Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The last day of the year and I have no idea what to say. It should be something profound but, to my mind, profound thoughts come without effort. They can't be forced. So I wish everyone a good new year where a dream or two or more becomes a reality, where creative effort pays and not necessarily in a monetary way (although that would be nice too), and where everyone feels loved and cherished by at least one other.

I received a poetry book in the mail this morning. The author is Sue Standing, a friend of my friend Susan in France. Sue gave Susan the book this past summer so I have already read many of the poems. Here's a short one I especially like.


"I wanted to become a new person,
not someone who lived in an unhappy body

like a star-nosed mole.
So I tried protective coloration:

in a field of broken-down sunflowers,
I became the most bowed, the spikiest;

in a bar I became the drunkest,
the one who danced the longest;

in the water I became the reflection
no light could shine through.

But since I couldn't erase myself,
I became myself,

flayed and open to the world--
no bones, only flesh and restlessness."

This evening will be quiet. My parents are coming for dinner. My friend Helen's mother is coming too. So if nothing else, Rob and I will feel young with these three elders (the youngest, my mother, is 76.) Gill asked if we would play bridge. What's bridge? We will eat well and probably be in bed before midnight, sleeping our way into a new year. We'll see.

Gill is leaving by bus for Whistler soon. I worry a little but what can a mother say to a young woman who will be leaving home soon anyway. "Be careful. I don't want to lose you," was all I could think of. Rob rolled his eyes. He thinks me a mite silly but I feel, silly or not, if I say a word or two of caution, they will protect her. And Mike is moving into his own place tonight. He is excited and both Rob and I are excited for him. And Brendan, I have no idea what this beautiful young man is doing. I have learned with all three of my adult children that I don't ask the wheres and whys of their lives unless they're offered.

I feel old. But I am blonder. Gill and I streaked each other's hair yesterday. Gill bought two kits at the pharmacy that come with a cap with tiny holes and a crochet hook. We fastened on our caps and I pulled random strands of Gill's hair through the holes and then dyed these platinum, and then she did mine. It felt like a girlfriend kind of thing to do. It was fun.

Do blonds have more fun? I have high hopes for 2004.

I'll end this year here, in the air...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I wonder, as I sit in my little house, if I am a writer or a pretender. Oh yes, I write this journal every day - one small measure of the discipline I own - but this is play and doesn't involve the hard work and time a piece of finished prose requires. (I pause here and wonder if I should approach my serious writing as play.)

I met Marlene for coffee at Granville Island yesterday afternoon (Is it still Christmas? The indoor market was hectic, hard to find a seat.) Among the other hot topics we discussed, writing ranked high. Marlene is working on her third book and guards her time and still she is a little worried (my projection?) that she is not further ahead. No matter (and these are my thoughts) that she has been teaching three (if I remember correctly) courses at UBC, facilitating her "Jungian Circle of Women" meetings once a week - and I know, after France, the care and time she takes in preparation for each meeting - plus her body/soul intensives with Woodman, plus, plus... She is a miracle of energy. And as I listen to her, I hear that I must separate myself even more from the world and guard my research and writing time. Serendipity that I should hear this inner voice after listening to Vaughan speaking about closing herself away and writing a little every day. If one can do that then the work grows at an amazing pace. (Duh, am I stupid?)

Often I avoid working at writing because I don't have a stretch of time but when I mentioned to Marlene that I had printed all my blogs, she asked about quantity and I said "there's a lot of pages, quite a stack." I pause here and lift the pile of 8 x 10s and it is quite weighty. I see that I could write the novel in my head bit by bit as I have written this online journal. This is so damn obvious but feels like an epiphany.

So my new year's resolution is to 1. guard my time and 2. to begin yet another time the book that wants to come into being (and I mean it this time, Yvonne.)

So strange to speak of myself in third person, to point and shake a finger at myself.

Over the past year in Northern Ireland, in France, and now back "home", I have received so many compliments (the dictionary defines complement as "that which fills up or completes") about my writing and my person that I am beginning to believe ( and I whisper here so as not to jinx) that I am capable of creating something of worth, that I have done a little in this vein already. There will be no more skirting around the issue, now is the time for work.

Mon Dieu, I am a tough woman.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Some days sleep is more important than writing and thinking. I went to bed early, after a meal with friends at my favourite restaurant "Cafe de Paris", and woke at 2 a.m. but this seemed too early and so I lay until I fell asleep again (this doesn't always happen and I get up resigned to make the most of the silence) but last night, I succeeded and fell asleep until six and still I couldn't drag myself out of bed until seven and then I was angry at myself because there wasn't time to approach the day in the leisurely way I love. I have to go to the store this morning.

I have already responded to three emails. One from my cousins, Margaret and David, in Northern Ireland, one from Mahala - a wild and wondrous woman I met in France this summer, and one from Vaughan, a Plum, a friend, who attached a story that she has developed from an exercise we Plums did just two weeks ago. I am in awe. I am envious. She has been on a writing binge all through the Christmas holidays. While I've only had passing thoughts of writing, she's been doing it. Still, her productivity inspires me, makes me want to write, shows me that what I think are throw-away exercises can be developed into something finer.

This week too will be full for me and I have to prepare house and self for my departure on Friday for Mexico with Rob. I have no expectations other than hope for great stretches of time to think and read and write and soak in the sun, swim in the water. I love the water. Ideally it should be approached nude but, as we are going to a family resort, I will behave and wear a swimming costume. I wonder if there are any tables I can dance on. I better watch my words or Rob will be sorry he invited me. At times, I wonder what he thinks about my bravado.
I woke this morning and instead of writing, read Sharon Olds new book of poetry. I am in awe. She is so forthright in revealing her relationships to others - especially her love for her children and her spouse. I heard sometime over the past year that he had left her and wanted to weep. Their love seemed so perfect. In one of the last poems of the book, called "Psalm", she begins:

"Bending over, at the August table
where the summer towels are kept, putting
a stack on the bottom shelf, I felt his
kiss, in its shock of whiskers, on an inner
curve of that place I know by his knowing,
have seen with the vision of his touch. To be entered
thus, on a hip-high table piled with
sheaves of towels, bath and hand,
terrycloth eden, is to feel at one's center
a core of liquid heat as if
one is an earth."

The poem ends "Do not/tell me this could end. Do not tell me."

In my plum meeting this morning, I drew a tree with tiny rectangles of glass hanging on many of its branches. This is how an old friend (now dead) decorated a number of trees in his front garden every Christmas. The moonlight, the street lights, the house lights, would reflect off the rectangles so the whole garden glimmered and shivered - more or less depending on the wind.

This may be as corny as hell but I thought each person I know and love is represented by a rectangle and each one reveals me (to myself) in a different light. I wonder what I did to deserve such gifts. I wonder also if I am self-centred to think of others always in relation to me. And I think of Marlene when she asked "How are we centre ourself, if not in ourself?" (or a variation of these words.)

The four of us wrote from quotes and then did an exercise about lying. This produced some scary stuff. One would think it easy to lie, to hide the truth about oneself, but such is not the case. Even a lie reveals something about the liar.

We will meet again shortly after my return from Mexico. I feel enriched by these meetings, these women. Writing is such a lonely business and to have a place to discuss the business, a table where ideas can germinate, a circle where we can discuss or curse our art, is such a blessing.

I'm feeling awfully corny today - hard to speak of what touches the heart. Gotta run. Rob and I are meeting friends for dinner.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

I (we) have just arrived home from Seattle. I'm chilling out in my little house with a glass of wine after being squished into the Jetta, back seat (as I am the smallest although Gill, being the youngest, had the least preferential middle seat in the back.) My (our) children are so large in size and spirit. I can't remember the last time we did a road trip together and it's been four or five years since we shared a hotel in Los Angeles.

We had a good time and laughed a lot although for the most part, we parted and wandered alone - each to her or his preference - and met up for meals. We stayed in an old hotel right downtown near the Pike Street Market and although the lobby was a little on the sleazy side, our suite was huge though simple, clean though basic, and the price was right.

Rob and I had some good moments together - so strange that we two are responsible for the three that accompanied us - each one so original though so different. The first day, Mike and Bren got together and had a kitschy picture taken, labeled "Mikey Fantastic and Brother B." (Bren plays a drummer with sticks in hand, drums in the foreground, Mike has an electric guitar and appears to be belting out some loud tune.) The second day, today, Bren and Gill took off shopping. Mike wandered alone, worrying a little about the women he had left without a word.

Rob and I met in Pioneer Square at Eliot Bay Book Company - the best book store in Seattle - and I found and bought two poetry books. (I behaved myself.) The first one, "The Unswept Room" is Sharon Olds' new book (I love her poetry), and one of the first poems I read "Sleep Suite" is about her grown children - serendipitous. It begins:

"To end up in an old hotel suite
with one's nearly-grown children, who are sleeping, is a kind
of Eden. The one in the second bed
rests her head on two pillows--I did not know that--
as she sleeps. The one on the couch, under candlewick
chenille, has here and there as he turns
the stuffed animal his sister just gave him
for his twentieth birthday. I roam in the half-
dark, getting ready for bed, I stalk
my happiness. I'm like someone from the past
allowed to come back. I am with our darlings,
they are dreaming, safe."

And we arrived back safe. Bren is working on Mike's computer. Mike is sitting outside with a beautiful young woman. When did she arrive? Rob is upstairs listening to the television (I could hear it when I ran to the house for a second glass of wine.) Gill is in her room - probably trying on her new sexy suede high-heel big-girl boots.

Christmas is over. Tomorrow morning early I will meet with my plums who kindly switched our meeting from Saturday to Sunday. All is well.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Yesterday was good. Thomas, Miranda, and Isabella stayed well into the afternoon - my nephew has blossomed with this beautiful young woman and their daughter. Maggie and Richard stopped in for a Christmas hug and coffee before visiting Richard's mother (92 years) where Maggie with her culinary expertise has to produce a Christmas feast. Being Jewish, she is not impressed.

I walked down to Nancy's and put the turkey in the oven (only to find when I uncovered the big bird that we had been given the wrong bag and the turkey was much smaller than I had ordered and paid for.)

I returned home and instead of leaping into one of the good books I had received, I slept until past the time we were supposed to return to Nancy's to prepare the meal. No matter. We were early enough and before long we were sipping champagne and sitting at Neils long table and eating good food. The evening passed quickly. We discussed amongst other things, Douglas Coupland who is a friend of Nancy and Neils. I read a passage from his book "Souvenir of Canada" that discusses The Group of Seven. The writing surprises me: it is good. He writes with his body. He is clever but this book, as much a photo essay as a written description of things Canadian, is more for the coffee table than a literary endeavour. It comes me that if you are a well published author, you can get away with a lot. (Oh to be in that position.)

Meriah and Karyna, Nancy's daughters from another marriage, were at their father's and were to return home early evening. I missed their exuberant spirits. When we finally left at ten, they unfortunately had not made it home.

So the big day has come and gone with little fuss. I am content.

We plan - all five of the Youngs - to leave at seven this morning for Seattle. I am looking forward to this family event.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Happy Christmas everyone. Hope that all are as content as I am.

Too tired to join in the conversation last night, I left everyone and went to bed early, woke at 2:30 a.m. and opened a gift from Vaughan - a wonderful book (has to be if it's from Vaughan) called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils... and a bottle of Blackberry wine from Shirley - did she know that I had read and enjoyed Harris' book of that name - written from the point of view of a bottle of wine?

I finished my gift wrapping and Christmas messages and returned to bed at 4. At 7, I smelt bacon cooking and went downstairs to find Mike in the kitchen. He's been hoping and praying for an ipod - an extravagant present but that's all he wants. (Rob bought one direct from Apple for him.) I went back to bed but couldn't sleep, could only hear Mike strumming his guitar in the livingroom, waiting.

Rob woke. We chatted as Mike played on. Finally, we joined him downstairs and he woke Gill and Bren.

We all opened our presents and everyone was pleased - truly. Me especially. Rob gave me books (that I'll describe as I read) and perfume; Bren, a beautifully inscribed message - an invitation for dinner and the theatre; Gill, a beautifully presented, self-published book of her poetry (larger than she thought); and Mike a picture of Santa and him - an old joke - I used to beg my children to have their picture taken with Santa Claus. All refused except Mike. This year, Mike has outdone himself. Santa is sitting on his knee.

Tomorrow, Rob and I, Bren, Mike and Gill are heading down to Seattle and staying overnight. We'll wander the city, alone and together, eat a fine meal, shop and sight-see. I love this amazing family of mine. (Auch, the Christmas spirit has caught me.)

Soon, I will walk the turkey down the street. The Bendtsen's wanted to join us for Christmas dinner as there are only three of them - Meriah and Karyna are going to their dad's - and their place is larger. So I will throw on some old clothes, go and put the turkey in the oven and return home and read. Later we will all go and help Nancy do the vegetables. Then we'll eat our traditional food and sip on champagne from Halle Berry, and finish with Blackberry wine from Shirley Rudolph. Aren't we posh?

I'm not minding this easy approach to Christmas. In truth, I am enjoying myself.
I am inarticulate and tired beyond measure. I woke at three, climbed out of bed at four and spent three hours writing Christmas messages. I then drove to my sister's and took my Dad out for his birthday breakfast. Returning via Granville, I stopped, picked up a few gifts, and got back in time to learn that one of the women in the store had been in the hospital half the night with a sick daughter. Rob dropped me at the store and I worked until four. When I called home, Mike had the car and so I walked home to find my nephew, partner, and daughter had arrived. I poured myself a glass of wine, ate some crackers, cheese, and artichoke hearts, and am now in my little house trying to function. I am barely here and still haven't finished wrapping the few presents for my children and Rob. Sigh.

But I am content, really, though a little frazzled and a lot tired.

My mind has been spinning about many subjects but no time to alight and think things through. It comes to me that a whole lot of people spend their whole lives running. I couldn't live this way. Rob came into the store and told me that he had booked a sun vacation - or he couldn't stand his life - from January 2nd to 9th. I have been resisting this escape as there are so many family things happening but, at the moment, I am glad. I can lie in the sun (or in the shade which I prefer) and read to my heart's content. And think. And even write. Maybe.

So tomorrow is Christmas. My children are cooking the Eve dinner as I write, and I have yet to wrap a few things and write messages. I wanted to do so much more. But I am not capable of doing much more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I have just spent an hour printing out all my blogs just in case the internet fails or blogger fails and all my words are lost. If nothing else, they provide a reference for the past year. I feel a little low about this public writing. In many ways, it seems to me to be a lot of self-indulgent bullshit but I remind myself of Bett's Martha Graham quote: "It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is... It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly...." (Have I done this with my writing? I think so. Then why aren't I more gleeful?)

As the end of the year approaches, I'm assessing what I've accomplished this past year. Gill and I have lived our dreams. We've grown closer. My relationship to Rob has shifted and grown. I have learned to listen harder. My sons have grown away from me and yet I feel closer to both of them. I have come to know and love my large, generous, warm-hearted Irish family. And my birth land. Also several new friends there. I continue to be enriched beyond measure by my female friends.

The only part of my life that really frustrates me is my writing. I am thinking about how to change this.

Last night my parents came for dinner. They have mellowed with age. I made them a feast and the evening passed quickly and amicably.

Today, I run to Costco and then check to make sure all is ready for Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Rob told me something last night that isn't sitting well with me. He said that once in this live journal I spoke of his work in the film industry and if the "wrong person" read it, it may be misconstrued and he'd be in trouble. I have the ability to go backwards to any date and change or delete anything I've written so I'd like to know if I cross some unknown (to me) boundary.

I also discovered that google is pretty thorough. I was researching Marion Woodman and discovered a direct link to this blog. Rob was researching Castelnau de Montmiral and he discovered another link here. This scared me a little. I write for myself and only given this site address to a few select friends but now I find that I am not as invisible as I thought. What, if anything, should I do?

I received an email from Bett this morning - a gift of quotes that she sends to her friends every year. Although many of the quotes resonated for me, this one by Martha Graham was especially potent.

"There is vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open...No artist is pleased... There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

I see this blog sometimes as a playground, sometimes as an arena where I fight my inner censor who often wishes I'd just shut up and not reveal my moods and messiness. Some days I close my eyes and press the "publish" button. Only once did I delete an already published entry - not because I felt I'd said something unacceptable but because I felt that I'd chickened out and not been open enough.

Last night Rob and I went over to Venay's for a Hanumas party (Christmas and Hanukkah combined.) Venay attended the workshop in France last summer and I knew she'd sent out invitations to all the women. Only Roz and Betty Carter were able to attend. It was a lovely evening. What do I mean by "lovely" (the proprioceptive question)? I mean the food was amazing, the wine flowed, and the conversation was intelligent and provocative. I especially enjoyed speaking to Betty Carter - this amazing woman has a novel finished and at present, it is being scrutinized by an editor. I'm jealous. When Betty and Rob found they were both Maritimers, they hit it off well but - now get this - Betty said that she didn't know I'd be married to such a pragmatic guy - and she was shocked to hear that we've been married for over thirty-three years. She thought I would have been on my third "flighty" husband. I laughed but the more I think about this, the more insulted I feel. But then again, I have no control over the way others see me.

Enough. I have to run to the store, clean the house, pick up my parents, and make them a feast today.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

I'm feeling nervous and as always when I feel this way, I look into my head to find out why my insides are alerting me. (The body is so wise and I ignored the messages mine sent for years. My friend Susan in France was the first to tell me to trust my "gut reaction." And then she quoted an old German adage "Little wisdom of the spirit. Big wisdom of the body.")

Could it be that I'm feeling too light lately - "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" - and my psyche (or is it my complex) does not allow me to feel too good? Or is it Christmas ("the most wonderful time of year") that is worrying me? I'm trying to keep it simple, to enjoy it moment by moment, person by person, to be thoughtful and loving, but still I'm overwhelmed with the making and buying of small presents, and the planning for feasts - my mum and dad are coming for dinner Monday night; my nephew, partner, and baby are spending Christmas eve with us - another food celebration; and then there's Christmas day itself with breakfast and dinner. I'm also aware that my dad's birthday is on the 24th and my mum's on the 26th. How will I acknowledge these special days? Perhaps a box of chocolates from Callebaut would do the trick. Do I have the energy to drive over and pick them up in the next few days?

Is it simply that I'm too lazy? I don't think so but the mind does play tricks.

I shall take one step at a time.

When I feel like this I want to read poetry or something thoughtful for inspiration but, as the clock heads towards eight, I know I must run to the mall that's opening early for one small item before the crowds descend.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Well, it's a sopping wet day out and although I have a lot to do, I'm not feeling in the mood for much. But, I've already been over to Kits with Gill for breakfast at Sophie's and bought Rob a gift. He's a hard man to surprise and he likes this present business so I'm trying to "stand by my man."

I just looked up the lyrics for the refrain:

"Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can"

But the first verse is even better:

"Sometimes it's hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You'll have bad times
And he'll have good times
Doin things that you don't understand
But if you love him
You'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh, be proud of him
Cause after all he's just a man"

I seem to have a country and western bug. Yesterday I worked but didn't feel like it. In the afternoon, I visited my new nephew who was glued to his mother's breast. (Yes, he is beautiful but not half as beautiful as mine.)

In the evening, I had some good old-fashioned home cookin' (carbs included) with Marlene and Steve. Marlene says she doesn't give presents but, although I hate to say it, she lies. She gave me some fig bubblebath to remind me of France (just might have to drink the bath water) and a book on courtesans by Susan Griffin.

Now why would she give sweet little innocent me such a book? People might get the wrong impression if they discover it on my book shelf. I am really quite chaste and introverted. Just because I've danced on a table or two, written a story about writing that sounds like sex, adore silks and velvets, like moaning and groaning tunes, and drinking from bottomless goblets of deep red wine, doesn't mean I'm a sensualist. Hell, I'm not a chocolate addict nor a consummate consumer of premium ice-cream - now those "ladies" are beyond reform.

I had a great evening but must say that Marlene is a little rough on Steve. Even though he begged us to help him with the dishes, she refused and what could I do? I couldn't leave her to sit alone to rescue a man in the kitchen.

It was raining when I left - the heavens crying for Steve, I imagine.

I returned home to an empty house. Gill and Mike were out at a party together.

Friday, December 19, 2003

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Gill is dancing. One last day of school. Rob, when he arrived at some ungodly hour, said he felt like an old man; but he, too, has only one more day of filming to live through and then we can celebrate. Halle Berry gave each member of the crew a bottle of champagne - the good stuff - so we'll begin the holidays in style.

This morning, I've been playing with photoshop - why do they make it so complicated? - and designing and writing holiday messages. I must admit that it takes the season to move me to express myself in black and white, trying my damnest to write simple messages that don't sink to cliches or soppy sappy meaningless dribble.

I'm reminded of James Joyce who wrote: "I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use - silence, exile, and cunning." I especially like the "cunning."

I've decided not to pressure myself about writing save for my daily journal. Kate sent me a contest for an erotic piece but, if I remember correctly, the online journal, wants 3000 to 4000 words by December 31st. I don't know if I have it in me at the moment. I'll see. Sometimes hot and steamy scenes flow from some unknown source so I'll carry a notebook and see if inspiration overtakes me.

Soon I will shower and dress for work, visit my dentist for yet another consultation, return to work, and then head downtown to brave Robson Street, and then on to the hospital to visit my sister and hopefully hold in my arms, the boy child I felt roaming around her belly. I still can't believe how a little seed dropping into the uterus every month can link up with a shot of sperm and become a person - sort of like adding vermouth to vodka, shaking hard and voila - a martini.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

My mum called at 3 in the morning to tell me that my sister has a new son. Bill, her lover/partner/husband/father of said baby called a few minutes ago to tell me that "Cameron" is the most beautiful baby in the universe but a noisy little fellow who is already making his presence known.

This baby business is exhausting. I waited and waited and waited to hear yesterday. As I had dropped Bev and Bill at the hospital at 9:30 a.m., I expected to hear the news sometime late afternoon. When I didn't hear by evening, I began to worry. But all is well - MOTHER and child are both beautiful swears alleged father.

Gill didn't want a traditional Christmas tree. Mike said the trimmings are not what are important. Rob wasn't around to ask his opinion so Gill and I went to the flourist and chose an ivy bush shaped like a tree that sits on the living room table. It's quite lovely.

This morning I braved the stores and bought a few Christmas gifts - I'm bending a little says the willow and this afternoon, I'm making small gifts. So the spirit of Christmas is descending. And I am enjoying myself. But tired.
My mum called at 3 in the morning to tell me that my sister has a new son. Bill, her lover/partner/husband/father of said baby called a few minutes ago to tell me that "Cameron" is the most beautiful baby in the universe and a noisy little fellow who is already making his presence known.

This baby business is exhausting. I waited and waited and waited to hear yesterday. As I had dropped Bev and Bill off at the hospital at 9:30 a.m., I expected to hear the news sometime late afternoon. When I didn't hear by evening, I began to worry. But all is well -MOTHER and child are beautiful says alleged father.

Gill didn't want a traditional Christmas tree. Mike said the trimmings are not what are important. Rob wasn't around to ask his opinion so Gill and I went to the flourist and chose an ivy bush shaped like a tree that sits on the living room table. It's quite lovely.

This morning I braved the stores and bought a few Christmas gifts - I'm bending a little says the willow and this afternoon, I'm making small gifts. So the spirit of Christmas is descending. And I am enjoying myself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I woke early - 3:30 a.m. but as I fell asleep early - watching a movie with Mike - I'm feeling good and happy to have hours before I head over to my sister Bev's to have breakfast with my mum and dad and wish Bev luck - she goes into the hospital sometime during this day and the small being roaming in her belly will be brought into this world. As she has a boy and a girl, she will be happy with a pair of either sex.

I continue to think of gender differences. There's a lovely woman who works in the store who told me a story yesterday about her four daughters. Recently when she was away, her daughters visited their father, on their own accord, and told him that they didn't think he was showing his partner/wife/their mother the respect she deserved. They illustrated this statement with samples of his unkindness over the years. They gave him time to defend himself. Since this conversation, the woman says that her relationship has turned around. She's happy to go home in the evening.

I heard another story once about children who came to their mother and listed all the grievances from childhood onwards. She too listened hard and their relationship changed.

I'm thinking that such dialogue is a true gift - that we all keep so much inside because we are afraid to injure those we love - oh we have a dozen excuses - they're simply too small and petty to say aloud - or our behaviour provoked the unsavoury response - or the person doing the hurting was tired - or it was an off day - still these little or big bruises live within our flesh - and if they could be released - we could be so much lighter.

I'm thinking about the emotionalism of women - the need of the feminine for wholeness - and the courage it takes to speak our truths. The woman in the store told me that before her daughters intervened, her partner often lost patience and ridiculed her when she was emotional. He told his daughters that the phrase he used on them "deal with it" had been hammered into him.

Again the definition of love - "rapt attention" - comes to mind.

I'm thinking that without emotion - the perfection of the masculine - the world would be a dull place.

So I am feeling virtuous this morning. Already I have designed and written and printed a Christmas card for Rob's mum and a Birthday card for my sister, Gael.
This is a crazy time of year for my family. Gael's birthday is the 23rd of December, my father's the 24th, my mother's the 26th, and my older sister's the 27th. I'm wondering if this, in some small way, makes me want to avoid Christmas gifts as I always celebrate birthdays with presents.

It is now 5:30 in the morning. I will shower and leave soon.
It's Tuesday and Rob has three more get-ups - that's the way he counts the days until a three week hiatus.

Today was proving too crazy for my head so I cancelled an early morning meeting with Maureen on Granville Island and went to the store and worked, left at noon to pick up my dad, dropped him at my sister Bev's, had tea and hot scones with my parents, felt my sister's belly, and then went back to store where I initiated a sale starting tomorrow. People aren't even coming in let alone buying.

I have just arrived home and haven't a thought in my head beyond finding something to eat and soaking in a hot bath.

If I'm inspired later, I'll return.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I'm a computer junkie. I know it now. I have been trying to get on to the internet all day, check my email, do my blog, but no luck until now. And what I was going to say earlier has dissipated. I wanted to speak of the Dialogue yesterday that was about, for the most part, gender differences. I arrived late, quite unlike my usual puncutual self, and walked into an emotional minefield. Forgive my emotionalism. I can't help it. Reminds me of somes line from "Poppy" by Drusilla Modjeska:
"I am filled with pain and pleasure. I am all that...
[my father and my husband] hated in me and...[my lover] fears:
emotional, fluid, intemperate, melodramatic, female."

Thank goodness for the feminine is all I have to say.

Today exhausted me. My mother was coming for dinner. I cleaned, scrubbed, bought groceries, cooked, and served. I thought Gill would be home to help but she was consumed by her own fires - mostly school based as she worked on the film Thursday and Friday and now has to catch up.

My boys/men joined us. My sister Donna/Maggie came with her son Eric. Bev came with her beautiful belly and her two young ones - Hannah and Liam. I set a table, lit over two dozen candles, lit a log in the fireplace, turned on the CD player to Van Morrison, and tried to create a cosy homefront.

Now, I'm exhausted, melodramatic, female... and I've just received a dozen emails. I can't think straight but hopefully tomorrow will prove easier. But I have to work and pick my father up from the airport - I just offered - shouldn't have but did - couldn't let my very pregnant sister carry all the load. Still, those of you who know me, know that I'm no saint.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Yesterday was a blur as I awoke too early but I did fall asleep early, when Rob and Bren were settling down to watch a movie.

This morning I rose at 4:30 played on my computer, went down to the water in the drizzle, and then took myself to breakfast and finished reading "The Lost Notebook" by John Montague who writes mostly in prose of a hot torrid affair he had with a young American in Florence when he was twenty one. His language fluctuates between beautiful and crude - like this sex affair. Here's one of the nicer passages:

"That afternoon was her richest gift to me, a glimpse of near ecstasy, of the sensuous fulfilment I longed for in my damp, distant island. And like all such moments it had a scent of permanence, a small addition to the sweetness in the world. Finally she fell asleep, her blonde head resting on my numbed arm, in total ease.

In the crook of my arm
my love's head rests;
in each breath
I taste her trust."

I don't know Montague's poetry well and I intend to research him further but, for some reason, this book reminded me of a young poet I met in Dublin at the workshop called Tony Curtis (hard to forget his name) and I've been roaming the internet searching for him which proved a little confusing as there is another poet by the same name in Wales. But I finally found a site with photo - still totally gorgeous - and, wonder of wonder, he has published another book of poetry. I've sent a query to the publisher to find out how I can order it.

Interesting, this book was reviewed by another Irish poet, Paula Meehan, who I met at the same time, who came to UBC a few years ago to teach at Booming Ground, whose words I trust. She's a wild woman, a strong woman, whose verse reminds me of Sharon Olds. I'll give you a short poem to illustrate this:

"I'm not your muse, not that creature
in the painting, with the beautiful body,
Venus on the half-shell. Can
you not see I'm an ordinary woman
tied to the moon's phases, bloody
six days in twenty-eight? Sure

I'd like to leave you in love's blindness,
cherish the comfort of your art, the way
it makes me whole and shining,
smooths the kinks of my habitual distress,
never mentions how I stumble into the day,
fucked up, penniless, on the verge of whining

at my lot. You'd have got away with it
once. In my twenties I often traded a bit
of sex for immortality. That's a joke,
Another line I swallowed, hook
and sinker. Look at you --
rapt, besottted. Not a gesture that's true

on that canvas, not a droopy breast,
wrinkle or stretchmark in sight.
But if it keeps you happy who am I
to charge in battledressed to force you test
your painted doll against the harsh light
I live by, against a brutal merciless sky."

I just checked my watch. I've been playing for six and a half hours. I don't know if age has slowed me down or if I'm more willing as time goes by to read and savour. If I had more days like this I might even write. I know. I have to create the time.

The rain is falling hard again. I have to shower soon (should perhaps just stand outside with a bar of soap,) visit my mother, and then go to Dialogue. A rich day.
It's Saturday afternoon and I have just climbed out of bed. I am so sleepy. I woke when Mike came in
at three this morning and then couldn't return to sleep. Gill and Rob returned home at four more than exhausted and once again I tried to sleep but it was a lost cause so I crept from the bed and came out to my little house in the garden and played on my computer until it was time to drive to Wenda's for our last plum meeting before Christmas.

On the way, I picked up some coffee and a box of mandarins. Vaughan brought some Christmas stollen, and Wenda made a batch of her famous cheese scones. (I doubt we could function without these warm biscuits and hot coffee.) Vaughan and Shirley also brought Christmas gifts for everyone. Ah, they are so bad. They know that I don't like Christmas shopping and Vaughan was kind enough to say that she thought my idea of coffee and telling a secret, a good gift idea.

So we sat around our writing table and talked a little and then all wrote a twenty minute short story (a contest Kate had sent me by email this morning.) Why is it not surprising that each one of us thought that the other three had written something worthy but we, ourselves, had failed? (I could be wrong here. I don't think Shirley is as self-depreciating as the rest of us.) We continued to write another story in three ten-minute segments, read, hugged, and parted.

I was so sleepy by the end that I knew I had to drive carefully and return to bed. As you can probably tell by this entry, I am simply too stunned to think, let alone write.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

I feel like the mad hare in Alice in Wonderland: "I'm late, I'm late..." signing into my blog. "I'm tired, I'm tired... but I have to write or otherwise, I'm... what?"

If I am not making any sense, I've been running all day. No time to be. But I'm not unhappy. I went to work at 8, left at 10 to drive Gill to her acting job and returned to work. I rearranged the whole store. I'm worried about it. People aren't buying and there is such beautiful stuff but it costs. Difficult. I don't mind the people who come in and admire and say they can't afford but I do mind the people who come in and bitch about the prices. They think we're trying to take them. If they only knew the profit is next to nil, often under. But it does provide income - not extravagant (now that's an understatement) - for seven households.

But I am pleased with myself. The window is lovely - one of my best - and the entire store makes much more sense.

I was standing outside the store window, looking in, as if I were a passerby, and Rob was stopped in a stream of traffic. He honked his horn, opened his window and I ran into the road to hear that Mike had got his apartment in an artist's co-op. He is thrilled and laying out plans for his future. I think this is a step in the right direction for him. Oh my god, I'm pleased, I'm thrilled. This is one of those moments that every parent savours. I am so in awe of my children. And I pray, "Dear god, don't let me have fucked them up too much. Let them gain in the good things I've given them." And when it comes to pass, I sigh with relief.

So I'm home after a long day and have poured myself a glass of wine and thinking that I should be preparing for tomorrow, for my plum meeting. But, as I said before, I'm tired. Of course, my three fellow writers will forgive me but I want to find at least one writing exercise to bring - something that will provoke something.

I had better close.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I should know to write early in the day. I am in a much better mood. Already, I feel anxious about what I want to accomplish and my stomach is doing somersaults.

I awoke early - at 4:40 a.m. and was pleased. I have been in the doldrums too long and have accomplished little. My only excuse is that I'm Irish and Irish folk have a history of melancholia.

Yesterday afternoon at four, I headed downtown as I had a free pass to see "Something's Gotta Give" and I wanted to avoid rush hour traffic. I parked in Chinatown, went into a few shops, but felt too listless to even look so I found a cafe, sat outside, and watched people pass.

When I feel like this I am poor company and wondered why I had called Shirley in the morning and invited her to watch the show with me. How dare I inflict myself on a friend when I am so pathetic? How dare I be so ungrateful for my rich life? Oh, I was wallowing. I admit it.

Finally I reached into my bag and pulled out a book I'd thrown in at the last moment. And I read and read and then, miracle of miracles, I took out a pen and paper and began to write:

"I will tell a story of myself sitting, as I sit, reading "The Lost Notebook" by John Montague. 'Who am I?' Marian Woodman's big question. And why is the person I think is me, such a fool? Oh, I know that Shakespeare's fool is wise but not me.

"I have been meaning to read Montague's book forever or, at least, since 1994 when I went to Dublin for my first writer's workshop. I was so naive and scared and though my writing attracted attention, even praise (I was shocked), I remained shaky, out of my element (or was I?) Every night, after a day of workshops, the participants would gather at a pub for readings by famous Irish writers.

"One night, one of these writers came and sat at my table. After a glass of wine, my tongue loosened and I was braver in conversation. I actually told him something to the effect that I wanted to write feminist stuff, with an erotic edge, hopelessly true on the lines of Evelyn Conlan. The conversation ignited. I have seldom felt such an attraction for a stranger - but it was innocent. His young girlfriend clung to him. At the end of the evening, he asked 'Where were you when I needed you?' And I wondered the same thing.

"Why am I thinking about this now?"

By the time, I met Shirley I was feeling a little more up and we grabbed a quick bite, and joined the lineup at the cinema.

The film starred Jack Nicolson and Diane Keaton. It's the story of a 63 year old man who is a rich playboy and only dates women under thirty until he meets Keaton who plays a famous playwright and ?, her sister, a professor of women's studies at Berkeley. The dialogue, for the most part, was good although it did slip into a few Hollywoodisms but I forgive the writer these, because there was much wit that had me laughing out loud. One of the last scenes is in Paris. Again and again, I realize how I love that city and want to live there for a while.

When I returned home, nobody was there but Mike arrived home soon after, and cooked up some spicy Chorizo sausage. He is so happy. He finished his cafe job and is now working at Inform. When the owner of the cafe called one day, she told me that everyone loves Mike. The other day, I had an email from Inform, and the owner/friend told me the same thing. I questioned Mike. "What do you do that makes everyone love you?" And he smiled and said it was a curse.

Today, Gill went to work with Rob. She is ecstatic because she is playing an extra in a nightclub scene with Halle Berry. (I should really tell Marlene that they are shooting at UBC, Chan Centre, so she can go and deliver her message to Berry that Rob is too embarrassed to give.)

I have an appointment at eleven so I must run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Fifteen days till Christmas and I'm not inspired. If I am truthful, nothing inspires me at the moment. Perhaps I have been doing too much and need to let myself be.

I received an email from Vaughan this morning in which she calls me, amongst other things, "expansive" and "giving". I told her I wasn't today, that I wanted to jump off the edge of the earth. This reminds me of a poem by Dorianne Laux:


"No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another--a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms...

Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them--
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world."

Perhaps I need to go for a walk and see if I can shake this lethargy.

I went to visit my mother last night. She's just arrived from Toronto and staying at my baby sister's. (My baby sister is 40 and just about to give birth to her third child. I held her rounded belly in my hands and felt the child roaming around inside her. It still amazes me that a human being is created inside a woman.) My mom will be 75 the day after Christmas and looks good. I think she is happy to get away from my father for a while and play with her youngest grandchildren. She doesn't like my "no gift" idea but admitted it was crazy going out and buying all kinds of stuff that would be half price on her birthday. Oh dear, I think I will probably break down to please her. (There's little voices in my head saying "She's an old woman. You can't break a habit of a lifetime.")

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I'm not much in the mood for writing as I've just come back from the dental specialist. He was quite charming, looked a lot like Rob, except he's still has his Irish brogue (born and bred in Monaghan.) He spent well over an hour with me and said my mouth was in good shape and (sigh of relief) he really didn't think I had a grinding problem and the mouth guard really wasn't an issue. I have two choices: 1. implants - by far the best - at a cost of $16,000 (I did not add an extra 0) or 2. a partial denture at around $2000 that may or may not work. Unless I start making big money fast, the first option isn't feasible.

I could swear for half an hour but what good would it do?

Gill wants a ride to the gym and I have to work at the store for around an hour. If I think of anything more inspiring than my wee mouth, I might return.
I appear to be thinking lots and writing little. I drove Gill to school for her 7 a.m. class, went to the dentist for a panorama xray of my mouth that I'm to hand-carry to the specialist tomorrow, and then went to work where there was so little to do, I ended up walking down to the water to dream and read. (Why is it that when one isn't writing, thoughts flow and the minute a pen is in hand, the thoughts dissolve? Like dreams.)

I finished The Da Vinci Code. I liked the book, liked the idea that secret societies exist that believe in the sacred feminine, and that some still celebrate Hieros Gamos (Greek for sacred marriage.) Dan Brown, the author, swears that all his detail about the Holy Grail and sacred feminine are fact - based on five years of research. I wish he had included a bibliography. Although I hated the violence, I loved the riddles and cryptic messages. I also thought his argument about sex - the churches' reasons for sabotaging it and turning it into sin; and hence people's conflicted attitudes toward it - plausible. The ancients believed that it was the one way men and women could experience God. I must admit I especially love the idea that women are sacred and men incomplete until they have carnal knowledge of the sacred feminine. "Since the days of Isis, sex rites had been considered man's only bridge from earth to heaven."

The day has almost disappeared. I must return to the store for a hour or two and then... I'm not sure.

Monday, December 08, 2003

It's Sunday and I'm moving slowly - rather pensive - after a day and night on Keats Island. There is something vastly romantic, in my mind, about islands and this one - wild and silent - reminded me of Mayne in the old days with its great trees, dirt roads, and sparse population.

Six of us approached by water taxi, stomachs lurching after a rough ride. Bett had just arrived from Langdale. Maureen, in gum boots and yellow rain jacket, looking like a true islander, was waiting smiling. (Maureen is nearly always smiling. She is one of the cheeriest people I know.)

We trudged along a winding uphill road, whining in the rain (or was that just me), until finally we arrived at her llama farm. Maureen and her partner Doug own seventeen of these beasts plus two donkeys and all turned their heads when we entered the gate and looked us over.

Roz, Shirley, Bett, Maureen, Venay, Marlene, and I were the French workshop women. Roz' daughter, Marianne was invited as a substitute for joining us in France. (Even though the day was lovely, I think it a poor alternative to a week in the south of France, sweating and writing.) (I was going to add swearing but these wild women were doing a lot of that here and there.)

Once inside, wet gear off, we gathered around the fire, and ate and then we ate some more. We started with apple cake, cheeses, French bread, grapes, pomegranate, and chocolate. We moved on to baby quiche, barbecued salmon, wild rice, coleslaw, potato salad, and chocolate. We finished with a Notte Bon Ton chocolate cake, cookies, mandarins, and yes, more chocolate. (I think Marlene and Roz thought they were in heaven.)

In between mouthfuls, we talked about womanly things - great mysteries that I can't tell as men read this journal. (We may have even shocked Marianne, at her tender age of twenty.)

The day disappeared and I decided to stay and rest by the fire for the night with Maureen (although heroically, we walked the others to the ferry.)

I am full of tales - there is so much more I could say - but must finish as I am meeting Gill at IGA for dinner items.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

No time to write this morning. I still have to shower, run to Capers for bread, stop at a hole-in-the-wall (N.I. for bank machine), pick up Gill, and be standing on the curb at 8:45 when Shirley drives by on her way to Horseshoe Bay to catch a water taxi to Keats Island.

Yesterday was a delight. I met Donna, now Maggie, at Serenity Cottage for a manicure and pedicure. I was wild. Green on my fingers. Purple on my toes. If I dance on tables today with my French writing women, I will definitely take my shoes and socks off.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The rain is pouring down at this early hour. I woke from a dream when Rob came to bed. I think it was around 4 a.m. He is trying to fight a cold, counting the days until he has three weeks off. He says he is too old for the film industry but then he admits that even the young on set are sick and tired of the ungodly hours. People think that working on a film with movie stars is exciting. They ask him questions. "Have you talked to Halle Berry?" "What is Jack Nicholson really like?" "Is it true Sharon Stone never wears underwear?" Rob is tolerant but he is not impressed by the stars. He likes some, dislikes others. When somebody is rigged with a radio mike, he sometimes hears private conversations but he never tells.

When he is working, we have little time to tell each other anything. Yesterday morning, for instance, we had around fifteen minutes together. I tried to remember all the things that I had to ask him. I had left out papers that he had to sign. I relayed a message from England.

This morning I will probably not see him at all. And tomorrow morning, I am heading out early to go to Keats Island for a French reunion - the women from Vancouver who did the workshop last summer are getting together for the first time to talk and feast - so I may not see him until Sunday.

When he is working, there is little time for a relationship. I miss him.

I miss Gill. And now that Mike is working all day, I miss him. When I'd come in and out of the big house on my way to my garden house, he'd be playing his guitar. The house is empty. And instead of dancing on tables and enjoying the silence, I'm finding myself at loose ends. I suppose one needs time to adjust to aloneness. I once read an essay by Susan Sontag who took a break from her family and went into the woods to do some creative work. She lay for three days doing nothing. She couldn't stand the silence. And then she laughed at herself, got up, and began to work.

I'm hoping this will happen to me. But not today. Soon, I will go to work and change the window and do some displaying. At 11:30 I am meeting my sister Donna who is now Maggie at Serenity Cottage for a manicure and pedicure - a gift I gave her several years ago for her birthday that she enjoyed so much, we have tried to make it a tradition. (We missed last year as I was away.) After this frivolity, we will go to the Swiss Chalet for lunch. This is a bit of a family joke but we always enjoy the "family atmosphere."

If there is time later in the day, I will do a little writing. Hopefully the spirit will move me.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I'm finding myself at a loss for words but, no matter how I try to avoid writing this journal, I can't rest until I've added my daily spiel. If nothing else, I am consistent and conscientious. Or "stubborn" might be a better adjective.

Last night, I attended the last in the series of Jungian meetings at Marlene's. Everyone brought a passage from The Pregnant Virgin that spoke to her. I'll list a few:

"'Where love reigns, there is no will to power,' wrote Jung, 'and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.' The opposite to love is not hate but power."

"The chrysalis is essential if we are to find ourselves. Yet very little in our extroverted society supports inverted withdrawal. We are supposed to be doers... But the truth is I can't do anything useful if there's no I to do it. I can't love anyone else, if there's no I to do the loving...."

"The mature feminine will not tolerate the demands and projections of the patriarchy.... If, for the first time, a woman is experiencing her feminine ego well grounded in her own body, her husband may be delighted, surprised and shocked by her sexual abandonment. However, opening the body can open a crevice in the heart that becomes an abyss containing the pain of a lifetime...."

There were many more. Unfortunately, I did not mark each quote as it was being read. I listened...

Gill just dropped in for some food and booze for a birthday party for her friend tomorrow evening. As there wasn't much in the house, I drove her down to the store and then back to her borrowed home for a week. She said that I have taught her to like change. She also said that I was too good. I said that if you love someone, you put yourself out for them.

This is something that my parents never did in any conscious way for me. But then again, their parents never did it for them - because they didn't have the money or the time. My mother's parents were farmers. My father's father was a poor dentist. (They actually existed before National Health.) There were eight children in my father's family, seven in my mothers. Children were loved as belongings but not as individuals. I wonder, in mid-life, what our children, will think of Rob and me.

The writing is just not happening today. I think I'll go up to the big house, pour myself a glass of wine, and read. Last night, I started reading The Da Vinci Code - good reading for a quiet rainy night.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I'm in an anxious frame of mind. I suppose it could be because I had to see the dentist this morning. She reglued my bridge, told me only to eat soft foods out of the side of my mouth, and made an appointment for me to see a specialist who happens to be an Irishman and a UBC professor. This visit is termed "consultation" and I'm to bring a cheque for $160. I wonder how many hours he will give me for this kind of money.

Although my smile is still in tact, I'm grimacing.

After, I ran errands for the business and home. More money. But necessary and completing chores offers a little satisfaction.

I did spend some time this morning researching query letters and writing.

This evening I will attend my last Jungian meeting of this session. We're to begin with readings - those who didn't read last week and I'm one of them and I'm feeling bad as Marlene said she would like every one to read. I read over what I wrote and I simply can't expose my miserable self. Ah well... I thought I would have time to answer another question where I feel on firmer ground but so far, I have not alit. After this, we will have a discussion group which I am looking forward to.

It would be so easy to push aside all the turmoil that Marion Woodman's book stirs up but I think this a chicken's way out and any woman who dances on tables is no chicken.

"You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up."

God, I love Rilke. I love all writers who give me a hint on how to approach this world.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I started the day at 9 a.m. I mean I actually left my bed at this time. All was quiet. Everyone had left. I mean Rob and Mike who starts a full time job today. Gill and one other friend are staying with a third. She tells me that they are going to have a "health week" - lots of good food and exercise.

I am not lazy. I drove Helen to the airport last night at 11 p.m. to catch a flight to Hong Kong and then on to Australia and arrived home near two.

I called my dentist friend as I have yet another tooth that is starting to throb. My mouth continues to be a problem. I wonder what that means in the whole scheme of things.

I also called my friend Susan who is at present residing in Scotland. She will leave for France around the 16th of December but then again she may leave the 18th. Some friends are coming for Christmas around this date and she figures if they get there first, the house will be warm. No feeble thinker this 76 year old friend of mine. She also said that her eldest son has impregnated his Japanese girlfriend who Susan quite likes. (David thinks her a shrew but then, he thinks Susan one, too.) Her son (almost fifty), she says, is happy now that he has made a commitment. She thinks commitments are an aid to happiness.

I think anywhere that we find pockets of happiness, we should dip in and savour.

Now I will play a little with writing and then head downtown to tap. (Maureen and I changed our day.)

Monday, December 01, 2003

Last night I sent out an email to my mother and Rob and my children. I asked that they give me no gifts this Christmas. I am quite content with my material lot. I ask that they take me out for coffee and tell me something that they've never told me before or some deep, dark, secret. Or, if they have the time and inclination, they can give me something they make themselves that doesn't involve money.

I thought this a good solution to the material side of Christmas and might reap something much more precious than an object. I also know that this gift I am asking for, could prove more difficult than shopping for a present.

Thus far I have only heard from Rob. He asked me why I didn't like Christmas. He loves the gift giving and receiving. He has fond memories of his childhood Christmas'. He likes the challenge of buying something special for me and the children.

I see his point. I do love giving gifts that I know will delight - not gifts for gifts' sake.

The house feels empty today. Yesterday, Gill packed her bags and left for a week to stay with a friend whose mother is out of town. When she asked permission and my face fell, she told me that it would be good practice for both of us. She will be leaving at the end of the school year.

When Brendan left to live in London for a year, he told me that he was more afraid to stay than go and I endorsed his plan. I was shocked at the void he left. I wouldn't allow anyone to touch his room until he had been gone three months - the date of his return ticket if things didn't work out.

When Mike left, it was a little easier, as I knew what to expect, but not much.

And soon Gill will do the same. Oh dear, I have a feeling that the last child is the most difficult to say goodbye to.

I know this leaving is a necessary part of growing up but still my heart aches.