Tuesday, December 18, 2018

a slump

Voices from upstairs, men figuring out this and that. Measuring negotiating planning. Always problems arising in this old old house. Nightmares for the owner, sleepless nights, upset stomach. Decisions to make.

Let sleeping dogs lie, they say. My house was a very sleepy skinny old Borzoi with many things wrong. Undertaking to fix them has brought forth a whole new array of issues. My hair is grey and soon I think my face will be grey too.

However. No choice now but forward. Tomorrow they say there will be sun. That will help; it's been the greyest fall on record, I understand. Also, a family member recently called to tell me about a cancer diagnosis, that dreaded word: aggressive. Hit me very hard, just when I was feeling raw.

But - two of my oldest friends came for dinner last night, in the rubble - Suzette and Jessica, both of whom have been through renovation hell and were kind and supportive, with great ideas. And then we ate and drank and talked - a lot about aging, how and where will we live, what is happening to us now, how people call us Ma'am and stand for us on the streetcar, and we all, vibrant accomplished working women with lots still to do in this world, can't understand why.

I stepped heedlessly into this project, a good idea to do a little this and that, and now it's huge, carnage, massive destruction. I know it will all be worth it; good things have already come - a major clear out, timely discovery of more termites. But right now, all I see is money flying out the door and noise, mess, disruption, to the horizon.

First world problems.

Need to go for a walk.  And then - just to complete my joy - to the dentist.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Yo Yo, light, "Will You Ever Forgive Me?"

Yo Yo Ma was in Montreal recently with his new Bach project, playing Bach's Unaccompanied - how I would love to have been there. And then he played in a Montreal subway station. When asked why he'd included Canada on his very busy itinerary, he said something like, "Are you kidding? Canada is one of the only liberal democracies left!" Chrystia Freeland was interviewed recently by the NYTimes in Toronto; she rode her bicycle to the interview, and she also said, “I would argue — and I don’t think this is gloating at all — I think Canada is the strongest liberal democracy in the world right now. And if you guys disagree with me, name me one that’s stronger. Right? Truly. We’re standing pretty strong, and that’s great.”

#proudtobeacanuck!

Another weekend - no men in my house. Though today, I put an emergency call through to Kevin at noon, when I found water dripping from the third floor to the second. AAAHG - the angry water gods again! Luckily, Kevin lives a few houses away and came right away; not a hole in the roof, it was a problem with the plumbing he installed yesterday, fixed in an hour.

But as I sat in the sauna at the Y, breathing in the hot still air, I realized one reason this reno has been so difficult for me: yes, of course, it's my house being ripped apart and partially demolished as I live in it, with resulting disruption, dust, and chaos, terrible ripping, crashing sounds of destruction. And yes, it's money, tons of money floating up the chimney, to the great merriment of the Royal Bank of Canada.

But also - I am a woman who lives alone. There are days I talk to almost no-one, as I sit in my house, my sanctuary of peace and solitude. And now my sanctuary is flooded with people daily - Kevin and Ed arrive at 8.30 a.m., JM not long after, the electrician, the termite guys, the roofer, the others, a long procession, all needing to be dealt with. A thousand decisions have to be made, all costing me money and the men time.

So - a tiny bit of stress. A tich of anxiety. JM is very kind and says I'm dealing with it well. You could have fooled me.

Fun yesterday - we need lighting fixtures, and he discovered a high end lighting showroom that has - be still my beating heart - a remainder table with quality stuff vastly reduced. So we went yesterday to check out all the boxes piled on their table. It's a wonderful place: Dark Tools.
https://www.darktools.com/. The owner, Glen, a most personable man, took time from a company lunch he was hosting to show us his wares; he's passionate about lights, and we fell for his honeyed words, and also his offer of sometimes 90% off. I bought an extravagant something that's totally not me, and yet I hope will work in a new very tall space we're creating by taking out a bit of third floor floor, and also a pendant orb for my bedroom. I woke at 4 a.m. in a sweat, wondering if they're ridiculous. You be the judge.
We have the raw materials; that's the finished product. We'll hang individual maple leaves all over the frame and suspend it in a very tall passageway.

I've never bought anything at a high end design store before - but that remainder table made these a possibility. And then Glen drove us back here in his truck and I learned all about his love life. Now that's a great experience in a store!

Today, like last Saturday, I've spent recovering from the week, and from the leak. This mild afternoon, rode my bike to my favourite cinema, the Carlton, to see "Will you ever forgive me?" There seem to be lots of movies about writers these days, this one about Lee Israel, a biographer who fell on hard times, ended up forging author letters fashioned in the voices of famous writers and making very good money selling to dealers - until she was apprehended. And then, of course, she wrote a memoir about her life of crime. It features superb performances by Melissa McCarthy - only a little bit of milking going on - and the always fabulous Richard Grant, doing another version of his dissolute but adorable "Withnail and I" character. Well done and very entertaining.

As in "The Wife," in this film, the writer's life is not enviable. And yet here we are. With our new twinkly lights and our smashed house and a glass of wine in our hand.

Onward.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

discovering Facebook Messenger

Starting with the big news - Michael Cohen's conviction. Sing, Mike, sing! Nail the giant orange blowhole. Though I wonder with what's going on everywhere else - Brazil, Britain, Ontario, Italy, Hungary et al - will it make any difference? What has happened to our world?! The revenge of the angry white man. Lynn Skyped today from Montpellier, livid at the gilets jaunes, who have paralyzed cities and shops before Xmas, putting lots of people out of work. "We have free education and wonderful health care," she said, "but it's not enough for them."

Major discovery today: Someone sent me a message on FB Messenger, so I replied, and then saw to my amazement that there were all kinds of messages on the left side of the screen. I started scrolling, and realized that they went back to 2008 or so, the year I joined FB! I didn't realize you should check Messenger regularly. People wrote nice notes about liking my books; one woman loved "So True" and wrote offering me a print of an old typewriter; several people wrote after pieces of mine appeared on CBC radio, asking if I was the Beth Kaplan they'd known in the past. I was mortified to realize I'd ignored them all.

So I wrote back to a few, wondering if they'd reply even after years, and one did immediately, a schoolmate from Grades 7- 9 in Halifax, and another a friend from New Brunswick. Crazy.

Yet another way to pass the time. I was about to write "waste time" but changed it. It's so much fun.

Nearly had a meltdown today. Poor JM brings up some new issue or expense and watches my face turn purple with stress. Today the electrician came and told us changing the panel and the new wiring would cost $8000. This is not even an item on the budget; we both forgot changing the wiring would be necessary. These are the kinds of things that turn my face puce. It's terrifying.

However. It's happening. And once it's done, if I survive, it'll all have been worth it. Already there's much more light pouring into the second floor because of the third floor barriers we've removed. But still, it looks pretty dreadful.
The view from my bedroom of the rest of the second floor and the stairs to the third. The skeleton of my house.

But on the plus side, there's this - Eli's Christmas concert yesterday. Just look at that multicoloured band of Grade One's. He's the fourth from the left in the back row - very serious. Looking, once more, exactly like my father as a boy.
Tomorrow JM and I go to look at second-hand light fixtures. Life is full of excitement. Oh, and best of all - I've booked a massage tomorrow at 3. I may just stay there until February.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

saving my sanity

A quiet day here in the battered house, down to its skeletal bones upstairs, and downstairs, cluttered and strewn. It makes me laugh to think how I used to fuss about putting stuff away and now - nowhere to put it, so it's just everywhere. You enter my living room through torn plastic sheeting. Showers of drywall on the stairs. Life is good.
My closet.

"News of fresh disasters." My mother would get the joke, from "Beyond the Fringe," our favourite comedy album. (Feeling like a dinosaur as I type the words "comedy album." Wuh? say the kids. Wuzzat?) Yesterday, fresh disasters, but we figured out a way through. And there was good news: the roofer came at 8 a.m. to inspect my flat roof. Doesn't look damp, he said. No water pooling. Termites must be coming from somewhere else.

I walked to the Y yesterday to take a shower and sit in the silence of the sauna. The place will save my life in the upheaval, as it has so often before. I read once about the importance of the "third place" - not home, not work; in England it's the pub, in France the café. For me, my second place, since I work mostly at home, is the Y.

Some treats: on Monday, dinner here with my friend Stella Walker, who didn't mind picking her way through the rubble, and then the season finale of the breathtaking My Brilliant Friend. Yesterday, getting Calypso by David Sedaris out of the library, laughing out loud on nearly every page. A note from a longterm student, saying he'd had printed the first draft of his memoir, and when he brought it home and showed it to his partner, they both burst into tears. "My whole life in a box," he wrote.
I want to thank you for all your guidance and support in making this stage of my writing journey come true. 

My pleasure, my very great pleasure. Another longterm student and friend wrote to offer me a private suite in her basement, and Monique said I can come next door anytime. Shelter! Thank you, kind neighbours. Jean-Marc and I went to Green's, the local junk/antique store, to pick through her unbelievably cluttered basement for old doors and other things. We now have about 56 possible doors. My friend is still bursting, exploding, with ideas. Sometimes that's wonderful, sometimes not so much.

It's stretching my tiny mind to figure out where things are. I've been in such a routine for so long, and now I turn to go upstairs to bed, but no, my bed is downstairs. I go into the hall to put on my boots, but they're under the piano bench. It's good for the shrivelling brain.

Sparrows on the deck, pecking snow. The other day there was a young hawk hunting in the garden, which is mostly white and brown. Here's something else that will save my sanity: the Conservatory in Allan Gardens, where I dallied yesterday on my way to the Y. Colour and scent and beauty.

Somewhere, in the jumble of furniture and clothing stuffed onto the third floor, are Christmas presents that need to be wrapped. Christmas! The pageant! Let's not think about that right now.

Monday, December 10, 2018

kill dem bugs

These are the words that are music to my ears today: Termidor, which is so toxic it's illegal in Canada, and Altriset, not as toxic and legal. Termite poison. Death to the colonies. Lots has to happen, mostly drilling all around the perimeter of the house, inside and out, to deliver the poison, plus making sure there's no moisture anywhere. They like warm, damp wood. The roofer has to come back to check every bit of my roof. My neighbour Pierre went to the States to get Termidor for his house, but I'm a law-abiding Canadian, so Altriset it is. I hope they'll get to it just after Xmas.

Had to check when the huge infestation was: August 2012. Luckily, it was a hot dry summer.
The ceiling right above my bed, before -
and after.
And rebuilt. My study now was then my bedroom - they ripped the roof and walls right off and remade it all. So this new problem could be much, much worse.

More good news - they chopped a piece of ceiling out of my tenant's apartment and found the beams to be in good shape. There's one possibly chewed beam but it won't bring the house down. YAY!

The heat was off again today so I sat here in coat and boots, stewing internally and freezing externally. Truly, I have the A team; I trust Kevin and Ed implicitly and see now that if JM had been around when the termites first appeared, he would have made sure we did more to keep them from coming back. My modus vivendi: deal with unpleasant things quickly and cheaply and MOVE RIGHT ALONG. Often, it turns out, a mistake.

Intended to get out today, if just for a walk - no. Trying to decide on how to get away during the winter - nearly impossible in this chaos. Thinking about my book? It is to laugh.

The house speaks to me at night, creaking, cracking, and groaning, even banging. Freaked me out at first, as I lie in my basement cubby listening to the mysterious noises above. Kevin said they took a thousand pounds of drywall to the dump today, so the house is feeling its bones for the first time in decades and telling me all about it. And soon, house, we'll make sure you're not being devoured by bugs.

After all this, if this old house doesn't actually kill me, I'll die of old age here and they'll carry me out, out through my bugless front door, feet first.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Wife, and Every Brilliant Thing

Jean-Marc called this morning. "Do you have time for me to pop by with new ideas for the bathroom?" he asked.
"No!" I replied, not meaning to be rude. But, I explained, I was sitting at my desk in a patch of sunlight and absolutely did not want to think about my @#$#@ house for a day. And I didn't, as I picked my way through the dust and rubble. I got a bit of work done, but mostly, I sat around and DID NOT THINK ABOUT MY HOUSE.

What did I actually do Saturday? No idea. More or less nothing but recuperate from Friday, which was a tough day. Oh yes, I went to see the film The Wife, with Glenn Close, not my favourite actress, always a bit over the top, but she was very good in this, the story of married writers and what was traded off for the marriage to survive. In the end it didn't quite ring true, but it was very well done, it was about writing, and I loved the final shot of Glenn fondling a blank piece of paper. Been there, done that. Can't tell you what didn't work for me without spoiling the film which you might see. But - hard to believe that someone could create a huge body of superb written work and not ever be recognized. Just sayin'. I know, times were different. But still. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot.

At night, a TV film that was supposed to be something else turned into a documentary about Jane Fonda, so I watched. She has been and done a huge amount and is an interesting woman who overcame a wretched childhood, a cold, famous father and a mother who committed suicide. She's a living ad for plastic surgery, that's for sure. She said she wishes she had the courage to live with her real face, but I have to say, I've never seen anyone look as good after so much surgery as our Jane. And she has never stopped fighting the good fight.

Today, Sunday, was busier. After a morning working and ignoring JM, I went first to see Every Brilliant Thing, a very interesting piece of theatre starring solo actress Kristen Thomson, telling a story of growing up with a suicidal mother, like Jane. To remind herself to cherish the good in life, she makes a list of all the things she loves. There was a lot of audience involvement, beautifully handled and very funny, and I liked the idea of a list of things you love, which I must try sometime. In the end again, though, it didn't quite hit the way I expected it to. But it was good.

Off on the Queen streetcar to the Beach, where old friend Jim Sanderson was launching his self-published book Life in Balmy Beach: growing up in Toronto in the 1950's and 60's. I know Jim because he and his family ran Dominion Typewriter, a wonderful old shop on Adelaide St., where I used to go with my typewriters - yes, the Dark Ages! - and then with my first computers. All the Sanderson men looked alike and were calm and nice, and they were all there today for Jim's book launch.

Then I popped across the street to visit my beloved Anne-Marie, only a block away, to meet her granddaughters Arya and Eva, to watch her daughter Amelia, whom I've known since girlhood, as a mother, to applaud the girls dancing in the living room. They wanted to be characters from Paw Patrol - Skye! Chase! - and I was proud to know who those characters were. Hope Annie's girls and my boys meet sometime.

Tonight, The Life-sized City is in Montreal and My Brilliant Friend continues. I have had a whole much needed weekend not thinking about termites and renovations. As so many dear friends have written, this too shall pass.

Not soon enough.

Friday, December 7, 2018

yikes

As the Beach Boys so memorably sang, "Help me, Rhonda."

I'm sitting in my overcoat, which is covered with plaster dust, as are my hands and everything else, except this bottle of Argentinian Cab Sauv I just opened. The furnace had to be turned off today because of the major demolition going on upstairs. It's upsetting, yes, to hear my house shattering, even though I know the destruction is voluntary, I brought it on myself, in the interests of making things better.
The second floor hall
My bedroom

But the termite destruction I did not bring on myself. As you may know, there was a huge infestation 7 years ago, which required tens of thousands of dollars and a second mortgage to rip off and rebuild the entire back of my house. And then they came back last year, and instead of doing a full treatment, my thrifty self opted for a partial treatment, which he assured me would be enough, which, it turns out, was a mistake. Because the termite guys came today, and what has to be done is major. Major major major. Drilling holes throughout the basement, cutting into ceilings, three different treatments have to happen, and not just to me but to my neighbours on either side.

Help, help me Rhonda.

As the guys were poking into the termite dust, I was receiving messages from Ottawa, where the move from my aunt's was supposed to be happening - they couldn't get in, the phone wasn't responding. I was trying to make sure all went well in Ottawa while listening to termite horror, and the pounding and smashing continued upstairs.

At this point, my stomach heaved badly. It did last night too. My body is not happy right now. And so I'm not going to drink this cheap wine, I'm going to dig out a good bottle. If there's ever a time to open a good bottle of wine, it's right now.

I know, first world problems, nothing to complain about here. I have a fabulous team. JM handled all the termite stuff, including going to my hysterical neighbour -

We interrupt with this news bulletin: the quote just came in from the termite guys. $4500, and they recommend that a roofer check part of my roof because they suspect there may be damage.

And a Merry Christmas to you too!

Could be worse. As cheery JM says, it's not the foundations, it's not beams. YAY! It's just way more chaos, including chaos for my tenant, whose ceiling will be chopped open and furniture moved. I knew the top half of the house would be crazy, but now every single inch is in upheaval or soon will be. Unlike the unbelievably positive JM, I'm not good with upheaval, and neither is my stomach.

On the plus side, a new New Yorker just arrived, and in the midst of all this, I fulfilled a week's old appointment to get my hair cut. Ingrid remarked on how extremely dry my hair was, and I said, no, that's plaster dust. My stomach has continued to heave, but this nice prize-winning Australian Shiraz - a gift from one of my students - is helping settle it down, and Daniel and Daniel have provided me with an instant dinner. The furnace is back on, and soon I will be able to take my coat off. My first night in my basement bedroom was odd but okay; it's very dark down there, but I think the centipedes have been encouraged to live elsewhere.

And the most fun - this morning JM took me to Habitat for Humanity, full of donated furniture and building materials; the money earned is used to build housing for those in need. Almost all the materials for what we're doing, including new hardwood floors upstairs and several nice old doors, will come from there; all the shelves for my new closet will be recycled planks or flat doors. How perfect for a second-hand junkie like me - we're not only building new things in my habitat, we're helping humanity. If there's one thing I like to do, it's help humanity.

Thank you for listening. You my readers are helping me get through this. I nearly cried twice today but have not yet. I did manage to find clean clothes and my hairbrush, more or less. I got to the Y to have a shower, where I discovered that I've gained a kilo in a few days, despite my iffy stomach, because in times of stress, food is an anchor. As if starvation is imminent, at every opportunity, I stuff anything edible into my mouth.

Now it's the weekend, and my wounded but doughty old house and my wounded but doughty old self will take it easy for a day or two.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

ripped apart

The sound of smashing: they've started upstairs. This morning, there were six men in my house - Kevin and Ed, Jean-Marc explaining exactly what has to be smashed where, the roofer Robin to do a quick repair on three dormer windows that are rotting but I can't bear to replace right now, the air conditioning expert to give us a quote on new AC for the top floor, which becomes an oven in summer, and Bill to help carry out rubble. The doorbell rang - it was a new neighbour with a guy from Roger's, trying to get the internet set up in his house, could they access the cable box in the backyard? The phone rang; it was my new neighbour Pierre to give me his solution to termites.

I thought the top of my head would come off.

Luckily, the Queen is not coming in the near future to tea, because my house is nearly uninhabitable. In fact, JM wants me to move out. Instead, I have set up a bedroom for myself in the basement.
It's a bit chilly down there, but it's home.

Here's the spare bedroom, once Sam's room, yesterday, and today:

And my room - doors and baseboards off,  and soon the west wall smashed. Woo hoo!
It's surreal, I who love order am now living in utter chaos. But what the hell - I have running water in the kitchen now, and soon the bugs eating my walls will be vanquished, I am sure of it. (Though JM thinks we may have to rip more stuff apart to be sure they're gone.)

Now off to lunch with my good friend Rosemary, if I can find some respectable clothes, if I can find my shoes, if I can wash the dust off my hands. Ah, the simple life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

bad news/great news

Reading an article in the New Yorker about British writer Anthony Powell, who in the Fifties bought a "fixer-upper" country house in Somerset and tried to fix it up himself. I can only imagine what an ancient British "fixer upper" involves, not the least of which is some kind of heat. Anyway, his wife apparently said she wanted an image of the house engraved on her tombstone, because "its inconvenience would be the direct cause of my death."

Today, I felt the same way about my beloved 131-year-old wreck of a house, as Kevin and his helper Ed followed the trail of termite destruction all around my dining room. I had thought the main floor would be spared chaos, but today everything had to be taken down and stored under plastic sheets as they ripped off boards and drywall, to discover the familiar circuitous destructive paths of those hated bugs. Horly, a young man from Zambia whom JM has hired to do our computer drawings, dropped in and understood completely; apparently nothing in Africa is built of wood because of termites.

However, as JM cheerfully points out, thank God we found it when we did. Kevin and Ed also ripped off drywall under the skylights where there's water damage from leaks, no trace of termites there, just rotten because of water. The drywall dust was showering everywhere, I couldn't find my clothes which are stuffed into boxes in the basement, and I felt I'd made a huge mistake, should have moved to a nice clean new tiny tidy condo, before this house was the death of me.
Yesterday, the new steel post holding up my second floor, and the bulkhead about to be demolished
More termite damage all along the edge of the dining room plate-rail
My lovely kitchen today - Kevin and Ed at work.

In fact, I'm lucky to have wonderful help - Kevin is efficient and smart and Ed is delightful. Today Kevin took time to look at my kitchen faucet, which was replaced only about a year ago but which had never worked properly; the trickle of water it emitted was infuriating. After he'd taken it apart, we decided just to go buy a new one, he installed it, and there's water rushing out in a stream! A miracle!

The upstairs is stripped clean, tomorrow my bed goes downstairs and I establish a new way of living.
My office jammed with furniture and boxes
My bedroom jammed with almost nothing, empty tomorrow

THE GOOD NEWS: Yesterday, in the middle of all this, I emailed a query to an editor I'd met socially in the summer, telling her about my nearly-finished memoir and asking if she'd be interested in seeing a bit. I expected to wait three weeks for a tepid reply. Today, as Kevin's power saw was ripping out rotted drywall and dust spewed everywhere, I received a note, telling me she was glad to hear from me and would be happy to see the manuscript when I'm ready to send it.

I haven't even had time to digest what this means - that a major editor wants to see the work. Of course, she may - she almost certainly will - decide it's not right for her house. But what a huge gift that is: an open door. I compare finding a publisher to walking down a long corridor of closed doors, knocking in vain. Well - today, a door opened. I may not be asked to walk through it, but the door opened, and that's a gift. Merry Christmas!

Once we're in a routine here - Kevin and Ed rip my house apart and Jean-Marc comes over to fuss about details - I will make my own routine, which I assume will mean escaping regularly to some quiet, dust-free place, a library or coffee shop, where I can work and think.

So this house may not be the death of me, after all. Just, we hope, the death of a great number of termites, who have been enjoying its juicy deliciousness heretofore.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

termites

Today the true chaos of renovation begins, and I wish I were on a beach in Tahiti. Today we had to explore the lovely pillar between my dining-room and kitchen.
A few years ago I was sitting in my kitchen when to my horror, I saw termites emerging from the pillar. I sprayed Raid, and my termite man, Richard, came to insert anti-termite plugs all around. Obviously, without much success, because when the wood was pulled off, this is what we saw:
Riddled. Holy. Appalling. Richard is coming back Friday. In the meantime, Kevin is going to install steel beams to hold up my house.

Today I'm supposed to be moving into the basement, but now we're figuring out what's next. My house is upside-down, everything is covered with drop cloths and in boxes, and I don't know where anything is. I'm a tiny bit frantic. But yes, it's very good we discovered this before the ceiling fell in. Curse you termites! A few years ago they devoured the entire back of my house, so I guess a beam isn't too bad. And maybe the ceiling around. And maybe more.

Sigh.

First world problems. Well, no, actually I'm sure termites are second and third world problems too, but at least I have Richard the termite man and the wherewithal to fix this. For good this time!

Ha.

Monday, December 3, 2018

"Middletown"

6.40 a.m. and yours truly is up and breakfasted. I'm even earlier than the Star which has not arrived yet, that's how early this is. Lots going on; I awoke at 5.30 with my head buzzing with lists.

But first, a theatre review: I went Saturday to see "Middletown," a superb Shaw Festival production playing here at Crow's Theatre, a sleek new East End theatre. As you know, if I can ride my bike there, it's my favourite place. "Middletown" is by Will Eno, a hot American playwright, and it's unusual and gripping. The actors mingle with the audience before it starts, it's played in the round, there are dazzling effects, great acting and characters. It's about middle America, a small town, life and death. Though I loved it and was glad I'd seen it, it didn't move me much, the dialogue just a bit too clever, perhaps. But an excellently done, very satisfying piece of theatre.

Yesterday - a lovely warm sunny day - listened to my blog friend Theresa Kishkan being interviewed on CBC's Sunday edition, more packing, arranged for the movers to pick up some of my aunt's stuff in Ottawa, and went across town to help Anna, who's recovering from the flu, with Ben. Who, I decided, will not only be a mountain climber and an Olympic gymnast but a hypnotist. I've never met a child with huge eyes that bore into you like his. He decided he did not like my sneakers and didn't want to see them, but forgave me when we played bash the balloon. A quirky, fascinating individual.

And then Sunday night TV, "The Life-Sized City" and "My Brilliant Friend," both brilliant as ever.

An article in the NYT on hobbies says that journal writing "can boost mindfulness, memory and communication skills...It can aid sleep, build the immune system, boost self-confidence and raise I.Q... It may even help wounds heal faster." I assume that includes blogging. YAY! Watch my confidence and my IQ increase! Wait - surely I'm at capacity by now, after a lifetime of journals and then blogs. Nowhere to go but down.

It is interesting, though, that here I am, very early on a Monday morning with a raft of things to get done, and the first thing I do, after breakfast, is write to you. It's simply a compulsion, a necessity, to take you with me wherever I go, however mundane my day may be.

Ah well. It's now 7 a.m. and I have the whole day in front of me to improve my brain and my confidence. Onward.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

books - feh.

I hate books!

Okay, no, I don't, as you well know, quite the opposite. But right now, I am drowning in books. Tossing them, stacking them, boxing them. Here's the latest cull, by my front door, ready to go out to the Little Free Library, and believe me, this hurts.
At least a hundred, not counting the ones that have already gone out (plus a few bookshelves). And still the boxes pile up.

At the front of an old alphabet book that I am most definitely keeping, I found this:
Love is. Found a few books from my parents, including one when I was four signed "With love from Gordin and Sylvia." Must have been a bad patch.

This culling is immensely valuable, no question. Yesterday I tackled my sock drawer, wherein used to dwell at least 40 pairs of socks, socks of every hue, many with bright stripes bought in European markets, and every day, I'd open the drawer and pull out a black pair. Yesterday, as I walked, I realized my socks were full of holes. Now there are far fewer in the drawer, and I am wearing a dazzling pair I just unearthed. Grey.

Lani wrote to say, what exactly are you doing in the house? Monique came over yesterday with the original plan in mind and was confused by what she saw.  Everything changed a few months ago, when I realized that to establish a whole new apartment on the second and third floor would rip the house apart and cost the earth. So then the plan changed, in a most satisfactory direction.

Now, there's a new bright basement room which used to be my storage space; it will be the bedroom for the basement apartment, hitherto a bachelor, soon a one-bedroom. But as of Tuesday I will be sleeping down there for 2 or 3 months while they rip apart my upstairs. Because the tenant will take over my washer/dryer, we had to create space for an apartment-sized set for me upstairs, and once we started to do that, we - that's Jean-Marc and I - got ambitious. We are now tearing down walls to let in more light and create space for the appliances.

But then JM got the idea to enclose the stairs to the third floor; it's an open spiral staircase, covered with a curtain of heavy material to give a sense of privacy. There couldn't be a door to that floor because the second floor hall is too narrow. But, said JM, what if we smash this wall and move this door? Then there's room. He overcame my natural resistance, and now there will be a door. And once the wall to my bedroom and the spare bedroom started to be smashed, why not, said JM, go all the way and create a new space, a walk-in closet, between the two rooms? So each room will be rebuilt a bit smaller, the walls and doors moved, and in-between - a closet. Where I can stand and admire all my clothes, all in a tidy row. At least, that's the plan.

I will be able to rent the top floor as a more private space and will also put a kitchenette up there with a microwave and toaster oven, so a tenant can make simple meals and not use my kitchen.

This is all in the interests of creating more income from the house, so I can afford to stay here after I finally retire, if I ever do. Plus one day - yes, must think of this - one day a caregiver for my decrepit self could live up there, if necessary. Yes? Who knows?

And while we're ripping everything apart, I'm replacing a few windows that don't open any more, repairing the front door full of cracks that let the wind whistle in, and other necessary repairs. It'll all be disruptive and a great mess, and then it'll be finished and the house will shine. That's the plan. Paid for by the Royal Bank of Canada, God bless their little hearts. With a little help from Auntie Do.

In the middle of all this, I'm going to try to finish the last rewrite of the memoir and get it out.

This mild, grey morning - record gloom in Toronto this November - a burst of joy. I rode to the market and returned with the usual, fresh apples, bread, sausages, Merchants of Green Coffee beans, nuts. Made a big pot of coffee, toasted sourdough for smoked salmon and cream cheese, with the newspapers spread before me, no men hammering in the basement. Wayson is out of hospital and I'm going to visit him soon with a large pot of Sam's shepherd's pie. Then on to the theatre. Listening to Bach.

I could weep with joy and gratitude. We are here.

Here's the poem that came in today from the Poem A Day guy: