I confess I have an addiction to alliteration. No, I am not in therapy for it as I think it adds to my charm. Yes, I am funny or so I think and with that said, books & bicycles fit perfectly together.
I grew up on a 100 acre farm near Lake Erie. We raised Hereford cows and I had a pony. I also had a little red bicycle that I would ride up and down our long driveway and sometimes in the field although ‘Spitfire’ the cow, didn’t like it or me!
If you provide books to a child you can make a kid a reader for life. My grade six teacher, Mrs. Spears, took us to the school library once a week and it was there that I would gather up five to six novels and inhale them throughout the week until I could choose six more! I didn’t realize I was so hungry for stories until a feast was set before me. What author or book do I remember from that grade? It was the 1970 novel by Judy Blume called Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, she spoke to me! and I listened.
I am so grateful for the outstanding teachers in my life. In Grade 11 / 12 I took ALL the English courses that Mr. MacDonald taught at CSS including his Grade 13 classes. I was reading and writing a lot of essays during those two years but I loved it and the thing I continue to look at today is the first and last line of a novel.
I’ve always been active and during my high school years I was an athlete competing in track & field, cross country running and gymnastics along with figure skating. I participated in 4H and Jr Farmers as I still loved our cows and my pony! But I was also studying dance in Buffalo and Toronto and ready to pursue a career in musical theatre. The song How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? after they’ve seen Paris captured my steps away from the country.
I don’t seem content to learn only one thing so dance led me to musical theatre which then made me want to study acting. I trained with various teachers in Hamilton, Ontario and then enrolled at York University. I was off the farm and in the city for good surrounded by a rich variety of people with a thirst for great plays.
My professional actor’s resume included children’s theatre, new plays, commercials, television and film. My one feature film was directed by Srinivas Krishna called MASALA and was screened at TIFF. It was an extra-extraordinary experience!
During my decade as an actor in Toronto, I paid my bills working as a ‘temp’ and it was during this time that I worked at Madison Press Books located at that time on Madison Avenue in The Annex, Toronto, Ontario. I answered the phone and gradually took on more responsibility. I love the environment and gradually other opportunities opened.
“Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.”
In 1993 I received a Theatre Ontario Grant to work a few months in the summer at the Stratford Festival as a movement consultant. To get around the small town, I bought a blue bicycle. I rode it to the theatre. I explored the country’s side roads. I had freedom on two wheels! I also almost got eaten alive by a doberman but that’s another story.
Back in Toronto I had a car and I took the TTC. I did not ride my blue bicycle on the city streets because I was afraid.
I married and in 1996 I had a wonderful little boy. A few years later when he had a bicycle sans training wheels, I got back on my bicycle to keep up with him! We biked along the trails beside the Humber River and Lake Ontario where it was safe.
I work for Penguin Random House Canada. In April 2013 I started to ride my bicycle to work every day downtown. It’s a 30 km round trip through the city and along the lake. I got hooked on the feeling and the view from two wheels. I also saw first-hand the infrastructure needs in Toronto because there were more “Bike Lane Ends Here” signs than bike lanes! I became interested in making change as complaining is only more frustrating for me. I was also the inspiration for my son who choose to ride his bicycle to UTS and then to U of T. Was I worried? You bet. All the more reason for change to happen faster!!
In April 2014 I became co-captain of Cycle Toronto Ward 13 Bikes and I began the long process of learning about the City of Toronto because that’s how you can make change although I’ve been tempted to paint bike lanes myself over the years!
That summer Amanda Lewis and I attended a Ward Captain meeting. I remember seeing her across the room and thinking - ‘hey, we work together at PRHC. We should combine books & bicycles!’ - she was also interested. We had lots of ideas and over a coffee The Reading Line was born.
I’ve given you more than enough background about me … I’ll probably keep rewriting it and perhaps one day delete most of it!
May I share a favourite book with you today.
There is so much shocking and horrible events in the world, I have to choose kind … a reference to a favourite book of mine called Wonder by R.J. Palacio. She calls her book a “meditation on kindness” … we should all meditate on kindness.
I welcome you to my open book kind of life where I will share book and bicycle recommendations with you, dear reader.