The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

28 August 2009

Of pretty glass bottles and grape gum

I’m a girly-girl at heart. Granted, it’s buried pretty deep - but it’s there nonetheless. Though I’m more familiar with Levi than Coco, and I’ve only a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Laboutin, (I’ve never met him, but I think the red soles are fab; and those pointy heels? Very useful for self-defense) I do enjoy a little sparkle in my life.

Poking around cosmetics counters is almost as fun as trolling through a bookstore; and perfume bottles inspire me into flights of fancy. While I spend my days in comfy trousers and walkable shoes, there is another me in an imaginary world wearing pretty, flowy dresses, cute little Audrey Hepburn hats and gloves, with works-of-art on my feet. That me has long wavy hair in always perfectly tousled updos, and has figured out the perfect mix of trimming and waxing her eyebrows. (a picture would be worth a thousand words here). Imaginary me never bumps into doorways; she strolls confidently in heels, and swings both legs elegantly out of the car. She also has found the perfect shade of lipstick and of course has a signature scent.

Think Catharine Zeta Jones in Oceans 12. Remember the scene where she and Rusty are in the hotel room in Amsterdam and she refreshes her makeup, dabbing gently at her lipstick? I was imagining myself as her up to that moment…then the happy dream skidded to a halt, whimpered once, and lay on the ground, defeated with that one gesture.

Though I know lipstick and I are not destined to be a happy, forever-after couple, I still persist in dreaming over the shiny tubes enticingly labelled with names like “Carmen”, “Barely Blush”, “Sateen”, and “Luscious”. I occasionally bring one home with me, where it becomes like a postcard of Paris - a tangible remembrance of my happy place.

Perfume has the same allure: the packaging draws me in, with the names and bottles offering the fantasy that I am Holly Golightly, throwing on my little black dress to visit Sally Tomato in Sing Sing. How effortlessly she did it, with the shoes, and the hair. That hat! Those sunglasses! Heavenly.
That’s the fantasy of perfume, offered by Lancome and Chanel. The reality reminds me rather more of grape gum than French wine. Perfumiers promise tuberose in the way that Hubba Bubba promises grape. They deliver a reasonable facsimile, but if your only experience of tuberose or grape came from them, you'd wonder what the big deal was all about.

Still, tuberose and Luscious, Coco, Audrey, and Christian Laboutin keep the imaginary me in happy girly-girl dreams.

26 August 2009

Summer on the wing

Tempes fugit, so they say. Time flies. August in particular has some pretty sleek wings; this year it seems to have broken the sound barrier. We'll hear the sonic boom sometime around September 6 and realize only then that August - and summer with it - has passed us by.

At the beginning of the month, during Phase I of The Big Move, I thought for sure that the days to come would pass slowly, quietly, sedately, thoughtfully; that I would have hours upon hours for quite reflection, contemplation, quiet prayer. HA! It hasn't been the spiritual retreat I expected it to be, but it has been a great deal of fun. I'm grateful to have had the chance to see old friends and become somewhat reacquainted with this beautiful city.

These 23 days have been a long goodbye letter to this beautiful city. I'm grateful to have had the chance to spend time with dear friends, and visit some of my favourite places. I wouldn't mind if the next 2 days were to pull up on the reins a little, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to Stage II. And on the other side of that are five beautiful nephews and some glorious sun, and who knows what adventures, possibilities and opportunities?

I hope to be wise enough to savour the days and not just hear the boom in retrospect.

21 August 2009

Superficially yours

Dear reader,

It must be evident by now that I am a woman of deeply held beliefs, strong ideals and profound insights. And so I share the following with you:

I recently purchased some store-brand denims from the W-Shoppe. (The monstrously huge store that shall not be named). I went for this particular brand because when I stumbled across it a few years ago, I found they fit really well … and were super cheap. I went back soon after and bought two more pairs, but for some unfathomable reason, in larger sizes. I haven’t been comfortable in them as a result, which fact resulted in me wearing out the Perfect pair, and sadly had to toss them during the moving frenzy of this summer. In my search for replacements, I discovered that the W-Shoppe has discontinued the Perfect jean, offering a Near Perfect and Not So Cheap replacement. I was happy with the fit of the first pair I bought, and thought I would be wise to buy a second pair in case of an unforeseen future denim drought. It is common these days for trousers to come in different cuts. Stores assign cute names like the Katrina (low waist, snug thigh, boot cut); the Doreen (low waist, relaxed hip and thigh, flared leg); the Josephine (natural waist, straight leg) and so on. The Nearly Perfect jean I bought was one sort (low waist, straight leg) of a certain circumference and length. The second pair I bought was of a different style (natural waist (thought it would be a treat to not have to constantly pull my pants over my bum to keep my knickers private), boot cut - which I have found to be best for my less than towering stature) with the identical girth and inseam as the first. I have since discovered that the natural waist has the same tendency to droop as the low-rise, and for some odd reason I’m walking on the cuffs. They’re supposed to be the same length as the first Nearly Perfect pair I bought, so I wonder: does more material at the torso end equal more material at the foot end too?

I’ve had a similar experience with a certain undergarment. I found a particular one that looked comfy, functional, and cheap. I tried it out at home, loved it, and so went back to buy a duplicate, only to take it home, try it out, and find it didn’t feel at all as good or fit as well as the first one, though it is the same brand and size. Hmmm.

Do you ever find clothes shopping to be frustrating? Why is there no sizing standard? Why do clothing manufacturers believe that every feminine form is identical? Why are fitting rooms lit by unkind florescence? Why are they called “fitting rooms” when things hardly ever “fit”?

To continue the topic of uncertain shopping, cosmetics, toiletries and feminine products provide a vast source of rant material. During my search for a torn nail remedy (which by the way ended thusly: the nail remains torn and vulnerable, whilst the glue is causing the skin on my other fingertips to peel off. Nice.) I tried to buy toner/astringent. There is one brand I particularly like and though the brand itself was represented among the overwhelming array of skin care options, their toner/astringent was not. So I had to find an alternative, which was an intimidating prospect. Not only are there many other brands, but each brand has many different formulations within many different steps of the skin care process. Like I said: intimidating. I wonder if the brand no longer produces the astringent, or if T’ranna just didn’t think my little ‘burb really needed it, and so didn’t ship it?

Not many purchases are straightforward these days. I recently bought a marine vessel-shaped sandwich from the people who helped Jordan (Justin? Jared? Jacob?) loose a bunch of weight years ago. All I wanted was a simple sandwich, so I selected what seemed simple to me: chicken ranch. The brightly coloured menu (all the sandwiches looked so happy) listed the ingredients: chicken, ranch dressing. I was prepared for having to choose the bread I wanted and the vegetable toppings, but I was not prepared for all the other questions I had to answer, and more than once, too, for three people were involved in preparing my chicken ranch marine vessel-shaped sandwich. When the first person asked me what kind of dressing I wanted, I wondered if maybe “ranch” referred to the fact that the chicken sacrificed for my gustatory delight had lived a happy life outdoors with his fellow pastoral creatures? I calmly replied that I thought I’d like to have ranch dressing. Seven choices later, I was asked by the second person what kind of dressing I’d like to have on my chicken ranch sandwich, and I’m afraid I wasn’t so polite with my answer. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was snippy, possibly even condescending (in the most haughty and annoying Lady Catherine De Burgh fashion) when I said something about how since I’d ordered a chicken RANCH marine vessel-shaped sandwich, I wanted RANCH dressing. Did I go too far? Surely I could have exercised a little self-control with the 12-year old behind the counter? I don’t feel bad about it though; I have merely determined to not patronise the place again. It’s far too stressful having to make so many decisions for what should be a very straightforward transaction.

I miss the days of good service, reliable and predictable products, and simplicity. Why can’t I just wash my face? Why must there be 3 steps? I just need a good shampoo; must I diagnose my various hair issues, balance them with the desired end result, and try to find The Perfect Match among all the different formulas? Have you shopped for toothpaste recently? Forget it! Do you want fresh breath, or tartar control? Whiter teeth or stronger enamel? Why do I have to make the choice? I thought the point of brushing my teeth was for all of those things!

Anyway. These are the deep thoughts on my mind today. What's on yours?

19 August 2009

Of nails and glue

Often when I write, I think it would be so good to have a digital camera. Then I could show you what I'm talking about - visual aids are useful tools, even for those of us who are word-driven.

About a month ago, I tore the nail of my left index finger at about the halfway down mark, to almost half way across. Got a picture of that in your mind? I didn't want it to tear all the way -- not being a big fan of pain, or discomfort even, come to that -- so I've been wearing a bandaid on that finger every day since. But I got to thinking how very long it will take for the nail to grow out to the point that the tear no longer strikes fear into my bowels, and realised a bandaid-a-day is not a viable option. So I scoured my favourite drugist for a solution, which turned out to be a kit containing glue and powder, a pretty triangular buffing instrument, and what I believe is called 'an orange stick'. I must impart some essential information to you: I am not an arts and crafts kinda gal. I don't work neatly or aptly with glues and powders, nor do I infer correctly from written directions.

The result is that I now have a hood and a bump on my left index finger, but I don't think I need to buy any more bandaids. I put enough glue on that sucker to...something extreme; I can't think of an analogy. It may not have been what they meant by 'a small amount', but then they also didn't say that I had to poke a hole into the tube either, so the instructions were open to interpretation right from the beginning, weren't they? Thought so. All the same, a picture in this case, would have been worth a thousand words.

18 August 2009


I will be moving again very soon. In 10 days, actually, the fabulous summer job will draw to its natural close, I will pack up my belongings (a shocking amount of toiletries and a box of books I haven't plumbed), say goodbye once more to this lovely city, promise to stay in touch with friends, and head on down the highway to whatever is waiting for me at the other end.

Making the decision to leave just a few short months ago was very difficult; I did then, and have since, wavered between wanting to stay and being eager to leave. Now the notion is about to become reality and I feel...nothing. Just as I'm about to leave, the state of affairs here looks promising of a new period of flourishing - at my parish, and among my friends. It is a little tempting to stay and be part of that. But down the road family awaits... along the absolute unknown. I know only the people who will be sheltered under the same roof as me, and not one thing more.

Job, school, friends...these are concerns, of course. But most pressing on my heart of late is the desire for Home. I want to be Home. With all this moving around, am I increasing my chances of finding it, or have I driven right by, in a U-Haul truck?

17 August 2009


Julie and Julia: my year of cooking dangerously, by Julie Powell. It has been adapted into a movie and directed by Nora Ephron (of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks winners of Sleepless in Seattle and You've got mail, as well as When Harry met Sally, Heartburn and Silkwood) so you've got some idea of what to expect before you enter the theatre: an enjoyable, well-written, visually appealing movie with a fun but not overwhelming soundtrack. You get what you expect -- along with the added bonus of a cast including Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep (who were together in The Devil wears Prada; a pairing long overdue! They play off each other so well, I'm convinced they've been lifelong friends)

The movie tells two stories in tandem: Julia Childs with her husband, Paul, in Paris, discovering the glory of French food,the passion she didn't know she had for cooking, and the hard work it took to have her cookbook published; and the true story of Julie Powell who blogged about the challenge she gave herself to cook her way through that very cookbook. On the screen, both Julie and Julia are likable (though very different) women, linked by their discovery of French cookery and the support they had from understanding husbands. I was more taken by Meryl Streep in the role of Julia Childs, her utter joy and exuberance, and the portrayal of the Childs' relationship. The modern story, while interesting, lacked the charm and delight of the other.

For which reason, the book was a disappointment, as in it, Julie recounts episodes from the year of her Julie/Julia Project, with only brief and mostly imagined glimpses of Julia and Paul. Julie, I'm sorry to say, struck me as crude, intolerantly Democrat (politics and her political opinions figure often in her stories), irrational, moody...I don't want to say any more because she is a real person, and she told her own story focusing on specific aspects of herself. I'm sure she's a very different person in real life. I didn't like the person in the book, though many of the episodes she recounts made me laugh out loud, and I ended up admiring what she accomplished during the year, and what she gleaned from the experience.

I wondered all the way through the book why I continued to read it, for while I'm an avowed bookworm, I feel no compunction about either leaving a book unread fullstop, or skipping through it and reading the ending only, and despite the humour, I was really, really put off by Julie. It wasn't until the very last pages that I found the pearl: Julie tells of learning about Julia's death, and thinking about what Julia meant to her. She learned from Julia the importance of living with joy, and tackling life with joy, whether that is in blogging, or in hacking marrow out of beef bones. It is that joy that Meryl Streep portrays so clearly on the screen, and which was missing from the book.

16 August 2009

Of being Canadian and griping about the weather

Considering that where I live winter is really winter -- below-freezing temperatures, a perky little thing called windchill, enough snow to unman a Yeti, the need for a specialized wardrobe, a whole different set of tires, and occasionally to keep things interesting there is freezing rain -- it doesn't seem right that I now want to whine about summer. But I do!

Not summer in general, because summer is lovely. It's warm and blue-skied, full of glorious fruits of the forest, packed with possibility and potential for exploration and adventure or plain old beach-lazing and patios. It comes equipped with long hours of daylight. It allows for the wearing of really cute shoes. It brings such treasured events as the World Cup, the occasional wedding, and Hollywood blockbusters.

I usually have a more casual, relaxed attitude to life in the summer. I stay out later, indulge more frequently in fancy drinks (alcoholic and umbrellaed or caffeinated and frozen), stress less about big issues (probably because of the cute shoes), and feel more kindly toward my fellow man.

Summer where I live, however, has a nasty habit of creeping slowly out of a dull grey Spring, lingering long in the cool and wet, with only teasing glimpses of bucolic promise. It continues in this state until the middle of August when the fun begins: extreme heat, oppressive humidity, crazy storms and predictions of doom from the local farmers. To people in places where summer behaves properly, the temperatures we experience are laughable - but they are in a pot of consistently warm water. Our pot of water is cold for 10/12ths of the year, then suddenly boils with no transition.

Then there are wardrobe issues: not only do we need Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer clothes, but we need tepid Summer and blazing Summer options as well. Doesn't seem like a big concern, but it has deeper ramifications of pocketbook and storage space. Not to mention what we have to do to our homes, offices and cars to deal with the madness.

I know few Canadians who love both winter and summer equally (those who get the full brunt of both extremes anyway) I figure genetic adaptations have chosen to survive well one or the other, leaving us to misery the rest of the time.

I'm focused on getting by until Autumn: cool, crisp Autumn, which to me has always been the true New Year. September brings new beginnings, a fresh start, potential and resolve. I'll be moving on, this year, to a place where I'm assured Summer is decent and civilized. Sounds absolutely lovely, but what will we talk about?

14 August 2009

Thoughts on a Friday

Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, beloved Polish saint who used the media of the day to spread devotion to Our Lady, and offered his life for another at Auschwitz. May he pray for our continued protection under the Mantle of Mary, Mother of God.

Only two weeks left of my current job. This summer has gone by so quickly. I wonder if I should begin fretting about a job 'down south' now, or wait a bit still? I'll probably begin worrying any day now; I'll try to hold off on fretting until I'm down there.

Often on a summer morning the windscreen of my car has an oozey kind of dew on it. Near as I can figure it doesn't come from a tree, though it is on the outside. It doesn't come off easily with the cleaning fluid, so I need to repeatedly squirt and wipe during the early stages of my ride in to work. Any ideas from readers out there what could be this ooze, and how to prevent it?

Further to cars and morning drives, I have to rethink my curent route, as it takes me directly into the low lying sun. That, combined with the early morning ooze, I'm practically blind until I hit the first set of lights and then change directions. I should probably choose safety over distance, right?

One more, coattailing on cars and driving: I spent an hour at the local Christian Book Store after work today, hoping to find a good Praise and Worship album. It's been a good long while since I've listened to any; I am quite out of touch with what's current/popular/good. I left without buying anything, but I've got a real hankering for some good P+W I can wail along with during long drives. Any suggestions?

12 August 2009


Overheard by two little boys* today:

Boy #1: It's really cool; you can get gourmet food there!

Boy #2: Really? Awesome! What's gourmet food?

Boy #1: It's, like, really healthy and good for you and stuff. (sounding very knowledgeable)

Boy #2: Oh. (sounding less than impressed)

*little boys were 'public boys' - not family boys.

10 August 2009

Of truth and love

Ugh. I'm going to have to tell you something I'd rather not have to confess to anyone: I saw a horrible movie on the weekend. I knew it was going to be cheesy and shallow, but I thought it's brand of silliness would be charming, and as it features a Scottish fellow I'm rather fond of, I thought it would be a rather harmless way to spend an hour and twenty minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

Well, cheese it had, of the stinky kind. It was shallow, and like most shallow water it was a little rancid and stale. It was silly, in the way that boy humour is silly, and its charm was rather hidden and fleeting.

However, ugly as it may have been, it did tell some Truth. The movie is about relationships, and how supposedly love works. The main characters were stereotypical male (sexist womanising pig) and female (controlling, demanding, with a list of requirements for her perfect mate). He led her to believe that a woman has to pretend to be something she isn't, to be pleasing, emptyheaded, a confused blend of sinner and saint and so on. He thought there was no such thing as love, that lust was all there was. She treated men as products to be tested and assessed, discarding the ones who didn't measure up to her impossible criteria.

The real Truth, however, was in the revelation they each had that a) love is real; b) it doesn't look like you thought it would; c) it doesn't conform to a list of ideals, and often doesn't make sense; d) love usually happens with the person you are you with, no hiding, pretending, or protecting.

I don't think the writer or director intended this movie to impart wisdom, but somehow those little gems shone through. I don't recommend you see it yourself, but isn't it good to know that even stinky cheese can have some substance to it?

08 August 2009

Of scissors and hair

Hair. Oh boy...what a subject! What girl does not have hair stories, hairdresser stories, hair emergency stories, hair disaster stories? For example, a couple of years ago, I had a big event to go to. In preparation, I set aside an evening to play with my hair and various accessories, intent on finding a sophisticated solution to the waywardness that is my mop. The very first effort was a great success - a casual yet elegant updo, perfect for the occasion and perfectly simple to construct. The night of, my hair abandoned its cooperativeness, ignored the half-bottle of spray directed at it, and slipped away from the package of pins I employed to hold it to my scalp. In situations like this, have you noticed that time runs down far more quickly than if you were, say, boiling macaroni? I had reached the point of sweaty desperation when the doorbell heralded the arrival of my friend who was accompanying me on this special night. I had to great him at the door in my bathrobe (had no time to consider wardrobe as the hours had been consumed by repeated failed attempts to tame my hair) I was reduced to scurrying into the first decent outfit I could find, and throwing my hair into its usual clip, only it was half damp and half crimpey from the contortions it had endured. Disaster.

I come by my hair woes honestly: my mother could fill tomes with her stylist encounters. She has special needs hair, and very few stylists have the courage to confront it head on. They pretend to know the terms of engagement, then employ underhanded cheats with razors and product. (the salon equivalent to a sucker punch)I have memories of her mother, during a visit, in our bathroom, supersized can of aerosol spray being emptied over her immovable do. She knew how to make her hair submit, but it was a fulltime undertaking. My dad had his own issues with his hair, but during much of his life it was confined within military standards and covered with a beret. I, very fortunately, inherited features from both sides of the tree. My coping mechanism is simply to acknowledge my hair is the boss of me. I consult it each morning what we will do that day, and meekly comply. Hairdressers do not understand this, and they arrogantly assume that because they carry the scissors, they are in control of the situation -- which is seldom true, and leaves me wearing the failed results for the next six months or so...with my hair in its usual clip.

Going to the salon/hairdresser/stylist/butcher...I feel like I'm entrusting much more than my hair to a stranger. I fight the need to sit them down and tell them that though they've been through beauty school, and quite possibly even to Europe to study under Vidal himself, they have not yet had to deal with my hair with its myriad issues. As I sit in the chair draped in that hideous cape that always makes me feel like a very large, very white floating face, I pretend all kinds of confidence in the person behind me, and at the beginning each one of them might actually be the one. When it's all over and they've done what they can, I pretend to like it, when in actuality I'm assessing the potential for ponytails and clips.

Dear reader, yesterday I found the one. He performed marvels on both my sister and mother, so I had hope he could do the same for me. And reader, he did! My hair has been tamed without having been beaten into submission. It maintains its character but it now knows how to behave politely when in company, and doesn't intimidate me with neediness. I may not touch a clip for weeks! The wonder-worker told me his wife has the exact same hair as me, so he knows the issues and how to address them. Bless him for marrying her! Imagine, having someone who could fix your hair in your house all the time? Who cares if he leaves his socks on the floor... he can cut your hair! I was in awe of him as I sat like a floating face in his chair, watching him with his scissors -- and I must admit a little bit in love too.

06 August 2009

Taking stock

Today brings the day that I traditionally reflect, ponder, and take stock, as I add another year to my collection. That collection of years has grown to a shocking size with an astounding number; one which at the tender age of 15 I thought was ancient and ever beyond my reach. Yet shockingly here I am, ancient, with this age firmly in hand. It doesn't feel at all like I thought it would. Apparently the number isn't accompanied by greater maturity, knowledge, awareness or sobriety, for this morning I met the day with my usual sillinesses and uncertainties. I thought I might wake up suddenly able to hem skirts, pick up dropped stitches or address the leaking philangies on my car. No such luck. Nor do I understand interest rates or tipping protocols for hairstylists who work in their own salon versus those who rent a chair somewhere else. The years in cumulation however, have brought greater awareness of who I am, and acceptance of who that is. I have less interest in what people think or believe of me, and a diminished penchant for fixing everyone else's issues, or taking responsibility for those issues.

This last year was a very challenging one, bringing loss and grief with my dad's death; the stress of not one but two moves (one more to come); various and sundry uncertainties, changes, joys and discoveries. I am absolutely certain that while this coming year is going to be very different than I thought it was going to be just months ago, it is going to be a great year, one of fulfilled promise, countless blessings, joy, and new purpose. All in all, that's a pretty good inventory, and I pause today to offer gratitude for all I have been given, and all that is to come.

Be transfigured

Blessings to you all today, on this great Feast of the Transfiguration. May our Lord and God reveal to you His great love for you.