Best Laid Plans

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By Terry Fallis

 

My wonderful friends, Dove and Mike up at Foskett House in Comox, lent me this book as they know me very well and they knew I would enjoy the read as much as they did. Why? Because the three of us started in the trenches and worked with determination and confidence, through the toughest of times, supporting the underdogs in the political world – at least the underdogs of the western Canada political world in the early 80s. We never gave up hope but we did have to deal with an awful lot of animosity, verbal attacks and very negative people.

 

This book is like a mirror to us – the protagonist is on a desperate mission to find a candidate to run for the Liberal Party of Canada in a riding that has NEVER supported a Liberal candidate. He goes out and in absolute desperation, he basically begs someone to have his name stand on the ballot, promising him that he would never have to show his face in public, never door knock, answer the phone or respond to mail – email or otherwise. An upstanding university professor agrees to play along, shows no interest whatsoever in the process and leaves everything in the hands of the 3 volunteers who stepped forward to give the appearance of a campaign.

 

One thing leads to another, the candidate continues to teach at the university and then goes on a field trip to a far away place, leaving no contact information to his campaigners. A week before the election, the leading candidate has to drop out of the campaign due to personal indiscretions, leaving the electorate with two choices – a Liberal or a NDP representative in Ottawa.

 

This is a great story for people like me as I know what hopelessness feels like; yet, I also know that when feeling like hopelessness rules, I work extra hard to prove the masses wrong and I usually end up standing tall and smiling from ear to ear! One person can make a difference and that comes alive at the beginning, middle and end of this entertaining book.

 

Terry Fallis’ creativity walks the walk of hopelessness and his comical rendition of a scenario that has unfolded in many constituencies across the Canada, sheds some great light on the importance and real power of one person, the credibility of the underdog and the effectiveness of our democratic electoral system.

Fotheringham's Biography

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I read another book!  This one is written by Canadian journalist Allan Fotheringham and it is called The Man from Nowhere. In the Prologue, he says the book is dedicated to his grandchildren but also to his now deceased adventurous son – I’d like to take it one step further and say it is also meant for Foth’s many lifelong followers who have been touched by his wit, his relentless critical assessments and his bold, brash approach to life and all it has to offer.

He comes from a struggling background as one of four children of a woman who became a single mother early in life. He competed with his brother for preferred son status but their mother did not budge either way. She did eventually date and marry, giving the family a renewed nuclear status, a new last name and new opportunities to branch out of a hamlet in Saskatchewan to greener pastures in Alberta and then British Columbia. He and his wife currently live in Toronto, but I think he also has a retreat on one of our Gulf Islands on the west coast of Canada.

Foth’s life was amazing with fabulous adventures throughout Europe, a myriad job opportunities at the University of British Columbia’s student newspaper, then the Vancouver Sun where he worked from the bottom up, becoming a renowned political columnist who was relentless in his analysis of all things political and some things personal. He also did a long stint on CBC’s Front Page Challenge where he often met his match in Betty Kennedy and Gordon Sinclair.

I enjoyed this book because I was very much aware of his existence during my growing up years, my university years and my working years in political arenas. He was liked and not liked by many, but generally respected as a man who always had something to say and he’d say things without hesitation, regardless of the possible consequences.

All Of Me

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All Of Me

Autobiography of Anne Murray

 

Over the annual Aruban vacation time, I read this book. It felt very à propos to read a piece of my Canadian culture in an environment filled with Americans, Arubans and Haitians. Many people recognized her photo on the sleeve, some knew her by name right away and others needed a little help to find the answer. The bits and pieces of conversation had a lot in common like the song Snowbird, Anne’s barefoot performances, her anorexic daughter, her failed marriage and her passion for golf.

 

I learned that Anne was a very aware person; she knew going into the music business was high stakes and therefore a crap shoot. She committed to sharing her passion for singing until the walls seemed to squeeze in around her and it was no longer a pleasant experience to go from tour to tour, small town to medium town to big town, here, there and eventually everywhere, including Japan where she had a huge following. Control, hers, had to be at the forefront of her thinking in order to keep ahead of the game. She did a pretty darn good job with multiple albums and an international audience. She feels she kind of overdosed Canadians and that is why she focused a lot of her gig commitments in the United States.  She had a nice long run in Vegas and even though the town was not so desirable, it guaranteed a pretty healthy income and enabled her to stay in one town for longer periods of time.

 

All of her business success was at the expense of her relationship with her two children who grew up feeling alone and lonely, and often abandoned. Her heavy drinking husband became a problem as a father and with a passive, slowly distancing husband-wife relationship, eventually something had to give. It was a slow boiling pot that eventually boiled over, leaving a lot of irreparable scars.  She realizes she can’t go back and do things differently, and is trying her best to be a good mom to her adult children from whom she does need forgiveness. In reading between the lines, I sensed a hint of regret and sadness, and loneliness, in her current life --- hiding in her golf games and delving in name dropping of celebrities with whom she has rubbed shoulders, many of whom are merely public figures at large private or public functions, watering down any hope of developing meaningful, real and committed friendships.

 

I would like to suggest that Anne return to Springfield, Nova Scotia, develop a compound of two-level homes, where her family and close friends can help her get back all that her success in the music industry took away from all of her.

 

 

Left Neglected

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Title:  Left Neglected

Author: Lisa Genova

 

A good friend of mine lent me this book and I am so glad she did. As you know, I am not much of a reader since I read all day at the office and my brain enjoys the other delicacies of life during its out of work moments and days. Nevertheless, I was curious about her synopsis of the book and she succeeded in getting me to read this one.

 

When a husband and wife, married for seven years, only have time for the occasional peck on the cheek – it is a sure sign that something in life is wrong. This book focuses on the busy-ness of family lives when both parents are professionals and overly consumed in their work. They are incredibly organized in all aspects of life’s responsibilities but they enjoy no respite, no rest, no respect for themselves or each other’s personal needs. The story is a relentless human drama that takes a turn at the drop of a dime and then becomes a relentless drama of another kind. The plot is both tiring and scary, and leaves the reader dumbfounded and numb.

 

The protagonist goes from a life overshadowed by makeup and chaos, fearless and feeling-less, noisy and distracted, to one of shackles and brakes, rendering her hapless and helpless and hopeless, depressed and demoralized, and totally numb about starting over.

 

This story is a reality check for workaholics and those obsessed with the electronic age – pushing themselves to be more ‘out there’ than where they should be which is close to home base, literally and figuratively, for their good, the good of the marriage and the good of the family.

 

This book was an eye opener for me and if my overview intrigues you, I recommend you find a copy and read it too.

 

Margaret Trudeau: Changing My Mind

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Reading Margaret Trudeau's new book, Changing My Mind, has helped me to better understand a friend who has just been diagnozed with severe Depression and quite possibly BiPolar Disorder; her mind and emotions are distracted, tormented and confused by other forces and past wrongs that she suppressed or repressed. She tried for nearly 30 years to run away from her reality by getting married, having kids, getting immersed in a busy work life, mingling with the rich, acting different roles, avoiding getting too close and personal with anyone, being cold and distant, all bringing chaos to her life and the lives of those around her. It is one day at a time for all of us – the sick and the healthy -- the more we talk about mental illness, write about it and read about it, the more hope there will be that the afflicted and their loved ones will rise again to see brighter days. Thank you, Margaret, for sharing. 

 

Passages I tagged

 

Page 46: I took perverse pleasure in leading a double life, tricking my friends to think I was doing one thing, while I was actually doing another.

Page 97: I reflected on the hopelessness and bleakness of my prospects. … no possibility of joy in sight

Page 110: Depression is suppressed anger; I was chewed and then spat out

Page 118:  The problem is this: I am an actress and when I have to, I perform

Page 127: A need to escape the unhappiness of my life

Page 161: With mania comes poor judgment and a drive to live out fantasies

Page 168: I learned how to put on a mask

Page 188: I made fewer and fewer efforts to contact anyone who cared

Page 224: I began to look for people to blame for my unhappiness

Page 225: In your darkest hour, she once told someone suffering from bipolar disorder, you will find a tiny shaft of light, in the form of love and compassion; I urged her to reach out for that light; I know that now but did not know it then.

Page 242:  My mask was holding fine but I was not alright

Page 262: I got good at pretending all was well .. I was always able to put on a convincing act

Page 276: Stuck in a meaningless life; pretending to be someone you are not

Page 278: Hard to feel despair or elation

Page 290: A person with a mental illness does not have the ability to understand what’s going on or to explain oneself

Page 290: I realized I had to learn to live with sadness; sadness and disappointment are facts of life

Page 301: I realized how important this moment of recognition was

Page 302: In depression, it is hard to think beyond the step you are at.

Page 306: I was learning not to dramatically exit a room and slam the door when angry or frustrated, or when someone wanted to discuss something sensitive, but to stop, consider, actually listen and deal with it maturely and honestly. Air emotions without fear.  

Page 348: The love of others is no match for the illness

Page 350: Avoidance becomes a deeply engrained habit