Simple Pleasures

Well, goodness knows I often whine and moan about the things that bother me, so I thought I should report that I’ve had a wonderful day today. The weather was warm, but not too, so that when I got home after Coco’s early evening walk I was inspired to clean the two windows looking out onto my back balcony, a task which was beyond overdue. It took at least a couple of hours, but what made this chore fun was listening to Any Human Heart by William Boyd. I was about two-thirds of the way through the novel, and up until today I’d found it good, but no more; was actually quite indifferent to it in fact, but today the last part became really interesting to me. Goodness knows I usually put off chores until well after they should decently be done, but when armed with a really good audiobook, they become wonderful excuses to do some great reading (of course, now that I’ve mentioned the book, I’ll have to come back and post my review here when I get around to writing it). After all that work; climbing up and down a ladder and going back and forth indoors to outdoors to make the glass perfectly streak-free; seeing the beautiful view outside through the suddenly clear openings, with the giant tree next door filling the alley with a profusion of greenery, bits of blue and pink dusky skies peeking through, was just lovely. And then passing by my bedroom with my beautiful new bedding (went to Ikea and replaced very tatty old duvet cover with a lovely new design) on which Coco was peacefully having a snooze, while preparing a quick dinner of vegetarian chilli (bought ready-made from the health food store) and rice; because it was actually possible to turn on the stove-top without dying of heatstroke… All in all, it was a very simple, but highly satisfying day.

Now that I’ve got the windows taken care of and will be finishing this audiobook tonight, I’ll have to find an equally engrossing one to encourage me to finally take on cleaning my barbecue. Another boring task offering great listening potential that is sure to reap plenty of rewards over the next couple of months.

A (really) Good Day

Today has been a grrrrreat day!

Tomorrow, I’ll be doing a tryout as an Art Therapist in training (sort of). I took a volunteering course a while ago at the Royal Victoria, the hospital where I had previously attended a programme as an outpatient to help me after I had my nervous breakdown. I wanted to help in the Occupational Therapy department—which had been particular helpful to me during my stay there. They have a workshop session every Wednesday morning where patients can do whatever creative projects they like. About six months ago the woman who runs the OT department, J said I could be their “Artist in Residence” after I had expressed my interest. Anyway, long story short, I had an appointment at the hospital today which ended up being cancelled, but then ran into J, who was just on her way out with some patients to take a walk on Mount Royal (our little bit of nature in the centre of the city), so I joined in. I ended up chatting up a storm with a woman who said she would love to have someone like me to help her explore her creativity, and that was just the little extra spark I needed to encourage me to get over my fear of… well of a lot of things actually, and start using some of my experience as a creative to help other people.

Tomorrow, I shall get up bright and early to attend with my most faithful companion, because J even agreed that I bring Coco with me for the first day as an additional tryout. Coco is an absolute angel and he always brings joy to people wherever he goes, so he could end up being more in demand than me. Fine by me. Best of all, there’s no pressure. J said that I should treat my time there as an opportunity to work on projects of my own, and then help those who show an interest in trying any kind of art project—as opposed to woodworking, for which another volunteer, has been sharing his expertise for many years.

I’ve been getting lots of migraines lately, but, I’ve decided that if I have a migraine tomorrow, I’ll go anyway. Wish me luck.

La belle au bois dormant by Tahar Ben Jelloun

“Once upon a time there were a king and queen who were very sad and discontent, for they could not conceive a child. They had tried everything, following the advice of several doctors and midwives and even a few sorcerers. One adviser went as far as suggesting to the king that he follow as special diet and eat at regular hours while holding the queen’s hand. But in vain. One day, the king and his wife went to the Mountain of Childhood, where they stayed for seven days and seven nights drinking the brackish and warm water of the Source of Life. They often felt nauseous and vomited their meals, but without complaining. When they returned to the palace, they made their prayers before entering the chamber of love…”

So begins the tale of Sleeping Beauty as retold by Tahar Ben Jelloun, born in Morocco and a respected French writer and poet who was awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008. I have here given a rough translation of the first paragraph or this familiar fairy tale as retold in the original French, but with a Middle-Eastern flavour. Here, sleeping beauty is awakened not by the tall blonde green-eyed prince she imagined but by a short, skinny brown-haired one who must first deliver her from the snakes of the desert that are defending her door, and when Sleeping Beauty—here known as Jawhara—emerges from her hundred-year nap, her skin turns black as the night. After some time the prince must bring his beloved and their two small children back to the family palace where his mother, a cruel woman filled with prejudice, believes that all black people should be slaves. She tries to drown their children at sea and hires an ogre to cut out Jawhara’s liver which she intends to eat, but of course her plan is thwarted when the ogre, upon seeing Jawhara, is so charmed by the light emanating from her beautiful face that he comes up with a plan to defeat the evil queen instead…

A charming story, and an original retelling, and the book itself is a sheer pleasure to behold, with cover art and illustrations that add tremendous appeal to the overall experience. It was a Christmas gift from my mother who lives in France and whom I haven’t seen in six years now. I had perused the book before, but this was the first time I actually read the story, and because of the beauty of the book and the sentimental attachment I have to it, I can only say that I cannot find fault with it and was put under its spell.

First Trip to the Dog Park

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There’s a big beautiful dog park on Doctor Penfield Avenue I decided to take Coco to today. I had been there a few times before I had a dog, when I needed my fill of canine contact, so it was especially exciting for me to bring my pup with me for the first time. I already knew he gets along well with other dogs, so I wasn’t worried about Coco causing any trouble, though I was concerned that the other dogs might run him over, teeny thing that he is. It took him a little while to realize there were other dogs around when we got there at 5 pm, a popular time judging by the number of attendees. After he’d done sniffing around the grounds, he was approached by a bunch of big dogs who were quite gentle with him (I know I can’t trust them all to be that good though…).

Up until today I hadn’t seen him running and playing and thought he wasn’t up to it since my few attempts at throwing balls for him were met with little enthusiasm. But pretty soon he started running from one end of the park to the other, then running circles around me, barking with joy. I had a smile plastered on my face the whole time. It all felt like such a big treat since I was very low on energy today and pre-Coco, I probably would have slept for the better part of the day and not gone further than my balcony. It’s a blessing to have a dog who gets along with everybody—my last dog, Lola, was a crazed Boxer with a killer instinct when it came to other dogs, which caused too many disturbing incidents to mention—I don’t have to worry about that with Coco, but I AM concerned that somebody could decide to steal him away, considering how popular he is with both canines and humans. For instance, I wanted to go into the supermarket the other day and wasn’t sure I could bring him in with me. At least three people stopped by to see him and offered to “look after him” while I went inside. Maybe they were genuinely nice people, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Reminds me of that saying “Trust in God, but tie your camel”. I trust in the universe, but people, not so much, so wherever I go, Coco goes too.

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Happiness

Happiness has a name: Coco. Actually, to be fair, it has three names: Fritz (aka Ezra), Mimi and… yes, Coco. I feel lucky to be able to share their lives, and they even make bad days that much better. What more can I ask for? Well actually, wouldn’t mind getting back to my ideal weight now that I have to uncover myself to accommodate the heat, but that will come with all the walking and my soon to be renewed enthusiasm for exercise. Right Coco? :-)

Foster Child

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I need to calm down a little. Right now I’m so excited it feels like I’m about to have a heart attack. It’s not as if it came out of the blue or anything. I’ve been wanting a dog for a long time now, but suddenly there are big changes coming up around the bend and I’m getting a little bit panicky at the moment. Here’s how the story goes:

I met my friend K back in the summer of 2008 and blogged all about it later in a post called A Dog Called Yo. At the time, K had just purchased Yo from some homeless kid who was too sick to take care of him. K and I bonded over our love of animals and promised to get together for more walks along the canal. Fast forward to about a week ago when K (whom I have yet to go on a walk with, but has been a Facebook friend ever since), posted the above picture with a caption that read “looking good after a bath (he was full of burrs).” I commented on what an adorable little munchkin he is and left it at that. Then, still reading K’s comments on FB, I learned she had found him wandering the street, visibly lost and/or abandoned. She had searched for the owners quite thoroughly without success and was now looking for a good home for him since she couldn’t keep another dog, as she already has two. I wrote back that I would consider taking him in, but for the fact that my landlords were radically opposed to having a dog in the apartment. But the more I looked at his picture, the more I thought that this was possibly the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.

I called K who gave me the full rundown about what kind of dog he is (probably a Poodle/Bichon mix, about 10 lbs—the size of my cats—maybe 3 or 4 years old, very friendly, not at all yappy, eager to please but still needing training). She made it very clear she wasn’t willing to give him away to the first person who just found him cute without realizing what kind of responsibility a dog is, and risk him ending up at the pound or wandering the streets again. I know exactly how big a commitment a dog is. Much like having a kid at the beginning, especially when they’re still puppies. For the past couple of years I’ve been thinking a dog might just be the ticket to help get me get more disciplined and back into a daily routine, not to mention force me to get out of the house not once, but several times a day, every day of the week.

On Saturday I wrote an email & attached the above pic, asking my landlady J whether they would consider letting me bring him home on a trial basis for a few weeks and sent it out like a bottle to sea, feeling hopeful but not expecting much to come of it. Then, against all odds, got a reply last night, saying they were ok for a few weeks trial and “p.s. he’s so cute I’m sure my girls will want to get to know him!”. I had started working on a watercolour just then but after that couldn’t sit still long enough to finish it.

K had him fixed last week, whereupon the vet confirmed he is still a puppy and only about a year old. When she called me this morning to discuss our arrangement, she spent some time going over the responsibility that a puppy represents, just to make sure I realized what I was getting into. She suggested I get a crate or cage to help with the training process (and also give him a safe haven from the cats & vice versa, was my thinking) so the first thing I did was call around and look at craigslist ads etc to find a used crate or better yet, just a loaner for the time being. After calling the SPCA and my vet and leaving messages to potential sellers, I tried out the pet store where I get cat food every month and was told that sure enough, they have a loaner they keep for just this kind of occasion. I could hardly believe my luck and rushed over, hoofing it up the hill with just a couple of minutes before closing time.

When I got there, I found this HUGE folded up cage. I decided I would manage taking it down the hill if I took baby steps and plenty of breaks along the way. Carrying it was no joke and I couldn’t walk more than 20 steps without having to stop and rest for a bit. This gave me plenty of opportunity to think over what I’m getting into and I suddenly started  panicking, thinking that maybe this whole dog thing would turn out to be as big a burden as the cage was at that moment and that maybe I was getting in over my head with this fostering business. Albeit I’m doing better these days, there are plenty of reminders that I’m still far from being fully recovered after all. Before I knew it I had a complete meltdown. At least I had managed to make it home by then, so cried my little heart out with just the cats around, who by now are completely freaked out and probably sensing that something big is about to happen. But in my 40 years, I’ve learned that a meltdown is nothing to get worked up about and is not in the least indicative of bad things to come. Quite the opposite in fact, as it’s often been the case that things have turned out better than expected.

So that’s it basically. Now I’m just waiting for K to call me back so we can arrange the hand over which I imagine will happen within the next couple of days. In the meantime I plan on giving my kitties plenty of loving and hope they don’t hate me for the rest of their lives for bringing a third kid—of the canine sort no less—into THEIR home. Just a foster kid for now, but of course I’m hopeful that it’ll all work out and we’ll all live together happily ever after.

Wish me… wish ALL of us plenty of luck.
Fingers and toes crossed.