Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Phidon Pens.

Do you remember when I wrote about Phidon Pens last year? Well, my darling mama bought me a gift certificate for the shop last Christmas, and last week I finally went in to look around.

It was such an amazing place! Nestled right on Dickson Street in Cambridge, Phidon smells like leather and paper and magic. The shop doesn't only carry pens, they also offer a wide selection of leather goods, pencils, notebooks, and writing paper.

Mano, who owns the shop with her husband, explained to me that there is a perfect pen for everyone - height, weight, nib, ink, etc. I never realized how many considerations there are, until I started testing pens out. As it turns out, my weak bird bone wrists require a medium-light or light pen, not too short. Sidenote: I wish I had written something clever on the scratchpad, but I just kept scribbling my name. Such a narcissist.

The shop carries pens for everyday use, luxury gifts, and everything in between. I asked Mano why someone would buy a $3000 pen, and she, in turn, asked me why someone would buy a $3000 handbag. Great point - there's something for everyone, and some pen collectors are very serious, indeed.

After testing a variety of pens, including some fountain pens (so fancy!), I ended up deciding that the Lamy Swift Rubinblack Rollerball ($60) was the right height and weight for me. I added some creamy G. Lalo paper and envelopes ($25), some black ink refills ($20), and then tore myself away before I bought a million more things.

I will definitely be visiting Phidon again. However, in spite of the amazing pen selection, it was the paper that really got me. I love paper and cards and notepads! Phidon would be a great spot for picking up presents. Mano told me that one of her clients came in with her fiancé and bought gifts for their wedding party there - great idea.

I highly recommend stopping by the shop, if you're in the neighbourhood.

How much would you be willing to spend on a pen? My mum dared me to spend $100, but I couldn't bring myself to do it! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


What's your feeling on swearing? Personally, I'm for it. I'm a swearer. Fuck this and fuck that, piece of shit, muthableeeeeeeep, etc. It drives my poor Grandma totally nuts because I don't sound like a "nice girl" when I swear.

Well, the joke's on you, GRANDMA! According to research, dropping an f-bomb can actually be therapeutic:
Just as mantras can be soothing, swearing can be cathartic. We swear in response to what Pinker calls the "Oh-Sh!t Wave" in the brain, similar to the "fearsome yelp" in other animals in response to pain or rage. But we are thinking mammals, and thus we know the precise cuss-word to use in a particular situation. Swearing "engages the full expanse of the brain: left and right, high and low, ancient and modern."
As much as I love a cathartic or emphatic swear word, I think there is something to the idea of swearing responsibly. As you know, we now have a pretty loosey goosey language culture within my family, but at one point things were much more strict. I only came into swearing regularly in my early 20s - I have so much catching up to do!

However, some authors suggest that we should be wary of casual swearing. In her article, "Why you should give a damn about when you say 'fuck,'" Emma Brockes suggests that the overuse of expletives reduces the powerful (and sometimes funny) words to lazy vulgarities:  
As a result of that early prohibition, however, I’ve never quite been able to shake the idea that swearing is big and clever, and when used right, funny. And I’m grateful for that. If the function of foul language - to be held in reserve as a resource more powerful than regular language – is to survive, it has to be used advisedly. Swear by all means, but swear responsibly, or you’ll ruin it for all of us.
With great power comes great responsibility, dudes.

Do not fuck this up for me.

P.S. This t-shirt.

(Image via)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Divergent Film: My Feelings.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my YA film crew and I checked out the Divergent film in theatres on opening night. Shit got pretty real shortly after that, so I haven't had time to share my thoughts with you. However, even though everyone who wanted to see the movie has probably seen it by now, you still get my thoughts.

You will get my thoughts and you will like it!


So, I read a really funny round-up of random musings about the movie over at BookRiot. E.g., "Dauntless makes running look so much fun and it’s NOT fun it’s SO dumb. They also make jumping look so easy and it’s NOT easy, it’s so hard." As you know, I'm pretty terrible at writing reviews and summaries, so I'm going to follow suit and give you some assorted impressions and feelings I had about the movie...

1. Okay, I would not call Divergent amazing. Although, when I say "amazing," I think I have YA-film-adaptations-of-books in a separate film category. I'm not holding these movies up against Citizen Kane and The Godfather; they're doing their own thing. So, in regards to its amazingness, Divergent falls below Catching Fire but (I assume) a million miles above Twilight, for example. Nonetheless, it was pretty good and I enjoyed it, so I don't know why it's getting such a bad rap.

2. Divergent has a solid lock on leading man dreaminess. Not just in the realm of YA-film-adaptations-of-books, but in the realm of the universe!

3. Do you ever feel like Shailene Woodley reminds you of Laura Linney? I do. I'm not really sure why...something in her presence, I suppose? I felt it several times while watching the film.

4. I love Kate Winslet, but she was boring in this movie. Actually, most of the supporting cast was meh, with the notable exception of Tris' mama, played by Ashley Judd. She's so badass. Makes me want to watch Double Jeopardy.

5. YA love can be so chaste and cheesy, but whateva

6. Dig the soundtrack

Have you seen it? Will you? What did you think?

(Image via)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My 500th Post!

It's hard to believe that I've sent 499 posts out into the abyss.

Is that even allowed? Sometimes I worry that my ideas and opinions are not nearly interesting enough to be broadcasted live! and in colour! to the world!

And yet, here I am. (So, clearly not that worried...).

When I started this blog back in November 2011, here is what I said, by way of introduction:
So, who am I? I’m just someone who loves reading and writing, trying to make it in this topsy turvy world. This blog will likely take a variety of shapes as my writing style and readership (fingers crossed) evolve. But what it will remain, above all, is a love letter to the authors and stories that have touched my life, and to the amazing readers who have turned to this very page to see what I'm up to. Thanks for stopping by.
Now, here we are - two and a half years later - and it seems that my intentions have changed very little (oops, sorry, personal growth...). I still love reading and writing and I'm still just trying to make it in this topsy turvy world! I continue to write here as a way to celebrate the words and writers that I love, and to keep flexing my (baby-sized) writing muscles. 

Our topics of conversation have ranged from silly to sad, personal to random, nostalgic to topical, serious to goofy, and even got a bit cheeky at times. I wish I could say that there was a method to my madness, but I'm afraid there's just a madness to my madness. To those of you who have tuned in over the years to share in the confusion, I thank you.

In celebration of my 500th post, I have compiled a list of my most-read, most-searched posts. I like to call it the...

Oh, My Word! List of Top 10 Posts of All-Blog-Time!

1. Books Every 20-Something Woman Should Read

2. Inappropriate Children's Book Ideas

3. The Hunger Games Birthday Party

4. My New Life as a Freelancer

5. Grammar Mistakes I Make

6. Writing in Books

7. The Forbidden Phrase

8. Reading in the Bathroom

9. Wayback Playback: The Great Gilly Hopkins

10. Men Who Drink Red Wine (lol, such a dumb post. Why this one?!)

I hope you will enjoy the walk down memory lane as much as I did.

And, as always, thanks for stopping by.

(Image via and mug via)

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Moss.

I was marking late the other night and was listening to some hot new jams over at Songza.

The song The Moss by Cosmo Sheldrake came on around midnight, and I swear I thought I dreamt it. First of all, can we talk about that name? Cosmo Sheldrake. I want to write a short story about that name, about a man who is the head of the Royal Aquarium Society and has a crush on his mail carrier and secretly paints his toenails purple. This is what he looks like (i.e., everything I dreamed of and more). So much whimsy!

The song is really interesting. If you're a kidlit lover, as I am, there are about a dozen references to catch - from Edward Lear to Lewis Carroll; it's very Seussical and Mother Goose-ical and cow-jumped-over-the-moon-ical...
Come listen up all ye fair maids to how the moral goes
Nobody knew and nobody knows
How the pobble was robbed of his twice five toes
Or how the dong came to own a luminous nose
Or how the jumblies went to sea in a sieve that they rowed
And came to shore by the chankly bore where the bong trees grow
Where the jabberwocky's small green tentacles do flow
And the quanglewangle plays in the rain and the snow
Was that some Owl and the Pussycat I caught in there?

Wishing you a strange and fantastical week, my friends!

P.S. My fave hot jams from that list worth a listen? Glad you asked. Try this and this and this.

(Image via)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Goodbye, Precious Beagle.

My dog, Bonzai the beagle, died yesterday. I might as well say that up front.

There is an ache in my heart that I can't imagine ever going away. But I'm all cried out for now. So, instead, I'm going to tell you the story of my beagle; why I loved him, and how I said goodbye.

Seven years ago, my boyfriend at the time and I decided to get a dog. Before the search began, there was no doubt in my mind that we would get a rescue. People choose to buy puppies or select dogs through breeders for a variety of reasons, and that is a personal choice. However, for me, there are too many neglected, abandoned, and unwanted pups to be able to rationalize spending hundreds on a brand new shiny dog. We would find a dog looking for a second chance.

A friend of mine was in veterinary school in Guelph when we started looking. She told me that her program used live beagles as lab dogs to teach their students procedures. After three years in this role, the dogs were put down unless they were adopted. Unfortunately, the adoption program was not (and still is not) very transparent or well-publicized, and it was my understanding that many beagles were euthanized. However, the issue did become publicized a few years ago after the cause was taken up by the Animal Alliance of Canada.

We visited U of G and walked a couple of dogs around the grounds, seeing if we connected. One, fittingly named Lumpkin, mostly just lolled and rolled on the ground, refusing to walk with us. Another, a little lady beagle whose name I now forget, seemed sweet and walked happily along with us. She was a suitable pick, although I felt a bit disappointed. I expected to feel something, to know that she was The One. I thought maybe it was because I'd grown up mostly with male dogs, so I asked the vet tech whether there were any available for adoption. "Just one," she told us, "but he's in the lab right now."

As if on cue, the door to the kennel opened. As I turned to the door, a little brown ball bounded through the door and into my arms as I knelt beside the cages. He was all wiggles and floppy ears. I loved him instantly.

"Sometimes the person chooses their dog, and sometimes the dog chooses their person," said the vet tech sagely. Really, that line seems a bit hackneyed, now that I type it out - better suited for an Air Bud screenplay or something. But she really did say that, and I have thought of her words often in the years since; he chose me, and I chose him. 

Bonzai, the name that he was given in the lab, took some time adjusting to the outside world. He was very jumpy and afraid of most noises. Having lived the first three years of his life mostly in a cage, he had learned to go against the dog instinct of not going to the bathroom in their living space. House-training was a year-long process that we never really perfected, and, while he vastly improved, my friends were well-versed with the "pee check" that I had to do after arriving home after several hours out of the house. Or twenty minutes. Beagle was kind of a free spirit.

For a long time, he was afraid of surfaces. By which I mean, he never seemed comfortable on any type of floor other than carpet. He'd dramatically skitter around and then cower in the corner until he was picked up and moved to stable ground. Stairs were an absolute no-go, so I carried him up and down the three-flight walk-up for the first three months of life with him. 

Bonzai became known as Beagle or Beags to most people. He didn't respond to any name (see: free spiritedness), so it didn't matter anyway. The "Beagle" moniker is from Lucy in the Peanuts comics - she always called Snoopy, "stupid beagle", which was what I often called Beagle when he was up to his hijinks.

Some of Beagle's more notable hijinks include:
  • Eating a box of chocolate power shake powder and needing his stomach pumped at the emergency vet's office
  • Escaping from Jordan's sister, who was pup-sitting while we were in Ottawa. He spent the day on the lam, including a death-defying trot onto the expressway on-ramp
  • Eating a bag of potatoes and pooping everywhere
  • Unwrapping a Christmas gift of imported dry gourmet pasta, eating it all, then pooping everywhere 
  • Snarfing his dinner so quickly that he gave himself severe indigestion, which I mistook for bloat. Jordan and I rushed him to the emergency vet's office for x-rays, only to discover that the diagnosis was: greedy bastard
  • Eating the contents of the bathroom garbage and barfing up used Q-tips for days after. Thrice.
  • Jumping up to nab a McDonald's breakfast sandwich out of Shannon's hands whilst on a park walk 
  • Climbing onto the kitchen table to eat a half-dozen bagels and then pooping everywhere (this is also how he earned the nickname, "Bagel" - his evil alter-ego).
You may be noticing that the majority of his shenanigans involve food. Beagle's two favourite things were food and naps. I like to think that I rank in there somewhere, but I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't quite number one. My friends joke that a neurotic, high-maintenance, salt-craving character like Bonzai could not have found a better beagle mama than me. And I agree; I loved every ounce of that adorable weirdo.

Beagle has been the constant in my life these past seven years. Jobs, partners, and friends moved in and out of my life, but Beagle remained. Tail wagging, head cocked, ears flipped; he was my favourite snuggle buddy, the best companion for a long stroll, and guaranteed to put a smile on my face. It's impossible to feel sad or angry when a wiggly beagle is nudging your hand for a pat, or doing his Dinner Dance in anticipation of kibbles to come. Dogs make you happier. It's science.

Over the years, Beagle became more than just a pet to me. He became my comfort, my familiar face, my sense of security (although, let's be serious, Beagle wasn't saving me from any kind of kidnapping or crisis. He'd be far too busy napping or inquiring as to whether the burglar/murderer had brought any sort of snacks). He was the first thing I saw in the morning, and the last before I went to bed - my world started and ended with Beags.

It snowed the day that I learned cancer was eating my poor boy's bones. My vet pointed out a dark spot on a x-ray that meant nothing to me except the beginning of the end. It was March 27, and it snowed and snowed.

Bone cancer works its dark magic quickly. In the days that followed, Beagle became less physically comfortable, although his wiggly spirit endured. He took great joy in prolonged ear-scratching sessions, enjoyed sleeping the night next to me in bed, and relished receiving visitors who, more often than not, arrived with special treats. Jordan, his much-loved partner-in-crime, came by daily to check in and spend some snuggle time with him.

My vet advised that many people knew the time was right when there were, "more bad days than good days," but I struggled with this idea. I wanted Bonzai to leave the world peacefully, still able to enjoy a special meal, and wag his tail, and snuggle in with the ones he loved most. I didn't want him to be in terrible pain, no longer eating or sleeping comfortably. With bone cancer, he ran the chance of breaking his leg doing an everyday activity, and I didn't want him to be in that kind of pain. Bone cancer also commonly spreads to the lungs, causing difficulty breathing.

While he was himself, personality-wise, I knew my little guy was in pain. He was sticking to me like glue. This beagle, who usually liked to have an uninterrupted, solo 14-hour daily nap, followed me from room-to-room. So I set up two nesting spots - one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and kept him with me all day and night. I carried him up and down the stairs to prevent strain on his bad leg, we went outside only on short walks. Although he enjoyed one muddy romp with Shannon and I early after his diagnosis, he was fairly slow-moving after that. 

I am so grateful to have a job that enabled me to work from home for the week. Mostly, I worked in bed, with Beagle sleeping right beside me; we had an agreement not to let the other out of our sight. As the days went on, he snuggled ever closer, shivering slightly against my leg and looking into my eyes, as if he was trying to say, "soon, soon." He was himself, personality-wise, but he was losing his strength. I spent a few teary evenings looking through blogs, veterinary websites, and discussion boards online, hoping to find an answer about what to do. Finally, after a few talks with friends, and a conversation with my vet, I knew that I would say goodbye to him before the worst arrived. I did not want Beags to rail against the dying of the light, I wanted him to go gently.

On Monday, Beagle had a wonderful day. It was sunny and mild for the first time in far too long, and he spent plenty of time sitting out in the front yard, sniffing the air and watching the world go by. He ate heartily and napped in the kitchen while Tushara made me dinner (mostly out of friendship, but partly to make sure that I ate something other than cereal). I carried him up to bed, and he fell asleep right away.

Into the night, however, things turned. Beagle was very restless and shaky, cozying up to me and looking at me with fearful eyes. I murmured reassurances and petted him for hours, but with the painkillers rendered useless by the ache in his leg, I called my vet early Tuesday morning. Osteosarcoma moves quickly, and I knew that things were only going to get worse. I didn't want my beagle making it through the day, heavily doped up, unable to enjoy his life. And so, I made the decision to have him put down, while he could still enjoy a meal and breath of fresh air.

That morning, we sat out in the front, him leaning close to me and shivering with pain, but still sniffing the air for news. It was cloudy, and I so desperately hoped that the sun would come out for him. Jordan joined us, and I made Beagle a piece of peanut butter toast. He wouldn't eat it outside, but he licked all of the peanut butter off later, once we were back inside. PB on toast was his favourite morning snack; I don't think I'll ever have a piece without thinking of him.

I booked a house call for the procedure. Beagle started his life in a lab, but I was adamant that he would not end his life there. He would end it at home, snuggled in bed with Jordan, Shannon, and I, leaving the world surrounded by love and comfort.

I had read that it is important to stay as calm as possible to avoid upsetting your dog in their last moments. I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but I was determined for Beagle to go peacefully, not worrying about me. There were silent tears, but I stayed as steady as I could, whispering to him that he was a good boy, and that I loved him, and that I was so thankful that we had found each other. As his body gave way to sleep, and slowly began to quiet, I laid my head on top of his, and scratched his ears. His pulse was undetectable, but the vet said that his heart was beating on for a few quiet moments. I took that as my goodbye.

Everyone left me alone to say my last words. I sat there petting him for awhile, telling him to have a safe journey. I was desperately trying to say everything I could, not wanting to miss my chance for a meaningful goodbye. I failed, of course, not knowing how to properly articulate all that he has meant to me over the past many years. At the end of it all, I just have to hope that he felt how loved he was, and that he took that feeling with him.

My dearest friends gathered at the house shortly after the vet left with Beagle, bundled into his bed. We shared drinks and stories and laughter (and tears). I was so grateful to have people around me, but the weight of the day brought me upstairs to find some quiet space to rest. I couldn't sleep, so I thought, and I cried, and I was comforted by the voices of my friends below.

I do not know what I'll do when I come home, and he's not waiting at the door for me. I am dreading the moment that I look up, expecting to see him amble into the room, only to realize that I've mistaken some other sound for the click of his paws on the floor. I will start to chat with him about dinner or snacks or treats, and then remember that he's not there to hear me. And it will hurt. 

Lastnight, I sat on the floor and cried when I saw his collar sitting on the table by the front door. He will never wear that collar again, and I cannot make sense of that in this moment. I will miss him in a million different ways.

The sun did not shine on Bonzai's face on his last day. But, shortly after he was gone, the sun broke through the clouds for just a moment, and the sky was a brilliant blue. I know it's hokey, but we all need something to be believe in, and I choose to believe that was my Beagle.

It's cloudy this morning, so I'm going to sleep.

And think of Beagle.

And wait for this to get easier.

P.S. I'm Still Someplace 

P.P.S. I would like to say a very special thank you to everyone who called, visited, and wrote to me over the last week to tell me that Beagle and I were in your thoughts. The best thing that you can do in a difficult time like this is be there, physically or in spirit. I am lucky to have the family, friends, colleagues, and students that I do. It makes me smile to know that Beagle was well-loved. Not once have I ever had to justify my grief over losing a pet, something that I thought I may have to do. Thank you for your concern, and your caring words, and for sharing stories about the pets you have loved so much.

(Beagle's last photo; Quote via BrainPickings)

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Saddest Day.

I received some very shocking and upsetting news on Thursday: my beloved beagle, Bonzai, has been diagnosed with bone cancer.

Apparently, the disease progresses fairly quickly, so - after I cried it out for a couple of days - I have decided to try and focus on being grateful for the time that remains.

I am spending my days sitting in the sun, making special Beagle snacks, and working from home with the Beag snuggled up sleeping beside me.

He is taking medication for the pain, but I know he is uncomfortable. That being said, he still has his wiggly spirit, and is loving all of the special meals I've been cooking for him. (And by "cooking" I mean "toasting and putting peanut butter on.").

It is my hope that we will enjoy these last days or (hopefully) weeks, and he will leave the world knowing he was very loved.

Many thanks to those who have reached out with emails, texts, visits, flowers, food, phone calls, and general love. I feel lucky to have such wonderful and supportive family, friends, and colleagues in my life.

I am sad that this difficult journey has begun so soon (Beag is only 9), but I am grateful that we have a chance to say goodbye.

I will be back, sometime. xo

P.S. Literary Pets: The Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved