musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Friday, September 29, 2006


What do you see, people? What do you see?
What are you thinking when you look at me?

Mom, September 2006

An angry old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill?

Is that what you're thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes!
You're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I'm a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.

A bride at twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering vows that I promised to keep

At twenty-five, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide and provide a safe home.

A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.

At fifty once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.

For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I've known.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.

I'm now an old woman and nature is cruel;
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again, my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.

I think of the years, too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not an angry old woman;
Look closer... see me!

~author unknown

Today's PhotoFriday challenge: "anger".

cool cat

It's been shiveringly cold in Toronto for the last few days and since the heat's not on in our building yet, Sam has been finding creative ways to stay cozy. A four paw tuck-under combined with this fresh-from-the-dryer red towel defined this morning's purr-worthy moment.

Of course, now that the towel is covered with white cat hair, I'm going to have to wash and dry it all over again. It'll be all warmed up for another cozy cuddle in about forty minutes. Repeat as needed. Which leaves me wondering ... who's the boss around here, anyway?

Sam is a friend of Friday Ark and Sunday's Carnival of the Cats, hosted this week at Pet's Garden Blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


When you live in a 30+ year-old highrise with sunny balconies, big windows, and an expanse of parkland on two sides, there aren't likely to be many day-to-day encounters with 'the dark side'. In fact, the closest I've come to a genuinely creepy moment was visiting the windowless basement storage lockers at midnight with nobody else around.

Until this morning.

I was on my way down to the first floor, arms full of recyclables, feeling pleased that the 'good elevator'—the one with a back door that opens directly into the recycling room—had responded to my call. I pushed the button for 1R and waited.

The descent was swift and gentle. I turned to face the back door as it glided slowly open...and found myself staring not at a brightly-lit room with a row of big blue bins, but at a solid wall of concrete. There was no escape.

[cue Twilight Zone music]

Too bad I don't write in the horror genre. I could spin a spooky tale of being trapped in the Elevator of Doom...eternally damned to visit floor after floor, finding nothing but impenetrable bunkers at every stop. Parched and starving, I'd search in vain through the items in my blue box... surely there'd be one bottle with a few drops of water, a tin with a scrap of salmon—or even a morsel of cat food—still clinging to the lid...

[fade to black with my own screams echoing in the pit]

Okay. So maybe that explains why I don't write horror.

(Edit: In the real world, I stared at the blank wall of concrete for a couple of heartbeats, then turned, pushed 1F, and waited while the elevator rose to the main floor and let me off in the lobby. Why it originally dropped to the basement, and why the back door mechanism activated there, remains a mystery.)

That's all for now. Move along. Nothing more to see here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sam the Cat Ponders OneWebDay

Sam the Cat Ponders OneWebDay

How has the Internet changed your life? For Sam, it means a nice warm spot on the computer desk, good for napping, cursor-swatting, mouse-chasing...and conveniently located for head-scratches on demand. His devoted personal head-scratcher lists 10 changes brought by the 'net.

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Sam is a fan of Friday Ark and Sunday's Carnival of the Cats.

OneWebDay - has the 'net changed you?

Top 10 Ways the Internet Has Changed My Life

Once upon a time, a good old fashioned Toronto snowstorm meant a couple of bonus days off from the job or school every winter. Now, thanks to the Internet, I can work via remote desktop no matter how stormy the weather. (This is not necessarily a good change...I could easily become a hermit or, more likely, a crazy cat lady.)

Save trees! Nowadays, I read the news online, thus avoiding pesky piles of newsprint, overflowing recycling bins, and smudges of printer's ink on a snow-white cat.

No more standing in line at the bank to pay bills.

The whole world is open for business whenever and wherever the urge to shop might strike. That perfect gift could be around the corner or half a world away.

When I need to know how something works, or find the perfect word, or demystify onomatopoeia, my answers are on the Internet. Researching people, places, and things for a new story has never been easier.

As a writer, I especially value the connection with other writers. It's good to be able to type-talk with people who understand the (demented) writerly mind. My most insightful and fabulous critique partner ever lives 3500 kilometers away in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. (Hi, Sheila!)

'Letting go' of characters and stories can be a difficult and painful thing for an author —a fictional empty nest moment. When readers visit my web site or blog and take time to send a note to tell me they've fallen in love with a character or story... best feeling in the world!

Online classes make learning new things easy and fun. I've studied everything from Photoshop basics to private investigation techniques ... all without leaving my living room (sometimes without leaving my pajamas).

Fifteen years ago I might have said a successful business run by three women who've never met face-to-face was an impossible idea. These days, I think it's one of the best jobs I've ever had. All virtual, all the time! (My two partners and I design and maintain web sites for the wonderful group of authors at

... and the number one way the Internet has changed my life:

Friendships forged ...some sweet but fleeting, others built to last. All unforgettable.

How has the Internet changed your life?


Visit and

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Monday, September 18, 2006

small treasures

Last Saturday, Kate, over at at thru my lens...lightly, blogged about spending a day practicing with her camera and tripod. Her practice resulted in a lovely series of photo vignettes of small treasures — those special things gathered over the years that bring her comfort and pleasure. She wound up her post by asking, "what are the things in your life, around your home, that you treasure...and why?"

Here are a few of mine...

This magically surreal painting by artist G. Hammell hangs on the wall above my computer, reminding me that with imagination everything is possible.

flying stones
In the bedroom window, antique poison bottles catch the sun and fill the room with a soft blue glow. Collected over the last twenty years, each bottle holds memories of the hunt through antique fairs, flea markets, garage sales, and abandoned barns. In the background are two orchid plants — one blooms with chocolate-scented flowers!

antique blue poison bottles
I've posted many pictures of my balcony garden, but never the garden wall. These two stone ladies seem so serene and peaceful.

garden wall

Many more little treasures occupy my home and perhaps, someday, I'll post a few more photos. First, though, I think I need a lot more practice with my camera. And maybe a tripod. And sunshine! Definitely sunshine.

So ... what are the things in your life, around your home, that you treasure ... and why?

Friday, September 15, 2006

it's a cat's life

Fridays are work-from-home days for me and, unless my client deadlines are looming large, I like to sleep in a while longer than my usual weekday 6 a.m. This idea does not make sense to Sam. He's up at the crack of dawn every day to watch (and heckle) the neighbourhood dogs as they walk their sleepy people in the park behind our building. I wouldn't mind, but his window is only about three feet from my bed and this morning's catty commentary, "ick-ick-ick-ick", started extra early. Half-asleep, I grabbed my camera and snapped this 5 o'clock scene:

Sam heckles dogs in the park.Even the flash didn't break his concentration. He kept right on heckling. Asking him politely to be quiet didn't work. Neither did offers of snuggles and tummy rubs if he'd come back to bed. Finally, I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to recapture sleep. No use.

Of course, once I was awake, caffeinated, and working, Sam decided to have the last laugh by going back to bed. I went looking for him a few minutes ago and discovered him snuggling with his teddy bear, sound asleep. Camera noise woke him...or maybe it was me. I might have said something like, "ick-ick-ick-ick" ... ahh, revenge is sweet.

Sam's sleep is interrupted by his own personal heckler.

Sam is a fan of Friday Ark and Sunday's Carnival of the Cats.

red canoe

Photo Friday 'bright' - red canoe
This week's challenge: "bright"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

back to reality (sort of)

My most excellent ten day vacation officially met its lazy end on Sunday. And it was Good. And I am mellow. And relaxed. Totally. At first, I wasn't sure an at-home holiday would work for me, given the frightening length of my household to-do list. But then I put the list in a special place — you know, the "mustn't lose this, so I'll put it here for safekeeping" place. Problem solved.

Most days began with a bit of a sleep-in (no alarm clocks allowed on vacation, either), and eased into action mode with a pot of Kona coffee followed by a leisurely swim or a walk along the lakeshore. Afternoons, I shopped a bit and rambled a lot, getting better acquainted with my new west Toronto neighbourhood. And after dark... time for movies! Mrs. Henderson Presents, Prime, Water, and RV — which (in order) made me laugh, made me smile, made me think, made me ... uh ... groan.

When it rained, I curled up with a Kate Collins mystery, Slay It With Flowers. This book made my gotta-have-it list back in May when my son gifted me with the first in the Flower Shop series (Mum's the Word) for my birthday. Now I'm hooked! Collins writes a satisfying mystery with plenty of humour and a great cast of characters. I've really enjoyed getting to know Marco all of them. Need more of a recommendation? I stopped off to buy books three and four, Dearly Depotted and Snipped in the Bud, on my way home from work yesterday. But I'd better pace myself because book five, Acts of Violets, won't be released until March of next year.

Midweek was time for my final Stratford Festival getaway of the season and, thanks to my convertible-driving friend, the trip was made in style. A tad chilly and oft rained upon...but definitely in style. Our play of the day was The Liar, by Pierre Corneille. We weren't at all sure what to expect from a comedy written in the 17th century by "the founder of French tragedy." What we got was a brilliant piece of modern theatre — lively, smart, and very, very funny. It runs until September 23rd at The Studio Theatre. See it if you can!

So, all told, it was a lovely, relaxing vacation. In fact, I'm still working on getting body and soul back into the waken-early-long-commute-work-a-day-commute-again groove. I'm also working on a new to-do list, 'cause I haven't a clue where I put the original "for safekeeping"....

Saturday, September 09, 2006

butterfly bijoux

Monarch ButterflyWhile hiking at the beach this morning, J. and I tried keeping a monarch butterfly tally. We soon lost count.

Under foot, in the air, hanging from trees, even—for one breathless moment—fluttering softly on my shirtsleeve.

Butterflies everywhere!

I know what you're thinking. 'All that magic in the air and this is the best picture she has to show?'

Sad, isn't it? I could blame the gloomy, overcast day or even the failing batteries in my camera but... truth is, for some strange reason, the focus was wrong to the point of blurry in every single shot.

Some might say operator error. I'd rather believe magic is not so easily captured.

tiny butterfly


Friday, September 08, 2006

if it's Friday, this must be cat

Sam...projecting...In the 'Cat Who' mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun, protagonist James Qwilleran often complains that smart cat Koko projects his thoughts and enforces his will via unyielding, intense stares.

Sam subscribes to the Koko school of mind control.

Focus on moving fingers. Stare until keyboard tapping slows... and...

That's all for today. Suddenly I'm in the mood to sit on the balcony with Samcat... perhaps I'll brush him while he watches birds in the park.....

Sam also tells me he wants to join the Friday Ark and Sunday's Carnival of the Cats, hosted this week by Begin Each Day...     I hear and obey.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

OneWebDay Challenge

September 22, 2006 marks the first annual "OneWebDay" and my first annual OneWebDay Challenge. This year I'll be blogging about the top 10 ways the Web has changed my life. Whether you're a regular visitor here or a new drop-in, I hope you'll pick up on my challenge and blog about your own 'top 10' on the 22nd. Leave a comment here and I'll link to your blog on OneWebDay. If you don't have a blog, get involved by email, instant message, or however you keep in touch with friends. How has the Web changed you?

For more information, listen to a podcast by founder Susan Crawford, then visit to get involved. Check out the ongoing Canadian celebrations at ... and be sure to mark your calendar!


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Monday, September 04, 2006

just like Mom

The last few days have felt more like late October than early September here in Toronto—cold, rainy, and dull. But I'm in vacation mode and looking for a little tropical warmth! I found it yesterday on an afternoon ramble through the greenhouses at Centennial Park Conservatory. (Photos on Flickr.) This Bird-of-Paradise rates as the most spectacular sight in the greenhouse, but most memorable, for me, has to be the venerable old jade plant.

I first encountered the big jade on a visit to the Conservatory with my mother. It was May 20, 2001. The date is important, although we didn't know it at the time. You see, it was one day before a massive stroke nearly took Mom's life, and it would be our last chance for a stroll in the park together. I remember we were both awed by the giant jade, its main trunk as big around as my leg, its branches heavy with masses of glomy jade plant - grown from a single leafssy green. I pocketed a single fallen leaf, placed it on a fresh bed of potting soil when I got home, and watched it root and grow over the long months Mom spent in hospital. In a way, it became a symbol of hope, its growth/her recovery. Well, Mom's still hanging on, we still spend pleasant afternoons together. She doesn't remember our walk in the Conservatory, but she enjoys the third generation jade plant on her window sill at the nursing home. And my single leaf is now a healthy specimen, nearly 18 inches tall.

Unfortunately, the original venerable jade hasn't fared so well. If I had to guess, I'd say some thoughtless visitor vandalized it. (I base this on the number of names brutally carved into the leaves of a nearby yucca.) But whether it was pushed over, or whether it toppled under the weight of its own branches, the old plant no longer stands proud. Its trunk, split open when it fell, is now a barren mass of scars. Its remaining limbs rest on the ground. But new growth, like hope, springs toward the light. Venerable jade. Stubborn and determined...just like Mom.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

water, flowers, and good hair

Earlier this week I complained to a friend that work-related stress beforehand (get it all done before you leave), combined with work-related stress afterward (desk-burying mass of accumulated stuff), makes it hardly worth taking time off. What was I thinking?! Only two days into my ten day vacation, I'm already feeling blissfully relaxed and mellow, the get-it-done-ed-ness a dim memory and the buried desk a remote and inconsequential non-issue.

Yesterday began with a leisurely swim in the condo pool and wound up with a thoroughly enjoyable rental movie starring one of my favourites, Judy Dench. Between the two, I went for a long overdue ramble around my not-so-new neighbourhood. I've lived in west Toronto for five years now, and it's starting to feel like home; but there are still lots of undiscovered gems out there — like the little fruit market with masses of flowers for sale, all at deep discount prices. How could I resist?

Right next door to the flower seller I encountered another irresistible: Salon Noé. (Pronounced, I kid you not, "noway"!) I don't know about you, but finding a new hairdresser rates right at the top of my "don't wanna do it" list. I mean, this is my hair we're talking about. Just the thought of letting a complete stranger have-at it with a sharp pair of scissors ... [cringe]. As a result, I've avoided the issue, inflicting more than a month of really bad hair days on all and sundry. But I liked the look of "noway". More important, I liked the look of the hair on the freshly-coiffed customers. So...I made an appointment, went back this afternoon, and am now the happy and much lighter-headed owner of a fresh new haircut, thanks to soon-to-be-married stylist, Adrienne. I like it so much, I've booked another appointment for next month. The fact that it's on Friday the 13th can only be an omen of more good things to come!

Friday, September 01, 2006

is that a rose I smell?

1. a respite or a time of respite from something
2. a scheduled period during which activity is suspended
3. a period of exemption from work
4. a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

Synonyms: breathing space, fiesta, furlough, gone fishing, holiday, intermission, layoff, leave, liberty, long weekend, recess, recreation, respite, rest, sabbatical, spell, time off.

Antonyms: work

Usage: Yippee! I'm on vacation!

Master Plan for the next ten days: swim, read, relax, wander, stop to smell the roses, write, relax, garden, wine, dine, did I mention relax? (And blog about it, of course.)