Friday, December 28, 2012

Have Wings, Will Fly...

In 1970, the group Five Man Electrical Band had a hit song on the Billboard music charts, ‘Signs.’ The song was a hit during times of social and political change, and carried themes of opposing intolerance and exclusion. Little did the songwriters know that 42 years later the song would still resonate with many – including those they would have never expected...

Near the beginning of December, I was out near the inner harbour in downtown Victoria, BC. As I admired the zillion dollar yachts moored along the docks, I wondered if the owners knew of the ‘debris-leaving’ seagulls resting on the yachts’ railing and decks. Someone was sure to be scrubbing the decks later that day....

The seagull’s cousins and siblings were also floating in the water nearby. Ducks paddled and bobbed in the waves among their sea-loving relatives, and Canada Geese honked overhead before landing in the cold water.

Just when a seal splashed back down beneath the surface, two shadows passed over the group of seafaring marine life. With wings wider than my couch, the birds glided effortlessly just above the water’s surface, almost skimming the heads of their fellow feathered friends. As the pair came to rest in the water alongside their friends, they paddled and bobbed is if they were one of the gang, completely oblivious to their enormous size, in comparison.

Although the birds were the same size as the commonly found herons, I was sure these weren’t herons. My eyes are getting bad, but not that bad.

As one stretched out its neck (boy or girl? I didn’t know), the huge beak was telling. A pelican!? But it couldn’t be! Not in these parts!

I watched them for a bit, unbelieving. I made a note to start carrying around binoculars (along with the rest of the stuff I tote around in my already heavy bag), maybe have my eyes checked, then went on my merry way, wondering and wondering...

Two weeks later on a colder and blustery day, I was back at the docks of the inner harbour, this time with my kids. The seaplanes strained against the ropes binding them to the docks, the wind gusts making flying a challenge that day. Our noses were running, but we were bundled up and were enjoying walking along the seawall admiring the boats.


Just when we rounded the corner of the seawall, two birds on a dock made their nearby seagull friends look like mice, and this time I had a closer view. My earlier suspicions were right – they were pelicans - specifically Brown Pelicans (aka Pelecanus occidentalis) as I would later learn.

Although pelicans are common up and down both coasts of North America, they are rarely found in British Columbia. They were first seen in the harbour at the beginning of December, and it is suspected they were here for the herring (not my taste, but heck, everyone has their ‘thing,’ I guess).

As I snapped some photos, my kids curious but with limited patience in the snot-inducing cold, the sign just under the huge webbed feet of the rare bird had us giggling. It said ‘Aircraft Only.’
Makes sense to me....

As for those guys with the Five Man Electrical Band and their song ‘Signs?’ Well, someone has been listening to the song, and not just humans. Even though the wild Brown Pelicans will go where they want, when they want, without anyone telling them otherwise, they were here first. Heck, the big birds date back to the Cretaceous period - I think they can do whatever the heck they want.

Engine or no engine, they technically could be considered aircraft – so what sign is gonna stop them?







Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Chrismas Tree Guy

In the early mornings I race through a strip mall by my house on the way to the bus stop, my mind on 4,000 things all at once. I am intent on getting to the bus stop on time, and oblivious to everything else. And this time of year it’s the Christmas season that has my brain in overdrive, and I know I have more than 4,000 things yet to do.

One morning as I passed by the 24-hour grocery store in the mall, I was almost around the corner when I smelled it; pine trees.

It was overpowering, but in a good way. The smell suited the season just right, and it immediately lightened my broodish mood. No, I wasn’t in a bad mood, but the smell evoked the excitement of the Christmas season and all that comes along with it, pushing all those “I have to do...” thoughts away.

On the outside of the store is an outdoor garden display, and with the seasons the plants for sale change. I knew there were live wreaths made from all-things pine tree, but their smell couldn’t be that potent, could they?

And just as I started crossing the parking lot heading toward my bus stop, I heard the deep grumbling diesel engine of a truck – and from the sounds it, it was big.

But it wasn’t one of the countless delivery trucks toting bread or milk.

It was the Christmas Tree truck!

With Christmas Trees stacked 6 deep, 14 wide on the flat bed, the truck sat idling beside the fenced-off Christmas tree area where shoppers can wade through the pine needles and branches to find just the right one. The driver was inside the truck, his cab light on, obviously finalizing some all-important Christmas Tree paper work.

I was so thrilled to be witness to the whole thing I knew I had to get a picture. But at 6:00 in the morning, I knew doing so was not normal, or maybe even legal. I figured it best to get the driver’s permission first, as I didn’t have time to risk being mauled for illegal Christmas Tree picture taking - I had a bus to catch. But a quick peek at my watch told me I had a few extra minutes before my sleepy driver pulled up at my stop. So willing the truck driver to hurry up with his paper work, I stood there like an idiot in the middle of the parking lot, waiting and sniffing the air like a dog in heat (yes, the smell of the Christmas trees was THAT intoxicating).

Finally the driver emerged, and walked up to me.

“Hi.” I said, waiting for him to say the police were on their way for me. “Cool truck.” I nodded to his still idling truck.

“Yup.” He admired his tree toting truck, and shoved his hands in his pockets. He never once looked at me like I was nuts (a look from many I have grown accustomed to).

We stood for a moment admiring the trees stacked high, then I said, “So you’re the Christmas Tree guy, huh?”

He paused a moment, realizing how cool of a title that was, grinned, then with a slight puff of his chest said “Yup.”

I had a bus to catch, so I cut to the chase. “So, um, can I take a picture of your truck?”

He never once looked at me like I was a weirdo. “Sure!” He cheerfully answered.

My camera was already in my hand, so hopeful I was.

As he moved to the side, either allowing me to do my ‘photographer’ thing or to ensure he wasn’t in the picture (and actually, I think he thought/hoped he would be), I snapped my picture.

I realized later that in my hurried excitement I didn’t use a flash, but at the time, time was of the essence. But at least I got a picture, and at least I didn’t get arrested.

As I hollered thanks before running to my bus stop, the driver turned and waved as he climbed up to the truck’s cab. Happy guy for so early in the morning.

I know this sounds cliché, trite, and beyond overdone, and I know many turn up their nose at this time of year at those of us who find joy in the cooking and eating, the music, the gift buying, and the over-the-top decorations, but in the end, Christmas is not only just not a day, it’s not just a season, but it’s a way of being that should be practiced year round.

We are all cogs in the wheel of life and everyone, even a sometimes grumpy bus driver, helps make our lives go round. The Christmas Tree guy plays a part in this yearly season, bringing joy to many. To him it might just be a job, but without him, folks might not have their Christmas Trees. Like so many of us, he is another cog in the wheel, and everyone plays a part it making it a happy time for everyone.

Yes, I happened to be there at the right time, but seeing and smelling the truck that early in the morning, witnessing a part of the magic of this time of year, and seeing him so proud of the title I gave him, made my race to the bus stop so worth it.

So as you rush through parking lots with your mind on 4,000 things, be sure to thank folks for even the smallest gestures, take time to sniff the air, and remember that we all play a part in each other’s lives – even the Christmas Tree guy.




Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lighten Up!

You know how you finally do something you know you should have always done, and you think ‘I should have been doing this all along! My life would have been so much easier!’

For me that epiphany was in owning a book light. Finally! After years of straining my eyes, I finally broke down and got one.

Now, before you think I am completely nuts, and wonder where I had been all these years and why did I only just get one now? I thought I could manage without one – I thought I was invincible.

I love to read on the bus – no ‘bus buddies’ for me - and this year’s daylight savings time-change was the last straw. I knew I needed a booklight.

I ride the bus morning and night, and for half the year I do so in the dark. Some buses have minimal of interior lighting inside, turned on by the driver as we speed along, and some don’t. And those that do, you have to ensure you pick the seat with the faint lighting positioned perfectly above the best seat – if available, that is. And for me, the perfect seat is not only under lighting, but one that is not amongst a crowd of social gabbers, ‘bus buddies’ if you will. Fine for those who love to chat, but this is quiet zone everyone! Some of us are reading!

So very often the seat I want, away from the talking-non-stop ‘bus buddies,’ is in the dark. Although I love the seclusion of sitting in the dark after a long day, I need to read to escape. For me with my busy life, riding the bus is very often the only time I can read. But how does a dark corner seat work for a voracious reader?

I want it all, and can’t have it – a dark corner, but with light of course, and no people talking around me. Maybe I just need my own chauffeured limousine. (actually, come to think of it, that’s a great idea.....).

Sometimes when I haven’t been fortunate to get a seat in a dark corner, I just grab any seat. At least I HAVE a seat – I can’t stand and read. So I look at the positive side of sitting in amongst the non-stop-talkers – at least I can get a bit of lighting. I have mastered the art of blocking out voices, and I angle my book this way and that, trying to position the sparse overhead lighting ‘just so’ on my pages.

And then other times nothing I do works, it’s too dark. Which is fine, but sometimes when I can’t use that precious solitary time to get at the book I had been anxious to get to all day, I get a bit...grumpy.

So with too many times of tilting of my book this way and that, straining my eyes in dwindling afternoon winter light from outside the bus, and too many comments like “You should get a booklight, heh, heh, heh” from a person beside me (as I fought not to roll my eyes at their so-called ‘joke’ and respond with ‘duh, I know that!’), I finally got one. A booklight.

And I was excited, and thrilled, and carried it in my bag for three days without using it because, of course, just as I FINALLY got one, I have seats with good lighting (and non-stop-talking people) around me for a few days.

And then I got nervous. I realized it would be LIGHT – something BRIGHT – and would therefore draw attention to me. I realized that someone would likely make a comment about the book light, the book light becoming a conversation piece. All those non-stop-talkers I worked hard to avoid would likely try talking to ME. With the book light like a spotlight, my dark solitude would be ruined, and all eyes would be on me. I was suddenly shy, embarrassed, and wary of making a spectacle of myself. This was not going to turn out how I hoped at all.

So the day finally came, I had my perfect dark seat, away from the non-stop-talkers. I took a deep breath and, keeping my head down to avoid eye-contact with those who could still see me in the fast fading dusk light, I pulled out my book light.

And positioned it on my book.

And before I turned it on, I prepared for the bus load of people to laugh or hurl sarcastic comments, or maybe the regulars who I see at the same time every day calling out ‘it’s about time!’ Or what if it was too bright for the driver? Or what if....what if it’s not bright enough, or it falls off the book, or I can’t juggle both, or.....

So I finally had this light, was anxious to use it, and now I was getting all worked up about it. The stress was unbearable, and at that moment I considered strapping myself to the bike racks on the front grill of the bus.

Click. I turned it.

I didn’t read a word, didn’t move a muscle. I waited for reactions, for gasps, for unwanted comments and attention.

Nothing.

The non-stop-talkers kept talking, the babies kept crying, the stop-alert alarm kept dinging, and people kept getting on and off the bus. Everyone carried on as normal. No one cared about me and my booklight.

And so I started reading.

And stayed out of the spotlight.





Saturday, December 1, 2012

One Dizzy Christmas

“How much does a ferris wheel cost?” I was asked at a few dozen meters above ground. With tears in our eyes from the cold, the fall breeze chilling our exposed necks, it’s no wonder birds have feathers for flying around up there.

“Lots.” I said, grinning from cold ear to cold ear. “And if I could, I would buy you one.”

Content with my answer, my partner in ferris-wheel-riding grinned, and we held on dear life.

But for us that day, as well as the night before, our ferris wheel cost us $2 a ride.

The Greater Victoria Downtown Business Association hosted ferris wheel rides in Cenntenial Square, just outside City Hall. Although ferris wheels are a summer tradition, to ride one with Christmas lights twinkling on the surrounding trees and buildings was something we never thought we would be doing less than a month before Christmas.

Our fair weather made ferris wheel riding possible, but as rain had been pummelling the city the week before, I was determined to ride the wheel with my family, in the spirit of Christmas togetherness, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Luckily we had clear skies on both days we went.

The night before at almost freezing temperatures, my whole family of four waited an hour and twenty minutes to ride the 4-minute ride. I pointed out that line-ups at Disneyland (which they have been begging to visit) are over two-hours long. Their moaning stopped short. And I reminded them it’s not every day we ride a ferris wheel at Christmas, and what a neat opportunity this was, and ‘thank you for doing this for your dear sweet mother who does everything for you.’ Their moaning stopped short.

And finally, at 8:45pm, we handed over our twoonies. With me and the uber-teen in one car, and the husband and the tween in the other, snot and tears ran down our faces from the cold as we rose up, over and around for three spins forward, then up, over and around for three spins backward. I leaned forward to snap a picture of the Christmas lights below, scaring the you-know-what out of the uber-teen. “You’re gonna kill me for the sake of a stupid picture!” he bellowed as our car that had precariously tipped forward with my movement righted itself.

OH WHAT A FUN TIME I HAD!

Both the uber-teen and tween AND the oldest of the men declared that they DID have a great time, and that it was (with smug smirks of resignation) really cool, indeed. “Pretty neat – thanks for forcing us to come here!” They exuberantly proclaimed as we walked away. Bless their hearts.

They all truly DID have a great time.

So, knowing that the ferris wheel would be in town only one more day, the tween and I headed back downtown the next day – the other two were out earning a living (so we could go on more rides).

This time, daylight made things a whole lot scarier – and MORE FUN. It’s one thing being in the dark, rising up and over, higher than the rooftops that you can barely see. But it’s another to be doing so in the daylight, where you can truly SEE how high you are.

And this time, we were first in line. And we screamed. And we hollered. And our cheeks were red from the cold. And it was as exhiliarating as the night before.

I will never forget riding the ferris wheel with my two teenage boys while Christmas music blasted from the speakers. The looks of sheer joy on their faces rivalled those of Christmas morning.

And when the tween asked me that sunny morning how much a ferris wheel cost (my research would later reveal anywhere from $275,000 to $310,000 if not MORE, depending on the size), and I promised him I would buy him one if I had the money, I realized – this darn well makes up for the all the kiddie rides in the mall I had to refuse my screaming sons of when they were toddlers.

And as we walked away, wobbly-legged and flushed from excitement and cold, he proclaimed words I whole-heartedly echoed and will never forget, “It was the best day EVER!”

Not bad for $2.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Me 'n Alice Cooper

Sometimes you have to break out of your comfort zone and do something out of the ordinary – out of the norm – just to have the experience of it, to (maybe) satisfy a curiosity, or just to say you did it.

Well, this is going to sound odd, I know, but Alice Cooper did all that for me, and more.

For a birthday gift, my friend, his number one fan, took me to see Alice Cooper in concert. Although I’m not his number one fan, she is, and my curiosity about the infamous rock legend had me sharing the experience with her.

I knew only a bit about the great Alice Cooper – his signature ‘evil’ teardrop black makeup around his eyes one of his trademarks. I knew some of his songs, and kinda knew what I was getting into: hard ‘shock’ rock with a hint of psychedelic. With past albums named like ‘Love it to Death’ and ‘Welcome to my Nightmare,’ I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

We are of different generations, me, her and Alice. When I was a toddler, his colourful career was in bloom and my friend was 13 and entering her rebel years – hence her attraction to him. His classic song ‘I’m Eighteen' was a hit in 1971 when I was born, his next big hit ‘School’s Out’ in 1972 had everyone rockin’ hard when I was toddling around. Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) was born only a year after my dad in 1948.

The badass rocker that parents loved to hate of the 70’s drew my rebel friend like a moth of a flame. Where at 13 I wanted to marry Rick Springfield, at 13 my friend loved everything rebellious about Alice Cooper. While I was new to the world, my friend with classic teenage rebelliousness savoured his ‘dark side’ and relished in unfavourable parental attitudes – what teenager doesn’t? His bad boy ways drew her in, and with nary two dimes to rub together, she made big BIG plans to hitchhike to Toronto to see his concert – yes, at age 13.

She never got there.

So 40 years later, I shared in her lifelong dream.

Plumes of smoke instantly billowed above the heads of his fanatical fans as soon as he walked on the stage – and not the kind of smoke of the dry ice persuasion, if you know what I mean. Where I tried not to inhale, I realized I was a far cry from wishing I could throw my Care Bare panties on stage of a Rick Springfield concert in the 80’s.

From flamboyant outfits with garish top hats to finish off the ensemble, he strutted around the stage, his guitarists racing from one side of the stage to the other. He sang, performed and existed on that stage for the crowd – all while waving around swords, whips and riding crops. From wearing lab coats smeared in blood to be transformed on an operating table to a 10 foot Frankenstein, to later wearing a pink straight jacket and struggling to ‘be’ as he sang, to then paying homage to the past greats like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison (complete with gravestones on stage), he rocked the house while fireworks, spotlights and smoke (of ALL kinds) hung heavy in the air.

Baby dolls made to look dead (from one of his songs) decorated the evil looking stage, and at the end, streamers and paper confetti shaped in feathers (reminiscent of the ‘Chicken Incident’ in a 1969 concert in Toronto involving a chicken, a story that was twisted by the press) made the whole experience a spectacular spectacle. HE was a spectacular spectacle.

My friend is a ‘good girl,’ as am I, but Alice brought out the bad girl in both of us that night. Her with her earplugs (just in case) and opera glasses to see him better, and me worrying if I had enough hairspray in my hair to withstand the rambunctious crowd, never mind constantly concerned if my umbrella was still in my purse to protect my hair from the rain after the concert, we were BAD, we were EVIL and we were ROCKERS!

We missed parts of the show while worrying how to work our cameras.

After the concert, with our ears ringing, us grinning from ear to ear (I didn’t inhale the second-hand smoke, I was just happy to be there), and her sporting her Alice Cooper T-shirt that took a vast amount of decision-making to finally settle on the RIGHT ONE, we followed the wound-up crowd of long-haired rockers, many dressed-up as Alice, out the door of the theatre. With our purses tucked under our arms, our fashionable scarves knotted artfully around our necks, and feeling like the BAD ROCKERS we are, we made our way through the streets to 7-Eleven. I had the munchies for some reason.

In the end, I loved every, EVERY minute of it. Not an avid concert-goer myself, I don’t have much to compare to. But of ALL the concerts I have seen, THAT – whatever THAT was – was something I will not soon forget. I had an experience I will cherish, I can say I saw a rock ‘n roll legend, I did something different. I can say I am BADASS.

ROCK ON!










Friday, November 16, 2012

First, Last and Somewhere in Between

I fought back tears as I held the last tooth in my hand.

My youngest lad, who will be 13 in a few months, is obviously a late bloomer. He approached me the other morning, the day after my 41st birthday, with a gap in his mouth and his tooth in his hand. Eye-to-eye and just taller than me, he smiled a toothless smile as he announced his last tooth with a sense of resignation to this chapter of his life. “Well,” he said with a forlorn sigh, “this is the last time I’ll lose a tooth.” A smirk followed a conversation about the Tooth Fairy arriving one last time. The fact that this poignant moment was the day after my 41st birthday was not lost on me. I still have to process and make sense of that.

But birthdays aside, I held the tooth, inspected it for perfection, and handed it back. And tried not to cry.

So the Tooth Fairy arrived the following night, alighting in his room sad and reminiscent. “This will be the last time I ever visit here...” she thought with fond sentimentality, and left a note thanking him for the last tooth.

The next morning, keen with his money, he asked me if I wanted to save the note – for a keepsake. What preteen thinks of his mother’s sentimentality? AND, some might say, what preteen STILL has the Tooth Fairy visit? You’re only young once, I would respond to those negative nellies.

Of course I saved the note.

And that was that. The end.

The final page in the chapter turned. Until it’s time for his wisdom teeth, that is.

I never thought of the eventual ‘last tooth’ day. My oldest has his first job, his first car and is about to graduate – oh and is way taller than me. He is experiencing many firsts, while my youngest is experiencing his ‘lasts.’ His lasts are poignant because they affect the whole family. The last kid of the family to ‘fill in the blank.’ The oldest’s ‘lasts’ weren’t less important – if anything, his ‘firsts’ overshadow them all.

Are you following me so far?

Our house is a changin,’ and all I can do is stand by and watch. I am powerless to the change, so I have to roll with it. They will always be my babies, but I mourn the loss of the babies I once knew. I focus on what I have now – what I can experience with them now.

As things like the real identity of the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy are realized, I work to hold on to the fantasy of it all, even if I am met with knowing smirks and glances. But I know that at least for a while they will play along with me and enjoy childhood fantasies and remember and experience past and present firsts and lasts while they exist somewhere in between childhood and adulthood. Just like me.

As for the Tooth Fairy never visiting again? Well, there are wisdom teeth to eventually come out, likely when they are in their late teens. I am sure they wouldn’t mind a visit from her; everyone appreciates a little pocket money, now and then. At least I can say I have at least one last Tooth Fairy visit to look forward to, and can still live like a kid through them, no matter what age we all are.





Monday, November 12, 2012

The Week of 5 Bucks

My week started out as any other – go to work, go home, check mailbox, do chores, etc. But as it happens to most folks working the 9 to 5 grind, every second week is one to rejoice – pay week. But as many will joke, no sooner do we have our hard-earned paychecks in one hand than it’s instantly out the other; pay bills, buy food, foster chocolate addictions, etc. Then the grumbling starts: ‘You can’t buy much for (insert denomination) these days.’

So while I was anticipating the much-anticipated pay Friday, I went about rationing the remaining bucks I had in my wallet, stretching them at the grocery store to last until Friday. Buying a chocolate bar to hide in a spot I won’t mention was my only indulgence.

But little did I know what a lift 5 bucks would give me.

When the grocery store clerk handed over a five dollar bill as part of my change, I noticed something written on it. I have often seen either a phone number scribbled in haste on our nation’s bill or a note of reminder to the temporary holder – buy milk. But at the risk of advocating defacing money, which I don’t, this particular illegal act was the best thing money could buy. It gave me a momentary thrill.

On it was written: ‘Track this bill.’ And then below it a website: ‘www.whereswilly.com’

OOHH!! What’s this all about?

So I, the same person who complains of having so little time for frivolities, visited the website.

One of the first lines on the website says, ‘Do you ever wonder where that paper money in your pocket has been, or where it will go next? This is the place to find out.’

Well, to say that was telling was an understatement. All I had to do was enter the serial number on the bill as well as my postal code (no personal info needed), and for anyone who had had the bill in the past and took the time to do the same, I could see where the money had been.

Setting aside neurotic thoughts about germs and illegal acts, my imagination ran wild. Who had it last, and why? Where did it go?

This particular bill had been tracked in Port Moody, BC about eight months before, only to end up in Victoria in someone else’s hands, then mine. Not too exciting to most folks, but to me it was fascinating.

So to say that 5 bucks don’t buy ya nothin’ these days...well, for me, it gave me a thrill. If only for a few minutes.

No sooner had I logged off the website and reluctantly spent that 5 bucks, did another one of the same bills of five bring me joy.

I belong to the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Among our meetings and workshops is our yearly Valentine’s Lunch, a time to acknowledge and celebrate members’ achievements from the last year. Susan Lyons, multi-published romance author, conducts a goal-setting exercise. At the luncheon, members are invited to write down their personal or writing-related goals and aspirations for the coming year. We seal it in an envelope and give it to Susan to mail back the following year, the intention being to see what goals were met. I have participated in this many times, and have found it always useful, inspiring, and productive.

I received my goals envelope in the mail and was anxious to see what I had accomplished, if anything, over the last year. I had a challenging year with personal issues, and even though I knew I had a productive year of writing, I couldn’t remember what goals I had written down.

I opened my list of goals, and out fell 5 bucks.

What the heck? What did I put that in there for? What was I thinking? Susan didn’t put it in there as the envelopes are glued shut with our own spit!

And then I saw it. At the bottom of my typed list of goals, was my hasty handwriting. I had written: ‘If I achieve at least three of these goals, take this 5 bucks and buy something - for ME.’

Well, I know 5 bucks doesn’t buy much these days, but for me, it was such a thrill. And I HAD achieved beyond three of my goals.

And what did I buy? A Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha: full fat, triple shot, extra sweet, extra foam, double whip, and extra caramel.

But I had to pay an extra 43 cents. Oh well.





Monday, November 5, 2012

More Books in the Mail!

Released this month is a new anthology series by Publishing Syndicate called ‘Not Your Mother’s Book.’ Full of edgy, honest and humorous slice-of-lift stories, the first book in this series, ‘On Being a Woman,’ features women writers, and a man (it’s true!), telling it like it is. From embarrassing moments, to serious-yet-funny moments, to life’s curiosities and questions that make us scratch our heads and laugh, this book of 64 stories has something for everyone - including a story by me titled 'No More Should.'


So of course, when my set of author copies finally arrived in the mail, I was jumping for joy and had to take a picture of it. When I know a box is on its way, I get a little obsessive about the whole thing. It’s all I can do but not take off time from work to wait by the mailbox. One proudly goes on my shelf of books, and I lovingly gaze by it as I pass it by daily.

There is much more to come from this great series – from future titles like ‘Travel,’ and ‘On Parenting’ and ‘On Politics,’ there is a book for everyone – writers or readers. For you writers out there, visit Publishing Syndicate for submission guidelines for upcoming titles. For you readers out there, I hope you’ll pick up a book and have a laugh!

Happy reading – and writing!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Exercise for the Soul

I am up and out the door at 4:15am; rain, shine, sleet or snow. I get out and power walk, then I head home to write for a bit before heading to work. I love that time because no one is around; it’s pitch black and the world is my own. Many think I’m crazy, but it’s my only time of peace, calm and serenity – or so I think it is. Those mornings when everyone is tucked away in bed are when my adventures often happen – and my imagination gears up for writing when I return home.

First there are the deer I scare as I hustle past. Um, half the time I am more scared of them. Some have really big antlers, and some have been known to charge in trying to protect their young. And let’s not talk about the hissing raccoons. Between the riotous deer and the rambunctious raccoons, I am more scared of them than the bogeyman.


I stick to sidewalks where the lighting is enough to prevent me from tripping - most of the time. But sometimes when a streetlight is out and a portion of the sidewalk is completely black, there are problems. Peace and serenity are destroyed when twisting your ankle on a pinecone, getting tangled in an obstinate tree branch, or breaking your arm tripping on a piece of plywood (long story, but it happened). The ice and snow I can handle trip-free, no problem. But things on the road? Forget it.

The streetlights that DO work guide my way, but sometimes they, too, can be scary.

Too many times when I have walked under a streetlight, I jump in fear. As something passes under its beams, the shadow of it on the ground is huge. The first few times this happened, I was sure a bat was about to swoop down on me, his shadowy silhouette on the pavement the only warning of his attack. It took me a while (ahem), but I finally figured out the shadows were not bats or flying rabid racoons, but moths. You know - moths attracted to light, and all that?

I listen to my iPod as I go, keeping beat to outdated music. But sometimes halfway through my walk I realize it wasn’t charged enough, and not only do I end up with no music, but I also lose my favorite feature – the stopwatch. I make a game of my work-out and try to beat my previous Olympic-worthy time. But sometimes I lag a bit, and visions of the Gold Medal are dashed until next time. ‘Oh well,’ I console myself, ‘at least I got out.’

But when the iPod fades to nothing, I realize how much I miss around me while listening to music. Owls hoot overhead, and although most birds are still asleep at that time, the ones I have yet to identify warn their cousins of the predatory owls - and likely me. Strange sounding birds compete with strange baying and yelping (wolves?). Needless to say, I pick up the pace.

My overactive imagination gets the better of me. It’s a wonder I even get out there, so treacherous it can be. But heck, many times it’s during those outings that inspiration comes for a story.

Then there is the problem of making a ‘pit stop.’ You know the kind; the kind that if it weren’t for the stampeding deer, ferocious raccoons, circling wolves, and swooping bats and moths, I would jump in the bushes and ‘go.’ If I am lucky, I can make it home. Fortunately for me, however, there is a recreation center nearby open early enough for me to run in and ‘do my thing.’ But sometimes I am too early and they are closed, so the back-up is the 24-hour grocery store situated perfectly on my route. It’s all in the planning, you see.

So by the time I get back home to clean-up and settle down to write, there is sweat in places we won’t mention, and I am a little unnerved by my wild animal taming. But at least I can make it through the front door without dribbling on the doorstep.

I am peaceful yet invigorated, inspired and de-stressed. And I keep going back for more.

It’s great out there! You should try it!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Lazy Rainy Sunday Afternoon

We had a drought. Yes, there are places in the world dealing with severe droughts much more worthy of concern than ours, true. But on the West Coast we are notorious for our rain accumulations, so when nothing happens for over three months, it makes the news.

Salmon had to be transported to rivers and lakes with higher water levels so they could spawn properly, and in some areas, outside plant-watering was banned. Although thankful for a reprieve from sleeping with our umbrellas like we usually do starting beginning of September, we were getting kinda worried. Where records are usually made for the most amount of rain fallen, this time records were made for the least amount of rain. It was the talk of the town.

I love the rain, and was beginning to miss it. Autumn is not autumn without rain, and my favorite season was becoming a bit of a downer. I dusted off my dancing shoes to gear up for a rain dance; I needed a bit of water to set the ambiance for the season. I shouldn’t complain as we were blessed with nice weather longer than usual, and more rain than we need would come eventually.

So when weather reports warned us to expect rain, it showed up right on time one mid-October weekend. And rain, it did. Drains couldn’t keep up, our dry, cracked lawns couldn’t soak it up fast enough, and we couldn’t dust off our umbrellas quick enough. There were mini-floods and puddles everywhere. Local ponds filled, luring the ducks back for a swim. But that didn’t stop folks heading out for a walk – everyone was thankful for water.

It was no surprise that after two days of rain, I noticed our usually dry front walk leading up to our house was a bit flooded, despite being covered by the eaves. Okay, so it wasn’t normal, but hey, it was raining, the first in almost three months. Maybe our gutters couldn’t keep up somewhere, I thought. Fine, I shrugged. It’s just water.

So off I dragged my lazy self to get the never-ending laundry done.

Clothes were sorted, and detergent was administered, and I was just reaching for the start button when I heard it.

The hypnotic, yet torturous, drip, drip, drip. It only took me a minute to realize it was coming from the faucets and drainage pipes leading from the wall to my washing machine. Then I noticed all the water on the floor behind the washing machine. And THEN I noticed water bubbling under the paint around the faucets on the wall.

OH my GOD.

Okay, Lisa, calm down. Show the husband later, then call landlord. For now, the right thing to do is to leave the laundry alone (yay!), and go eat some cake.

By the time I showed him, more paint had bubbled on the walls in the laundry area as well as on the walls in the neighbouring bathroom. I called the landlord in a panic, and he later discovered a leaky pipe in the walls in the garage right above the laundry room (hence the water outside, as well), with the water making its way down inside the walls. This time I panicked that I wouldn’t be able to do laundry, never mind that we might not be able to have showers. In the end we determined our ability to clean everything and every body wouldn’t be affected; it was a different pipe altogether. Thank God.

After cutting a few lovely holes in the ceiling of our bathroom, as well as in our laundry room to help dry out the affected drywall, the landlord left with the instructions that the walls would have to dry for a week before the plumber could work his magic. Aside from the holes being an eyesore and an inconvenience (my washing machine is in the middle of the floor), it could have been a lot worse.

I always try to find something good out of something bad. At least I caught it in time so we didn’t wake at 3 in the morning to collapsing water-logged drywall and plaster from the bathroom ceiling, AND we still got to have laundry and showers. And aside from the fact that the landlord saw how disgusting it was behind my washer and dryer, an area I was determined all summer to get around to cleaning but never did, at least I could now I could do it.

Through it all, I learned to be careful what I wish for – that wasn’t the kind of water I was hoping for. Guess my rain dance got a little misinterpreted.







Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I Learned From My Bundt Pan

They say everything good doesn’t come easy and that the finest quality of anything comes with hard work, passion and precision. For me, I push a tiny bit harder to do just a bit better than what I think I can do. I am willing to work from the ground up. A bit of an independent person by nature, I often opt for doing everything myself. But time has taught me to ask for help, despite me trying to channel Wonder Woman. I know I sometimes just can’t do it all, even though I still sometimes try.

And these days, despite being ever-busy and often taking on more than I can handle, I try to make things easier for myself without jeopardizing mine or my family’s health or welfare. And I learned how to do it with a Bundt pan.

For too many years to count, I wanted a Bundt pan. I think I originally figured my cakes would taste better if they looked nicely formed in that ‘Bundt pan’ way. It’s all in the presentation, they say. But the need festered inside me and I couldn’t take it anymore – I wanted one no matter what the reason.

So, fed-up with my lack of Bundt pan-ownership, I finally marched over to Canadian Tire (a place I have penned many stories about) and bought a Bundt pan. With a ‘if it’s the last thing I ever do’ determination, I went straight to the check-out, proudly handed over my hard-earned cash (those things are expensive), and with my Bundt pan in one hand and my Canadian Tire money in another, I marched home. “SEE!?” I wanted to shake the pan at the world, “See this? I FINALLY have one! I am whole! I am WOMAN!”

Once home, I washed it then put it on the counter to admire it for the rest of the day. I was finally the proud owner of a Bundt pan. Then suddenly, it hit me.

I had no Bundt pan recipes!

I didn’t know anything about special Bundt cakes. You would think after all the time waiting for one, I would have stacks upon reams upon heaps of recipes waiting for the day I would finally grace my kitchen with a Bundt pan.

So the hunt was on. Through my cookbooks and all over the internet I started searching. And in my searching, I found a few tricks of the trade, so to speak.

I discovered the world of baking with cake mixes. Not JUST the baking of the actual cake mix by following the instructions on the box, but the ‘re-purposing’ of cake mixes to create something more than it was originally intended. Cake mix, sometimes along with a box of instant pudding mix, a few more eggs than usual, maybe some fruit or nuts, and voila! You have a fancy cake that might have otherwise taken eons to make, but all done in a blink of an eye!

During my important research, I discovered this ‘cake mix repurposing’ concept has been around for the last 50 years or so. Okay, so I’m a bit slow in just discovering the concept now.
Baking from scratch is still the cheapest, and of course, the healthiest way to bake. But when cake mixes go on sale, and I have no time or not enough ‘from scratch’ ingredients at home, and making something different the easy way might be the fastest – why not?

I sometimes feel guilty for entertaining such a blasphemous concept. When folks compliment my fine baking (after picking a bit of eggshell out of their cake slice), my guilt over my infidelity towards the baking world rears its head; I have to confess it all. No one has dumped cake over my head, yet, and they are pleasantly surprised by the taste.

The journey my Bundt pan took me on was much needed. Without it I would have never have learned the lesson of just letting go and making things easier for myself.

I learned that not only did I put myself back into the kitchen I am always so eager to get out of, but that it’s okay to skimp and cheat a bit here, to be able to give a bit more there. No one has died from me not being Martha Stewart, just like no one has died from having cake from a cake mix. Many might say ‘Why bake at all? It’s easier to just buy a cake!’ But why do that when it’s still cheaper to make one – and heck, I have this fabulous Bundt pan to use!

So needless to say a whole new world has opened for me. My Bundt pan usage is in overdrive. Every cake, even if not using a Bundt cake recipe, is baked in my prized pan, and the first place I visit in the grocery store is the baking aisle – for sales on cake mixes.

If I want more time for family, and my writing, something’s gotta give. Taking the easy way out to progress further in other things is sometimes okay, and a silly little cake mix might just do it for me – with a Bundt pan for added flair.

Be sure to visit the recipe section to see a few recipes you can use for your Bundt pan - if you are lucky as me to own one, that is!



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Release Day!

Not Your Mother’s Book...On Being a Woman (Publishing Syndicate, October 9, 2012)

One of my stories is in the new anthology, Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Woman, one of a series published by Publishing Syndicate! Publishing Syndicate has over 30 other titles being worked on, making them a fabulous opportunity for writers. Here's what founders Dahlynn and Ken McKowen have to say about the book...

Funny! Daring! DIFFERENT!

Not Your Mother’s Book (NYMB) is a new anthology for a new century. Women of all ages and with very different life experiences have shared their personal stories for "Not Your Mother’s Book . . . On Being a Woman." Some are seasoned writers, others simply have great stories to tell, but all are stories that women can relate to--and laugh about.

The authors write candidly and most with great humor, about life as a woman, be it learning about sex as a teen, dealing with husbands, handling the dreaded menopause, dieting, clothing mishaps, managing goofy relatives or any of the dozens of other women-focused life experiences. Chapter titles include: Just Saying; They’re Called Boobs!; Keeping Up Appearances; Worth Our Weight in Gold; Hear Me Roar; Stand Up!; Never Again!; and Sense and Sensibility. NYMB stories are hip, fun, daring and DIFFERENT!

Series founders Dahlynn McKowen and Ken McKowen spent 10 years as Chicken Soup for the Soul coauthors/editors before launching NYMB. "Not Your Mother’s Book . . . On Being a Woman" is the first in the new series, with another 30 titles under production. "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Stupid Kid" will be released in late October and features stories about all those stupid things we did in our youth. "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Dogs" will follow in November, as well as "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Travel." For more information, including submitting a story for consideration, visit www.PublishingSyndicate.com.


Stay tuned....


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. Now, before you start rolling your eyes and thinking, 'Oh gawd, here she goes - another sappy rant about gratitude for family, friends and a roof over her head,' just hang on. Thanksgiving will forever hold a special place in my heart, not just about family, friends and having a roof over my head, but about being thankful for my writing accomplishments. Sure, this time of year is about turkey; turkey soup a favorite for many. But this year I think I need to make a bit of chicken soup - just to be extra thankful.

The last two years have been a whirlwind of life’s up and downs – such is life. But the 'ups' have very much been about writing experiences and publications.


It was Thanksgiving 2009, and with our own turkey doing its ‘thing’ in the oven, my boys and I packed a lunch and through the mist and fog we trekked out to Goldstream Provincial Park, 20 minutes out of downtown Victoria, BC. There we witnessed a large family having their own Thanksgiving in the woods, complete with turkey, candles and wine. The fact that they were surrounded by hundreds of years old fir trees was not lost on me. What a perfect place to celebrate a timeless tradition.

So, of course, I wrote about it.

Months later I then stumbled upon a ‘call for submissions’ for the series Chicken Soup for the Soul, notably their (then) upcoming book ‘O Canada.’ On a whim I sent in the Thanksgiving story, and promptly forgot about it.

Chicken Soup for the Soul was a market I had never really pursued, because I didn’t think I was good enough. I had submitted work to them years ago, but never got anywhere.

So a few months went by, and I was frantically living life, writing towards publication in other genres and markets, and dreaming big dreams.

One day an email popped up from the editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul saying that my Thanksgiving story had made it through their first round of judging. To say I was excited was an understatement. To say this was ‘big’ was an understatement. To say I was....oh never mind – you get it.

I couldn’t believe this could be a possibility for me. That I had what it took to maybe catch the eye of the Chicken Soup editors was surreal. It was just the inspiration, motivation and confidence-lift I needed. So I got busy, and started writing for their other upcoming publications. It became kind of an obsession for me, my walls covered in deadlines for future books, articles I found online about writing for them piled up, and many editions of their past books for me to read and learn from threatened to topple. I studied the series and their brand, obsessed about them, and wrote like a madwoman.

Something I should have, and could have, been doing all along if only I had the confidence.

That was in 2010, and here we are Thanksgiving 2012. That first Thanksgiving story never made it to print – such is the life of a writer and the business of writing. But in October 2011 and May 2012 I had two stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find your Happiness, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress, respectively. I have had a few ‘close calls’ like I had originally – a story making it as a ‘finalist’ but not quite making the final cut. Coupled with highs and lows, I have had such fantastic experiences come out of it all – one of which being interviewed about the books for television.

Through it all I have learned to have a little more confidence in myself, how to roll with the punches and handle (writer’s) rejection, and how to keep focused on bigger and better things.

So this Thanksgiving while the bird self-bastes in the oven, I will be making a pilgrimage to Goldstream Park where it all began, and have a little chicken soup in thanks.

And yes, I will be thankful for my family, my friends, and having a roof over my head.

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble Gobble!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Interview with Catherine Greenwood, Finalist for the CBC 2011-2012 Poetry Prize


Victoria, BC resident Catherine Greenwood was shortlisted for the CBC 2011-2012 CBC Poetry Prize this past month. The winner was announced on September 25, 2012, and prize winner Sadiga de Meijer’s winning poem can be read on the CBC website.

But for now, I would like to chat with my friend, Catherine. She holds a BA in English and Writing from the University of Victoria, and an MA in English from the University of New Brunswick.

Welcome, Catherine, and many congrats on being shortlisted for the CBC 2011-2012 Poetry Prize, with your poem “Texada Queen.” What an honour this must be! I know you have submitted to this contest before - what does this literary ‘nod’ mean to you?

Thanks very much, Lisa. The CBC Literary Prize has been around for a long time, in slightly different forms. I remember years ago listening to some winning poems being read on the radio and thinking how great it would be win, not just for the prize money, which is very generous, but for the prestige factor. My poem making it to the finals this year was a big surprise, the kind of good news you secretly hope for, yet find hard to believe when it comes.

You have worked on a fiction novel and short stories in the past – any intention of returning to that genre?

Yes. The novel and the short story manuscript need more work before I can send them off to publishers, and have been set aside for quite some time. I hope I can return to them with a fresh perspective now, still able see what I originally had in mind with these projects, and finish them properly!

What do you like about writing poetry over fiction?

Poems in process often suggest a particular shape or form, even if they are free verse, and I’ve developed a sense of where they need more work, pushing and pulling the lines around, adding and subtracting words and ideas. With fiction, I’m not as practiced, and the self-editing process can involve eradicating large swaths of text – I struggle with that, and question my instincts more with fiction.

Is your poem autobiographical? If so, was it difficult to write? Was it cathartic to write? If not autobiographical, what was the basis for the poem? The inspiration? Why did you write it?

Much more autobiographical than usual for me. Perhaps I subconsciously chose a difficult form – the rhyming triplets – so that I wouldn’t have to engage directly with the uncomfortable memories of that event, which is something I’ve always regretted. My attention was focused on the problem of the poem’s structure. When, near the end of writing the piece, I put down the words “I can’t help my father recover”, the truth of that statement hit home. I don’t tend to think of creative writing as a cathartic or therapeutic process, but in this case, it did bring me up against some emotions I hadn’t considered, and it allowed me to wrap a narrative around an old regret, and in some weird way, put it to bed.

I know you have a new poetry book coming out in 2013 published by Brick Books called ‘The Lost Letters.’ Is there anything you can share about this upcoming book?

There are a few sections, tied together with themes of loss, and the material versus the spiritual realms, or at least that’s the way it looks to me at this stage. The main sequence, “Dear Peter,” is inspired by the love story of the medieval couple Eloise and Peter Abelard. After being separated early in life, they reconnected through letters, which reflect the changing nature of their relationship as they progressed in their separate monastic careers. I’ve set their story in the present, in an attempt have that past echo against contemporary notions of romantic love.

Do you have a writing routine? How often to do you write?

Oh, gosh, no. Though I wish I did have a routine. I write when I can get time off work, usually. My need to earn a living seriously compromises my literary ambitions, as it does for many other writers. Perhaps that’s why poetry is what I tend to get finished and published – it’s shorter, and can sometimes be tackled on weekends if not to much else is going on.

What inspires you? What blocks your writing? If and when you get ‘stuck,’ what do you do to get the creativity flowing again?

I get inspired by other great writing, by movies, by travel, by stories people share about their lives, and by nature. And by having time to contemplate, or just be. Business blocks my writing. I’ve discovered that if I let myself do what I ‘feel’ like doing, rather than what I think I ‘should’ be doing, I get creative. Good question, one I need to ask myself periodically. A book called “Unstuck” by Jane Anne Staw really helped me when I hadn’t written for a while, and I recommend it highly.

What is next for you in the writing world? Have you entered any contests? What opportunities have arisen for you from this experience in being shortlisted in this prestigious competition?

I will focus on finishing “The Lost Letters,” and some of those poems will be appearing in literary magazines this coming year, before the book is published in Fall 2013. Being a CBC prize finalist brought my work some unprecedented attention, and I’ve been hearing different responses from readers, some who have elderly parents and can relate to that aspect of “The Texada Queen”, others who have difficult memories of family gatherings gone wrong, and other writers who have admired the piece – I am not much of a publicity seeker, but I do feel proud of that particular poem, and I’m glad that people have had a chance to read it, or hear it on the CBC podcast.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Catherine. I wish you much writing success in the future, and look forward to your book, "The Lost Letter" in 2013.

Thanks for your interest, Lisa! Good questions.

For more information about Catherine, and to read her poem ‘Texada Queen,’ please visit the CBC website.


Monday, September 24, 2012

What I've Been Up To Lately.....

I attended the 18th Annual Victoria Women’s Wellness Show on September 22, 2012. My Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America had a table to advertise our chapter to emerging writers in town, and as well to promote the romance fiction genre. We had draws, giveaways, and lots of folks stopping by to see what we were about.

Fellow chapter members volunteered their time to wo/man the booth both Saturday and Sunday (we have a few men in our chapter). On the day I was there, many folks stopped by the table with questions about what we write, are our members published, and how someone can join. Other topics of conversation ranged from opinions of readers and non-readers of romance fiction, as well as those of other local writers. Many had comments about the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy – comments coming from all ages and generations, and all walks of life. Our table and what we do proved to be a great conversation starter!

It was a great time, I was fortunate to meet and chat with fabulous people, and also to chat a bit with fellow chapter members.

But one of the neatest experiences was being 'recognized.' I am not a celebrity – I am just a lowly little writer in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. Recently, Karen Elgersma, reporter for Shaw Television, interviewed me about my stories in the two books ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress.’ The three minute segment appeared on their show, ‘Go Island’ only for a few days to lend way to other local stories – and wouldn’t you know it, but someone recognized me from the show!

A Women's show attendee had approached our table, and after a double-take, said she had only just seen the segment the morning before. To say I was thrilled was an understatement – the whole experience of being on the show and then being recognized, surreal!

In the end, a great weekend at the show was had by all – dozens of promotional items from our chapter members were handed out, our throats were parched from all the talking, and I was still reeling from the experience of not only the interview but of being recognized (by someone I didn’t know or pay to say that!)

Enjoy!

Watch it here!








Sunday, September 16, 2012

Diary of a Rock Collector

I am not a geologist, but I collect rocks. Grade 11 Geology was intriguing, and the nasally way my teacher said igneous, basalt and obsidian made the course all the more entertaining. Even as a kid I had a secret fascination with rocks, ever keen to pick out the prettiest or most colourful from wherever I could find them. Yes, one must not remove specimens from nature, but there are billions of rocks out there, and the only rocks I have ever found are those of no value – except to me.

With time my fascination dwindled away, my attention on other more important things like getting a rock on my finger. Sure I would save the odd rock or shell from trips near and far, but it wasn’t the same as what my rock collecting fetish would eventually come to be; something more meaningful than I ever anticipated.

For 13 years I have had one particular rock on the nightstand beside my bed. Why there, I don’t know. It’s just a grey, round, seemingly-boring-to-some, rock. But that rock has a special meaning, and it’s what re-ignited my passion for rock collecting.

With permanent ink I had inscribed on the rock: “To Mommy, from Mitch. First day of school, September 7, 2000” It was the first day kindergarten and my son handed me this rock he found on the school grounds, a prized possession for he and I in every sense of the word. I wanted to savour the sentimentality of the moment. My other son was six months old and resting in his carrier at my feet, with my grandfather, their great-grandfather, at my side. One minute it was ‘just’ a rock, but after that, it was everything.

Time wore on, and I was busy with growing babies and growing kindergarteners. We had many outings to parks and beaches, and I have jars of saved shells and tiny rocks to preserve the memories. Some of the rocks and jars are labeled, and sadly some are not. All too soon I became aware of time passing and the need to preserve moments and memories. The boys grew, as did the rocks, and so did my keen sense of time passing all too quickly.

Wherever beach or park we went to, someone found a rock to save. A treasure in a tiny hand, the rock was often passed to me to carry in my purse. As the hands grew, so did the rocks, and so did my need for a bigger purse. But then I realized – bigger rocks meant more space to write.

Despite always being a busy whirlwind, I always had a sense of how quickly time was passing, and knew the boys would be out of school before I knew it. I vowed to myself that wherever we went, providing the rocks were aplenty, I would find a rock big enough to write the date, where we were, and who was present - that’s it. We have become avid hikers and explorers of local beaches and forests, so treasure hunting is frequent. The boys have joined in my ritual, and have become the hunters for the perfect ‘writing rock;’ they know the right size and shape.

So as the kindergartener is graduating high school this year, and the once six-month-old baby is now in grade seven, I know time is flying faster than I can collect rocks.

I just need more space to keep ‘em - both the kids and the rocks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Garage Sales, Paul Revere, and Corelle

The prospect of a neighbourhood garage sale had us dusting off old books and excess kitchen ware, and digging out outdated electronics from the cupboards and rafters. What started as a combination of house cleaning and gleaning-of-stuff for the sale turned into a twist of fond memories and cringe-worthy nostalgia.

I have a slight habit of saving everything; my thriftiness and sentimentality my own worst enemy. When a cleaning bug hits, however, I seize the moment and let my deep-seated minimalist side emerge; I pitch as much unused stuff as I can. But when I opened a barely used cupboard housing my 22 year-old Corelle dishes, I had a moment of nostalgia that rocked me off my momentum. I could never rid of the dishes steeped in history; the thought of slapping on a piece of masking tape with some insulting low price, barbaric.

When I was 18 years old, I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts. I was living in Richmond, British Columbia at the time, so that was a big trip for a young, naïve girl. Distant family friends in Waltham put me up, but they had to work and I was my mostly on my own. I had been there four years before with my family and had a vague idea of where I was going, so by foot, bus, train and subway I zigzagged from one side of Boston to the other. I saw everything historical from Paul Revere’s house to the State House, and can say I went to Harvard University – I have the T-shirt to prove it. And just to add to my history-laden experiences, I watched the beginning of the Gulf War on the news with my hosts.

History aside, I was also keen to shop. From the marketplace at Faneuil Hall to K-mart in Waltham, I was eager to find treasures different from my homeland across the border. With stars in my eyes and the taste of freedom on my tongue I was also planning my future and had already been saving household stuff for my apartment I supposedly was going to have one day.

But of course, I couldn’t buy simple things like a potholder from Boston to bring back for my future apartment. I had to buy dishes.

And little did I know that the Corelle dishes I purchased from K-mart in Waltham, Massachusetts for $9.99 would eventually have their own history to tell.

I loved the cute set and was determined to get them home. I lugged the heavy box of dishes through Customs then a plane change in Toronto, Ontario, where they then sat under my feet during the final stretch of my journey to Vancouver International Airport. Not only did I learn to never do that again (I had other luggage to juggle), but I also learned that a glass of wine in business class at 30,000 feet without having eaten has drastic affects. But it was fun.

Those dishes would sit in the box unused for two years until I got married – I never got my OWN apartment. They were used during my first few newlywed years, only to be replaced by an updated pattern – of Corelle brand, of course. The dishes sadly made their way to the back of a cupboard, but were never far from my mind. They had a history.

A few years later we moved, and during our packing and cleaning my dear husband passed on a box of excess stuff which, unbeknownst to me, included my dishes, to his mother. When we went to their house not too long after, I was gleefully surprised when she cheerfully served us dinner on MY dishes I apparently gave her. I couldn’t eat.

After a night of tears mourning the loss of my dishes, the dutiful man he is crawled back to his mother and explained the situation. My own be-heading was inevitable, but at least I would have my prized dishes back.

I got them back, but it was a non-topic for a long time, and luckily the situation soon blew over.

Years later, the dishes were put back into circulation, but after a plate broke and a mug chipped (they are supposed to be unbreakable), and given that I was raising a house of raucous men, I figured they were safer stored away. I didn’t want my precious dishes – a piece of my history – to be ruined forever.

So 22 years later they still reside in a cupboard. I piled all the other garage sale stuff on the floor, but took a moment to pull out my dishes to admire and remember. They, ahem, weren’t washed thoroughly so many years ago, so I washed them to a keen shine, and put them back in the cupboard. Over 5,000 km they travelled, and through three moves, two kids, and a near-fatal family rift, they have survived. They have a priceless history that could never be sold or bartered.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Wishes

It’s August 31st and I’m absolutely thrilled – sort of. It’s a full moon (not that really has anything to do with anything), the cool, crisp mornings are making my early morning walks that much more brisk, and the shadows are changing daily with every hour.

I have been waiting for this moment for the last two months, and it’s finally here. But in end, I really don’t want summer to end.

Although summer is technically not over until sometime mid-September, I consider the hot season over as soon at the calendar changes and the kids go back to school. People scoff at the sight of school supplies, Halloween paraphernalia and Christmas wrap showing up in stores near the beginning of August, whereas I jump for joy at the signs of what is right around the corner.

Summer is not my favourite time of year, as you have guessed. There is no escaping the hot, dry, constant heat that practically chokes me to death. My pores go into overdrive, gasping for air, and my face is constantly one big oil slick. I have sweat in places we won’t mention; deodorant is pointless.

Just as the grass and trees gasp for water, I long for a rain. As a west coast girl born in autumn, rain is in my blood. The rainless summer has me missing the green of grass and trees, even though the leaves fall all too quick. Their changing colours take my breath away – but it’s not the same as the gasping for air in the heat.

I love dark mornings, and even darker evenings. Give me flannels, boots and scarves, and I’m happy. Cozy up after dinner with a blanket, candles on, and a good book (or night time sitcom) and I’m happy. Who needs sitting outside with the mosquitoes sticking to the sunscreen on your neck?

Yet despite my counting down the days to fall, I have learned not to wish it away, and I try to keep my boys busy and active in the summer, fostering memories for all. They are growing too fast, and time races by just as a fast as the seasons. One day I won’t have them to flip over rocks on the beach looking for crabs, nor will I have broken water balloons to clean up outside. I keep them stocked with freezies and ice cream, and 7-Eleven is their second home. I need to open a savings account to save for Slurpee money next year.

But then, as every year, it ends all too fast, the flipping pages on the calendar a blur. One minute I am bemoaning the end of school - our routine, broken - but deep down know that another grade, another chapter of their lives, is over. Then I am torn between rejoicing that it’s back to school – back to a routine - and being sad that yet another school grade has crept up.

Despite me longing for summer to be over, time speeding by has taught me to be careful what to wish for.

As I think about their first few days back to school, and wonder if they will have to do the traditional ‘What I did during the summer’ essay, which inevitably I will have to help them with, I run through my mind all that we have done these last two months. Kids sometimes have short, selective memories, the question of ‘what did you do this summer’ often met with a shrug, downcast eyes, and a mumbled ‘Nothin’.’

I recounted all that we did (for the essay I will likely have to write). Hikes in the woods near and far, swimming in secret lakes near and far, travelling far to camp near a lake, and travelling near to camp near a beach – I realize we did a lot, heat be damned. Slurpees, fishing, movies, and just hangin’ out - we had a great time.

And that’s just it – time.

Soon I won’t be able to do all those things with them, not because of the weather and seasons changing, but because with every season they get older and farther away from the nest. I am aware of time passing all too quickly – just as summer slipped by before I could wish it away. One day I won’t have my young kids with me to flip rocks, hike, swim, or ply with Slurpees. Autumn will always return; their youthful days of hanging out with me will not. Deep down, despite my own misgivings, I want summer back – who cares about my pores, sweat and useless deodorant.

And as the full-moon rises on this August 31st, September 1st arriving while I sleep, I won’t make a wish. I have learned to be careful not to wish away something I might truly want. I guess I don’t want summer to end – I want it back.





Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America Fall Workshop - September 15 2012

The Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America Proudly Presents Their
Fall Workshop 2012 With Eileen Cook, E.C. Sheedy, and Harlequin Editor Susan Litman



When: September 15, 2012, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)

Where: Bowen Park Complex, 500 Bowen Park Road, Nanaimo, BC
Cost: $20 RWA Members; $30 Non-RWA Members. $40 for walk-ins or if registering after September 7. Includes lunch and coffee breaks. (please visit the chapter website to pay by paypal at www.vicrwa.ca)

Morning Session: Revisions (or Why There Are So Many Wine Bottles in My House) with Eileen Cook

You’ve written “the end,” but the process isn’t over. This workshop will discuss the four levels of revision: story level, structure, character/conflict, and polish. The workshop will focus on the conflict level in particular. Stories are conflict, without enough tension the story falls flat. Editors and agents constantly encourage writers to look for ways to ramp up the conflict in their novels. By turning conflict resolution techniques upside down, participants will discover new ways to increase both external and internal conflict. Participants will leave with a leave with a list of conflict increasing techniques and practical examples they can use in their own work. With tips and suggestions attendees will be ready to move from first draft to completed manuscript.

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Her latest release, Unraveling Isobel, came out in January 2012. You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at www.eileencook.com. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

Afternoon Session: Building Suspense with E.C. Sheedy

This workshop will cover just what suspense is and how to achieve it in your own work. In order to make this more relevant to the participant examples of work from writers attending the conference will be chosen by Edna. A page or two of participants’ work will be asked for in advance by Edna. These will be used in the second part of her workshop to show how to build and increase suspense in a scene. All work will be treated with the respect Edna believes all writers deserve.

Multi-published author E.C. Sheedy is fascinated with people, both good and evil, and the secrets and lies that bind them. She writes about change, and the danger that truth and honesty brings to her characters’ lives. Her writing is dark and her villains twisted, but hope, salvation and love always triumph. E.C. Sheedy lives on Vancouver Island. Visit her web page, http://www.ecsheedy.com/, for more fascinating facts.

Pitch Appointments

Pitch your manuscript to Harlequin Editor Susan Litman, via Skype. Appointments are on a first come, first serve basis. Space is limited!

Susan Litman came to Harlequin ten years ago after several years working in film development in New York. She is an editor for Harlequin Special Edition, but acquiring for multiple series including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Love Inspired Suspense. Susan started reading in first grade and never stopped—and she’s got the (over)crowded bookshelves to prove it! In her spare time (what’s that?!) she reads cookbooks, watches Mad Men and Revenge and still obsesses over the unresolved mysteries of Lost. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/susan_litman or Facebook at www.facebook.com/susan.litman.5.

To Register: Send your name, address, telephone number, if you’d like a pitch appointment, RWA affiliation (if applicable), and method of payment to vicrwa@islandnet.com. Please use the PayPal buttons found on the chapter website of www.vicrwa.ca or send a cheque payable to VIC-RWA, and indicate if you would like a pitch appointment, to:

VIC-RWA
P.O. Box 53553
RPO Broadmead
Victoria, BC V8X 5K2

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Key to My Heart

The soaring summer temperatures drew everyone outside, but the fast-rising mercury sent everyone scurrying just as fast for shade and air conditioning. Sweating with the rest of them, I was happily walking along minding my own business when I passed a white van. Its doors were open, surrounding buildings providing just enough shade for the men huddled inside. Hunched over in the confines of the small space, they picked their way around machinery and tools littering the van’s floor. My imagination started to hum but I didn’t stop to ask what they were doing because, as I said, I was minding my own business.

Now before you think I was kidnapped and hauled away by these men in a white van, calm down and read on....I lived to write this, didn’t I?

Just as I passed the van, the telltale high-pitched, scraping and grinding of a key being cut stopped me in my tracks. The sound was still fresh in my mind as I had only just had one cut a few days before at a hardware store. But a key being cut in a van?

Before my imagination got the better of me and I started thinking jewellery heist, I figured I better quell my concerns.

The kind man huddled in the van with his assistant at his side confirmed yes, he was cutting keys; his open, friendly demeanour told me this was legal. Part of me was disappointed as witnessing a heist would have made such a great story. We exchanged a few pleasantries, I thanked him for his time, apologized for bugging him (I have to do that lot in my line of work – I bug people), and went on my merry minding-my-own-business way.

As I walked away thinking how cool it was to see a mobile key cutter – sheesh, you’d think I had never met a locksmith before – I realized that although many things during these ever-changing, fast paced times are slowly becoming extinct (think payphones), one thing is still a constant – keys.

These little pieces of much-cherished metal we lose, use as a tool, use to scratch our ears with (ew), make copies of (sometimes illegally), and lock them somewhere we wished we hadn’t, are much needed and I wonder if they’ll ever become ‘old.’

So I couldn’t resist and had to persist and went back to chat-up the locksmiths. What a great story this was going to be!

Emerson, owner of Emerson’s Locks Ltd, regarded me sceptically, wondering why I took such an interest in what he was doing. I assured him and his assistant Steve I was no quack, but didn’t let on I secretly wished to witness a jewelry heist. They were most patient and answered my questions, all while still trying to work in the blistering heat.

As Emerson pointed out, keys will not likely become a thing of the past – they will always be needed. Even though electronic key fobs, pass cards and the like (never mind keypads with secret codes, OH! and fingerprint readers and voice readers and eyeball scanners and...) are common place in these heightened security times we are in, a master key will always be needed.

Emerson has been working in the locksmith trade for over 30 years, owning his business for the last six. He’s seen it all – fixed it all. With his key cutter in front of him, tools everywhere, and his spiffy van to haul it all, he’s got a pretty good gig going. The air-conditioning repair man was busy that day; business hopping a few months a year. But a locksmith keeps running year- round.

That hot day when I was bugging Emerson, all while he was trying to work in the heat, he had the key to my heart – patience for me and a story. Thank you, Emerson, for taking the time to talk to me, despite the heat and my thousands of questions (even though no jewellery heist).

Need a key? Lock jammed?
Call Emerson’s Locks Ltd
Victoria, BC
(250) 389-2966