Brand building through storytelling

Letters from Rona (blog)

I used to think of my blog as letters to friends I had yet to discover. For well over five years I posted about whatever captured my attention, from the art of condolence notes to the joys of pigging out at a Florida diner where nothing on the menu would pass muster with your cardiologist. I’m no longer blogging or moderating virtual conversations. I just couldn’t keep up the pace. But I have kept some friends I made along the way. Maybe you’re one I haven’t yet met.

This archive is designed for reading, so the only comments you’ll see are the ones that particularly touched, enlightened or surprising. If you have thoughts to share about anything you find, I’d love to hear from you: rona@ronamaynard.com.



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2015

2014

  • February 24, 2014 : My life with Holiday Inn
    When I was 20 and knew nothing about customer service, I found a summer job taking reservations for Holiday Inn. I had to keep customers happy while learning a computerized system called Holidex--so vast and powerful, only armies had anything to rival it. The job bored me at the time but what it taught me about building a brand would resonate for years to come.
  • February 12, 2014 : Facebook friends are my portable community
    The only downside of a month in Florida is missing the places and faces that give me a sense of belonging in Toronto. By the end of week three, I'm usually missing the icy streets of home. This year has been different thanks to the online places and faces I find every day at Facebook..
  • January 15, 2014 : Not just deathbed selfies: the passion of blogger Lisa Adams
    I sometimes wonder how much I'd share if I were diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Would I withdraw and reflect, as a friend of mine chose to do in her last months? Or go public with the most painful details, like blogger Lisa Adams? I do know this: the choice should be mine.
  • January 13, 2014 : There’s no day without a special moment–or three
    While climbing out of the mental chasm known as depression, I started a new nightly ritual: gratitude I thanked whatever gods there be for the best moment of my day. Something wonderful always came to mind--and a couple more after that. To my amazement, there was no such thing as a day without sparks of joy.
  • January 6, 2014 : A retail icon’s death is like a death in the family
    I won't miss the Sears flagship store in Toronto's Eaton Centre. Whatever I last bought there, I can buy it faster somewhere else. But Sears is going down where Eaton's died and I come from a line of Eaton's loyalists. So I dropped in to check out the liquidation sale as if it were an ancestral grave site.

2013

  • December 27, 2013 : Taming the Christmas turkey
    I am married to a man who would say of every bird I'd ever roasted, "It's pretty good, but it's not as good as your mother's." My late mother, bless her baster, was renowned for the crispy golden skin on her birds (when she died, we gave out her roast chicken recipe at the funeral). I thought I'd given up on roast poultry, but guests were coming for Christmas. Time to take another shot at crispy skin!
  • November 27, 2013 : My pal the produce vendor
    She's not just someone who sells me stuff. She'll sell me half a bunch of cilantro, search the back for a fresher bunch of chard. And she always knocks a little off the price. I like to think I'm her favorite customer. But of course if you shop at her stall, you'd be quick to disagree.
  • November 14, 2013 : Behind every dangerously messed up man there’s a vulnerable woman
  • September 26, 2013 : Reconnecting with the girl I used to be
    When I was a 19-year-old virgin, I sold an opinion piece to Seventeen magazine called "Virginity is an Outmoded Ideal." I quickly forgot all about it, preoccupied with sexual follies. But one young reader saved my essay--and when she grew up, she shared it with her students. Thank you, Cheryl Kreiser, for making the effort to track me down.
  • September 7, 2013 : Swept away by the artistic rapture of Patti Smith
    I'd known Patti Smith as a visual artist of rare delicacy and as a precise, truth-telling memoirist. Then I lucked into a front-row ticket to her concert at Massey Hall, which she transformed into the First Dionysian Church of the Imagination. Come back soon, Patti. I'm hooked.
  • August 30, 2013 : Sale shoppers deserve great service too
    Just because you stick to the sale racks doesn't mean your business doesn't count. Jean gets that. And next time I'm in the market for a splurge at full price, you can bet I'll be paying her a visit.
  • April 16, 2013 : My 50 years with Robert Frost
    You couldn't go through school in New Hampshire, my home state, without being steeped in Robert Frost. Our teachers cast him as a sage in overalls, a fantasy grandfather opening his pasture and his barn to kids like us. I always sensed there was a whole lot more to the elusive and sardonic Frost, which is why I read him to this day. If "Birches" is read at my funeral and the afterlife turns out to exist, you can bet that I'll be looking down yelling, "Hey, I just had another insight on this poem!"
  • April 5, 2013 : Raising a ruckus at the Norton Simon Museum
    Just because older women are not seen doesn't mean we can't be heard. That's what I learned at the Norton Simon Museum, a justly renowned treasure house where a less-than-friendly welcome threatened to drain the joy from our visit.
  • February 3, 2013 : American road trips I have known and loved
    Holding my breath on the hairpin turns of the Mount Washington Auto Road, eating pie at Flora and Ella's, discovering architectural treasures in tiny Spring Green Wisconsin and other unforgettable moments in my life as a late-blooming road tripper.
  • January 5, 2013 : Coming up: the great American art road trip
    When it became clear that my husband's bum knee had irreversibly ended our hiking vacations, we began to cast about for alternatives. Now we're planning an art road trip that gives us a shot at 30 museums in five weeks. First stop: the Detroit Institute of Arts, a favourite of ours for the spectacular mural cycle by Diego Rivera.

2012

  • December 31, 2013 : The mystery of the burnt-toast smell
    Have you ever smelled burnt toast when nobody's been anywhere near the toaster? Neither had I until it woke me up in the pre-dawn hours. I told myself that buildings contain many mysteries. Turns out the brain does, too.
  • April 9, 2012 : Godless but grateful with the Reverend Al Green
  • April 6, 2012 : The day Sherri Finkbine changed history
    On August 5, 1962, not long before my thirteenth birthday, two women made headlines around the world. Marilyn Monroe was found dead of an overdose. And a working mother from Arizona, Sherri Finkbine, arrived in Sweden for the abortion denied her at home. She had taken thalidomide, the drug responsible for thousands of devastating birth defects.
  • February 5, 2012 : By phone or Facebook, an unforgettable friendship
    I'd been meaning to call her for weeks, if not months. Perhaps she'd been meaning to call me, too. It had been more than 35 years since we talked on the phone every day with that craving for connection known only to teenage best friends. In those days I could tie up the family phone for hours--or until my parents finally lost patience--because nothing mattered more than consoling Anne through her latest crisis of the heart. As adult women, we mostly connected through Facebook. Then Facebook informed me that her marriage was over.

2011

  • August 10, 2011 : The prime of Diana Nyad
    I'd been counting on Diana Nyad to prove that you're never too old to score the success of a lifetime. Instead she proved that there's more to success than achieving the vision in her head. She will never swim from Cuba to Key West, but she did her absolute best and I'll remember her grit next time I shy away from a daunting goal.
  • July 31, 2011 : In memory of Frank Milliken, 1924-2011
    I have just spent a week exploring Rome, where every ancient ruin got me wondering, "What would Mr. Milliken say about this?" Frank Milliken, who taught me Latin in Durham, N.H., loved all things Roman the way Julia Child loved sweet butter and Keith Richards loves the blues--with the passion of a convert whose delight becomes a calling. What stories he'd have told about the obelisks plundered from Egypt, the ruined theatre where Caesar met his bloody death on the Ides of March. I suspect our local tour guide had a better handle on the facts, which archeologists are still unearthing. But Mr. Milliken would have told more jokes. He favoured groan-worthy puns, delivered deadpan to work the contrast between his grave demeanour--dark suits, horn-rimmed glasses--and his inner scamp.
  • July 24, 2011 : Photoplay, Liz Taylor and me
    Back when Elizabeth Taylor was the world's most scandalous woman, I followed her adventures on the pretext of shopping with my mother. Every supermarket sold Photoplay, and every issue exuded the forbidden scent of lust as only home-wrecking, violet-eyed Liz could inspire it. While my mother filled her cart with egg noodles and cream of mushroom soup, I hung out at the newsstand, drinking in the gossip.
  • July 12, 2011 : Farewell to my halter-top years
  • July 9, 2011 : How Betty Ford changed the world
    When I was growing up in the days of crinolines and penny loafers, every girl learned three things about breasts. They were not a fitting subject for polite conversation. They drove men wild with desire (hence their prominent display in the kind of magazine not found on anyone's coffee table). They made you a woman, which meant that if you lost a breast to a certain unmentionable disease, you were not a woman anymore. We all heard stories about women who would not show a breast lump to their doctor until cancer had them in a death grip. One woman changed that--former First Lady Betty Ford, who died yesterday at 93.
  • July 5, 2011 : The first boy who loved me
    He was black, I was white. It was 1965 and more than half the states in the union still had laws on the books against inter-racial marriage. Not quite 16, I thought I could rise above the temper of those times.
  • June 27, 2011 : My first mentor
    Every child needs a wise adult friend who knows how to listen--and when to speak up. I learned that a lifetime ago, hanging out in the pokiest of basement apartments with my mother's straight-talking tenant.
  • January 25, 2011 : Writing machines I have known and loved
    The only interactive exhibit at Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta has no touch screen, flashing lights or sound effects. It sits atop a humble wooden desk, as chunky as my grandmother's lace-up oxfords and as solid as her corseted bosom. Its button-size keys demand a firm touch, and its ribbon could use a change. On a manual typewriter like this one, Atlanta's most celebrated daughter composed the 1000-plus pages of Gone With the Wind. When I stopped by one recent Friday morning, the machine had captivated two teenage girls who were pondering the mysteries of this thing called a carriage. A sign on the wall explained how to push it.
  • January 8, 2011 : A mother, a daughter and a bargain basement
    My mother never managed to teach me how to roll out pie crust or sew in a zipper, but thanks to her I can spot the bargains at a post-Christmas sale and beat the crowd to the only 80-percent-off sweater in a certain shade of pink---one that shows up in stores about as often as a cockatoo lands in your back yard. She knew just the right place to train me---Filene's legendary basement.
  • January 6, 2011 : My bed bug war
    For more than a year I'd been reading news stories on the so-called "bed bug crisis" that had Torontonians pitching their mattresses, bagging their clothes, avoiding their friends and scratching an omnipresent, crazy-making itch. I'd dismissed those reports as hysterical distractions from real urban crises. Then, one week before moving day, my cleaning lady squished a tiny brown bug that had been lurking in our sheets. Out spurted blood. Ours.

2010

  • December 18, 2010 : How I learned that I can finally dance
    When I joined a dance class at my gym, I worried about messing up. At least no one could see me tripping over my feet---no one, that is, except my sisters in klutziness (not a Ginger Rogers in the bunch). Then the other day we attracted an audience: three cleaning ladies who had downed their squeegee bottles to watch us strut our stuff.
  • November 25, 2010 : Adventures in customer disservice
    Among the unsung rewards of growing older is the confidence to voice my displeasure--emphatically, insistently and sometimes loudly enough to turn heads---when my legitimate needs go ignored by those whose job it is to serve their customers.
  • November 21, 2010 : My name is Rona and I am an estrogen addict
    I just ran into a 50-something colleague, normally a take-charge sort, who confessed to soul-destroying frazzlement: emotional meltdowns, scrambled thoughts, night sweats that ravaged her sleep. She was tempted to start taking hormones, but had been spooked by another onslaught of scare-mongering headlines. This woman has vanquished severe depression that might come galloping back if she lets herself get run down. "Take the pills!" I said. "I've been on them for 15 years and when I'm not on them, you wouldn't want to know me."
  • November 17, 2010 : The old and the restless: on the move again
    "I just read your article on downsizing," said my friend Karen. "Are you loving that funky loft?" Funny she should ask. Because you see, we're upsizing now. Or, as my husband prefers to put it, "semi-re-upsizing."
  • November 3, 2010 : Mastectomy in 1811: an unforgettable breast cancer memoir
    It's been 199 years since a now-obscure English novelist, Fanny Burney, endured a harrowing mastectomy, performed in her own bedroom with nothing but a wine cordial to blunt the pain. Nine months passed before she could speak of the surgery to anyone; the thought of it made her ill. Then she summoned the courage to describe---and relive---the whole ordeal in a letter to her sister that captures not only the forgotten suffering of countless generations of women but the power of memoir to console even as it terrifies. What Fanny had to face has more in common with slasher movies than with modern surgery, yet through it all she remained absolutely, unshakeably herself.
  • October 29, 2010 : What it really takes to empty the nest
    My son was in his mid-20s, with a desirable job and a couple of direct reports, when he packed his briefcase for his first business trip and realized as the limo pulled up at our door that something essential might be missing. If he'd been living in his own place and not in the bedroom to ours, I would not have heard the signs of trouble: first much pacing and slamming of drawers, then the sheepish question "Mom, do I need a passport to fly to the U.S.?"
  • October 27, 2010 : When depression comes to work
    Perhaps it's partly because I never had a daughter that the greatest joy I found in corporate life was mentoring gifted young women who today are leaders in their field. Then there's the protegee I will call Ellen. Her blazing intellect, zest for challenge and seemingly unquenchable energy made her the go-to person for the toughest projects---until the light went out of her smile. What looked at first like a bad day became a sour week and then a spiritless month in which Ellen rarely emerged from her office. She kept the door closed and the window covered with paper. When she started missing her deadlines, I had no choice but to confront her. She admitted that while we all thought she was working, she'd been staring at her computer screen, unable to write or even read. Depression had paralyzed my star employee.
  • October 10, 2010 : The most important thing my mother never told me
    Twenty-one years ago almost to the day, my mother died without telling me the one thing I most longed to hear. Her silence on a painful subject continued to trouble me, like a bum knee that aches in cold weather. When a wise stranger proposed that I write her a letter, I pooh-poohed the idea (nothing new about letters to the dead). It turned out that I spoke too soon.
  • September 28, 2010 : The lost girl on my mind
    In my only memory of Pamela Mason, we're cooking partners in Mrs. Boynton's eighth-grade Home Ec class. Pam and her girlfriend get busy with the wooden spoons while I stare out the window and wait for the bell to ring. Pam takes a dim view of my indolence. She mutters to her less assertive friend, in a tone calculated to get my attention, "All Rona knows is Shakespeare!"
  • September 24, 2010 : As old habits die, new projects bloom
    I've always thought of myself as a creature of habit. Every summer, a new pair of vaguely Roman-looking sandals from Mephisto (perferably silver). Every Christmas morning, fruit salad and frittata while the boys' choir at King's College, Cambridge sings "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (North American choirs won't do; I must have English accents and a seventeenth-century organ). Up by seven, in bed by 10:30, two Pilates classes every week plus a workout with a merciless trainer. I never set my iPod to shuffle; I don't want surprises from a trove of thousands of songs. I want to hear "Torn and Frayed" one more time.
  • August 30, 2010 : One car, two girlfriends, a weekend of memories
    If you do not drive and haven't hitchhiked since Jim Morrison was singing "Light My Fire," a trip to Durham, New Hampshire presents a logistical conundrum. When my school held a reunion in Durham, two of us had to ask, "Who will drive me there?" The other one is blind. Me, I'm just phobic. I may not have the best excuse for breaking into a sweat at the thought of driving, but I do have the best, wittiest and most altogether delightful chauffeur any vehicularly challenged person could hope for: my friend Anne, the confidante of my mostly bleak adolescence.
  • August 25, 2010 : Back to the house that used to be mine
    Every storied house deserves a name. Think Astor Court, scene of Chelsea Clinton's wedding. Or Sissinghurst Castle, home of one of Britain's most celebrated gardens. Or Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's cantilevered masterpiece in the leafy depths of a nature reserve. Then there's Maynard Hall, a name unheard-of even by the people who own it---a cheerful, 30-something couple who answered my knock at their door one recent weekend, just as they were rallying four kids to head off somewhere.
  • August 10, 2010 : My ballerina dream fulfilled
    Almost 50 years after I hung up my one and only pair of pointe shoes, I seized my chance to wear a real Russian tutu---a gloriously frothy creation with more layers of silk tulle than there are petals in a bouquet of peonies. "Hey, I can dance!" I exclaimed. I hadn't bargained on the curtsey. Real ballerinas drop to the floor and I'm a real sexagenarian.
  • August 5, 2010 : What’s in a nickname
    Once upon a time, when Expo 67 was welcoming the world and Sergeant Pepper topped the charts, I willingly answered to a nickname. This would amaze everyone who's been met with a frosty stare for addressing me as anything other than Rona. To be honest, I'm amazed myself, but only because I'd forgotten that a high school friend used to call me...oh, do I dare tell you?
  • August 2, 2010 : Missing John Callahan, warts and all
    It's been years since I discovered the black, ruthless wit of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. I admired him for savaging the myth of disability as both pitiful and ennobling. His death had me combing the Internet for stories of his life and forgotten snippets of his gleefully outrageous art. That's when I discovered just how far this man would go to reveal his broken places in print. As a woman, I shuddered. But I'm still a fan. Here's why.
  • August 1, 2010 : Rejoining my hometown tribe
    I didn't admit to an attack of nerves the week before my school reunion. But there had to be a reason why I lay awake night after night, my brain on high alert.
  • July 28, 2010 : Love, death and a blueberry patch
    In Henniker, N. H. (population less than 5,000), you can't order sushi, watch Toy Story 3 or buy gladiator sandals with platform heels. But this time of the year, if you know where to look, you can pick enough unsprayed, explosively flavourful blueberries to fill any number of pies, and you won't pay a cent for the privilege. Whoever owns the berry patch can no longer be bothered to charge the pickers who tramp through a tangle of weeds to claim a share of the bounty. My niece Audrey, who lives nearby, is a picker so keen, she drives around with her gear at the ready.
  • July 20, 2010 : I lost it on the road
    I had just put in my request for a table at the Penny Cluse Cafe, which serves the best breakfast in Burlington, Vt. and among the best we've enjoyed in more than 30 years of travel, when I looked at my right wrist and saw that my bracelet was missing. Not just any bracelet but a gift from my husband---a wide yet nearly weightless band of linked chrome beads that draped like silk on my skin.
  • July 14, 2010 : Please read to me
    The last time anyone read to me, I might have been leaning on my elbows at a scratched wooden desk, waiting for Mrs. Sawyer to begin another chapter of Beezus and Ramona. A hush descended on 30-odd fractious kids like a snowfall worthy of a Christmas card. At story time Kevin Donahue forgot to call me "Doughnut." I forgot about my struggle with long division. The whole class forgot about who'd been invited to the birthday party of the hour and who'd been left off the list. One question united us all: what sort of mischief would those Quimby sisters make next?
  • July 9, 2010 : When Ben and Jerry still had their screen door
    The last time I tasted Ben & Jerry's, it came in a tub from my local supermarket and tasted of a corporate freezer. But once upon a time it was dessert nirvana. And the only place you could buy it was a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont, where my husband and I launched an ice cream odyssey that continues to this day.
  • July 4, 2010 : For love of ice cream: a personal history
    Back in the prime of Father Knows Best, when Betty Crocker ruled the kitchen book shelf and TV ads extolled the health-giving properties of Wonder Bread, I thought the last word in ice cream could be had at Howard Johnson's in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. HoJo's was a thriving chain then, renowned both for the orange roofs of its faux colonial restaurants and for 28 flavours of ice cream served with a special scoop, so that your treat perched precariously atop its cone like an outsize tutu on a pear-shaped ballerina.
  • June 28, 2010 : Sometimes you have to answer a call from your past
    I hadn't planned on returning this August to the home town I couldn't wait to leave. It seemed I had more urgent things to do than schlep by plane and bus to Durham, New Hampshire, where a gaggle of far-flung alumni from my high school---many of them strangers to each other and just about all them strangers to me---were convening to honour Eleanor and Frank Milliken, two wise and generous-hearted teachers who gave the best part of their careers to our collective intellectual development.
  • June 22, 2010 : God the poet
    Once upon a time, in the grip of a fever, I dreamed God spoke to me. Man, what a way with words! Imagine Shakespeare, Donne and all the other great poets from a bygone age, piped through an organ the size of Mount Everest. I awoke in a rapture, groping for a pen. But all I could remember was this: whatever God had said, he said it in iambic pentameter. Yes, the God of my dream was male---a mighty patriarch with a flowing white beard and the poetic chops to get the heavens, the earth and the oceans doing the boogaloo.
  • June 17, 2010 : The subject was English, the lesson was all about life
    Among the kids in my high school it was generally agreed that a certain English teacher made a fitting target for the casual cruelty that so often passes for teenage humour. We made fun of her hair, a frizzy cloud of indeterminate colour. We rolled our eyes at her makeup, a clownish blob of rouge on each thickly powdered cheek and a slash of too-bright lipstick that she seemed to have applied in the dark. We wondered where on earth she got those tubular knit dresses she favoured---and was known to put on backwards, as if she'd been distracted mid-toilette by an insight into Hamlet that she couldn't wait to share with her equally distractible students, dreaming of love, sex and beer. What defied mockery was our teacher's love for her subject and for us.
  • June 15, 2010 : Bracing thoughts from smart people
    Once upon a time, many haircuts and compacts ago, I wanted nothing more than beauty. These days what I'm after is wisdom. I don't know of any blow dry for the mind, any light-reflecting product to cover blemishes of the soul. But illuminating thoughts are out there for the taking---as you'll see from these gems I found while reading. While I can't claim they've made me any wiser, they've affirmed my faith in the existence of wisdom. And that's a pretty good start.
  • June 7, 2010 : Even icons have to know when to quit
    I expected to remember Helen Thomas, the legendary White House correspondent who retired this week at 89 after holding presidents to account for close to half a century, as a model for my own old age---scrappy, tenacious and relentlessly committed to her craft. "I think I'll work all my life," she once said. "When you're having fun, why stop having fun?" Why, indeed.
  • June 4, 2010 : Twitter reminds me of high school. And yet…
    When I first ventured onto Twitter at the urging of more cyber-savvy friends, I thought I'd died and gone to that accursed nether region of hell that is politely known as high school. Then I found some good reasons to stick around.
  • May 28, 2010 : Her shoes were made for walking
    After my mother died, I found at the bottom of a closet the scuffed, leather walking shoes in which, just the previous summer, she had walked six miles a day. They lay where she had kicked them after an ordinary ramble that turned out to be her last. Dusty laces trailing, they curled against each other like sleeping puppies that might wake at any minute and hurl themselves at the door in an ecstasy of eagerness. They still held the shape of her toes.
  • May 23, 2010 : Why Pilates reminds me of writing
    Less than two hours from now I will be lying on an instrument of exquisite torture with my quivering legs upraised in a crude approximation of straightness, my arms beating like the wings of a mangled bird and my lower abs screaming for mercy. At the very thought of this posture I can feel the sweat between my thighs (which strain for tightness but never achieve it) and a wicked cramp in my right foot (which is supposed to point but instead flops about like a flag of surrender). I sometimes doubt if I'll ever get the hang of Pilates. But so help me, I persist.
  • May 18, 2010 : Women, get ready. The modern urban husband is a furniture maven
    "I'm so over your desk," my son said with a faintly dismissive look at the desk where I'm sitting right now. And a fine desk it is: keyboard tray, two drawers, made right here in Canada, not in some Third World sweatshop. He had planned to buy one just like it for the house he and my daughter-in-law have bought. Now he covets a designer desk with neither keyboard tray nor drawers. Oh, well. These days no self-respecting husband takes decor direction from his mother---or his wife, for that matter. There's something about owning a marital home that transforms the modern male from a schlepper with a TV and a plywood futon to a furniture maven whose domestic visions feature Barcelona chairs and dish racks that double as countertop sculptures
  • May 18, 2010 : Outsider at a gabfest for the deaf
    On my way to buy yogurt and cold cuts at Metro, I happened on a celebration of the human urge to connect---several hundred deaf people of all ages, ethnicities and style sensibilities, engaged in a gabfest so consumingly joyous, I couldn't quite suppress a stab of envy. They were investing not just flying fingers but all four limbs in the art of conversation. They punctuated anecdotes with a repertoire of expressions that captured every note on the emotional scale. Each one of these people seemed fully absorbed in the exchange at hand---no looking over a companion's shoulder to check out more promising social options. So I felt free to amble among them and stare in an invisible, contemplative way that felt more respectful than rude.
  • May 11, 2010 : Into any healthy life a cane can tap
    While scanning a dark movie theatre in search of my husband's face, I spotted the bright chrome glint of the cane that he was waving in my direction like a banner. A cane, we have lately discovered, has uses undreamed-of by those who have no call for one. It can flick light switches, press elevator buttons and open California shutters. In saucy hands it can tickle a spouse's bum.
  • May 5, 2010 : When Keaton and Pacino were my neighbours and in love
    Do you ever visit open houses just to peer into the private lives of your fellow humans? Me too. That's how I stepped into the graciously proportioned house where Diane Keaton briefly lived with Al Pacino, just around the corner from the modest brick semi where my family was living at the time.
  • May 5, 2010 : Readers honour their mothers with a bouquet of memories
    My mother taught me to love the stories at the heart of every life. Now that she's no longer around to meet me for a Mother's Day lunch, her stand-in is the stories we lived together. It's partly in tribute to her that I've created a forum on this website, the mother/daughter gallery, where readers can post defining memories of the women who formed them and the girls they are guiding into adulthood. If you haven't toured the gallery, what better time than Mother's Day? Read on for a preview of the preview of the colourful, unforgettable and sometimes maddeningly complicated characters you'll meet. But don't stop there. You too have a mother/daughter story, and this is the place to share it.
  • May 3, 2010 : Leaky ceilings I have owned and loved
    We were dressing for a party while a summer storm drenched the city. Trees swayed and creaked in the wind; rain lashed the bedroom windows. It pelted down with such noisy, wall-beating force, I could have sworn someone was draining a bathtub on the third floor, where no tub had ever existed. "What a stinker!" I said to my husband as I clipped my favourite earrings into place. "Couldn't you swear you were standing in the middle of that rain?"
  • April 18, 2010 : Walking and talking in Victoria
    Until this morning I didn't know anemones from amaryllis and never even heard of camas, but I have the good fortune to be in Victoria as spring gardens come into their own, and to be walking its leafy streets with my hostess and friend Maxine, who has ensured that I don't miss the last Easter lilies or the Monet intensity of massed bluebells seen from afar. We've mostly been talking about serious things: the eternal complications of family, the vulnerability of loved ones we once trusted would always be part of our world. One minute we're pondering about some devastating illness or other. The next minute it's "Look at those rhodos!"
  • April 14, 2010 : Fired for being female: a post-feminist takes up the cause
    Assignment: delve into a $12 million sex discrimination case for Toronto Life magazine. Writer: young woman with no agenda or interest in gender disparity. Result: a feminist conversion and a story that says what older women with big jobs have been saying for years over a second glass of wine. However the case unfolds, that's news.
  • April 9, 2010 : The etiquette of asking for career advice
    No matter what field you're in or how accomplished you are, there will be times when you find yourself perplexed by a challenge you've never faced before. So you turn to a trustworthy pro with the contacts or the know-how to point you in the right direction. A person like my friend Leslie, a busy self-employed consultant who gets a buzz from sharing what she's learned.
  • April 7, 2010 : No extramarital affairs for me
    "I love the word 'affair'," said a friend who's had many more illicit escapades than I will ever know. She had just made her way, with a walker and great deliberation, to the favourite armchair where she sat draped in white terrycloth. She looked through me as if to the scene of some long-ago tryst. Then she looked straight at me with a smile that was equal parts mischief and maternal concern. "You should have an affair," she announced.
  • April 2, 2010 : Confessions of an electricity junkie
    I dismissed Earth Hour as an empty symbolic gesture. Why sit for an hour in the dark when the real challenge is breaking wasteful habits like running the washer for a single pair of jeans? I figured I would break those habits---someday. Then my home lost power for more than 15 hours. And I learned how emotionally dependent I've become on electricity at my command.
  • March 29, 2010 : My midlife brain is an overstuffed attic
    When I was a child, my memory was like a kid's closet---I could pretty much eyeball the works. Now it's a crazy jumble of milestones that no one else alive remembers (the time, to the minute, of my sister's birth in 1953) and stuff you'd think no reasonable person could remember (jingles for defunct cleaning products).
  • March 24, 2010 : Lost: my hypochondria habit
    Sometime in her 50s my mother happened on a dusty box of Tampax that she'd tucked under the bathroom sink God knows when and thought to herself with no small degree of puzzlement, "Hmm, it's been eons since I had any call for one of those." If there's a gene for a menopause from heaven, the kind that tiptoes in unnoticed, she didn't pass it on to me. Yet in midlife I too lost a part of my psychic self while thinking of more important things. I used to be one of those people who are always fretting over some imagined illness or other. I figured I was stuck with the hypochondria habit that had dogged my steps like a persistent panhandler with a fake hard-luck story. Then one day I turned around and it had vanished.
  • March 19, 2010 : It’s no one’s fault, it’s just family ecology
    So there you are, a grownup with at least a couple of the following: job, mortgage, vet bills, kid. You have friends who laugh at your jokes, colleagues who ask your advice and may even think of you as their mentor. You also have a family. And when you're with them, you're not your usual assured adult self. You revert to the child you used to be as if pulled by invisible hands. At least you're not playing this game by yourself---your siblings know all the moves and share your wild delusion that someone can win this contest.
  • March 18, 2010 : Nothing like customer service to put the fun back in shopping
    It's my firm conviction that no one should call me "Sweetie" who has never shared my bed or at least a life-changing confidence, but I make an exception for Sarah, who owns one of the few stores around where it's still fun to shop. Sarah sells every kitchen gadget you can possibly imagine, plus hundreds of other mysterious gizmos you had no idea you needed---until she explains, with the enthusiasm of a six-year-old and the authority of Oprah, how a piece of cleverly engineered plastic saved her all kinds of time and trouble.
  • March 12, 2010 : My brief career as an expert on gender-neutral language
    It's been seventeen years since a piece of my prose inspired a week or so of headline-making fury. A Toronto Sun columnist accused me of "pathetic, whining, whacko, feminist claptrap." A radio host denounced my "evil, vile pamphlet dripping with slime." Irate callers lambasted the Ontario Women's Directorate for having the temerity to publish a 35-page booklet on non-sexist language, anonymously written by me. I've never felt more reviled---or less visible. I would read the morning paper in my bathrobe, wondering what new slurs were coming my way from people who had no idea I existed.
  • March 9, 2010 : And baby makes mayhem
    There are moments in the life of every married couple when one spouse agrees to accept what the other urgently desires. To stay married is to learn both parts in this dance. But some compromises exact a devastating price. Zooey and Adam, a Canadian movie made for peanuts with a hand-held camera, pulled me inside an extreme marital dilemma and let me watch, squirming, as the anguish unspooled.
  • March 5, 2010 : The not-so-funny business of making people laugh
    Back when lunching with writers was part of my job, I booked a date with a humorist beloved across the land for her ability to crack people up. I was expecting to feast on wit. As it happened, I've met cabbies with more one-liners and accountants with less gravitas.
  • March 1, 2010 : The inspiration of everyday heroes
    When a woman of my acquaintance just happened to mention that she'd soon be boarding a plane for Argentina, I pictured her drinking malbec and learning the tango. "Lucky you!" I said. "You're going to love Buenos Aires!" Turned out she was giving it a miss. She was bound for the wilds of Patagonia, where she and three teammates would tackle a 600 km adventure race known all over the world for its rigour.
  • February 28, 2010 : Cell-phone follies
    I've been told more than once, by more than one exasperated person, that my cell phone habits leave much to be desired. "You must have called during Pilates," I explain. Or "The battery was out of juice." Or "The phone was buried at the bottom of my purse and I couldn't fish it out in time." My most annoying answer seems to be "You called? The traffic must have drowned out the ring tone."
  • February 24, 2010 : My fridge runneth over
    There's a door to my soul that I'd prefer you didn't open. Some days I can hardly bear to open it myself. I'd rather not confront my unruly psyche. Fears, obsessions, misbegotten dreams...it's all on display, although exposing the most shameful excesses would take some serious and possibly odiferous digging. But at least I'm not alone. Do you have a fridge, dear reader? Then chances are you're harbouring a few slimy secrets of your own.
  • February 16, 2010 : A western omelet and a side of half-baked creationism
    I used to think that to experience a totally foreign culture, I would need a phrase book and an intercontinental flight. Turns out all it really takes is a road trip through the far southern reaches of my native land, the U.S.A.
  • February 9, 2010 : Not the favourite child
    An old friend of my mother's was refreshing my teacup when she said, looking wistful, "It must have been hard for you, knowing that your sister was her favourite." So it was at the time, and the memory of early slights dies hard. But I've realized not being the family darling has at least one distinct advantage.
  • February 5, 2010 : Spelling mistakes and second chances
    My husband was perusing these virtual letters when he told me, not for the first time, "You need a good copy editor." These would once have been fighting words. Unlike my husband, I was once a copy editor. The craft requires unflinching devotion to the minute, eye-glazing details that no one ever notices except when they've been bungled.
  • February 4, 2010 : The waitress who was glad we came
    I was not at all pleased to be dining at the Madison Bistro in desolate downtown Toledo after a long winter day's drive from Chattanooga. Hungry and peevish, we'd picked this combination bar/greasy spoon from a list offered up by our dashboard concierge, otherwise known as the nav system. Bistro, to me, says comfort food in the Julia Child tradition---none of which appeared on the menu. But there's a lot more to comfort than what's on the plate, as I was about to discover.
  • February 2, 2010 : Seven reasons to love coming home
    Much as I've enjoyed my stay in sunny and friendly Sarasota, I'm ready to return to the rough-edged reality of winter-locked Toronto, where strangers not only won't say hello, they might snarl if they notice you smiling in their direction. What can I tell you? It's home. Here are seven home comforts I've been missing.
  • January 30, 2010 : Pigging out in St. Petersburg
    Fernando Botero, whose paintings we viewed the other day at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, depicted all his human subjects as decidedly porcine and gave even the crucified Jesus multiple chins. So it was fitting that we stopped for lunch en route at Skyway Jack's, the local shrine to all things piggy: sausage gravy, pork chops, pork brains, bacon or any combination of the above, served with home fries redolent of bacon grease.
  • January 29, 2010 : Where I tucked that post about Holden Caulfield
    Have you been scouring this site for my post about rereading The Catcher in the Rye after more than 40 years? Did you think I destroyed it for some mysterious reason? It's been right here all along, an old post deserving better signposting. Here's where to find it, with apologies to anyone who's feeling understandably frustrated.
  • January 28, 2010 : A head of radicchio for the road
    Think of your must-have consolations for a marathon road trip. Do I hear any takers for coffee? Trail mix? Freshly loaded iPod. Someone's bound to mention chocolate, and Tim-bits must have a champion or two. But I have yet to meet another living soul whose survival kit for a three-day drive---Toronto to Sarasota, in deepest, darkest winter---included a head of radicchio. And damned useful it turned out to be.
  • January 25, 2010 : Choosing death at 37
    It's been a good many years since I was 37 and had just figured out that not only did the state known as happiness actually exist outside sappy greeting cards and over-orchestrated love songs, I had as much right to it as anyone else. My second life---the one that followed my treatment for chronic depression---was in its first astonishing months when I felt as green and tender as a newly unfurled leaf.
  • January 21, 2010 : Kate McGarrigle on my mind
    Kate MGarrigle, the singer/songwriter who died of cancer this week at 63, was so wholly and happily bound up in my mind with her sister and partner Anna that in 30-odd years of loving their luminous harmonies I never bothered to distinguish the two. But any fan can tell that "Matapedia" is a story from Kate's life as daughter, mother and middle-aged woman contemplating mortality. I couldn't get Kate off my mind tonight. And so on the elliptical machine, where I usually pump away to hard-driving stuff, I couldn't stop playing "Matapedia."
  • January 18, 2010 : The truth about impressing your grandchild
    In the eyes of our 13-year-old grandson, who flew home yesterday after four days with us in Sarasota, the full-body scanner is neither an invasion of privacy nor a prudent concession to the new risks of air travel but an incredibly cool and brag-worthy device from which he had the bad luck to be excluded. Which just goes to show that to entertain a grandchild is to learn how little you know about what currently qualifies as cool.
  • January 14, 2010 : The voyeuristic pleasures of grocery tourism
    You can tell quite a lot about a place from what's on offer---or is not---by way of groceries. In the Dordogne countryside, every second driveway sports a hand-lettered sign advertising homemade foie gras, but just try hunting down a liter of milk. In Sarasota, where we've rented a condo next door to Publix, it's a less toothsome story. I've never seen so much packaged food you couldn't pay me to eat.
  • January 11, 2010 : Surprised by travel, for better and worse
    If you're not game for glitches, don't travel: something always goes wrong. Then again, other things go right in unforgettable ways. For instance, our detour to the history-drenched town of Trier, where the most extraordinary sight was the one we didn't expect---the venerated and debated local treasure that skeptics debunk as a medieval hoax and the faithful revere as the holy tunic worn by Jesus the day he was crucified.
  • January 7, 2010 : Wife of the legendary writer and drunk
    The difference between Raymond Carver and your typical bad-boy writer, boozing and bedding his way to premature decrepitude, is that Carver, pushing 40, got scared enough to dry out---a decision that rekindled his sputtering creative fire and made him a grateful man who viewed each day as a gift. His last poems credit a late-blooming love affair with a fellow writer, Tess Gallagher, as the emotional centre of this extraordinary transformation. Yet Carol Sklenicka's new biography clearly shows that if not for the selfless devotion of his first wife Maryann, Carver would have drowned the gifts that made his name.
  • January 4, 2010 : Rewards and wrong turns on the road to Sarasota
    Toronto, where we live, and Sarasota, where we're spending this month, share a bond right now: in both cities the cold has everyone grousing. I headed out today in a cashmere sweater, a wool jacket and leather boots (so much for sandal fantasies). But if I'd been stuck at home, I'd have reached for my long johns and bear-paw gloves. And then, much as I hate to join the weather wusses, I'd have vented with the best of them. Bottom line: I'm in no hurry to get home.

2009

  • December 28, 2009 : A snowbird in spite of myself
    Every year around this time, as winter tightens its grip on Toronto, my husband pointedly draws my attention to the various people we know who've decamped for condos in Florida and won't be back until the crocuses sprout. "I like my routines here at home," I've always said. "Besides, winter in Toronto is pretty tame stuff. Think we've got it bad? You should see winter where I come from!"
  • December 26, 2009 : My top 10 posts of 2009 at ronamaynard.com
    Among the many rewards of this website is the sweet obligation of an annual top 10 list where every slot goes to me. So here they are, my friends---the posts I wouldn't want you to miss because they're the closest to my heart.
  • December 23, 2009 : How my blog posts are born
    What is it with blog posts on blogging? Every time I write one, my blogger friends want to comment, stirring up on online word fest that recalls the distant days when every poet worth his quill wrote poems about poetry and sprinkled his work with allusions to other people's verses on the mysteries of their craft. My recent post "Blogging as spiritual practice" inspired some pretty searching questions about why and what I here. I'd never thought about that before. What a worthy challenge for a blogger!
  • December 22, 2009 : A perplexed feminist at Baby Gap
    What with a baby boomlet in the family and Christmas practically upon us, I've become a reluctant expert in the latest style trends for those of us too tiny and clueless to care how grownups deck us out, provided the clothes don't itch. So I am here to tell you what I've learned from wide-eyed contemplation of eensy-weensy toddler jeans, fashionably distressed like Dad's. Guess who they're for! A boy, of course. Baby Gap and its competitors dress boys like men (or at least like college freshmen) and girls like dolls. The gender divide lives on.
  • December 18, 2009 : Blogging as spiritual practice
    I've never had a mantra or a healing crystal. I bombed at meditation. When someone rhapsodizes about The Secret, I can't keep the disdain off my face. You might think I ought to show some respect for spiritual practices. In fact I do have one. It's called blogging.
  • December 15, 2009 : The year we all were Up in the Air
    I do my best to steer clear of movies so new and hot, you can barely find a seat, but I made an exception for Up in the Air, starring George Clooney as a corporate hit man who flies all over the country firing people with cheerful sang-froid. Although I've never lost a job myself, I'll remember 2009 as the year I lost count of all the notes I sent to friends and colleagues who had just been booted out of theirs.
  • December 10, 2009 : I didn’t want to write about the Montreal Massacre. Here’s why.
    Soon after the Montreal Massacre, Flare magazine asked me for an essay on its meaning to women. There were many who dismissed the lethal shooting spree as the act of a madman. I saw it as the far extreme of attitudes that threaten women in their own neighbourhoods and bedrooms. Yes, even women like me. I didn't want to think about that, but I've learned that the stories I most resist are the ones I most need to tell.
  • December 9, 2009 : Taming my inner Scrooge
    Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Ebenezer Scrooge and his against-all-odds transformation from money-grubbing curmudgeon to beloved friend of one and all. I grew up with the black-and-white movie starring Alastair Sim. I'll most likely break down and see the razzle-dazzle 3-D version starring Jim Carrey. And last Sunday I put on my most festive red jacket for the annual reading of A Christmas Carol at Toronto's Church of the Redeemer, starring me and four other recruits. I was off to confront my inner Scrooge.
  • December 7, 2009 : Save that thought!
    I've been known to save the damnedest things. Extra buttons from shirts that I tossed long ago, pleated pants that never do come back in style, single socks that are well and truly mateless. I've even got a stash of frayed twist ties. But when it comes to wise words, I make no apology. Here, a few recent gleanings I just had to share:
  • December 4, 2009 : Looking for renovation supplies? You’ve got the wrong Rona
    Perhaps I should be flattered that 680 hardware stores bear my name, but I've wearied of convincing baffled guys in trucks that this Rona can't sell them a mitre box (hey, what's a mitre box, anyway?) When it's not a frustrated hobbyist ringing me up, it's a collection agency looking for someone who used to have my number. Or the Yellow Pages trying to sell me an ad.
  • December 2, 2009 : My foreign language problem
    The hardest thing I've done all year is try to learn Mandarin. I blew a bundle on books, CDs, a handy-dandy visual dictionary and private lessons with an infinitely patient woman for whom I dutifully mimicked the exacting lilt of her native tongue with its five mystifying tones. If only I knew what I was saying and whether it would get me to the subway station in Beijing!
  • November 28, 2009 : Ex-lovers: a mid-life meditation
    I was steering my cart through Toronto's most twee greengrocer when a stranger looked up from the organic broccoli and exclaimed in a booming voice, "Hey, I know! You're the gal who used to live with that writer!" He meant J.D. Salinger, no ex-lover of mine but in the past much taken with girls of tender years, one of whom was my sister Joyce.
  • November 27, 2009 : Hillary, my kind of woman
    In the December issue of Vogue, a magazine I rarely buy but this month couldn't resist, Hillary Clinton is profiled by Jonathan Van Meter, who closes his eye-opening interview with this question: why is she such an inspiration to women when Margaret Thatcher, who reached greater heights, was rarely described in those terms?
  • November 24, 2009 : A lesson in aging from my oldest friend
    I've come to think the art of living, especially in old age, depends on rewarding the people who can meet your accelerating needs. It's often possible to bully or needle others into helping you out, but at a huge personal cost. Who wants to spend time with a whiner who can't stop lamenting her loneliness?
  • November 20, 2009 : Teachers to the core
    It's been years since I last thought of Eleanor and Frank Milliken, who taught generations of students at my small-town high school quite a lot about their respective subjects---science in her case, Latin in his---and even more about life.
  • November 17, 2009 : Hometown kids, older and wiser
    I've just joined a highly addictive website that keeps pulling me away from whatever I intended to be doing instead. No, not Twitter; that was yesterday's time suck. My new online obsession is a far more exclusive affair, strictly for those of us who went to school in the acutely class-conscious town of Durham, New Hampshire.
  • November 13, 2009 : My star turn as the Ghost of Christmas Past
    Have you heard the buzz about A Christmas Carol? No, not Disney's fancy-schmancy animated version starring some guy named Carrey as Scrooge---the reading at Church of the Redeemer on December 6, in which Toronto stalwarts of the stage and page will bring Dickens' classic to life with nothing but our voices and our affection for the ultimate Christmas yarn. I'm honoured to be among them.
  • November 10, 2009 : How we stayed married for 39 years
    You know the old saw "Never go to bed angry?" Don't believe it. I learned in the first few years that there's just no hurrying a truce when we both need some breathing room. Here's why we're still together, and what I'm still trying to learn.
  • November 6, 2009 : Not the glass ceiling but the urinal wall
    In 1976, when we still believed in "having it all" and "glass ceiling" was a skylight with pretensions, I landed my first magazine job. Career gurus told me I should learn to act more like men. These days it's career-minded men who are being told to emulate women. So says Men's Health, the modern guy's mentor on every aspect of manhood from getting laid to getting ahead.
  • November 4, 2009 : The pleasures of writing in books
    I have this odd little habit that amuses my husband. To be honest, I'm told I have many odd habits. They involve bits of crumpled Kleenex, loose bottle caps, single socks emerging from the laundry...oh, enough of that stuff! Let's talk about a happier subject, books and pens. The two go together, as far as I'm concerned.
  • November 1, 2009 : Portrait of the sailor as a very young woman
    There's a depth of desire---fierce, wholehearted and relentless---that can seize the heart of a teenage girl and carry her away, perhaps forever. Some girls are so determined to be thin that they'll starve for their notion of beauty. Others have staked their sense of self on joining violent gangs where rape is the price of admission. Laura Dekker, 14, is raising teen obsession to a loftier plane. She intends to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo.
  • October 27, 2009 : My 60th birthday: a celebration in three acts
    I guess the time has finally come to give the birthday festivities a rest. Who knew that turning 60 is like eating dessert in a Burgundian shrine to gastronomy---first the buttery, beautiful avant dessert, compliments of the chef; then the impossibly exquisite confection you ordered; then the apres-dessert, petits-fours borne on a platter that would not be out of place at Versailles?
  • October 22, 2009 : Not a phone person
    Early on in my friendship with Sarah, she advised me not to phone her. I was perfectly welcome to ring; I just shouldn't expect a voice-to-voice conversation. Susannah doesn't like to be caught off guard. She wants to know what's on someone's mind before she frames her reply. She loves the freedom e-mail gives her to be funny and warm when she's in the mood connection. No one writes a more expressive e-mail message than Sarah. But as she told me at our first girlfriends' dinner, she is simply "not a phone person."
  • October 19, 2009 : Rewards of my online reading habit
    Although I'm still one of the die-hards for whom morning and the daily paper go together like coffee and toast, I can't seem to get out of my bathrobe without an online tour of newspapers hither and yon, with detours to a blog or two. I keep meaning to share the wealth, only to get distracted (must have been following a link). Here's an eclectic roundup of online gleanings that inspire me, challenge me, amaze me, move me or crack me up.
  • October 17, 2009 : The hat that helped one reader beat depression
    I marvel that I once saw shopping as balm for my spirit. All it offered was distraction and the fleeting promise of care by a bevy of minions better groomed than I would ever be. Yet I remain a firm believer in the power of clothes to express both who I am and who I might become. So when a longtime reader e-mailed me the story of her "happy hat," I recognized a kindred spirit.
  • October 15, 2009 : When McCall’s sang the praises of togetherness
    Although I'm not among those who feel personally stricken by the death of Gourmet magazine after 68 years, I've been thinking these last few days about defunct magazines---the many absent friends at my mental newsstand. I was going to celebrate each one, but the first ran away with this post.
  • October 8, 2009 : Dayle, this one’s for you
    Dayle must have been 15 when she opened her mother's copy of Ladies' Home Journal and found a short story called "Paper Flowers." The illustration featured two barefoot, guitar-toting girls---one who looks bold enough to hop a freight, the other more demure, as if she's only toying with rebellion. I wrote the story, which Dayle has remembered with affection for more than 40 years.
  • October 6, 2009 : I am at two with my body (i.e., a typical woman)
    My body, two weeks shy of 60, has been acting like a cranky preschooler. It's forever whining, "I don't wanna!" Or "You can't make me!" If I dare to press the point, my body lets loose with "I hate you!" All because I've asked it nicely to do what other well fed, lovingly tended, meticulously exercised bodies (including, until recently, my own) are doing without protest.
  • October 2, 2009 : Not just another lost cat poster
    The temperature called for my gray cashmere sweat pants, when I'd been hoping for a at least a few more days in pink linen capris. Worse luck, the cashmere sweats had been ravaged by moths that had nibbled and chewed from hemline to butt, not sparing the crotch. I craved a little lift to redeem the day's disappointment. Lo and behold, it appeared on a telephone pole that was swathed in the usual urban collage of posters for everything from yard sales to Japanese lessons. The headline said, "Not just another lost cat poster."
  • September 29, 2009 : When family members don’t get along: do you have a story?
    In just a few weeks my sister Joyce will arrive in Toronto to promote her new novel Labor Day. This is big news for a number of reasons. She's the only person left from my family of origin. She'll arrive just in time for my birthday. She lives in California, too far away for weekend visits. And the last time she came to my city, 14 years ago this fall, we had a bitter fight that led to a years-long silence.
  • September 29, 2009 : What I learned from the man who never retired
    William Safire, the formidably prolific author, columnist and self-described language maven who died this week in his eightieth year, was in the end a man of his word. Nearly five years ago he called his final-Op-Ed column for the New York Times "Never retire." When I first read that column one weekday morning in January, I had just begun what most people would call my retirement. But I scorned that word.
  • September 22, 2009 : Feasting on remaindered books for $39.95
    There aren't many places left where a person can spend $39.95 and feel royally pampered without consuming any butter fat or alcohol. Turns out one of those places is three blocks away from my office. It doesn't have a name, just banners shouting, in stocky red letters, "Bargain Book Blowout!" Today I felt compelled to check it out.
  • September 18, 2009 : When Mary Travers rang the bell of freedom
    For days now I've been hearing a familiar old song in my head. Pounding guitar, three young voices in harmony. They're letting it rip---the hope, the exuberance, the conviction that a new age of equality was about to transform their nation and the world. A woman's voice soars above the others. "It's the hammer of justice, it's the bell of freedom!" sings Mary Travers, band mate of Peter and Paul. On Wednesday she died of leukemia, age 72.
  • September 17, 2009 : My journey as a cemetery tourist
    If I could be buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where my husband and I once spent a drizzly afternoon communing with the famous dead of Paris, then I might find a certain allure in the prospect of my own demise. P?re Lachaise isn't one of those groomed cemeteries, every flower bed primped like a model for the runway. It's a wild, romantic place that cries out to be explored while listening to a nocturne by Chopin.
  • September 14, 2009 : The best advice anyone gave me
    It's hard to believe, as I look at my mensch of a son---husband, father, giver of extravagant gifts and practically a teetotaler---that I once thought he was coasting toward alcoholism. As the daughter of an alcoholic father, I'd noticed a thing or two that stoked my worst fear: another drunk in the family. Feeling cursed, I called my friend Val.
  • September 10, 2009 : Unfinished books: A reader’s confession
    On the edge of my bathtub sits a novel I'd been longing to read, by an author whose last book I pressed on everyone I know. I trusted that her latest would carry me away to a fictional world so complete, so believable in every detail that I could lose myself there and return to everyday life both refreshed and expanded by my journey down Story Road. But here I am on page 172---more than halfway along---and the book still hasn't gripped me.
  • September 4, 2009 : When a friend is fired
    Hardly a week goes by when I don't hear about someone I know---perhaps a whole swath of people---being packaged, let go, laid off, terminated or otherwise shunted aside in what's presented as a cost-cutting move but may in fact be an excuse to clear the decks of those who are deemed to have served their purpose. So it's time I boned up on the etiquette of these situations.
  • September 1, 2009 : Feasting on breakfast in Burlington, Vermont
    My home city, Toronto, prides itself on gastonomic flair. But where are the inventive omelets? The tantalizing updates on corned beef hash? The tofu scrambles so tasty, you don't miss eggs? I live downtown and I've come up dry. In Burlington, Vermont, it's a vastly more flavourful story.
  • September 1, 2009 : How the freshman blues changed my life
    I fled Middlebury College after one miserable year, convinced that I would never belong. I vowed to put the place behind me, like an ex-husband cut from a photo. I found another school in another country, where I made a life that suits me like my favourite jeans. But decades after I left Middlebury, I've realized it wasn't so bad after all. I see possibilities I couldn't--or wouldn't--see in my headstrong teens.
  • August 28, 2009 : Kitchen mentor, I salute you with an upraised wooden spoon
    Among the best perks of editing Chatelaine was being able to take my culinary dilemmas to a maven who knows home cooking the way Alain Ducasse knows haute cuisine---Food Editor Monda Rosenberg, since 1977 a trusted mentor, friend and kitchen confidante to millions of Canadian women (and no small number of men).
  • August 24, 2009 : What one reader had to do to buy a book
    There ought to be an award for a reader so tenacious, she'll spend six weeks tracking down a copy of a book. Not a signed first edition of The Great Gatsby (dust jacket intact, every page pristine) but My Mother's Daughter by one Rona Maynard, available online in paperback for $15.19. Now, you might think online bookstores exist to sell books to people who want to buy them and have gone so far as to type their credit card number in the handy little box. O ye of too much faith!
  • August 20, 2009 : Catching courage
    On a laden bookshelf at a country inn, I found an abandoned copy of Carolyn Heilbrun's The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty. Heilbrun's suicide at 77 had outraged many of her fans, but something compelled me to reach for this book. With a big birthday coming up, I wanted to learn from Heilbrun as she'd been before she lost hope and heart.
  • August 16, 2009 : Missed Woodstock, seeking route to the garden
    I get peevish about crowds, mud, stinky toilets and bad food, so I've never regretted missing out on the Woodstock festival. While half a million celebrants were camping out on Yasgur's farm and getting their souls free, I was in staid Toronto, where I'd spent the summer cleaning houses inhabited by student riff-raff like me. Come to think of it, I got the stinky toilets. But I knew I'd missed something momentous.
  • August 11, 2009 : Still friends after 40 years
    When I was a teenage misfit in a small New Hampshire town with no purveyors of guitars, French magazines or rawhide sandals like the ones worn by Biblical shepherds, I would save my allowance for escapes to the centre of all things hip and freewheeling. With my soul mate Anne, I would ride the dawn bus to Boston and jump on the subway for Harvard Square.
  • August 5, 2009 : A stolen hour of reflection with Marilynne Robinson
    If I must spend upwards of an hour in a doctor's waiting room, I'm wise to bring a book. The other day I sat down there with Marilynne Robinson's Home, a dense, meditative novel about guilt and forgiveness, shame and hope, the ache of absence and the unfulfilled promise of return in a family where too much has gone unsaid for too long.
  • July 31, 2009 : Vacationing back where I started
    Our son was still in day care the first time we drove to New Hampshire, my home state, for a summer vacation on the cheap. Like every day care, Ben's kept a hamster. Like every preschooler, Ben had a vague grasp of language: he heard what made sense to him, and this didn't always coincide with what we actually said. He thought we were bound for New Hamster, and New Hamster it has been ever since to my husband and me.
  • July 28, 2009 : I married a genealogist…and became a genealogy freeloader
    Our grandson, at 12, is much amused to learn how my husband spends untold hours of time. Genealogy! Now there's a word to get a 12-year-old rolling his eyes. Think about it: why would anyone choose to study...genies? Hasn't Grandpa heard of Harry Potter? Kidding aside, I too have been perplexed by this midlife passion of my husband's.
  • July 24, 2009 : Hooked on Nurse Jackie
    If I am ever rushed on a gurney to Emerg, with a tube up my nose and a throng of doctors yelling orders in my wake, I want the first face I see to be Nurse Jackie's. Nothing stands between TV's stalwart nurse and her patient---not meddlesome relatives, not by-the-book hospital brass, not MDs determined to be heroes no matter what the cost. And certainly not her own limits.
  • July 21, 2009 : If Anne Frank had lived to be 80
    If Anne Frank had lived to a wise old age instead of dying at 15 in Bergen Belsen, just weeks before the camp's liberation, she would have turned 80 last month. Her birthday was June 12, her transcendent diary a gift on the day she turned 13. It had a red-checked cover and a tiny metal latch like the ones on girlhood diaries everywhere, my own included. I used to begin every entry "Dear Diana," a homage to Anne's "Dear Kitty." I longed for a friend like Anne---so passionate and searching, yet so deft at sending up adult foibles.
  • July 17, 2009 : The doomed, desperate bargain of Carmela Bousada
    Maria del Carmen Bousada, who has just died of cancer at age 69, leaving two-year-old twin boys, was a woman possessed by a dream: bearing children of her own. Never mind that she had no job or husband when she sold her home at 66 to pay for fertility treatments in California. She once said, "Everyone has to have children at the right time for them. This was the right time for me."
  • July 15, 2009 : True confessions of a grownup who still can’t ride a bike
    Last night I dreamed I was about to ride a bike. Like a living thing, it quivered as I slipped first my right foot, then my left into the pedals and felt the steadying weight of my intention. I had the sense of a journey about to unfold, but then imagination failed me. I woke up wondering what it meant that I'd just dreamed of a motion I never chose to master, even though it's second nature to everyone over age six.
  • July 10, 2009 : Woman against computer
    I am now the perplexed, strung-out owner of a spiffy new desktop computer. It has a monitor so big and bright, I can see my reflection while writing this (better book that hair appointment pronto). Its operating system has the subtlety and cunning to hide essential files in mysterious virtual crannies. Its keyboard boasts more symbols and buttons than the control panel of a jet.
  • July 7, 2009 : Greening my emotional ecosystem
    I like to think I do my part for this pollution-choked world we all share. I don't drive and I'd sooner cross the street naked than sully it with used styrofoam. But I'd better not give myself airs. Metaphorically speaking, there's another whole ecosystem needing my attention---and everyone's. It's the emotional space between any two people, be they spouses, colleagues or harried strangers in a checkout line.
  • July 4, 2009 : Tiananmen Square on my mind
    Twenty years ago today, when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and crushed a peaceful protest with harrowing force, I was too caught up in my own pain to give more than a fleeting glance to reports from the scene. My mother was dying of brain cancer. In the fog of impending bereavement, I couldn't mourn the students whose mangled bikes were their only memorial. Now, just back from China, I can't get them off my mind.
  • July 3, 2009 : A locker room of her own
    My first locker room, in the basement of Oyster River Junior High School, had beige cinderblock walls and open showers that exposed your cringing, naked pre-teen body for the whole class to see. Oh, the horror! I never guessed that I would come to rely on locker rooms for solace, renewal and that special camaraderie found only where women gather naked---all ages, all sizes---with no expectation but a fleeting escape from the rigors of the day.
  • June 30, 2009 : Condolence notes I’ve treasured
    Last month I shared what life and loss have taught me about the writing of condolence notes. That post already ranks with the most popular I've written since this site began. So here I am with an open file folder of the letters that sustained me after my mother's death. I still reread my favourites. What makes them so consoling? See for yourself.
  • June 24, 2009 : Dr. Jerri Nielsen: healer, adventurer, role model
    When I learned last night that Dr. Jerri Nielsen had died of breast cancer at age 57, I couldn't help but take it personally, even though I'd forgotten her name in the 10 years since she made news around the world. I still remembered the tale of her dramatic rescue from the Antarctic research station where she had diagnosed and treated her own disease all winter until a plane could land.
  • June 22, 2009 : The power of wanting and the death of Neda
    Admit it: sometimes you just want more. There's so much stuff out there for the craving, and so many other people have more of it than you. I've been there. Last week, in a want-more moment, I became transfixed by a young woman's death on the seething streets of Tehran. And I thought about what it means to want the most important thing of all, with such urgency and passion that you'll put your life on the line.
  • June 18, 2009 : Diana Athill’s guide to old age
    The way some people carry on, you'd think old age was the well deserved affliction of the lazy and the clueless. Crow's feet, turkey neck? Get yourself to a surgeon, honey. Aches and pains got you down? Tsk tsk. Guess you've been neglecting yoga. But the fact is that one of two things will happen to us all: we'll die too soon, or we'll grow old. Thank goodness we now have a straight-talking mentor in the unwelcome art of aging---legendary British author Diana Athill, now 91.
  • June 15, 2009 : Reasons to blog
    I don't know anyone in Novi Sad, most likely will never go there and had to Google the place to find out that it's in Serbia. So I can't help but wonder how it happened that on May 14 some stranger in Novi Sad set out for an online stroll and ended up on this website. We're not talking just a peek in my virtual doorway. The mystery guest actually read these pages for 11 minutes and 47 seconds---a not-inconsiderable sojourn in Blogland.
  • June 12, 2009 : My coffee dilemma: Alzheimer’s protection vs sleep
    Last summer, with much yawning and complaining, I reduced my coffee intake from five cups daily to two. A doctor had warned that if I didn't ease up on the caffeine, I'd have to put up with chronic insomnia. Now a study of 1400 people shows that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day can dramatically reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, which has ravaged my family. What to do?
  • June 10, 2009 : What to call the baby: name or nickname?
    Our grandson had no name for what seemed like the longest time. Then he got one---Gabriel---only to be renamed Cameron. A fine name, in my opinion. But everyone calls him Peanut. As one who never had a baby name, I'd better own up to some mixed emotions about that.
  • June 8, 2009 : What remains when the intellect is gone
    I was in no hurry to read Still Alice, the best-selling novel in which Alzheimer's disease overtakes a woman of 50. I didn't want to care about Alice Howland---wife, mother and Harvard neuroscientist---only to see her erased the illness I fear most, which runs in my family. But I had a long flight ahead, and a little more room in my carry-on bag. Now I'm here to say, "You've got to read this book."
  • May 29, 2009 : The toilet that ruled my life
    We wanted an elegant English toilet for our one and only bathroom. On the throne of our choice, you could complete the most challenging of crosswords in comfort. We were so proud of our champagne-coloured Twyford toilet---until the day it stopped flushing. Then I found myself searching far and wide for a Twyford ball cock, and nothing on earth seemed more precious.
  • May 27, 2009 : The secret language of families
    Around our house we never speak of Tim Hortons. It's not that we're too high and mighty for the omnipresent doughnut chain, just that we have our own name for those familiar coffee-scented shops. To us they will always be Hornuts. And when we talk about Hornuts, the real subject isn't fat-and-sugar-laden confections but the identity we've shaped as a family.
  • May 18, 2009 : A few more memories I’ll take home from Shanghai
    My brain goes into spasm at the thought of living in China's biggest, bursting-at-the-seams metropolis, with its omnipresent cranes and pollution haze. Still, I have to admire the city's heritage of openness and the scope of its current ambitions. Here, a few memories I'll be sharing with friends back home. Shanghailights, you might say.
  • May 16, 2009 : Shanghai: a crane on every block, chamber pots in every alley
    Shanghai, where we've spent six brain-jangling days, is a city of 19 million in one hell of a hurry. You could argue that we've picked a bad time to come, with a World Expo set to open in less than a year and construction hoardings on every block. But it seems to me we've arrived just in time to see vanishing downtown neighbourhoods that have scarcely changed since the Communists came to power.
  • May 14, 2009 : A few things I’ve learned about condolence notes
    Back when I was a death virgin, unscathed by irreparable loss, I had no idea how to write to the bereaved. Then my mother died and I became a student of condolence. Her friends became my mentors, teaching me the difference between a truly comforting thought and an irritating platitude.
  • May 7, 2009 : Off to China, but the coffee’s still on at this virtual kitchen table
    I'm packing my bag, clearing out the fridge and wondering which essential item I'll forget on my long-awaited trip to China (please, not my glasses). Any minute now, I'll turn off the computer. Used to be, these steps were enough to get me out the door. Now there's one more: stock my website with lively reading.
  • May 4, 2009 : Got the blues? Give thanks for something good
    When I was climbing out of chronic depression more than 20 years ago, I read somewhere about a bedtime ritual that was said to nudge the weariest of hearts toward hope. You were to lie in the dark and give thanks to whatever gods there be for the best moment of your day. How simplistic, I thought. How impossibly naive. What about all the days when nothing good happened?
  • May 3, 2009 : The many moods of motherhood: 10 songs I love
    Let's hear it for Mother's Day---and I mean that literally. I've gathered a bright but thorny garland of songs to express the many moods of having or being a mother: the starry-eyed admiration of childhood, the guns-blazing rebellion of adolescence, the oceanic missing that follows a mother's death. We've all yearned for a mother who is boundlessly empathic and consoling. But real-world mothers have their quirks and complications, as songwriters have known since the heyday of Anonymous.
  • April 29, 2009 : The boy who called a truce where adults made nothing but trouble
    I've been cheering for a boy, just turned 18, who has achieved what battalions of lawyers and child welfare experts could not. He brokered a peace in his conflict-ravaged family, torn for the past eight years by the implacable fury of his parents' divorce. Who says today's teens are just gossip-crazed airheads?
  • April 27, 2009 : Why writers need ticked-off readers
    I keep a folder full of letters from readers who say that my words changed their lives. I might start to get complacent if not for my angry readers. Their aggrieved, insistent voices remind me that not everyone shares my take on things.
  • April 23, 2009 : The gentle art of healing an estrangement
    A friend is just back from spending several days with her sister. Why am I telling you this? Isn't hanging out together just part of being sisters? Not for these two. They had barely spoken for 15 years. when my friend told me she was making this journey, she looked both resolute and anxious. Now she says her visit was "wonderful." Her eyes glisten. She means "full of wonder."
  • April 19, 2009 : A fine day to be born
    Friday, April 17, 2009 was to all intents and purposes the first day of spring: a day for sandals and pink nail polish; for skateboards and sidewalk cafes; for remembering to stock up on sunscreen and forgetting you had ever worn clodhopper boots, filmed at the toes with salt. Our second grandson was born on April 17, at 8:30 a.m.
  • April 13, 2009 : The new crisis in children’s mental health
    I'm thinking today of a preteen boy in Windsor, Ontario, the auto town just across the river from Detroit. I don't even know his age, let alone his name, his favourite sports team, what kind of music excites him or whether he's ever loved a dog. But I know something intimate about this boy. I know what he fears. When both his parents lost their jobs in the auto industry, he worried that they couldn't afford to raise him. So he tried to take his life.
  • April 8, 2009 : All hail the humble toaster!
    I have been the jaded owner of every kitchen gadget that ever buzzed, flashed or inspired a slew of cookbooks. These gizmos have their uses but they all involve chopping and fussing. Besides, they won't give you any comfort when you've just schlepped home from the airport at midnight with a suitcase full of laundry. For comfort, you need a toaster---100 years old this year and still the key to simple but soulful meals.
  • April 4, 2009 : Suicide in the family: the legacy of Nicholas Hughes
    Suicides are all but invisible--except when they're notorious. Nicholas Hughes, a marine biologist and outdoorsman who hanged himself last month, would have been the invisible kind if not for his mother: Sylvia Plath, as famous for killing herself as she is for her remarkable poems. Some say we've heard enough about the death of Nicholas Hughes. Writers Linda Gray Sexton and Jeremy Gavron, who also lost literary mothers to suicide, would beg to disagree.
  • March 30, 2009 : Revealed: the secret lives of grandmothers
    If you are or expect to be a grandmother; if you've ever felt a surge of gratitude or a stab of resentment at a grandmother in your child's life; if you treasure the shoes-off, second-cup-of-coffee frankness of women sharing secrets among friends, you owe it to yourself to read Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Share the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother. Full disclosure: I'm one of the writers.
  • March 28, 2009 : The glamorous life of an author on the road
    Here in Toronto my gardening friends complain that spring has been teasing them. Up north in Sudbury, where a gray crust of snow still covers the frozen earth, people know better than to rush the seasons. So I've just learned on my first visit to the Nickel City, where I was speaking and signing copies of My Mother's Daughter at the annual Celebrate Women fundraiser.
  • March 25, 2009 : The loneliness of the baffled male shopper
    There's a bafflement that softens men's faces when they have to make a purchase outside their comfort zone. They need a woman to answer their questions: "Is this parsley?" "Which one of these mops is best? And, most touching of all, "Should I get these flowers or the ones over there?"
  • March 21, 2009 : Fit for the pickiest eater
    I love my grandson dearly but I can't bear to cook for him. The way I see it, every meal could use a jolt of flavour from at least one of the following: anchovies, avocadoes, mushrooms, pesto, olives, onions, assertive cheese, fresh herbs (bring on the cilantro!), green veg (the more pungent, the better) and a generous quantity of garlic. My grandson, age 12, will eat nothing on my hit parade.
  • March 17, 2009 : Looking for hope
    On my way to a friend's memorial service, I passed a newsstand. A headline caught my eye: "The case for optimism." Why should I be hopeful? Well, according to Maclean's, the economy just might be picking up. Hmmm. Only yesterday Maclean's was crying doom. I've learned not stake my mood on the swings of the market or pronouncements in the press. What gives me hope is people who are not afraid to say, in any circumstances at all, "This matters."
  • March 11, 2009 : Writing the obit: one friend’s last gift to another
    The obituary section lies open on my desk. A woman smiles up at me, lighting up the page as she used to light up rooms, podiums and bars in many countries. The words have the familiar laurel-wreath ring of all ceremonial tributes: "Alison Youngman died peacefully at home on March 8, concluding a short illness with the dignity, grace and good humour that had defined her life as a lawyer, volunteer and champion of women's leadership.
  • March 6, 2009 : Apocalypse? Armageddon? I’ve got a life to live!
    I refuse to spend the next year or five "waiting for the bottom" like a kid on an interminable road trip, pleading to mom and dad, "Are we there yet?" At least mom and dad knew the route to Grandma's house. No one's got a clue when we'll get to the bottom of this economic mess---let alone what it will take to climb out. And meanwhile the prophets of doom keep blowing hot air on the flames of panic, setting the blogosphere ablaze.
  • March 2, 2009 : The joy of telling the truth about depression
    Hey, everybody: I've suffered from a mental illness. It's called depression and it affects one in five of us at some point in our lives. That's why I'm determined to help break the silence around this still-taboo subject. Here are some video clips from my recent keynote speech to the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation.
  • February 25, 2009 : I lost it in the hotel closet (or the cab or the plane)
    We had just settled into our airy retreat at a Sarasota B&B (think antiques, hardwood and a prime view of sailboats skimming the bay) when I realized it had happened again. I had arrived somewhere lovely minus something essential. My favourite jeans, which fit me like no other jeans on earth.
  • February 20, 2009 : My most-requested story was the first
    I wish I could choose which writings of mine would resonate most deeply with readers. I wouldn't pick "The Fan Club," a story I wrote at age 14 that continues to find new readers after more than 40 years. But an Iowa teacher tells me that "The Fan Club" sparked her love of words and her ambition to become a writer. What an honour.
  • February 17, 2009 : 4000 lives we shouldn’t be losing
    This morning I asked myself how many people in my circle had been touched by the suicide of someone dear to them. Without even trying, I counted 12 names.
  • February 13, 2009 : Following a tough act
    If I had known my plenary speech the other day was going to follow a speech by Canada's most enduringly beloved female comic, you can bet I'd have done a couple of things differently. First, I'd have hot-footed it over to the Royal York Hotel to catch every minute of inspired mimicry and sheer unbridled nuttiness from Luba Goy of Air Farce Fame. Second, I'd have felt a titch nervous about following Luba.
  • February 12, 2009 : The poetry of random facts about ourselves
    The hottest fad on Facebook, "25 random things about me," has been debunked as the blatherings of airheads. Yet it proves that the age-old human impulse to connect with others through words is still thriving in the age of the iPod. The best lists have the vividness of poetry. And for me they bring back memories of a remarkable poem written in 1967 by an American college student, Eleanor Wait.
  • February 10, 2009 : Help! Middle-aged teeth are chewing up the family budget
    I try to live within my shrinking means, I really do. No more but-I-love-it purchases for me! Yet whenever I make a date with Lisa, my good intentions desert me. "Do I really need this?" cuts no ice with Lisa. Ditto "I can get it cheaper down the street" or "I think I'll just wait for the sale." Lisa is my dentist, a woman of standards. I never guessed I would log so many hours in her chair.
  • February 6, 2009 : When the president says, “I screwed up”
    Just when I was getting used to the welcome but startling notion of a black president who invites his opponents and their kids to watch the Superbowl at the White House, Barack Obama surprised me again. He told NBC news, "I think I screwed up."
  • February 2, 2009 : Hold the Botox, but please don’t deprive me of Photoshop!
    I'm about two weeks younger than Bruce Springsteen, whose leaping, limbo-ing performance at last night's Superbowl made me almost proud to be closing in on 60. My knees aren't up to such moves, but I have it on good authority that I too am a role model for almost-sexagenarians. Which prompts me to ask: can I be a role model and still have my portraits Photoshopped, as normal female vanity requires?
  • January 30, 2009 : Death of a muse
    I had never heard of Dina Vierny when I read that she had died in Paris, age 89. Yet I had often seen the splendour of her naked body, sculpted by Aristide Maillol, whose creative powers she awakened when he was 73 and she the 15-year-old schoolgirl he knew on sight to be his model of a lifetime.
  • January 26, 2009 : My tried-and-true ritual for falling asleep
    In the small cheerless hours of the morning, when there's nothing I want in the world except another few hours of sleep, I close my eyes and revisit our first house. I find it soothing to contemplate the rooms where, for 14 years, I read and wrote and cooked and raised my son.
  • January 22, 2009 : Discovering my inner dancer
    Once upon a time, when I played with paper dolls and wore Mary Janes, I wanted to be a ballerina. I thought I was the star of my Saturday morning ballet class, pirouetting with more enthusiasm than grace. I didn't know that my short waist, knock knees and crooked spine disqualified me from the tutu'd elite. When I danced, I felt beautiful.
  • January 19, 2009 : How did we get to be veterans?
    On October 18, 1979, when I was starting out at Flare magazine, I dictated the letter that gave a young journalist named Antonia Zerbisias her first magazine assignment. I had high hopes for Antonia, who'd just sent us one of those rare pitch letters that have editors asking, "Why has no one else discovered this writer and how fast can I connect her with my readers?"
  • January 12, 2009 : The job of cooking
    Ah, Sunday. Where did it go? Mostly, I cooked. I haven't cooked so much--we're talking both frequency and volume, great potfuls of garlicky fare--since I was young and poor. Now I'm middle-aged, recession-battered and frugal. Out comes the slow cooker. What an apt name. Believe me, it's a project to cook this way.
  • January 11, 2009 : So what is this thing called the magic of friendship?
    The hardest thing about writing is saying what you mean. Or is it finding just the right words to make your point? I waffle back and forth on this, and no wonder: wordcraft is all about meaning. If you haven't figured out what you mean, you're bound to cloak your woolly-mindedness in one of those vague, catch-all expressions that leave the burden of interpretation to the reader.
  • January 9, 2009 : The year of friends lost and found
    I'm plenty old enough to know that my talent for predicting the future is roughly equivalent to my flair for Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. yet I persist in thinking of my life as a story I can shape--every year with a theme and a tidy resolution. I imagine myself as the author. Fact is, I'm an uppity character with delusions of control.
  • January 6, 2009 : Dumbest euphemism yet for “fired”
    "Terminated," "downsized" and "packaged" are bad enough. Now along comes---brace yourself---"upgraded."
  • January 6, 2009 : Kids in the office? Oh, please!
    Way back when I had a child at home and an overflowing in-tray at the office, there were times when some emergency or other left me no other choice but to bring my son to work. It was a tense business for us both, not to mention my colleagues. So I was amazed to hear about the new trend shaking up the workplace---kid-friendly offices where children check in every day.
  • January 2, 2009 : Things I’m smart enough not to believe anymore
    Everyone's got a mental museum where the discarded beliefs of a lifetime gather dust. Welcome to mine. Step right up! I'm not embarrassed in the least.

2008

  • December 30, 2009 : A writer’s guide to drunks
    If someone you love is an alcoholic, one question is never very far from your mind: "Why is he doing this to me?" Maybe your drunk is a she, but that's a detail. All of these stories are essentially the same, and one of them is mine. Which is why, especially around Christmas, I turn for insight to alcoholic writers---John Cheever and Raymond Carver---who have told the truth about their illness.
  • December 27, 2008 : I’ve never been fired. How quaint!
    Today it struck me that I'm falling out of step with humankind. I've never been downsized, let go, laid off, packaged, terminated or otherwise exiled from the ranks of the gainfully employed. I left every one of my jobs when the moment seemed right, not when someone else decided my time was up. How quaint.
  • December 22, 2008 : My thank-you note to a happy chorister
    There must be 150 singers in the Mendelssohn Choir, whose splendid performance of Messiah I've just seen. But I could still pick out the bobbing silver ponytail of my long-lost former workout buddy, Debbie Fleming, whose infectious joy became the highlight of my evening.
  • December 21, 2008 : Marrying into the family Christmas
    In the first tentative phase of couplehood, every day seemed a contest between my way with domestic matters and my husband's. On top of all the everyday conundrums, we now had to negotiate Christmas. I had always assumed there was one right way to orchestrate seasonal cheer---and where I came from, we didn't wear tissue-paper crowns at the Christmas table.
  • December 16, 2008 : Still on HRT after all these years of bad news
    If there was ever a time to feel like a chump for taking HRT to manage menopausal symptoms, that time is now. The latest study underscores the link between HRT and breast cancer, while news breaks of a drug company paying doctors to affix their names to articles endorsing the controversial therapy. Yet I won't be quitting anytime soon. Here's why.
  • December 12, 2008 : Women who miss their mothers
    For all of us with empty places at our Christmas table, this is the season of missing. I've been thinking lately about those of you who've lost someone (especially your mother) because it's clear from my daily Google statistics that grief brings many people to this site. Here, a found poem from the searches of women missing their mothers.
  • December 10, 2008 : What I learned from my first Christmas gift to my sister
    I wasn't ticking her name off a list, expressing my knowledge of red-carpet trends or flaunting my generosity with that famous little blue box. I was just an eight-year-old with saved-up allowance in the palm of my mitten. And what I chose to buy was as fine a gift as any I have given.
  • December 8, 2008 : Mood control for the frazzled and fed-up
    I'm not sure why I feel so optimistic these days. It's not as if the audacity of hope has yet crossed the border to Canada's capital. Here we're stuck with the audacity of arrogance and deceit, which is the price of electing the schoolyard bully for Prime Minister. Meanwhile winter's digging in and the economic news keeps getting worse. The one thing I can control is my mood.
  • December 5, 2008 : Hey, readers! Buy a book now! Publishers and writers need you!
    Have you heard about the big New York publisher that put a freeze on acquiring books? No, this isn't the latest joke from the sultans of satire at The Onion. It really happened this week at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as staff at other houses lost their jobs in droves.
  • December 3, 2008 : A brief conversation that changed my life
    The best part of being a journalist is interviewing people who have led extraordinary lives. I look back on some of them as mentors. For instance, the vital and exuberant woman who pursued her dream despite ovarian cancer---and whose victory gave me hope as I struggled with depression, the life-threatening cancer of the soul.
  • November 29, 2008 : My favourite gift to a friend is a standout letter of recommendation
    I don't drive friends to the airport, bring them treats from my kitchen or even remember their birthdays but I have my own way of honouring their presence in my life. I write standout letters of recommendation. Here's how I do it.
  • November 25, 2008 : Whoever stole my iPod stole the soundtrack of my life
    Although I've never Twittered or even texted and am rapidly acquiring the knees of a nonagerian, I share a bond with kids who have yet to take a legal drink. Some lowlife has stolen my iPod.
  • November 21, 2008 : Cyclists vs drivers: a war on the streets of my city
    Lately I've been thinking of a man who's lying in a hospital bed, incoherent and minus a leg. It's been almost a week now since he was maimed in a stand-off with a taxi driver, and he's still in no condition to tell police exactly what happened late last Friday night on a picturesque downtown corner flanked on one side by a cafe and on the other by a former bread factory, recently converted into lofts.
  • November 18, 2008 : Home alone and loving it
    After close to 40 years with the man I love, there are times when the sweetest thing he can tell me is, "I'm going out of town on business for a couple of days."
  • November 14, 2008 : Bamboozled by a fake blogger
    The more I learn about Sarah Palin, the less I trust her. But I'm not here to tell you why I've hardened my heart. I'm actually rushing to Sarah's defense. Remember that dishy story about her thinking Africa is a country? Turns out it's a fiction planted on the blogosphere by a fake policy wonk named Martin Eisenstadt.
  • November 13, 2008 : A boy and his Xbox: the death of Brandon Crisp
    Sometimes I look back on my son's teenage years and wonder how we ever got through. It's not that we had a hell-raiser on our hands, just that there are so many ways for a promising, likeable, headstrong kid to fall from the precipice of adolescence. A kid like Brandon Crisp, age 15. His funeral in Barrie, Ontario, is expected to draw 1,000 mourners who loved him, searched high and low for him or simply know in their hearts that what happened to Brandon could happen to their own child.
  • November 9, 2008 : I wish I’d been with Dylan on election night
    I could have sworn the place to be on the momentous night of November 4, 2008 was Grant Park in Chicago. But I've only just found out that a joyous crowd of Bob Dylan fans were celebrating change at the University of Minnesota, in a sell-out concert by the man with the big white hat, the sunken cheeks, the ruined growl and the visionary grasp of the tumultuous American story.
  • November 8, 2008 : Three small good things I did this week
    Should've, could've, would've...there must be all kinds of ways I fell short this week. Enough guilt-tripping, I say. I can think of three small, good things that I almost didn't bother to do because they seemed so inconsequential. And sometimes it's the little things that people remember.
  • November 6, 2008 : Obama’s win is my win too—and the country’s
    On Tuesday night along with countless millions all over the world, I held my breath in front of the TV, waiting for the moment I never thought I'd see in my lifetime: a black President-elect, Barack Obama, addressing an exultant crowd where friends wept in each other's arms and exhausted but awe-struck children sat on their parents' shoulders to get a good look at a spectacle that will linger in their minds until they leave this earth. I have always been something of a loner, but yesterday the windows in my head blew open and I saw myself part of that throng.
  • November 3, 2008 : Lucky me! A second grandchild in April!
    Although Hallmark doesn't know it yet, April is grandchild month around here: a new grandbaby on the way, another for my sister-in-law Linda, plus an essay of mine in a terrific forthcoming anthology Eye of My Heart: the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of being a Grandmother.
  • October 30, 2008 : When the marital mattress gets heaved down the stairs
    I could tell you that infidelity is not the end of the world. I could add that an apparent tailspin a marriage, which looks to outsiders like certain disaster, just might bring a change for the better. But maxims don't have anywhere near the impact that a good story does. That's why I'm sharing a story from the Globe and Mail's fine obituary of Connie Rooke, the writer and critic who died this month after nearly 40 years of marriage to the writer Leon Rooke.
  • October 30, 2008 : When Elizabeth Edwards took off her ring
    With the Washington rumour machine in pre-election overdrive, we're not hearing much about the sad, sordid tale of John and Elizabeth Edwards: he the philandering senator and former presidential hopeful, she the wronged wife with a deadly cancer. A scant two months ago, the press was busy raking muck and hinting of explosive revelations to come. But that was before Joe the Plumber, Bill Ayers and the Palin family's $150,000 campaign wardrobe. I will never forget the Edwardses, though.
  • October 29, 2008 : Hunting and gathering for dinner at St. Lawrence Market
    Around 9 o'clock on Saturday morning, while less obsessive types have barely settled down to their first cup of coffee and favourite section of the paper, I hot-foot it over to St. Lawrence Market for the ritual foraging that, in my book, weekend cooking demands.
  • October 24, 2008 : Insights found while reading
    Every life is a story, which is why I'm drawn to biography and memoir. In the dramas that someone actually lived, I find insights I can use in my own helter-skelter life, where the lines of the narrative keeping getting lost. I read with pen in hand, thinking, "Yes, that's it!" Here, a few discoveries from the books on my bedside table.
  • October 24, 2008 : One more precious year of my 50s
    I can't say it seems like yesterday that some friends took me out to a 50th birthday lunch. Eighteen months ago, maybe. Three years, absolute tops. The merry throng commandeered two tables at the bistro of the moment, which long ago morphed into something else.
  • October 21, 2008 : Revealed! The first day of my 60th year
    Scene: my den, yesterday morning, somewhere between breakfast time and flossing time. I'm not exactly sure because I can't find my watch. But I could find the computer blindfolded because it's where i start every day, barefoot in my pink plush bathrobe. Including this day, October 20, 2008. The first day of my 60th year.
  • October 17, 2008 : Forgiving your parents: real-life wisdom from Steve Martin
    I thought Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, was going to made me laugh. Instead this startlingly wise and nuanced book made me think in a whole new way about what it takes to embrace the future as your best and boldest self without leaving a painful past behind.
  • October 16, 2008 : The rocks-and-holes theory of marital happiness
    After nearly 38 years with the man I married, I must know at least a smidgen about what it takes to stay together. But when my son and his longtime fiancee finally tied the knot, I didn't want to overload the newlyweds with sage advice. Which life-changing insight to share? My mother's, of course.
  • October 13, 2008 : Home at last! The joy of breakfast at my own table
    At Harrington House, which has just served as our base for hiking in the Cotswolds, the exposed beams date back to Tudor times and breakfast features an array of choices, all as British as Buckingham palace: bacon, kippers, blood pudding, fried tomatoes and eggs cooked any way you choose. I felt like Christopher Robin when my poached egg arrived, nestled in a circle cut from the surrounding slice of pale whole-grain bread. But breakfast is a highly personal affair, and I missed the familiar pour-and-stir meal that kickstarts my day at home.
  • October 8, 2008 : Don’t call me “sweetie;” my name is Rona
    Feel free to call me Rona, although Ms. Maynard does nicely if you're the formal type. I don't encourage Ro, much as I appreciate the good intentions signaled by a nickname. What you must ever even think of calling me, unless we're on intimate terms, is "sweetie" or "dear." And there's no excuse whatsoever for the dread "young lady." I have a perfectly serviceable name and I expect you to use it. Especially if you end up serving gluey mashed potatoes in the old age home where I, in my bathrobe, am presumed to be addled just because I'm a little shaky on my feet.
  • October 3, 2008 : Question of the day: how can I reconcile with my sister?
    When I read your story about making amends with your sister, I recognized my sister and me. We drive each other crazy and haven't spoken for years. I'd like to make amends but I doubt if my sister wants to hear from me. I so envy women whose sisters are their best friends! What's your advice?
  • September 30, 2008 : Fat chance! Why I’m not giving up bacon
    Every time I fill my kitchen with the racy aroma of sizzling Berkshire bacon, so generously marbled that my rashers crisp in a splattering pool of golden fat, I think wistfully to myself, "Will no one ever tell me that this wonderful stuff is good for me?" At last someone has risen to the challenge: Jennifer McLagan, the pleasure-loving author of Fat: an Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes.
  • September 26, 2008 : Dazzled by a night of shooting stars
    By the time you read this, my husband and I will be in London, which as far as we're concerned is the world's most glorious city. We'll have a mental checklist of favourite places to revisit, and far too many ideas for other places we haven't yet seen. But if there's anything we've learned in our travels so far, it's that the best vacation moments can't be scripted. They take you by surprise, and then they take your breath away. For instance, the once-in-a-lifetime Leonid meteor shower of 2002.
  • September 22, 2008 : While I’m on vacation…
    I wouldn't dream of traveling with my computer anymore. A few years ago, while my husband was heaving all our overstuffed bags onto a bus at the San Francisco airport, leaving me with only a computer to carry, somehow abandoned the thing at the curb and spent the next several hours madly trying to find it while my husband grimly soldiered on with the rental car people. Oh, by the way it was his computer. So on the vacation that starts today, I won't be blogging on any park benches. But Letters from Rona will continue to appear because I've stocked the virtual larder.
  • September 22, 2008 : My 10 favourite vacation discoveries
    These special spots aren't the ones I dreamed of visiting for years. Some I checked out in an idle moment, just because they happened to be there. Others tend to be upstaged by more celebrated sights down the road. What they all have in common is that I can't think of them without smiling.
  • September 19, 2008 : Dress of a lifetime
    My son, who will be married this month (date and country to be arranged) has just phoned with a bulletin: "Today we bought the dress." He's never been one to talk about fashion but he seemed most keen to talk about this.
  • September 17, 2008 : The plus side of Palinania
    I could have sworn my last mental gasket had been blown by Palinania. I was baffled, weary and plain fed up thanks to all of the following: John McCain for selecting such a stunningly unqualified running mate; our gal Sarah herself for being so damn charismatic and ...well, likeable despite her alarming stance on every one of the issues; frantic liberal commentators for writing her off as "an Alaska hillbilly" instead of giving any thoughts to the roots of her appeal; conservative cheerleaders for shrugging off evidence that the sworn foe of corruption and cronyism is breaking her own rules back home in Alaska; and myself for devouring the whole shamefully addictive drama like too-sweet chocolates with gooey centres.
  • September 15, 2008 : My detail deficit
    Once upon a time I had a supremely organized assistant who kept my calendar in order. When she was in charge of my life's little details, I never showed up on Tuesday for meetings to take place on Thursday (or vice versa).
  • September 12, 2008 : A life history of my goals
    As far as my parents were concerned, I had come to the University of Toronto to study. In fact my goal was to experience teen sex--and with it what seemed to me the full glory of the 60s--while I still could. In October I would turn 19. That gave me a year to raise my small facsmile of hell.
  • September 8, 2008 : So when is the wedding?
    I have a friend who never fails to ask, when we meet for dinner and a long heart-to-heart, "So how's Ben doing? Any wedding plans yet?"
  • September 4, 2008 : Career advice for young women, then and now
    Once upon a time I wrote the career column for Miss Chatelaine magazine, where I had landed my first job. Miss Chatelaine could not afford a real career expert, any more than I could afford a navy suit on what they paid me. My advice came mostly from how-to books but wrapped in spunky, no-stopping-you prose, it made for a convincing read. Now Hannah Seligson, born in 1982, has written a career guide for the Girl Power generation. And to judge from her advice, not a whole lot has changed since my day.
  • September 2, 2008 : Invasion of the subway evangelists
    The cool look for an urban male, this summer that's just about over, is reportedly plaid shorts, a white T-shirt and flip flops. Tell that to the smiling band of brothers who have lately appeared on Toronto's east-west subway line dressed for school photos of days gone by--pressed gray pants, crisp white shirts, jackets and ties. You'll never catch them zoning out like the rest of us blank-eyed commuters. They're much too busy chatting up strangers, and the other day one of them had the cheek to pick me.
  • September 2, 2008 : Dear Governor Palin
    As a Hillary supporter, I'm supposed to identify with you. To let you carry the banner of female power and purpose into the next election, despite the fact that when it comes to the issues, you and I agree on absolutely nothing. But we do share one very personal bond. You see, I'm a grandmother. Like you and Bristol, I was caught off guard by an accidental pregnancy. But to everyone's continuing relief, my grandson's parents never married.
  • August 29, 2008 : The presidential woman: does she really have the public’s support?
  • August 28, 2008 : From the sword swallower to the Jersey Boys
    The Space Cowboy, a tattooed trickster from Australia, wowed my jaded grandson at Buskerfest, Toronto's annual celebration of street theatre. Then it was time for grownup entertainment: the Toronto premiere of Jersey Boys, which celebrates the triumphantly hummable hits of the Four Seasons while telling a human story about being undone by one's own hard-won dream and finding the grace to go on. If this show doesn't pull in the crowds, I'll swallow a double-edged sword.
  • August 25, 2008 : My life as a fan: 44 years with Bob Dylan
    When I was 14, with a brand-new $35 guitar and my own frizzy take on Joan Baez's flowing hair, I sent a buck to the Columbia Record Club and acquired a whole clutch of LPs for my folk collection: Peter, Paul and Mary (too slick), the New Christy Minstrels (too hokey), Harry Belafonte (my grandmother's heartthrob) and a minstrel poet who won my heart with his image on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
  • August 21, 2008 : Ace, righteous and hip to the tip
    The Hamilton bus terminal, where I killed time yesterday while waiting for a friend to sweep me away to the Bob Dylan concert, is not my idea of a woman-friendly hangout. But I'd brought a good book to distract me and create a Dylanish mood: Straight from the Fridge, Dad: a Dictionary of Hipster Slang.
  • August 20, 2008 : Feisty old dames
    Okay, I accept it. I'm going to grow old. Either that or die too soon, a prospect so flat-out unacceptable that I'm practically ready to shout, "Bring on the signs of cronehood! The memory lapses, the wattles, the chin hairs and saggy bits! And while you're at it, bring me a mighty cane that I can bang with authority and vigour when young pups displease me."
  • August 15, 2008 : A year in the life of ronamaynard.com
    I'm breaking out the virtual champagne today. It's been exactly one year since I launched ronamaynard.com, and connecting with you online has been even more rewarding than I could have guessed. In case you're new to this community, I've rounded up a few of my favourite posts. If you're an old friend, I'd love to know if yours is among them. Either way, thank you for coming. Without the inspiration you've provided in your comments and e-mail messages, this wouldn't be my online home.
  • August 14, 2008 : Free at last from the insomniac’s little helper
    When it comes to sleep, I have long been a woman of firm convictions: I need eight hours, I can scrape by on six and if I don't get my share I'll be an addled, nauseated wraith with an obliterating headache. I was so fixated on sleep that I ended up with a nightly pill habit, which I've just beaten while following a strict and unwelcome set of rules that really work.
  • August 13, 2008 : Spa treatment du jour: sleep therapy
    When I set out to break my sleeping pill habit, I schlepped by subway and bus to your basic red brick medical building. Alongside a mom with a stroller and an elderly gent in a wheelchair, I rode the elevator to the Toronto Sleep Clinic, where the walls are beige and the furniture best described as functional. It didn't even cross my mind that I could have embarked on this adventure in style, at one of those high-end spas where you're escorted to your treatment in the softest of robes as New Age music wafts in the fragrant air.
  • August 11, 2008 : The John Edwards imbroglio: please hold the sanctimony!
    Ever since John Edwards finally admitted his long-suspected affair, moralists have been denouncing the former presidential candidate as the worst sort of scumbag. Yet the truth is that all married people fail their spouse sooner or later--at times grievously. At least most of us can confront our marital problems behind closed doors. Political couples have to do it while the cameras roll.
  • August 11, 2008 : Unloved, unlovely, unwanted by thieves
    It was one of those unloved, unlovely things you can pass every day without noticing what it is you've seen. A man's bike, sheathed in duct tape and many layers of thick black paint, with a matted plush tiger tail dangling from each handlebar. The mismatched reflectors on its wheels suggested a joyriding kid, but the ungainly proportions of the whole apparatus had an air of desperation, of cast-off parts cobbled together into a Frankenbike.
  • August 11, 2008 : Peach picking: a sentimental journey
    Next Saturday morning, instead of working out with a butt-kicking trainer who is mercifully away on vacation, we'll be heading down the highway to a place of legend: the southern Ontario fruit farm where my husband briefly lived in his teens. This time of year, he used to stand under a likely-looking peach tree, extend his arm into the branches and let a perfectly sun-ripened peach drop into his waiting palm. Because I haven't been blessed with this experience, I don't know the glory of a peach--or so he has always maintained.
  • August 10, 2008 : A word of comfort in the night from M.F.K. Fisher
    On doctor's orders, I now get up and read in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, although my natural inclination is to thrash grimly in bed. I've found that the best books to read in the pre-dawn hours are the ones you can dip in and out of with no need to follow a plot--like the elegant, opinionated essays that comprise M.F.K. Fisher's Last House, in which I found a wonderful contrarian view of insomnia.
  • August 7, 2008 : Who knew? Paris Hilton is funny!
    I thought Paris Hilton was a sleek and shiny bimbo with no social graces until I discovered her tart satirical side in her video rebuttal of a John McCain ad.
  • August 6, 2008 : A writer’s greatest reward
    The world positively teems with terrific writing, not only on bookstore shelves but online, where eclectic prose and thought are available free to all comers. For readers this is a wonderful thing. For writers it's profoundly humbling to know that people who love to read have more than enough options already to occupy their minds and hearts for a great many lifetimes.
  • August 6, 2008 : A double standard in the bedroom
    The world does not look kindly on a woman who swaggers from bed to bed as men have always done. But to my mind, the real inequality is that a naked woman can't display her cellulite in post-coital splendour the way a naked man displays his gut.
  • August 4, 2008 : Nowhere I have to be, nothing I have to do: bliss!
    This holiday Monday, I have our loft to myself, with sunlight streaming from end to end of the place and none of the usual Monday sound track (rumbling buses, boisterous pedestrians) from the street outside. A year or even a week from now, I won't remember the sweet languor of this moment in my life unless I capture it now.
  • August 1, 2008 : There’s no such thing as a boring life
    Women learn early to bite their tongues and let other people have the floor. We're so well trained in solicitude that we often need permission to speak. That's what my friend Elaine provides every summer at a raucous dinner party in our garden. She always asks us, one by one, to tell the group how our lives have changed since last year. The resulting stories prove that there's no such thing as a life without drama.
  • July 29, 2008 : The last sentence: 10 of the best
    When I first learned to read, I liked to flip ahead to the very last line to savour the secret of the ending. I knew this was not the approved way to read, which made it all the more seductive. I was supposed to be patient and let the author surprise me, but my notion of a surprise had nothing to do with what happened at the end, or did not. It was all about the story's destiny. A good closing sentence is the pinnacle toward which the story has been climbing.
  • July 26, 2008 : Mental illness and the media: they can’t look away anymore
    There isn't any annual drive to wear a ribbon to fight mental illness. Corporate sponsors aren't flocking to bankroll fun runs for this largely invisible cause, even though one in seven of us will suffer from a mental illness at some point. But let's remember that no so long ago, breast cancer was also a shameful secret that touched every family. Then the press took notice. And now, at long last, mental illness is attracting the coverage it deserves.
  • July 25, 2008 : Want to be my bridesmaid? Lose those wrinkles first!
    Weddings were created to celebrate married love. In the age of Botox and liposuction, they're becoming celebrations of physical perfection. No wrinkles, yellowed teeth or flat chests allowed.
  • July 24, 2008 : http://www.wayspa.com/en/phit
    I've read enough hand-wringing news reports about pre-teen girls giving blow jobs and dressing like hookers. The usual suspects (academics and therapists) keep telling me the same old story. I wanted to hear from a real expert: a young woman who has lived it and has the guts to tell the truth. Now along comes Kerry Cohen, author of the brave and eye-opening Loose Girl: a Memoir of Promiscuity.
  • July 22, 2008 : My new rented office: a progress report
    The beauty of working at home, according to the popular notion, has something to do with the dress code: you can get down to business in your bathrobe (or nothing at all). The downside, I've learned the hard way, is that it's just too easy to find yourself working all the time. That's why I now go out every morning to a funky rented office around the corner.
  • July 18, 2008 : If someone in your life has bipolar disorder, check this out now!
    Here's another sign that the media are at last portraying the mentally ill as fully rounded people you might know and love. On the New York Times web site, you can watch men and women with bipolar disorder speak frankly and powerfully about their incurable but treatable condition. And they're using their real names, too.
  • July 17, 2008 : My sister and me: the next chapter
    Last fall my sister Joyce and I shared the truth of our tangled, sometimes crazy-making, never less than loving relationship in MORE magazine. Heartfelt comments have been coming our way ever since. If you missed our essays, here's where to find them online, plus the next chapter of the story.
  • July 16, 2008 : Where will we go when we’re not flying or driving?
    July used to be vacation time, when my city cleared out and I felt like the queen of the sidewalk. Now swarming crowds tell me people are staying home in the new era of soaring gas prices and stripped-down flight schedules. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing. Traveling less will challenge us all to seek other kinds of adventures, creatively, socially and intellectually.
  • July 14, 2008 : Learning to sleep
    I never guessed I'd become dependent on sleeping pills, but night after night of tossing and turning made a desperate woman of me. Now it's time to start getting through the night without the insomniac's little helper. So I've just started a course of sleep behaviour therapy.
  • July 10, 2008 : Speak up if you support the Governor General
    Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean, has always struck me as a woman of vision and courage, the kind of pathfinder you'd want your daughter to become. Her quiet resolve was in the spotlight when she presented Dr. Henry Morgentaler with the Order of Canada. Now she's facing a tidal wave of anger from pro-lifers while polls show most Canadians are on her side. I've been silent until now myself. But that's going to change right now. It's time she heard from the rest of us.
  • July 8, 2008 : A sad, solemn, necessary thing
    When Dr. Henry Morgentaler received the Order of Canada for his unstinting, often life-threatening efforts to make abortion safe, legal and accessible, I thought he deserved the honour. Yet I couldn't rejoice; it would have felt like clapping at a funeral. I had no words to frame my conflicted thoughts until I watched a brave, remorseless movie about illegal abortion in Romania's darkest days.
  • July 3, 2008 : In search of the perfect dress
    Once I owned my idea of the perfect summer dress. It brought out my freewheeling side, and I wore it until it fell apart. When I spotted an identical dress on a young sales clerk, I wanted to rip it off her in a moment of extreme fashion lust.
  • June 30, 2008 : The Hillary I’ll be watching
    I wanted to vote for Hillary Clinton, and yet she disappointed me. Her rigid demeanour told me that in the 21st century, a woman of intelligence and fire is still not free to be herself. There must have been moments when she asked herself, "What if the worst happens?" Now she knows, and it must be a relief. As a woman roughly her age, I can't wait to see where she goes from here.
  • June 25, 2008 : A lesson in courage from Martha Graham
    Martha Graham, the Picasso of dance, was still poor and unknown when the Nazis invited her to appear at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She had the courage to refuse. Reading this story, as Agnes DeMille tells it in a mesmerizing classic biography, gives me a jolt of courage.
  • June 23, 2008 : Portrait of the artist as a young woman blown off course
    In The Red Leather Diary, first-time author Lily Koppel turns the long-forgotten journal of a spirited Manhattan teenager named Florence Wolfson into a tender-hearted portrait of a woman who longed to be a writer but instead became the proper matron her parents wanted her to be.
  • June 18, 2008 : A smile between strangers
    It's been a few decades since I was last accosted on the street by a strange man keen to tell me something. But last week I was hailed by a local shopkeeper who'd been watching me go by every day. I was always smiling, he said. And he just had to thank me.
  • June 14, 2008 : A reunion in my online neighbourhood
    When a stranger Googled "mother daughter," she rekindled a cherished old connection right here in the mother/daughter gallery at ronamaynard.com.
  • June 12, 2008 : What have you accomplished in your life?
    One way or another, I've spent my whole career sharing stories. I thought I was making a book, an article, a magazine or a web site. All along I was striving to create something bigger: a sense that the ordinary life means something. So I was moved to tears by a quiet little gem of a movie called The Visitor, which captures both the accessibility of meaning to us all and the emotional risk that is the price of admission.
  • June 9, 2008 : Missing Sheela
    Instead of answering today's e-mail, I've been rereading old messages from my friend Sheela Basrur. It's a question of priorities. the people who are writing today will still be around tomorrow, or next week, come to that. I'll never have another message from Sheela, who died a week ago of cancer at 51, and whose lilting voice I need to fix in my mind.
  • June 5, 2008 : Life without recipes (or time in the kitchen)
    Not so long ago, I cooked dinner every day from scratch. I basted, I simmered, I marinated and turned at intervals prescribed by my latest glossy cookbook. Enough of all that, I say! Now I mostly just saute and grill whatever looks fresh at the market. But we still eat well thanks to a few ingredients that elevate the humblest meal. A big hand, please, for avocados, bacon, anchovies, pesto and olive oil.
  • May 29, 2008 : A rhubarb pie between friends
    Now is the moment for homemade rhubarb pie, and my mother's were transcendent. After she died, I thought no one would ever again bake a rhubarb pie just to delight me. Then one spring at the height of rhubarb season, I went to see a friend who was terminally ill. She had a rhubarb patch. And despite my protests, she insisted on baking me a pie.
  • May 29, 2008 : “Such a lovely family, we never saw it coming”
    When I read the grim news about a suspected domestic homicide in a picture-book Calgary family, I immediately thought of Mary Swan's arresting and devastatingly assured first novel, The Boys in the Trees.
  • May 29, 2008 : Invisible afflictions
    I like to think I know how a life-threatening illness looks. Sunken eyes, pale skin, baldness from chemotherapy. But who am I kidding? Every day in Canada, where health care is the closest thing we have to a national religion, 10 people die of an invisible infliction. They take their own lives. Until the unthinkable happened, they blended right in with the rest of us. If we really value health as much as we claim, why don't we give mental illnesses the attention and resources they deserve?
  • May 27, 2008 : Home at last!
    At Harrington House, which has just served as our base for hiking in the Cotswolds, the exposed beams date back to Tudor times and breakfast features an array of choices, all as British as Buckingham palace: bacon, kippers, blood pudding, fried tomatoes and eggs cooked any way you choose. I felt like Christopher Robin when my poached egg arrived, nestled in a circle cut from the surrounding slice of pale whole-grain bread. But breakfast is a highly personal affair, and I missed the familiar pour-and-stir meal that kickstarts my day at home.
  • May 22, 2008 : The joyous gastronomic bargains of Argentina
    Argentina reminds me of that gorgeous, prodigiously gifted friend who can?t seem to get her act together. She has infallibly bad taste in men, and a habit of dwelling on her tortured family past. Still, she?s so much fun that you want to be around her. And much of the pleasure unfolds at the table, where fabulous food and wines of distinction can be had for a fraction of what you?d have to pay almost anywhere else.
  • May 18, 2008 : A temple of books in Buenos Aires
    Some say Buenos Aires is the city of tango. Others call it the city of soccer. Let me be the one to tell you Buenos Aires is a a city of independent bookstores, including the most extraordinary shrine to the printed word I have yet seen anywhere.
  • May 15, 2008 : A schlepper at Mount Aconcagua
    Mind if I brag for a minute? After all, it?s not every traveler who follows in the footsteps of the world?s greatest climbers, drawn by the forbidding power of Mount Aconcagua, the tallest peak outside the Himalayas.
  • May 13, 2008 : A fine day in Mendoza, Argentina
    This brilliant fall day in Argentine wine country, I?ve done nothing at all except absorb the sights and sounds of a new place. Knowing it's spring back home makes the whole experience more refreshing.
  • May 11, 2008 : A few delicious bites from the buffet of travel
    A trip is like a breakfast buffet. I want to taste everything because it looks so tempting, and because at home I can?t start my day with scrambled eggs unless I?m going to scramble them myself. So of course I overdo it. The reality is, I?ll never taste it all.
  • May 6, 2008 : Books for the plane: my on-board survival kit
    Remember the good old days of air travel? You got a free pillow in a cardboard-y cover, you could take your biggest tube of hand cream on board and you didn't get dinged for an extra bag. Ah, luxury! Now the airlines have left us just one tiny indulgence: we can carry all the books we can stow beneath our seats. Thank goodness, because I'm bracing myself for a 12-hour flight to Buenos Aires.
  • May 6, 2008 : At long last, a vacation!
    You'll be hearing from me less often these next several weeks. As I write this, I'm packing for our trip to South America. Correction: I should be packing.
  • May 5, 2008 : Seen once, remembered forever: a tale of time and travel
    I used to think I'd return to all the travel destinations that have stirred my soul. Now I've had to face reality: too many enticing places to see, not enough years of healthy wandering. And if I go back to the Alhambra, I might miss the Great Wall of China.
  • May 2, 2008 : Tossers and hoarders
    I've never had any truck with pompous types who claim that there are two kinds of people in the world, except when I'm the one making the pronouncement. So I am here to tell you that among those who own worldly goods, a spiritual and moral divide separates the tossers from the hoarders. We tossers get a self-righteous charge from purging every corner of stuff we deem to have served its purpose. As you've doubtless observed from all those articles and web sites that exalt the "conquering" of clutter, our camp has the upper hand these days.
  • April 28, 2008 : Brilliantly bad prose: a celebration long overdue
    All my life I have laboured to write well. But perhaps I've been trying too hard. I've just realized I may never craft a sentence as memorable as a whole flight of exuberantly bad sentences that appeared in my home-town paper back in 1972 and have resonated in my mind ever since. Trust me, to write this badly takes nerve, swagger and a kind of reckless brilliance.
  • April 25, 2008 : Another face of my city
    The city I thought I knew like a friend revealed another side of itself when my husband and I took a long evening walk through urban corners we'd never explored. Right on our own turf, we had a mini-vacation that was full of surprises.
  • April 24, 2008 : A friend to homeless women (and at least one first-time author)
    I didn't remember meeting Lia Grimanis, a spirited advocate for homeless women. But she remembered meeting me at a crowded reception. And when she bought my book, she took a minute to cheer me on.
  • April 22, 2008 : Breaking my own rules
    I've always chafed against killjoy restrictions (never do this, always do that). Then I realized who the ultimate enforcer was. Me.
  • April 18, 2008 : Petals and thorns
    If there's anyone who understands what it means to stand firm in a crisis, it's my friend Sheela Basrur, whose leadership during Toronto's SARS outbreak captured hearts and minds across the land. Now she has cancer, but cancer doesn't have Sheela. Last week I took a break from move-related mayhem to celebrate Sheela's latest honour, the Order of Ontario. I came away refreshed by the wisdom she shared at the podium.
  • April 13, 2008 : Moving day
    Some women have ex-husbands. I have ex-homes. Yesterday I let the movers carry all the traces of myself and my husband out yet another door. The time had come to live somewhere else (together, thank goodness). Even so, it hurt to leave home.
  • April 13, 2008 : Eat here, diet at home
    I've yet to sample the famous burgers at the Patrician Grill, but whoever runs this joint has a delicious way with words.
  • April 8, 2008 : My cast-off hat finds the perfect home
    The most absurd fashion purchase I've ever made was a navy blue cloche that cost way too much and never fit right. But it looks stunning on my friend Christa, who blogs about fashion at Petite Fashionista. May she wear it long and well.
  • April 3, 2008 : A community of readers
    What I learned from giving my cast-off fiction and poetry to Sanctuary, a charity that befriends the the scorned and forgotten.
  • March 30, 2008 : Goodbye, home office
    For more than 30 years, I've had a home office where I could write in my bathrobe before dawn if the spirit moved me. I thought I'd found the room of my own that every woman writer needs, according to Virginia Woolf. Then along came the Internet with all its distractions. Instead of writing, I'm buying furniture and booking vacations. So I've made a momentous decision. Starting now, I'll get dressed every morning and go out to work.
  • March 20, 2008 : My secret bond with Jimmy Page
    My heart goes out to Jimmy Page. The celebrated Led Zeppelin guitarist has to sell a cherished $2 million tapestry because he's run out of wall space in his mansions. I know how he feels, because the walls in our new loft won't hold a custom-made piece of neon art that doesn't mean a dime to anyone but me. Oh, the exquisite agony!
  • March 20, 2008 : Department of amazing coincidences
    The big city became a very small small world indeed when I discovered that we'd bought our new home from our grandson's cousin.
  • March 17, 2008 : The wage gap: is the glass ceiling really to blame?
    We all know that day care workers earn peanuts, while engineers collect big bucks. So steering women into science courses ought to boost their earning potential. It hasn't worked out that way. In a provocative new book called The Sexual Paradox, psychologist Susan Pinker argues that well-intentioned efforts to close the wage gap have devalued women's real desires and motivations. Women don't see the world as men do, she says. And the reason is rooted in our brains.
  • March 14, 2008 : Lunch for the soul
    There's not much left in my kitchen these days as we gear up to move. But right until the last day, I'll have the makings of my favourite last-minute lunch: the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich. I've made all-day ragus that aren't nearly as delicious.
  • March 12, 2008 : Claiming the keys: a homeowner’s love story
    A naked home, when you've just acquired it, is like a naked lover who has just left his date-night clothes on your floor for the very first time.
  • March 11, 2008 : Going, going, gone: my great pre-move giveaway
    Some people have yard sales to unload their excess baggage. I wouldn't bother, even if I had a yard and a brilliant spring day for displaying my cast-offs to the world. Too much work, I say. And besides, I get a buzz out of giving dust-catchers away to people who will really use them.
  • March 8, 2008 : Temporarily cool: ronamaynard.com gets an accolade
    I hadn't even heard of the Open Directory when they "cooled" my interactive web site, which just goes to show the limits of my coolness. Just when I got excited, my cool rating disappeared. Now it's back, for now. But like other good things in life, coolness is a temporary pleasure.
  • March 5, 2008 : Is a husband just a partner in life’s everyday grind?
    It was my husband of 37 years who handed me the March issue of The Atlantic and told me not to miss a punchy piece called "Marry Him," in which rueful never-married mother Lori Gottlieb makes "the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough."
  • March 3, 2008 : Just another tourist in search of transcendence
    I'm not sure what I expected to find at the Grand Canyon. Beauty, certainly, but that's the wrong word for a chasm so vast and start, you can fly over it and see no end. A remarkable short story, "Abyss" by Richard Ford, took me straight to the dark heart of that feeling.
  • March 1, 2008 : A Joni Mitchell moment on my winter vacation
    You wouldn't think there's any call for fake rocks in southern Utah. The place teems with real ones, majestically sculptured by nature over many millions of years. But the strangest things happen when you start paving paradise.
  • February 22, 2008 : The best thing that happened this week
    She used to be my protegee. Now she's my friend and peer. As her mentor, I learned that the greatest reward of leadership is preparing others to lead. So I was proud and delighted to recommend her for a well-deserved award.
  • February 20, 2008 : The power of reading: Val Ross in her own words
    Monday's post about Val Ross, my friend and colleague who died last weekend at age 57, has touched off a continuing flurry of messages from visitors to this site. Some of you say you wish you could have known her. You can, through her captivating words. Here is an excerpt from You Can't Read This, Val's history of lost and forbidden books through the ages.
  • February 18, 2008 : Two bowls of soup: in memory of Val Ross
    Readers knew Val Ross as an award-winning journalist and author. Countless people knew her as a friend of rare integrity and grace. I was blessed to be among them. This is my tribute to Val, who died in Toronto of a brain tumour on February 17, at age 57.
  • February 18, 2008 : Neither young nor a lady
    The 20-something waiter called my husband "sir." He addressed me as "young lady." He did it once, he did it twice, and at the rate we were going he'd be doing it all evening, this rosy-cheeked kid who was younger than my son. The last time this happened, I bit my tongue. But the best part of growing older is the freedom to speak your mind.
  • February 12, 2008 : My favourite first sentences
    A great first sentence pulls the reader into the story. Even more important, it gives the writer heart to keep on telling the story in the first place. Here, a baker's dozen of the best, culled from novels I've loved through the decades.
  • February 8, 2008 : The essential dinner-time ceremony
    For years my husband has opened an interesting wine as we sat down to dinner. This year he's on the wagon. As recently as a few months ago, this decision would have unnerved me. Now I understand that conversation, not wine, is really what makes dinner special.
  • February 4, 2008 : My sweet unlikely home
    When we cashed out of our dream condo, we thought we'd go back to a sensible house. Lo and behold, we've bought an eccentrically beautiful loft instead. It's just the kind of bohemian pad that I aspired to back as a teenage rebel. In my 50s, I've discovered it's not too late to have what I always wanted.
  • February 1, 2008 : Learning to love my gray hair
    Eight years ago, I made a decision that changed my life. I stopped pretending that my hair was still a rich, dark brown. At the time I was Editor of Chatelaine, where we featured my makeover from brown to gray. Next thing I knew, grateful middle-aged readers were pulling off my hat to admire my silver tresses.
  • January 29, 2008 : The woman with the Canadian flag: an urban encounter
    I thought it must be a crime or an accident that had brought police and paramedics to a busy intersection in my city. In fact it was the cortege for a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan. And a woman he never knew was determined to honour him.
  • January 28, 2008 : A brief history of my hair
    From a botched Toni home permanent to the risks and rewards of going gray, the story of my hair has been the story of my life. Let's face it, to be female iis to struggle with your hair.
  • January 25, 2008 : Mending a tear in the family fabric
    Growing up, I never knew I had a first cousin named Rosemary Woolery. Her father and mine were brothers in a complicated family where people seldom to spoke to one another. She died years ago. But thanks to her daughter Louisa, I've met her right here on this site in the Mother/Daughter Gallery.
  • January 23, 2008 : My googleganger and me
    I thought I must be the only Rona Maynard until I Googled myself and found another one online. Who was this woman? And why did it bother me to share my name with someone else?
  • January 19, 2008 : My city, myself
    The Toronto I've called home for my entire adult life is becoming an angrier, lonelier place. I could rage against this trend, but I know I'm complicit.
  • January 16, 2008 : Unreal estate: the secret language of real estate ads
    The real meaning of "million-dollar view," "executive home" and other terms that perplex the weary home buyer. How do I know? I've been out there pounding the pavement and I'm here to share my hard-earned wisdom.
  • January 12, 2008 : Adventures in real estate
    Looking for a home is like looking for love. You hope the next listing will be The One. You tell yourself you can make this work. But when you realize it won't, there's always tomorrow.
  • January 11, 2008 : My first book club
    Meeting with book clubs is as much a part of being an author as rewriting the same pesky sentence 129 times. Thank goodness book club meetings are a lot more fun.
  • January 7, 2008 : Selling my dream home
    Now that I'm about to be homeless, I finally understand that home is a state of mind.
  • January 4, 2008 : The parents you never knew
    One of the hardest things for every more or less grownup person to understand is that our parents had complex lives, full of dreams and hopes and fears, before we came along.
  • January 3, 2008 : Losing your parents and living better
    It's not quite acceptable to admit it, but a parent's death can free the children to become their best selves.
  • January 1, 2008 : Rona Maynard goes to Broadway
    Check out the January issue of Reader's Digest Canada for Rona's story on her appearance in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, now coming to Toronto.

2007

  • December 30, 2007 : A tourist in the kingdom of baseball
    The secret of a lasting marriage has more than a little to do with exploring your spouse's burning interests. I never managed to develop a passion for baseball. Still, I'm glad I made the effort.
  • December 24, 2007 : My perfect Christmas tree
    Real or artificial? Who cares? Anyone can buy the Christmas tree. Only I can decorate it with the lovingly collected ornaments that make it mine.
  • December 20, 2007 : Here’s to good readers
    Good readers are a lot like good life partners. They don't expect to love the whole package; they just want a rich experience that rewards the gift of their attention.
  • December 18, 2007 : My two children: the son and the book
    When I wrote My Mother's Daughter, I learned to forget about tangible results and let the work become its own reward. After years of corporate life, this felt a little strange. But it wasn't really. I have raised a son, and for parents there are no benchmarks except your own love and commitment.
  • December 17, 2007 : As long as I’m a mother…
    Just because I no longer listen for the click of my son's key in the front door doesn't mean I've outgrown the habit of maternal worry.
  • December 12, 2007 : Not your average dinner party
    Why every woman should see Judy Chicago's stunning work "The Dinner Party," which is 28 years old and still charged with excitement
  • December 6, 2007 : The woman who lived on words
    It wasn't easy to be friends with Margaret Gibson, a ferociously original writer who struggled with severe mental illness. But by reading her a poem I knew she'd love, I found a moment of grace.
  • December 3, 2007 : My favourite dish
    Instead of homemade fettucine and other grand culinary productions, I stick to simple pleasures like this mustard-grilled flank steak.
  • November 29, 2007 : Five minutes alone with Leonard Cohen
  • November 29, 2007 : A moment of grace in cyberspace
    You never know how an online encounter with a stranger is going to enlarge your life. This morning, an e-mail from a stranger did precisely that.
  • November 24, 2007 : Style therapy
    Why buy an "it bag" that won't work as my bag? Let fashionistas chase the trends of the moment; I'll stick to wearable talismans that will lift my spirits for years.
  • November 21, 2007 : What’s so funny?
    To truly appreciate Blazing Saddles, the classic spoof western by Mel Brooks, you have to watch it with a kid for whom the only thing funnier than a fart is a whole gleeful chorus of farts.
  • November 21, 2007 : Words to live by
    Culled from my recent reading: wise thoughts from Norman Mailer, Mary Pipher and Sandra Oh.
  • November 18, 2007 : Sleeping for success
    "The Sleep Industrial Complex," a provocative cover story in the New York Times Magazine, won't tell you how to get the sleep of your dreams. But it does explain why you're so worried about those precious eight hours. I feel your pain.
  • November 16, 2007 : I’m new to this game myself
    What I've learned about writing from June Callwood, Roger Daltrey and the sheer discombobulating thrill of being a beginner instead of the "veteran" I used to be.
  • November 9, 2007 : How old is grown-up?
    The older I get, the younger I feel inside. And I'm in good company. My newest role model, 65-year-old soul diva Aretha Franklin, says she's planning to overcome fear of flying and study classical piano.
  • November 9, 2007 : Question of the day: overcoming depression
    You often speak and write about overcoming depression. What made you decide to go public, when so many people are ashamed to admit that mental illness has touched their lives?
  • November 6, 2007 : Question of the day: the difference between sons and daughters
    Your only child is a son, yet you write about the mother/daughter bond. Are you sorry that you never had a daughter?
  • November 6, 2007 : Reasons for loving
    When a friend fell gravely ill, I didn't know what to do or how to help. So I filled a note card with all the things I love about her.
  • November 2, 2007 : Sharing happiness
    A cherished poem can bring friends together. For me, the ultimate pass-along poem is Jane Kenyon's wonderfully consoling "Happiness."
  • October 31, 2007 : Paper birds
    My father, Max Maynard, never finished anything. So the the family legend went. When he joined A.A., determined to quit drinking in old age, he never quite pulled it off. But he made an honest effort, and that's what matters now.
  • October 27, 2007 : The doors in my head
    New possibilities are everywhere, at every age. It's all a question of seeing them.
  • October 25, 2007 : Still married after all these years
    Like a fine bottle of wine, young lovers need time to lose their rough edges and reveal their best selves. Sometimes I wonder how we did it.
  • October 18, 2007 : The truth about looking younger
    Back when I was going to bars with fake ID, I'd do anything to look older. I thought I'd always have this problem. Now I'm always on the lookout for ways to look younger. Here's some unconventional wisdom.
  • October 15, 2007 : Scrambling for the back seat
    Some women don't aim for leadership until they see that other people are already following. Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin is a perfect example, and she's honest own enough to talk about her battle with fear of failure.
  • October 15, 2007 : Like a fish without a bicycle
    Once upon a time, feminists weren't supposed to admit that they actually needed a man. I thought we'd left those days behind. But in a lively new book, feminist heroine Katha Pollitt admits to being a world-class fool for love. And some of her biggest fans are up in arms.
  • October 11, 2007 : The envelope, please
    It's been close to 20 years since my mother was alive to send me letters. Then a friend of hers appeared with the ultimate gift: a lost letter, full of feeling and insight.
  • October 8, 2007 : The gift of gratitude
    I can't demand gratitude of others, but I can cultivate it in myself. Thank goodness!
  • October 4, 2007 : The compliment conundrum
    We love to tell other women what's special about themselves. So why do we brush off compliments directed our way?
  • October 1, 2007 : Age cannot wither her
    I hadn't thought of Patricia since she taught me English 35 years ago. Now here she was beside me on the subway platform, looking proudly and stylishly herself
  • September 28, 2007 : Holden Caulfield revisited
    It's been more than 40 years since I fell in love with Salinger's hero, and he's not the same adorable guy. He's prickly, judgmental and afraid to grow up. But I still really want to hear about it. And The Catcher in the Rye is still a great book.
  • September 28, 2007 : Question of the day: why another Maynard family memoir?
    Your mother and your sister both wrote memoirs. Now you've joined the family business with your own memoir, My Mother's Daughter. Why did you choose to write another book about the Maynard family instead of an original story?
  • September 25, 2007 : My kingdom for a good night’s sleep
    Back when I could sleep through anything, I waged a nightly campaign to stave off bedtime. Oh, the irony!
  • September 22, 2007 : Bringing it all back home
    I thought I never wanted to return to the prairie city where my mother came of age. But it's where she fell in love with my father, and where she used to struggle with her own formidable mother. Now Winnipeg is where my book tour begins. And I'm keen to revisit my family's roots.
  • September 20, 2007 : A few of my favourite books
    Some of these books changed my life. Others are just so irresistibly compelling, I find myself telling every reader I know, "You've got to read this."
  • September 20, 2007 : Question of the day: what a journalist needs to know
    I'm a high school student and aspiring journalist making plans for university. Should I major in English or journalism?
  • September 17, 2007 : A better life than hers
    Every generation of women aspires to what mom didn't have. Now it's baby boomers' turn to be told that our frantic lives didn't cut it.
  • September 14, 2007 : What women want…and other discoveries from the hot tub
    Take a happily exhausted group of hikers from all over. Add soothing hot water. Listen to the stories that prove we're more alike than different.
  • September 10, 2007 : Question of the day: how can I make peace between my warring daughters?
    You and your sister have written frankly about the difficulties between you. I'm the mother of two young daughters whose relationship is full of pain. I have tried to mitigate my older daughter's rage and resentment but seemingly to no avail. Do you wish your mother had done something to lessen the pain between you and your sister? Am I unknowingly adding to my daughters' pain?
  • September 7, 2007 : Question of the day: how can I find Fredelle Maynard’s books?
    Years ago I lent my copy of Raisins and Almonds to someone and never got it back. How can I replace it? I don't see your mother's books anywhere.
  • September 7, 2007 : Why I’m still married
    I've been married as long as some of my friends have been alive. While they were still putting peas in their ears, my husband and I were dealing loudly and gracelessly with weightier matters like whose turn it was to throw dinner on the table.
  • September 3, 2007 : The necessary art of condolence notes
    Once I went shopping for the perfect black dress to accessorize for any occasion. Now I buy note cards for reaching out to friends in need. And white is the new black.
  • September 3, 2007 : Question of the day: was writing your memoir a catharsis?
    You've had a difficult childhood and a history of depression. Did you write your book to get it off your chest?
  • August 28, 2007 : Every second woman I know is in transition
    We used to know our place in the world. Then a child left home or a job ended. What next?
  • August 22, 2007 : Cats of my life
    With my cats, I've expressed every facet of my character--for better and worse
  • August 20, 2007 : Question of the day: how did you balance your life?
    You've been able to combine career and motherhood. How did you balance your life?
  • August 17, 2007 : Life lessons from my local beggars
    One woman's struggle with urban guilt
  • August 15, 2007 : Why I wrote My Mother’s Daughter
    One January morning in 2005, I sat down at the desk in my home office and wondered what to do with the next phase of my life. I had just left my job at Chatelaine ? a job that had defined me for a decade.
  • August 1, 2007 : Question of the day: What would your mother think?
    Your mother was a formidable character and a tough critic. What would she think of My Mother's Daughter?

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