Saturday Quotes

When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightening, or in rain?
When the hurly-burly's done, when the battle's lost and won.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.

Wm Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 1:Scene 1 1-4, 11,12.

Wishing you all a fair and fog free hallowe'en.

A Logger and a Doctor get into a Car

So, what are you going as?


I sent my tailoring to Sigrun, 3 or 4 suits, a few skirts and some pants taken in, and she did a spectacular job. One of the suits was the suit I bought for Gabe's funeral. The suit fitted me badly, and so Sigrun has tailored it beautifully, finishing the corners, tucking in the ends - making it an ideal fit. It is the most remarkable work of sewing I have seen in a long time. I saw myself in the mirror this morning, and I looked and I thought that it was like a new suit.

And yet.

It will never be a new suit, it will be anything, all of Sigrun's care aside, other than an old suit made over. And lest you think that I am in some way complaining, that this is a grievance, it's truly not.

Thinking historically, this notion of made over is not unique. Indeed, it is singularly unique that we throw out our clothes. My mother, she speaks fondly of her first suit, made in Toronto, by a tailor, of solid wool. A suit that was made just for her. A suit that lasted 15 years, and was changed in that time. A suit that became completely hers.

In this day and age, when the notion of bespoke is out for all but the wealthiest of us, it occurs to me that made over is the new bespoke.

I am an old suit, made over. Grieving Gabriel has changed me, altered me, tailored me. I have been trimmed and tucked, stretched, given ease and and short-shift, all at the same time. I am old, made new. Changed, transformed.

And much like my mother, who took her suit back to another tailor, 10 years later, had the skirt hemmed to hide the stain, the buttons and collar updated, I have altered myself. And I will not, for a second, lie to you. I thought when I was pregnant with Gabe, I thought I was buying new, and I did not know about this made over business.

The world does not like made over. We would rather have badly made new from Wal-mart than well constructed old from Value Village. We like the smell and look of shiny-newness. New speaks to us of of comfort, of prosperity, of good times, a bright future. Made-over we instinctively associate made-over with poverty and dour-ness, sadness, the taste of bitter root heavy on our tongues, our worries weighing down our shoulders.

Being a made-over woman has not been comforting. The suit fits me far better than grief and sorrow ever did. I am, in a particular way, a pariah. When I speak of pregnancy, of child birth, and I do, I see looks on other women's faces. I see them and they wish I would be silent. Gabriel's name startles them, they are uncomfortable, and he floats between us, weighing on them, they are uncomfortable with death so close. They wish to continue in new-ness, leaving my made-over self in a silent corner.

Gal wrote on GITW the other day, about being a better person after Tikva's death. And that resonated with me. For all of my isolation, my protestations against new, for all the times that new silences my made-over self, it seems to me, I have some choices in the made over business, my horizons are broader than buying new. New is a fait d'acompli. No, these are not the horizons that I wanted, expected, wished for. But they are the horizons that I am given, and in them, I have choice.

Horizons are never boundless, but they encompass much space. Space is what gives us the ability to breathe and grow, to change, to become.

Tired Today

So, I met Kuri for lunch yesterday, for the Tuesday meeting of the Knitting Philosopher's Club. And I'm sitting down (I had spent so much time talking to the server operating the cash register that my soup arrived at the table before I did).

Anyway, I sat down and Kuri looks at me and says "I have to ask my friend Mrs. Spit(1) for help on V-lookup tables"

And my first thought, honest to goodness, was "Huh. Kuri has another friend called Mrs. Spit? Huh. I didn't know that."

(that bridge up there? Some nice guy sold it to me while I was in SFO. $50 bucks. Good deal, huh?)

(1) Except that she used my real name. Most of my friends don't call me Mrs. Spit. I mean, they could and all, but they just don't.

Speak To Me

Dog the Smaller is lying on the futon, in her mummy's craft room, snoozing away. The other dog, let's call her Dog the Stupider, is lying in the hallway. It is 2 am, and the felines and humans are sound asleep.

Dog the Smaller begins to dream. Her legs are moving, she is running, she has almost got that bunny, and she lets out a really very small woof. A woof that says "Come here little dream bunny, I won't hurt you little dream bunny". Dog the Smaller lies in her dreams apparently.

Dog the Stupider hears this bark, and immediately, with no thought to personal safety or sanity (who am I kidding, there's no thought there, ever) rushes to the front door, and begins to bark.

Woof, Woof, Growl, rotten humans, on my sidewalk, in my yard, rotten humans going to steal my street again, rotten humans, yelling, must bark to protect mummy and daddy, must bark to make sure that no one steals my food bowl. Must bark, bark, bark. Woof, woof.

Dog the Smaller is awoken from dreams of rabbit seduction and sedition, and she hears Dog the Stupider barking, so she rushes downstairs, barking and growling.

And they bark and growl. And finally Dog the Smaller looks at Dog the Stupider and says " So, sis, why're we barking? Huh? I mean I was having this *great* dream about rabbits (mmm, rabbit) and then you were barking and I came on down to help you out, but there's nothing down there, and at some point a bleary eyed human will come down the stairs, and we'd better be barking at something. So, whatcha barking at, huh?"

And Dog the Stupider, well she says "I bark cuz you bark sis. I rushes downstairs to protectz my food bowl and the fridgeratorz the front door because I hear you is barking. Ize a good protecshun dog."

And Dog the Smaller, refusing to look at her sister says "Right, this is the way it's going to be. I'm going upstairs. You can follow me. We.Are.Not.Going.To.Talk.About.This."

And there you have it. Life in the Spit household.

A Friend of a Friend

You probably aren't getting the vaccine for yourself. You are getting it for my mother, who is iummunosuppressed. You are getting it for my co-worker Joy, who is 20 weeks pregnant. You are getting it for wee Ivy that I saw last week, who is too small to get it yet.

I can think of a hundred reasons, a hundred faces. Because sometimes it's not about us, it's about the people around us.

So, Lindy is a doctor here in Edmonton, with a major teaching hospital. And I liked what she had to say:

Hi dear friend!

You've asked what my opinion is re: H1N1 and what to do re: the vaccine. The actual virus isn't the problem -- apparently for the majority of people, it's a "mild" influenza. Although anything that's an influenza still stinks. I've had it once in my life and hope to never get it again b/c I was really really sick. For instance, I wouldn't have been able to get up to cook/clean/hug any children/bathe/do anything but sleep when I had influenza. Of course, you have friends and family and of course your spouse and thank goodness for that.


This is the problem with H1N1. It's a pandemic. No one but the really old (we think that's why the elderly have less of a problem with H1N1 than with the typical seasonal flu) have been exposed to this before. So we're all very susceptible. Which is why we need the vaccine -- imagine if 30 to 50 percent of our police forces got influenza, which is the percent of folks who are predicted to get the virus if they don't get the vaccine. Or 30 to 50 percent of a hospital's staff. Or the folks working the water treatment plants? We need to get vaccinated just so that (and here's the drama) society doesn't stop for a few weeks.

Plus, there are a small subset that once they get ill with the H1N1 virus, get really ill. Those people need to get vaccinated just to increase the chances that they won't die. Seriously. Folks with congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, diabetes, obesity, cystic fibrosis, serious immune system compromise including HIV, and most importantly, pregnancy -- they all need to be at the front of the line for vaccine. There was a place in the southern hemisphere where 50% of the people who died from this were pregnant. That's waaaaaay higher than what would be expected.

You're going to see all elective surgeries cancelled b/c the ICUs will be filled with H1N1 patients -- this past April? There was a period of time in Winnipeg when 60 out of their 70 ICU beds were filled with H1N1 patients. And most of them required mechanical ventilation.The chances of having a bad effect from the vaccine are lower than the chances of having a bad effect from the influenza.

The news media are being totally irresponsible by helping to fuel people's fear about the fact that this is a "new" vaccine that's been only minimally tested for safety. EVERY FLU VACCINE IS LIKE THAT!!!!! And we've not had any significant problems with side effects since 1976. I'm not saying that wasn't serious. But it was only a few hundred people in 1976, not all of whom died, compared with the thousands that die from influenza every year. And with the hundreds of thousands who get sick.

The vaccine is a killed virus -- you cannot get influenza from the vaccine. CANNOT. If a person gets sick immediately after getting the vaccine, it's b/c they were exposed prior/within the same week to a virus as immunity doesn't fully form until 10-14 days after vaccination. Folks who say "I got the flu shot and I still got the flu that season"? It's b/c the people who choose which viruses to immunize against sometimes make mistakes re: what virus is going to be predominate OR the person who got influenza anyway was infected with an uncommon type of influenza OR they didn't really have the flu, they had a cold.

The folks who say, "I don't need the vaccine, I don't get sick" have loved ones and coworkers who are immune-compromised who need the protection of everyone getting vaccinated.

I hope I've eased your fears somewhat. I think it's absolutely essential that all of you get the vaccine as soon as you can.Here's a great website to look at re: vaccine safety:
and another:

Good luck, honey.xoxoLindy

PS. In Alberta, to find vaccine clinics, go here:

If you do get sick with a sudden cough (or change in cough) and a fever over 38 degrees (and possibly fatigue, malaise, sore throat, sore muscles and in children GI problems), please stay home from work/school for seven days. Call your doctor (don't go in to see them and infect everyone else in the waiting room! You don't need to be tested at this point -- if you're sick, it doesn't matter now whether it's H1N1 or seasonal) or your public health nurse if you have questions. Take acetaminophen and drink lots of water. Have only one person be your "nurse", to reduce the chances of spreading the illness in your family. If you get worse after two or three days instead of better, or you start to breathe many more times a minute than is usual, this needs medical attention immediately

Monday Miscellany

Mr. Spit went on a condiment cleaning binge. I'm pretty embarrassed by some of the stuff that was in my fridge. Quick, go take a look. Anyone have anything that expired in 2006 in their fridge?

10 litre's of spaghetti sauce in the pot, makes a lot to go into ziploc bags. It's pretty nummy. But. .. . I still have about 20 pounds of tomatoes left. Anyone have a good cooked salsa recipe? It has to be cooked so that I can have it.

I still haven't bought Hallowe'en candy - I just don't think we can be trusted to keep it in the house until Saturday without, umm, eating it . What are you getting this year?

Mr. Spit has diagnosed me with a new disorder. So new, he's created it. AD. . . OS (Attention Deficit. . . Oh, Shiny!)
Have a happy Monday.

Saturday Quotes

One is never sure, watching two cats washing each other, whether it's affection,
the taste, or a trial run for the jugular.
~Helen Thomson

(Not that the furry slugs woke me up at 6 this morning with brotherly affection
gone sadly astray, or anything)

For the last time. . .

For the last time, I got to the end of the agenda, past approving the minutes from last meeting and the reports, and dispensed with new business, tabled some ongoing old stuff, and for the last time, I looked up at a meeting for the little paper that could and I said:

"I'll entertain a motion for adjournment".

And someone motioned, and there was no seconder, because my board knows that you don't need a seconder for an adjournment motion, but you do need a 75% majority, and I called the question, and I put my binder back in my bag, and gathered my belongings, and I walked out of the room.

I am, on paper, by the bylaws, according to the Societies Act, the chairwoman of the little paper that could, for another 10 days. 10 days measured against 5 years doesn't seem to much.

And I could talk about the stuff we've done, almost doubling our distribution, colour art work. Distribution through Canada Post, not volunteers. Regular columns. Letters to the editor. We are the only community newspaper in the city. And we are a real newspaper - we have journalists and copy editors and we talk in column inches. A group of mostly women, we started out 5 years ago, and I tell you, what did we know from column inches and ad rates?

But we did it. We payed for issues, even when we robbed Peter to pay Paul, and I showed up to a meeting or two with my cheque book, just in case. The little paper that could. We learned what a rim pig was, and when we hired a journalism student, we didn't let on that she knew a hell of a lot more about journalism than we did! Someone threatened to sue us, and I sat in a lawyer's office and learned about slander and libel. I can tell you what constitutes fact checking.

We did other things, we made friendships. I planned a board meeting from my hospital bed, and after Gabe's death, our managing editor gently put the interview questions in front of me, even bringing me a pen. Propping me up, so that I could interview the new ad rep. These women brought me food when my mother had her stroke, and I have bought wedding presents, house warming gifts, knitted baby hats. We've gone out for dinner, for drinks, helped each other weed. I have held hands, we have drank coffee and schemed.

And I have learned. I have learned to be more quiet, to look at faces, teasing out board members who are more silent. I've learned when to speak up, to make a decision, to move on. I have learned that you can have a board meeting that runs with Robert's Rules of Order, or runs around a kitchen table, and both of them get stuff done, but people are just people, and most of us know from kitchen tables.

I have learned to hire and fire, to exercise patience, to get to the bottom of the problem, and to listen for the problem that is not spoken. I learned crises management the hard way. I've learned to lead on the fly, while running and reading the map. I've learned to be decisive, even when your mind is only 45% made up, and when to say "I don't know. Let's ask an expert." I've learned that everyone makes the wrong decision sometimes. I have learned 3 different communication styles, 4 different forms of conflict resolution, and 5 different ways to split the difference. I still only know one way to announce that we have gotten off topic.

Last meeting tonight. I'm not sure I've learned enough. But the little paper that could? It still can.

All in favour? Motion Carried.

Boob Tube (Done)

When I tell people that I don't watch television, their eyes kind of bug out.

"Never?", they say.

Well, no, not never. I watch the odd episode of Myth Busters. The odd thing on Egyptology. Sometimes I watch those real estate shows about flipping houses, and I really did like to watch those 2 British ladies who barge into people's houses and tell them off for being lousy housekeepers.

My problem is not so much that I don't watch television, it is that I don't watch enough, and I don't watch what everyone else is watching. I have, for example, never seen CSI, I haven't viewed House or Grey's Anatomy, I haven't watched Mad Men, and I have seen 3 minutes of Desperate Housewives (but that's a rant for another day). I haven't seen Glee, and I likely won't.

Mostly I'm ok with this failing of mine. I don't involve myself in discussions about Lost (which just sound confusing, I'd like to point out). I have both moral and philosophical opinions about the amount of TV we watch, and what it is doing to us, but frankly, my bigger problem is the time. I don't have the time. At all.

My other problem is the shock. I happened to be in another room, about 4 years ago, and CSI something or other was playing, and I was listening a bit to the dialogue and I won't lie, I was shocked. I'm easily shocked these days. I find scenes in movies to be too intense, I find our preoccupation with death and disease, with sex and rape and force and brutality to be bewildering. I couldn't get anyone around me interested in Darfur, and there was CSI, and the subject that night was a serial killer. Serial killers are entertainment, and the rape and murder of our fellow earth dwellers, that which is happening to those around us, and no one seems to care. But, I'm getting into my Desperate Housewives rant. . .

Every so often, a show comes along, and I think I should watch it. For instance, I thought I should watch Corner Gas, I thought I should watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I thought I should watch Mad Men, and this year, I think I should watch The Tudor's.

I realize that the Tudor's is in it's 3rd season, but really, I'm pretty sure that I can catch on. I, ahem, know the story a bit. . .

And then I think about it. I think about trying to remember to turn on the TV every night. Really, I think about trying to figure out how to turn on the television at all. I think about being stuck. I can't do this, and I can't do that on Wednesday night, because the Tudor's are on. And frankly, it sounds really overwhelming. It sounds like something that becomes a chore.

And so, sad to say it though I am, I probably won't wind up watching the Tudor's this year either.

What are you watching these days, and why?

Nothing to See Here

Nothing to see here.

Go wish Mr. Spit a happy birthday, would you?

Working Life

I got to do kind of a cool thing today. I had to go to the passport office today, to get my passport re-issued, and I got to talking to the passport officer.

Now, I was looking around the office, while I was waiting in line, and I must confess, I was kind of wondering what your sins must be to have to work in the passport office. It's an honest job, but, oh my!

Anyway, I was talking to the passport officer, and she asked how I got into my particular line of work, and if I liked my job. I laughed and told her that I got into policy because when I Convocated from University about the only thing I was qualified to do was to become a tin pot dictator, and there weren't any third world countries that needed dictating. (No longer a growth industry, what with the spread of democracy. Also, all the openings were very far away from Town Shoes.)

So, I did what every other arts major does, I got a job as a receptionist, to help pay the rent. And then I got a job as an Admin Assistant, and then I was an EA, then I was still an EA, but someone else was setting up the appointments and doing the expenses, and I was writing policy, and then I got my present job.

And I looked up, and I realized, that time, all those jobs, that was about 6 years. It wasn't quick.

And I smiled, and I told her that it did happen. To most of the people I know. Most of us didn't finish school and walk into our career; we stumbled around and paid our dues with profoundly crappy jobs, and then, slowly we got there.

There isn't here yet, in some sense. I'd like to move up, to move on, I'm still ambitious. I'm only starting to get a very small sense of what I'd like to be when I grow up.

But still. Crappy jobs. Bad is not forever. Stuff I sure wish someone had told me 6 years ago.

Tell me, oh wise internets, what was your first job out of school, and what did you learn from it?

Monday Miscellany

  • Saturday will be spaghetti sauce saturday, because I now have 5 kitchen garbage bags of ripe tomatoes. (Should you be interested, you can find my recipe here)
  • I'm making Shepherd's Pie to use up the last of the left over potatoes from Thanksgiving, but Mr. Spit and I are having one of our charming little spats discussions. I want to use up the left over green bean casserole, as the middle vegetable layer, and he thinks I should stick with corn. What do you think, oh wise internets?
  • I meant to tell you all, I made Julia's jello salad for thanksgiving, with the cottage cheese, and I think that jello salad is every good and perfect thing. I think I will have to make some more of your suggestions. (The rest of my family thinks that I have become a resident of Mullet-ville, but that's ok, more Jello salad for me!)
  • The food for the people I wanted to impress turned out quite well, the Spit Spinach Dip never fails to impress, Bluebird's idea of 2-bite brownies with strawberries wowed them, and so did Erin's tortilla roll ups! I have done my hostessing duties for a while, and they were impressed.
  • And also, on the food note - I tried Miss Vickies roasted garlic and honey potato chips, and I have to say, not so amazing.

Saturday Quotes

A house without either a cat or a dog is the house of a scoundrel.

- Portuguese Proverb

(apparently the Spits are exceedingly virtuous then)


There are times that I think that friendship is really nothing more than an opportunity to take your neuroses and foist them off on someone else. Really, you can take the things you are paranoid about, and share them with your friends, and that way you won't be paranoid AND lonely. It's always better to be paranoid and neurotic in company.

Kuri, months ago, commented that she was afraid, after reading about it on the internet, that her hot water tank would get plugged up, over pressure itself and explode, bursting up through her basement and sailing through her roof. (No, the myth busters episode didn't help any.)

Guess what I worry about at 2 am, when I can't get to sleep? Guess who was in her basement looking at the hot water tank, realizing she didn't know what a pressure valve looks like?

A few days ago, I was telling my co-worker Mr. T, about Mr. Spit and I making puns for an hour the night before, about chicken at a restaurant. It's one of the ways we entertain ourselves, not the only one mind you, but one way. We like puns around our house. We like them a lot, and we really like the groaners.

He told me that people who are obsessive-compulsive are extraordinarily good at puns.

So, at 12 am last night I was trying to decide if I am extra-ordinarily good at puns, or merely just good. I'm trying to decide if I have any other symptoms of OCD, which is hard, because I know nothing about OCD. Which does not stop me from thinking I have it.

I know it has something to do with never being quite sure that you've turned the oven off, and I realize that I haven't worried about that in forever. Then I remember that my oven doesn't work, and I start wondering if it is possible that my broken (completely broken) oven would randomly turn on, and then start a fire. Also there is likely stuff stored in my oven that is not heat proof. (No, not wool, chocolate from San Francisco).

And I'm wondering, could I be OCD? Wouldn't I know by this time? Wouldn't someone tell me this? Mr. Spit has an entire degree in Psych, wouldn't he have mentioned that I should get some help?

So, that's what I did until 1 am last night.

The good folks at Mental Health Today have a lovely little quiz on OCD. I do not have "any clinically significant obsessions".

So, Mr. T, a special present just for you. I know they are your favourites.

Body of Mine

Pregnancy was bewildering. People didn't ask what I thought about being pregnant, they asked how I felt. And if that wasn't enough, what I felt was ill. Vilely sick. Nauseous. And truly, no amount of thought and rationalization makes up for vomiting so much you lose 20 pounds in 3 months.

I was about 3 months along, feeling like I had re-subordinated my body to my brain, when I went to yoga for the first time. Imagine, moving your back in parts, curling up to stand up, feeling your spine move vertebrae by vertebrae, not moving your body as a plank. Imagine finally understanding how your body connects to itself. Imagine how moving your hips can release your back, understanding that an inability to quiet my mind is wear and tear on my body. A mind is not the only thing that paces. Imagine that. Discovering your body for the first time, as you discover the child within your body. Awareness, feeling, body emotion. Becoming your own lover.

Pre-eclampsia is inexorable, inflexible, inhuman, beginning the instant a blastocyst begins to burrow in your uterine lining, a relentless march to a forgone conclusion. Gabriel was doomed before I knew he was here. Before anyone knew he was here, his days were marked out in placental decline, kidney failure. His life ebbing away in exact and relentless correlation to the pressure increasing on my arterial walls. Pre-eclampsia is your body, it is you, that kills your children. There is no blind, dumb luck, no second chances, nothing.

I tried to go back, after, but I couldn't. I couldn't go back to that space, I couldn't give my self over to my body. I have refused to listen to my body, filling it with cigarettes and alcohol, stuffing sorrow into bags of white sugar and flour, hiding behind brown chocolate and black coffee. I have plugged my ears, I would not listen.

I have been pregnant 4 times in 16 months, and I am child-less. My arms as empty as ever, and I would not listen to them ache.

There was a need to punish, to batter, to lash. Suffering mind and body together. My body has been speaking, and I will not listen. I ignore. No, more than ignore. I have shouted: Betrayal, murder, unfaithful body. Hurling curses and threats and pain and anger.

I went back to yoga again yesterday, seeking more balance, more sanity. Seeking quietude and silence. Discipline. I spoke to the yoga instructor, and she reminded me, my internal strength comes from my body. I have endured, still endure, I walk on legs that can carry me, I hold my head up on a neck that bears weight. I knit and write and touch with hands.

I am more flexible than I imagined, and through the poses, the stretching, the attempts to tame my mind and bend it to my body, my body spoke, remembered.

It talked of the sickness, it reminded me of death. I went back to that room, almost unconscious at times, with monitors beeping, and drugs.

Mercy. Grace.

It is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, which I must confess seems a bit silly, if only that I always remember Gabe, and your children too. But, perhaps today can be a day to reach out to others and remind them - 1 in 200 babies will die from 20 weeks gestation to 28 days after birth. We are not alone.

Catty Commentary

Central Heating

I read a fascinating article in the BBC magazine a few weeks ago, about central heating. Central heating, so the article says, only came to the UK about 50 years ago, so it's actually possible to remember what life without central heating was like.

Now, I suppose all of this is interesting for 2 reasons, at least if you are me. Firstly, because the article indicated that October 1 was central heating day - the day that people turn on their furnace for the year. October, mind you, and not November. Or February. Like many married couples, Mr. Spit and I quibble about the heat. We have, after many years of extensive and exhausting argument negotiation, settled on a temperature of 21.5 C to be maintained on the thermostat. This temperature is the very best of compromises, it's too warm (and too expensive) for Mr. Spit, and too cold for me. Like so many compromises, ours ensures that neither of us are particularly happy, but we both live with it. Mostly. And not at all when he's out of town.

But more than that, what especially interested me were the descriptions of life before central heating. Descriptions of small rooms, a central staircase to let heat up stairs, few windows, and family gathered in a few small rooms, with the ability to close off others.

It all sounded very cozy and quaint, and not at all cold when you read it. In fact, it sounded like it would be kind of nice. It sounded like the sort of life I would like to live. A whole family in one room around the fire for warmth. As a knitter it sounded like I would be in high demand, what with the afghans and scarves and hats and mittens, shawls and lap blankets. Socks! This sounds like my gig. I found myself nodding along, slightly nostalgic for the days before central heat.

Chez Spit, as I may have mentioned, will celebrate her 100th birthday in 2 years. Which means that she long predates a natural gas furnace. Originally, Chez Spit was ahead of her time, and heated with coal (none of those plebeian wood fires for my grand old lady) Like every house in my neighbourhood, there is a side door, and the coal room is just inside, a straight shot with a shovel. You can shut off the living room and dinning room with french doors, and yes, the bedrooms are wee and the heat goes up a central staircase. And I have central heat, well sort of.

Let me see if I can put this a bit more viscerally. Some of you will know of that Nordic tradition, where you roast yourself in a hot tub, and then you jump in a snowbank. (Don't judge, some of you live in places that have spiders the size of dinner plates.) Which sounds crazy, but is actually exhilarating in certain, very specific circumstances. (Those circumstances are as follows: You are young, you are with friends, you are slightly inebriated.)

None of those circumstances involve me getting out of my shower every morning.

And I thought about this feeling of nostalgia, as I have shut blinds and drawn curtains, and thought about sewing up some draft snakes for a few doors (More attractive than towels shoved in). I love my house, but I must tell you truly, winter in Chez Spit means that you are always just a bit chilly. Not cold mind you, and certainly nothing like what living on the street is, but with snow again today, I am reminded, another 6 months of chilly.

Central heating is romantic. Old heating is just cold. And cold is not romantic. Ever.


Eaton's was the department store of my childhood. We didn't go to the Bay, or even Sears, we shopped at Eaton's. Where winter coats and boots were purchased, where church clothes, and hats for Easter came from. Eaton's had the china department that gave me my life long love of pretty things - the china department you would walk through with your mother, in the china department position.

You would be stopped outside of the china department, just at it's beach front, women's wear behind and the racks of crystal in front. You would be stopped, and warned. A raise of the eyebrow, a certain look, and you would assume the Eaton's china department position. It was not until much later in life that I realized the china department position was never so singular as I imagined, rather almost every child knew it. You crossed your arms in front of you, holding on to your hands, and you.did.not.touch.anything.

I was 20 when I went to Eaton's for the last time, in their final sale close out. I went to the flagship store, and I remember I bought a blue cardigan, a leather day planner, and nothing from the China Department. Do not misunderstand, I wanted to. I wanted something from there, something I could keep, something stunning: I could smile and run my hand across, something to polish, that I could say "Yes, that came from Eaton's. I miss Eaton's." In that picked over world, there was nothing left to have.

I was sorrowful that a once great place of my childhood, a great lady of Canada, was reduced to such circumstances. Eaton's, occupying a small corner, smelling of desperation and sorrow and lament. It was tawdry, brightly-lit, with goods and fittings and refuse bundled on tables. I was looking at a strangers' bits and bobs, looking them over, commenting and speculating, forced to purchase. I felt wretched, and small and repellent, and it is a feeling that I have never quite shaken in memory. It broke my heart that Eaton's closed the way I did, and I have never been proud that I was among the many that picked over her last few effects.

And all of that discussion is a long ending, to discuss a beginning. The Hudson's Bay Company was sold to a private American investment group a few years ago. The living icon of Canadian history now rests across the border, leaving us an American CEO, and commercials narrated by Bonnie Brooks, who is almost sort of Canadian (if you squint). All of this is annoying and offensive, but perhaps not the worst. At least I could say, we still have the HBC. There is still a Bay.

HBC has the contract to outfit the Canadian athletes at the Olympics in 2010. And in the Canadian way, there has been much angst and wangling about clothing, and the Cowichan people were approached to make Cowichan sweaters for the athletes. And I'm not sure what happened but I know and can tell you this:

What the Bay is selling is not a Cowichan sweater. It is an overly expensive, machine knit piece of dreg, misinterpreting traditional patterns, and trampling all over cultural tradition. It has taken the traditional livelihood from a group of people, and insisted on the almighty name of fashion. As a knitter, as a Canadian, I'm ashamed.

I told you that I never wanted to see a Canadian icon die the way Eaton's did. I was wrong. If private American investors want a piece of Canadian cultural identity, they can have it. They can have it all the way south of the 49th parallel. I don't want it here any more.

Saturday Quotes

Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.

Earl Wilson

In Which I Solicit Opinions

Dear Blog Readers:

I have decided to mine your brains for information, because my brain is decidedly empty. Completely empty. There is the sound of whistling between my ears. A good stiff breeze, well it will go right through me.

So, 2 things, both to do with food.

Thing the First - Bring on the Jello Salad.
Another blog got me started on this, but really, I miss Jello salad. We had it every holiday at my aunt's and I have to say, there's nothing to help my mother's soggy stuffing go down more than a bit of jello salad. My mother is coming with the soggy stuffing, so I need some salad. Any suggestions? (No carrots in the salad, I have some standards)

Thing the Second - Impressing people I probably don't need to worry about
I have people coming on Saturday night, and I am responsible for foo - well appetizers. I need food to feed about 10 adults who are not likely to be very adventurous. I will do our amazing spinach dip, but I also need some other things. Just to make life more exciting, you must remember, we have no oven. All things must not require an oven. Hummus and pita? Veggie tray? What for sweets?

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to stop typing and take myself out for french onion soup. Which, no I cannot make, because I have no oven.

The Lost Symbol

Dear Mr. Brown:

I have to confess, I was a little bit embarrassed that I was looking forward to your book as much as I was. I refused to order it in advance, but really, I did want to read it. I was excited about it. I knew that I was going to do about the only thing I can do with your books, buy them, curl up on the couch, and read them in an entire sitting. Since I read extraordinarily quickly, this meant that I should be able to read all 509 pages in one sitting, about 4 hours. A headache meant it took only slightly longer.

I liked Da Vinci code. The theology was profoundly ahem, dubious, and the history was dead wrong, but it was a quick read, engaging, and active. I mean a race through the streets of Paris, and Leonardo? How could that be bad? I liked Angels and Demons, and found the science interesting, and I liked the inclusion of the Catholic Priest (although, I wondered what it is you have against organized religion)

So, I was prepared. I was prepared for wrongness, I was prepared for bad history and junk science. I was prepared for carved up people and weird mystical orders and strange symbols. That is, after all, your stock in trade. I knew that you were going to use some bit of scripture, wrongly, and I was going to have to explain to people that the Bible uses that verse, yes, but not the way Mr. Brown says it does.

Maybe, Mr. Brown, it escaped you - what with the quest for religious mumbo-jumbo, junk science and strange hidden orders that exist among us, maybe it escaped you what the job of a writer really is. There is a sort of contract between writers and readers, Mr. Brown. You agree to do some things, and so do I.

For my part, I agree to suspend my disbelief and any insistence on characters who act logically, not expect you to get theology correct, not expect you to get geography correct, and not think to closely about the odd coincidences and the torturous logic that gets Robert Langdon in these situations. I do this because the entire point of any book, at least on some level is to be entertained, and as near as I can figure it, the only redeeming quality of your books, is that they entertain me.

So, Mr. Brown, if I agree to do all of those things - what do you agree to do? Oh, yes. That's right. You agree to write a new book. A new piece of fiction, where new things happen, and there is a cliff hanger that I can't see miles away. You agree to not just change the location, but also the characters and the premise. You agree to write a novel that is, well, novel.

And this, Mr. Brown, is not a new book. No, sir, you gave it a new title, and you changed the location, and you changed the name of a few characters, but it is not a new book.

You changed the name of the characters sir, but you didn't create new characters. There's an elderly fatherly figure, there's a beautiful and smart woman, there's a police inspector (ok, it's a woman this time) and there's a shadowy evil man in the background, consumed with quasi religious demons, who's really actually mentally ill. And sir, that is the exact - I mean exact - set of characters as the Da Vinci Code, and as Angels and Demons. And sir, the discovery at the end of the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol, it is the same discovery. Oh, different words, but always a play on words, always the central truth that (insert dramatic music here) everything you know is wrong.

And Sir, I'm not sure how many times you and I can go through this fiction of you pretending to write a new book, and me pretending to be surprised by a conclusion I predicted at about page 4. If you want to write about truths that turn everything on their heads, if you wanted to write about conspiracies, write about how Doubleday has published the same book, by the same author, 3 times, calling it a new book.

That Sir? That's a conspiracy I have something invested in.

(about $20)

Ne Pas de Grammar

I have a 3/4 written post on past participles. But. . .

I went to Costco tonight, and among other things I bought The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.

I intensely enjoyed the Da Vinci code, Demon's and Angels and Digital Fortress (haven't read Deception Point). Yes, I enjoyed them. Reading Dan Brown to get any sort of idea about theology is like watching a James Bond movie to understand how MI5 works, but they are a great read.

But, that's not why there is no grammar post.

I went to Earl's for dinner after Costco. The hostess comes up.

Table for One, says I. (Insert look of utter horror on part of waitress. Unattractive, apparently unmatchable material has entered trendy restaurant)

She seats me in the very far back of the restaurant, so that I am almost in the Chef's lap, and no one can see me and feel uncool.

Waitress comes by. I look over my book. Page 2. She gives me a menu. I peruse for 1 minute. (I really am that quick at picking food. Mostly I order the same things over and over. I had the chicken taco's. They were not bad at all.)

Skinny little waitress in one of those high waisted skirts comes bouncing up (Self Disclosure: I tried on a high waisted skirt last month. I looked like a teal and grey stuffed potato).

"All by yourself tonight?" Says she. (No, I brought my imaginary friend Myrtle. She'll have 3 desserts.)

"What can I get you to drink?"

"I'll have an iced tea and the chicken taco's."

"Ok, that's just great". (Really?) "Is that a good book?"

"I don't know, I just started it."

"Are you enjoying it?"

"I don't know, I just started it."

My meal arrives. It's good. She brings another Iced Tea.

"Still reading?" She asks.

"Yep" (No, I'm looking at the text, waiting for the Lost Symbol to appear. I just about had it, and then you came along and interrupted.)

I finish my meal, and I'm waiting for the bill (still reading too).

"Would you like to see a dessert menu?"

"No thanks."

"Are you sure, they are really good?"

"No, just the bill".

And that dear readers is why I don't have a grammar post. It took me twice as long to eat my dinner because I kept having to talk to people. Also, Dan Brown is more interesting that past participles, and I had 4 phone calls to return when I finally came home.

Mr. Spit says she was hitting on me. I think she was perplexed at a person reading in a restaurant.

So, tell me Oh, Wise Internets. Do you like to eat alone and read a book? Or is that just my thing to do?

Naked Lady

I don't think I've told you the story of Naked Lady yet, which is both unfair and strange, as she made such a huge impression on me, in the throes of post Gabriel Grief.

The story goes like this: Not quite a month after Gabe died, I was on the phone with a friend, who called to see how I was doing. Suddenly Mr. Spit called out to get off the phone - that he needed me.

There was a mostly naked lady on our front porch. She was wearing a short jacket, and nothing else. Yes, I really do mean nothing else, not shoes. Not anything. It was, for the record, January in Alberta, and it was about -18Celcius (about 0F for the Americans). Which is cold. Very cold.

So in she came, and we found her some clothes and I hauled out the first aid kit, and splinted her hand (her fingers had been dislocated from their joints by an angry John.) We called someone for her, and they came to get her. I tried to ask some gentle questions about if this person was safe, when she had last eaten, if there was someone else to call. As it turns out, it was her mother we called, and things were, I guess ok.

I think I'm remembering this today, as we did the follow up from a United Way training session, and someone commented that the United Way presenter was depressing. Homelessness in Edmonton was depressing. The thought of children being homeless was "sad". They didn't like hearing about the root causes of homelessness, and they thought those addicts should just get off drugs. You could see the disquiet when one of the speakers talked about providing addicts housing, without making it contingent to get off the drugs, off the booze. You could see our middle class sensibilities offended at the thought we would house, without requiring someone to kick the addiction.

Naked Lady was on my porch because of a "bad date". A bad date, for those of you who don't spend a lot of time around street level sex trade workers, is a john that picks up a prostitute to hurt her. It's not that something goes sideways, it's that there are men, extremely violent men, who pick up women to beat them. To leave marks and scars that I have now seen, that I'm not going to discuss with you, but that I remember still, and cringe. Something small and female in me whimpers on her behalf.

I phoned a friend after this, because it occurred to me, that if she hadn't had someone to call, I didn't know where to take her. I didn't know which shelter to bring her too, what to do, who to call. She wouldn't let me call the police, and I didn't know what to do next.

My friend's answer was and is nowhere. At that time of night, in that weather, the shelter beds are all full. There are no places for her. Moreover, my friend pointed out, given the choice, between the john who hit her and the pimp who beat her, because she didn't bring in enough money, she'd take the john.

So, when I head how depressing homelessness is, I thought of Naked Lady. I thought about what it was to be stuck between two, terrible worlds.

It is not sad and depressing that there is homelessness. Naked Lady is not a sob story, she is a stunning and powerful indictment of our callousness. Our unwillingness to hear. Our desire not to be "sad".

What's depressing is thoughtlessness.

It Quietly Snuck Past Me

My 600th post was last 2 weeks ago Wednesday. I meant to do something to mark it, but, it snuck* past me.

So, 600 posts.

Really, I didn't do anything to mark this, because I have just spent 30 minutes trying to decide if snuck is a real word, and if it is the past participle* of sneak, and if sneak has a past participle, and if I actually want to be using a past participle in this sentence.

Yes folks, I really am that cool.

*Because at least one of you would want to know, the OED indicates that snuck is an informal use of sneak, and the correct wording is "sneaked". Here indicates that sneaked/snuck are both the simple past and the past participle* form of the verb sneak, and I suspect, given that I am implying that the post snuck past me at a specific time last week, and does not continue to sneak past me now (although the post might be) I want the simple past, and not the past particle.

*And if you are still with me, and still interested, sneak a comment in the comments section, and I'll do a Wednesday's are for Grammar all about past tenses.

Marking Time

I am a time marker. I'm not talking about marking time with a watch, I'm talking about marking seasons, anniversaries. Making connections between what was then and what is now. Trying to spot differences, see changes.

Kuri asked how Gabe's church came to be Gabe's church. I didn't have words for my voice, but I can type the story. It is too hard to explain in words. It makes less sense, it becomes less than it is.

I allow, on the face of it, it's odd for an Anglo Canadian Anglican to give her dead child an American French Catholic church. There's nothing about it that would suggest that it is Gabe's church, or even should be. There's no Gabriel in the name, there's no altar or bell or statue named for Gabriel. And yet, it is Gabe's church. The priest there lights a candle at St. Joseph's altar for Gabe on Mother's Day, Father's Day, and his birthday. And it gives me comfort on those days, to think of a small candle burning, for my small child, to think that I am not the only one who remembers. To think that Gabriel lives beyond my words and memories.

Gabriel's church is truly Gabriel's church, and the prayer dieu at the feet of the statue of St. Joseph is Gabe's spot - because that's where I wound up. The church is Gabe's to carry on a bit of a pun, because of an entirely pedestrian reason.

To give you a bit of background, the social worker at the hospital suggested way back on December 11, 2007 that we go away for Gabe's due date, that we be anywhere other than at home. The truth is, when your baby dies before their due date, you live in strange time. You live in time out of time. You expect, somehow, that you will be given a baby on your due date. Oh, it's insane magical thinking, but there you have it.

The day of Gabe's due date was not so bad. The day after was bad. That day -the day after- that was the day we arrived in San Francisco, and we walked past an old French Church, and we walked in, and I turned immediately to my left, and there was St. Joseph. You might argue that St. Elizabeth, or the Virgin Mary were more appropriate, and I won't disagree. But, they were further up the nave, and St. Joseph was right around the corner, as it were.

"I'm broken".

"Will it ever stop hurting? Will I ever have another child? Will we always be lost? How do you come back from this tragedy?"

And St. Joseph, he said nothing, and I stared at his toe nails, and sighed and got up. I light a candle for Gabriel, and we walked out. And I left a bit of my confusion there. I know no other way to explain it. It was the smallest bit, it was the smallest sense, miniscule really, so tiny you could mistake if for something else. But, I was a bit less confused, a bit more certain. I could live a bit more. This wasn't ok that day, but it would be someday. Someday I would have some answers.

And that's all. It's no real miracle, or rather is is the most common of miracles. Small, ordinary, lost if you aren't looking for it. It's a miracle based on the way God works, in small and unlikely places, His majesty only evident if you look.

And I went back again yesterday, before I left. Running down the street before we walked back down Powell one last time. I took all of my American coin, and I sat in knelt in front of St. Joseph. I lit 3 candles, one for each of us, and I announced that I was less broken.

Oh, it still hurts, I'm still not sure how you recover from a tragedy like this, and the answer to my question about another baby is "no". But. . .

I mark time. I marked who I was when I went in the first time, and who I am now, and I looked at his toe nails, and I smiled back in, and I lit a candle for my tiny boy, and I remembered Gabe's face, and I smiled this time.

And that is about the only answer I'm likely to get. But, on the whole of it, it's enough.

The City

the bridge. . ..

the Japanese tea gardens

View from Bourdin's

You know you want one. . .

If you're going to San Francisco

We hiked up the street, and suddenly turned around

What else does one do on Alcatraz?


The Warden's house now. Nature's first green . . .


Powell Street. If you embiggen, you can see the Old Navy at the bottom, where we started.