The case for imaginary friends through CoVid-19

I was a restless kid. I liked to move. I liked to dream.

I also had a huge need for people.

When actual peers couldn’t play, I called on my imaginary friends.

Mrs. Alive was my first pretend pal. She was the mother of my favourite doll “Baby Alive”.

That doll was a lot of work.

The Mrs. needed me to take care of the kid sometimes. (I mean the baby couldn’t be MINE… I was only 4!)

Over time our hand-off conversations grew rich.

She lived in the cupboard housing our hot water tank. It was a big space and she was often moving her furniture around. She wished she had a window.

In summer Mrs. Alive would cottage in our refrigerator because it was much cooler there. The little toggle that turns the light off and on when you open and close the door was her door bell.

I spent a lot of time ‘ringing’ that switch over a few years. (I also really like to press buttons, but that’s another story).

Imaginations grow with us

I eventually grew up and moved out.

I always cry a little when I hear Puff the Magic Dragon or watch anything to do with the relationship between Christoper Robin and his Pooh.

The day Andy gave up the toys and started his own story kicked me in the gut.

I have a deep and powerful love for puppets.

I once sent a puppet across the country on the kindness of strangers.

“Cal” was the one fanciful element in a serious week-long national radio series on how we commute and what that daily trek says about us.

I think how we react to puppets says just as much.

So now what?

Now I am fifty years old and living through a pandemic.

I have two teens and a communicative husband. Our house even in isolation is full of conversation.

I am in constant virtual contact with students I teach and my colleagues both at the post-secondary school and at our public broadcaster.

And yet, in this uncharted era of physical distancing I am drawn again to pretend.

I miss mingling in the mall with strangers, chit-chats in a grocery line, and locking eyes with neighbours who just aren’t friends yet. I have my family, but I miss the whole hive and its constant motion.

I physically miss them so much.

So I walk the mountain trails where the trees are majestic. The stumps are full of character and quirk.

I see dragon’s feet. I see kings and queens, workers, musicians and misfits. They are at a party and I was invited too.

I am compelled to say hello… to find a doorbell near a tree knot and ring it.

Would that be so bad?

By the way the townhouse I grew up in was torn down a few years ago.

Mrs. Alive got the window she always wanted.

We need more Color Me Beautiful


Color Me Beautiful

I know it’s the American spelling. We’ll have to get over that for awhile while I rant a bit about Spring fashion. I like clothes. I like interesting arty clothes. I like it when colours work for people and they find their hue.

I loved Color Me Beautiful when it first came out decades ago. I was a pre-teen. I wanted to be a red-head and believed my childhood natural highlights were enough. I used this book and figured I was all Autumn. I boldly wore orange and brown. I used henna a lot.

When I stopped dying my hair at my first pregnancy I realized I was no Autumn. I was a Spring and even though I was no girlie girl I could wear bold pink and rock it.

It was an important discovery.

Colour is no joke. It can win you a job and lose you a job. It could win you a mate. It could lost you a mate. It can pick you up or pull you down. You have to wear what looks good on you.

So anyone with olive skin and dark hair AVOID the pastel jeans of the season please. You’ll stain easily and wash yourself out.

And everyone should find this book. Libraries have it. It’s still good. Just ignore the Mary Tyler Moore fashion and hair.

You’re welcome.

On Turning Ten: Then & Now

tenth birthday cake
tenth birthday cake (Photo credit: normanack)

I’m writing on the eve of kid one’s tenth birthday. Here come days of double digits and no doubt new worries as my complex soup of a girl continues to grow. I look forward to the frantic days ahead, but want to mellow out in the milestone first.

Ten. My favourite age. It’s still my favourite number.

And because I’m not the kind of smug adult who believes my music was superior to the “crap the kids are playing today”, I’m looking forward to the soundtrack too.

There’s much joy in being ten. And my parents felt about Blondie the way I feel about Kesha. Pop music – it is what it is, a vehicle for dancing and in our house morning sing-a-longs.

Here’s what was on top when I was ten.

1. My Sharona, The Knack
2. Bad Girls, Donna Summer 
3. Le Freak, Chic 
4. Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Rod Stewart
5. Reunited, Peaches and Herb 
6. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
7. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer 
8. Y.M.C.A., Village People 
9. Ring My Bell, Anita Ward 
10. Sad Eyes, Robert John 
11. Too Much Heaven, The Bee Gees 
12. MacArthur Park, Donna Summer
13. When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman, Dr Hook
14. Makin’ It, David Naughton
15. Fire, Pointer Sisters
16. Tragedy, The Bee Gees 
17. A Little More Love, Olivia Newton-John 
18. Heart of Glass, Blondie 
19. What a Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers 
20. Good Times, Chic 
21. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond 
22. Knock On Wood, Amii Stewart       So Kesha is Blondie, Carley Rae Jepsen is Olivia Newton John and Rhianna is Donna Summer. Or Niki Minage. Whatever, you get the point.I had three girls to my party when I was ten. We rode in the back of the pickup to the Mackenzie River for a picnic. I was given a record player that ran on batteries. It had a microphone. I remember thinking about my brother in his brown leather jacket and how much of a teenager he was starting to look like. I also remember laughing a lot.I was lucky enough to have great pals despite my intense Lucy complex. One was the Anglican minister’s daughter. She was all sweetness and light. The other was a girl whose parents considered her a child protege in every way. (I remember being grateful my parents weren’t so pushy). Last I heard she was working in a post office. I have no idea where the athletic auburn-haired army brat with a face full of freckles ended up. I loved that her parents let me sleep over often. We’d sing to records all night. She had the best pony tails.

My daughter struggles more socially than I did, but is surrounded by warm, wonderful girls and boys who share her verve for life. She also laughs a lot.

I was in dance club, Girl Guides, figure skating and often helped in the school library. I read early and often and by ten was deep into Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. I was reading “The Hobbit” for the first time. My daughter favours graphic novels about girls with braces and guitars. She plays instruments, dances, and loves Girl Guides more than I did. She may also have a Lucy complex. Her clipboard is her favourite toy. We don’t discourage. it.

Being ten is big. You assert yourself but still come in for a snuggle with mom when the mood strikes.

It is the age of the ultimate giggle.

I still giggle. Thankfully my parents didn’t discourage that.

Life is long. And if you take it too seriously, labourious. That is why ten remains my favourite age.

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Heroes in the Streets: Aficionados in the VAG for FUSE

I get asked to go to places because of my job. To moderate a panel, to introduce or interview a special guest or to cover an event.

I don’t say yes to all of them. It has to be “in my wheelhouse”.

VAG Poster

The Vancouver art gallery

The Vancouver art gallery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FUSE is at a non-profit venue and put on by an organization that shares much of the same values as the public broadcaster.

And it’s going to be a blast.

I’m a fan of unique venues for novel experiences. I was at a bar (I think it was a bar) in San Francisco where many rooms offered different vibes. One room showed “South Park” on the wall while patrons propped themselves up on plush cushions. There was music, both live and spun, and interactive art of all kinds.

I’m imagining FUSE will be like that. But way better. (I mean, I don’t remember the name of the bar right).

I love the Vancouver Art Gallery building. It might not be able to display all its holdings at one time and its age troubles the preservationists, but it has got ghosts. Good ghosts.

And since FUSE started up in 2005 there’s no end in soul.

From what I understand reading and hearing about FUSE, it’s a big fun deal. A different theme each time with a different line up of DJs, live bands, dance, art, and innovation.

It’s free for members and from what Yelp reviews I’ve been reading, some people buy membership for these select Fridays.

You drink. You nibble. You look at stuff and you interact with stuff. There’s all that “seen and be seen” talk around it which usually turns me off. But this event looks way more clever and unpretentious than a gala.

Check out the line up:

The theme is Heroes of the Street.

And you can wear costumes. In this case, your favourite street hero. If I had time to get it together I’d go as the Twitter handle @streetcrow But not being that clever, I think I’ll just go in my civies.

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Apologies to the Shutterbugs

I don’t wait well. Never have.

Now I might. At least when it comes to the camera.

How many of you have had long awkward moments posing for a family portrait or more likely in my case, caked in make-up for a press pic, and you have to bite your lip to prevent an outburst of “What the hell are you doing SHOOT the picture!!??”

I’ve spent many nervous deadline days close to tears after getting a camera at the last minute. I beg the operator to forget the tripod, just go off the shoulder, and don’t light.

I was a silly silly girl.

Turns out manual camera operation takes planning. I thought I knew that before actually doing it myself but really, I had no idea.

It’s not the math. I like the trinomial challenge of exposure, speed and ISO. It’s arithmetic that makes sense because I can see it and change it.

It’s not the light either, I get light, and the rule of thirds.

I don’t get my camera. I have no idea why Nikon needs three buttons that all do the same thing.

But tech aside my big issue is turning off my frenetic mind. I have to find MY off button.

Most of the things I do well in life happen by happy random. When I’m really interested in something I get very fast at it. I get fast enough I can do something so many times there’s bound to be a good result at some point. It’s a more intuitive way to live and quite frankly more fun.

It adds the irrational element of magic into my work. Many radio documentaries I’ve done where made with mostly heart. Because I am so familiar with those tools perhaps, I don’t notice the head.

I love my “Intro to Digital” instructor. She’s both caustic and funny. And she’s drilling into me that I have to be methodical in manual or I’ll go nuts with all the choices. Find my method, and stick to it over and over and over again.

  1. Get a histogram you like depending on the tone of your subject.
  2. Adjust for amount of light either in A or S with the +1/-1 button or with the light meter in M.
  3. Bracket. Take the first photo then go up or down in exposure twice depending on tone. That way you have choices in post.
  4. Touch up or “cook” your photo your way.

I’m struggling. I can feel new neuropathways growing.

I always respected the camera operators in my life for their art. Now I think they are planning rock stars.

Here’s to years and years of slow careful photo-noodling.

And here’s a sample of my first homework assignment.

I call it “Peace Peppers”. It’s an homage to those arrested at APEC and the quote from our PM at the time that pepper is something he puts on his plate.

Okay that was total bull. I looked in my fridge in a panic the night before class and happily hoped for the best.

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On re-becoming a “Dog Person”


IMG_6682 (Photo credit: RightBrainPhotography)

When you “grow up arctic” you become the kind of person who believes in random awesome. Nice just happens. You say to someone that you need a new lamp but don’t want to order it from Sears and in a couple days you have two maybe three to chose from on your doorstep. Someone is always coming and going. And no one is married to “stuff” in a place where moving things cost more than the stuff is worth.

So one day I mention to someone at work how I’m thinking I’d like a white sled dog. It was just a quip. But broadcasters don’t sit on words. We spread them.

The next week someone walked into the store my dude was working in and handed him a light fur ball with four feet. “Here’s your dog!”. What??!!

She changed our lives.

I named her Kafka because I read dogs like names with a vowel at the end. I looked at my bookshelf and saw Franz’s paperback. She was no nightmare though. The dog was all love and play. Half husky, half lab, and all bush. She needed to be outside. She needed to pull. She needed to run and tug. And she needed to feel like a vital part of the pack.

She also loved popcorn. And caribou bones. Kafka talked to us with her collar, shaking her tags when she needed to communicate. We took her everywhere. We put her in a dress (she was my size) for our wedding invite. She was the first kid’s baby play mat. She stayed outside the baby’s door during naps. I was seriously thinking of making a dog hair sweater from her never-ending undercoat. Or a hat. I wish I had.

At age 14 she fell apart. Her hearing went. Her hips went. Her mind went. And we cried. I sobbed for three months after she died. I swore I could still hear her shake her tags in the middle of the night.

I brought her ashes back home to Inuvik and shook them out near the bypass road. It’s a place she’d hunt for rabbits and drink from puddles.

We couldn’t even think about dogs for years.

Then we met Rocket: a rescue dog from a 24 hour kill shelter in New Mexico.

Everyone who meets him agrees this Kelpie is “special”.

Maybe it’s the way he appears to peer into your soul when he looks at you. Maybe it’s because, despite his ordeal, he is a doll of a dog.

He must have been loved very much early in his life because he is lovely. And so so smart.

A huge network of rescue people helped him get here.

Rocket’s foster fairy god-mothers had a hard time letting him go. I’m glad they did.

Things you forget when you don’t have a dog:

  • Their hugs and love are like a drug. Instant improvement in mental fitness.
  • Walking a lot gets rid of butt fat.
  • Watching dogs play and in Rocket’s case “work” though the natural obstacle course of a mountain forest is a really really fun thing to do.
  • You sleep better with a dog in the house.

So here we are twenty years since our first dog and back in the dog world. I carry little bags with me everywhere. I think it’s a good day when I find a small hair on my toast.

A friend of mine said you can actually “feel” the gratitude from rescue dogs. It’s true. But I really think this dog is rescuing us.

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My Succotash Wish

I’m halfway through my leave from CBC. Halfway. Glass half full? No way. I’m feeling less than accomplished, which maybe laudable for someone who was burnt out and needing to the brain to just “be” for a while, but I have a list. I always have a list.

Sabbatical Goals (in no particular order):

  1. Learn to take lovely digital photos of stuff I like and people I love. So lovely, the people I love will feel special when they see the awesome pictures of them.
  2. Learn to play accordion. I need a new party trick.
  3. Create a hand puppet and bring it to life. I cried during “Becoming Elmo”.

Stuff I wouldn’t mind happening while I’m off:

  1. Getting a dog.
  2. Going to Hawaii to watch my dude cross surfing the North Shore off his bucket list.
  3. Watching the entire series of “The Wire”.
  4. Take the train through the Rockies.
  5. Take the inside passage ferry.

Because my leave is self-funded (I’ve been putting hundreds of dollars per cheque into an account for three years), I can do all this.

But I haven’t yet.

The photo lessons start this week. I’ll post the results here. It’s a ten week intro to digital photography course that looks promising.

I attended the Accordion Noir festival and loved it. I know I want a 120 bass instrument with a medium amount of buttons. I’ve found several on Craigslist that will fit. I’ve chosen my instructor (he doesn’t know it yet) but I have yet to get this going. I’m intimidated. How hard can it be right? Hard.

I can’t find a puppet creation workshop in Vancouver to save my life. The epicentre of all things puppet in Canada is Calgary. I’d love to go there for a week but family life is making that tough. I will keep trying.

My leave has been hijacked by a house sale that never came in a stagnant market. I’ve been living in a staged townhouse with most of our stuff stuffed into storage. After several months I’ve cried uncle. We’re staying put. Now I have to paint my bathroom electric blue again but at least the marathon cleaning can stop.

We might have a dog. (more on that later).

And if my dude can square the time off we’re heading to Hawaii in December. I have yet to get train or ferry travel done. I did spent almost every day at the beach all summer and saw an old friend I’d lost touch with.

I am halfway though season two of “The Wire”.

I am reading many great books. I will not be writing one.

My dude and I saw a matinee and held hands while the kids were in school. (Sugarman – go see it!). I went to the film fest.

I lost weight. I need to lose more.

I am not feeling the relentless panic that comes with work/life. We have nice meals. My kids see me much more. I yell at them much less.

I am dancing a lot.

So part of me wants to say “List schmidt”. Just be.

But wouldn’t it be cool to play accordion?