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Updated: 2016-04-16T21:38:00.260-04:00


From The Mouth of Babes


This holiday I spent a lot of time with toddlers. They are pretty funny to watch. The way they interact with one another is wild. These little ones are my niece and nephews. Kaylee is 3.5, Gavin is 2.5 and Bastian is 2 years old. They are all in the MINE phase and sharing is a concept forced upon them. Playing (when I say playing I really mean clobbering each other, pushing each other off chairs, grabbing toys from one another's hands and biting one another) is a skill not yet mastered in a group setting. They do play very well on their own and with their imaginary friends. Don't get me wrong they did play well together sometimes. They participated in arts and crafts projects while under strict supervision quite well and for their ages their attention spans are excellent better in fact than most adults I know. Here are some GEMS from the holidays:On New Years Eve I decided to take the toddlers to my Yoga studio to teach them some yoga in an effort to keep them entertained so that they were not under foot in the kitchen while the seafood feast was being prepared. I rolled out four mats. The three children took their places on the mats facing me. I asked if they were all ready to begin yoga. All three faces smiled at me and then they began to follow my verbal cues and imitate my gestures. We all sat cross legged and then began to inhale and exhale while raising our arms over head. This was going swimmingly and next I asked the kids to make their hands float around their heads like butterflies. It is then that the 2.5 year old's expression changes. He starts to look worried and then begins to cry.MichelleGavin what's wrong sweetie?Gavin I want to do yogaaaaaaaat.MichelleWe are doing YOGA honey - it's an exercise.Gavin (cries harder)Then Gavin's Mom comes into the studio to see how we are making out with our yoga class and sees her son dissolving into a puddle of tears. DawnGavin what's the matter?GavinI want to do yogaaaat.Dawn Oh honey, it's not yogurt- its yoga. They are different. GavinBut I want yogaaat.Dawn and I try not to laugh too hard and then I say there is some in the fridge. Dawn takes Gavin away to the kitchen to eat some Yogggggggaaaaaaaaaaat. And the rest of us continue for a while with our yoga.NEXT:On Christmas day Steve's Mom and Aunt and I took the kids up to the bonus room to chillax for a while. We put on the Rudolf movie and the kids rested while watching and played a little really nicely. Everything was calm and peaceful for 50 whole minutes. Then the attention spans shifted, the boys left the room grandma chased after them, aunt was sleeping on the couch and just Kaylee and I were left upstairs. I picked up Finley and took her over to execute a quick diaper change. Kaylee came along to watch. She was pretending to be Princes Lillis a character from her repertoire of her imaginary world. (Some of these characters she transforms into others are just hanging around and you have to be careful where you step lest you squish one.) This when Kaylee's mom Jen arrived in the room. JenHi whats going on up here?MichelleWell Princess Lillis was just dancing for us.JenPrincess Lillis show me your dance!Kaylee aka Princess LillisF#ck, F$CK, F*CK, F******CKJen and I are shocked and look at one another. I tuck my face into my shoulder so I don't give away my smiles because clearly this is not funny. JenThat is not a nce word we don't use that word Kaylee.Kaylee aka Princess LillisF#ck, F$CK, F*CK, F******CKJenWhere si you hear that word?Kaylee (points at me)Aunt Shell!MichelleYou DID NOT! Aunty (who has now woken up from her nap on the couch)She most certainly didn't hear it from anyone in here in the last hour.Kaylee aka Princess LillisF#ck, F$CK, F*CK, F******CKMichelleI admit it's one of my favorite words but I have not said it even under my breath since I was getting in the car this morning to come here.JenYou were just the closest in proximity to blame. She could have heard it days ago.So there ya go - a couple of little gems from our holidays... There s another cute one please check back a[...]

KinSHIP - A Ship Wreck Family Portrait


Ship Wreck Family PhotoDad, Mom, Sister Sue and My Nephew Aaron(This photo taken before my nephew's facial surgery to correct a cleft pallet.)Meet my family.  Aren't they beautiful all dressed up in their Sunday best, wearing matching outfits, hair styled, nose hair trimmed, baby free of spit up. Just a perfect picture.  Everyone looks happy, and they are all looking into the camera no small feat when taking a group photograph. No wonder my mother chose to buy the full package of portraits. An 8X10, two 5X7's and eight wallet size pictures.  This way the whole extended family would be privy to having such a great family portrait of the Shipley's in their own homes."One time my family went for family portraits without me" is an awesome conversation starter. At parties where there is an uncomfortable or awkward moment  - it's a great back pocket tale to to pull out - everyone gets a laugh and then the confessionals of other folks dysfunctional family stories  begin to flow - voila!  Ice breaker.  Until this past winter the story was just a story and then I happened upon the evidence. One sheet of the family portrait was buried in a desk drawer at my father's house.  I found it when he asked me to look through the desk for a stack of birthday cards.  Oh my gawd!  Look what I found!  Dad, I am taking this home with me.  My dad just looked at me.  His silence I took for consent.  Seriously Dad you have no idea how many times I have told this story to people.  I have to show this photo to Greg & Lucky - they are gonna die.My sister dropped by our Dad's house a few minutes later.  Sue look what I found!  I rather gleefully (who writes gleeful?) say as I hold out the photograph.  Ohmygawd  - are you still going on about that? Put it away. Get over it already she says to me.  Never since the invention of the photograph has an immediate family member living under the same roof with their family not been included in the sitting of the "family portrait." Save for, maybe, back in the 30's when the Dionne quintuplets were shown off as a parent less phenomenon in ads all over the world. But that's different!To be completely honest this portrait was a sore spot for me for a long time. My mother framed the 8X10 proudly placing it in the shelf of a bookcase in our family room.  Every time I walked through the family room I would flip it face down.  When dusting the bookcase and all it's chachkas I would skip dusting this this frame in the hope that a layer of grime would eventually cover it up or I would simply place it face down. The funny thing was, each time I reentered the room the portrait was standing back up for all to see.One day my mother caught me flipping the portrait down.  Oh it's you who continues to do that.  I thought the frame was faulty and it kept sliding down.  Why do you do that?  Hmmmmm, really?  Why would I place the portrait face down mom? Maybe. because it's a "Family Portrait" and I am not in it? Has it occurred to any of you that this photograph really hurts my feelings? It's mere presence is a constant reminder of how I - MAY NOT BE - a member of this family.Don't be ridiculous my mother said.  You weren't home the day we went to the Church to have the sitting. I didn't think you wanted to be a part of it.  You have been so busy with your school. I am sure I mentioned it?  You must have forgotten.Um humph. Mom, I have a day timer.  I record every appointment in it. I work as a model part time to pay for all my school and car and I have never missed any of those appointments. The framed family photo remained up.  I stopped flipping it upside down and even began to dust it.  Resorting to new tactics I dragged everyone of our house guests through the family room making sure to point out and show off the gorgeous family portrait.  Because It is a lovely picture. Our guests would ask questions like:That's a nice picture - Why aren't you in it?What a great shot - where were you?Hey, did you take that picture?I would smile  wide like Alice's Cheshi[...]

SurvivorSHIP: Christmas & The Nose Hair


It was just before Christmas… My mother who had been battling cancer for years was just admitting to hospital, again. Oh YAY! What a fabulous new holiday tradition this was turning out to be.In mom’s illness and absences my father had become completely unaware of himself. He had been holding fast to keep the family together, look after my mother, all the while running a fledgling but very busy contracting business born out of the recession in 93. I don’t think he stopped to look at himself in the mirror - figuratively and literally speaking. He is very generous at the cost of his own needs.In this case my sister and I had become alarmed at the rate and magnitude of the nose hair growing out of dad’s nose. Honestly how can he not feel that? My sister and I were both too chicken to bring his grooming to his attention and so while we were alone with mom in her hospital room we decided to ask her to have a talk with dad about his nose hair. If something was not done soon – he would surely trip over them whilst walking up the stairs and we could not afford to have both parents in the hospital.Mom laughed at our request and we thought she promised us not to say that she was the messenger speaking on behalf of two grown daughters. How ignorant on our part. Neither my sister nor I knew the code of the married couple – which lives to share such secrets.Mom was scheduled to have a few rounds of her annual Christmas chemo and was also about to pop her radiation therapy cherry. What had begun as breast cancer had metastasized into bone cancer and my poor mother was bravely preparing to have her spine radiated. From her hospital bed she showed us the casts the radiologist had made to cover the areas not undergoing the radiation. And she showed us all the pen mark ups they had drawn all over her back and legs. Someone had brought her a package of cartoony thought-bubble stickers with funny and sarcastic captions printed on them used to stick on photos. She made a game of sticking them on her skin. Hiding them along the highway of green sharpie pen mark-ups to give the nursing staff a chuckle as they readied her for her therapies. Typical of my mother to think of how someone else might feel in her situation. What a card. Her mood was optimistic and so were we. We saw her off to this treatment and headed back to our respective daily activities. Neither Sue nor I thought about the nose hair conversation again as suddenly it seemed there were greater things to worry about.After completing my last university midterm I headed out to do some Christmas shopping. But my heart was not in it. I was getting over heated in my down coat while wondering around the mall aimlessly looking for wonderful gifts to buy and I was growing increasingly impatient with the herds of people pushing and shoving me out of the way. I wondered if I was as invisible as I felt in that moment. I wondered if any of the hurried passersby took a moment to really look at me if they could see the swirl of sadness I was carrying around. If they looked all the way into my being would they see the rock lodged in my chest and the vice grip holding me where my head meets my neck? I wondered what went on in their homes and if they too walked around carrying so much inside. And if they did, how is it that they muster the strength to push on. My thoughts trail off to stories I have read about people who can lift cars off people at accident scenes and other super human acts of strength they are honoured, as heroes and I know that somehow we are built to bring on the super powers in the face of disaster and despair. And while there are no hero biscuits for the family afflicted on the daily with cancer there is survivorship.Absently, I wondered over to the Elephant and Castle bar and restaurant and sat down to order a cold beer. I don’t think I had been in this bar since it was a favorite drinking whole for the under-aged back in high school. Ironically, I am carded when I place my order. All around me the bar is fil[...]

Christmas Elves & The Stockings - July 17, 2008.


I always feel Christmassy in July. I don’t know why. I was thinking about this as I walked through my nieghbourhood last night. When I passed by a Jewelry shop on the Main Street with a banner hung across it’s front window that read “Christmas In July Sale.” I decided I was not the only one who might feel this way.As a kid I loved Christmas. I mean LOVED Christmas. It was by my favorite time of the year. School became more fun as we got to practice singing carols and rehearsing lines for the Christmas pageant. In the sixth grade I even got to play the Virgin Mary in the French version of the birth of Jesus while my bald Cabbage Patch doll Christian Rudolf played the role of the baby J. I looked forward to watching Christmas TV specials airing themes of well being and honouring those less fortunate. People everywhere seemed nicer to one another and that left an impression on me. It’s amazing how you think everything about Christmas is so great when you are a kid. While I strolled down Main Street on this particularly hot July night I also took a walk back in time, caught up in thoughts of my childhood Christmases. I think about their evolution and how I perceive Christmas today. Its amazing how radically different I find the month of December and the days leading up to Christmas. I am now traumatized by Christmas in all its commercialism, false friendliness and pressure. My family has become so over tired fighting crowds in malls for presents, grocery stores for food, rushed into and out of time to prepare for family visits that Christmas has just become a huge stress I would rather avoid. And did a number of years ago without missing it at all. My boyfriend Steve and I were in Costa Rica, Dad was in Australia and except for the two “merry Christmas phone calls to dad and my sister – we had escaped Chirstmas – or so we thought until my dad’s girlfriend decided to have a very Brady Family Christmas on January 22nd. But that is a story for another time.As a child by the end of November I was beyond elated to see the holiday season kick off by watching the men of the households on my block begin the ritual of hanging Christmas lights. Precariously perched on ladders, hands bare, stiff and pink from the cold, holding onto the end of a hockey stick used to push and pull the stings of lights coaxing them onto tree branches. Mini lights were draped over fences, tree branches, and hung carefully on the eves of each household transforming my little rural nieghbourhood. It was a welcomed sight – coming out of bleak November nights into a white December where the twinkling Christmas lights reflected colours all over the snow and sky. My house was no different. We had Christmas lights too. They were hung by my dad, who generally didn’t arrive home from work until nearly 7pm, begin in the dark to decorate the nighbourhood with a string of expletives while decorating the large fur tree on our lawn with lights, while his adoring daughters watched from the glowing warmth of the living room window. As an aside: It was advisable not “Help” dad with such endeavors. This would include washing the car – he sprayed me till I cried once – which was fair - I sprayed him first trying to playfully pull him into a water fight – I lost. Never ever help dad while he is packing the car for vacation, or trying to fix something. Just stay far away, very far away. But, if you wanted to stay within ear -shot, you could listen to the indelible string of wild words that you probably should never ever repeat or play on a scrabble board but should sock away in the old mental dictionary to pull out at such times when warranted like for instance when I too become frustrated. Although, there was an exception once when I was 20. I was asked to help Dad carry a prefab shower stall into the house, up to the second floor, then try to get it through the bedroom door. It didn’t fit – no way in hell was it ever gonna fit and we[...]

Ship Wreck Cronicles - The Early Years in Short.


1973 January - I came into the world - first child to my folks. From what I gather I came along earlier than planned. Aparently - Just once - unprotected is all it takes!1974 I fell into a globe shaped BBQ that was being started on the ground out of the wind - burned my self from the waist down onBBQ briquettes - seriously! Each member of my family has claimed my rescue. Interestingly I don't know the truths as to who grabbed me out of the BBQ and rushed me to the tub of cold water. I do know it was prior to the Children's hospital being opened and so my mother and family doctor in a tiny farming community cared for me. And very well I might add - there are only small signs of damged skin which my sister likes to refer to as "chicken skin." Nice.1975 May - My sister came on the scene and changed us all forever! According to my mother - dad had been out with the boys celebrating the birth of daughter number two - when he showed up with me to the hospital room where I proclaimed "That's My sister Susan!" and mom proclaimed -" Bob you're drunk?"1978My sister got some mysterious virus and spent her 3rd Bday in the "newly opened" Children's hospital. This went on for few weeks - she was released and then went back in again for a period of time. My grandpa Chou Chou bought her the coolest Mother Fox plush animal holding a baby fox from the hospital gift shop. I was only slightly more green with envy than the Grinch and convinced Chou Chou that I too would like to have something special from the gift shop. I chose a tin toy - when you pulled the triggar it twirled and opened like a flower and a little person appeared from inside.1979January - My Grandpa Chou Chou died 3 days before my 6th birthday. I was not permitted to the funeral. Deamed "too young" to understand I was shipped off to do art & crafts at my mom's best friend's house. I did understand the guy who let me feed him "pop rocks" was not coming back. I had been to see him in hospital and recall his knotted arthritic toes. This was my first introduction to "Cancer."My second introduction to Cancer was when my mom inherited Grandpa Chou Chou's car. The plastic roof was tinted a yellowish brown by tar from his cigarettes. Mom said it was the colour of cancer and of smoker's lungs. I remember her cleaning the car with the spray bottle of "fantastic" and a J-cloth.1980My Granny Moo Moo moo-ved in with us as she was showing early signs of Alzheimer's and could no longer live alone. My kid sister moved into my room becoming my first roommate. Dad would come into our room to say good night reading bedtime stories was his forte. He would pick up my metal Holly Hobby garbage can to talk into it to changing his voice into the evil Step mom in Snowwhite. My sister and I would giggle from our beds. We played games jumping from one bed to another pretending there were sharks between the beds. This was very exciting and always resulted in a huge fight between us - over what ? Who knows. Granny Moo Moo would smoke cigarettes from a white package with a red stripe and a little black cat on them. being a smoker she always had Chiclettes in her purse for post smoke fresh breath. My parents were non smokers. Playing into the Alzheimers my parents "forgot" to buy Granny more smoks. It didn't take long for Granny to "forget" she was a smoker. My Granny always washed up in the bathroom sink, oddly she left the door open. I recall she had very long boobs that drooped forward while she bent over the sink. I told my sister to run under Granny while she was bent over the sink and swing her boobs as she passed through. (I assumed my sister was brought into the family to do my bidding) of course she did what i asked. Granny Moo Moo screamed; "you rude, rude girls!" We both got in huge trouble from my mom. Thankfully Granny Moo Moo forgot the incident within a few hours of the occurrance. To this day i have no idea what possessed me to put my sister up to i[...]

A Quote from 30Rock that Cracked me up.


Jack Donagy to Liz Lemon:

"I don't know what happened to you in your life that helped you gain a sense of humour as a coping mechanism -maybe it was some sort of brace or corrective boot you wore during childhood - but in any case I'm glad your on my team."

Scotia Bank Santa


As most people who believe in Santa and Christmas do – I have a number of warm fuzzy memories from Christmases past. And a few that absolutely traumatized me. Like the year I went to the Scotia Bank with my mother, while she was doing her banking I lined up to sit on Santa’s knee. My mother had long ago come up with the concept of store Santa’s being Elves dressed as Santa to help him access all the kids in the world as a way of getting around the question of how come there are simultaneous Santa sightings. We began to call them the Super Save Santa, the Craft Fair Santa, the Bayshore Mall Santa and today while my mother waited in the teller line I waited in the line to meet Scotia Bank Santa. I could not think of a single item I wanted Scotia Bank Santa to bring me and when it came to be my turn I hesitantly walked up to Santa, he hoisted me up on his lap and when he asked if I had been good I nodded yes, my mother who was observing smiled at me. Then Santa and I had a conversation that went something like this:Santa: Michelle have you have been a good girl?Michelle: I nod yesSanta: What would you like Santa to bring to you? Michelle: Um, Uhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm, Um. Santa: Cat’s got your tongue today – you’re usually so talkative.Michelle: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmm.I couldn’t think of anything and I panicked. Michelle: A toy train?Santa: A toy train well if you are good we can bring one for you if Santa ‘s elves back at the workshop have made enough for all the boys and girls this year. I was so disappointed. I didn’t want a toy train. What am I going to do with a toy train? I can’t believe I wasted my one chance to tell Santa what I wanted. I lay in bed awake worried sick over the idea that I had panicked and asked Santa for the wrong thing. What a dolt I was.On the 23rd of December I was in our town’s Pharmacy with my mom. She was waiting on a prescription and I was told I could look at the kid’s books and magazines and not to go anywhere from there. The store had a gift section with a “break it – you - buy it” policy. Thanks to me, my mother had recently become the reluctant owner of a pair of ugly overpriced white porcelain salt and pepper shakers shaped like doves that sat on a perch with their wings open - when I and all my coordination ventured in that area on a past visit … she carefully glued the broken piece back together and placed the doves in the china cabinet at our house. They weren’t even re-giftable! I knew she hated them as much as I hated the constant reminder of my embarrassing break it and buy it incident. She told me not to ask her for anything inside the four walls of the pharmacy because we were broke now that we had to buy the doves. From then forward I was quarantined to the books and magazines isle where on this day I found a beautiful book. Not just any book, but a POP UP Dolls book of the Nativity scene. The manger, sheep, cows, wise guys, Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus were looking up at me from the pages of the book and I never wanted anything a much as I wanted this book. Why had I not seen this book before I met with Santa at the bank? What had I asked for a stupid train? A train! Only kids in re-runs of televised Christmas stories asked Santa for trains not modern kids like me. We wanted Pop Up Nativity Scene Paper Doll books! Well I did.Mom finished her shopping and came to collect me in the book isle. I showed her the Nativity book, but I did not ask her for it because I knew full well the ugly doves had cost ten times as much as the book. Michelle: I wish I had told Scotia Bank Santa about this book mom, look at how neat it is. I sure would like this book. I LOVE this book more than any other book I have ever seen. Mom: Well put it back on the shelf where you found it. You can ask Santa for it next year.I did. I put it back on the shelf in the store but it sat on the[...]

Catholic WorSHIP


My mother was surprisingly the first one out of bed Christmas morning 1996. It was never spoken but the underlying sentiment was that if this was going to be her last Christmas she was not going to miss a single minute of it. Carolyn Shipley was battling breast cancer and this was the second time around in three years. She had just returned from the hospital after yet another round of Christmas Chemo.The night before, Mom asked us all to go, as a family, to Christmas Eve Midnights Mass. Of course we all agreed to go because this might be mom’s last Christmas and we were going to do whatever we could to make mom happy. Truthfully, I hated sitting through the drone of the Catholic Mass, it rambled on for more than and hour and a half and the Priest who should have been rejoicing in the Virgin birth of our Savior this Christmas was scolding us all for being born sinners begging us to repent and ask our forgiveness. Our family was late for everything so we were stuffed together into a pew near the back of the church. The view before us was a sea of tacky Christmas sweaters and the back of people's heads. This was what we had to look at for the next 95 minutes. Perhaps, even though I am fairly tall, if I stood on tiptoes I would get to see the top of our priest's balding head. Perhaps.The church was hot and overcrowded with all the seasonal Catholic Church goers - the ones who attend only at Christmas. Which incidentally is funny to me because they are never there at Easter when the mass goes on for two hours while the priest reads the Passion in its entirety. I figure those people had likely been trapped at my Church one past Easter when the tone-deaf Priest decided to sing the entire Passion, which took onwards of three hours and they had learned their lesson. The priest said a few words and my parents along with the rest of the congregation would, in monotone, respond the appropriate phrases. I too had them burned in my head from years of Catholic school and regular church going but I refused to say them. No God would cause so much suffering to one family. I was not buying that “God doesn’t give us what we want only what we can handle” BS any longer. Our family was on overload. Recently my dad; who had a wife with breast cancer, a grandchild born with a genetic disorder and a mother who had suffered 5 strokes in as many months had vowed to change our last name from Shipley to Ship Wrecked. God was testing our love for our family and him – surely. Most Catholics would say this is when you get down on your knees and pray all the harder. But I was done with this charade. No-way was I going to mime the words from our book of psalms along with the rest of the congregation. No-way God, not this year.While the sermon was going on I liked to people watch, it gave me a chance to see and say hello to old high school buddies. I have to say, it was, and is always fun to see how the high school kids grew up. Who got fat, who got thin, who came out, who got married, who bought boobs, who had not changed her hair or makeup styles since high school, who had kids…. and my favorite, who walked by pretending not to see me when clearly they did! Yeah I love that one. How wonderfully Catholic. I passed the time by taking a count of how many women were wearing fur, and when we were asked to spin around under the guidance of our priest to extend the sign of peace to our fellow pew mates uber-cool me offered a peace sign with two fingers rather than shake a hand. For God's sake - it's cold season I am not touching people!Another old standby used to keep me entertained during the sermon was to yawn and then see who caught the yawn and then I would watch it spread around the church. I learned this one when I was an alter girl in the fifth grade. It was very progressive at the time to have girls help the priest serve mass. My friend Laura and I w[...]

Relation-Ship: My Muse


I see situations in a certain way and I see people in a certain way. I like to study and then come up with an idea of just what these insights mean to me. Usually, the way I see things is through a quite honed but deeply dark sense of humor. I have been accused of using my humor to mask how I feel. Hey, I say what ever gets me through my day. Sometimes I have encountered events too painful to look at head on. If I didn’t look for the humor in those events perhaps I would shrivel up and live full time on a salad of anti psychotics whilst locked in an institution. I’d rather mask out the pain through a bad joke…or a lifetime of bad jokes. It’s more fun. And if that is an unhealthy way of coping then let me advise that it is also through years of trying other coping therapeutics ( which have included; in no particular order, booze, food, drugs, kickboxing (yeah I really sucked at that), smoking, Tai Kwon Do, partying, shopping, acting, sleeping through a depression (twice), working non stop producing shitty TV, thankfully I have always been too vain to try cutting or thowing up after meals) most of which were fun but failingly ungratifying that I have come to the conclusion that through a more moderate application of beer, yoga and writing and humour I would find my outlet. And thanks to a kick in the ass from two of my dearest friends…who have within the same week said. “Why are you dancing around, dabbling in art and in a writing group when you should sit down while you have this opportunity and write a damn book.” And “Stop being a pussy, what you write is funny. Especially because your style is so proper.” _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________At writing class we were given a cue: My Muse. Immediately I knew who my muse was. It was my family and the people who have been drawn into and out of its circle over the years. I have been a great collector of stories and have often thought I would like to write about my experiences as a member of this family- my family- I can say what I want about them because they are mine and will duel you to death if you dare to pass comment on them -family. I am a great one for having multiple beers while out with friends and when I am encouraged or just distraught over a new family occurrence I will launch into one of my stories or upon request retell an old favorite. Rest assured it's never for the amusement of others - well the retellings can be - mostly it's just theraputic. - Hey did ya know I was burned when I fell in a BBQ when I was 15 months old? Each member of family claims they pulled me out. Yeah - see the scars - my sister says they look like chicken skin. - The neighborhood kids would gather at the end of my drive way and then send one kid to the door to call on me. I would come outside thinking they were inviting me to play. As soon as the door closed and my mother was out of earshot they would, on cue, burst into a wonderful song they had made up…a play on my name. Me-Smell Shit-ley…then one kid would push me to the ground and run away. Yeah that was a good one. - When I was in grade three, my dad bought me a woman’s blue 3-speed bike. He added training wheels because the bike was too big for me and then to make me look like more of a loser he added a giant florescent orange flag on an flexible pole to the back – so cars to see me while riding he said. I am positive it was so I would never, ever, ever, in the history of teenage hood ever, never get a date. My sister got a huge teddy bear. No Flag. - Also in grade three I was sent home on the school bus carrying my sister who was in grade one. She had fallen at the playground and had BROKEN her ankle. I wore the family’s house key around my neck – so I go to take her [...]

My Hood, A Mirror & the Armless Sweaters...


Each time I move somewhere new I venture out to spend the day wondering my new neighborhood or the hood for those who are hipsters and like the shortened version of the word. This has become a sort of habit really. I do enjoy switching it up by moving city to city, and have resided at countless addresses over the past 18 years. Whether I move toward or away from something I just have a sense that when things become too familiar I should pack up and move on simply because there is a whole world out there to see.Until now. Until this address. Super small southern town USA has me feeling like it’s history and inhabitants could hold my attention for quite sometime. I actually feel like this is the one town I was meant to find in all my meanderings across North America and abroad. I think I might actually feel at home.I should tell you we found our house just after Christmas…I like to call it my Miracle on 34th Street house. I knew it was “the one” the second the front door swung open. It’s owner, the seller, greeted us with a little hesitancy and then a pride filled; “Welcome to our home, it is a Georgian Colonial built in 1910.” She had gone to the trouble of baking cookies to make the house smell good – although I never did see the cookies. I am lead to believe they must have been eaten up by all the curious people who had come to the open house hours earlier…we were the stragglers. The house was a beauty, thoughtfully restored, even though the walls had received quite a shock (a quote stolen from the mouth of a wonderful southern woman I have become acquainted) with some of the paint pallet choices, in no way did the smell of fresh baked cookies have to promote this home. We moved into the house in early February. At closing the woman we bought the house from said; “We left you the keys for the house in a basket in the drawer, a bottle of wine and some beer in the fridge. There is a spare key at the yellow house next door. It’s owned by Ben & Anne Marie, they are good people. I suggest you leave the key there and don’t you dare change the paint in that house. If you need to retouch the paint anywhere Pratt and Lambert’s has the list of colors under my name.” Three hundred signatures later the house was ours. All our belongings arrived frozen solid from our temporary (it became 9 months) un-climatized storage unit in winter land Canada. It was a balmy 15 degrees Celsius and we were delighted at the idea that we would have no use for snow tires or show shovels for some time.Slowly and deliberately I unpacked boxes. With each venture out to the curb to add to my recycling pile a new neighbor came over to meet me and inquire as to the house’s inhabitants. At first I found this odd. No one had ever crossed a street to meet me in any of my other homes except just once a neighbor in Toronto yelled over the back fence at me; “Do you have kids?”“No” I replied. She never spoke to me again. Here though, in the south, it’s all about hospitality and with it comes the old small town values of actually knowing your neighbours. At first I found it was nosy but I’ve come to change my mind about that. It’s genuine interest and respectfully so. With each neighbor's introduction I repeated the answers to their questions:Yes, I live here with my husband, we are newly weds, he works at the hospital in the next town over, no we don’t have children, but we do have a dog, yes, he does look like a squirrel, speaking of squirrels there are so many here I have never seen so many. Oh, it’s because of the pecan trees, yes we do have two gorgeous pecan trees. Well it’s very nice to meet you, thank you for coming over to introduce yourself to us, we feel very welcomed already. This went on with each neighbor until later in the week whe[...]



Living aboard a boat gives a person an opportunity to meet all kinds of characters. Last summer while cruising the Carolinas we happened upon one interesting cat. His name was Mikey; short a wiry man whose skin was leathery and tanned by years of sun. He was hard working. I would watch him detail boats while nursing a six-pack of Coronas; he took a lot of pride in his work. Readying random boats for weekend cruisers. He was proficient and called upon often to repair docks, scale masts, rig sails, tinker at engines, scrub hulls, there was no job to big or small to tackle at when it came to water vehicles.Upon our first meeting we were using the laundry facilities together. He had a little white Lhasa Apso with him. This dog struck me as being an odd fit for a guy like him. Being a dog person I knelt down to give the pup a pat on the head to say hello. "What' your dog's name?" I asked. "Mutton” He replied. After a brief pause he says rather cautiously, "I inherited her. Her name was Muffin but that was too faggotty so I call her Mutton. It works.""Good name - she looks like Sheri Lewis's Lamb Chops". I say - but he looks at me blankly. Like my Canadian accent trumped him or he had no idea who Sheri Lewis and Lamb Chops were.He asked which boat I was on. I told him."Tell your Mister to come see me if he needs work done." He said as he passed through the door.I return to the boat to tell my "Mister" - I had met the wily wiry guy - and that he said you should get up with him if you need any work done. My Mister says – That guy is used to taking on jobs for boat owners - we are sailors not boat owners we do our own work. He'll know that we are different soon enough.Next day I return to the slip to find Mikey up our mast. Mutton is tied to our hookups lounging in a small bit of provided shade."Hey there Missus" he shouts from above as a greeting."Hello Mikey," I reply, "what are you boys up to? "“Givin’ the Mister a hand with the wind gage.”My Mister and Mikey chat boats. Mikey asks us “why we are so far from home? Was Canada too cold?” Without waiting for a reply he proceeds on, “I am from West Virginia up in the mountains. It’s too fucking cold there and I knew soon as I was old enough and able I was getting out of there. Ain’t never going back cept to burry my kin.”Mikey is not much a fan f the government either. He claims to be a cash man. No employment record means no money in taxes. He lives aboard a boat on the ocean what the hell does he need to pay tax for?Every now and again his cell phone rings and he has a good chat. He’s a talker. He mentions a girlfriend in a neighboring town who is a nurse. When she comes to visit we should all go out he says. I later ask the Mister what a nurse would be doing with a guy who lives outside society? The Mister says some girls like the idea of guys like that. Mikey is always friendly with us but his natural demeaner is a bit on edge. I think fundamentally he would like to trust but this was a guy whose been crossed and lived on the outside of civilization for a reason. I have observed him enough to know that there would be something to set him off and it wouldn’t take much. The odd time we would see a few shady characters pop by to visit with him. He would dismiss them call them trouble – he always claimed he didn’t know why they were coming around. Last winter we decided to move the boat. It would mean a four-day motor if the winds, which were not typical at that time of year for the area, were not up. I was back in Canada working a contract leaving the Mister to battle the mild January Carolina weather and water to move the boat on his own.Sure enough Mikey had resurfaced in the area. He had been anchored out for some time so as not to incur[...]



In my life I have come across many interesting people, and many more who are memorable because they have been given interesting names. I am gifted with a friend named Lucky. Yes. It is her real name.

Lucky’s mother is Chinese and her father is of German decent, however, they were both raised in Calgary Alberta. Lucky calls her mom Lila the Chinese cowgirl and usually follows it with a YEEHAW! All this to say that I don’t think background had any thing to do with her name. Upon her arrival into the world her father who already had a son was so delighted to have a daughter to round out his family he just plain felt lucky.

An early endowment by the boob fairy cursed Lucky. She did her best to hide her bumps but with the end of grade school fast approaching Lucky was determined not to begin high school with three reasons to draw attention to herself. Somehow she knew she did not want the attention her boobs and her name could possibly bring her way. With foresight beyond her young years Lucky was determined she was going to have nothing to do with taking ownership of the “Getting’ Lucky” lines cruel teenaged boys would inevitably shout at her and so she decided to adopt a safer moniker. She slid under the radar of high school known only as Lisa.

Lisa is a storyteller as am I. We have found a common thread in our friendship regaling stories from our past to one another. She always gets tripped up dissolving into fits of cackling laughter at the names of the characters who make up my childhood. This has become a game. She tells me her father new a guy named RUSTY NAIL and a girl named MARY CHRISTMAS.

I lived up the block from twins whose last names were REAKES. I spent grade 8 in Junior high with an unfortunate boy who sold his dad’s home made moonshine out of his school locker who’s name was ROLLY DERBY. His sister Louise tried failingly to get us to call him Rolland in an effort to stop the teasing. I entered high school with a boy name MONSIOUR MONSIOUR but his nickname was meatball – I don’t know what name is worse. I babysat the DINGLEDINE kids and shared a paper route with a boy whose last name was FREAKE. Lisa will always be counted on to bring up one or another of these names on a regular basis asking me to tell her the stories again and again.

At the age of 35 Lisa had had a particularly tough year. In a moment that could only be symbolized as rebirth she announced to me over dinner that she was going to reclaim her given name. And so she began to go by Lucky for the first time since she was 13.

I don’t know why a girl with such a fitting and unique name finds all the people I talk about with equally unusual names so funny. It made me think I should call her up this afternoon to tell her about a girl I once knew named ANNE TIQUE.

Just so I can pull her leg a little.

Collector Ship


As a Canadian, recently transplanted to the United States, I am settling into life in the Carolinas very well. I have always thought of Canadians as having a similar culture to our American cousins. Although, I am beginning to experience some culture shock.... over the weirdest of things too.In Toronto, we have an amazing recycling program. Every week we compost kitchen scraps, recycle plastic, paper and tin and every other week one bag of garbage per household and our yard waste are picked up. These rules are strictly enforced.By he end of April I would anxiously look forward to spring, when winter would take it’s snow coat off the lawn so I could get outside to rake up the remaining fall leaves, unveil the crocus and daffodils and restore order to the yard. Leaves are raked up and placed in oversize brown paper bags to go curbside for pickup. All the Canadian lawn and garden centers carry these bags, each store branding the sides of the bags with their name and logo for advertising value. Yard waste is only picked up if it is placed in these biodegradable bags. If they are in plastic they will not be collected and will sit on the curb to become compost. This February, only days after moving into our new house, the warm Carolina sun shone down with all the heat of an Ontario May, beckoning me outside. I couldn’t resist. Happily, I raked leaves into neat piles. I had a few Home Depot brown paper lawn bags in the garage with my gardening tools from back home. Carefully, I put the yard waste into the giant paper bags. Everyone knows the joys of a soggy bottomed paper bag, so, I placed the full bags under the overhang on my front porch so they would not get wet if it rained to await pick up day. My neighbor walked by a few days later and said; "I am dying to know. What's in those bags?" I said; "Yard waste, leaves, tree branches and stuff." "Oh!" she says; "I wondered what you had moved here and why were you letting it die in it's bag?" Meanwhile, I ran out of giant paper lawn bags, so, I have been to Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart asking in the garden center for brown paper lawn bags. Drawing a blank from each sales person I have encountered, I am told it must be too early in the year for stocking this item. I proceed to use black garbage lawn bags...very much to my environmentalist's chagrin.Garbage day arrived. I put the brown paper Home Depot yard waste bags, the black garbage bags full of leaves along with my other garbage and recycling on the curb. I could hear the garbage truck idling out front for an unusually long time so I went to the window to see what was going on. The yard waste guys were picking up my paper yard waste bags flipping them up side down DUMPING the contents into the back of their truck then carefully replacing the bags back on the lawn for me to reuse! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Wow! Now that is taking recycling to the extreme!After a little while it occurs to me. The garden centers don't have brown paper leaf bags in NC at all. Apparently, the NC folk sweep the leaves to the gutter and a devoted yard waste truck sucks them up with a big vacuum hose into the truck. This does seem very practical.... no bags…. how ridiculous my yard bags must have looked. Culture shock. Maybe? Next week I will try collards.[...]

LADY SHIP At Sweet 16?


“But I told daddy I wanted a band like 6 months ago!” whined a 15 year old in anticipation and planning of her sweet sixteen birthday party somewhere in the vicinity of Beverly Hills California.Her sweet sixteen unfolds with Daddy’s roll of 100’s. Cars, male models, painted pink poodles, multiple party outfit changes including trips to Paris for dress fittings; these are but some of the episode’s content. Household name bands are hired to perform. Invitations worth more than my last 16 birthday gifts combined are hand delivered to the birthday girl’s select few hundred guests. I sit mouth breathing pointing at the TV willing the commercials to end so I can continue on with my new infatuation. A little part of me is waiting for the bottom of this spoiled princess’ fairytale birthday party to fall out or at least one teen could find a run in her panty hose with no back up pair in her purse.My emotions shift and with the curve of my now up-toured lip. I find myself gunning for the spoiled brat as she launches herself from a helicopter landing on the tarmac below to make a grand entrance into her “Super Sweet Sixteen” party. “Everyone is going to know who I am and be so jealous” she squeals.I have no idea what has come over me but I am addicted to MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen. Every Wednesday I set the timer on the TV and get ready to hunker down for two back to back episodes of train wreck. I do have better things to do, I agree. But I can’t help myself. The collision of spoiled hormonal teens and money has me enthralled. So for the sake of this blog I will try to justify my obsession and theorize on why I have let myself get sucked in.There is no one on this earth more repulsive than the 16 year old girl. I recall my own sweet sixteen. It was anything but “super”. I thought I was so grown up and mature for my age. I spent a lot of time back talking my mother, eyeball rolling was as mainstay and testing my boundaries was my new found pastime. As mature as those actions might have seemed, after a few only a few episodes of My Super Sweet Sixteen I see it is par for the course. I was female and I was 15. As my 16th birthday approached I asked my parents if I could host a mixed party. My parents who generally thought little of the crowd I hung with had to be convinced to have my posse in their beautiful new home. I hung out with an eclectic group of friends, most of them were a year or two my senior, they all came from dysfunctional homes with very little parental involvement or supervision. Hooligans let loose in the unfinished basement of the new subdivision house-farm model home while the parents were one floor above might get a little out of control. (Please note the 16 year old’s sarcasm in the last sentence.) But it was MY sweet sixteen and I was their eldest – so how could they say no? I was allowed 16 friends. One for each year I was on this great earth. I was stoked! Okay back then I would have said; “Ohmigawd so excited!” I hoped all the people I had invited would come even though my parents were going to be home to supervise. Don’t you remember being at the age where admitting you had parents was more embarrassing than it would be to show up wearing granny panties under nude panty hose without a skirt to work today?I awoke on the day of my sweet sixteen – feeling like a bag of smashed assholes. This was my big day and I was sick! I spent the day in bed determined to feel better. By mid afternoon after begging my mother not to call my ”whopping” guest list and cancel my party I emerged from my bedroom to begin the ritual of showering and primping for my big night. No stylists arrived, no makeup art[...]



She awoke easily to the sounds of early morning. Sitting up slowly observing the stillness of her sleeping partner, the slight rise and fall of his chest. It would be an hour or more before he awoke.The light was soft, spilling into the sparsely furnished bedroom. She slid out of bed careful not to disturb the dog that inevitably curled himself into the warm spot between the two bodies as they slept. Any quick movement would be sure to wake the dog sending him into an angry snarling fit. It is always amazing how she made these kinds of adjustments unconsciously.Quietly she made her way to the bathroom to retrieve her swimsuit from the shower door where she had rinsed it out and left it to dry. She studied its fabric for a brief minute noticing how the sand had penetrated the fibers before she carefully slid into it.With a short glance back at the clock she slipped out the door, slid into her flip flops, grabbed her surf board from it’s rack, threw it up onto her head to make her way down the driveway away from the house.The plants were still dewy. Was it dew? It looked too heavy. Slowly she began to recall the hammering sound the rain had made, the night before, against the tin roof over head. Lying there in the dark staring at the ceiling, eyes wide, ears wider, drinking in the sounds from above. Her husband had said something to her but she could not make out all his words for the sound of the rain on the roof drowned him out. She thought about this and the fact that she had not recalled the rain or the middle of the night exchange until the visual cues gave her a reminder. Why is it that you can be so awake in the middle of the night so sure to recall its events and be so forgetful of them at daybreak? she thought.Sturdy tanned legs carried her down the gravel road carefully dodging mud puddles the size of toddler pools. It was a familiar road and as she drew nearer her destination the roar of the ocean greeted her.Reaching the beach she paused her movements eyes fixed on the breaking waves. Kicking off her flip flops beside a large fallen tree, well away from the water’s edge, she placed the board on the sand beside her, knelt down, scooped up a handful of sand and began rubbing it into the wax on her board.Methodically she attached the leash to her left ankle, picked up the board and made her move toward the ocean. The water was warm. She shuffled her feet so as not to step on a stingray as she waded deeper into the water.The sun, not yet fully up in the sky, was reflecting a pink and orange glow over the waves and the front of her board.She loved this time of the morning. She felt at peace. This was her magic hour.She paddled hard against the ocean's white water until she found her place on the outside of a breaking set. Sitting up straddling the board between her legs, listening to the sound of her heart pounding in her ears in a way only a vigorous exercise can produce. Beating in time with the crashing waves. Again, her mind wandered off. This time she thought of the sounds of the city, the drone of traffic, complaints of impatient commuters, car horns, she thought of the endless list of tasks she could be lining up to complete, jotting each one down in a mental list instead of in her blackberry. How far away she was from all of that right now.Choosing a wave carefully, she readied her self, folded over the board onto her belly and paddled hard. With the water’s help she dropped into the wave. Effortlessly, popping up onto her feet. Instantly, feeling the rush of adrenaline gust over her body.She grinned from ear to ear.She could not help it.She was giddy.Flying over the water at a break neck speed was exhilara[...]

Ship- Wreck


This is the test .... to make sure my ship is not sinking.