothing will happen until the end of January at the earliest, when I go back to the doctor.   So, I face the holidays coming up with no ability to travel, which really messes things up.

I might just hibernate.

Arf. Rufff, Ruff. Grrrr. Who’s a Good Dog?


Over the past month or so, I’ve spent a lot of time with dogs. I have figured out a couple of things:

1. Although I only really like about 40 – 50% of the people I meet, I like about 95% of the dogs.

2. I’m not good at remembering names and faces, except for dog names and faces.

I like dogs. I like their distinct personalities. I like their sense of humour. I like their pragmatic natures. Most of all, I love their loyal, loving, protective hearts. I’m feeling very squishy about dogs this week.

I get very nervous at gatherings, large or small, particularly when I don’t know a lot of the people there, but if there is a dog at the party, it’s all good. I’m the one in the corner playing with the dog, who doesn’t care whether I’m pretty or if I know anything about anything or if I’m a complete geek. All that dog knows is that I will kiss him and rub his belly and sneak him meaty snacks. I can get to know a dog in about ten seconds, and I don’t even have to sniff his butt.

I’ve never had a dog. My older brother was allergic, apparently. I’m not even sure if this is actually true, or just something my parents made up so we couldn’t have a dog.

Here are some great dogs I’ve known:

George (Great Dane) – my ex-boyfriend’s sister’s dog, an elderly gent when I met him. He thought he was a lap dog and he smelled horrible. An afternoon cuddling with George resulted in immediately laundering everything you wore that day, but what a love!

Muzby (unknown – maybe St. Bernard/Shepherd mix?) – George’s brother. A BIG lovely boy. Liked to bring people sticks to throw, although his “sticks” turned a game of fetch into a caber toss, and you had to be careful if he ran up behind you with a stick, because he could take your knees out.

George and Muzby’s brother Doat. Doat was actually a goat, but whatever, in his heart, he knew he was a dog.

My friend Martha’s lifelong series of dogs, including Max, Ralph, Gracie Wallace, Timbit, and many others. If it turns out that reincarnation is a “thing”, I want to come back as Martha’s dog. It’s a pretty sweet looking life, with lots of long walks, treats, soft beds, and love.

Bella, Linda’s smooth-haired collie, a well-behaved and calm girl who was my cats’ first dog encounter. Grace was ambivalent, but I think Miss Martha Muffin would really like it if I got her a dog. I was surprised on a few outings with Bella at the number of people who asked Linda if she was shaved (Bella, not Linda).

Floyd, who was some kind of super-mellow brown spaniel who hung out with me waiting for the dudes to finish their band practice.

Carly, a slightly excitable, super loving little terrier.

Freddie (basset hound) a former fat boy with a delightfully wondrous nature.

Daisy, Boss and Peggy, three silly, adorable pugs and their big brother Stryker (named after a hospital stretcher frame), a big silly white german shepherd.

Rookie and Lilly, a couple of golden retrievers, Jess, a cute little deaf redhead mutt and Kirby, who is some kinda black dog, all of whom I spent time with yesterday.

I’ve known bulldogs, chihuahuas, standard poodles, English sheepdogs, dobermans, Jack Russells, Newfoundlands and all kinds of other mutts. Almost without exception, I have been completely enamoured with them. And completely without exception, they have huge, wide-open, loving hearts.

About the only dogs I don’t like are “power dogs”. I’m not talking about the so-called “biting breeds”, like pit bulls, dobermans and rottweilers. They can be absolutely delightful dogs. I’m talking about dogs who are badly treated and trained to be vicious. I truly do believe the adage that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. I think that sometimes certain people who, for whatever reason, lack personal power, like to get a dog to put between themselves and world. I honestly don’t think it’s breed-specific. Like us, dogs learn what they’re taught. If the world has been cruel and unfair to a person, they treat their dogs accordingly. A world that is cruel and unfair to humans doesn’t produce better humans, nor do those humans in turn produce better dogs.

I went through a phase you may recall a while ago, when I really, really, really wanted a dog. I had settled on a King Charles Spaniel. I met one at the farmers market a few weeks ago, and she was just as I thought, sweet and calm and loving. I am very aware that I don’t have time to devote to a dog right now, but having a dog is very much on my retirement list. Dogs get you out in the world, exercising, and meeting people. Dogs are the best listeners. Dogs give you someone to care about, who cares about you too, especially when things are tough. Dogs want to protect you, and please you. Dogs never lie. Dogs are true heroes.

I worry, though. Dogs don’t live very long. When our cat Gracie left us after 19 years, I was heartbroken. I still miss her, very much, every day. Cats are lovely, but I don’t feel like they need us the way dogs do. I think if I were to lose a dog after seven or eight years, it would just rip my heart out. I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready for a dog to come into my life for a little while, steal my heart, and then leave.

So, “who’s a good dog”, then, indeed? All of them.

McCarthy-ism Gone Wrong


I love clothes.   I admit it.  I have a lot of clothes, probably way too many.

Thrift shopping has always been the greatest of adventures, even back before it was “hip”.  In the late 70s and early 80s, my highschool days, I was scouring the Sally Ann for mens’ ties, at a dime apiece, to repurpose into skirts; for vintage sweaters, overcoats, and any other cool merch I could get my cheap little hands on.

Putting outfits together fascinates me.  I always like to insert a little unexpected juxtaposition in there.  Menswear elements with eyelet lace.   Pre-Raphaelite cowgirl?  Sure.   Stevie Nicks meets Mrs. Roper?  Okay, let’s try that.

My mother was not a large person, and I think she was embarrassed and overwhelmed by my size.  I wanted to dress like the other kids, whether the clothing was “flattering” or not.  I wanted bomber jackets, bell bottoms, and platform shoes.  She felt I should be camouflaged, mostly for my own protection. As we all know, though, kids are mean, and there’s no hiding being a foot taller than the other girls. “Navy blue is a sensible colour for Big Girls,” I heard.  That turned me off the colour for life.  “Big girls can’t wear (ruffles, pleats, big patterns, horizontal stripes, etc., etc., etc.)”.  Oh yeah?  No one puts Baby in the corner.

One thing I will be forever grateful for is that Mum taught me to sew.  She realized that I would always have trouble getting things to fit.  My mother was an amazing seamstress.  She had a unique sense of style, and after she retired from teaching, she went to work at Fabricland.  I’m not sure whether her motivation was the actual paycheque, or just access to their employee discount.

When I got my first student job, I found that suddenly I had money to buy and make my own clothes.  I wasn’t under anyone’s fashion thumb anymore, and I think I may have gone a little off the deep end.  Dobby is a free elf!  I cheerfully admit I am a boho hot mess:  a swirl of fringe and paisley, a little too much, and my favourite colour is All of Them.  I took the words I had heard so many times, “you can carry off that dramatic look because you’re so tall” and ran with them like Usain Bolt.  Do my clothes “flatter” me?   I have no idea.  What does that mean, anyway?   Hide the parts of myself that I’ve been conditioned to believe are unacceptable, so no one has to be “offended” by seeing my body?   Whatever.

I tell you what – I’ve been fat, and I’ve been slim.  In my adult life, I’ve worn everything from a size 12 (at a time when I was so thin from stress and worry that I made myself ill) to a size 24 when my weight got really out of control, and was starting to affect my health.  I am larger than I’d like to be right now, around a 20, depending .  I’m most comfortable with myself at around size 16.  But regardless of where my size was at, I’m still six feet tall with a 36″ inseam. Surprisingly, that never changes.

So, I have trouble finding clothes.   I shop online a lot, and I have a couple of favourite retailers (One Stop Plus and Zulilly, mostly).   Long Tall Sally (formerly Tall Girl) is very expensive, so although I drop in and ogle every time I’m in the city, I rarely buy very much there.   We don’t have a tall specialty store in Peterborough.  Staff at Old Navy here told me that they don’t stock tall jeans anymore because no one buys them.  Umm, hello?  I am buying them.  I can get them online, though.  Walmart is okay for basic things, sometimes, but I don’t like supporting the Mega Monster Godzilla store.  There’s the plus size specialties, Penningtons and Addition Elle, but often I find Penningtons clothing is not good quality for the money, and I can seldom find what I’m after.

I’ve learned a lot of work-arounds.  One piece bathing suits are out.  They’re never long enough and are torturous to wear.  Tankinis work.  I roll up my sleeves quite often, as they’re never long enough.  I wear more skirts than pants, because pants are almost never long enough in regular stores.  I wear short boots, because long boots either don’t fit my calves or aren’t long enough and look funny.

In short (pun intended), regular stores and regular clothes are often a nightmare for me.  Either nothing is big enough, or it’s big enough, but not long enough, or it’s exorbitantly expensive.  Someone long ago decided that large women really liked synthetic fabrics, baggy styles, and ugly prints.

So, imagine how excited I was to hear that Melissa McCarthy was coming out with a clothing line.  I LOVE her.  I loved her on Gilmore Girls as sweet, neurotic Sookie.  I howled over her in “Bridesmaids”.   I even liked “Identity Theft”, which was almost universally panned.   She’s unapologetic and outspoken, and takes up as much space as she wants to, thank you very much.

I have never been quite so disappointed in anything as I was with “Melissa McCarthy Seven7”.

She stated that her mission was to make the clothes she wanted to wear, to make high-quality, stylish, dramatic pieces for larger bodies.

Everything in the collection, almost without exception, is black, white or grey. It consists almost entirely of baggy overshirts paired with skinny pants and leggings.   And they are not cheap!  Jeans are $119, and fairly simple tops weigh in at between $59 and $89.  If the clothing was truly exceptional, I would perhaps be willing to pay that, but it’s simply not.  I am quite underwhelmed by this collection.

My point, I suppose, is that I always saw her as an icon of body positivity;  an in-your-face, “here I am, ain’t I gorgeous?” beacon of hope for those of us whose bodies don’t fit into the little box that society tells us is acceptable.

I wanted MORE.   I wanted clothes that fit, yes, but FITTED clothes, not baggy tents.  I wanted beautiful details and eye-popping colour combinations.   If she can’t do it, who can?

Melissa McCarthy, I’m sorry.  I still love you, but I’m really disappointed.   I don’t think these clothes reflect your sunny, hilarious, confident, outspoken personality.   I think I’ll stick with doing my own thing.  I hereby give you, me and all of us, permission to take up as much space as we require, and to wear whatever makes us happy in that space.

We the People


My family, both immediate and extended, absolutely confounds me. We’re an odd clan.

On the surface, we’re a disparate bunch. Special little snowflakes we are, no two alike. Our commonality seems to lie in our quirks. There’s a darkness in there, a desperate attempt to continually rationalize our existence. We’re deep thinkers, mullers, worriers. Several of us, myself included, are chronic insomniacs. We’re introverts. We’re hard to get to know, and not easy to understand. Anyone who partners with us needs infinite patience.

There’s a stubborn streak a mile wide, too, which over the years has caused separations, feuds, misunderstandings, and estrangements. Some get mended, but some fester to the grave. I think my deepest fear is that the next time we all see each other will probably be at a funeral, and even then, it will not be okay.

I do not exclude myself from the above. I may be the culmination of centuries of neurotic, existential angst. I am the Apex of Angst.

A colleague said to me once that her family put the “fun” in dysfunctional. I wouldn’t say that of us. It’s not “fun” being like this. It’s torturous.

For me, I leave the door open. If things are to be mended, they will be. If not, so be it. Some of my family are beyond mere ties of blood. All connection is important, as orphans know, I’m sure.

And yet, there are ties, things that only your people understand. There are stories, and histories, lore and legends. There are ancestors and heirlooms. There is love, deep love, for those who have been our people forever. Sometimes your family are the only ones who get it. Home is where you hang your hat, and quite often, your head. We cast off our company manners, our best behaviour, and are our real, true, warts and all, butt-scratching, nose-picking selves. It’s a relief, this idea of “home”, and often the only place we want to be. It’s refuge, and certainly of safety.

Family. You only get one, and you don’t have a choice.



Hey, did you miss me? 

I’ve been away from Blogland for a while.  The things on my mind were not blog material.  I don’t like being super-negative and/or involving other people and/or talking about work.  So, when I’m not on here, you can be pretty sure it’s just because there’s lots of stuff on my mind, but none of it is really share-able.  Yes, I DO have a filter.  Surprise.

So, unless you want boring crap about how cold it is and what I’m making for dinner, just wait.  Something will come.  But yeah, it sure is cold.  Nice to have a blanket or two around to curl up in.  I’m appreciating my duvet, pre-warmed by a trio of cats, and my flannel jammies on these cold nights, for sure.

If you’re on my facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve been thinking about blankets lately, and the idea of blanketing, and what it all means.  It started at Christmas.  Last year, I made this ridiculously huge blanket, mostly because little squares are a good take-along project.  It got OUT OF CONTROL.  It was meant to be a queen-size bed blanket.  Then it turned into king-size.  Then California-king-size.  Then…  well, I’m not sure if there’s anything bigger than that.  It’s a lovely thing, blues and greens and greys, but it’s a monster.

I decided hmm…maybe a Christmas gift for my brother and sister-in-law, who have a very cozy family indeed, and might fill and appreciate such a lovely, squishy thing.  After the fact, my brother told me he had seen the picture I posted on facebook of the blanket, and had been secretly coveting it.  Nice to nail a gift like that!  It’s a bedspread/cuddle-cover/fort-roof.  The youngest has named it the Giant Blanket That Ate New York.  They posted a photo of a blanket fort, primarily made from said GBTANY and another blanket that my mother made for my brother, many years ago, before she passed away.  It gave me a squishy heart-thrill to see that fort.

As I think I’ve said before, Mum was an excellent needleworker.  She made most of my clothes growing up, her own, and my Barbie’s too.  My brother will tell you about a pair of mittens she whipped up on a train ride with him.  Dad wore both his brown and his dark-green Mary Maxim zip-up sweaters on a regular rotating basis.  She could quilt, embroider, knit, crochet, mend…well, I can’t really think of anything in that vein that she hadn’t mastered.  Her “retirement job” after teaching was at Fabricland in Bracebridge.  She loved making display pieces for the store, and I think her employee discount meant more to her than her actual wages.

Back in the early 70’s (in the before time, poppets…), ponchos were the height of style.  I had a pink store-bought one, but my favourite was the crocheted granny-square poncho that my Mum made.  But, styles change, and it was relegated first to a lap-blanket spread on my bed, and then to a closet somewhere. 

When I went away to university, though, my mother took that poncho out of storage, picked apart all the squares, and incorporated them into the border of an afghan.  It’s a pretty ugly afghan, truth be told.  It is, however, draped over the back of the very chair in which I sit right now.  It is a Thing That Has Lasted, and stirs memories, and deep, inter-generational connections that something from a store never could.Image

Another Year…


I guess it’s time for a year-end roundup.

So, this has been a pretty good year, all told.  I turned 50 this year, which I can hardly believe.  Inside, I’m still a confused kid.  But, now I’m a confused kid with lots of experience. 

I got engaged this year.  Never thought I’d do THAT again.   It feels right.  We’re not perfect, but we are good for each other.  We work well together, we laugh a lot and we have each other’s backs.  It’s a good feeling to have someone who thinks about you and your well-being, and also to have someone to care for, sooth and protect from the big bad world.  Den, you are an amazing man, and you continue to delight and amuse me as this “thing” continues to unfold.

I rediscovered painting this year, too.   I’m no Picasso, but I’m getting a lot of personal satisfaction from it.  Regardless of the quality of the finished product, the process is what I need at the end of the day.  It brings back memories of wonderful art teachers, and wordless world of colour, light and form which is a welcome release from my over-active brain nonsense.

On the family front, I continue to be amazed by my sons and their achievements.  Watching these little boys turn into men is incredible, and I am so proud of both of them, their personal moral compasses, and their dedication to society in their chosen professions.  They’re also a hell of a lot of fun, really. 

Also happy that my Dad has found a new lease on life in the form of an old flame.  He’s weathered some health concerns, too, and is doing well.

Also, can’t say enough how much my relationships with my brother Tim and his wonderful family mean to me.  They are a special warm centre in my life, and a visit to them is always life-affirming,   watching the kids grow and find their own grooves.

Still at the gym.  I fall down, sometimes, but I feel strong and well and energetic.

Some changes at work.  Still in the same position, but I feel now like I’ve been heard, and like I’m no longer just a workhorse.  Feeling a little more respected and appreciated, and still so happy with the awesome, drama-free team that I’m privileged to be part of.  Love to all my colleagues.  You are the best.

And really, that’s about it.  Sometimes I slip back, sometimes things are frustrating.  But all in all, this is an amazing life. 

“Only connect.”  Connection and creation, appreciation and love all around.  That’s what matters.


From the Desk of Debbie Downer


So, as we all know, I am the Bull Goose Champion Worrier.  I not only worry about my OWN stuff, and YOUR stuff, I worry on global scale!  Here’s some stuff that’s buggin’ me right now, and seriously, this does keep me up nights. 

1.  Asteroids.  Apparently, sometimes we can’t even see them coming.  I heard this on the CBC this morning.  An asteroid one measly kilometre wide could wipe us all out.  Sometimes they sneak out from behind the sun, and no one even sees them coming.  BOOM.  Buh bye…

2.  North Korea.  Who knows what the heck they’re gonna do?  That’s a hella messed-up place, run by a spoiled little fat boy who likes uniforms and pretending to be some kind of half-deity like his weird old man.  Is he even old enough to vote?  If someone double-dog-dares him, will he hit the button?

3.  That nuclear reactor mess in Japan.  Umm…it’s spewing radiation into the Pacific ocean, ya know.  Just sayin’.

4.  Giant garbage islands in the oceans.

5.  Global warming.

6.  Disappearing bees.  This is totally freaking me out.  Huge numbers of dead bees are showing up.  If the bees go, we go.  All disappearing species, really.  Scary stuff.

7.  GMOs.  There’s people DNA in your potatoes, folks.  Taterpeeps.  NO NO NO.  This should not be in potatoes, it should not.

8.  The next big wave of people-annihilating influenza.  Pretty sure it’s coming, and the flu shot isn’t going to do it, folks.  Pandemic.

9.  They keep finding disembodied feet washing up on the coastlines.  What’s with that?  Where’s the rest of them?

10.  People hatin’ on other people.  People hatin’ on women, on LGBT folks, racial hatred, religious intolerance, xenophobia.  Why the hell can’t we all just play nice?  You be you and I’ll be me and we’ll all place nice.  Want to trade?  I have peanut butter.

11.  Being at the tail end of the baby boom.  By the time I get there, will my retirement funds still be there?  Or will I be lining up the Fancy Feast?  I hope I can have candles and nice china at least, that would make it REALLY fancy.

12.  Overpopulation, subsequent food and housing needs, and the “need” for more consumer goods is taking over valuable farmland.  An iPad isn’t going to do you much good if there’s nothing to eat.  Soylent green is people.  Yum.

That’s my list for today.  Have a happy rainbow sparkle day!