Sunday, June 29, 2008

Outta This Place

Hee hee! Later taters, M and I are on the road to Canadia for the next week and a half. I don't know if I'll update or not, but just imagine me at my happiest, and that should be description enough.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Surrounding Ourselves with Security

Getting ready to leave on Monday for that annual 12-hour drive to my parents' place. There's a sense of nervousness about it, moreso just the anticipation I think, but also leaving our house for an extended period for the first time since we bought it. I mean, I've gone back to Canada on my own, but the two of us leaving at the same time for 10 days? First time.

Which is probably a big reason why we rushed around and put in an alarm system two days before leaving.

Actually, the alarm system was also a growing thought given the two instances I've had dealing with strange men late at night and alone at the house. It's very different being in a house than in an apartment - you feel a lot more exposed and vulnerable, particularly being alone at night. I don't want to perpetuate the whole "woman alone and scared" thing, but there's something to it.

We never had an alarm system growing up, so it's a very foreign thing to have codes and instant alarms and what have you. Back home, this is the current alarm:

Which, truthfully, I would rather have instead of a system. But we have a little house, and two cats, and it's just not in the picture for right now. Next house, I want a dog just like my family's dog: a chocolate lab, just like Taylor. Best dog in the world (and I'm scared of most dogs!)

In the very rural setting of my parents' home, if I'm home alone, I have Taylor sleep with me, and stick around downstairs late at night. Friendliest dog, wonderful with my two little brothers growing up, but also very, very protective. With the younger boys particularly, if you're wrestling with them, Taylor gets annoyed and will put his mouth around the older aggressor's arm. No bite, but just a warning to back off.

Also can sense bad people. Story: dog hates some particular service provider guy, I can't remember which one. The guy didn't use the front door one time coming to the house, but came through the garage, which probably didn't help. Taylor got on his pissed face and blocked the entryway and backed the guy's ass all the way back outside. Supposedly is a nice guy, but Taylor does *not* like this punk. Which my mum says, maybe the dog is sensing something shady about him, I don't know.

Anyways, guess beyond the glass breaker and the door alarms, I'll have to rely on these two modes of security:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Four days to driving to Canada! Woot!

Monday, June 23, 2008

To be Young and Sexy... or not quite.

I must be aging. Clearly. I was driving home from the pool this evening, when I saw two girls walking down the street. Probably 14 years old. One of them, from behind, had her T-shirt pulled back in a backknot, and her hips sticking out of her jeans. Whatever, not an uncommon thing.

As I drove by, I see that the T-shirt is very tight against her boobs, and her shoulders slumped forward. So it's that nice saggy boob look. Very hot.

Dude, it is not just the clothes, but the *posture*. Does anyone stand up straight anymore?

Scratch that. It's not just the clothes and the posture, but the label on those clothes.

Lord, why do girls today insist on wearing clothes that are at least a size too small?

I understand the desire to be sexy, and that stuff changes. Hell, back in high school, wearing a shirt that showed your stomach was the most risque thing (and I know, because I did wear them, underneath a velvet blazer that got buttoned when teachers walked by. Though the whole purple hair and black makeup wasn't really in the goal to be sexy, but anyways.....)

That's why there's all those super short flouncy skirts (which I would be mortified to wear - what if it flew up and showed my underwear? Then again, I guess that's what you want to happen? I dunno), the belly shirts, cleavage, big heels, big gold earrings with the girl's name in the middle of the hoop. I feel downright fucking dowdy in my jean pencil skirt and T-shirt and flats, like a damn grandma.

But girls, please. Please. You aren't a size 4. Not many of us are.

I ain't happy about being a 10, trust me, but I'm not squeezing my ass into a size 6 skirt and letting my belly flop over the edge. I'm not wearing a skintight, mostly see through T-shirt that shows any back fat you might have, not to mention your very obviously overflowing bra, in the deluded belief that I am looking sexy.

Every day I see girls wearing stuff that's too small. The "muffin top" is a daily sight. It's not cute! It's not! Dammit! Why does it bug me so much! Wear clothes that fit, dammit!
That's all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Writing for Good Causes

I'm a freelance writer for the most part - I do hold steady work at one social service org, but I also do short-term work for other agencies: education, arts, whatever. The steady one, I've been there, count'em, five years, which is kind of surreal. And I work at a community college as well, running the small tutoring program, but that's more a pay-the-mortgage-whilst-fucking-around-for-hours.

I'm usually pretty happy with doing this kind of work, mainly because I like that I feel I'm doing something good. I like knowing that the money I get from Textron or Target or some big family foundation is going toward buying services for needy people, or helping to expand or start some new beneficial program. (Plus, I work from home mostly, and the pay is pretty great. Hey, let's be honest. It's not just do-goodery, just a welcome benefit to the job)

Yes, indeed, a portrait of me and my writing benevolence.

One thing I've always been is lucky. A few months ago, I was complaining about how much I wanted to get more into the arts and culture field of fundraising, how that's my dream, but it's near impossible to get into said field without experience. And at the time, I had none, only human services and education. Which is fine, but like I mentioned in an earlier post, the arts is a great love of mine, and something I really, really want to immerse myself into. Having a position where, let's say, I can help distribute grants to struggling artists or musicians, or bring in money to fund some big arts festival or performance, well, it may sound weird, but I would love that.

A few weeks later, I get a request for some funding resources for an art school over in Massachusetts. And the same week, I get a call from my stepdad Rob asking if I can do some research into funding a big band festival back in Canada

Funny how this shit works out. Not an uncommon thing, I'll tell you.)

Anyways, I eagerly jumped into the big band stuff, not only because it's arts related and will look good in my portfolio, but also because it's a way to feel connected to Canada, if only through business means. If I can find some really good foundations or corporate sponsors, this big band fest, which sounds very cool, will be able to expand, and bring in some Canadian talent to perform. And it supports a really nice town and the general area where I'm from. I, in turn, am giving back to my community, in a way.

Rob got back to me today, after I'd sent him a list of ten or so resources they might look into for funding support, everything from the Canadian federal government to a large gambling corporation based in Ontario. He said "the board was very impressed, and wants to meet you. Maybe there's some work that can come of this."

I wrote back that that was lovely, but even if there wasn't work and money to be had (research is usually free, writing has an hourly fee) I was just glad to help. And that's not just me spouting off and being holier and oh-so-good. It's true.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Belated, but still Worth Something

Here's to Dads. Specifically, to my two dads.

Just like the sitcom, yes.

First, quick family history for clarity:

Mum married Dad (and yes, I write mum because that's how I pronounce it, and I'm telling a story). High school boyfriend and girlfriend who got married mostly because everyone was afraid she'd end up pregnant, not because they desperately wanted to.

However, in the high school background was another boy, Rob, who liked my mum, and she liked him, but they never did anything about it because "she was Dad's girlfriend, and Dad was in a band." So the story goes, anyways. Bands trump all else. So Rob marries another woman.

Mum and Dad have my older brother Mac and then me. Rob has a girl, Jamie, and a boy, Matt, with his wife.

Mum and Dad get divorced. I was only about 1, so I don't remember any of this, but my brother does (he was 4). Dad sticks around Ontario for weekend custody for a few years, but eventually moves to the United States: first to Chicago, then Utah, and then down to Florida (which in a big way, I think, helped set the path for my eventual move to America, since I was already visiting it so much as a kid). Growing up, older brother and I saw him more and more infrequently, usually around holidays and part of the summer. He got married a few times, with not-so-great results.

Mum was an emergency room nurse (was for 25 years). One evening, there's a motorcycle accident and who comes rolling into the emergency room on a gurney but Rob. She's the nurse on call, and they remember each other from high school. He tells her back then he always wanted to ask her out, and she confessed the same! Destiny!

Mum and Rob get married when I am around 4 years old, and a new family is formed: Mac, Jamie, me and Matt.

Mum and Rob eventually have two boys together, who are my youngest brothers Jon and Tom.

And so it's all been for the majority of my life. Four brothers, one sister (yes, six all together!) two dads.

(Wasn't that quick an explanation, was it. I just like how it all came together, I guess.)

Anyways. Growing up, I was always kind of scared of Rob. He was tall, had a big booming radio broadcaster voice, and seemed very stern and angry a lot of the time. He was wonderful to my mom, and he was never cruel or harmful, but he scared me. We weren't close.

When I was 19, I went to university in Windsor (about three hours from home, across the river from Detroit). As they were unpacking me, and getting ready to leave me in residence, Rob gave me the biggest, longest hug in goodbye. I never forgot that, because at that point, I couldn't really remember the last time he had.

And from that point on, Rob and I developed a lovely relationship. I've really come to realize that despite all the initial fear and the weirdness, he's a wonderful, dry and intensely caring guy.

He hugs me all the time now. When I gave him a picture of him and I dancing at my wedding as a gift, he cried. Over the past few years, I've realized that he's really turned out to be the one I consider the most as "my father": the one who is always there, ready with advice, ready to support. I love him to bits, and I am never more confident and sure of myself when he and my mum are here with me in Rhode Island, at my side, never stronger.

Which is not to say, and I emphasize this, that my father is not in the picture, and that I don't regard him still as my father. I do, and I love him. For all his distance, he's a great guy (I use the word bumbling to describe him in the most affectionate of ways, because that's the best word, really). He just made some decisions that made the relationship between us kind of strange, although still loving. I actually just got back from visiting him in Florida and we had a great time just hanging out, the two of us (minus evil stepmother). He is wonderful to talk to about anything, full of humor and advice, and just a really easy-going, friendly person.

Anyways, it's a long and gushy post, but something that was floating around in my head.

Dads are lovely.

And so are surrogate dads, like the one I have here in Rhode Island in my father-in-law.

I'm quite lucky, all around.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Getting Graphic

Above: Self portrait of comic artist Terry Moore, creator of one of my favorite series, Strangers in Paradise

M and I love comic books. We are avid fans of the genre, and we regularly collect comics and graphic novels. Taking over our main bookcase, actually, but we both love them, seek them out, and buy them when we can. Nothing is better, in my opinion, than curling up with a new comic. I even subscribe to a magazine that focuses on comics and has articles analyzing various aspects of the genre, Comics Foundry.

One of my biggest dreams has been to write and draw my own graphic novel. I've played around with ideas for years now. I started an idea a while back, a sci-fi story called Mobius Loop, that actually had some good concepts, but my art wasn't really up to par. So I stopped it, partly because I got stuck, and partly because I didn't feel like I was good enough.

And another idea I had, about a ditzy, magical professor and her very serious babysitting charge, ended up being a children's book, Juniper Key and the Very Serious Girl, which I'm writing a sequel to now, and thinking about maybe trying to get published. Maybe. I'm shy about it.

After reading inspirational things like Craig Thompson's Blankets (which details his adolescence, his struggle with religion, and his first love), I started thinking about writing from my own life. And I have one particular topic that's been floating through my head for months now: a memoir of going to Japan with my mother, and all the weird experiences we had, coupled with my ongoing obsession with the culture throughout my life. Black and white, heavy ink, and going between cartoony and very detailed art.

But actually sitting down and writing a graphic novel is very, very intimidating, and I find it's hard to work up the courage even to get started. I've made notes, written things here and there, but it's the art that is intimidating me. I'm so rusty, so not where I think I should be, that it's screwing with my head.

Not a lot of people know that in high school, I was heavily into both art and English. Actually, more art than writing back then. And when it came to graduation, and to applying for colleges, I had to make a choice: which one to major in (for some reason, majoring in both wasn't an option - I'm not sure why on reflection). And I chose English, mainly because I got the impression it was easier to make a living out of English than it was art.

So I did English, and I got my Master's, and it worked out well, but there's always a part of me that fiercely wishes I'd majored in art. The idea of spending hours a day on art sounds like heaven to me, hard and certainly challenging, but heavenly.

So when I say I don't feel like I'm at where I should be, that's where it stems from. Funny thing is, it would be easy to boost my skills: just begin somewhere, and practice every day.

Anyways, the whole point of this point (finally) is that I'm seriously considering doing a mini-comic, to maybe distribute and trade at the upcoming Small Press Expo, which is in Maryland this October, and features independant publishers and comics outside of the Big Two (Marvel and DC). And I'm thinking about doing 8 or 12 pages about when I first came to America back in 2000, lived in Quincy, Mass., and generally went a little nuts for a while from the decision. Then photocopy, staple it into a little book, and... see what happens.

And maybe doing something like this will give me the confidence to tackle the Japan memoir. Maybe.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cold-Blooded on a Hot June Day

This heat wave sucks the big one. Right now, it's in the 90s after a sudden jump in heat from the very pleasant 70s, and being so close to the city, and surrounded by pavement, it's just about cooking me from the inside.

I am not one of those people that loves and soaks in the heat. Maybe it is on account of being "cold blooded", as a lot of people seem to love reminding me, Canook that I am. High heat makes me nauseous, I hardly eat anything, and most days like this I'm in a fog because my brain has overheated and refuses to compute. This has been every summer since I moved here to Rhode Island.

I think it's a little better when you've had time to get used to the rising heat - my mum always talks about thin blood and thick blood, how in the winter your blood thickens, and in the summer, it thins. But if it's too sudden a movement from cold to heat, your body can't adjust quickly enough and it, essentially, fucks you all up inside. Hence my swaying through the house like a steaming zombie.

I won't deny that I'm not longing for Canada right now. Where my parents live is right on Lake Huron, no humidity + the ability to literally go jump in the lake if you're hot. We lived by the beach every summer since I was little, and summers never got much above 85 degrees and perfect.

Three weeks to go, three weeks to go.

In the meantime, stick me in the shower as steam comes off my head, and buy me a Tropicana Coolatta to suck down already.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tim Hortons: A Blessing and a Curse

When I'm having a bad day, sometimes just going to the Tim Hortons down the street makes me feel better. Other days, like today, going inside is almost painful, for how familiar it is.

A little background. As mentioned in the earlier post, the donut and coffee chain Tim Hortons is the equivilent to Dunkin' Donuts here in the States, but holds perhaps an even greater hold on the Canadian consciousness. In Canada, we have snow, hockey, and Tim Hortons.

Going there was a common thing for me and for a lot of people: I went in high school with my best friend Bean to hang out (and see her when she worked there), I go with my mum or my brothers when I go back home to Ontario, and I've always stopped on road trips for a bagel and a chocolate milk. I was never a coffee drinker, but I always loved Timbits, or the little donut holes. And I liked the smell of coffee and bread and how warm it always was in there. It was just one of those collective things: a place everyone knew, and everyone went to, where most people would agree to go to for a snack, or a coffee, or whatever.

So in coming to live in America, that standard that I was so used to, like everything else back in Canada, was no longer available. And like I said before, when you leave the country you've always lived in, suddenly you start to miss things you didn't even think about, like the familiarity of a chain restaurant, of all things.

Recently over the past few years, Tim Horton restaurants have been popping up in Rhode Island. It's funny, because Dunkin' Donuts has such a hold over the general Rhode Island population, that when this Canadian franchise first tentatively opened up, it was expected to fail miserably. (Which is probably why they don't play up the fact that it's a Canadian franchise). But still, this is DD land! No one would go, right?

Well, they opened up one down the street, one 15 minutes away in one direction, 15 minutes away in another direction... you get the idea. And they are staying open, and although never packed to the gills, there's always someone in there. So in a strange way, Canada has come to me unexpectedly.

But it's also painful in a sense. The Tim Hortons around here is done in the exact same style, color scheme, layout, uniform, etc. as back in Canada. So going into one of these places is like going into a timewarp and coming out back in Southern Ontario. I can almost imagine that I'm 10 minutes away from my parents' house when I step into one of them.

Not that these employees of Tim Hortons help me keep the illusion, though. When the one down the street first opened, I went inside, thrilled to bits to see it, and even more thrilled when I saw these in the display case:

These, my friends, are butter tarts.

To which I exclaimed to the countergirl: "Hey! You guys have butter tarts! We have those back in the Canadian stores!"

To which she just gave me that teenage dead-eyed look and mumbled: "What?"

I had to show her where they were in the display case, and even then, she mumbled some other name for them that I can't even remember, probably because I was so annoyed at this moment being spoiled.

Anyways, to sum up. Today, after running a bunch of errands, and feeling tired and somewhat grumpy, I go to the Tim Hortons down the street to get a sandwich.

And from the first step, that familiar interior, the smell of the place, my heart wrenched a little and I got sad. It was a little weird. Even though my sandwich was delicious.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Foods, How I Miss You, How I Will Buy You Shortly

M and I are getting ready in a few weeks to drive up to my parents' house in Canada, and already I'm making lists of types of food I want to eat and buy while there.

Like anyone else who lives in a different country than they grew up in, one of the things you miss most is the food. Little dumb things, like certain brands of candy bars, the things your mom made when you were younger, or just things you take for granted until you can't get them anymore.

For example:

Most Canadians living in a different country would cite how much they miss Timmy's, or Tim Hortons, but I've been lucky in suddenly having Timmy's pop up around Rhode Island these past few years.

For me though, the first place M and I go when we cross the border at Niagara Falls/Buffalo is Harvey's. It's the best fast food ever - burgers with a bit of spice, made any way you want, excellent chocolate-y shakes, so, so good, and the best after sweating through border patrol.

French fries with gravy. Not necessarily poutine, which some people know as "Quebec-style Fries" around here: fries, gravy and curds, which is almost like a slightly saltier mozzarella. No, just fries and gravy for me, in a cardboard carton, with a fork. It's so friggin' good. It's funny, though, you talk about it here in Rhode Island, and people get grossed out. Like having a grilled cheese with ketchup. Have you tried it?? No?? Then be quiet.

Other things I get while in Canada:
For years, I would take a fork and mow into one of these cakes on my own. Now, if they're very lucky, on occasion I will share with one of my brothers, but it's *mine* first.

My favorite candy bar. It's like Caramello here in the states, but these have smaller pockets of caramel, and it's so creamy it's totally wonderful. Also added to this list is a Mars bar (like a Milky Way), Mirage and Aero bars (milk chocolate with bubbles in it). And speaking of caramel:

Yes, it's all chocolate and crap on this list! Seriously, though, ever tried one of these ice cream bars? They are ridiculously delicious, and perfect for walking and dripping down the beach.

That's all I can think of right now, but fear not, Americans, you do have one thing in your country that I adore, and introduce to everyone who comes to visit! And it's equally as bad for you as the rest of this list!