Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How lucky can you get?

We’re mere days away from Superbowl XXQVCII. (Or something – seriously I have no idea which year this is; I was going to look it up, but really, why bother? If you care, you know… if like me you could go the rest of your life without ever hearing how much Pepsi is paying for a thirty second spot, or which inappropriate, non-football related pop star – Janet Jackson? Please. Jessica Simpson – umm whaa? - is going to perform at half time, then knowing how many years in Roman numerals this game has been going on is seriously more information than I could ever possibly wish to know…in whatever format you choose to announce it…)
So though I won’t be watching the game, one thing I’m unlikely to miss is the ever-popular aftermath sure to lead each and every newscast for the next 24 hour cycle, complete with coaches and players all praising the Almighty for making the unquestionably correct choice in awarding them the game ball. I don’t doubt there will be prayers prayed beforehand, during, and after – in grateful thanks, or in dazed, confused misery for how things could go so terribly, terribly wrong.
Personally, I don’t pray to God for things. I think it’s presumptuous, obnoxious and actually, completely inappropriate. I want all His energy directed toward the starving, the homeless, the diseased, the abused and the abandoned. And I don’t ever want to be in a position, quite frankly, where my problems are of a type critical enough to move up to a pre-eminent spot on His celestial agenda.
I don’t pray for things. I just… wish for them.
Like last Sunday. (And just to reiterate, God had nothing to do with it. I have it on the highest authority that on the day He was either in church or resting.) I was on my way to meet my friend Tom for coffee, scuffling along through the slush, day dreaming and dum-dee-dumming as one does. And I remember just one clear thought that day: gee – these socks are comfy!
The day before (also a busy day for Him – too busy by far to be keeping an eye on me) the same Tom and I had gone shopping at one of our favourite haunts – the Dollarama! What a place – a virtual Aladdin’s cave of treasures and trinkets – and all for one single dollar! Everything you could imagine – though perhaps not of strictly the highest possible quality – sitting out in huge piles, just begging to be taken home. I defy anyone to go into one of these places and not come out with something. Kitchenware, bathroom fixtures, soap, shampoo, pens, pencils, pads, erasers, reading glasses, make-up, pots, pans, toys, beads, placemats, gift bags… the list is endless.
(Like the poem about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout – who "Would not take the garbage out". She would: “…boil the water and open the cans and scrub the pots and scour the pans and grate the cheese and shell the peas and mash the yams and spice the hams and make the jams, but though her daddy would scream and shout – she would not take the garbage out! ...And so it piled up to the ceilings, coffee grounds, potato peelings, mouldy bread and withered greens, olive pits and soggy beans, clamshells, eggshells, stale scones, sour milk and mushy plums, crumbly cake and cookie crumbs…” and so it goes – on and on and on. I don’t want to give anything away (spoiler alert) but things don’t end so well.)
Not that there’s anything remotely garbagey about the Dollarama – though you certainly can get garbage cans and garbage bags and environmentally friendly poop n’ scoop dog poo bags and rubber gloves and disinfectant and J Cloths and brooms and dustpans and even air fresheners, should the former somehow fail to address the issue, as well as food and snacks and candy and nuts and gum and ashtrays and lunchboxes and Tupperware and crayons and colouring books and hair elastics and underwear and (I swear, God help me – not literally though, you understand) even white and flesh-tone lift-and-separate brassieres for $1!
And socks. Lovely, lovely, squishy, teddy bear textured, terry towel inspired, colourful, delicious, impossibly kitten-soft socks. For a dollar. I bought two pair.
And I was wearing one of those pairs on Sunday – my Sunday-go-to-coffee socks – enjoying their unmatched comfort so much so that I actually thought to myself: “I wish I had a hundred dollars so I could buy 100 pairs of these fabulous socks and never, ever wear any other kind ever, ever again.”
On my honour, that was my wish. And an original one too; I never have wished - and likely never will again - for $100.
Moments later I was in the coffee shop and there was Tom, over at the cash register, picking up his mug of tea (Tom obviously isn’t entirely clear on the inherent purpose and point of the coffee date. No matter – he’s great with so much else) when he saw me and called out: “What do you want?”
“One hundred dollars!” I called back, only to see his face go white. Really. White.
“Say that again,” says Tom, in a voice that I would soon come to associate with incredulousness.
“I said, ‘I wish I had one hundred dollars!’” says I, absolutely mystified at his wide-eyed (incredulous) stare.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a 100 dollar bill.
“This is yours,” he said. “You won the lottery.”
Reader, I swear every word of this is true.
You see, Tom and I had also called in at a Loblaws on our way home the day before to each pick up a few groceries. On the way out, Tom insisted we stop so he could purchase a lottery ticket, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to get one too.
(Normally I never indulge; my father let me in on a secret many years back - the purpose of the lottery he explained, in the hushed tones of one sharing at the very least the key to the ancient riddle of the sphinx, is basically the following: you're meant to lose. Practically guaranteed. When viewed from that perspective, I sort of lost permanent interest in the lottery. And though I will waste money on many, many (many) things, since that day I find it difficult to buy lottery tickets – I hate to spend my money on something that’s pretty much taking my cash in exchange for nothing more than the faintest of faint hopes. It doesn't feel like a very good bargain is all I'm saying - and just a shade magic-beanie if you know what I mean.)
As soon as the tickets were purchased, Tom suggested we agree to share the imaginary millions if we won and I readily agreed. Why not? Even the bare bones of shared hope is infinitely more enjoyable than the lonely, pinched, personal variety.
And Tom’s ticket won. $200 and change. And he couldn’t get down to the coffee shop fast enough to give me my half.
And further, let me be clear on this point: neither Tom nor I are completely rolling in it these days, if you get my drift. Even with Tom quitting smoking and me cutting my own hair (cheap – or just plain canny? I ask you…) we’re still watching our bank balances very, very closely and not in that chortling, hand-rubbing, miserly way of totting up our respective fortunes. More like gauging the rubbery-ness of each and every cheque endorsed. The truth is - I swear, okay, to God - that I wouldn't have faulted him for a moment if he'd chosen to hang on to the whole 200 bucks. It was a casual agreement - we neither of us expected to win - and we both of us could have used every penny of the full amount.
For perhaps 5 seconds I cursed myself for wishing for $100 when $1 million would have been so much more… useful. But the truth is in one moment I had wished for $100 dollars, and no more than one moment later I received exactly that: $100. And I was over the moon.
Coincidence? Maybe. Luck? Unquestionably. Gift from God? Not a chance.
I didn’t pray to God for that money – I just wished for it.

But I do thank God every day for a friend like Tom.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Blogging is like virtually any other activity that takes practice and time – fall out of the habit and you fall out of the rhythm, the swing and even the need to blog.
The last time I wrote was February of last year and come to think of it (as if I didn’t know) that’s when so much else changed as well.
I lost my little life companion, the ridiculous Lily. At the age of 15 and suffering an untold number of conditions, ailments, illnesses and just plain old age, I was with her when she died in the midst of a snowstorm on a terrible day that even now I steel myself from thinking about. She was just so tiny, so elderly, and even with me there beside her, so very alone when she died. Barely six pounds at the end, and moments before in deep distress, when she died her eyes remained open and the tip of her little pink tongue was left hanging down on her greying bib of her now scant hair. I had her cremated, and the ashes and dust and detritus that remain of her now remain with a friend. I can’t bear the finality of that tiny urn. I’m just not ready.
I started work on a long-term project that turned my life upside down as I changed from a stay-at-home freelancer, to a fulltime, riding the streetcar, going to the office career-type gal. Quelle change. I haven’t worked all in a row, every day, in an office (with the exception of much shorter contracts: a month here or there) since 1990. Seventeen years.
But I surprised myself by loving it. I loved the interaction with the others I worked with, the purposefulness of working on an intriguing project every day, the routine it created even as the routine of the job itself changed virtually daily.
I who love being alone so much was absolutely smitten with the idea of working as a team. I became closer with the people I already knew and welcomed whole-heartedly (open arm-edly!) the new friendships with others.
The project is a TV series – 25 short documentaries about people who are changing the world by the way they lead their lives. Big-time philanthropists cheek-by-jowl with little-time, nearly invisible regular folks who are changing their own personal routines to make the world a better place. To say it was inspiring is as clich├ęd as it was true. It consumed my life for months. Long months. Good months. A couple of them great.
The series also supports a dedicated website designed to turn the inspiration of the stories into action, linking people up to a social network-cum-clearinghouse of life-changing ideas as well as action-oriented volunteer opportunities. I was involved with creating that too – and I enjoyed turning my mind to a different sort of creative vision, the sort that required big picture planning and a specific sort of imagining. I find I like “imagining” as an actual work-related activity. I find I’m good at it too.
And the project created friendships and purpose with it. I’m now volunteering with an organization headed up by one of our profilees. I’m mentoring a just-turned 9 year old boy, helping him choose a ‘goal of contribution’ and helping him follow through on it too. I have so many young girls in my life I thought it was time I tried a relationship with a boy and I found, to my delight, a little guy just as quirky, as complex and as lovable as any little girl I’ve ever known.
I found a new life-companion too. The equally ridiculous, (as Lily) Charlotte. A rescue Pekingese (see photo above) with a host of medical and physical issues that only serve to make me adore her and want to comfort her more. (My friend Tom found her on a rescue dog site on the internet – “She's such a loser,” he said. “She’s got you written all over her.”) I was sure when I entered into the arrangement on my birthday back in June that I was essentially signing on for a load of problems, but her history made me want to help. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that far from being an angry, nippy, put-upon victim of years (8) of abuse and neglect, Charlotte was (is) an absolute joy to hold and behold. She’s kind and shy and just wants her belly rubbed and to be given treats once in a while and to lie beside me anyplace I choose to lie down. With the exception of the belly rub part (I prefer a back massage) we’re very much alike.
And I traveled too. To Miami, Nassau and Vancouver Island. Trips with friends, holidays with family, a little time out of mind that deepened my affections and lightened my stress.
But now that stress is back with a vengeance. The brutal economic conditions that have dealt the world such a resounding blow have dealt me a blow as well. Funds for my project have dried up as well and as of now (this minute, this second) there are only vague whispers of possible, potential work. I’m scared. Really scared – as I haven’t been for a long time. Along with everyone else my resources have dwindled – some have out-right disappeared – and as of now (this minute, this second) I don’t know how I’m going to survive.
But at least now I have time to blog.
So I've got that going for me.