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 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, 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…...