three books

three books

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Let's talk about sex baby...

My slightly conservative significant other surprised me the other day when, out of a clear blue sky and apropos of absolutely nothing he said, “Have you ever heard of twerking?” Well no, I live in a bubble most of the time and so, not surprisingly I hadn’t. He then typed a name that I don’t remember and probably shouldn’t say anyway into YouTube and there was this attractive and very amply endowed young woman shaking her generous assets to the music.

Have you seen that very funny Terry Crews commercial for Old Spice with him twitching his chest and ab muscles in time to music? Well this gal can do that with her butt! And, it is just as funny. When I finally stopped laughing and wiped the tears from my eyes it dawned on me that this was perhaps not intended to be a joke. So I actually listened to the lyrics – “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun”. Seriously? I am highly skeptical of the suggestion that his discriminating “anaconda” would flatly refuse to take notice of a skinny girl “twerking” but it is true that this particular gal did have a unique spin on it. Wikipedia describes twerking as “a type of dancing in which an individual, usually a female, dances to music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance.” They don’t say anything about the ability to work either buttock individually so I’m pretty sure that’s special.

But, all joking aside, does this not epitomize the downright foolishness of North American sensibilities that we can revel in blatantly raunchy displays of sexuality while simultaneously resorting to childish euphemisms like “anaconda” and “buns”? And maybe that is the joke.

It brings to mind a book I read recently called, “What French Women Know” by Debra Ollivier in which she talks quite extensively about the more open and matter-of-fact attitude French women have toward their physicality in general. She references French philosopher Roland Barthes who took particular notice of the difference between French and American toys. The American dolls being prudishly devoid of gender or hint of biological function while at the same time (this was 1957) the French toys in his words, “literally prefigure the world of adult functions” and “prepare the child to accept them all by constituting for him, even before he can think about it, the alibi of Nature”.

Ms. Ollivier’s comment was particularly succinct “Could it stand to reason that children who grow up with the realities of the body are primed to be less childlike and more matter-of-fact about sexuality as adults? Could it be that this offsets the extremes in America, where we swing on a vine between hard-core voyeurism and tee-hee giggliness about the body?”

This particular video demonstrates that pendulum swing exceedingly well and if Ms. Ollivier can be believed, what French women know is that it is just plain silly.

It just so happens I have this old Gary Larson cartoon on my fridge which I hope he won’t mind my sharing. If he does I hope he'll get in touch because I love that guy.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mentioning the unmentionables

Rooting through stuff the other day I came across this lovely little art card done a few years ago by my lovely artist friend Carole, yes, the same one I talk about all the time because she's amazing. Anyway, I was enjoying it all over again and considering framing it when I suddenly had a flashback to a conversation from way back when.
Sometimes the most random conversations are the ones that stick with me forever and influence my behaviour in unusual ways. In this one, from some bazillion years ago when I was in art school, I was talking to one of the instructors. I should mention that, since I was returning to school as an adult, the teachers were very little if at all older than me so it was not unusual for me to prefer having a coffee break with them over the rest of the students who were barely out of their teens.
So, one afternoon we were discussing the inexplicable fashion of the time for young girls to be wearing coloured bras under sheer blouses making them look like walking lingerie ads – a cause for serious distraction among the teenaged male population and, as you might imagine, of some concern to the faculty. This particular teacher, an attractive if somewhat reserved looking woman surprised me with her admittedly unscientific but thoroughly resolved theory regarding the features of a woman’s scanties in relation to her personality and state of mind.

The first part of that is pretty much as you might guess. A conservative gal is likely to go for comfort and support – good quality at a reasonable price, that sort of thing - while a bolder gal might just go for a little lift and flash. Which was perfectly fine either way she said, so long as exceptional quality was rigorously observed -this being the number one indication of a person’s self-esteem. Mismatched tops and bottoms, pantie lines and visible tatty straps – OMG what must they be feeling?

Having never considered the ins and outs, so to speak, I was willing to accept her hypothesis, all the while trying to remember what I had donned that day and realizing, sadly that, whatever it was, it was more likely to indicate the former rather than the latter. Sigh. I did however perk up and pay attention to the second part of the theory which postulated that, if a woman were to consciously take control of her undergarment selection, she could in fact deliberately influence her self-confidence accordingly. Consider just a couple of possibilities here.

1.       I’m feeling pretty good, it’s an average sort of day, relatively low stress…Hmmm…comfy cotton says I’m looking swell and feeling confident just the way I am.

2.       I’m a little anxious today, I’ve got a presentation to do. Hey, where is that satin and lace set that says I look awesome under this jumper and I’m gonna kick butt today?

Since that day I have never underestimated the power of panties and just what they have to say about their wearer. I’ve come to believe that she may be right in at least one aspect - good lingerie is a right, not a privilege. Stock up, and use your power wisely.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Is there an app for that?

I missed last weeks drawing challenge which had the theme of "what's that?" (check it out at but I couldn't resist adding a little twist and saying a word or two about a game I frequently play called "what's that word". In fact it was Carole that I was talking to the other day when I suddenly lost some typically common word in the middle of a sentence causing us to ponder, deviate, laugh and eventually extract the word or possibly some other word that meant something similar - whatever - we did eventually get back on track, I think.
Ah menopause! Quoting another friend who suffers the same malady I said, "the nouns go first" which is the standing joke when struggling for clarity in conversation with that friend. Clearly this is a common issue and I think that there is a golden opportunity here for some young genius to invent a phone app designed to retrieve those lost words. You could key in something like - it's that thing that does (blah) or means (blah) - and it would fill in the blank for you. Sort of like playing Jeopardy or a reverse look up dictionary where you supply the answer instead of the question.
But, maybe it would be like spell checker and get it wrong half the time so you'd be dropping totally random words into the conversation as if that were exactly what you meant to say.
Who's going to know?
If you were causal enough you could slip 'em right on by just like that because of course you knew I meant to say casual so that's probably how you read it anyway. Same goes in any conversation when someone uses the wrong word your brain simply fills in the one that makes more sense and barely registers the error.
Just think of how much thinking we would no longer have to do if we had an app like that. No more playing "what's that word" whereby friends and family are just as likely to supply the wrong word also which often ends up taking the conversation so far off topic that no one remembers what you started out trying to describe - and by that time in really doesn't matter anyway. Let it go.
And speaking of letting it go I just want to pass along this little comment I came across the other day which does warrant remembering. I wish I knew who to attribute it to - I hope they don't mind my adding a little visual.

Have a happy day!

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Rational Diet

I really enjoy preparing food but I have to admit that this is a fairly recent passion. I didn't always have such a great relationship with food. It wasn’t an active dislike, more of an apathy that made me somewhat impatient with the whole process. Having to think about what I was going to cook, shopping for the ingredients, stopping whatever I was doing every day in time to do the preparation and finally, cleaning up the aftermath. The only part I held any enthusiasm for was the actual eating and that perhaps a little too much.

So, while I don’t think my diet was horrible as far as Western standards go I knew that was setting the bar pretty low and I was going to have to do some research.

Typically, the minute I set out to “clarify” something for myself I dive into a pool of information and stir up a crap load of silt to muddy the waters. I read about this diet and that diet - some that had a seemingly sound theory behind them, some that seemed completely irrational and a few that were downright silly. I also boggled my mind with good fats/bad fats, good carbs/bad carbs blah, blah until one day I stumbled upon Michael Pollan’s slim little volume of food wisdom titled Food Rules – An Eaters Manual”. Like a little ray of sunshine breaking through the grey mist this brilliant little collection of 64 “rules”, kicked the stuffing out of all the nonsense around eating.

I realized that what I was actually looking for, and what I was going to have to put together myself, was a rational diet (if you’ll pardon the pun). It would have to accommodate my personal preferences, have very few restrictions aside from logical ones and be super easy to follow so I could actually stick to it forever and ever amen. Possible? Yes! Michael was there to help. I’m sure he won’t mind my familiarity because he seems like a thoroughly decent guy who clearly has a sense of humour – he even got Maira Kalman to illustrate the new version of his book and since we obviously both adore her we have that in common right off the bat.

I knew I was on the right path when just about the very first thing I read was, “Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants”, which pretty much set the tone for this journey. Suddenly food wasn’t scary anymore. I was even more relieved when he told me that I could eat healthy without ever knowing what the hell most of that unpronounceable stuff is on the label. Why? Because you shouldn’t put most of that stuff in your mouth anyway – and that, come to think of it is one of the rules.

So I started to think about food in far more basic terms.

Eat Food – I almost want to wedge in the word “real” in there even though it isn’t necessary, it’s pretty clear that I start by eliminating everything that isn’t.

Not too much – yes I probably served up biggie portions of most everything.

Mostly plants – I think it’s fair to say that nobody ever got fat eating vegetables so a minor, or major, shift toward an emphasis on veggies was going to help there. That is of course aside from all the other reasons for not relying on meat as a major food source – animal cruelty, medicating and consumption of land resources etc. none of which I am any authority on but all of which come into play when deciding what to put in your mouth.

For myself I would actually prefer a full out vegetarian diet but my significant other likes meat so how do I compromise? Easy – lean meats from local, healthy, unmedicated animals. It is more expensive yes, but when I stopped to consider the serving sizes that we consider “normal” in this part of the world I realized that I could easily cut the portions in half and increase the veg factor to compensate if necessary. Which, of course, wasn’t really necessary since my “portions” were off by about half again anyway.

I was also in the habit of eating a full, huge meal at dinnertime even when I wasn’t hungry which I’m certain had something to do with my mother and starving children somewhere and clearly could do with reassessment. I thought I would begin by writing down the basic principles I needed to address:

1.   Why to eat

2.   What to eat

3.   When to eat

4.   How and where to eat

#1 – Why do I eat? This sounds like a silly question, I mean we eat to live right? Well no, sometimes the reverse is closer to the truth but while I didn’t actually “live to eat” I often ate for reasons other than hunger. I ate when I was bored, anxious, stressed or sometimes for no reason at all – simply out of habit, like munching a bag of chips or whatever while watching a movie. During all of these times I was hardly even aware of what I was doing.

So step one had to be noticing why I was eating and making a conscious decision as to whether the feeling of hunger was valid. “Food Rules” had a great line for assessing actual hunger – “if you aren’t hungry enough to eat an apple, you aren’t really hungry”. Oh, so harsh, but true.

#2 – What’s to eat? Rule #24 is “when you eat real food you don’t need rules” and I think that is really true so I decided to divide up the grocery list into two categories. First, fresh fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked guilt free at any time provided the aforementioned apple rule was observed. Second, read the label foods which aren’t necessarily taboo but must be approached with caution. If reading the label is impossible see the rule regarding unintelligible ingredients that basically says if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. This is closely linked to another rule that says anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food likely isn’t.

Seems fairly straightforward – real food, mostly plants – got it. BUT, no matter how much delectable fruit I have in store there are times when I crave those salty snippets that taste like manna from heaven but are actually make by the Kettle Chip Company. That’s why this rule made me want to kiss his whole face. “Snacks, seconds and sweets only on days that start with an S”. If you want to be negative you could say that means you can never have another Double Chocolaty Chip Crème Frappuccino on a Monday OR you could look forward to smacking your lips while thinking of the one you had on Sunday - guilt free. I checked it out and sure enough there seems to be some credence to the theory that allowing yourself to have a day (or two) each week to indulge (be reasonable) your cravings actually helps you stay on track with a healthy diet. From a psychological standpoint – deprivation sucks – so how likely is it that you, okay I, will continue to bypass all the temptations that waft across my path forever. Now here is the best part, some dietary geniuses say that an occasional indulgence actually “tricks” your body into stepping up the natural, fat burning functions which tend to slow down under constant low calorie conditions. I have zero expertise in that area but it sounds totally rational to me so it’s in. As Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation”.

#3 – When to eat? In theory it would be nice to be able to eat when actually hungry but in real life I know that I will snarf down almost any “instant” food in my path if I allow myself to skip regular meal times. Worse, if I don’t pay attention to hunger signs until I am suddenly famished I will inevitably wolf down too much food and feel gross for having done so regardless of its merit. Eating breakfast gives me a better chance of making it to lunch. Eating lunch means a higher probability of making it through to dinner and eating a reasonable dinner at a reasonably regular time means I really have no bloody excuse to be hungry in the evening so snacks will more likely be gauged by the “apple” test.

#4 – How and Where to eat? When our children were young we insisted on meals at the table for all the obvious reasons, family time, proper manners, and good eating habits in general. Then one day after they were all grown and gone my husband and I found ourselves balancing plates on knees in front of the television. After ruining a t-shirt or two with salad oil my partner suggested that we return to our former custom and save on laundry. I was happy to do so for a variety of reasons that did not include laundry but when I started to research habits for my “diet” those reasons became infinitely clearer.

There is a Zen proverb that says, “when walking, walk – when eating, eat”. Which of course implies an entire lifestyle and layers of meaning that have little to do with food but in this case it serves to remind me that eating in particular isn’t something that you should be doing while distracted. Setting aside time to eat and turning off television, radio, computer etc. allows you to be fully conscious of your meal – which automatically makes you slow down - which allows time for your brain to catch up to your stomach – which allows you to recognize when you are no longer hungry – which is long before that horribly uncomfortable stuffed feeling sets in. It’s logical so it’s in.

As much as I enjoyed reading and pondering Michael’s 64 fun food rules I knew that I needed to weed that down to a number I could count on one hand if they were going to stick with me. They needed only to serve to remind me to make conscious choices about what I put in my mouth and exercise some control over quality and quantity. So here is my RATIONAL DIET PLAN:

1.   Eat regular meals at reasonably regular times proportionate to actual requirements. This means I actually have to think about my meal rather than load up a plate – a little pesky at first but it quickly becomes habit.

2.   Eat the simplest, cleanest, best quality and freshest foods available to you. Mostly plants.

3.   Eat when eating – actually enjoying food with full attention is not only healthier, it is a pleasure. It also makes me very aware of the value of what I am eating and the reason I am eating it.

4.   Eat snacks and goodies only on weekends, which don’t always happen to be S days in my schedule but the rule still holds.

5.   STOP eating when you are no longer hungry, which is at least a little ways before you are full.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

hats off to Tammy

The host of this weeks drawing challenge is Tammy Lee and she has chosen the theme of "hats" or "caps". The weekly dc is always an opportunity to ponder a concept this way and that and often inspires fond memories. This time I had a flash image of a hat that I had as a child - an honest to gosh Easter Bonnet complete with coloured ribbons that trailed down the back and fluttered in the breeze - yup, I am that old.
What I also remembered is how gorgeous I felt heading off to church that day. I haven't the faintest idea what else I was wearing and likely it didn't matter because my hat was sooo fine.
You don't see so many colourful hats these days which is why this elderly lady caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. I've done a cartoon of her but in no way am I making fun - she was looking (and feeling) fabulous that day.
Visit Tammy's lovely blog for a list of participants in this weeks challenge.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Weekly DC

I have been fading in and out of blog consciousness over the last couple of months but this weeks drawing challenge from Patrice caught my eye. The theme is WATER and I love water. I love drinking water, cold, I love soaking in water, hot, and most of all I love poking along the Ocean shores anywhere. So while I was pondering what I was going to do for this challenge I knew it was something from the sea that would come and it did, in the odd form of a old poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls - The twilight darkens, the curlew calls... find it here if you like.
Reading it you can almost hear the cadence in a deep sonorous voice rolling over you like ocean waves. Delicious. But I didn't feel like making it oh so serious so I decided to have a bit of fun with pop ups.
Funny, the entire poem fit on there perfectly.
And then, because I wanted also to express the reverence I feel in the presence of the ocean I pulled out an old painting, one that is quiet and sedate and really not all that very special but one that has never been for sale because just a glance at it reminds me of the deep blue sea and it's wonderful calming effect.
Thanks so much to Patrice for this great challenge, go visit her blog (see link above) for a look at all the other participants this week.

Friday, 21 February 2014


I know that some people would have us believe that synchronicity is nothing more than random events linked in our minds by the simple fact that we notice them. We tune in to a particular frequency based on expectation. Like when you buy a new car, maybe a Volkswagen, and suddenly you see bloody Punch Buggies everywhere.
Others would have us believe that there is some kind of universal magic involved in aligning elements and/or events either in our favor or against as defined by their nature.
I won't pretend to know one way or the other but neither do I mind, I just really find them interesting and this was one I just have to share.
The Boo and I were walking one afternoon in our second favorite of the small parks in what Boo considers his 'hood'. It is only about a mile south of our place so we go there often in good weather - less so in bad as it tends to turn into a boggy mess when it rains. One of the reasons I favor it in the summertime particularly is because, while trees are sparse in the centre, one end has a dense population of huge old pine trees which create a blissfully cool and peaceful resting spot. We always sit for a few moments on a little stone stairway in the deep shade and refresh ourselves before we face the trek home. That day we angled across to our accustomed spot and crap! At least five of the giants had been removed and the entire area was bathed in light. The little stone steps looked utterly forlorn, squinting in the unaccustomed sunshine.
It isn't often that you'll hear me complaining about too much sun anywhere on this very wet coast but I felt such a terrible sense of loss I almost cried and I wandered on home wondering why this little copse of trees had been so terribly important to me.
Back home I made some lunch and picked up the book I have been reading, "The Sweetness of a Simple Life", by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. I opened at the page where she was describing the health benefits of the Japanese practice of "Shinrin-yoku" or "Forest Bathing". Essentially this is the simple practice of relaxing in a forested area and breathing in the volatile substances naturally emitted by the trees. Free aromatherapy!
I guess I have always known that trees benefit our ecosystem in a wide variety of ways and all air breathing beings especially by taking all our nasty carbon junk and giving back beautiful, pure oxygen. I also know that it is hard to be unhappy when you have leisurely spent time among trees but I confess to my total ignorance of the mechanics of these "aerosols" that I have enjoyed bathing in all my life. To quote Ms.B-K, "many of these biochemical are unusual in their physical chemistry: they can be easily carried abo ut in humid air, but they will not dissolve in it..." "All of them are able to penetrate the central nervous system of the human body and the regulatory mechanism of the brain."
She goes on at some length about the subject but the bottom line is that every kind of tree emits their own particular aerosols and all of them are good for humans. Some calm our nervous systems and enhance our immune systems and some, like my giant pines, even help us to think with more clarity.
So, while I am far too late to save that little area of respite I now know why it was and is so very important to me and to everyone living in large cities to have these areas available to us and to make use of them at every available moment. I will be petitioning the city to replant those trees and many, many more. If you have a moment maybe you could send a request to your city officials also, wherever you are and, if you have a patch of dirt, please, plant a tree!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Good things come in twos

I feel like I have been doing almost nothing lately but in fact what I have been doing is procrastinating on a level never before experienced in a life time of practicing procrastination as an Olympic worthy sport. My friend Anna, who considers herself a master procrastinator, says that I am no more than an enthusiastic amateur but I think even she would have to consider me a serious contender this past month.

While I can't call it an excuse I can say that what has enabled me to dodge all productivity recently is the introduction of several new technological dew daws each of which required hours of mucking about to gain even a modicum of control over. Yes, I am a techno-idiot and until I managed to beat it into submission over many days of poking at it I was almost convinced that my "smart" phone was smarter than me. Also, why did Microsoft have to change EVERYTHING about it's operating system in the few short years between my last computer and this one? Damn.

Anyway, now that those are semi-sorted I found myself looking around for something else to do other than what I should be doing (I'm working on a second book) and help came in the form of two morning phone calls. Yeah, okay so maybe I was procrastinating by actually answering the phone but as it turned out I was blessed with inspiration from each of them. First, my fabulous friend Carole inspired me to get on my new horse and catch up on reading some of my favorite blogs as well as writing an entry of my own - thank you Carole. Also, because she has two brand new twin grandbabies, piqued my interest in having a bit of fun with things that come in twos or pairs of things that may match or just belong together just because. We said no cute baby pics were allowed but what about baby dolls?
They came to me separately but clearly they belong together.
Or these little porcelain lovelies - same but a little different?
Then I started to look around my house and find all sorts of things that came in pairs of two including, I'm not even going to tell you how many, pairs of salt and pepper shakers but here is the newest pair that my sister put in a stocking for me at Christmas. These strawberries with eyeballs go fabulously with my cheekily grinning corn cobs, a pair of smarmy apples and several more ill defined but cheerful pairs of vegetation. What I want to know is who thinks this stuff up? Too funny!
While I was poking about with my camera I was reminded once again that I am blessed with friends and family who forever have the ability to make me laugh (and sometimes cry) and I am very grateful for that, which brings me to my second conversation of the morning.
This past autumn I had the unexpected opportunity to enjoy a series of chats with a man who is a master coach. I confess that prior to our meeting I hadn't the slightest idea what a life coach actually did and I have to also admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the process. What I discovered was that is was somewhat akin to having a close friend dressed in a cheerleader suit asking tough questions and not letting you get away with any excuses. Brilliant! It is criminal to trivialize the process thus and I'm sure that Garry wouldn't thank me for portraying him as a man in a short dress so I won't tell you his name - oops. Hi Garry! What I will tell you is that he continues to inspire me with conversations like the one we had this morning.
I was describing to Garry - a name which COULD be a pseudonym - a video I watched the night before (I am totally addicted to TED talks). The primary point that I had taken from this one was the suggestion that we should reach out to people who have been instrumental in shaping our lives, especially those who may not even specifically know what they have done for us, and express our gratitude. Garry, who knows how important performing random acts of kindness are to me, immediately, and with characteristic enthusiasm, picked up on the idea of Random Acts of Gratitude or, to use his brilliant acronym - RAG 's which rather decisively changes the nature of that term. Nuff said. Let's do it.