Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just BE - On Boxing Day


Now - I know, and you know, and we both know each other knows that Boxing Day is synonymous with shopping, eating leftovers, nursing hangovers (for some), creating new hangovers (for some), and cleaning up after the torrential onset of Christmas Day. In this fast paced hamster-wheel world some of us live in, the Christmas season is wrought with exhaustion, tightening waistbands, shrinking room on the credit card and even less in the bank, and a constant beeline to the store for Alka Seltzer.

But why not, on that post-chaotic day of Dec 26th, just sit.

And breathe.

And just enjoy BEING. Being together, being alone – it doesn’t matter.

Be outside, if weather permits.

Be with someone you haven’t seen in a long, long time; someone you couldn’t squeak in the time to see during the flurry leading up to the Big Day. But do so with a cup of tea, a cookie and be calm about it.

Stay in your jammies; watch a movie, read a book, play a board game with your family. EAT (again)!

If you are a writer, be alone (if you can manage it) and just organize your thoughts, your paperwork, and any new books you (hopefully) received on the Big Day. Plan upcoming projects. You may have let things slide over the previous week leading up to the Big Day, your writing falling to the wayside in favour of too much peppermint schnapps; it’s okay. You can start new on Boxing Day. Curl up on the couch in your jammies, and with a pen and paper (and the TV OFF) restart, re-organize, and revive your writing spirit. But don’t get too busy – remember, just ‘be.’

Yes, there will most likely be cleaning to do like boxes to break down to ready for recycling. But they can wait. Can’t stand the mess? Fine – perfectly understandable. True, leftover turkey gizzards that sat on the counter overnight are not safe for consumption and should dealt with. But time yourself; tell yourself you will clean ONLY for 20 minutes - then just SIT for 20 minutes. If you absolutely MUST clean, as your compulsion to have a clean house precedes everything, do a BIT at a time; but only a bit. You will have the days following to do bits of cleaning here and there.

As for the shopping – haven’t you shopped enough already? The sales will still be there the following days/weeks. Why go out and get all sweaty and stressed, pushing people over in your angst to get the 70% off Chia Pet you didn’t receive for Christmas? Aren’t you already broke, anyways?

Boxing Day starts with the letter ‘B,’ so do just that; B (be).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seagulls at Christmas


I jaunt down the street, a spring in my step, the wind behind me pushing me along, and my hairspray failing miserably. But I don’t care.

It’s the Christmas season.



Cars are honking, people are bustling (cliché, I know), the odd argument is progressing as I jaunt by those unsuspecting of my ever-perked ears.

The Netherlands Centennial Carillon – ‘The Singing Tower’ with its 62 bells - chimes in the distance. A horse-drawn carriage clip-clops past; the pompom on the horse’s Santa hat bounces while the jingle bells on his harness tinkle in unison. St Andrews Presbyterian Church (circa 1890), with its red brick exterior and it’s tower blocking the sun trying to peek through the clouds, plays Christmas carols through its external speakers; the carols can be heard for blocks down the street.

I feel like I should be in a movie, bouncing along, swinging my bags, my beret on my head with a sprig of holly pinned on top, and my perfect ¾-length, red wool coat accenting my perfect lithe form. Of course my hair would be perfect. A light dusting of snow would be resting on my shoulders, flakes on my perfect long eyelashes, perfectly setting the mood. And did I say my hair would be perfect?

Suddenly, to break the ambiance - the yuletide atmosphere that has been staged by all these perfect visual and auditory attributes - a reverie overhead stops me in my tracks.

The screech of a squabble of seagulls jolts me back to reality; a plop of white narrowly misses my shoe, my pants, and my now un-hair sprayed hair.


Thank God I wasn’t wearing my perfect ¾-length, red wool coat.

So much for Christmas.

Well, not really.

I smooth down my hair, step over the white blob (not snow, unfortunately), and keep going. Suddenly the song Mele Kalikimaka (A Hawaiian Song – Bing Crosby) pops in my head – seagulls don’t even live in Hawaii, I’m not even NEAR Hawaii, so I don’t know where that came from.

No, seagulls are not a traditional Christmas presence, but in these parts, they are.

Who cares about what SHOULD be typically traditional. Whatever is traditional in your neck of the woods is what is traditional to YOU. No matter where you are in the world - Hawaii with the floral shirts; the Amazon with clingy Spider Monkeys; China with solid gold chopsticks; Australia with their sea turtles waving their fins to folks firing up the barbie on the beach – if you celebrate Christmas, even though you might not have all the things you see in a greeting card or magazine or show or book – it’s still Christmas. It might not be perfect, but it’s still Christmas – for you.

Yes, we all have expectations, fantasies, and memories from years past we would like to relive. Books and movies fuel our perception of what a perfect Christmas should be. But what is perfect? Yes, in some parts, snow would be welcomed – depending on how much, and as long as my hair-do isn’t affected. And yes, a roaring fire, chestnuts roasting (they make me gag, actually), and a stress-free turkey dinner with red bows decorating the sterling silver platter are what greeting cards are made of.

And of course, my hair would be perfect.

In these parts, we rarely get snow (see entry dated December 5, 2010, for the exception). We are surrounded by a cold Pacific Ocean. Ducks, Canadian Geese and seagulls fight for space on (unfrozen) ponds, lakes and beaches. Harbour seals wait for us to feed them from the docks. In the past, our parkas and boots have stayed stuffed in the back of the closet, and sunglasses were needed to protect our perfect eyes from the glare of the sun. My umbrella is at the ready, and usually my hair looks like crap because of the wind and rain. We have to drive 5 hours to find snow. Some of us don’t have chimneys (but Santa still finds his way in with the help of a ‘magic’ key), but we DO have deer that come eat our now blooming Crocus.’ Maybe not reindeer, but let’s pretend, shall we?

But this is normal – traditional – for here. This is where I live. This is what I have. This is what is normal, and PERFECT, for me.

Yes the greeting card photo would be nice, indeed, but I embrace what Christmas is, here, for us. It’s a season; a celebration. It is a time to accept the world around you, enjoy what you have, forget about what you don’t have, and let go of trying to be perfect.

I got next to zero baking done. We have no snow. My hair isn’t perfect. Seagulls are not part of Christmas. And I just remembered I forgot to buy napkins – crap.

Sure I wish for this and that; ALL my family near me, a fireplace, a white Christmas, a clean house, my baking done – and perfect hair. But this is the way it is.

I have family; some live afar, some live near - but I have them. I have a roof over my head. I have food in the fridge (except baking). I HAVE hair, albeit not perfect. I can walk down the street swinging my bags. I have a home to go to; kids to get on my nerves. I will walk with my family around the lake on Christmas day and laugh at the otters playing in the water (if I can unglue them from the couch that is – my darling children, not the otters). And seagulls entertain me.

So wherever you are in the world, and if you celebrate Christmas, don’t pine for what you don’t have, what you wish you had, and what isn’t to be, there. Things can’t always be perfect, and wishing otherwise will ruin what you already DO have. Accept what you DO have, cherish where you live, love your family, and enjoy the barbie on the beach.

Now excuse me, I have to go fix my hair.

Merry Christmas, from......

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beagles, Bulldogs, and A Brother


It was a dark and stormy night.*

It was the kind of dark and stormy night that sent me sliding down a muddy hill. So muddy it soaked right through to my underwear - true story.

But I was hurrying, you see, and no amount of mud or rain was going slow me down.

I slogged home, changed clothes, and jumped in my car. The windshield wipers barely kept up with the rain – never mind the speed of my driving.

And why was I hurrying?

I found a typewriter.

After searching online, I found a Brother Electronic PY-80 Typewriter – only 7 years old. The magic words “$15.00 – obo – no offer refused!” drew me in further. I wrote the seller, and after a breathless day (for me), she responded – it was still for sale!


What are the chances?!

So I raced through that dark and stormy night to the seller’s house. The Divine Miss M. (name withheld), along with her two English Bulldogs who kept snuffling in my purse looking for treats, sold me the treasure for a mere $13.00. I learned the typewriter had been her grandmother’s who used it to type her Christmas cards, and I felt guilty – I should have offered her double for this gem.

Cradling my prize like a newborn baby, I ran through the rain to my car, and made it home in one piece. I plugged it in and starting typing!

With members of my family complaining it sounded like a sub-machine gun, I pounded away, getting used to the feel and sound of it. Look at me everyone -I am a WRITER! If Hemingway could see me now!

With every keystroke, the permanent crease-of-concentration between my eyebrows became....more permanent. Like a four-legged race, I tripped and stumbled over words I could usually spew forth with grace and style (I said USUALLY). This wasn’t as easy as I thought.

Lack of automatic wrap-around and waiting for the typewriter to catch up with my typing, never mind the clunky feeling compared to my computer, made it a challenge. With the correction tape malfunctioning, my paper looked like I was back in Grade 8 typing class. Discarded paper riddled with typos and disjointed thoughts piled up.

But I loved it. I felt ‘grounded’ to this ‘rustic’ way of writing, and took a few days to practice with it. I had to really think about what I was going to say before I typed. Computers truly are designed to keep up with this fast-paced world – or do they just make us go faster? We rely on the backspace and delete keys, never mind Ctrl C and Ctrl V (copy and view) to see us through.

I soldiered on, determined to make it work. With every keystroke and carriage return, I learned a few things;

• Slow down and think about what I want to write. I very often write in longhand before typing it on the computer, and there is no reason why I can’t do so with a typewriter. But the lack of backspace/delete/correction tape, never mind oodles of paper piling up, really made me SLOW DOWN.

• Sometimes it’s important to take a few steps back, to go many steps forward. Going back to the old ways made me appreciate the new, what I have, and how to better manage my writing.

I do intend to keep writing on my trusty typewriter. I love it, and know I have yet to learn much more from it.

***

As you will note from my entry of December 12th, my plan was to conduct a time travel experiment, and write this week’s blog entry on my beloved typewriter.

Between writing some of it with pen and paper then transcribing it to the typewriter, as well as ‘typewriting’ some of it straight from brain to paper, I did write it (most of it) on my darling typewriter. It was a challenge, but a challenge I welcomed with open arms.

With the rain pelting down once again outside – yet another dark and stormy night – I sat down to write the FINAL (with minimal typos) draft (as above) on the typewriter, as promised. The plan was to later use the COMPUTER and all its funky features of scanning, converting, and a whole bunch of other techno stuff I don’t want to bore you with, to post my typewritten story.

I typed the first few four lines and....crap!

Looks like I’ll be going online to shop for typewriter ribbon cartridges – go figure.

(*Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1830; Snoopy, July 12, 1965)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time Travel With Fred Flintstone and a Typewriter


After waiting for what felt like my whole life, I finally got a desk.
It was a Fred Flintstone desk, the writing surface interchangeable to a chalkboard-type writing area.

I had always wanted a desk. I smirk as I say always - I was about 5 years old. Not long enough to consider a wish as ‘always,’ but it seemed like forever at the time.

And although I was still in Kindergarten, desks being only for the ‘big kids’ in grade one, I wanted my own desk more than anything. What did I expect to do with it if/when I got one? I have no clue. I had visions of sitting at a desk all day doing important things – and what kind of important things? I have no idea.

After finally learning how to print then handwrite, my knees outgrew the Fred Flintstone desk, and it became a place to shove schoolwork brought home with pride.
Then I wanted a typewriter.

And did I know what I wanted to do with it? Nope. But I wanted one.

I wanted to type, produce and create ‘important things’ – things that meant something to someone, somewhere. What kinds of important things, I don’t know - but I had an urge.

I wanted the sounds: the clanking of the keys, the arm with the little letter (typebar) whacking at the paper. I wanted the ding, the rush of the carriage as it swung back with a push of my hand, and the grinding of the paper roller (platen); all working in repetitive unison.

Maybe it was the future inklings of wanting to be a writer.

Even though I wrote a story once - a ‘gory thriller’ about a spider - I never thought I would BE a writer. I thought writers were mysterious people living in castles in the sky, typing their stories on diamond-studded typewriters. I assumed they rode around in limousines all day, thinking writerly thoughts, never talking to pee-ons like me. They were a mystery.

But I still wanted a typewriter.

Now, 30-some-odd-years-later (I’m NOT revealing – so don’t bother asking), I am a writer.


I don’t live in a castle in the sky. I don’t own a typewriter, diamond-studded or otherwise. No limousines for me, and I talk to EVERYONE. Am I mysterious? Hmmmm....maybe (see reference to age, and again, don’t bother asking).




In this world of e-everything, typewriters are a dime a dozen. Folks itching to get rid of these space-consuming relics sell them online; it not for the cost of an über-fancy coffee, then often for free. It’s kind of weird - ironic actually - to see typewriters being sold on computers.

But it’s good timing for me, as I am conducting an experiment – a science experiment.
Better yet, let’s call it a time-travel experiment.

As I write this on the computer, my word processing program waits for me to type, delete, backspace, copy and paste, change fonts, italicize and bold – all with the swift movement of a finger or two. No paper, carbon paper or correction tape is in sight.

I itch to compare; to see what I will learn from the experience of going back in time, and to test my writing skills and SPEED on a typewriter.

I am in the process of taking advantage of those e-people anxious to rid of the objects of my affection. I am on the hunt, the prowl, for a typewriter, and will write my next blog (this will be interesting – can I download from my typewriter to the internet?) on a typewriter. To compare how I write, the way I write, and what differences, positive or negative, might try to sway me from writing alternatively.

Stay tuned for the scientific results of my experiment...now if I only had my Fred Flintstone desk....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Don't Panic - It's Just Frozen Water


We Victorians (the people of Victoria, BC - not the era) aren’t very accustomed to that white stuff called snow.

As in frozen water.

According to www.merriam-webster.com, snow is simply - a : precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapour of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C) b (1) : a descent or shower of snow crystals (2) : a mass of fallen snow crystals.

The words flurries or snow uttered by the poor, ever-cursed meteorologist sends the people of the Isle into absolute histrionics. Stores are depleted of canned goods and water; automotive shops sell snow tires faster than the time it takes for Jack Frost to get his boots on. The panic in the hardware store as everyone fights for snow shovels and salt makes me want to scream ‘We have had snow in the past, people - you mean you have never purchased these kinds of things before?!’

True, the city of flowers doesn’t get THAT much snow, and not every year, but....come on!

My own panic stems from trying to round up mittens and toques for the men-of-all-sizes who reside in my home. Their feet keep growing; finding boots that fit is never ending.

It doesn’t bother me that it took me three hours to get home during a ‘freak’ snow storm; a trip by bus that, on a good day, takes 30 minutes. Our reaction to the concept of white things falling from the sky sends the prairie folk into a flurry of eye-rolling – ‘You Victorians don’t KNOW the meaning of snow!’

So yes, the snow around here makes driving hazardous; it’s the OTHER drivers, not ME, I am worried about. And yes, my salt-splashed pant legs made me look like I ran through a bucket of paint. And yes, by the time I stepped off the bus after the three-hour ride I had to pee so bad I couldn’t read. I was sure crystals had formed in my bladder (oh wait...that’s in cats – never mind).


For two days of our measly few centimetres of snow that graced our part of the island, everyone tromped around in Sorrel boots (not my family), cocooned themselves in parkas fit for the Antarctic, and cursed the meteorologists, their counterpart Mother Nature, and God.

But for every negative, there is a positive.

Or is it the other way around....never mind.

On the positive side of the snow that everyone was up in arms about (and those arms were SURE raised high), there were moments to capture on film before they melted away. You just had to look for them through the thousands of raised arms....

Within 2 days, our parkas were shoved to the back of the closet, with boots stationed underneath – as if nothing had ever happened. The shovels are on stand-by, as are the mittens and toques. Never will we be unprepared again…...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Jump a Ditch and Write


We had a moat around my house; not a fence, but a moat.

Actually, most of the houses in my neighbourhood had moats; our castles protected by whatever swam within. Mostly ducks and slime.

And the odd muddy kid.

Many neighbourhoods in Richmond, B.C., established around the 50’s and 60’s, have drainage ditches separating the front yard from the road. It was with these ditches we learned courage, strength and agility.

When ditches were in their heyday (newer neighbourhoods don’t have them), the ability to ‘jump the ditch’ without falling in was a kids’ rite of passage. Even the tip of your shoe dipping in the murky water behind you as you attempted to clear the 3 – 4 feet wide span would set off gales of laughter and teasing from other kids. No one dared try the ‘super deep’ ditches, or the ditch of grumpy Mr. Brown-down-the-street-with-the-mean-dog; we weren’t THAT stupid.

Fear of humiliation should I not make it across, never mind the thought of falling in the murky water, sucked the courage right out of me. Building up the nerve to take that first running step was always the worst. A few false starts of running a few steps, stopping, turning around and dragging my embarrassed self back to the starting point was torture – but enough to kick me into action.

And then...GO!

Full speed ahead, one foot take off, two feet landing, and dry as a bone on the other side. Victory! Turn around and do it again – just to show off a little. I had already mastered it once; I was a ‘pro’ now. And the occasional wet shoe was nothing – as long as no one was looking. I had surpassed the fear, mastered the move, and was one of the gang. I was invincible.

By the end of autumn we were ditch-jumping pros; spring and summer training had paid off. But then winter would come, shutting us in, preventing us from maintaining our ditch-jumping skills. All the courage, skill and technique acquired during the months previous - gone.

Winter would have barely faded into spring, and we would be back out there. Out of practice and out of courage, we had to start over and reclaim all the physical and mental strength we mastered only a season ago.

As it is with anything, if you haven’t done something for a long time, you lose your touch. Being away from something for too long, you try to come back to it, yet feel ‘rusty’ and lack confidence. As writers, sometimes a project becomes a little unfocused, we get ‘stuck,’ frustrated and find ourselves going nowhere. Courage and momentum you once had, now a distant memory.

But you can get it back. Get into runners stance, ignore those taunting chants from inside your head, ignore your fear, take a deep breath, and start running. As you near the edge, don't come to a screeching halt – just jump. You’ll make it. So what if you get a bit wet that first time - who cares? You’ll dry off, turn around, and do it again.

Don’t jump for anyone else but yourself - and only yourself. You might have supporters cheering you on, suggesting what to do, what not to, and how best to do it. Perfect – that’s what you need. But when you are building up the courage to take that flying leap, remember my neighbourhood friends I was trying so hard to impress. When I made it to the other side, dry and unscathed, thankful I wouldn’t have the burden of those kids laughing and poking fun at me, it was my own sense of accomplishment that made me turn around and do it again...and again...and again.

Keep jumping. Keep writing. Keep submitting. And don’t let a season pass by, interrupting your courage.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saints or Trolls: Take Your Pick for a Prosperous Writing Career

Talismans, rituals, lucky charms, muses and saints are often used in time of need; to help provide hope and direction. Whether it’s to bring luck, gain inspiration, prosper, ensure safety, or to help through a troubling time, the reasons are endless. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, why not?

And writers are no different. Some have a special pen or coffee mug. Some keep a lucky troll on their desk (apparently the fuzzy-haired guy works for Bingo players, as well).

When the stress and anxiety of waiting for a ‘yes’ from an agent, editor or publisher sends you to your knees, wailing and praying to anybody or anything, why not pick a saint? If not for luck then, at least, for inspiration and guidance. It won’t hurt anyone or anything, and the worst that can happen is your cat thinks you’re nuts while he sits watching you wail, pray and beg to thin air - or so he thinks.


A good one to pick is St. Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622), Patron Saint to Writers. As Bishop of Geneva in 1602, he wrote Treatise of the Love of God and Introduction to the Devout Life. These writings, as well as many others, brought instant acclaim, and were translated to several languages. His writings are said to have influenced the revival of French Catholicism in the 17 century.


Sounds like they should have had the New York Times Bestseller list back then; he likely would have been on it for sure.

Another good one is John of God (1495 – 1550), Patron Saint of Booksellers and Printers. After serving in the army, he turned to religion, and had a ‘vision.’ Given his love of reading, he felt the need to share his love of books with others, and pedalled religious books. His successes lead him to open a book shop in Granada. For reasons unknown, he went mad, ran through the streets tearing out his hair and gave away his stock of books.

Um....maybe that’s not a good one to pick.

Can’t find that coveted piece of paper bearing the greatest word, idea, sentence or plot you ever came up with? Pray to Anthony of Padua (1193-1231), Patron Saint of Lost Articles.

Too busy meeting deadlines to cook meals? St. Zita (or Sitha) (1218-1272), Patron Saint of Housekeepers, might be able to help in that area. She worked for an Italian family from age 12 until her death at age 60. Mistreated by the family for many years, she eventually earned their respect through her loyalty, devotion, and commitment; her faith kept her strong.

If lasagna doesn’t magically appear, maybe find a lamp with a genie.

Praying to St. Jude (1st century), Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, might seem like a good, proactive idea. But stop. That would only be counter-productive calling yourself a hopeless case. You are not. Remember: you are a writer. Have faith in yourself - and keep writing.


And if all else fails, stick with trolls.
At least you can comb their hair.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

For the Love of Pink


Ah yes - the good ole days of the 70’s and 80’s. Newly invented cell phones were big enough to warrant carrying an extra briefcase. Hair shampoo like Prell© and Body on Tap© (with beer!) promised unwavering beauty, and Farah Fawcett’s white teeth were the product of Ultra Brite© toothpaste. Deodorant finally escaped the confines of pressurized cans and morphed into a healthier ‘stick.’

And the best part? Toilet paper came in 4 colours – blue, green, yellow and PINK.

Sheer bliss. Life was so simple with coloured toilet paper, but the atrocity of our bums turning green put a stop to all that. I miss that one luxury of life.

Flash forward 30 years, and I am sauntering into the grocery store with my credit-card sized cell phone in my pocket and earth-friendly reusable bags under my arm. My ‘scientifically advanced’ stick deodorant has been applied in triplicate-times-5 as I live in fear that any offending smells will be Blogged or Tweeted by the person behind me at the checkout.

But first, as always in my world, I make a beeline to the customer’s washroom.

Some things never change.

I flick on the light with my elbow, close and lock the door with my sleeve, and…low and behold! Pink toilet paper!

Over the years I have longed for the return of this 15th wonder of the world. Coloured bums aside, why can’t we go back to colour-coordinating in its most extreme? When I planned my Barbie and Ken fantasy marriage as a kid, I vowed to always buy pink toilet paper. Heck…Barbie’s Corvette was pink, so why not?

But back to the grocery store and my euphoria in the customer’s washroom….

The shelves of earth-friendly household cleaner, organic kitty litter and re-usable paper plates (?) are a blur as I bolt from the washroom. I finally find the rows of pillow-soft, earth-friendly, double-rolled, extra-strength packages of...white.

Suddenly, the dust clouds part. A single beam of fluorescent light spotlights a package of pink, and I swear I hear angelic choirs singing.

‘Stop the flushing and come look at this!!’ I want to yell down the aisles. ‘And they’re on SALE too!’

Purex®, makers of the pink (yay!) toilet paper, brought back this classic in an effort to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation; 25 cents from every package sold goes towards cancer-fighting research (double yay!). Not only will I have the glory of owning 12 rolls of bubble-gum coloured segmented squares, but I will also know I played a part in contributing to research for this awful disease.

I grab a package, and like a football player, hug it to my body as I charge past the other customers and their carts full of lentils and goat’s milk. Don’t worry – I make it to the checkout safe and sound. Can’t say the same for the lentil-buying customers who dared get in my way, though.

I forget everything else I need to buy – my family will just have to starve. As I break the speed limit going home, a 3-minute drive on a slow day, I lovingly stroke the pink package in the passenger seat beside me.

Pink-dyed skin be damned, this is gonna be great!

As you will recall, I have an on-going renovation project of my new bathroom/office (see post from September 9, 2010, Writing with the Toilet Seat Down), and the pink rolls are a perfect addition. I have claimed full ownership of this ‘office’ (see previous blog as mentioned above), and this means everything within. No one will be allowed to use these pink rolls, even if down to the last….solitary...white…square.

Now if someone could please tell me where I could find scented toilet paper…

For more information, visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation at www.cbcf.org, as well as Purex at www.purex.ca

Friday, November 5, 2010

Come On, It's Just a Little Water....


As a ‘west coast girl,’ I grew up in the rain - literally. With the ditches around my house overflowing, the school field flooding every year, and my Holly Hobbie umbrella always in tow, it was a way of life - constant rain. Therefore, I hate the heat, AND, of course, anything tropical. My body, my psyche, just isn’t acclimatized to being dry for long periods. I hope to one day travel the world, invariably leading me to places of blistering heat. But the rain will always be my comfort. Give me the sound of rain over sweat-pooling heat, any day.

Dashing from the car to the store without an umbrella is commonplace in these parts. Coats with hoods and a little extra hairspray in the morning, and we’re good to go. I store spare shoes and socks under my desk at work. I have two umbrellas; one under my desk, one in my bag. Also in my bag is yet another pair of socks, just in case. I always keep a plastic bag in my purse, should I want to sit outside and read – under my umbrella.

Those sun-worshippers mockingly curl their zinc-covered lips at my apparent stupidity; “What’s with all that stuff needed for wet weather that can last for 8 months? Is it worth it? It’s MUCH easier somewhere tropical wearing next to nothing!”

But then I would be carrying around sunscreen, after-sun lotion, Noxzema©, sunglasses, extra deodorant, and extra clothes to change out of sweaty clothes. And then, eventually, think of all the anti-wrinkle creams, laser treatments, and miracle-to-end-all-wrinkle treatments I would have to spend money and time on! What’s that stuff those cowboys use on saddles to keep the leather supple? I will have to find out and express-courier some to those leather-skinned sun worshippers.

And as for the wearing next to nothing bit? My pasty white body would blind the whales surfing by, and that wouldn't be very nice of me, now would it?

To think there are places where sunscreen application stations are EVERYWHERE – like Australia. At places of employment, schools, parks….truly, there are! Which is smart, thank God, but all that work, all day, everywhere you go. Ugh! The agony of constant application…..

The freckles on my arms are misleading. Some think I am a closet sun worshipper, secretly basking in the sun during those non-rainy months. Everyone needs a bit of a break from all those cats and dogs, and those sun-kissed streaks in my hair from the harmful rays has me channelling Bo Derek. But if you look between those spots, pure white skin shines through. Bo Derek, I am definitely not – and proud of it.

Sure my hair is frizzy, and the ends are often damp. What do you think ball caps and ponytails are for? Keep a hair dryer in your desk! And skirts and pantyhose can still be done; just wear your boots to work. This is normal. No one will look at you funny around here.

Aw come on….it’s just a little water! What’s the big deal?

A little water doesn’t stop life for I-of-the-West-Coast. The sound of the rain on my hood is hypnotizing as I hike through the woods, my extra-tread boots tightly laced. Jogging through the drops at 5:30 in the morning, water in my eyes, dripping off the brim of my cap and streaming down my ponytail – there’s nothing better.

So make like a duck, and get out there. It’s just a little water!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!


Hope Everyone Has a Safe and Fun Halloween!

Unfashionista Me


The possibility of hors d’oeuvres had me running - dodging raindrops (unsuccessfully) as well as bike couriers and speeding buses (successfully). My stupid umbrella was useless.

Curiosity coupled with the desire to meet someone famous – someone I grew-up watching on TV - had me running to The Bay department store in downtown Victoria, BC. My death-defying race was in the name of fashion, and unfashionista me HAD to be there.

But hors d'oeuvres weren't the the only thing on my mind. I was racing to catch a glimpse of Jeanne Beker.

For all you unfashionistas out there, Jeanne Beker has hosted the Canadian produced show, Fashion Television, for 25 years. Television, journalism, and fashion design have her travelling the world, rubbing elbows with and interviewing the who’s who in the fashion world. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the show, Jeanne is currently promoting her new fashion line, EDIT, which brought her to The Bay that rainy day in downtown Victoria.

I grew-up watching the Canadian fashion icon. As a teenager I loved watching the show, but I had no interest in fashion - and still don’t. But it has always intrigued me - this other world so seemingly unattainable to suburban little me.

I haven’t watched the show since, and though the years of motherhood and working have made watching daytime TV next to impossible, I occasionally flick through channels, see her on some flashy-splashy fashion show and think “Hey, there’s Jeanne Beker!”

Spurned by the need to meet her (and heck, I’m always up to meet someone famous!), I raced through the doors of the department store, only to be met with rows of empty chairs and staff already dismantling the stage and lighting.

I missed the whole thing.

One of the staff, with her chic black outfit and coiffed hair, must have noticed my slumped shoulders and pitiful wet hair. Ignoring (thankfully) my unfashionista appearance, she told me Jeanne Beker was in a press conference and would be out shortly…if I wanted to wait, that is.

Well, HECK! Of course I would want to!

I grabbed a commemorative “25th Anniversary FT” magazine, and sat in the glossy white chairs previously set up for the fashion show, and waited.

Like an unfashionista dork.

I dug in my purse (straight from the shelves of Wal-Mart) for a pen, readying for an autograph should I be so lucky. With my hair now a-frizz from the run in the rain, and my crappy umbrella dripping on the uber-shiny marble floor, I knew I didn’t fit in.

But my fleece jacket was only 6 years old, and heck, it was in great shape!

Regardless, every inch of me screamed UNFASHIONISTA.

I waited, watching all the bustle and nervous flutter, everyone anxious for her re-emergence from the press-conference. When the bustling increased, signalling Jeanne’s presence, the kind staff person discretely waved me over.

I ‘glided’ towards her, all the while screaming at myself “Down Lisa, don’t act like an idiot. Walk like you OWN the catwalk. You ARE a fashionista.”

As I gracefully approached, the staff person indicated to Jeanne I had been waiting a while and would like to meet her. Oh great, now she thinks I am an unfashionista STALKER. Thankfully she left out the part about my crappy, dripping umbrella.

No one mentioned my hair.

I introduced myself, we shook hands, and Jeanne's smile was as big and gracious as I had seen on TV. Not once did she give me the 'once-over;' not at my hair, my ancient jacket, nor my $10.00 purse – none of it. She autographed the magazine and posed for a photo with grace and class, all the while chatting to me as if I was one of ‘them.’

It didn’t matter that I didn’t fit in. I didn’t want to anyways. I was me, and that was all she saw. I was, and am, happy being my unfashionista self.

But damnit! I missed the hors d’oeuvres!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Within the Pizza Box


Your stomach growls. You know what you want. And not the frozen kind, either. The real thing. Steaming. Filling. Fulfilling. Heavy and hearty with all the good stuff. It’s indulgent – satisfying, and only the best kind won’t end up as leftovers the next day. All in a cardboard box.

Pizza.

The base comes first – thin crust, thick crust – the yeast has created the heaviest, richest dough. The plot. Your idea has grown, risen, creating a base from which to start.

The sauce – the glue of the idea – is what separates the base from the ingredients, yet holds it together. Marrying the ingredients with the dough – enhancing the flavour of the ingredients. Sometimes spicy, yet sometimes mild, and sometimes not always the favourite but always smooth and rich. Rich and perfect grammar and punctuation is necessary.

Countless ingredients, or words, to choose from, seemingly thrown together. But when in the right combination can be a masterpiece. Choose those ingredients wisely – some don’t go well together, some do. It’s the writer’s job to decide and play with what works in epicurean harmony together. The right chef can create magic.

If you’re lucky, the delivery guy, chef, agent, critic, or editor hasn’t messed up your order; changed it to something that you didn’t intend. If so – and at a risk, mind you – send it back. Rewrite. Start over. You’ll be starving and anxious while you wait, but the wait for perfection will be worth it – sometimes they know what’s best. But stay true to your heart, true to what you want, in your writing. You know what you want, what you crave. But be willing to try something new. Be open to change.

You open the box – the steam and saliva-inducing smell rewards you. You think “This is IT!” – perfection. But you look closer. Grease pooling between the olives needs to be dabbed with a napkin – excess words that might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but contribute nothing to your story except boosting your already fragile, yet hungry, ego, need to go. Those olives, onions and anchovies are too much. Like editing, you painstakingly pick out each unwanted bit. But remember, it’s in the name of perfection.

Sometimes you need to put those olives in – it’s what the editor wants. It won’t completely RUIN everything, but give them a try. Who knows, you might like it, and want more next time.

As the hot cheese dribbles on your chin, then burns the roof of your mouth, don’t worry. The pain will go away. Criticism, self-doubt, and rejection all sting – but within time, the burn heals, and you learn from it. You are ready for next time.

And then you open the next box, anxious and starving to try again, and dive in.

Don't forget the antacids.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Unveiling of "Our Emily" - October 13, 2010


With high hopes of free cake and chocolate, I ran through the streets of downtown Victoria, BC, with autumn leaves swirling in my wake.

Blinded by sunlight, I tripped through the gardens at the Empress Hotel, not only hoping for a sugar-high (as advertised in that mornings’ newspaper), but to also witness the unveiling of the statue made in honour of iconic artist and writer, Emily Carr. It was perfect weather for a most historic event.

I bustled through Girl Guides, local dignitaries, band members of the Reynolds Secondary School Band, and the “Three Emily’s” - all present to make the day even more special than it already was. I forged on, my desperation for cake and chocolate still present, and I was met with countless Emily fans shielding their eyes from the sun. Folks from all ages leaned on fences, peered through bushes, and sat on the grass in front of the stage waiting for action (the gardeners won’t be too happy).

I plowed my way through the crowd, watched the fabulous cake being wheeled out (stomach grumbling), and sweated it with the chefs as they transferred the artistically decorated cake from the dolly to the serving table. Oh wait! There is juice too! And with cut-up lemons! What a day this will be!

Continuining to where the statue sat veiled at the corner of Belleville and Government Street, kitty-corner to the Legislative Building, I was met with yet another crowd. Parts of the street had been closed-off, making room for us Emily fans. Although drivers honked and whistled (they didn’t have a clue what was going on), the avid followers and admirers of one of the city’s most revered artists waited patiently, many on tip-toe, straining to get a glimpse of the statue still under wraps.

When speeches were done, members from the Reynolds Secondary School Band led the dignitaries to the statute, madly playing their instruments while elbowing onlookers out of the way.

The “Three Emilies” made their way to the statue, and the paparazzi readied themselves. We novice paparazzi pushed forward, readying our own cameras, anxious to get a decent shot - even if someone`s head was in the way.

“The Emily’s” in question dressed in garments as portrayed in photos of their heroine. These girls had it down pat. They posed, smiled and chatted most patiently. Evident from their ever-present grins, their “Emily” spectacles glinting in the sun, it was clear they love what they do. One “Emily” works at Emily Carr’s house on Government Street. The second, from Calgary, was used as a body model for the creation of the statue. And the third “Emily,” as I was told, has portrayed Emily Carr on Broadway for 45 years.

Once everyone was in place, the paparazzi took aim and the bronze statue, created by Barb Paterson of Edmonton, AB, was unveiled. We cheered, clapped, 'oohed' and 'ahhed,' and yet again, fought to get the perfect picture - but not before we sang the national anthem.

And yes, on the street corner.

I had to continue with my day, and with the line-ups for cake and chocolate too long for my stomach to wait, I left the festivities weak with hunger and low on sugar. But aside from my gluttonous ways, I was thrilled and proud to have been part of history - just a few blocks away from the house where Emily Carr was born.


One of the fabulous cakes created.


(for more information on artist and writer Emily Carr, visit www.emilycarr.ca)

Friday, October 1, 2010

How Rick Springfield Saved Me from Dying of a Heart Attack


(Anyone who has known me since I was 12 (age revealing) is likely very appalled I haven’t, as yet, devoted at least one opus to my hero – Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome himself – Mr. Rick Springfield. I am not a crazy stalker fan, so don’t go thinking the movie MISERY or something – I am just...well....ya know...)

Comfy in my well-worn pyjamas, I lay in bed the other night sleepless with anticipation, for the release date of Rick Springfield’s memoir, ‘Late, Late at Night,’ was only days away (swoon). The whole morning of Oct 12th played out in my head: being at the bookstore right at 9:30 a.m., racing past the throngs of other women, snatching my copy, then bounding to the cash register in glee, cackling - “You snooze, YOU LOSE, Ladies!”

Suddenly it hit me: WHAT IF THE BOOKSTORE ISN’T ORDERING ANY!???

I lay there hyperventilating, sweating, my left arm suddenly in pain.... OH SAVE ME! I’m having a heart attack and I never even had the chance to read the book!!! OH the despair! OH THE AGONY!

I rolled over, fumbling for the picture of Rick on my nightstand – I wanted his face to be the last I saw before I died. (The irony that my beloved husband’s name is Rick is not lost on me.)

Wait a second....

I was just lying on my arm funny.

As I wasn’t dying of a heart attack, I calmly and rationally devised a plan; I would run to the bookstore the next morning and ask if copies had been ordered. Simple. All is not lost – yet. Sighing in relief with my new-found plan, I hummed “Jessie’s Girl” to soothe myself to sleep, the guitar solo the last thing I remembered as I floated into blissful Springfield-dreamland (more swooning).

9:30 the next morning couldn’t come soon enough; the morning dragged torturously at work. Finally it was 9:29, and out the door I ran.

I flew through the doors of the bookstore, and with my purse tucked like a football under my arm, I James-Bond-dive-rolled past the dilly-dallying browsers - “MOVE it PEOPLE! I am on a MISSION HERE!”

I grabbed the first clerk I could find, and dragged her to the computer begging her to tell me they had ordered copies. As she fumbled with keys and touch-screen commands (oh COME ON, THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE I wanted to scream), she shook her head “Um, no, it doesn’t look like we will be getting any in.”

Hyperventilating and sweating (again), this time my arm really DID hurt (note to self - paper bags and nitroglycerin for my purse). I could barely see her computer through my tears when, as she continued typing, his face on the book cover filled the screen. “Oh wait! Here we are.” she confirmed confidently. “We DO have 11 copies on order, and they will be ready for purchase on October 12th.”

I collapsed on the floor, hugging her legs and wailing in gratitude. Although still hyperventilating and sweating, my arm (oddly enough) stopped hurting as my purse clunked to the floor, everything inside spilling out.

Oh.

Right.

Um.....I was carrying around some...stuff...in my purse.

A drumstick rolled under the bookshelf. A guitar pick impaled itself in the side of a book. An autographed CD was almost crushed in the path of a passing stroller – but I kicked it out of the way (the stroller, not the CD). A passerby nearly stepped on my shatter-proof bottle of sweat, but I tripped him before he could step on it – just in case. And OH the HORRORS! Locks of hair fluttered around me, lost forever in the black carpet. But don’t worry – I have more under my pillow. No wonder my arm was killing me; I forgot about all my Rick Springfield memorabilia I was carrying around in homage to the upcoming day!

I lovingly gathered my treasures, reserved a copy of the book, and skipped out of the store grinning at my good fortune (I had the book reserved AND I didn’t have a heart attack!). I floated back to work, humming “Jessie’s Girl,” and tried to concentrate on the rest of my stressful day.

And the countdown begins..........

(Rick Springfield’s memoir, ‘Late, Late at Night,’ hits bookstores October 12, 2010)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate for Writers (or anyone who wants a treat)


Any writer worth the salt they’re licking off the margarita glass knows that chocolate cures writer's block, aids in dealing with rejection, enhances procrastination, and is always eaten in celebration. With Christmas just around the corner (and it IS, you know, even if Halloween is only just on the horizon as I write this), I figure now would be the best time to share a family recipe; to give you a head start for those Christmas preparations.

This is easy. There is no stress. Honestly. No need to over-think it. Just follow the directions, and it will work out JUST fine.

Here we go:

Chocolate Marshmallow Roll

Ingredients:

1 egg, beaten
1 cup icing sugar
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons butter
120 mini coloured marshmallows
1 – 1 ½ cups sweetened coconut

Before you do anything, pull out a sheet of wax paper. Not parchment paper. Not clear cling-film wrap. Not foil. Not freezer paper.

Just WAX paper.

Pull out maybe 17 to 18 inches of it, and sprinkle about half the coconut along the middle of the WAX paper, but not all the way to each end. Eventually, you will need to ROLL the whole thing up, twisting the ends closed, as this recipe is for a ROLL.

Now, before we begin, a few notes about the ingredients.

The eggs: this is an OLD family recipe, so the exact size of egg is not clear. But let’s meet halfway and use a medium-sized egg. If you crack one open and it’s one of those double-yolk-ers, although good luck in some parts of the world, DON’T USE it. Save it in the fridge for making a face mask (there ARE recipes for such a mask). I don’t think brown eggs make a difference, and I don’t know the measurement for those pre-beaten eggs from a carton. And forget about powdered eggs. Gag.

The icing sugar: just use NORMAL, everyday, icing sugar. Not FINE sugar, the kind for strawberries. Not pre-made icing from a container. Don’t try to use granulated sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, artificial sweeteners, liquid sugar, or finely minced sugar cane. IT WON’T WORK.

The semi-sweet chocolate squares: don’t try to substitute with a million chocolate chips (eating them while you make this is fine). Don’t try carob chips; another gag. Don’t get bitter chocolate, sugar-free or organic. Just use good old fashioned, sugar-laced, calorie-laden, non-organic, semi-sweet chocolate squares. They come in a box, each square individually wrapped - very cute, actually.

The butter: real butter is fine, but if you have margarine, that’s fine too. I know that margarine is supposed to be unhealthy for you, but if that’s all you have - fine (you’re already using semi-sweet chocolate squares, so you might as well go all the way). DON’T use any of the margarines that are made with olive oil, are vegan (you’re already using eggs, don’t forget), are salt-free, are packed with Omega3, reduced-fat, fat-free, dairy-free….the list goes on. Who cares if it contains yellow dye? Just use regular, cholesterol-laden ordinary margarine. You’re eating all that chocolate anyways. And for the love of chocolate, do NOT use those sprays. If this is too stressful for you, just use real butter. But don’t use salt-free, lactose-free, or clarified butter. And don’t use….oh never-mind.

120 mini-coloured marshmallows: when I say 120, I mean 120. Not 119. Not 121. Specifically 120. Count them out by tens if you must, putting them in little groupings on the counter. You will need 12 groups of 10. And yes, there IS dye in those coloured marshmallows (like the yellow dye in margarine). But they are technically FRUIT flavoured marshmallows, so they can’t be THAT bad for you.

Sheesh….you’re looking a little too deeply into all this, aren’t you? This is a SIMPLE recipe.

The coconut: remember, this is a SIMPLE recipe. Don’t buy a whole coconut and burst a hernia trying to crack the darn thing open in hopes of shredding the gunk inside. It’s messy, painful, and you will end up with hairy things from the husk everywhere. Don’t use canned coconut, dehydrated chunks, or coconut milk powder (yes, there is such a thing). Just use regular, over-processed, over-sweetened, preservative-laden, packaged coconut. No-name brand is fine.

Okay, now for the process.

1. Melt chocolate and butter/margarine in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in icing sugar until well mixed, then the egg.
3. Mix well until smooth and shiny.
4. Fold in marshmallows.
5. Spread mixture in a ‘log’ formation on top of the coconut on the waxed paper.
6. Sprinkle remaining coconut over roll.
7. Roll into a chocolaty, wax-papered log, twisting the ends closed.
8. Chill for up to 3 hours (overnight is best), unwrap, slice into ½ inch slices, and serve (looks pretty with the coloured marshmallows).

See? Wasn’t that easy? And there was NO stress involved. You didn’t have to over-think anything.

Enjoy, and happy writing (and eating, and baking)!

(author’s note: I am not an epicurean expert - I know my own slices are not round in the picture. Who cares – JUST EAT IT!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Writing with Waterproof Mascara


Ahhh…Maybelline Great Lash® Mascara. A true classic and basic staple for most women. And to think it’s been around for almost 40 years, according to a magazine advertisement I came across the other day. That iconic pink and green tube helped transition many girls from their tweens to their teens; those same girls who likely shed a mascara-laced tear or two during those hormonally imbalanced teen-years.

Those days are long gone for me and, since then, I have sometimes paid $10 - $20 for mascara I was told would transform my look (umm…I have never really had a ‘look’ but…whatever).

I was promised THIS mascara, with its high-tech wand and revolutionary formula, would plump, thicken, lengthen, and strengthen my ever-batting eyelashes. I was assured THAT mascara would make my eyes look bigger, wider, brighter, younger, and bluer. And of course, I would look thinner, younger (again!), sexier and ever-alluringly more mysterious.

And none of them worked.

I am not a ‘Vogue-esque’ kinda girl. I am just simple little me. I am just a mom, just an employee, just a writer.

And I still do, occasionally, succumb to the ever-trending, ever-increasing promises I know deep down will never come true, and try something different – something new.

Just to say I tried. Just to know I tried.

And sometimes I end up going back to the basics; the classics. What I know works - for me.

Good ‘ole Great Lash® Mascara, every time.

As a writer, I try to branch out and try something new; a new idea, style of writing, or genre of writing. I work at being brave, ignoring that inner-critic. And I figure trying something new has to be good for all writers – for anyone. It’s important to flex those creative muscles, to try something else, and see how far you can push yourself in your writing and in your creativity.

But what about those times when a project just won’t work? When no matter what you do, or how you do it, it just won’t work the way you thought it would? Do you have a fit, cry and wail uncontrollably, then give up and quit? (If it makes you feel better, do have a fit, but do it privately and wear waterproof mascara.)

But for the love of mascara, whatever you do, don’t give up! Just put it aside – for now.

It’s common for a writing project, or idea, to fall flat and loose its steam. DON’T THROW IT OUT for God sake! You spent time and effort writing your heart out; there will be something in there that can be used one day, in some way. Try it again when the timing is right. Rework it; reword it. Maybe you need to wait for a renewed sense of direction. Thoughts, tastes, and abilities change.

Go back to the basics – to what you know – for now.

Like that tube of $20 mascara that was too clumpy/flaky/chunky/dark/light and basically just didn’t fulfill its promise. Unless it gave you an eye infection, DON’T THROW IT OUT for God sake! You just spent $20 on the darn thing! Put it away in the bottom of your make-up bag or at the back of your bathroom cupboard (but not behind the calamine lotion – you might forget it’s there). One day, maybe, you might try it again (or you might be out of Great Lash® and need that $20 tube in a pinch!)

Go back to the basics – to what you know – for now.

As for the 40th Anniversary of Maybelline’s Great Lash® Mascara? The creation fell into make-up bags everywhere in 1971, and hasn’t stopped enhancing eyelashes since. A tube is sold in drugstores every 1.7 seconds, according to Maybelline® of New York (www.maybellinenewyork.ca), and is always on hand, backstage, at fashion shows.

Not bad for a little tube that usually sells for around $6. There’s something to be said for the basics.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writing with the Toilet Seat Down


Virginia Wolff had it right; a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Well, the money part might be a long time coming for me…but the room part? Well, read on…

I spent too long moaning, groaning, whining and crying about not having any where to write. Um…hello!? There is a whole world out there in which to write. Not EVERY human being can fill EVERY little nook and cranny. There is ALWAYS somewhere to write: on the bus, on the couch at 5 am, on a park bench, and in the bathroom.
The bathroom? Yes, it’s possible.

I will explain in a minute. So, for now, just cross your legs and read.

During a brief break from all the moaning, groaning, whining and crying, I finished blowing my nose with Kleenex-by-the-foot (toilet paper), and reflected on the past year. Armed with a set of goals set at the beginning of the year, I had ALWAYS found a place, and time, to write. Maybe not as often as I would have liked, and maybe not in a fancy oak desk with a leather swivel chair with my tea brought to me hourly by a Chippendale’s dancer....but I always managed to write.

And I guess I paid my dues because, so far as it seems, and although I am still in the early organizing/planning stages, my time has come.

I will have my own office.

Where I KNOW great things will happen.

Before you flush this down the toilet at my self-indulgent smugness, read on.

I live with three men; a husband and two sons. I am the minority. Space has always been an issue, what with everyone growing. Finding time to write, finding space for myself, has always been a challenge. But somehow, I have managed. Between refereeing at home, going to various extra-curricular activities, homework, meals, laundry, laundry, laundry, never mind forever cleaning the bathroom…..

And so very often, the bathroom is often my refuge. As long as I have super smelly soap that NO ONE is allowed to use, I am happy. As long as the bathtub is rinsed of sand, grass, and pine needles after their bath, I am happy. As long as the toilet seat is down, I am happy.

But what makes me most happy is finally having my own bathroom. Just a little powder room, but I don’t care. It’s mine.

We moved, and not only did I acquire a kitchen window, but an extra bathroom.

And I had a flash of brilliance, as I so often do, of TRULY making it mine.

Why not make it my office?

And of course I have told anyone and everyone about this; the bus driver, the girls at the grocery store, and everyone else in between.

A writer friend of mine had the brilliant concept of converting a commode to a chair, able to fit over the toilet. Another friend of mine came up with having a drop down table suspended by chains, from the wall.

THIS is going to be perfect.

I have yet to get to it; boxes are still being unpacked, furniture still being re-arranged. I still get confused as to where I am now keeping the Hello Kitty Waffle Maker. It will come together eventually. I have already stored ‘writerly’ things under the sink, awaiting the bathroom transformation - but it will come.

I am patient.

I’ve waited this long.

And get this: all through the move, through the packing/unpacking, chaos, and too many nights of ordering pizza (which really isn’t a bad thing), I continued to write.

Even, still, without the ‘office.’

Stay tuned….and while you’re at it, go change the empty toilet paper roll.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Long Live the Pen


I was a child of the 80’s, and my career aspirations amounted to having my own desk in an office somewhere. What I was to be doing at that desk, I didn’t know (and I didn’t care). As long as I had shoulder-pads, a can of Aqua Net® hairspray in my drawer, and an artistically arranged cup of pens at my desk, I would be complete.

The threatened existence of pens was far from my mind.

Grade 8 typing class had me gnawing on my Jelly bracelets in agitation. The nerve-grating repetition drove me crazy. By grade 9, we put our record-breaking typing speed to the test on computers with 5” floppy disks, and for a moment, WANG enriched our lives. With all the high-tech, futuristic promises flooding the airwaves, would pens become extinct?

During all this, the 80’s boasted to be the era of all eras, and pens fought for power. Erasable ink landed in our hands, its fame riding on the coattails of pencil erasers. The pen had won the battle…for the time being. Liquid Paper® further enhanced their mortality.

In the early 90’s, I entered the office workforce – I was 19. I was THRILLED that little ole’ up-and-coming-office-worker-me had my OWN typewriter at my desk – an IBM Selectric. And beside it, of course, was my cup of pens.

I thought I was somethin’ else.

I also had – oooh, get ready – a (massive) computer, or terminal, as it was called. As a data-entry-friendly glorified typewriter, the concept of talking to each other via these boxes was still in its infancy, and you were ultra-cool if you had access to such a commodity.

And to think I took shorthand in high-school only a few years before.

19 years later, I have two kids who use pens to kill ants, and, with failed attempts, each other (pens make great darts).

I’m still an office-worker and proud of it - and my pens.

My kids are rolling their way through school, and I wonder if handwriting is becoming a lost art. By grade 4, various homework and projects must be typed and printed from computers. This leaves me typing my kid’s homework, simultaneously stirring the Mac ‘n Cheese. Watching the poor kid struggle for half an hour, only to type three short sentences, is beyond torturous. Computer classes start in kindergarten, but no typing classes. A tear plops on my keyboard as I realize they won’t inherit my shorthand textbooks.

When I find an exploded pen at the bottom of a back-pack, I cherish the moment. They’re still around, and they’re not going anywhere – the pens, I mean.

In this paperless world where we print everything for fear of losing something in a ‘crash,’ as long as there is paper, there are pens.

Pens keep upping the ante in their campaign with stealth marketing, ergonomic attributes, and earth-friendly plastics and inks. Even though they are readily tossed in the trash when they ‘die,’ they continue to persevere through generations of mouths, fostering deep thoughts. They substitute as a screwdriver, or a hair-do holder; they morph themselves to indispensability.

In same amount of time it takes to open a laptop, Blackberry or i-phone (or any other gizmo-trend of the day), fire it up, find the right document or ‘app’ to thumb-type a note, a pen could have already scribbled thoughts on a receipt. But I worry the pens are quivering in fear as more and more thumb-friendly, note-taking gadgets are created. Have no fear, my trusty little Bic® - the banks love you, and I love you.

Yes, you laugh at me as you read this on a computer, laptop or Blackberry. You think that I, too, have succumbed to a pen-resistant world – but not completely. As a writer, I always have a pen around. Much of what you are reading was scribbled on bits of paper, the ideas littering my desk as I try to piece them together into something sensible. Beside my keyboard is an ever-present pen and paper to catch miscellaneous ideas.

My desk at work has changed, but not much. Pictures of Rick Springfield have been replaced by pictures of my kids – mostly. Aqua Net has been replaced by TRESemmé® hairspray. Shoulder-pads decompose in land-fills, and I search eBay for an ‘old’ typewriter to add to my collectibles. My flat screen monitor is thin enough to fit in my backpack. But my cup of pens stands strong.

In this questionable, ever-changing world, this I know for sure: pens are here to stay. As I jaunt down the street humming Rick Springfield songs, I want to kiss the (hunky) businessman who, as he fumbles with his Blackberry, stops to ask me for a pen. I tell him to keep it, bat an eyelash or two, and silently thank him for saving another pen’s life.

Another one lives on.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Here's to a Bug in Your Eye


I have a bug’s leg in my eye.

Backstory:

At around 5 a.m., I go for walks around a nature sanctuary by my house.

Yes, at 5 a.m.

Everyone is still wrapped in jammies and blankets, safe in their bug-free zone. Even the ducks, worms, and mice have smarts enough to stay in bed.

But almost every morning, I have breakfast – a protein-filled breakfast – during my walk.

Usually, a bug or two.

I don’t plan this. This is not something that I stumble blindly out of bed, putting on clothes backwards and inside out, thinking ‘YAY! I get to eat bugs today!’

Survivorman (survival reality TV show), or any of those other guys who risk malaria, scurvy or typhoid fever for the sake of a few TV ratings would be proud of me, I guess.

I am sure they are great guys, and although I have no doubt I will one day have a use for knowing how to make life-saving tea out of scorpion pee, they are not who I aspire to be.

And you have to wonder why no women host these kinds of shows.....

Men are from Mars, and all that, I guess....

But I digress.

Back to my breakfast.

A bug flies in my mouth, and in a fit of gagging, coughing, and frantically wiping my palms (unattractively) over my extended tongue like a cat (although not as gracefully), I try spitting as elegantly as a lady can at 5 a.m., and nothing works.

And down the hatch it goes. In one gag-filled gulp.

Some might say ‘Keep your mouth shut!’ Well, that’s just silly. When I am in power-walking mode, my arms are pumping, the pony-tail is swinging, chin is up, chest is out, shoulders are back, and all the while I am elegantly puffing in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth.

But sometimes when I get REALLY into it, I confuse the in-nose/out-mouth bit, and then it’s breakfast time for me.

After I have calmed down from the whole fiasco, face still wet from gag-induced tears, I carry on, enjoying all the wonders of nature.

To the present:

I have just finished my daily breakfast, and am appreciating the natural wonders around me, when I come to a brake-slamming halt. I almost trip on my perfectly tied shoelaces, and curse all of Mother Nature’s creatures from here to Antarctica.

The cousin of who I just ate has now slammed himself (it IS obviously a boy) RIGHT into my eye in a fit of Kamikaze rebellion.

I dance around (which cannot be good for digestion), my pony tail bouncing as I rub and whack my eye. I can’t get him out. I have to get home to a mirror and pull my lower lid down to my chin for the bug extraction.

Unless I happen upon a parked car on the way home and borrow their side mirror. But I dare not for fear of the fuzz showing up, claiming an anonymous call about a potential car thief.

Ya right – LOOK AT ME! My eyes are swollen, my clothes are on inside out/backwards. I have just eaten a bug, there is spit all over my face, and my hat is askew from my frantic face-whacking. Do I LOOK like a car thief? And aren’t people supposed to be in bed at this hour?

Perhaps wearing head-to-toe Gucci for my walks will make me look less threatening.

Anyways.....I finally arrive home, race to the washroom, and yank down my eye lid. AHA! There you are, you sicko! I stick my finger in, and extract. Gotcha!

I blink and blink. And blink. And blink some more.

There’s still something in there.

Back down the eyelid gets yanked – and there it is.

A leg.

I try everything – a finger, a Q-tip, toilet paper twisted to such a sharp point it’s no wonder I don’t poke my eye out.

And I can’t get it. I rinse with water, I rub furiously, but it’s totally embedded.
One. Solitary. Leg.
Time is ticking, and I have to get to work - with a bug-leg in my eye.

I guess I should be proud, knowing I won’t let a leg in my eye stop me from going to work. I can smugly walk around work with this ‘secret’ – they don’t know how tough I really am! If I tell everyone, they will surely give me looks of admiration, whispering to each other ‘There she is, SurvivorWOMAN!’

Not likely.

So I sit at my desk, the leg still in my eye, and raise my tea in toast to you for reading this far - ‘Here’s to a bug in your eye!’

(author’s note: there is no real message here – nothing for you to learn – except maybe to wear a face-shield when walking with Mother Nature)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frog Tripping


How did we ever survive this far without the MP3 player?

Tiny, compact and able to hold up to hundreds of songs, these gizmos are still technologically evolving. Not so long ago we were sportin’ the era-defining ‘WALKMAN’, then progressing to the über-advanced personal CD player - we thought we were somethin’ else. All gadgets, now and then, played a crucial part in our exercise regime. Back then, we ensured that our red Walkman matched our leg warmers. Nowadays, the Walkman’s second-cousin, the credit-card sized MP3 player, is safely and discretely tucked away in tiny pockets. Able to block out the worldly sounds around us, they enable us to focus on our never-ending battle with the bulge. But is blocking out the world around us always for the best?

I am a walker/jogger/runner - serious enough to keep up a routine, but not serious enough to be striving for marathons. Working full-time by day, and playing referee between my two sons at night, means early mornings for me when the darlings are asleep. Not a soul is around and, depending on the time of year, the sun hasn’t even crawled out of bed yet. I prefer the fall and winter, when the darkness envelopes me in my own private sanctuary – the glowing screen of my MP3 player often the only light.

My eyes water in the brisk, frosty air. My hands chap despite pulling my sleeves down to my fingertips. Wearing mitts would help, but doing so would hamper my control over the MP3 player – and that would just not do. How else would I be able to change songs, turn up the volume, or monitor my time on the stopwatch function? I embarrass myself at the realization that many of the downloaded songs are exactly those I played on my WALKMAN (not) so long ago.

During my route around the nature conservatory park near where I live, I have watched the seasons change with every step along the graveled trails. The cat-tails depict summer. Leaves collecting on the ground tell me school is back in. The red-winged blackbirds protect their nests in the spring with their trill of onk-a-ree-onk. In the winter, not a sound can be heard – everyone is nestled in for hibernation-mode. But not me. My weather-dictated running/walking gear is my armor against Mother Nature’s mood swings, no matter what season. And still, my constantly faithful MP3 player keeps me in stride while I plod along oblivious to the world around me.

As I adjusted my earphones one early, puffy-eyed summer morning, the resident frogs interrupted my snail’s pace. A chorus of croaking, chirping and ribbit-ing surrounded me. Except for the winter when the little darlings were hibernating, I realized all these months they had been cheering me on; my own personal trainers.

And I had been missing it.

The ducks and geese barely waddled out of the way as I approached. Their own orchestra competed with that of the frogs. Had I been missing their melody as well? Were their harmonic reassurances telling me I really WAS doing something worthwhile, or were they quacking at me to give it up and go back to bed? I dared not plug back in the earphones; doing so would be disrespectful to both frog and mallard and their songs of encouragement.

For now, while I still don’t dream of gold medals at marathons, I occasionally ‘unplug’ and enjoy the reprieve from the inevitable busy world that has yet to wake up. I am thankful to the frogs for their morning chant, urging me on. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the ducks - even to the ones who won’t move out of my way. Even unplugged, however, I still hum a few 80’s tunes along the way. Rick Springfield anyone?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tales of a Lazy Receptionist

She stands on guard for you. Always on-call, she is more than happy to jump when you say jump, and always higher than you asked.

Ignore the manicure set on her desk. Turn a blind eye when you see her diligently filing - her nails, not the files. Snacks for survival are important, as long as they are discreetly inhaled. Bread and water are sometimes her only ration when the chain looped around her ankle, attached to her desk, can’t reach as far as the lunchroom.

A multi-tasker extraordinaire, she waits for your next request. But don’t forget – there are others vying for her valuable time. She can answer a phone, open mail, sign for your lunch delivery, and read a list of instructions from another superior, all with a gracious smile.

She loves her job. It is HER job - her pride and joy. As others in the same field can equate to, this is her baby. Her maternal instincts kick into overdrive; caring, nurturing, planning for the well-being of her charges.

Sparkling manners are the essence of her existence; professional etiquette and protocol at all times. During deadlines, ‘month-end,’ or ‘crunch time,’ however, other co-workers’ manners are often forgotten, often at her expense. Ever with a smile, patience, and understanding, she turns a blind eye, never letting snips, snarls or gripes bother her.

Anticipating your every need, meeting and deadline, she is on top of it all. Thinking twenty steps ahead of you, she plots, contrives, schemes and manoeuvres. She could be a champion at chess.

She is a drugstore, a dispensary for various ailments from headaches to chocolate-craving attacks. She is the keeper of band-aids; treatment compassionately rendered accompanied with condolences and sympathy. She is the resident fire-warden, willing to wear the fire warden hat, despite embarrassment. Your safety is her priority.

She’s a seamstress, a psychologist, ambassador and actress. Being the eyes and ears of the office, she often sees and knows too much. Her acting and diplomatic skills are always in play – both on the phone and in person - to perfection. She is bodyguard, guard-dog, and guardian of secrets.

Without her you wouldn’t have coffee. Without her, your lunch reservations wouldn’t be booked - the best seats in the house, thank-you very much. Without her, your printers/fax machines/photocopiers wouldn’t be fed daily with toner and paper. Without her, you would have to walk up/over to another floor/department to deliver a piece of paper. Without her, you would have to answer your own phone. Cherish her and be grateful. Your boo-boo might need tending one day.

She flirts with the courier to get your packages to their destination – toot sweet. She bribes the maintenance man with cookies to get your chair fixed – double toot sweet. When the printer/computer/photocopier is on the fritz, her PR skills are put to the test to sweet talk the techie-guy into saying ‘how high’ when SHE tells him to jump – triple toot sweet.

She resorts to being a scrounge, a thief, and a manipulator. When you are in need of a specific tool that, without it, you simply could NOT continue on, she wheels and deals with other departments/floors/offices for that perfect size of sticky-note. Your offices’ supply budget simply could not accommodate such a request, but by sacrificing her morals, she finds that aquamarine, 2 1/8” x 5 1/7” sticky note pad – just for YOU.

When you don’t know whether you are coming or going, ask her. She will know.

Who is she? She is your receptionist.

Belligerent clients, files stacked yea high, and emails galore make you wonder how you survive every day. As you stomp your way out of the office to get a coffee, you pass by the receptionist’s desk, and see her absently chipping away at her nail polish, idly staring off into space, as it would seem. Think twice before you send a disgusted look her way – she is likely plotting ways to make your eight hours all the better.

Just for you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The No Touch Room

Every knick-knack and chachka is expertly positioned; couches and end-tables positioned just so. A shrine clearly depicting the female inhabitants’ decorating and cleaning ability, this sterile room should buy shares with Pine Sol. The air is stale and still – have humans ever been granted permission to enter this sacred shrine?

Reserved for guests - but not ALL guests - this sacred room is fondly known in my sarcastic world as The No Touch Room. To the lay person, this is traditionally known as the living room.

And no, I don’t have one. And I guess after this opus, I won’t be invited to yours.

A house guests’ importance, or social ranking, is clearly defined by whether he or she is granted access to such room, if worthy, that is. But it’s a one shot deal. If you have met the qualifications (whatever they are) and granted entry, GREAT! Relish the moment! Because after that, you are not a ‘guest’ in the house anymore; your sock-clad foot will likely never cross the threshold again.

I observed these life-altering lessons, as it were, through an acquaintance who shall remain nameless. I value my life.

(And don’t bother asking me who it is, because I won’t tell you. If you ask, I won’t invite you to my own No Touch Room, should I ever have one.)

I have witnessed tours granted to new house guests - those barely worthy of stepping near the shrine - only to have the room remarked with a dramatic flair of her arm. Yet, the tour continues past the infamous room, the dismayed visitors sadly end up settling in the family room. They have just realized their ranking.

Would the Queen pass the test and be granted permission? I should give Liz a call and invite her over to my acquaintances’ humble abode, just to see what would happen; if not for my own entertainment, then to at least collect fodder for an epilogue to this literary masterpiece.

The only time I was ever granted permission of entry was when my other ‘acquaintances’ and I were invited for a ‘prestigious’ function, which shall also remain nameless; too revealing otherwise (also note the generic use of ‘acquaintances,’ again, for protection of all involved). My vivid imagination fuelled my nervousness; I was certain an invisible fleck of skin would fall off my body and land on the hand-manicured carpet with a thud.

I dare not put the notion of plastic seat covers in her head. Should I ever commit such a sin, the backs of my shorts-clad legs would forever need be dusted in baby powder, should I ever allowed entry again. Oh...forget it. I won’t be going in there again, anyways.

Grandmothers are known for owning this kind of room. Is this thinking genetic, rearing its furniture-polished head through the domesticity of modern day homemakers? Only those of us lucky to own a house in these times, never mind having one big enough bearing such a shrine to ‘worthy’ visitors, would be fortunate to exercise this genetic gift.

Alarmingly, I discovered another ‘acquaintance’ of mine has, as it may seem, a No Touch Room.

I am still reeling from the discovery, as I didn’t think she had it in her.
With my own entry to the house confined to the front foyer, it was only after numerous brief visits when I finally noticed something odd (I never said I was sharp). A little door to the left protected a…

Could it BE?!

She has one too!

French doors heavily laden with view-obstructing sheers shield the coveted room from any curious onlookers. Sterile and pristine, everything displayed to perfection according to the bible of No Touch Rooms. Even the stagnant air seemed to know its place.

I was left to my own devices as she scurried away in search of her furniture polish (okay, not really; just booties to put over my shoes), and I took full advantage of the moment. Even though I nearly suffocated from pressing my nose against the sheers, I smugly realized one thing; I might not be the next Martha Stewart, but I knew the difference between 1980 and NOW.

I think I still have the imprint of the sheers on my nose.

In an instant, a clear picture of this person’s personality, who I only knew as an acquaintance, was clearly painted. It was like the puzzle pieces of this person I was trying to understand and know, fell into place with a resounding CLICK. But if this room was kept, say, as a weight room, my perception of this person would have been totally different.

Maybe my opinion of this phenomenon would be different if I could afford the luxury of space to accommodate a No Touch or ‘weight’ room. If I was a socialite or a weight lifter, my thoughts and priorities would be different. I wouldn’t, however, have plastic seat covers or posters of Jane Fonda, respectively.

Just posters of Arnold, the early years, I guess.

For now, I am happy with Cheerios between the cushions, cat hair on the arm rests, and feet on the coffee table. I have only one ‘room’, a multi-purpose room of sorts; a living/rumpus/family/dining/napping/games room.
But my bathroom is always spotless.

Names, places and functions are witheld to protect the innocent - me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Welcome to my new blog! It's still under construction, hardhats, hammers and ponytails aflyin'. I hope you like what you see, so far, and will come back soon. Getting tired of hardhat-hair! Lisa

Revenge of the Praying Mantis

There is another side to my persona; the inner teen/rebel who yearns to break the odd little rule. Just because. The good mother I try to personify hides this other side, enforcing the rules by way of lengthy lectures (ever-loved by my kids) and leading by example. Sayings like ‘rules are made for a reason’ often grate on my nerves, but ‘rules are meant to broken’ makes up for it. However, praying mantises and scorpions quickly changed my attitude toward those ‘rules that are made for a reason’.

The rules in the schoolyard and in the workplace are often ‘meant to be broken’, and sometimes, by matter of convenience, they often are. The rules spelled out by landlords; well, that’s a different story. Don’t hang this, don’t hang that. No noise after such-and-such time (personally, I love that one). No dogs allowed (not a favourite).

As ‘renters’ ourselves, and with two kids in our back pocket, homelessness is not an option. Therefore, we follow the rules and stick to companions such as one fish, and one cat; the rules permit their residency.

I would give ANYTHING to smuggle in a non-barking, non-shedding, non-peeing teeny tiny dog that no one could POSSIBLY ever notice. But for silly reasons like setting a good example and oh, say, the other silly reason such as avoiding eviction, we refrain from smuggling anyone from the canine persuasion.

My children learned to negotiate early in life; “If we can’t have a dog, can we have a ….” Of course, nothing simple like a hamster was ever entertained. As my darling boys approach the pre-teen/teenage years, their want for the exotic - tarantulas, scorpions, and weird bugs only found on the vines in the Amazon – increases daily. Dreams of fame and notoriety on the playground fuel their desire. Even better - “When my fish dies can I get a squid?”

A trip to the local ‘zoo’ was supposed to be a family bonding experience. If I had thought long and hard about it, I would have steered clear of the place. Geared for all ages (but not the squeamish), the aptly named “Bug Zoo” showcases critters only found in jungles afar. Of course, signs posted at perfect 4-5 foot viewing height advertised various little creatures FOR SALE; namely, of course, scorpions and praying mantises. Nothing tame like ants or dew worms. “Look Mom, they are much cheaper here than at the pet store!” My mind scurried like cockroaches at the bottom of the cage; how did the kid know the prices at the pet store?

Our house later became a beehive of activity- excitement, research and planning were forefront. Names were lovingly chosen. As the only parent not ‘in’ to the whole thing, I tried everything to diffuse the excitement, being the troll that I am. I rant that with a time-consuming, MOST demanding cat, I would NOT be catering to a scorpion/praying-mantis/whatever. I argued that I can barely afford to feed my family, never mind a ‘bug’. I plead for their lives; no creature is worth the deadly risk (even though I threaten their lives daily at the sight of dishes still in the drier). I came up with every imaginable reason of WHY only trained professionals should handle these creatures. But common knowledge prevailed; as a mother, I know absolutely nothing.

I am not afraid of these caged darlings, but I just felt that my kids (preteen) were not responsible enough, yet, to handle such exotic species. Whatever happened to simple ant farms?

In the middle of the excitement (with the piggy bank smashed and pennies duly counted), my husband had a flash of brilliance (well, I thought it was brilliant). He realized he better check the tenancy act regarding exotic pets. The darling landlord, who many love to hate, listed all the ‘specimens’ not allowed: tarantulas, scorpions, praying mantises. And, much to my glee, here’s why; escapees could kill the neighbours; uncontrollable population growth of said escapees, which would lead to costly extermination; chirping crickets, often escapees themselves avoiding being a menu option, keep the neighbours awake.

So that settled that. No exotic pets.

As I (still) breathe a sigh of relief, I truly believe I am likely the ONLY tenant wanting to smooch the landlord in gratitude. Our lives have been saved.

My heart went out to the boys as I broke the news. Their tears washed away their hopes that had risen higher than any ant hill. But they slowly resigned to the fact that this is the way of the renter’s life; landlords and rules.

I have come to love rules, my landlord and quite possibly the cat, just a little more.