Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and Merry Christmas. I hope all your Christmas wishes have come true, and thank you for reading all year long!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Neurotic Notekeeping

A writer’s best friend is a notebook. And not the laptop version, but an ACTUAL paper notebook with an ACTUAL pen. One of the countless pieces of advice for any writer is to always carry a notebook; always have one close at hand. Keeping pen and paper handy is essential for getting down observations that might make their way into a piece of writing, or for immortalizing that perfect sentence.

And the lucky girl I am receives notebooks as gifts. Nothing is more thrilling than receiving a brand spanking new notebook, encased in a gorgeous cover, waiting for my wandering words.

Not only do I receive them as gifts, but I buy them as well, stocking up as though readying for winter. They are stacked in my office on shelves, bookcases and in cabinets. I guess you could say I am totally stacked.

But I am a bit obsessive about them. Despite having stacks upon stacks of pristine, beautifully covered books at my fingertips, I ‘save’ most of them. Meaning, I save the really nice ones, just in case, and use the plainer ones. What am I saving them for? I don’t know. I have even gone so far as to buy plain old books when I need one, so as not to ruin my beautiful notebooks with every day wear and tear.

So like a good writer, I have one in my tote bag, and one in my purse. There is one beside the couch where I sit at night watching TV (I write in the mornings, so night time TV is my guilty pleasure). There is one beside my bed which, sadly, is a tad dust-covered (I am too exhausted when I go to bed), but on the rare occasion has come in handy - once I scrape off the dust with my nails.

I have notebooks and little pads of paper in the kitchen for when I am cooking, making lunches, washing dishes, cooking, making lunches, washing dishes, cooking – never mind, you get it. So when a brilliant idea comes to me, I can quickly jot down a few lines through the billowing steam. The notes written in the kitchen are usually wrinkled from sudsy wet hands or almost transparent from grease splatters.

So you would think having all these notebooks around I would be using them, right?


Instead, something will come to me at the most obscure time or place, and I will grab any piece of paper to jot down my magnificent thought.

I desperately guard my notes with my life, checking and rechecking where I have stashed them – in my purse, in my office, by my laptop, in my pocket – comforting myself with the knowledge that they are safe and sound.

But then sometimes I lose them, and the whole world must stop - now.

The greatest sentence, word, thought, phrase, idea is lost, and I simply cannot continue existing. I tear apart everything. I go through my purse five to ten times, practically destroy my office, and lie in bed at night replaying where I could have possibly put that tiny piece of paper.

Common sense would dictate I just keep everything in one book. I DO have books that have everything written down all in the same, compact area. But there are urgent times when any old piece of paper will have to do before I lose my thought/idea/masterpiece.

And even after I have made a poor excuse of recreating what I barely remember writing down, I can’t stop thinking about that piece of paper. It consumes me, lurking in the back of my mind as I race around the house straightening and cleaning.

So with the new year approaching, I must make one of my goals to give up the loose paper habit, to use the beautiful notebooks I already have, and to stop obsessing.

But I hope Santa brings me a few more notebooks for Christmas - just in case.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanks for the Memories, Santa

The children were nestled all snug in their beds. The lights were twinkling and the trees were decorated to the hilt with everything sparkly. Early morning folks huddled around their coffees in….the food court of the mall. My friend calls this time of year ‘the craze fest we North Americans call Christmas,’ and I suspect those early morning coffee drinkers were savouring some peace before it started that day.

I was waiting for the stores to open, and as I found myself also savouring the moment of peace and tranquility, I realized a shift in my own household’s Christmas activities. Where I used to be waiting for my kids to go to sleep in order to buy and wrap presents, now I get out while they sleep-in (what a foreign concept to me).

As I rounded the corner and dodged a few vigorous mall-walkers making their rounds, I came upon something brimming with memories – and somewhat now foreign to me.

Santa’s photo booth.

True, Christmas is not just one day of Santa, presents, lights, and stale-dated eggnog - it’s a season. And even though memories are created year-round, for someone like me who has kids created memories are at their peak at this time of year.

And Santa’s photo booth starts many of them.

My memories blur between my own Santa visits as a kid, to those of watching my sisters having a meltdown at the first sight of the big guy, to those of my own children crying hysterically. Then there were the line-ups, the other frazzled mothers, and the waiting, excitement and fear all rolled into one. But they are all cherished memories.

Our Santa visiting days are over, as I knew they eventually would be. My wee lads are as tall, if not taller, than me and they live in fear that I will MAKE them ‘go see Santa.’ Yes, I have the power to MAKE them do whatever I want – but I am nice and won’t embarrass them. Maybe in a few years when those embarrassed-to-be-seen-with-family days are gone, I might be able to convince them to go for a picture with Santa. But eventually their own Santa-visiting time will come ‘round - with their own kids. I hope they invite me to come along.

As I looked around the empty Santa booth, I took in the camera and flash, the chair, the candy canes waiting for sticky hands to hold them, and the mail box. Countless letters have been penned and responded to in my house, and they are tucked safely away – just like my memories.

The last two Christmases had me sadly realizing those times were fading away. But this particular day where I had the whole place to myself, it gave me time to reflect (without the mall muzak system blaring). So what if the memories are not always exactly the same as last year, or the year before, or the year before that? All memories are special, and as I approach a new phase in my life with my ever-growing kids, new memories will always be created – and always cherished.

It was bittersweet standing there in the (near) empty mall, the Santa booth empty and waiting for the next generation. But it’s time to move on and create new memories while holding on to the ones I so fortunately have.

I am one lucky girl. Thanks for the memories, Santa.

(Author’s note - Three days after I wrote this, my secret wish came true. I guess Santa must have read this and cast a spell over my kids, as I now have a Santa photo featuring both kids. It was an unexpected surprise when we stumbled upon him ‘posing’ in an inconspicuous place – somewhere other than the mall. I won’t post the photo, as they would never let me live it down. Thanks again, Santa.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

World Photographer

I live in a city that thrives on tourism and I, being the nice girl I am, feel it’s my duty to act as ambassador. I often stop to assist tourists who seem lost, but it’s those with cameras who really draw me.

There are those who visit Victoria, British Columbia, who squish their faces together with one outstretched arm holding the camera, only to get a distorted picture of themselves with half the Empress Hotel in the background. Then there are those who opt to use the camera timer and quickly stumble to their pre-set position in the group. The result is a photo with smiles forced from waiting too long for the timer to go off – and it’s lucky the photographer didn’t trip on his/her way to the group.

But heck, at least they have a photo of themselves - so that’s something.

But for those who are fumbling to get the greatest, memorable photo of all time, I can’t just walk by and NOT help them in some way.

So on behalf of Tourism British Columbia, I offer to take their picture for them. (Disclaimer: no one asks me to do this, I don’t get paid by the tourism folks – I’m just being nice.)

I have done this for a while now, meeting folks from all parts of the world, and am often met with varying degrees of acceptance; the resulting experiences, memorable.

One nice couple, surprised by the outpouring of Canadian generosity (I think they were from some far-off continent), declined politely at first, as if they were putting ME out. Um, I offered. Noting their hesitancy as they weighed the situation, it was clear they wanted to take me up on the offer. I urged the issue: “Are you sure? I don’t mind?” So, man, wife, and toddler grinned widely as I snapped a photo of them on the front lawn of the Empress Hotel. They were most, most appreciative, and somewhere in the world (in some far-off continent), is their touristy family photo - without my name credit.

Some folks wholeheartedly take me up on my offer, profusely thanking me for this divine opportunity. It’s always the man missing from the photo. The joy he exudes at the concept that he finally gets to be in a photo has him skipping over to stand beside his wife. His sandals, black socks, Hawaiian shirt (?), windblown comb-over, and sunglasses are forever photographically preserved.

I often have folks ask me to take their picture on the ferry between Vancouver and Victoria. I must exude welcoming Canadian pheromones, or something. I got to chatting with one couple after taking their picture, and their down-unda accents gave them away. As newlyweds, they were exploring Caaanada and all its’ glory, so I was happy to be part of their honeymoon - sort of. And nothing says Canada like a ferry smelling of White Spot burgers dripping with Triple O sauce - my personal fave. But heck, it’s all in the name of tourism and ambassadorship.

I should work for the U.N.

Sometimes, however, I am met with scepticism when making this generous offer. They hug their cameras and bags closer to them, frantically looking for someone resembling police. I suspect they fear I will either take their camera and run, or mug them for their Rogers' Chocolates bag (very tempting). Well if you saw me - knew me - you would know I am not the mugging type. Not that there is a ‘type’ for that sort of thing, but…

And then, sadly, there are those who, after a brief, calculating assessment of my person, brush me off as quickly as they can. Avoiding as much conversation as possible, they turn and head in the opposite direction from where they were going, making me want to yell: “But Emily Carr’s house is that way!” I have come to the conclusion they are not so much afraid of being left camera-less, but are fearful I will demand a tip for their photograph - or for saying ‘hi,’ being nice, or turning their map right-side up.

But this doesn't stop me from exuding Canadian hospitality. So I have learned to avoid a collision of countries and approach my global interactions accordingly. I don’t want to ruin my country's good name.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Non-Yogi Writer

I didn’t know it, but I do yoga, sortof....for my health and my writing.

Growing up, I was surrounded by notions of everything black and white; meat and potatoes. Anything else was just wrong - and weird. Girls took dance lessons for exercise and boys played football (we were a house of three girls), and anything other than that was considered ‘woo woo’ – especially yoga.

My own ways of thinking and opinions blossomed with adulthood, my eyes opened to the world around me - or so I thought. I still kinda thought yoga was…’woo woo.’

In the wee hours of 4:30 am, I go for walks/jogs for overall health, sanity, energy and focus. I stretch before and after, waking my body, my mind, and my limbs, readying me for another day – another workout. The early morning brisk exercise helps me sort out my thoughts, and very often gives me ideas or direction for my writing. My post-exercise stretch helps me center my breathing, relaxing and easing my muscles after a vigorous workout. I then get to the laptop and write. Both these happen whether rain or shine, tired or cranky, or sore or blank.

At the grocery store one night, I dashed by the magazine stand and the bright pink cover of the latest issue of Yoga Journal Magazine (December 2011) caught my eye. Procrastinating going home and continuing laundry, and given that I had already flipped through most other magazines the previous nights (I go to the store A LOT), I learned that not only could I use a few stretches shown – some specific for a bad back, like mine – but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that….I had a lot to learn.

When I disregarded everything advertised on the pages – the wispy yoga clothes, the ‘different’ yet healthy food, the free-spirited hair-do’s, the tropical yoga resorts in other time zones – I realized I had been doing yoga all along, but in my own way. Exercising in the fresh air gives me mental clarity, erasing negativity, while stretching before and after settles my mind fostering creativity. And, sometimes, I eat healthier - except for all the chocolate.

And when I finally crawl into bed at the end of the day, my mind still sometimes racing, I think about my walk the next morning. I visualize one of my various routes; each curve of the road, each house, hill and landmark – kind of like meditating.

In an article titled ‘Chair Pose’ in the Basics section of the magazine, author Annie Carpenter writes:

In Sanskrit the word for dedicated practice is abhyasa. It is the act of making an effort to reach a goal, wholeheartedly and consistently over time. In yoga, this implies discipline, but it is also a movement towards effortlessness. ‘Practice’ means staying aware of the present moment. This awareness is quickly lost if you get too interested in achieving a pose. Effortlessness arises when you let go of the outcome of practice. You have to make yourself show up, which is hard, but if you stay interested in the practice itself rather that the goal, effortlessness will come.

For a writer, how true this is! Yes, the goals are important, but the act of even showing up – of doing it – and practicing, will make the journey towards the goal effortless. This mindset has helped me not only in keeping up with my exercise regime, but also with my continual writing.

Does this mean I have been following the yoga Sanskirt abhyasa all along? Had I been doing ‘woo woo’ yoga all this time and didn’t even know it?

Yoga isn’t about the wispy clothes or hair, or the fancy resorts. My living room floor is my mat; my neighbourhood my tropical resort. My yoga is what is practiced and meditated every morning as I lie on the floor, clock the miles, and write the words - rain or shine. Who cares what it’s called. And I’ll do the upward facing dog pose my own way, thank you very much.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Unwanted E-ttention

I like people. I do.

But as a busy mother who works full-time outside the house, when I find the time to read, and not talk, and not have someone bugging me, I cherish it. And when that time is jeopardized, I get cranky.

But I like people. I do.

My lack of technological skills and my tendency to be lagging in this high tech e-world is on-going. I don’t have the time or patience to sit with a new gadget, read instructions and fiddle with it.

So when I recently was given an e-reader to ‘try out,’ my tear ducts were given a run for their money. I was given the ‘simple’ model because I can’t handle anything with more than three buttons.

Well….it wasn’t so simple. I won’t reveal the model because that wouldn’t be fair to the company. It’s not their fault I am a complete dolt when it comes to this stuff.

So I have sort of figured out how to buy and download books – and not cry. Sort of – not really.

But the instructions don’t tell you of certain side-effects of owning an e-reader.

One morning while watching my son at his swimming lessons (a perfect time to read), I had one eye on the boy and I had just pulled out my e-reader when I heard, “Excuse me, is that one of those e-readers?”

A very nice elderly lady beside me stared intently at the gadget in my hands.

She wanted to know all about it. We exchanged a few words and she asked a bunch of questions I couldn’t answer. I told her I was new at it and really didn’t know much about it (which is dumb because I was READING on it, wasn’t I?), but the questions and comments still kept coming.


Feeling a lull in the conversation I casually went back to my ‘book.’ Settling into chapter one, word number four, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a male voice proclaimed,

“Hey, is that an e-reader? I really want one of those!”

The fellow introduced the lady as his mother-in-law (I caught that eye roll), and now we were all one big happy family – talking about the e-reader.

The son-in-law peppered me with questions about the e-reader, despite me explaining again and again that I was new at it. Kids/grandkids near and far were all but forgotten.

Him: “Is it compatible with a … (insert high tech thing here).”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

Him: “Can you do… (insert funky function here).”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

Mother-in-Law: “Does it have a light?”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

And on it went.

My eyes were starting to sting and water, and I wasn’t sure if it was out of frustration or from the high levels of chlorine. I just wanted to read. The humidity in the place always plays havoc with my hair, and my make-up slides off my face. I usually look like a Halloween-leftover in two seconds. So why – what about me – do people feel they need to interrupt me?

All I wanted to do was read the book that made me cry throughout the downloading process.

Two days later I was on the bus. When I read on the bus I curl up in the corner, don’t look up, don’t make eye contact with anyone, and keep my eyes on my book.

But buses are like sardine cans. Everyone is squished together, and you are in it for the long haul – or at least until your stop. And there is no getting away from anyone.

So there I was with my e-reader, and of course….someone sat down beside me.

And of course, the questions started to which I had no answers for. Oh for God’s sake - I just wanted to read.

Do I see other e-reader readers being hounded by non-e-reader readers? No one bothered me when I was reading PAPERbacks! Why me? I didn’t make eye contact; I wasn’t exuding welcoming pheromones or anything. Why? WHY? I need to look grouchier, I think.

All I know is that my problem with my e-reader is not that I don’t understand how it works.

It’s just that it attracts too much attention.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not So Famous...and Happy for It

Since the release of the book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ which contains two of my stories, I have been busy being famous – or not.

True, the book is not a full-length novel bearing my name in raised, gold lettering. And true, I am ‘just’ a contributor in the anthology. But in my up-and-coming writing world, this is BIG. As I waited for the day to arrive when the book (as given to contributors upon story acceptance) would be in my hand, seeing my words in black and white, I wondered: would anything change?

I wondered if I would look different with this new-found ‘fame.’ Nope - I still had to use a ½ a tube of under-eye cream everyday to combat the puffiness. I still had to do my own hair and makeup – no one was coming to do it for me.

I wondered if people would recognize me and cry out, “HEY! There’s that famous Chicken Soup for the Soul girl!” as I sauntered down the street in my power suit, Coach™ bag and fancy hair. Considering my picture is not in the book, I own neither a power suit nor a Coach bag (but I have a Coach wallet, courtesy of Mom), and I still have the same hair from 1989, I am still just another person walking down the street.

I wondered if my new-found fame would instantly release my demure, mature, professional side that should have come out long ago. I recently all but fell to the floor writhing in joy when my sister gave me three packages of Purdy’s Sweet Georgia Browns – each package containing two of the chocolate, caramel and pecan delights. I ate them in two days. Actually, in one-and-a-half days. And I didn’t share. So much for maturity.

During the week the book was released, I would stalk the bookstores, waiting to see ‘my’ book on the shelves. When they did arrive, I danced/skipped in the aisle (truly), and stared in amazement at my name in ink. I fantasized about spreading a few books on the floor of the bookstore and frolicking in joy. So much for professionalism.

Since none of these ‘famous’ things happened, I reverted to basking in my own literary joy.

After the books were in the stores for a week, I built up the nerve to go sign some books. Me, Lisa, doing that – who woulda thought?

I had no idea what to expect, never mind having no idea of how it was done. So…I just did it.

I spoke to the manager of the first bookstore, and she resoundingly said YES to my offer to sign books. After bumbling like an idiot (me, not her), she told me to get the books from the shelf, and go to the corner to sign them. It took great effort to sign normally with shaking hands, all the while acting cool and calm, as if I do that sort of thing every day.

Done signing, I wondered what to do next. So I took the books back on the shelf - FACE OUT - and left the store.

No trumpets sounded; no red carpet was rolled. Oh – okay then. That’s all there is to it, I guess. But I wasn’t disappointed. I giggled and skipped my way down the street, proud of what I had just done.

The next day, feeling brave and confident, I stopped at the next store.

I approached the manager and he, along with his co-worker, was quite thrilled with the whole thing. “We just had Adrienne Clarkson (former Governor-General of Canada) here last week signing her book, and now you’re here!”

My GOD, I thought, I am being used in the same sentence as Adrienne Clarkson.

They asked me about writing, one of them blushed, they collected the books for me to sign, they wouldn’t let me put the books back….it went on.

At the risk of sounding like my head had swelled bigger than the bookstore, read on….

A week later I was reminded of WHY I write – not for fame, money, or a new Coach bag (well, maybe). On the Chicken Soup for the Soul® website, readers can subscribe to have a Chicken Soup story, randomly picked from their countless books, sent to their email. One of my stories from ‘my’ book was picked.

The next day, my elation at this honour still having me in whirlwind, I received an email from a Chicken Soup story subscriber. She made the effort to track down my email address to tell me she had read the story, was touched, and to keep writing.

And THAT is why I write. Forget about fame....

Friday, November 11, 2011

When Technology and Fruit Meet

I am not overly techno-savvy. But I can navigate my way around a computer decently enough (heck, I made this blog, right?), format a letter of gratitude to the makers of Vidal Sassoon hairspray, and know when it’s time to recharge my apparently archaic 2 year-old cell phone.

I don’t own an iPad or iPhone. I have an iPod, but the songs have not been updated in 3 years. My son has to do that for me. One earphone is broken, and if I hold the wire JUST right, I can get both working; a feat mastered on my walks at 4:30am.

PAPERbacks are preferred, hence no e-reader. I am a sucker for simplicity and routine, and very often anything other than good ole tried-and-true rattles my world. Saying all that, however, I am willing to try something new - just once. Because we all know - change is good.

I will try new foods – rare fruits and veggies – provided I can down a few Rolaids® afterwards, just in case. Anything spicy or exotic, and my sensitive stomach retaliates. So sticking with the good ole tried-and-true is best.

Like apples, oranges and bananas - the basics.

So when I peeled my banana one morning, I was startled to find one of those new and improved ‘scan code’ things stuck to the peel. Those weird little symbols of garbled squares and blocks like something straight out of the 1980’s Atari® Space Invaders game have replaced the usual banana sticker.

I see the scan code things everywhere – there was even one on my new washing machine. When scanned with your iPhone, it links your phone to the company’s website – or something. I don’t have the phone to engage in such technological activities, and I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to do so if I did.

My techno-son says some call the weird black and white square things scan codes or bar codes. Even the age-old mysterious black and white stripped lines telling a cashier clerk the price of something, is changing. They’ve been around for years! Leave them alone, would ya?

But when I saw one of those Atari Space Invaders things on my banana, my first reaction was ‘Now THIS!?’ Yes, the fine print on the sticker says ‘Scan for Contest Info,’ but not even the chance at winning something, even if it was a banana yellow car, can conform me.

Leave my bananas alone.

I understand the companies’ need to keep up with these competitive times. As fast as technology can evolve, companies can rise and fall. But fruit is here to stay (global warming aside) – especially bananas.

Some countries in the world are so technologically advanced they have scan codes on bus stops relaying schedule information to riders’ phones, whereas some countries don’t even have bus stops – never mind buses and phones. I think I sit somewhere in the middle - one foot in each country, as it were.

But keep technology away from my fruit. Just leave it alone – leave it be. It’s just a banana – natural and untouched (except for all the processes involved in ripening and preserving them, but we won’t go there right now.) Don’t taint it with ever-evolving technological garbbledy-goop. Preserve its innocence, and leave it scan free. Can’t there be a little piece of life that hasn’t been touched by technology?

Leave my bananas alone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hairy Halloween

It was time to get my hair cut; it needed it, desperately. Sun damage from the summer had to go. I don’t get my hair cut very often. Finding time, and the nerve, often hampers my coiffure pursuits. Keeping it long and straight (and boring), works for my busy life. A ponytail works wonders, so length is needed for the fast and furious up-do.

But I had to do it. Scraggly hair does not a Vogue cover model, make.

I summoned the courage, and before I could change my mind, off I went. Therefore, I have no ‘before’ pictures to compare, and the ‘after’ pictures I just can’t do – yet.

With a toothpick in his mouth, the hairdresser guy much younger than me chattered about Halloween two days away. The parties he was going to – snip. The costume he was going to wear – snip, snip. (Switch toothpick to the other side). And the grumpy old people who complain about Halloween antics? May the goblins get them, he cackled - triple snip.

I was determined to show him I was cool, composed, and unaffected by the amount of hair floating by.

I guffawed, cussed, and agreed at all the right times, my seemingly outward composure, secure. Sure, he had been doing this for 10 years, as he said. But with each snip, my composure fell to the ground, inch by inch. Hair grows, I kept telling myself. I needed to get this done, I kept telling myself. But my positive self-talk failed miserably.

Underneath the hairdresser’s cape, I was shaking. I couldn’t breathe the neck was buttoned so tight. Strangulation in the hairdresser’s chair was sure to be my demise. There was no ventilation under that thing, either. As sweat dribbled down my back, I was thankful for the cape - never let them see ya sweat, and all that.

Let me make one thing clear, however, should the stud himself ever read this – he did an excellent job. Truly. He did exactly as I asked; no more, no less. No weird ends. No missed pieces. Maybe a tad too short for my liking, however, but hair grows, as I kept telling myself.

What had I done?

The transformation complete, I made the mistake of looking at the pile on the floor as I got up. The shaking escalated, making my teeth rattle like the skeletons readying to roam the streets in two nights’ time. I tried not to gasp, failed, and with a lame giggle to cover my audible show of weakness, I jelly-legged to the cash register. My hands shook like a caffeine junkie as I tried to peel the bills from the wad of millions in my wallet. I chattered a bit too much. I flicked my hair in wonder at the weightlessness a bit too much. People were staring.

What had I done?

As I put on my coat, I realized I barely had to pull my hair out from underneath like I used to have to do only 45 minutes before. My family was set to visit the pumpkin patch heralding haunted houses and replica graveyards sporting dead bodies in a few hours. I would fit right in. I would be able to scare the young and old, free of charge.

How I drove home without creating a 1-car pileup (with me, anything’s possible), I’ll never know. I banned anyone from looking at me as I scurried in the house. I washed my hair, and attempted to do something with it. Luckily (for his sake), the man of the house noticed and said all the right things – not really.

“Wow, you haven’t had it that short for a long time.”


The kids didn’t notice how bald I was. My hands were still shaking. I longed for a Valium. Off to the pumpkin patch we went.

It’s done, it needed to be done, hair grows I kept chanting to myself as we slogged through the fertilizer and pumpkin vines. A kid in a witch costume complete with a scraggly wig ran by – SHE HAS BETTER HAIR THAN ME, I moaned. The carved pumpkin I happened to be standing beside had no response.

Determined not to let trivial things like hair ruin our family time, I focused on the pumpkins, the hay ride, and the replica graveyard. For a split second as a few short strands blew in my eyes, I longed to lie down in one of the graves and get it over with.

On the way home, I realized no one turned to stone at the sight of me, and my family was happy with our Halloween adventure. And that was all that really mattered.

Hair grows.

Halloween day was business as usual; get up, do something with my hair, and go to work. The hair worked out relatively fine, what was left of it, and whaddya know? I could still put it in a ponytail. And even though I felt like I was practically bald – not that there is anything wrong with that – no one noticed. I guess those missing 3 inches of my precious locks didn’t make much difference.

This was me on Halloween, the hair-panic forgotten. I didn’t need fancy hair for my costume, anyways.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

This was what was on my door one autumn Tuesday afternoon from Canpar Delivery. Most interesting to note, of course, was who the boxes were from – SIMON AND SCHUSTER (book distributor). Note also, if you can, my explicit instructions of where to leave the (most waited for, highly anticipated, treasured) boxes. My note to the delivery guy said "Please leave just under the hose by door."

Hmmm……..the excitement was building.

The next day….

This was what my door looked like with boxes from Simon and Schuster sitting in front….the delivery guy followed my instructions. Note the hose; he followed my explicit instructions. I like that delivery guy.

This is what 40 copies of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ look like. They were in the boxes.

Never before have books been so photographed…I have lots more pictures if you want to see…….

This is an artfully arranged display of the books, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ (yes, I am plugging the book).

Why the boxes, books and pictures?

Two of my stories are featured in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ (ISBN: 978-1-935096-77-1, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC), story #31 – A Real Turnaround and story #85 – How I Talked My Way to Happiness.

There are no pictures of me with the books on the day they arrived. I looked awful from not getting any sleep the night before – I was waiting for the delivery guy to come back with my boxes.

Which was dumb of me, as it wasn't like he was gonna come back at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.

I was a tad excited, to say the least.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Turkey and a Nighthawk

Nosy Person: “Lisa, why are you limping?”
Sarcastic Lisa: “I tripped on a pinecone while feeding a toothless cat at 2:30 in the morning.”

Truly, that’s what happened.

My son was hired to feed a neighbour’s cat over the Thanksgiving weekend; just breakfast and dinner.

So on the third night in to ‘his’ job, I woke at 2am – wide, WIDE awake. After a trip to the washroom, hoping to remedy the non-sleeping issue, I went back to bed. The sandman was JUST about to have his way with me, when………

Oh my God – I don’t think the cat was fed dinner!

I sifted through the sand in my brain trying to remember if the cat had been fed. True, it wasn’t MY job. And true, the cat WOULD live until breakfast. But it would be MY luck, on OUR watch, that something would happen to the cat.

Added to that, the poor thing has no teeth. I couldn’t very well let it suffer anymore than it likely already was; separation anxiety from her owners, and all that. Never mind not eating turkey.

By then it was 2:15 am, so knowing I would never get back to sleep worrying about the cat, I knew what I had to do. With a coat thrown over my pyjamas, and bed-head big enough to turn a racoon to stone with one look, I picked my way through the leaves to the neighbour’s house. The extreme silence at that time of morning amplifies every sound, and I was sure that one wrong step on an extra crunchy leaf would have the neighbours calling 9-1-1. Onward I plodded; down the lane, down some steps, and I was there.

I got to the house - the cat was alive - fed her some pureed cat food, and started to make my way back home. Phew. Hopefully now, worry-free, I would be able to get back to sleep.

Up the stairs I picked my way, again avoiding the leaves.

Oh God. Did I lock their door?

Up a few more steps.

Ummmm…hmmmm. I can’t remember.

I knew if I went home, I would never get back to sleep with worrying about the door – even though I was sure I locked it.

Aw crap. I better go back and check. I’m awake anyways.
So back down the steps I went.

I (stupidly) step on some SOFT looking leaves, and….stumble and twist my ankle on a pinecone hidden underneath.

And mid-stumble, I had a million thoughts race through my head, all jumbled together in one long sentence:

What if I fall and as my body flails down the steps I wake the neighbours and they see me in my pyjamas and they call 911 fearing I am a crazy murderer and with my hair looking the way it does and my arm is still bad from my fall in July (see story ‘The One Armed Rancher' - August 11, 2011) and I hope I don’t fall on it and ohmygodmyanklereallyhurts…..

So I stumbled and fumbled, and luckily didn’t actually fall DOWN the steps. After the sound of things cracking and tearing in my ankle finished echoing off the surrounding homes (I swear I saw someone’s bedroom light come on), I hobbled my way down the steps, back to the neighbour’s front door.

It was locked. Lovely. Perfect. Great. I could finally hobble back home.

And of course, because I am a precautious kinda girl, not a few steps away from the house did I have to go back and double-check. Again. Just to make sure.

Great. The house was locked, the cat was fed - I could go home and back to sleep. Hopefully.

Little did I know (and by then I SHOULD have known – what am I, thick?), that after all those early morning exploits, I would never get back to sleep.

I hobbled home, my bed-head finally settling down. My shoes and coat were quietly thrown on the floor, and I made my way to the couch; why wake the rest of the house?

And then it started.

The throbbing. Ba boom, ba boom, ba boom, ba boom. That dull thud like a beating drum vibrated from my ankle through my leg, and kept me awake for most of the night. Or morning. Or whatever it was at that point. In the great scheme of things, it really didn’t matter.

Needless to say, the boy hadn’t fed the cat dinner the night before, so my nocturnal antics were not completely unfounded. I didn’t get mad at him, however; it’s not his fault his mother is a neurotic nighthawk.

And at least I got my turkey in the oven just a few hours later.

Mine never looks like this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thankful for the Words and I

For the past year, much of my energy has been spent thinking about my bathroom.

Upon moving into our home - complete with one-and-a-half bathrooms - over a year ago, I claimed the ‘powder room’ as my own. My own office, that is. And I have exuded extreme patience while waiting to make it into my own place to write. But time and money needed to create the office of my dreams, in and around the toilet, have failed to surface. I won’t let those dreams completely flush away.

With a house too small to situate a desk elsewhere, every nook and cranny occupying Legos©, Nerf© guns, gaming systems, and cat paraphanelia, having a desk of my own, elsewhere, is not an option. All the bedrooms, albeit small, are inhabited. Now I see why folks get excited when their brood fly the coop – they immediately make plans for the bedroom left behind. Not that I am anxious for my growing little weeds to leave, just so I can selfishly foster my writing-space dreams, but…..

Books, endless paper (of all kinds), make-up, hairspray, and countless jars of anti-wrinkle cream are stashed on shelves, under the sink, and on a TV tray - from the 70’s, no less. But I love my room, it’s mine, and I can put anything I want in it.

Even autographed Rick Springfield albums.

So, while I wait for the bathroom transformation, I write at the kitchen table at 5 am before the world awakes. Every night I haul out the laptop, brush dinner crumbs off the kitchen table, and set it up, ready for the next morning. But, over time, resentment seeped in. Why can’t I have a desk like every other writer? Why is my office/bathroom STILL not a fully functioning office?

One night as I aggressively wiped a smear of ketchup from MY spot on the table, I remembered – countless writing careers were started at the kitchen table. And in the basement. And in the garage. And better yet, in the bathtub.

Now if my ‘office’ only had a bathtub…..

And although I am nowhere near being the next (insert famous author name, here), the bottom line is, I write.

I met someone the other day who admitted they always imagined writers as being reclusive and mysterious, living and writing in a castle far, far away. Heck, I’m a writer, and my castle is my rented townhouse. And really, I guess you could say I DO have my own throne.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t have my own office. Where ‘home is where you hang your hat,’ my office is wherever I write. Whether at the kitchen table, or sitting on the toilet seat lid and scribbling a few thoughts with paper and pen, or on the bus, it doesn’t matter. I write.

And I have also come to realize that not having an actual desk has been beneficial. No distractions.

The most distraction I have during the wee hours of my sacred writing time is watching a spider spin his (or her – I didn’t check) web under the glow of the street light outside the kitchen window. Sometimes the kitchen tap drips, so when a writerly thought is stuck, I get up to tighten the faucet. But once that procrastinating-task is complete, and I am sure the spider hasn’t fallen off his/her web, I am back at it, thoughts refreshed. And it’s just the screen, the keys, the words, and I. No paperclips to bend into weird shapes, no books to get lost in research, no nick-nacks to dust or rearrange. Nothing is within reach to distract, fostering procrastination.

Maybe not having a dolled-up desk is best, after all. Who knows….

Despite the spiders and faucets, I would still like to have a desk. All this doesn’t mean I am giving-up, thereby resigning to the fact of ‘never’ having a desk. There is always ‘one day,’ and the dreams surrounding it are endless.

But for now, I am thankful for what I do have. I have a space of my own, complete with toilet paper. I have a roof over my head to write, and the means with which to do so. I enjoy every moment my kids are at home, nestled in their rooms, and Rick Springfield watches me do my hair every morning.

Now, excuse me – I have to visit the powder room...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pickles, Firemen and Chocolate

With pickling salt on one side of us, and an urn on the other, I, along with members of the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, chatted-up attendees at the Victoria Women`s Show. Fine ladies selling homemade pickles were on one side of our booth, while on the other side, a memorial/crematorium company sold…well…they weren’t selling anything other than an option of who to go to when you are ready to – go. The urn they had on display was quite nice, and at least a make-up artist was a few booths over to give one last quick make-over, just in case.

The Saanich Firefighters were conveniently onsite, selling their pin-up style calendar for charity. Those guys knew how to work a room – hey, it was the Women’s Show, what do you expect? Sadly, however, they never made it our way, so I resorted to eating a chocolate – or two. Maybe more.

So the weekend of October 1 was full of talking, smiling, talking, and smiling. When we weren’t promoting the chapter, we were promoting the romance genre and our authors. Hundreds of books, bookmarks and chocolates were handed out, all in the name of sharing the world of romance writing. Folks claiming to be ‘closet writers’ were thankful to have found us. There were those who were admirers of our local authors present at the booth, as well as those who were surprised to learn how rich Vancouver Island is with writers, published and aspired.

By the end of the weekend, the shortage of bookmarks and bookmarks was telling – we had done our best in promoting the romance genre. My networking muscles had a good work-out, and A535 was liberally applied at night to my sore cheeks aching from all that smiling and talking. And I neither ended up pickled nor in an urn – so that’s something!

From left to right: Jodie Esch, writer of young adult fiction; Susan Lyons, multi-published author of sexy romance; and me…just trying to look cute.

From left to right: Multi-published author of spicy romance,Bonnie Edwards; multi-published author of contemporary romance, Lee McKenzie; and Susan Lyons, multi-published author of sexy romance.

Mimi Barbour, multi-published author of contemporary romance, and Daniella Hewson, historical romance writer

Pat Amsden and Judy Hudson, romance writers

Not shown: Sharon Ashwood, Multi-published author of paranormal romance

Friday, September 30, 2011

Woolly Mammoth and T-Rex to Meet at Royal BC Museum

I stopped at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC while on my lunchbreak – to get a coffee from the coffee shop, use the washroom, that sort of thing – and I came around the corner in the lobby to find this:

Aha! The suspense starts! Inconspicuous crates bearing labels with ‘Do Not Open Until September 28th’ were stacked, unassumingly, against a wall. No fan-fare, no signs, no nothing. Just the crates.

Do Not Open Until September 28th????? It was only September 13th!

Don’t they know better than to do that to me? I can’t WAIT! I skulked around the crates, itching to know what was inside. Now my imagination was fuelled.

Were more dishes discovered from the Titanic? And would they let me buy some to add to my collection of mismatched teacups? Or what if they are Dead Sea Scrolls? Or what if they found the Holy Grail?

Already wired, I skipped the coffee, but the washroom was a must. As I later left the building, I knew I had to get a hold of myself. My thoughts were racing; I had to put the crates out of my mind. With TOO MANY days to WAIT and ponder before the great unveiling (I was tempted to sneak in a crowbar), I had more important things to think about – to worry about.

Like if I had enough hairspray to last me the week.

Days later I went back, anxious to see if anything had changed. The September 28th timeframe? Forget it. I was sure it was just a gimmick to throw me off, the museum staff conspiring against me.

So I entered the museum lobby from a different direction than days before, hoping to throw THEM off their tracks, and made a beeline for where the crates were. I came around the corner, and……..the crates were GONE!

What? They're gone!? Before I could work myself into a later any further, I heard a low, snarling growl behind me.

Had the Woolly Mammoth from the Ice Age display come to life? Do we evacuate,for fear of being trampled?

Oh God! I hoped my hair would stay in place if I ended up in an ambulance. If I survived, that is.

I slowly turned, fearful of being stabbed by a great tusk (although I realize I would be miles shorter than the tip of the deadly ivory), and I saw this:

The crates had been moved, and MORE added. But this time they were roped off – to hold the curious back (meaning me). And aha! There was a sign! At last I would finally get to know what’s inside!

Oh. Seals.

The sign had a picture of seals accompanied with the words ’10 More Sleeps!’ Not that there is anything wrong with seals. In fact, I find great joy in seeing them in the water when I go to the beach, or when I see them from the ferry, or from the other beach, or from the other beach, or from the other beach...

Um, I can see seals anytime. I do appreciate them, and am thankful for them, and I do not wish them harm, but…. I got excited for seals? (Again, there is nothing wrong with seals). Alright, then. 10 more sleeps until I can see the seal display. I can get excited for that - I guess.

Another growl accompanied by a high screech had me almost dropping my camera.
Um, I didn't know seals sound like that. Not the ones I know, at least.

I scooted over to the coat-check desk, and asked the attendant if she knew what was inside the crates.

Frustrated, she grumbled, “They never tell us anything.”

Do I believe her, I wondered? These folks are pretty secretive…

The growling continued, the woolly mammoth stayed put, and I had to head to back to work – but not before I stopped at the drugstore for my hairspray.

10 sleeps later I went back, skulking through the back entrance to where the growling ‘seal’ crates had been. Black drapes, 20 feet high, hid the area. Well, I wasn't going to let a few drapes stop me, and given there were no ropes to hold back the curious (again, me), I went through an opening, and found this:

Guess I will be coming back on May 17,2012 to see the dinosaurs - but this time with the men-folk of my house! (The 'seal sign' was obviously a ruse to throw me. Because, as you know, this was all about me.)

Be sure to mark your calendars for May 17, 2012, when the dinosaurs and the mammoth meet at the Royal BC Museum to swap tales of old. Visit their website at for more information, or visit their blog at Royal BC Museum: Where did you shoot that mammoth?

(Many thanks to the Royal BC Museum for use of their Woolly Mammoth photo)
Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC Canada V8W 9W2