Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking it Personally

I've often been told I take everything too personally and that is certainly one of my many faults. One of my other faults is being stubborn and that brought results this month. I guess I need to apply that persistence to my writing. But by now you probably wonder what I'm talking about. I'm referring to finally receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which is added to the Old Age Security payment for Canadian pensioners who are eligible. Ah yes, "eligible" as defined by our dear government and receivable - when they get around to it. Notice that part. I became eligible based on my 2008 taxable income which was minuscule, but I didn't receive any payment until this month (August). Why? Because the government does not look at the income tax reported by pensioners until June and they only consider those tax forms once a year (in June).

While I'm grateful to have the added income, I can't help but wonder why it took so long. After all, Revenue Canada would swiftly track me down if I owed any money. So the government's slow response irks me, but unless I want to start a protest movement there's nothing I can do about it except grumble, and tell you this. Don't let any senior you know (parent, friend, person-in-the-street) take money from their Registered Retirement Savings Account in order to survive until they are eligible for the GIS. 'Tis better to borrow than to use one's savings. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Go In There Alone 2 Laundrygate

My dear friend, The Viking, often tells the addicts he listens to not to spend too much time alone with their thoughts.

"It's scary in there," he says,

He's right, but I believe writers have to go into their mental attics often, if they are to produce anything real and lasting.

I've been in this world for a lot of years and there's a huge pile of stuff in my attic. Some of it is useful, some of it is gratifying, some of it is boring, some of it is mean-spirited (more on that later) and some of it is terrifying. I could easily get lost in there - I suppose that supports The Vikings point - but I always return.

Sometimes what I find distresses me. I was not happy to discover that I resent the success of other writers (I mean the bad ones) or to find out that my perfectionist tendencies are even more pronounced that I had believed.

Still, I have to go in there. It's where I find the best stuff for my work. I completely understand why many writers found it necessary to over-drink, or use other substances as a way to 'get in,' 'be in the zone," and cope with/ use what they find. However, for me, the larger problem is returning to the 'real' world. That's probably why if I have only half an hour for work, very little happens. Well, that's my excuse.

How do you 'get in' and how do you get out again?

On a lighter note, there is laundrygate. My friend (and my responsibility), The Bear, is in a supported-living retirement facility. Nine pieces of his laundry have not been returned. The articles went to the laundry on Wednesday. He has quizzed the staff relentlessly and thinks that they should have to replace his clothes, if the clothes don't return - immediately. I'm glad that was his only complaint today.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Montreal, je t'aime!

My Montreal trip is over and I'm already wondering how I can save enough money to visit again, maybe two years from now.

On Monday, the train from Toronto to Montreal was full and I was fortunate to sit next to a young Quebecois woman who was returning home. We chatted and the time on the train passed quickly. Attention: writers of romance - the young woman, who is bilingual and works for the provincial government, said that she doesn't enjoy 'fiction' and only reads romance, because it is 'soft' and relaxing. She also asked if I was gong to visit the Basilica (de Notre Dame) and said I really must see it. I have been there before but planned to see it again.

It was after 4 p.m. by the time I reached my hotel (damn the stairs in the Sherbrooke Metro station), so I walked over to Rue St. Denis and found a restaurant for an early dinner, because I was very hungry. Via Rail will sell you a 'snack' but I had not indulged.

On Tuesday, I went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and saw some of the permanent exhibitions, plus the Frederic Black exhibition. I admit, I knew nothing about Frederic Black before this. Now, I own a 4 DVD set of his animated films. The Museum is housed in two buildings and when I went outside to cross the street and visit the second building, there was a gorgeous vintage white Bentley at the curb. It was adorned with white bows, but the bride and groom were absent. The driver, who stood beside the car, was happy to answer my questions. He also took a picture of me sitting in the car. Perhaps I should have tipped him, but I was besotted by the car and didn't think of it. Later in the day I visited a shop that sells tablecloths and fabrics from Provence and found present I hope my daughter will enjoy. A good dinner was certainly in order after all my walking and wandering. I found a Bistro that had modest prices, and good food.

On Wednesday, I visited the Botanical Gardens. It took over an hour just to tour the ten greenhouses. Then there are the many gardens. I could only visit a few of them before my feet protested. It was a very hot day - that's my excuse. I also visited the Insectarium, which was filled with children and quite noisy, but fun. There's a small train that takes you around the whole of the Botanical Gardens, including the huge arboretum area, and it's free, so I went along for the ride. By late afternoon, I had wilted, though the flowers had not, and I bypassed visiting the Olympic tower and returned to my hotel via the Metro. When it was time to go out for dinner, I walked up St. Denis and eventually settled on another Bistro. This time, I was very lucky, the food was fabulous, the service was excellent, and the price was not as high as I had expected, though it certainly wasn't cheap. No matter - it was worth it!

Thursday was my last full day and I went to Old Montreal and revisited the Basilica de Notre Dame. After that, I needed a coffee, but not a six dollar coffee. I found a Starbucks. I was walking down toward the Port area when I came upon the Maison de Mere d'Youville. It was not in my guidebook, and it doesn't look as if it is open to the public. Still, I tried the door. It opened into a small office area but I could see antique furniture, and stone floors to one side. The receptionist spoke to me in French and asked if I would like a tour. When I replied 'yes,' she said if I would wait a few minutes she would furnish me with a guide who spoke English. An excited young woman soon arrived and gave me a personal tour. It lasted over an hour and the guide provided fascinating information. The Maison is on the site of the first Montreal Hospital, started by a group of religious 'brothers'. They helped the poor and sick men of Montreal in the 1700's. Eventually, they were unable to maintain the hospital. Then Marguerite d'Youville and a small group of women (they became the grey nuns) took it over, repaired it and helped as many of the poor and suffering people as they could - men, women and children. Would you believe they even took in prostitutes and abandoned babies? There is much more to the history, of course, and I am fascinated by the profound courage of Marguerite and the women who worked with her.

After a bit of shopping it was time for dinner and I returned to the Bistro I had enjoyed on Wednesday. It was a wise decision.

Friday, I returned home and I'm happy to be here. I missed out on Montreal Smoked Meat and Fairmont bagels; therefore, I'll have to go back, won't I?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Ready, Set, Go! The Value of Writing LIsts

I leave for Montreal very early on Monday morning and will return on Friday evening. Before I go, I'll spend time with the Viking. Maybe we will go to some Blues Festival events, if the weather isn't miserable. There are lots of things I'd like to do and places I'd like to visit while I'm in Montreal, but I'm not making a list and will decide on my itinerary based on the weather, and my energy level, and how my knees hold out. (That reminds me - I need to look for a gentle exercise class when I return.) In any event, if it rains on Tuesday, I'll make that my museum visit day. Packing will take place the night before I leave, but I do know what's going into the suitcase.

It's wonderful to get out of town, even if it might be 'dangerous'. That's the word a neighbour used when I said I was going to Montreal, alone. She also said, "you're brave." Either I look older and more fragile than I am, or she was worried about Montreal drivers who have a reputation for running into pedestrians. I assured her I would be careful, and indeed, I will. I also plan to enjoy the city and all that it offers. Old Montreal, the museums, the food, the unique atmosphere, the elan of les Quebecois , and did I mention? - the food - seafood, tortiere, bagels, Montreal smoked meat, and whatever else appeals to me. I'd better do a LOT of walking, or I'll return thicker rather than thinner, but if the universe is kind, that won't matter, because I'll have had a marvellous, memorable time.

Going on a trip gives me the opportunity to do a 'restart' when I return. That's why I have a two writing lists posted where I can see them. The first one shows all of my short stories, the magazines they've been sent to in the past - and of course the results. The second list, which I composed this morning, shows the stories that need to be sent out again. A while back, in late spring, I made a similar list (stories to send out), posted it up where I could see it and it worked. I sent those stories out. Then there were multiple crises, including some I can't mention in my blog, and I admit, I had great difficulty in focusing on anything but the troubles. But now, ah now, I have a new list and it is posted on my wonderful new-to-me very large, cork bulletin board. It's a double-sided board and notes for my novel are on the other side. I've been thinking a lot about 'Jennie Carriere' and I'm sure my visit to Montreal will help me with that, too.