Wednesday, June 30, 2021


Hanging on in the eye of a hurricane right now - Anna and her boys are living here temporarily while things sort themselves out, or not, in her life. It's complicated and difficult. They arrived Monday. My house is a shambles but that's okay; I'm overjoyed to provide shelter for my daughter, who moved into this house when she was five, and her sons aged six and nine. They're sleeping on mattresses on my office floor. Anna goes off to work in the morning, and Nicole and I man the fort to the best of our ability.

Because as I've said perhaps a few times before, these boys don't stop, ever, except when we buy time with the television. Rambunctious was a word a neighbour used, a good word. Eli is strong, stubborn, relentlessly determined, and Ben talks nonstop about the most interesting things - today, the Titanic. His imagination is fabulous. We try to find ways to wear them out and keep them fed and ourselves sane.

Eli has lived all his life in a ground floor apartment, but he still draws home as a big house with a pointy roof and lots of windows, the way all kids do.

Uncle Sam is here now, a great blessing. If anyone can keep up with them, he can. 

It has been hot, though not nearly as hot as in B.C., my poor friends! I have A.C. and am using it a lot, unlike most summers. The rain yesterday was so violent, it ripped my umbrella right out of the stand and flung it on top of the pergola, to the delight of young eyes, who went out in the storm with umbrellas and got soaked and then into a hot bath. 

I'm still shaky but doing my best. Taught two classes in the middle of all this, but we moved the mattresses and the boys were instructed to be quiet and it was fine. No idea what's happening in the world, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe, right now, I don't want to know. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

reflections on celebrating Canada Day this year

A sublimely peaceful Saturday, thank you lord. Anna, Holly, and the boys are at a cottage near Peterborough, kayaking, splashing, romping. I do not have a second infection and am feeling a bit better each day, just cooked for the first time in ages. The day began dark and stormy and has ended fair and bright. Before the rain began, I made it by bike to one of my favourite shops, Laywine's, the best paper and pen shop in town, to buy my new daytimer, the Quo Vadis Academic Weekly 2021-22. My life would fall apart without these, filled with scribbles and daily post-its; they end mid-July, and it's thrilling each year to get a new one, clean and fresh, to fill in some dates, including an invitation from my friend Ron to a concert in February 2022 and the CNFC conference in Edmonton next June. Can't wait!

As I rode along Bloor Street, I marvelled at one sight: a lineup of at least 40 women waiting to get into Zara. I wanted to shout at them, YOU DON'T NEED IT! GET A LIFE! But did not. Who am I to judge? 

And then, on my way to the library to pick up two books I'd put on hold, 

I saw that Doubletake is open for shopping again. My favourite store! I bought a lovely soft cotton nightgown and separate pyjama bottoms - what I need most these days, though yes, I could certainly live without - and the points on my account covered the $12 they cost. So much for judgemental me. 

And then to the hardware store, WALKING RIGHT IN, to buy velcro tape to keep my hydrangeas from toppling in the rain. Satisfying. Doubly vaccinated, still being careful, but with more confidence nonetheless.

Anna's cat Naan is keeping me company for the weekend. It's wonderful to have a cat again, particularly one so old she doesn't care about going outside and hunting birds. She's supposed to be dying, but obviously has decided not. She and I chat regularly; she doesn't let me far from her sight. 

I've not written anything in weeks. Maybe soon.

To address a painful issue: this country is reeling from the horrors being uncovered, the bodies of hundreds of Indigenous children buried outside residential schools - though as we now know, their people knew it all along. Many are saying we should not celebrate Canada Day, at least this year. A woman on a local website is vicious in her condemnation of anyone speaking positively about Canada.

I understand this country has blood on its hands, though I'd argue the Catholic church and its loathsome pedophile priests and sadistic nuns have far more. I mourn the infinite tragedy of those lost lives. But here are a few of the people and things I'd like to celebrate, very quietly, this year:

- my friend Diana, who came to Canada as a young boy with her family, refugees from Vietnam, grew up to be a happily out gay man and is now a beautiful woman who had absolutely no problem with her employer as she went through many changes

- the vast number of refugees this country has sheltered, including my father, and so also my mother and me - in 1950 he was unemployable in McCarthy's United States because of his leftwing views; the countless draft dodgers during the Vietnam War who have contributed enormously; the many thousands of Syrians who've made homes here in recent years

- my beloved friend Patsy, mortally ill, who had a peaceful planned death thanks to MAID - medically assisted dying

- the fact that gay marriage, legal marijuana, and abortion are simply not an issue, except for a tribe of evangelicals in Alberta

- watching the country to the south of us, with its dire health care, mass shootings, lousy public education, astronomical rate of incarceration, racism, voter suppression, police brutality, and now hoards of violent lunatic right-wing nutbars. We have a few of these things too, but not nearly to the degree they do 

So yes, I will be quietly celebrating the good that Canada is and does, which is considerable, and which in no way minimizes the bad.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

crisis passes, Moderna hooray!

Just so you know - yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. Hold on, I'm a creature given to melodrama; maybe I'll just say it was pretty dreadful. There was a family crisis so all-consuming that I was on the phone much of the day - to my ex and to various others who could help, as I couldn't do much. Sometimes my melodramatic streak makes things worse. I hope it did not yesterday. 

Events did not help my already heaving stomach.

When things settled a bit, I thought, I'll go for a walk to clear my head. Usually I walk north through C'town but yesterday I decided to go south to the bank in Regent's Park. As I approached the CRC on Oak Street, a community resource centre where we held our conversation group a few years ago, I saw a lineup and the word 'vaccines.' I asked if I could make an appointment to get one and was told to get in line. But five minutes later when I got to the door, I realized I was in line to get the actual vaccine - my second shot, Moderna! Exactly what I wanted, six minutes from my front door, with almost no wait. Incredible.

Today my arm is a bit tender but otherwise, I'm pretty good. Hope that lasts; there's enough going on that I don't need side effects. But what a great feeling to know that in two weeks, I've got a lot of immunity.

And more good news - a royalty report from Findaway Voices, the other site, besides Audible, which hosts my audiobook. They reported a sale of two copies for a grand total of $4.34. That's U.S.! Which means it's considerably more! The wealth keeps pouring in.

And through all this, crisis, vaccine, the weather is stunning. Today all is calm and bright, my insides feel better, and I feel safer. And the baby skunk, which hung around the house all day letting off stink bombs, seems to have moved on. All good, I'd say. 

For now. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Canadian wildlife

My day is on hold: a baby skunk has fallen into the steep window well at the front of the house, so I'm waiting for animal services to call and then come. Isn't life always interesting?

This happened many years ago, an adult skunk was trapped down there and had to be rescued, so I had a plexiglass cover made for the well. Somehow this baby got through...

MON DIEU! A very nice man just arrived and got the skunk out. I called the city at 9 and he was here at 10.30! He warned me the little guy would spray, and he did. Now the house has a lovely overpowering scent of rotten marijuana. I hope he finds his family, who must have a den somewhere around here. Maybe it's the skunks who've been climbing into the compost bin and wreaking havoc, not the raccoons. Or could be both. 

Canadian wilderness, never far away. I'm reminded of a camping trip in Killarney Park with the kids, when the morning after two days of thunderstorms we found a baby bear under our picnic table. Waiting for mama to arrive, plus our general miserable wetness, convinced us to pack up and go home. I know - sissies!

Still not great. Was tested for C-difficile yesterday, waiting to hear. But it's another glorious day and so - onward. The garden has started to produce. There's been lots of lettuce and spinach so far, and about six raspberries, but this morning - two peas! Great excitement. 

Hey, these days, I take what I can get.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Gunda, the loving mother pig

I have to note that when old friend Lynn and I used to get together, we'd discuss politics, the world, our travels, our interesting, busy, varied lives. A few days ago, as we sat drinking, not rosé but water on my deck, we discussed our varied health problems. I know that's what old people do; we used to laugh at that. Not any more. Until we're healthy, our bodies are top of mind. Unfortunate but inescapable.

So today I'm happy to report the latest: they think my ongoing health problems might be because I have an infection in my gut caused by the antibiotics I took to clear the infection in my gut. Plus the first infection is still there. More fun ahead - tests tests tests. 

No complaints; c'est la vie. I'd emailed my doctor and she called in the early evening with this interesting suggestion. Grateful for her attention, with everyone else she has to deal with. 

A part ça, as the French say, the weather is amazing - sunny but cool today, a blessing. I teach in half an hour, then off to the clinic yet again. The other night, I watched Hot Docs' Gunda, a black and white documentary about life on a Norwegian farm. No words, just animals, the main character Gunda, a mother pig who as we watch gives birth, effortlessly it seems, to about ten piglets who immediately know to suckle. There's a mishap; she steps on one and perhaps damages his leg, as one of the little pigs later has a limp. But we watch them grow strong and emerge, blinking, from the pen to sunlight. And then they and their mother forage in the field, she always surrounded by a scattered cloud of piglets. It's gorgeous. 

But there are also cows and chickens. It's incredibly slow, forcing you to enter the measured rhythm of the animals, and I confess I skipped ahead a tiny bit every so often, laughing to think how long my son, even more impatient than I for action in film, would last. There's one scene where four cows are standing side by side, head to tail, and you see that the waving tail of one is keeping flies from the face of the one next, whose tail waves over the face of her neighbour. True partnership, brilliant. 

The end is heartbreaking; Mother Pig is left bereft, and we with her. If anything is going to turn me vegetarian at last, besides of course Macca, it's this film, that brings us into the hearts, minds, and, yes, souls, of animals. I abhor the brutal way we torture and slaughter farm animals - all animals, except our pampered pets - and think that will be the scandal we're most ashamed of in years to come, as we are bitterly ashamed now of how we've treated minorities. I eat little meat but still eat some - would have been vegetarian many years ago except for laziness and disorganization. It just takes more time and energy to figure out tofu and vegetables than to slap a piece of delicious meat in a pan or on some bread. 

Maybe soon, thinking of Gunda the loving mother pig, I'll make the move.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

pep talk to self

Not much to tell you except that I'm not well yet. My old friend Lynn, not the French Lynn, the Toronto Lynn, came over and told me I have to advocate more aggressively for my health care, and if I can't do it, she will. And believe me, once she is on the case, you're going to move mountains. So tomorrow I'm going to make a call to see if we can speed things along. My concern is that I'll be back in hospital before anything is resolved. 

You know I'm sick because I was supposed to go across town to celebrate Father's Day with Anna and Thomas and the boys, and I cancelled. 

So let's hope something changes soon. As Jannette who came yesterday to help in the garden said, "You are not yourself." And I like being myself. I worked for a long time to find out who she is and become her. No energy, no appetite, no interest in food which all tastes terrible, not able to drink rosé, losing weight - SO NOT ME!

I can drink beer, though. Thank God for beer.

Lynn also is dealing with a big health issue, both of us fit healthy eaters, she far more than I, and yet whammo, there it is. The big whack. 

In the meantime, I've missed several Dose 2 Covid appointments because of timing - either just out of hospital or an invitation for a day that I teach. So, stymied on two important health fronts right now. Plus - I should just turn the page - reading in the NYT about the terrifying rise of the fanatical far-right around the world, violent gangs plotting for society as we know it to end violently. No, should not think about that right now, on this beautiful hot Sunday afternoon. The garden is flourishing. Every year, from being buried underground, it returns to strength and beauty. 

There's hope for you yet, old girl. Hang in there.  

Friday, June 18, 2021

Paul McCartney turns 79 and I care

 Nothing much to say on this wet Friday except HAPPY 79th BIRTHDAY MACCA!

I will put on CDs or records and celebrate you, while I also celebrate the return of my poor body that's struggling to regain strength. This morning I did Gina's line-dancing class on Zoom, had to keep sitting down, but I was there, moving for the first time in two weeks. 

So later I will dance to Macca, a good man, a good citizen, a loving father and husband, a brilliant, indefatigable, hardworking musician. At 79, may we all look so good and accomplish a tenth of what he does. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

"Cheese: a love story"

Weather still utter perfection, we're so lucky. I'm on the deck as the trees rustle, should be launching my second class of the day right now, the fourth of the week, but the home class writers kindly decided it was a small class and we should cancel. For my sake. I'm grateful, just do not have much in me right now. We'll resume in September; the U of T class and the seniors group continue till mid-July. Again, what a blessing I love the work that supports me and can do it on Zoom even when I'm not perky. But it'll be good for us all to have a break. Maybe I can soon start my own writing work again. 

Wanted to tell you about "Cheese: A Love Story," the marvellous documentary I'm now addicted to, along with its subject. A keen young cheesemonger with the unlikely name Afrim Pristine runs the family cheese business in Toronto and has taken a film crew to explore cheesemaking in Switzerland, France, and, I see, other countries to come, including ours. Last night was France, and I sat there moaning and drooling. No country on earth, he said, devours cheese the way the French do - 50 pounds per person per year of the thousand different varieties. He showed a cheese school in Paris and the cut-throat annual cheese competition and how the best soufflé in Paris is made. He explored the vast underground Napoleonic fortress where thousands of wheels of comté cheese mature, he ate steak frites with a chunk of melting roquefort on top, and cooked a divine dish called tartiflette which was mostly reblochon and potatoes and cream. 

I wanted to get on an airplane. 

No, I didn't, travel is the furthest thing from my mind right now, but I did want someone to deliver these things to my home and my mouth as soon as possible. Tartiflette NOW! Because of the antibiotics, food has tasted vile for more than a week, and alcohol impossible. But that's gradually improving. I may actually have to cook something, instead of raiding my freezer and making do. I may have to make a pilgrimage to Pristine's shop. 

Nice book words: Rick, one of the actors at Patsy's memorial, is listening to the audiobook I taped of "Loose Woman." So far I’m finding it very engaging, even suspenseful, moving along at the perfect clip in all senses of the word. I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished.

Seiji Ozawa the famous conductor has Alzheimer's, and his colleague Zubin Mehta brought him on stage to help conduct a concert. Tears guaranteed. Oh, the power of music.

At my doctor's office yesterday, I saw this on the wall and read it for the first time, an obit for Dr. Mimi Divinsky. She was our beloved family doctor when we first got to Toronto, a wonderful woman, a social activist with a big conscience and heart who died far too young. Still missed, Mimi. Thank you for everything. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

out and about and celebrating a son

Great excitement today - a trip across town! It feels like I haven't been out in months, so an Uber to my doctor's office on the west side was thrilling. The city looks battered but hopeful; so many businesses shuttered forever, but still, many open, life stirring again. Long line-ups outside Winners — the urge to consume has not been quelled. But I understand. Maybe new clothes are needed for the pandemic body.

My doctor is a lovely woman who really can't help; nothing to be done until after the colonoscopy in a month, when we can make a plan. I just hope it doesn't erupt again before then, no guarantees; there's pain, so it's still infected. She told me my low blood pressure puts me at very low risk for a heart attack: 6%. Which means there's no worry about what I call my "mayonnaise-based diet." But the risk of cancer, unfortunately, with a long family history, is not so low. 

I told her how freaked out I was by the woman with osteoporosis in my room at Mt. Sinai, who smashed both legs falling in her living room. Nothing to be done for those of us with osteoporosis except weight-bearing exercise and lots of cheese. Exercise is not on my list these days, though I'm sure my legs are turning to noodles. No energy. But it will return. Soon, please! Longing to bear some weight again. 

The weather continues glorious, perfect, in fact, summery with a cool breeze. Long may it last. 

Yesterday, to give his sister a break, my son took his two nephews for an overnight stay in his tiny apartment. They play video games and eat pizza and chase each other, two small puppies and one big dog. Despite the stress of last year, mostly unemployed and at loose ends, Sam has emerged stronger than ever. He told me yesterday he was at his local grocery store when the checkout clerk put aside some of his pile and said, You're not paying for that. 

It turned out that in the winter a Parkdale man in need, in line buying groceries ahead of Sam, was $15 short. Sam paid the difference. The clerk said, We get all kinds in here, and we need to celebrate kindness more often. Thank you for what you did.

The woman in line behind Sam said, in her Italian accent, You tell your parents they did a good job. 

Thank you! That means a lot.

He was happy to be back at work last week. This was just before, as they got the patio ready:

And this is last night, outside his place: 

Have taught two classes so far this week with two tomorrow. Once more, I say fervently, thank god for Zoom. Tonight, it's another episode of "Cheese: a love story," last week in Switzerland, tonight in France. It will help my osteoporosis just to watch that much cheese.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Under the Gaze of Angels, and The Observer

In the swim again, sort of. Yesterday, I realize, was the first day since my book launch in September that a group of people were over at the house - this house, which is gathering central. What a hard year it has been, even for someone accustomed to solitude like myself. How thrilling to hear a bunch of people talk and laugh in my kitchen again.

Today, taught a Zoom class - those poor students, I missed a class last term because of the appendix and now this term too! - and actually went outside to return library books, an eight minute walk that took me twenty, my first excursion outside the front door since return from hospital. Doubletake, my fave second-hand store, opens tomorrow! The world dawns again. Sam has had an exhausting two days at work, and Anna has been in the Sunnyside swimming pool at least five times with the boys. Life.

A book report on "Loose Woman" from old friend Terry Poulton: Love your book! A great read, entertaining, educational, unflinchingly honest, with welcome historic reminders of a certain time and certain attitudes for people of our vintage. I hope you feel as proud of it as you deserve to be. 

Thanks to TP, who's a fine author in her own right. 

Today, I'm happy to give you a report on two books by other writers. "Under the Gaze of Angels," by Said Habib, was edited by my dear friend Isabel Huggan, who gave it to me. Habib, originally from Palestine, has lived in Toronto for many years. He recreates his childhood in Nazareth, its locals, his family, portraying a people with immense dignity and powerful spiritual and familial traditions. His immigration to Canada at the end, triggered by the creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent disenfranchisement and sometimes brutalization of his people, shows how difficult it is to be caught between two ways of being: on the one hand, his love of his people and homeland and the engrained traditions of the past, and on the other, his happiness to be free of tradition, to reinvent himself. He quietly, with clarity and grace and without rancour, points out how biased - pro-Israelis, anti-Palestinians - news reports in the west are and how his people have suffered. Gradually you come to love the writer, his enormous humanity. A beautifully written book which shows us the other side of a conflict we read about every day: a lost civilization. 

"The Observer" was sent to me by former student Pearl Richard; she used her pandemic lockdown well. It's the kind of book - speculative or science fiction - I'd never choose myself, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this slim novel, about an alien civilization that has sent one of its members - Aren - to observe and report on human beings. While he's there, the pandemic strikes, and by the end of the book we know why. Aren's fellows have obliterated and do not feel messy human emotions, and he is sent to earth to find out if it would be advantageous to develop some. He begins to discover love, and anger, and protective feelings, and we discover them again with him. It's a thoughtful and imaginative tale. Well done, Pearl! 

It's been a strange day, hot sun, then thunderstorm, then sun, then gloom. It's 5, but no rosé for me; I had a sip yesterday but it tasted terrible. How I miss my own traditions. Another day of antibiotics, and soon perhaps my taste buds will return. I'm still weak and shaky, but, I hope, moving in the right direction. And now, to pick some lettuce for dinner and pick out the next book.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

celebrating the life of Patsy Ludwick

We did it - we celebrated the life of Patricia Jane Ludwick, who had ALS and died serenely on Saturday May 15 with the assistance of her doctor. God bless this country. 

0nce I got out of hospital, I thought I'd be fine to produce a simple gathering in the garden. But I was not fine, so Anne-Marie stepped in, did almost all the shopping and made banana bread, and Sue LePage prepared some of the treats. There was a lot of food, wine, beer. 

And talk. Because these are actors and designers we're talking about here, seven theatre people who worked with Patsy in the early 70's, a little after I met her in 1970. They were with the NDWT theatre company, touring the country with James Reaney's "Donnellys" Trilogy, starring the magnificent Patsy and her partner at the time, the love of her life, Jerry Franken. 

So there were stories and stories and stories. We all spoke, and some read poems to and by Patsy, especially by, because she was a brilliant poet and could easily have been published, only she refused. Jay Bowen sang "I wave bye bye," a haunting song, accompanied by Rick Gorrie on harmonica - and I wept yet again. We all marvelled that this stubborn actress with no money ended up with exactly the life she wanted - in a little house on Gabriola Island built by herself and friends, doing community work, volunteering, editing screenplays, writing poems, and becoming a Buddhist. She was a woman made of fire, so the fact that she turned nearly to air by the end was extraordinary. 

We gathered to celebrate her life, because that is what loved ones do. We needed to remember her together.

And she was there. I'd told her I was going to do this and she forbad it, not until Covid's over, she said sternly, as was her wont. But we did it anyway. However, she showed us; it rained intermittently all afternoon — Patsy showing us her disapproval. All of us with at least one vaccination, we gathered in the kitchen until the sun came out, then we mopped off the chairs and went to the back garden, then came back in when the mosquitos came out. Patsy was thunder and light. And words. I'm sure she was there.

Now I'm blotto. There was a family crisis yesterday in the midst of my own health crisis, so it has been a tiring weekend. 

I miss you, Patsy. But oh, you had the most marvellous friends.

Friday, June 11, 2021

confronting Canadian racism

At one of the gatherings to mourn the Muslim family just murdered in London in an act of racial hatred, someone left a big colourful poster: "I promise to teach my babies to love your babies." Nothing more important in a world that seems increasingly dark and lost. Until we remember the past, which was also dark and lost. It's good to witness kindness, generosity, compassion, much in evidence. I had an argument online - I know, what a waste of time - with a Canadian writer who's lived in the States for decades and wrote a sneering condemnation of this country - that Canadians are so smug and superior when the monstrosity of residential schools and this horrible murder by an enraged young man prove we're just as racist as the States.

Not. My daughter would agree with her, but I most emphatically do not. We should never be smug; the last weeks have once again taught us a lesson we should have learned many decades ago. But this country changes fast; has, even in the past weeks, and will continue to do so, in mostly the right direction. Much, much to do. Much, much done. People want instant solutions to extremely complex issues and condemn so very quickly. It does not help. Especially when we're reeling. 

Here, life returns at last. Yesterday was a hard day, except that it also wasn't; I lay in torpor on the deck all day awash in the scent of honeysuckle, could be worse. For once, no power washing, no construction, no loud neighbour conversations, just birds and the sound of my own anxiety. 

But this morning, things inside my swollen belly and head were calmer, and then my team arrived. John did a massive pruning while I sat snipping the pile of branches with secateurs to stuff them in yard waste bins. Then Nicole got groceries and helped me put in a load of laundry. Monique came later and tortured me by drinking rosé.

The weather is a gift, perfect - mild, sunny, breezy, wafting summer smells about. My legs and belly are shaky, but my confidence is not, not any more.

I realize that gardening is the perfect occupation for an impatient person like me. Impatience is pointless, counterproductive, in a garden; you think they're listening to you say, hurry up? This garden has taken thirty-five years to get where it is now, inch by inch, mistake by mistake, countless shrivelled blackened plants and shrubs and bushes. Gradually, this bit worked, then that, then that, until it's mostly working, all by itself, with some help and a lot of water. A mere thirty-five years. 

But it's the same with writing; writing takes patience. Learning your craft, your voice, what your heart and mind need to express, and trusting those things at the deepest level with each sentence, takes time. At least, it did for me. That is, I knew from childhood writing was what I wanted to do. But it has taken until now - longer than thirty-five years - for me to feel more or less in control of the tools.

It's a good feeling. 

Haven't done this for awhile: here's a message from my friend Nancy White.

Your book!  I dug into it last night, and the phrase that jumped into my mind was from The Producers, when the director who'd been given the script for "Springtime for Hitler" is asked if he'd read it and replies, "READ IT?? I DEVOURED IT!" (Perhaps this is a poor comparison...)

       Anyway, I'm enjoying it immensely!

Thank you, Nancy. I do hope "Loose Woman" does not bear too close comparison with that particularly unfortunate musical.

Speaking of writing, that brings me to Donald Trump ( and who thought that would ever be a thing?) Can't wait for the book of all books. The man has obviously found an editor - correct spelling, commas, whole coherent sentences ... wait, maybe this post was ghostwritten. But no, the tone is him. That's his voice. I bet he was born with it. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

in which an anxious mind chatters to itself

Suddenly I'm frightened. I'm flattened again today, not better, still stabs of pain, no energy, no strength. What if the antibiotic doesn't work and this recurs? I've been making a master list of things to take to hospital next time, if, of course, there is a next time, like eye shade, extra-long phone cord, light, not heavy, reading, and, most importantly, earplugs. (Write if you'd like my list and I'll send it to you.) I'm going to get a bag ready, just like the bag you have ready when you're pregnant. And I do look pregnant, more so today than yesterday.

I'm a worrier, so for sure I should take a deep breath. Heavy duty medication is doing its job, no wonder I'm not perky. I can feel the battle going on inside, the good and the evil, struggling. 

People have been writing to ask why the appendix didn't come out last time, so let me explain. In March I was out of the hospital in two days and recovered quickly and it seemed completely. In my six week phone consultation with the doctor, I asked, "What are the chances of an attack like this recurring?"

"30% within a year, 10% every year after that," he replied.

It was March, still full on Covid in Ontario, hospitals jammed. Why have an operation at a dangerous time with a 70% chance it wouldn't be needed? So I didn't. Very much the wrong decision, as it turned out. So this time, when I'm better, we'll figure out what's next. 

So boring! Skyped with Lynn today and we laughed that when older people get together, all they talk about is their health. She's happy to have younger friends with whom to talk about other things, like me, a whole 13 months her junior, because we talk about many different things. France is wide open; you can dine indoors in restaurants, though there's still an 11 p.m. curfew. Primary and middle schools, incidentally, never closed in France. Thank you, Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce and our idiot premier. No school for our kids.

Time for a nap. I'll be fine. Apologies for whining. Thanks for listening.

PS. Two hours later - just had a very long phone call with my wonderful doctor and am feeling infinitely better. She explained many things that now make sense. On top of everything else with illness, we lay people don't understand what the hell is going on inside our bodies, what the experts are doing, what they know and see. But I understand more now. 

It's six. If only I could have a little glass of wine. Soon.

Cheers, my friends. Enjoy yours.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

One lucky woman

It happened again, like last time, a kind of mania when I get home; I sat at the computer for hours, blogging and dealing with some of the over 200 emails waiting. It's like I miss writing so much, I can't stop when I get home. Last night, I actually sat to finish the essay I was working on when I got sick on Friday, and then queried a magazine about it! And then realized they'd already said no, so had to write back and apologize. Mistake. 

Hypergraphia is a behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write or draw.

But this morning was reality time, old lady time, old lady with a very big belly who felt like she'd been hit by a bus. I staggered down to have breakfast and got a pot of crabapple jelly out of the fridge from John's wife Sylvie; on the lid it said "Handmade with love." And that was it; I started to cry and have hardly stopped all day. Everything makes me cry. My roses! The garden. Talking to friends. Thinking about the women I left behind in Room 1112, who are still there, waiting for their bodies to heal to they can get the hell out of there. 

I came out to the deck, and what I saw, with all the beauty, was everything that needed to be done. The big outside room had exploded with growth in five days. I wrote to John and asked if he might possibly have time to come help, no rush, anytime or tomorrow. "I'll be over soon," was his reply. I wept. We talked and talked, as we always do, and then he cut the grass, tied back the roses that were falling over, transplanted and pruned. I wept. He's coming back Friday to do more. And now, after a day taking care of my grandsons, Nicole has come to clean, as I have no energy even to wash a dish. Yesterday Jean-Marc came over with soup, took out my recycling bins and brought them back this morning, and soon he's coming back because the wire gate to the veg garden is stuck and I cannot move it. 

Many phone calls and emails from concerned friends.


I have a team. Without my team, I'd be toast. Cathy brought rosé, though it'll be a long time before I get to it. Ruth came over with chocolate zucchini muffins that I devoured. Nicole brought paintings from the boys - a big sparkly butterfly from Eli. 

Judy and I had an important talk about being strong independent women who find it hard to ask for help. Not today, for damn sure! I did nothing but. But I'm going to learn to do it more often. Because I'm not who I once was. I'm more fragile, and sometimes, I need help. 

Oh yes, and I got an email cheerfully inviting me to book my second A/Z vaccine, appointments available only today and tomorrow. Not quite the right time this end. Hope they try again. 

Tonight, on the Food Channel, a program called "Cheese: A Love Story.

My view yesterday morning:

My view this morning:

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Another merry adventure in Sickland

Hello earthlings! I greet you on my return from Planet Take Care of Me I'm Sick. You might have been wondering about the long pause in my incessant blogging. I hope you regarded it as a welcome holiday from Beth. At the time, she was in Mt. Sinai Hospital taking a most unwelcome holiday from her life. 

Yes, it happened again. On Friday I went for a vigorous walk with Ruth and then to my desk where I was happily working on an essay when, about 4 p.m., WHAMMO, excruciating pain. I'd been feeling something but not too serious so ignored it. This was nothing like last time in March, which was a gentle pain for months beforehand. This was killer. I was gasping, nearly on the ground. Robin my dear tenant was distraught. He helped me take two of the Tylenol 3's I had on hand luckily from the last event so I could actually stand, put my charger in my purse, and order an Uber. This time I went to Mt. Sinai Emerg, not St. Mike's. I'm hospital shopping.

By the time they got me through Emerg I was writhing in pain. Lesson: exaggerate your symptoms in Emerg or they'll put you lower on the triage list. When I arrived I was not feeling too bad because of the strong Tylenol, but it wore off quickly. Oh the blessing of finally being wheeled on a stretcher through those big doors and into Receiving, where they figure out the moaning package they've just been delivered and cover you in warm blankets. I was shaking head to foot. Severe pain turns you into another person. All that matters is for it to stop. 

It was another appendix attack, this one far worse than the last, and after a CT scan, the same situation - so much inflammation and scar tissue, too dangerous to operate, they needed to get me back to some semblance of health before operating. So, like last time, antibiotics. Only since they were concerned they might have to operate if I didn't get better and there was an emergency, they forbad me to eat. Only ice chips allowed.

For three days.

So that had me in a good mood! No food plus lack of sleep, a lot of pain, and the joys of hospitals. My first night I was royalty, in a single room with a window, I thought I'd hit the jackpot. But no, next morning they moved me to a four bed ward. Hell is other people, especially when those people have the windows. Windows not only mean light, they have SILLS, valuable real estate in those crowded cubicles. 

One of the first things I had to do was cancel my life - two classes, two doctor's appointments including a colonoscopy which was very hard to get and was intended to stave off this very event, several meetings. Good thing Robin is here to keep things running, and Sam came over to water. There was a heat wave. I think. 

Oh so much to tell you. More anon. Just to say that yesterday morning was one of the worst ever; I'd had no sleep - hospital nights are pure torture -, no food, was in pain, utterly wretched. They came to see me - the gastro-entero team, arrayed in front of the bed surveying the sorry evidence - and concluded that despite appearances, I was improving and could eat. So I had food, no much, but enough, and last night a sleeping pill. This morning, with food and sleep and hope, different story. My Nigerian nurse Chinella said, "Now I see the real you coming out."At least I think that what she said, in her accent through layers of mask and plastic face shield. Yes, I regained my sense of humour and got to know my roommates. I really felt for them, as finally this morning I was disconnected from my tether - the IV - and got into real clothes and began to pack. They'll all be stuck there much longer. 

I knew I was better because this morning I started to jot notes about the experience to share with you. I'd done nothing until then but lie there dozing and scrolling on my phone. 

So though I do not feel lucky that this part of my body is determined to bring me down, I do feel extremely, incredibly lucky to have survived this twice and to be home. My roses are out and beyond beautiful. There are birds. I can walk without rolling a machine stuck into my arm. I know where things are and can eat when and where I want. I just had a shower, oh Jesus, hot, private, clean, a shower! And tonight, my own bed. Beyond delicious.

Once again, as always - thank you Tommy Douglas. I walked out of there without paying a cent. But I worry for our health care system. All of us in my room were older women, I the youngest. It's happening, the boomers collapsing - soon, I said to my friends there, disaster, everyone in the hospitals will be over 70! And, said Roselynn from Jamaica, all the mental hospitals will be filled with young people who are having a really hard time right now.

That's cheery hospital talk.

My belly feels pregnant, swollen with nearly ten pounds of fluid. 

Two lovely moments and I'll end for today - a young doctor appeared at my bed in his scrubs. "Good news," he said, "you can go home." We chatted and I admired the lanyard around his neck, colourful weaving with a Pride flag and another attached. "That's the Indigenous sovereignty flag," he said. "I thought I should display all my credentials. I'm Métis." 

What pleasure to see this young doctor so proud of his ancestry. He was one of the only Canadians on staff I spoke to the entire time; almost all the personnel are immigrants, and thank God for them. And my daughter, and perhaps the young man himself, would dispute whether he is Canadian. But to me, he is. Despite our hideous failings with his people, the country has done something right for him. 

I waited for a porter to come get me; they have to wheel you out. Finally he arrived, a handsome young man with a wheelchair, at least his eyes looked handsome above the mask. "My prince has come," I said. "My chariot awaits." He wheeled me to the door, and within minutes Monique was there to pick me up.

Home. Birds. Roses. Recovery. It rained this morning - sweet hot wet air. The BLOG! The internet was so bad there, I couldn't communicate, it killed me. I want to post a few pictures but my phone must be on some other setting and won't let me. Maybe tomorrow.

Guard your health with your life, my friends.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

a big day in the life of Beth

Funny how a day can start normally and then turn into something else. It's beautiful today, hot and bright. This morning I was awake at 5.30 and was worried - I couldn't hear birds. Usually they start at around 4.45, the dawn chorus, much noise and chatter, but this morning, silence. I thought for a moment I must be going deaf and snapped my fingers beside my ear to check. And then, 5.45, there they were. Why the one hour delay? Who knows? Some bird event. I stopped on this morning's walk to listen to a robin on a fence only 4 or 5 feet away, looking me in the eye and telling me a very long musical story. The robins are fearless. 

Taught a fabulous U of T class midday. During our break, I checked my email to find some welcome news. Months ago I entered "Loose Woman" in the Whistler Independent Book Awards. It's a juried award of some prestige, at least in Canadian independent book circles, which is admittedly a SMALL circle. But still. They were announcing the shortlist, and there, to my disbelief, was my name, my book. It's one of six listed for the nonfiction award. 

How much this means. Somebody - several people, I assume - read my book and liked it enough to set it aside and consider it for a prize. It's been a long time, folks. I've won exactly one literary award, the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award, decades ago. I was long listed twice for the CBC nonfiction award, and am proud of winning the Excellence in Teaching Award from U of T. 

But this is an award for my lovely book that almost no one knows about. Winning would help a lot. It might mean more readers, which is what matters. Even being shortlisted helps. It was noticed. It was chosen. Thank you. (Below, from Iguana Books, my publisher, on FB.)

And - might as well announce it all now - my nearly 3000-word essay on Alice Neel will run in The New Quarterly, probably in the fall issue, online and in print. It's about Alice's friendship with Dad, the portrait she painted of him, and my visit to her in 1980. Thrilled that it will appear in TNQ, one of the best of the Canadian literary magazines. Another yes. Music - birdsong - to my ears.

And - by sheer chance, "Loose Woman," with a few others, was featured today on BookLife's Indie Spotlight.

So, a big day for moi. It's five, I'm pouring some celebratory rosé. (At the same time, I just got an email, "CBC to cover announcement of the Leacock Awards." I entered the Leacock Awards and did not even make the long list. It's for funny books, and I knew mine was not funny enough. I didn't enter the Jewish Literary Awards because it's not Jewish enough. But it's good enough for something.)

My Crone friends Annie, Terry, and Nancy came for a late lunch on Sunday, an afternoon of reminiscing and laughter; Nancy brought photographs of our shared past nearly fifty years ago. This is me with my dear friend and acting colleague, Peter Blais, now a wonderful visual artist in Nova Scotia.

As you can see, we were very serious people. How could we have known then one of us would grow up to be a successful visual artist and another a SHORTLISTED AUTHOR?