Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolution: THE BOOK

The new year is just around the corner. I have only one resolution: Write. The. Book. Yes, I know, those of you who are faithful readers have heard me say this before. But this time I mean it. Really. Why is this time different? Because my life is at stake. Friends and readers alike have begun threatening violence if I don't do this thing. Okay, not really. But if looks could kill...

Seriously, here I go:

I, tall penguin, do solemnly swear that I will write at least one page towards THE BOOK every day during 2010. I also swear to checking in with you, my reader, each and every day to notify you of my progress. If I do not, I hereby give you permission to comment here, email me or call my lazy ass and harass me. Amen.

So, that's it people. That's my big resolution for the new year. I had other resolutions, like quitting smoking and moving into a completely vegetarian diet, but hell, to do this book thing I'm going to need to bribe myself with the occasional clove cigarette and Big Mac. You have to choose your battles.

In other news, dogs everywhere have begun wincing in pain as the tall penguin whine of avoidance gears up for full throttle. You know full well that half of my check-ins are going to be me complaining about how much I hate writing, don't you? If we make it through this year together, I will officially move you from the reader category into the friend category. And possibly buy you a beer. Or at least send you a picture of myself drinking a beer in your honor. When I hit the bestseller list then I'll buy you a beer.

Geez, I'm afraid to hit "post" on this entry. It's been a long time since I've allowed myself to be held accountable for anything of this magnitude. I feel like I'm committing myself to birthing a hundred-pound baby. And so it begins.

tall penguin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


She neither remembered,
Nor forgot.

She just knew.

tall penguin

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Sometimes, late at night, just before sleep overtakes my weary eyes, a smile comes upon my face. I'm not sure from where it arises. I can rarely recall a preceding thought to warrant the expression. But there I am, lying in my bed, with a smile on my face that would make the Buddha, well, smile.

At that moment, I like to imagine that there are gods in the heavens playing a game of Telephone. But the celestial version is, of course, perfect and profoundly simple, so the message gets relayed without any errors:

Smile. Pass it on.

And somehow, at two in the morning on a random Monday, the message reaches me. It doesn't feel like a whisper in my ear though. It feels much more like the wings of angels reaching out and upturning my lips. Perhaps a smile is the kiss of God.

tall penguin

Grow Old With Me...

Grow Old With Me
Lyrics by John Lennon

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
God bless our love
God bless our love

Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
God bless our love
God bless our love

Spending our lives together
Man and wife together
World without end
World without end

Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through
For our love is true
God bless our love
God bless our love

Hopping the Fence...

I spent some time with my parents over the holidays. It seems that they're getting nostalgic in their old age. And I'm completely delighted about it. I'm learning things about my folks that I never knew before. One particular story told to me recently made me smile.

My father, who came to Canada from Italy at the age of 11, spent his teen years in a house not far from a local community centre where there was an outdoor swimming pool in the summer and an outdoor skating rink in the winter. Knowing neither how to swim or skate, he would hop the fence late at night, smuggle himself into the pool or rink and teach himself, through much trial and error, how to do both.

All I knew growing up is that I had a father who was fearless. He could skate and swim well (although he never learned to float), as well as any one of the other dads around. I asked him why he didn't just take lessons, why he decided to do his learning incognito.

"Sometimes it's easier to learn when there's no one around," he replied.

And I smiled. I get that. When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses some four years ago now, my then-boyfriend (also an ex-JW) suggested repeatedly that I go to University. The suggestion terrified me. I would cringe every time he brought it up. I cringe now just thinking of it. Bleh.

Let's be clear though, I graduated Grade 13 with a 91% average; I'm no intellectual slouch. But there was, and still is, this desire to do my learning behind closed doors. Why? Because sometimes it is indeed easier to learn when there's no one around. This is the reason I've spent the better part of the past year reading incessantly, pushing my boundaries, questioning my beliefs at every turn and not sharing much of it with you (although I've probably still shared more of the journey with you than most people would...that's my way of facing the I don't want to get it wrong in front of everyone fear).

I needed to hop the fence in the dead of night and teach myself how to swim, as it were. And I'm glad I did. Sometimes you have to listen to the fear in your gut and find your own way through it. And for some of us, that means going underground to gather knowledge rather than shining a light directly on our own ignorance.

By the way, I will share with you "My Year in Books" in an upcoming entry. It's going to take some time to prepare so bear with me. But it's coming. I promise.

In related news, I'm bursting my stay-at-home-and-learn bubble. I have enrolled in two classes this coming new year. One in creative writing and the other in drawing/painting. It's time to bring the penguin out into the world just a little bit more, just enough to give her wings a little breadth but not too much as to send her back to the cave in abject terror. I imagine this penguin will forever do a dance between pushing herself out into the big, scary world and retreating to the safety of the cave. Perhaps this is the dance most people do and it could even be considered a "normal" path to success.

Normal can be good. Who knew?

tall penguin

Friday, December 25, 2009

Always Take The Weather With You...

He was all the way across the world now. He may as well have been across the universe, he was so far away from her. She checked the weather every day. Not her weather, but the weather where he was. She smiled every time she saw sun in his forecast. If it could not be her kissing his skin she was happy that the sun would fill in.

She could still feel his arms wrapped around her the night before they parted.

"Remember me here," he said, pulling her closer, "I'm always right here."

She laid on his chest and breathed him in. Deeply. She hoped she could remember all of him. She hoped that even if her mind forgot, her body would remember.

tall penguin

Happy Anniversary To Me!

I just realized that I missed my three year anniversary of this here blog. It just passed on December 20th. Wow. I can't believe I've been blogging for three years now. Here is my first entry:


Testing 1, 2, 3

So, this is a blog. It's all new to me. I figured I'd just dive right in rather than look at what other people have done here, since my inner voice will kick in and tell me I can't do it as well as everyone else and all my creative juices will pool in the lower recesses of my brain causing me great angst. So, here goes. Be gone inner voice.

Once upon a time, I wrote. A lot. Every day. Poetry. Journals. Essays. Whatever I felt like ranting about. And then life happened. Not the good kind of life. The crappy, kick-you-in-the-stomach-and-stomp-on-your-head-kind-of-life. And the muse left or rather cowered deeply within my soul, like the vulnerable child she is and refused to come out to play. But she's back. And I'm back. And well, here I am writing again.

It feels kind of strange really. This whole cyber world. The ability to put your thoughts out into the cosmos so freely, so easily, at the click of a button. It's a strange sort of vulnerability that creates, to be so exposed. I've always felt that sharing my writing was like lying spread eagle on a bed for all the world to see. So blogging for me is the equivalent of coming out as a porn star. I'm naked, I'm shaved and I'm about to climax. Everybody watch.

tall penguin
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I still get squeamish when I read other people's blogs. I still think everyone else does a better job at expressing themselves than I do. But I'm also still that girl who's willing to jump into the fray and expose the deepest, most vulnerable bits of herself for the sake of the journey.

Thanks everybody for watching. Hope you'll be around for the next three years. I think the best is yet to come. (Pun entirely intended.)

tall penguin

Life Soundtrack...

I have a Life Soundtrack. It's a collection of songs that I imagine would be played over a montage of images of my life, like they do in the movies. I've added to it over the years, and occasionally subtracted from it, but the core of it has remained the same for at least four years now. It's my favorite playlist for my late night walks through my city. Actually, it's my favorite playlist. Period.

Interestingly, many of my selections are instrumentals. I love music without words. I love the images my mind creates to go along with them. And I love the emotional journey they take me on. But the songs with lyrics are also so very special to me. Both the words and the melodies tell a story.

Songs that make the Life Soundtrack seem to choose me. Over the years, they have found me, coming to me from varied, and sometimes odd, sources and often at the most serendipitous of times. Each song captures well the journey that I call my life. And no matter how many times I listen to this soundtrack, it still moves me. To laughter. To tears. To a glowing appreciation of all that was and will be.

I'm not going to share it with you though. I bet you thought I was, didn't you? Well, I thought about it, and up until two minutes ago, I was going to, but It's too personal. It would be like letting you hold up a mirror to every line on my face. There's something kind of sacred about the Life Soundtrack. All I can say is, make one of your own. You'll be surprised.

tall penguin

Growing Up...

I don't understand adults. I didn't understand them as a child and I understand them less now. I sat in a room full of adults tonight at a family Christmas Eve dinner and felt completely out of place. I just can't relate to these people with full-time jobs and mortgage payments and lives so busy that they have little to discuss but how busy they are.

Strangely, I have always longed to be one of them, thinking that that would finally mean I'm "grown up". But I don't think I'll ever be grown up. And I'm not sure I want to be. If I ever find myself living a life where I can't stop everything in the middle of the week and sit at a cafe with a tea and a good book, please shoot me. No, really. If I can't stop and savor a few hours of people-watching and journal writing (or spontaneous lovemaking for that matter), I think my life is headed in a direction that I don't want to go. So, put me out of my misery then and there because really, it's no longer my life. I've fought long and hard to carve out a life that is mine and I don't ever again want to find that I'm being shuffled along for the ride.

I don't know. Maybe I suffer from some form of a Peter Pan complex. Maybe I want to be a child forever. No, that's not it. I can behave like an adult well enough. It's just that I don't ever want to lose touch with that child within me that lives in the eternal moment of now. I want to be easily distracted by butterflies and passing clouds. I want forever to be the girl who can get lost in daydreams and be found skipping down the street. I want forever to be the one "adult" in the crowd who young kids look at and think, "She's one of us." Sure, it may mean being awkward and silly and different for the rest of my life, but I think I'm okay with that.

Finally. I'm okay with that.

tall penguin

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Festivus!

Festivus for the rest of us. Happy Holidays to all. Whether you're a believer or not, you get a few days off to savor the season with family and friends, so whatever you may be doing or whomever you may be with, enjoy.

My tip of the season? Never pass up an opportunity for laughter. Even if you've missed the conversation that preceded the laughter, if you catch others laughing, go ahead and laugh. Life is short and you can never laugh too much, in my opinion.


tall penguin

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


His love knocks gently
At my door
A faint whisper
Beckons me
Always, always
To that which is true.
I hear his call
Even though I travel far
It is the light
Which guides my footsteps
The beat
To which I dance
The robe
Which clothes me
In the dark of night.

The sirens
Sing not so sweet a song
As my lover's glance.
His eyes shine
Like a sun-kissed petal
In the morning dew.
He plays my love
With a gossamer lute-
Heavenly chords
And sublime incantations.

He lays me open
Like a book,
Skimming my pages
In search of stories
Yet to be told.
Secrets dance on his fingertips
Bewitching my every breath
Until, until
The words escape like fire
Through my skin.

And then,
He turns to go,
Leaving me bare
And clothed.
And filled.
And open.
And nothing.

How terribly perfect.

tall penguin


"To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life."
~~Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Podcast Debut!

After hearing the show done over at Irreligiosophy on Jehovah's Witnesses last month, I connected with the podcasters to thank them for their work. After a few email exchanges, they invited me to come on their show as a guest speaker and talk about my JW experience. So, I did. And here it is.

Something has shifted for me as a result of doing this podcast. I can't quite explain it but it feels like this is some kind of turning point for me.

Oh, and it's funny too. Let me know what you think.

tall penguin

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Bit of Hope...

Something wonderful happened a few weeks back that I'd like to share with you all. But first, a little of the backstory. I've blogged here about how close I was to the children in my Jehovah's Witness congregations. The children were my lifeline, the rare spark in an otherwise gloomy cult existence. I loved the children and did my best to see them, something the JW organization was not very good at. The JW org has a tendency to see children as mini-adults, mini-proselytizers even. From a very young age you are made aware of how sinful you are and how mindful you need be that your definition of "fun" matches God's. In other words, it's hard to just be a kid being a kid. But I digress.

I always held the intention around the JW children that I wanted them to have fun around me and just be allowed to be who they are. I would take them on outings, plan parties and scoop them up into my arms any chance I got.

In the last congregation I was in, before I formally left the Jehovah's Witnesses, there was one little girl, S, who I was particularly fond of. At every JW meeting, she would bounce in the door of the Kingdom Hall and leap up into my arms with a shriek of delight. She would nuzzle her cheek next to mine and tell me how much she loved me. Sometimes, her parents would let her sit through the meeting next to me. My job was to help her pay attention (S had some attention issues) but I would just let her doodle or fall asleep on my shoulder.

S was one of those kids, much like I was, who could feel the world around her at a very deep level. You could see her wheels turning with existential questions and ponderings.

One of the last things we did together was spend a girl's day out shopping. This was some five years ago, when she was just 5 years old. We took the streetcar to the downtown core of our city. This was a treat as she'd rarely done this before. As we were watching out the streetcar window we passed a lot of buildings with graffiti. S turned to me and asked, "Why do people do graffiti?"

I paused and then turned the question back to S, "Why do you think they do graffiti?"

S looked back out the window for a long time, then turned to me and said, "I think they're angry and they just want someone to listen to them."

I smiled and said nothing. Her insight was enough. We sat in silence the rest of the way.

When I left the JW's four years ago, I did not say goodbye to any of the children. My cult exit happened rather quickly and I'm not sure I would've known what to say even if I had had the opportunity. Sometimes it is best to just leave quietly.

S was about 6 when I left. I have missed her terribly over the years.

A few months after I left the JW's and was knee deep into being shunned by the whole community, a member of the congregation died. I was not informed about the funeral. As an "apostate" I'm not supposed to be privy to congregational happenings. JW's aren't even supposed to mention me in conversation or ask anyone how I'm doing. For all intents and purposes, I am dead. I found out about this particular funeral from my brother who attended the funeral home viewing to pay his respects. He told me that S was there with her mother and older sister. None of them acknowledged him. Even though my brother was never a full-fledged JW, he would sometimes get shunned because of his connection to me.

Then out of nowhere, S quickly bolts across the room and slides quietly up to my brother, watching over her shoulder to make sure her mother or anyone else isn't watching her. She knows full well she's not supposed to do what she's about to do. She gets up on her tiptoes and whispers to my brother, "How's 'tall penguin' doing?"

My brother smiles and says, "She's great. I'll let her know you were asking about her."

Then S takes a quick look around and goes back to her family.

Needless to say, this happening made me very emotional. It was bittersweet to say the least. I was so happy that S had the courage to stand up for what she felt and inquire about me, but I was also so sad because I missed her so terribly and hated that she was in this stupid cult that caused this distance between us.

It's been four years since that happened. As my parents and S's family are still in the same congregation and my folks have become lax with their execution of the shunning doctrine (thankfully so), I regularly inquire about S and am updated by my mother just to let me know she's okay.

Fast forward now to three weeks ago. I'm visiting my brother who lives in the heart of my old JW territory. We go for coffee at the local donut shop. I have my back to the door and am told by my bro that S and her mother have just walked in. I'm afraid to turn around. I know I will be shunned and to see that girl and not be able to speak to her will just be too much to bear. So I keep focused on my brother and just keep talking.

A few minutes later, my brother looks at me and says, "S is coming over here." My heart skips a beat.

I turn and see her coming across the donut shop. She is tall. She is beautiful. In the last four-and-a-half years since I last saw her she has become a young woman. We lock eyes and she begins to run straight across the shop into my arms. I try not to cry but I can't help it. I hold her tight to me, showering her head with tears and kisses.

"I've missed you so much," she says to me. I move her just to arm's length so I can see her face. She is 11 years old now. She is beautiful. I can't stop looking at her. I'm holding her in my arms like she is my own. She feels like my own. She has always felt like my own.

We embrace again and again. There are so few words between us. I don't even notice anymore that we're in a public place. I don't even care that her mother continues to shun me from the other side of the donut shop. None of it matters. There is just S and I locked in a moment of pure love and joy.

S looks at me and says, "Remember the time we went shopping and we took the streetcar?"

"Yes, I remember that," I say. Of course I remember. I remember all of her.

"I wish we could go shopping like that again."

"Me too," I say. If she only knew how many times I'd imagined such things.

Again and again she tells me how much she's missed me. And again and again, I hold her to me and kiss her head.

I see out of the corner of my eye that her mother is almost through the line and ready to leave. Not really thinking, I ask S, "Can I give you my phone number?"

She smiles from ear to ear with excitement, "YES!"

I scribble my number down on a small piece of paper and palm it into her hand. "Call me anytime, day or night."

"I will guard this with my life." she says, slipping the piece of paper into her pocket.

We embrace once more, tighter than ever. "I love you, S," I whisper into her ear, "Don't ever forget that."

"I won't," she says, looking up at me with her big brown eyes, And then she turns and walks back to her mother.

I turn my back to them once more. I refuse to watch them leave. I want to believe that this isn't the last time I will see this child.

I look at my brother and the tears gush forward. For every bit of crazy I've been through as a JW and as an ex-JW, somehow, in this moment, it's all okay. Somehow, there is hope. And I like hope.

tall penguin

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Must Stop Posting Beaker Clips...

Yes, I'm Obsessed...

...with BEAKER!!!

tall penguin

Ode to Joy...

Is it wrong that I have a crush on a muppet?

tall penguin

Oh Beaker...

My stomach muscles are sore this morning from laughing so hard last night. My friend D and I were perusing old Muppet Show and Sesame Street clips. This was the hit of the night. It's my beloved Beaker, of course, as he attempts to sing "Feelings". Priceless.

tall penguin

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Muppets Do Bohemian Rhapsody!

Okay, I'm a few days late to the party, but I have to get in on this as I do believe this will make internet history. Here's a newly released video of The Muppets doing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". I grew up on both Queen and The Muppet Show and seeing them in combo makes me very happy...very, very happy.

Oh, and, I must confess, here publicly, I heart Beaker. What can I say, I've always loved geeks.

tall penguin