October 23, 2015

Filling the Empty Nest

Jada and Gus in snowLast January, a sudden bout of empty-nest syndrome collided with my daughter’s desire to get a puppy. At first, she wanted me to get a puppy that she would “visit and help take care of”. Fat chance! I outlined for her the many reasons I would not house a puppy for her. Two of them, Newman and Coal, are the now adult cats that she and her brother promised to take care of, promised to take with them when they moved out, swore they would love forever, which now live with me in my apartment. Against my will, my children turned me into a middle-aged cat lady.

When my son had moved out to live with his dad, I was certain I was going to relish my solitude and become productive, tidy, and solvent. Life was just beginning after all – the childcare train had left the station. So I was surprised when I was slammed by empty-nest syndrome, or more accurately, grief. It walloped me when my messy, stinky, noisy, uncooperative teenage son moved out. I never thought it would happen – I actually missed him. I still do.

By last January, I had been living alone for a few months, with the cats, when I realized I missed living with another human in the apartment. I’d had overnight guests in the spare bedroom a couple of times and those occasions made me recognize that I didn’t really want to share a bathroom with non-family. I wanted one of my kids to move home. Funny, I’d heard that most parents had trouble getting rid of them!

Neither of my kids wanted to move in. Then when Jada started rattling the cage about getting a dog, I found myself using the oldest trick in the book – I used a puppy to lure her in. She could get a puppy, I told her, if she paid for it, owned it, and took it with her when she moved out. She fell for it. And so did I.

We were on our way to Port Credit to meet our chosen puppy. Jada was worried that we would not pass the owner’s strenuous list of qualifications. I was not troubled about that. I was fretting that we would be declined on our first choice, Gus, and that Jada would be desperate enough to agree to take home one of the other pups. This woman had a number of puppies available, but only one breed was suitable for apartment living, in my opinion. What would I do if Jada set her heart on one of the consolation puppies,  which we were told were Rhodesian Ridgeback/Labrador Retriever mixes?

When Jada was four-years-old and her brother was one, I had decided  we needed a puppy. Ever the strategist, I chose a breed that I read would be child friendly and began the search for a reputable breeder. I read all the advice about adopting and had a checklist of conditions a new puppy must meet. The hunt proved more difficult that I’d imagined but along the way someone told me about a breeder in Peterborough where a friend had got a puppy. I called and made an appointment. The breeder had two litters ready to go.

Jada and I picked up my sister at her farm and headed to Peterborough. My sister is the animal expert in the family – in fact, she had a litter of Jack Russell Terriers in her barn at the time, but all the books said, “No!” to Jack Russell Terriers as family pets. It was a hot summer day and it was high noon when we pulled into the breeder’s long dusty driveway. Only the breeder’s name on a forlorn and crooked roadside mailbox let us know we were at the right location.

We could hear dogs barking as we got out of the car but bushes screened the back yard so we couldn’t see them. We knocked at the aluminum side door and were ushered into the kitchen of a split level home. As introductions were quickly made, a man in the next room continued to watch a blaring television. The puppies would be in the basement. We just had to wait a minute as the woman shouted for her son to help her get organized. We remained in the kitchen eyeing the shelves of hockey trophies and framed school portraits.

After a short time we were ushered down a circular metal staircase to a basement rec-room where the puppies were squirming and crawling over one another in a child’s blue plastic swimming pool.

Instantly I knew we’d made a mistake. These pups were not eight weeks old, they were much younger. And as four-year-old Jada knelt excitedly beside the pool they fled to the other side where she couldn’t reach them. One pathetic pup with rusty goop in both eyes and a dry nose was too lethargic to get away and Jada’s tiny hands were soon picking her up and cradling the puppy to her face.

My mind was racing. Certainly it wasn’t ideal but safely at home surely one of these pups would thrive under our care and attention, wouldn’t it? We’d driven a long way on a hot summer’s day. The price was right. Finding a puppy was much harder than I’d realized. And if I said no now, how would I ever get Jada to put that puppy down?

My sister asked if we could meet the pups’ mother. Of course we could. The woman led us out through the back door to the kennels. Immediately the steady barking turned into a frenzy. Countless dogs were housed in plywood shacks with narrow fenced-in chain-link runs. It was a hot day. Some dogs stood on top of their houses barking ferociously. I held Jada’s sweaty little hand tightly as the breeder led us to the home of the pups’ mom. She was nowhere to be seen. After a couple of whistles and a sharp call, a cowering female dog slunk from her shack and watched us warily from her platform.

Okay, we’d seen enough. We thanked the breeder and told her we needed to go have lunch and think about it. Jada chattered at me as I strapped her into her car seat. “When are we getting the puppy, Mom? Which one are we getting? I love those puppies.” I’d wished I had something with me to clean her hands.

On the long drive back to my sister’s farm Jada fell asleep and my sister posed the question, “Why don’t you just take one of my puppies?” Oh no. I’d read terrible things about Jack Russell Terriers. They barked incessantly, destroyed furniture, jumped on everything, they were untrainable, hyperactive maniacs.

The scruffy little Jack Russell my sister placed into Jada’s arms a few weeks later lived a healthy sixteen years. She was a terrific pet, a wonderful companion, and one of the best dogs anybody ever met.

A twenty-one year old Jada pointed out the turn off for Hurontario. What would I do or say if the puppies on this trip turned out to be less than desirable? I couldn’t take her by the hand and lead her away, or strap her into a car seat.

Gus entered our lives that day and I had no inkling how he would change my life. Looking back, I have to laugh at how naïve I was. Today, Gus and I sit in our usual morning places in the living room, him snoozing, me writing. We are waiting for Jada to wake up. We spend a lot of time waiting for her, me and Gus. I have a feeling it’s going to be like this for a long time.

December 24, 2014

Why Christmas turns my Crank

PC0602winterhearthAs an atheist I would never have wished Christmas away, entirely. Granted, I bristled at the Christian takeover of a pagan solstice celebration; but I had nothing against a saintly old man who poured gold pieces into the stockings (hanging to dry by the fireside) of some desperate young sisters (their orphan-hood and poverty were luring them into a life of prostitution), nor his 20th century counterpart who brought proverbial gifts to ALL the children of the world on one winter’s night each year. No, I quite approved of Santa Claus.

When I was a child, and an atheist, I celebrated Christmas with my atheist family. We housed a decorated evergreen in the living room; we exchanged gifts and feasted on roast turkey; we raised our glasses, in-canting peace on earth – goodwill t’ward Man. We enjoyed the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson on record and the angelic contralto of my classmate Tommy Faulkner singing O Holy Night in the near empty church where my grade 5 choir performed.These days, even if I fall for the crass commercialism and consumerism of Christmas, my soul, I think, responds to a deeper yearning – to fall in love with the world, to wish everyone peace and harmony, to drink in the coniferous beauty of my urban forest home, to feel gratitude overflow in my childish ticker, and as Ebenezer says, ‘honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’

November 11, 2014


Mildred 2

Mildred Crosby

They celebrated the Armistice, for the second day in a row, at the mid-day meal; Grandma Claughton had attempted and succeeded in baking a light and fancy Angel Food Cake. The mood in the house was joyful, even if Viola thought Ethel was a bit sulky and withdrawn. Viola guessed it was difficult to celebrate when your brother had been killed.

In the afternoon, Mildred knocked at the front door. Viola flew to open it and escorted her cousin in from the cold. But Mildred was not her usual self. She was solemn as she removed her gloves and hat and laid them on the vestibule table.

Mildred sat on the couch and waited for the family to assemble. “I’m afraid I do not have good news,” she told them. A telegram had arrived earlier that day at the Crosby home. Flight Lieutenant Edward Crosby, just twenty-five years old, had been killed.

“But the war is over!” Viola cried, looking around at the shocked and grim faces of her mother and grandparents.

Ethel folded over onto Mildred’s lap. Mildred smoothed her sister’s hair and relayed the details, as she knew them: a training accident in England, just eleven days before Armistice.

Viola felt a wave of guilt for the celebrating and joy she had felt earlier. So much death. She wondered if any of them would ever be allowed to be happy again? Her cousin, Gordon, Mildred and Ethel’s other brother, had been killed the same way just six months earlier. Brave soldiers, her cousins.

Viola and Ethel 2

Viola Claughton & Ethel Crosby

Ethel, was inconsolable. She lay face down on her bed with her boots on, her pillow soggy with tears. But Mildred had soon pried the truth out of her. Ethel, Mildred’s baby sister, was in the family way. Mildred shook her head and bemoaned. It had been a mistake to board Ethel out to Aunt Rose. She’d gone wild. Ethel did not possess the self-control and reserved conduct of Viola and Aunt Rose had not been keeping close enough track of Ethel, obviously. Apparently, Ethel had been flouncing down to the bank and entertaining the bankers, one in particular, upstairs in his quarters, drinking and carrying on. Really, Viola didn’t know where Ethel learned such shocking behaviour. Now they would have to send Ethel away. Her life was ruined. “I’m running out of relatives,” Mildred told Viola.


“Casualties” is a story that I left out of my upcoming book about Viola and my Great-Uncle Fred called Abide With Me. For my Remembrance Day post from another year please see, “Fruit Flies”.

October 21, 2014

Couldn’t put it down

I couldn't put it down!

(Not my sister.)

When I wrote Chatterbox I had an editor who went through the manuscript with me, word by word, line by line. It was an exhilarating process that took several months. After my work with him, I continued to revise and polish the manuscript. When I felt it was ready for outside eyes I enlisted the help of my sister. She is an avid and careful reader; she reads slowly savouring each word (as I do); and we love the same authors. I gave her a copy of Chatterbox and she began to read, phoning me frequently to provide feedback on continuity, comprehensiveness, and word choice. We were about midway through the book when her telephone calls stopped. I gave her some leeway, after all, it’s a lot to ask of someone, but after a few days I got antsy. “Just wondering how things are going,” I said in an anxious message on her machine. “I’m sorry,” she began when she returned my call. I readied myself for the expected excuses: work obligations, husband interference, quilting distractions. “I was reading a book,” she said. “And I couldn’t put it down!”

At first I was perplexed, a book? What book? And then miffed. She means she’s reading a book other than mine? “Your book!” she laughed. I was stunned. She explained that she got so engrossed in the story she forgot to take notes or formulate an opinion and she had to go back over the text.

Right then I discovered the greatest compliment a writer can receive. I’m almost ready to give her my next book. Have you read anything recently that you couldn’t put down?

July 19, 2014


Yesterday I pondered: why is gluttony considered a sin, or why would God, if there is such a being, care whether I overeat. In other words, is it not God’s will for me to enjoy the edible abundance and bounty in my world? And if not, why not?

It didn’t take long for Mr Google to inform me that abusing the temple (my body) that houses my spirit is rather wilful of me. If my task on Earth is to fulfill my soul’s purpose it’s hardly a good idea to court the health risks associated with chubbiness. Being unhealthy makes me unprepared for whatever the Universe holds for me today. Okay, I get that, it’s better to be healthy in case God calls on me. But there’s more.

It turns out gluttony includes being fussy, decadent, and ungrateful. Gluttony means taking more than my share, and eating carelessly and mindlessly. It means adoring food, and it means obsessing about weight gain or weight loss, distracting me from my soul’s purpose. Uh oh.

So, I asked myself, how could I eat differently to signal to the Universe that I am willing to have  gluttony removed from me? Answer: in addition to making simple, nutritious, and smaller food choices, I could pray. People have been saying grace or a blessing over food since the invention of the God switch. My grandparents held hands and blessed every meal they ate. I could easily add this simple gesture to my life, or so I thought.

Today I went to a restaurant for lunch with my kids. As we waited in line for a table, I remembered that I intended to say grace over my food. No one had to know. I thought, maybe I should do it as soon as I sit down so I don’t forget, but my mind said, no, wait until the food is in front of you.

I ordered sensibly, even though I was hungry and my stomach cried out for french-fries and chocolate chip pancakes. I requested no home-fries with my omelette, and asked for the salad dressing on the side. When my meal came, there was a mound of home-fries crowding the omelette, there was pink stuff on the salad, and a piece of cantaloupe garnished the plate, ew. Unconsciously and instantly, I decided to say nothing but when the server left the table, I muttered under my breath, “Thanks for paying attention, Girly.”

I was not grateful for the food before me. I forgot about saying grace. I felt self-righteously annoyed. I ate the salad and the grilled tomato; I ate the piece of pineapple that travelled over a thousand miles to reach my gullet; and I ate the delicious omelette without a thought for the lobster that gave up its life for it. The only thought in my head was whether the drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette was worth more than one Weight Watcher point.

My gluttony only occurred to me after lunch. On a full stomach, I became aware of my lack of gratitude and humility, my absolute unconsciousness when presented with the unexpected. God, forgive me. And thank you. At least I noticed, eventually.

Illustration “The Fat Women” by Igor Grabar, 1904

May 13, 2014

Odd Ball

blue moon

This moon
this changing mood
am I waxing
am I waning
am I full?

These empty ovaries
twin moons
white nodules in the sea
of me
stony and silent.

My mood slithers from orbit
like a cracked egg
down my thigh
I’m moving
toward uselessness.

My mother
assures me,
the time beyond this time
this night’s passage
these moonless days.

Last night
a shine penetrated
my sleep
and when I drew aside the curtain
to curse my neighbour
it was the moon!
and glaring
a full spot light of insomnia
burning through
my stony odd balls.

© Sandy Day 2013

March 24, 2014

Jake G EnemyMy Review of ENEMY: This movie was filmed so that it looks like a bad, yellowy Polaroid from the 60s. Everything, including Jake Gyllenhaal, is brown. It’s shot in Toronto, and our city never looked more depressing – reminded me of my childhood. I found it very humorous, but then I laughed throughout FINDING LLEWYN DAVIS. You can’t just put JAWS music behind a film and say it’s a suspense, suspense doesn’t actually work that way. This movie could also be called, OVER-REACT MUCH? The acting is great, the over-reacting funny, the audience burst out laughing several times. Much discussion was generated after the film and by the time we got half-way home we had the plot figured out to our satisfaction, thus we have become hipsters. I’m not going to say what we figured out because that would ruin the movie for you. This is not a small screen movie, I’m betting you’d turn it off after 15 minutes. At the theatre you’ve paid, so you’re forced to watch it. Was it worth it? I’m a hipster now, so yes!

March 2, 2014

Getting in Shape for Free – Sustaining my 1st Fitness Injury


photo credit Nick Albufairas

This walking thing is not child’s play. After downloading a pedometer to my cell phone I proceeded to pound the pavement, the lumpy, ice and snow covered payment. I walked to the library, I walked to work, I walked to a couple of evening meetings, I took the stairs, I went for an afternoon walk with a pal and her dogs. My friends, I walked!

I was proud of myself for clocking almost 7,000 steps rather effortlessly on Wednesday despite it being one of the coldest days of the winter. It was a 300% improvement over my previous feet up on the ottoman routine.

On Friday night, I dreamed I was receiving a foot massage – a deeply tender foot massage. On Saturday morning when I slipped my foot into my boot, I felt a pain that jolted the dream into my awareness. I walked gingerly all day feeling as if I had a fallen arch. Ever had one of those?

Last night when I got home, I began to give the old tootsies a massage and lo and behold, there protruded an angry purple bulge on the sole of my foot. Of course, I instantly diagnosed a combination embolism/plantar fasciitis, which would most likely require amputation. That’s if it didn’t reach my brain and kill me by morning.

Today I hobbled in to the walk-in clinic. The professionally trained physician’s diagnosis: hematoma. Now before you go Googling I’ll tell you his diagnosis resulted in a referral to a plastic surgeon. That’s if the hematoma doesn’t resolve itself in a couple of days, which the kind doctor seemed confident it would.

He asked me if I’d been doing any unusual activity and I realized, yes! I’ve been walking! To further impress him with my fitness prowess I told him about the pedometer. He rather promptly sent me on my way.

I looked up hematoma when I got home. It’s sort of a bulgy bruise. And that’s exactly what it feels like. I’m hanging up my walking boots for a couple of days. And when the hematoma heals I’ll be experimenting with the next part of Getting in Shape for Free: Fitness Videos from the Public Library.

Stay tuned. And walk safely!

February 27, 2014

My Biased and Ignorant Academy Awards 2014 Preview Review

Oscar-Nominations-2014I love the Academy Awards. It’s live TV and anything can happen on live TV. For example, I howled when Melissa Leo dropped her grateful F-bomb. And I still quote Sally Field, “You like me, right now, you like me!”  I watch the Oscars for these spontaneous live TV moments. And also, I love movies.

The list of Best Picture nominees is lengthy this year but I managed to see all of them on the big screen (except Captain Phillips, which ironically, was a pirated version). I’m not into predictions, because that would mean I’d have to pay attention to Holly-politics and celebrity gossip, neither of which is of any interest to me. These reviews and prize awards are based on my own ignorant and biased opinions.

cbLet’s start at the top with American Hustle, my choice for Best Motion Picture. I love the irreverent, fast moving, and continual twisting of relationship skirmishes. This movie mesmerizes me: the characters, the pace, the costumes, the plot, the settings, the soundtrack, the hairdos! And I can’t take my eyes off Christian Bale; in my humble opinion, the Sir Laurence Olivier/Daniel Day Lewis of our time. I’m awarding Mr. Bale the Oscar for Best Actor.

Captain Phillips. Suspenseful and heart pounding but the usual dollop of USA propaganda spooned out by Hollywood. Some barbaric enemy, in this case skinny East African Muslims aka Somalis, have the audacity to rob innocent Americans transporting food relief and clean water. We know the Americans are innocent because isn’t that Walt Disney captaining the ship? These Somali simpletons never heard of ‘no man left behind’ and they sure get their come-uppance. Am I cynical? You bet I am.

jared-leto-dallas-buyers-club-1012013-123830I looked forward to Dallas Buyers Club because of the trailer, and the first half of the movie lives up to the promise. But then Matthew McConaghey steps out of his entirely believable and sympathetic character and right before my eyes becomes the arrogant, lizardly, sleaze ball I imagine him to be in real life. For me, the movie should end [SPOILER ALERT] when a certain character dies. Jared Leto, not to mention any names, shares my award for Best Supporting Actor.

Gravity triggers my fear of heights throughout, which makes for an exhilarating, on the edge-of-my-seat experience. So absorbed in technology as I am, Gravity reminds me of my lack of appreciation for the elemental stuff of life: water, human contact, love. The best part of the movie for me is Sandra Bullock’s big teardrops flying around the screen in 3D.

People say you either love Her or hate Her. Not true. I just find Her boring. The extended shots of pale Caucasian eyes and shots of Mr. Waistypants lying in his bed listening to an off camera voice, put me to sleep. Admittedly, I saw the late show on a full stomach, so who knows what my opinion might be at a matinee. The consciousness theme interests me mildly but requires too much speculation about what Scarlett Johansson is doing in the off-camera ethernet. Like the characters in futuristic Los Angeles, I feel manipulated (pun intended) by this movie.

juneSeveral movies this year sport the parent as alcoholic story line (see Saving Mr. Banks and August: Osage County). And in Nebraska Bruce Dern does a very good job of playing an alcoholic in denial. The film’s authenticity is smirk-smirk humorous and I award the Best Supporting Actress to the wonderful June Squibb as Bruce Dern’s long suffering wife. Shot in black and white Nebraska is artsy and ho-hum. Next.

Judi Dench in PhilomenaI enjoyed Philomena very much. The story of a child ‘given up’ for adoption is intriguing and heart wrenching, and nun bashing is always an interesting subject to explore. Philomena is not going home with the golden statue but Judi Dench is! She’s superb. She eats up the camera. Best Actress 2014, mark my words, it’s the year of the old lady.

12 Years a Slave is so realistic I can barely stand it. The scenes seem deliberately drawn out so as a viewer I can feel the interminable duration of those long years of torture. I came away wondering, yet again, how could people have been so incredibly cruel? I hope no one can say they ‘enjoyed’ this picture. It is very good, great acting, cinematically accomplished, but oh so painful to view.

jonah hillDebauchery. That’s a theme? What are we, ancient Romans? Word to the wise, do not see The Wolf of Wall Street, as I did, with your seventeen-year-old son. The endless parade of blowjob jokes, depraved extravagance, the joy of drugs, okay, okay, we get it, debauchery. I would be remiss if I did not take note of Leonardo’s inebriated crawl down the stairs of the country club to his car, simply the highlight of the movie. And he does do an incredible job appearing in every single scene of a three hour movie. A shared Best Supporting Actor to Jonah Hill who creates a complex and charming character. Wonderful job, Jonah.

And that’s it, folks. My Oscar preview reviews and awards. One thing before I go, as usual the Academy overlooked one of my favourite movies of last year, The Way Way Back.  There are a few performances (Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell) in that wonderful flick that deserved Academy Award nominations. Boo, Academy. Let me know your opinion of this year’s contenders and about any other great movies the Academy missed in 2013.

February 23, 2014

Getting in Shape (for free)

Yesterday I came up with a whole new chapter for the book I’m working on (How to Live on Nothing and Have Everything). It’s called, Getting in Shape. CAUTION: This material is untested.

I found myself believing the horseshit that if I only had money I’d get in shape; I’d join a gym; I’d hire a personal trainer; I’d take classes. The reality is that all I get from this false belief is fatter.

Therefore, number one on my list of Getting in Shape (for free) is WALK. It seems obvious enough and easy, hell, I’ve been walking since I was a toddler. So yesterday, I had fifteen minutes to kill before meeting a friend for lunch. As I walked down a short street to Lake Ontario, the sun shone and the unfortunate homeowners chipped at the ice on their sidewalks. I descended to the deserted, windswept beach and crunched my way across the treacherous leash-free zone for dogs and their intrepid owners, to the next street over.

I’d forgotten about the set of stairs leading up but there was no turning back now, and besides, taking the STAIRS is also on my list of Getting in Shape (for free). Thirty, or so, steps later, winded and with heart pumping (nice cardio!) I paused at the top and took some photos. Lake Ontario beachThen off I went to meet my friend at the restaurant (my thighs were actually burning from the street’s slight incline).

Holy out of shape, you say! Yes, I am. That’s why I’m working on it (for free).

How about you? How are you staying in shape this winter?


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