Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Neetu and me

Another market complete. Helen I worked from nine in the morning to six each evening and then trudged back to the hotel. All evenings save one, the one when we went out with my niece Sarah and her fiance Rene, we stayed in the hotel, too tired to even go out for dinner. The night we went out with Sarah, we went to an Italian restaurant - good company, good food - and then on to a comedy club. I fell asleep during a boring act and the woman on stage, much to my displeasure, pointed out "the woman in the fourth row who was really enjoying their routine." My niece nudged me. (At least, I wasn't snoring.)

Yesterday, we caught a taxi to market with our suitcases and arranged for the driver to pick us up at four to take us to airport. We completed our rounds and by the end, I was getting a little testy with several pushy reps. Helen kept me in line. (Thank heavens for this friend.) The taxi driver was late, then arrived smiling, ushered us to airport, and then wouldn't take money for morning drive. I was astonished: a taxi driver not trying to rip someone off.

When we landed in Vancouver, the owner of the store was there to greet us. I was excited about the show - lots of great stuff and lots of ideas - but when I described what I had seen and heard, he was not receptive. I came down to earth fast, felt small in my skin.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Nina and me

Helen and I arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday. I felt such relief, in the back seat of the cab, driving from the airport to our downtown hotel, looking over the desert landscape studded with palm trees, the sun brighter and warmer than I've seen and felt for a long time. We walked the streets. I bought a swimsuit. The pool at the hotel looked so inviting.

Looking into a store window, mannequins dressed in linen suits, I turned to Helen and asked what season is it. Spring, Yvonne. (I've just finished buying for summer. For the last few days, we've been looking at fall lines.)

Yesterday, we saw some pretty amazing stuff. But after two days at market, my mind boggles. There is too much, too much. I must lay all the line sheets, all the colour swatches out, multiply cost, slot into departments, and decide what will be in store this August, September, October.

The first day, I went to a seminar outlining fashion trends for fall. Interesting. We are moving into a "girl meets boy" time where women's fashion is mannish with a touch of the feminine - tailored trouser, suit jacket, layered with sexy tee, flouncy blouse. The big colour is heather grey. After the seminar, I spoke to the market's display woman who had decorated a suite with furniture, accessories, and clothing - "lifestyle dressing". I told her that my "boss" wanted me to share my display duties and so I would like some tips on how to teach others the art. She looked at me as if I were crazy: "You either have an eye or not. The market asked me to give a seminar on display. I said, no. How can I teach something that is mostly instinct, imagination." (I should have asked for her comment in writing.)

to be continued...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The suspense is over. The owner wants me to continue with a ceiling higher than the one I offered. I am not to work Sundays. Hallelujah. You'd think that I liked to work weekends. And he's placed ads for another sales person. I should be ecstatic. I'm not. But I am calmer.

Over the last few days, I have been treated like an employee (which I am), like any so and so who is replaceable, and not as someone who brings a unique set of talents to the work place (which I do). So what am I to do? In some ways, it would have been easier to be let go. Now I have to decide whether I want to stay given the owner's opinion of me.

I am going to give it a month, to note every minute I give to the business, to see if I can hand over any of my functions to someone else, to start giving scheduled hours to my writing. On April 30th, I will decide where I want to be.

Monday, March 20, 2006

"In your work, you locate your self-respect." Leonard Cohen's words.

What if, in your work, there is a lack of direct communication? What if the owner of the company suddenly questions your hours, asking for a breakdown of functions, asking what of what you do, can be handed to others who charge less for his or her time? What if what you were formerly told - that the company is making money for the first time in its history - is amended to - the company can only turn a profit if it is understaffed and if you work for what you did last year, underestimating your hours?

What if it suddenly dawns on you that your vision is not the owner's vision for the business? And when you think on this, you know that this has always been the case? Do you still find your self-respect in your work? And what do you do if you find that it has somehow got lost in the work place?

This is my dilemma. I have been agonizing all weekend while at work. I love my work for many reasons and one is the freedom I have been given to come and go as I please and do what I see needs done. I should put this in past tense. The owner has asked me to put a ceiling on my hours. This I graciously did. (But I do not feel gracious.) Now, I must sit and wait until he figures out if he can afford me or not.

The big question is: Can I stll find my self-respect in my work if indeed I have work?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006



I haven't seen Michael for over a year and Gill since early January. Mike and Mackenzie, his love, arrive soon, perhaps as early as this weekend. They both want to find work and a place as soon as possible. Gill will arrive around the ninth of April for a visit: she has been given a two week rest from au-pair-dom.

I am happy.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Leonard Cohen

Last night I was in heaven when I watched the Canadian Song Writers' Awards. Leonard Cohen sat in the audience and Willie Nelson sang "Bird on a Wire" - a poet and a cowboy - my country heart was doing somersaults.

(The first few lines of Cohen's song go "Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried, in my way, to be free.")

When Cohen accepted his award, I couldn't help staring at the man. I've loved him forever or, at least, since my college days when I wrote a radio documentary about him, when Rob and I would read his poetry and make love, when we went to see him, in his white suit, perform at Massey Hall, when "Suzanne" came out... and "Dance me to the End of Love"...

He gave a short speech and I wrote down one line: "In your work, you locate your self-respect."

And when I read a review today of the evening, the writer quoted him: "If I knew where the good songs came from, I'd go there more often." And another quote: "So it is that we shuffle behind our songs into the hall of fame - shuffle awkwardly, not quite believing that we wrote them but happy that you do. You have been so good to me over the years, my heart is full of gratitude."

Oh Leonard, you have been so good to me...

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Last month there were twenty-eight days. Multiply that by 24 hours and there were 672 hours in the month. Let's say, I slept seven hours of every twenty-four so I subtract 196 that leaves 476 hours. I just did my invoice for February and found I worked 125 hours, leaving 351 hours when I wasn't sleeping or working.

Since I read Gill's blog, celebrating Michael's 24th birthday, where she mentioned that she has the same nose and lips as this brother, I have been thinking about time, family resemblances, and looking at pictures. The first pictures of our children were taken eight years ago.

Our family

Here's one, taken a few years back, of my original family.


I asked my mother once about how she felt about herself as a mother and she said something to the effect that "I think I am a good mother but that's up to you kids to judge." And we judge and will be judged.

This reminds me of a poem by Olga Broumas:

"Did anyone
ever encourage you, you ask
me, casual
in afternoon light. You blaze
fierce with protective anger as I shake
my head, puzzled, remembering, no
no. You blaze

a beauty you won't claim. To name
yourself beautiful makes you as vulnerable
as feeling
pleasure and claiming it
makes me. I call you lovely..."

As a parent, it's impossible to be everything to a child, to always do the right things, to say the right words, to give at the right moment, to not give when it's more important for the child to struggle. Being a parent is sort of like playing God. Someone said somewhere that we are all doomed to fail - even though we may try our damnest to be everything that our parents were or were not.

Yesterday I was feeling empty, needed something to chew on, so I grabbed my copy of Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose on my way to work. I was a hour and a half early so I took myself out to breakfast. I sat eating and reading Rich and book-marked a page. I just turned to it and found it was a section of a review by Olga Broumas on "The Dream of a Common Language." (Can you imagine a world where we all speak the same language, that when you say God and I say Love, we know we are using synonyms?)

Anyway, what hit me was a few lines from "Nights and Days":

"the days will run together and stream into years
as the rivers freeze and burn
and I ask myself and you, which of our visions will claim us
which will we claim..."

and a few lines from "The Phenomenology of Anger":

"Every act of becoming conscious
(it says here in this book)
is an unnatural act"

I am curious, intrigued, by what thoughts consume me and why. What is happening below the surface? I love the rare epiphany.

I feel time passing. I can hardly remember the days, years, when my children were young. I do remember it was hard work. I do remember, that almost from day one, he or she had a distinct personality. Some days I felt like the best mother on the planet. Some days I felt like the worst. Most likely I was both. Druislla Modjeska wrote in "Poppy" that the mother character of adult children tells her children that she is divorcing them. Although she still loves them, they are on their own. She wants to live her own life. This may work in reverse as well. At some time, we must divorce our parents though we love them, and claim our own vision and live our own lives.

I still haven't mentioned what I did with the 351 hours I had left over last month. I ate and drank, walked, bathed, brushed my teeth, did a few household chores - not many, some bookkeeping, answered correspondence, danced, met with friends...