Friday, June 29, 2012

On Being an Escalator

What goes up must come down.

And what gets dirty needs to be cleaned. Like teeth. And combs. And plates. And steps. And gears.

And of course the best place to clean all these is in a bookstore.

At the top of thirty-plus stationary escalator steps in my local bookstore, Mark and Mark of ThyssenKrupp Elevator were doing just that (they were quite keen on telling me they were both named Mark). They were cleaning the escalator; just a bit of regular maintenance. The same escalator that usually tries to slow me down had me stopping in my tracks to take in the inner workings of the machine I usually take for granted.

I get annoyed when the escalators are ‘out of service.’ And then I am annoyed at myself for being annoyed because even when they are moving, I practically run up them, so annoyed I am at their slowness. I am constantly annoyed, I guess.

While Mark and Mark tried to do their jobs as I annoyed them, Mark patiently told me the escalator steps they were cleaning were made by Hyundai – yes, the same company that makes the cars. If the escalators go so slow, what are their cars like? It’s not very good for building product reputation, if you ask me, but I digress.

Nestled between stacks of escalator steps and plates, Mark tediously and meticulously cleaned between the teeth of each escalator step, with just a rag and cleaning solution. Not a toothbrush was to be seen, no matter how apropos that would be. Those teeth see everything; gum, muddy shoes, coffee spills, and Cheerios from little kids.

There were many more goobers that, frankly, I really don’t want to talk about as the memory of them triggers my gag reflex.

A power-washer and a driveway would have been the fastest way to go, but that’s just me – always in a rush. And still, with a smile, Mark went through each tooth, polishing and scrubbing with a cloth.

And there I was, annoyed at the inconvenience of the out-of-service escalators I run up most of the time, anyways.

Slow down, the still escalators reminded me.

Those escalators that go slower than the average store’s Muzak system give us time to slow down, reflect, take a breath, take it easy and be still - if only for a moment.

I looked at the dismantled steps piled high. Lint stuck to the oiled gears, the mechanisms within just as gooey. Nuts, bolts, tools and the odd coffee cup littered the ground where Mark and Mark sat.

While Mark scrubbed off things we will not discuss, Mark worked on the empty escalator shaft. I was terrified for him. One false move, and down he could plunge between the gears and bars where the steps usually reside. He better watch his coffee intake; I get the jitters from too much decaf, as is.

But they were happy to be talking to me, telling me random facts about the escalators. They weren’t rushed, weren’t panicking, and weren’t in a flap like I usually am.

They took the time to chat to me and listen to my incessant questions while happily posing for a picture. And they weren’t annoyed. As I later researched ThyssenKrupp Elevators, the company that ‘moves people,’ I realized Mark and Mark truly live up to one of the mottos on the company’s website. They are ‘always a step above the rest.’

Thanks Mark ‘n Mark. I learned something. Be an escalator – slow down.

This is Mark and Mark. Can you guess which one is Mark?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sunshine Blog Award

One of my writing buddies, Jo-Ann Carson, who writes a blog called Lovin' Danger so very kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Blog Award. It’s an award bloggers pass on to their favorite blogs.

Jo-Ann is a fabulous writer, her blog containing posts of writing articles and inspiration. Most recently her work finalled in a prestigous writing competition striving for the coveted Daphne Du Maurier Award for romantic suspense novels.

So in receiving this award, I pass on to you two others I have nominated for this award, and tell you a bit about me - part of the 'deal' in receiving the Sunshine Blog Award.

•My favorite color: Blue (obvious from my blog)
•My favorite animal: Horses and dogs (okay, that's two - whatever)
•My favorite number: 12 (not sure why)
•My favorite drink: decaf coffee (regular coffee gives me the jitters)
•Facebook or Twitter: On facebook, still getting used to it.
•My passions: My family, writing, and books.
•Prefer giving or getting presents: Giving.
•My favorite pattern: favorite pattern? huh?
•My favorite day of the week: not sure, they all blur into each other
•My favorite flower: daisy's (obvious from my blog)

I pass this award on to Janelle of Emmaline Bags. Not only is Janelle busy wife and mother, but she owns her own handmade handbag business, and blogs regularly about sewing, the business of it, her life and family, and is always reading to promote, support, and cheer-on gals who create.

I also pass this award to Ryshia Kennie, whose blog 'Once Upon a Time...' has fabulous stories about life, and writing, and writing.

I hope you will enjoy these two ladies' blogs as much as I do, and have a sunshine day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cash Only, Please

Give me a rotary dial phone, a PAPERback, and cash, anyday; technology still remains a mystery to me.

First there’s my cell phone – a major stress in my life. Yes, I have had it for four years, but compared to most people, I was behind the times in getting one in the first place. The one I have is simple, ‘Lisa-friendly,’ and I dare not get one with a touch screen, fully stocked with ‘apps,’ video, TV, or the ability to be an ‘e-reader.’ Might was well pick out my dress for the coffin, because any of that would do me in. I spend half my time worrying about it: is it charged, have I lost it, have I missed a call…the list goes on. So I stick with my so-called ancient phone, and be happy at least I can use it as a prop to avoid talking to people I know on the street.

I am now, however, lost with out it, connectivity with my kids, forefront. Go figure.

Speaking of e-readers, my relationship with my own is slow in coming, but it’s getting there. I still prefer paper books, the smell of them much more alluring than an e-reader. Someone needs to invent e-smell; if they have ‘new car’ smell you can spray in your car, why not ‘paperback’ smell you can spray on your e-reader?

Then there are debit machines. The lovely little machines at the check-out counter of stores where instead of handing over your treasured germ-infested bills and coins to the cashier, you swipe or stick your card in a machine as indicated. And after a few buttons pressed – VOILA! - it’s like no money left your hands. Well, except it comes out of your bank account anyways, and it’s the same thing, I know, but it’s not….

And every debit machine is different. Some models you swipe your card through the slot. But if you have a high-tech card with a ‘security chip,’ you stick it in the machine and then try to figure out what buttons to push while the people waiting in line behind you telepathically will you hurry up.

The worst thing is almost every store has a different type of machine with a different button configuration – anything from card placement (swipe or insert), to button placement, to obscure directions, to different icon-painted buttons. So as bad as it is that I often pray not to see ‘insufficient funds’ along with a lovely accompanying ‘buzz’ on some machines, it’s also equally embarrassing when you have pressed all the wrong buttons, and the ‘buzz’ has the cashier re-entering the whole thing for me to try the process again. Of course everyone in the line behind me is giving me the evil stare, rolling their eyes, and muttering obscenities. As I ‘ha, ha’ my way through it all, hoping that a few jokes will soothe the uncomfortable moment with the cashier and the patiently waiting customers, I realize that everything would have gone much faster if I just had cash.

And really, I guess what it all boils down to is time. These things that are supposed to save time and make our lives better only causes stress. And for me, it’s the time needed to sit and figure things out, install things, update things, program things, figure out which buttons work for this and that…

God save me if I ever get one of those GPS things for my car or the phone. I might end up in the Himalayas – which actually sounds like a great idea. Think of all the cute goats and monkeys I would meet. I could hide out in the mountains and not have to do laundry or school lunches, but then I wonder if my hairspray would hold up, and what about Starbucks, and what about…

In all my rush, I am waiting for the day when I lick my finger to turn the page on my e-reader, or try to text on my landline (oops, I actually tried that once). And God save me, and everyone else in the check-out line,if one day I misread the directions on the debit machine. It doesn’t say ‘strip down, facing cashier,’ it says ‘stripe down, facing cashier.’


Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling All Writers - Anthology Seeking Stories

A new series of anthologies by Publishing Syndicate is seeking slice-of-life, light-hearted, humorous stories for their ‘Not Your Mother’s Book’ series. Each ‘Not Your Mother’s Book’ title will have a different theme, from cats to weddings, to being a nurse to fishing.

As shown on their website:

Not Your Mother’s Book (NYMB) is a new anthology for a new century.
Consisting of real-life stories written by individuals 18 years and older, NYMB is tailored for a mature-audience readership; stories may contain language and situations akin to a PG-13 or TV-14 rating. While not all stories will fall into this rating system, the series will not focus on death/dying, cry-your-eyes out sad selections, but only hip, fun, modern and very-much-today type stories that will entertain our readers.

Story Deadlines Coming Soon!
NYMB . . . On Being a Woman: July 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Dogs: July 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Holidays: July 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Travel: August 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Being a Stupid Kid: August 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Family: October 1, 2012
NYMB . . . On Being a Mom: October 1, 2012

One of my stories has made it to their first selection round for their book ‘On Travel,’ and I am very thrilled to be part of this new series! They are actively looking for stories between 500 and 2,500 words, so if you have a funny story to share, check out their website – and get writing!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Catwoman Strikes Again at The Empress Hotel!!

There was no time - I had to work fast. Was my heart racing from all the chocolate I had earlier consumed (I won’t reveal how much), or was the anxiety from trying to stay cool, aloof, and part of the crowd all too much for me? It was becoming clear from the adrenaline rush of planning my covert, black bag operation, that maybe I was in over my head. But I had to push on.

With the stealth of Catwoman I slipped past the bellhops, stole up the stairs, and with a furtive look around – all the tourists were busy doing their own touristy things – I opened my bag. I wasn’t there to steal anything – quite the opposite. With no time to size-up the shelf for the best placement, I slipped in a few…books.

Dead drop completed, I had to get out – NOW.

Yes, I had made my way back, again, to The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. But this time I was on a mission; to make my mark, to be part of something unique, and to give back to the hotel which has given so much to me (the use of its washrooms).

As shown in my story, ‘Random Act of Reading’ (August 26, 2011), I found a reader-inscribed book on a sidewalk bench, and I couldn’t get the concept out of my head. Then when I stumbled up across a bookshelf at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, as shown in my story ‘A Book Nook and Tea’ from April 6, 2012, a plan was formed and I had my Catwoman suit drycleaned.

With too many books on my own shelves, it was time to purge. So I picked out four books, and wrote a note inside wishing the next reader a ‘happy read,’ with an encouragement to pass it on. I dated it and inscribed my email address. Heck, with all the tourists passing through the doors of The Empress Hotel, why not encourage international relations - kind of like being an ambassador!

So with my Catwoman suit underneath my clothes, I stole through the doors of The Empress Hotel, and left the four books on the Book Nook bookshelf. Mission accomplished, and with no time for sampling finger sandwiches - nor any time for a picture of my accomplished theatrics - I hightailed it outta there.

But my actions fed my obsessive ways. Would anyone take any books? I wondered about the books all night, and my curiosity got the better of me. I had to return.

With my Catwoman mask in my bag for luck (the suit stayed home – I had dribbled ketchup down the front of it), and a different hairdo and earrings than the day before (I didn’t want any of the bellhops to recognize me), I went back to see if any books had been taken.

And barely 24 hours had passed and two books were gone! Mission accomplished!

I snapped a picture and slipped past the bellhops, promising myself to return with more books. I waltzed past the bellhops as nonchalantly as I could, and headed back to the drycleaners.

With my freshly pressed Catwoman suit slung over my shoulder, the Victoria Harbour front before me bustling with tourists, I vowed to return with more books – and to find a cheaper way of cleaning the darn suit. I wonder if the hotel would pick-up the dry-cleaning tab?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Royal Rigmarole

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and I go way back - all the way back to 1983 when we first met.

Well, we didn’t really meet, one on one. I, along with thousands of other school-aged kids from around the Lower Mainland, sang for her.

On March 9, 1983, she visited newly built BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC, to invite the world to the world’s fair, Expo ’86. We sang the official opening celebratory song, which I can still remember to this day. I was sure the canvass roof of the newly built stadium was going to burst from the roaring cheer of the crowd at her arrival. I saw her from afar, so afar in fact, I could barely see her. But at least I can say I sang for The Queen. I still have the memorabilia which is likely worth a mint, but I would never sell it.

Well, maybe it’s not worth anything at all, but it’s priceless to me.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee takes place on June 2 – 5, 2012, with celebrations around the world.

To make it official, officially and royally speaking so I don’t royally mis-speak, this comes direct from Buckingham Palace, via the official website aptly called ‘The Official Website of The British Monarchy:’

“The Diamond Jubilee takes place in 2012, marking 60 years of The Queen’s reign. The Queen came to the throne on 6th February 1952 (her Coronation took place on 2nd June 1953). Buckingham Palace is responsible for coordinating the events of the Diamond Jubilee central weekend (2nd–5th June 2012), as well as for organising The Queen’s programme in her Diamond Jubilee year. Details of The Queen’s programme will be announced in due course.”

I tried to invite her over for a celebratory bowl of Kraft Mac’n Cheese, but she was too busy.

So after my solitary, celebratory bowl of the orange noodles, I sat back with a cup of Yorkshire Tea, courtesy of England, and reflected on my other royal encounters – directly or indirectly.

In 2009, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, visited Victoria, BC. So of course I stalked them at the Legislative Buildings in downtown Victoria, and I was so close I could actually see Camilla’s fancy brooch! Naturally my camera didn’t work, but not to be outdone by electronics, I set out the next day on a mission – and with great reward. My sons and I met, shook hands and chatted with the Prince himself! The boys weren’t as excited as I was at the time, but three years later they still occasionally recount the exciting day.

I think they were secretly thrilled, but were too macho to show it.

As for other royalty around the world….

In the 1980’s, my dad owned a second-hand ’69 Chrysler. But this was no ordinary Chrysler.

Our Chrysler was previously owned by a relation of a friend of a friend of the family (I won’t get into the whole family tree), who was a dignitary for the Province of British Columbia (I won’t get into the whole political aspect of it all). This car was used by this particular family-friend-dignitary to tour Vancouver and all its highlights with the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, sitting in the backseat. So where the King of Jordan sat was where my two sisters and I would eventually sit in our Sunday best, fighting, pinching and poking each other. (The Chrysler shown is not ours, but of one found here.)

It would be the same car I would later knock over our fence with my inexperienced driving, but that’s for another discussion.

So for the coming Diamond Jubilee weekend, I will stay in Victoria, reflect on my royal associations, and watch the celebrations happening overseas at Buckingham Palace on TV. I’ll raise my stone wear in with a cuppa tea, and maybe cut the crusts off my peanut butter sandwich - à la ‘high tea.’

Whether you’re a fan of royalty or not, it’s all part of history, and I, for one, am fortunate to be able to say ‘I was there when…’

(Special thanks to David Houser of for use of the '69 Chrysler photo. It's a neat blog, you might wanna go have a visit. Also special mention and thanks to Her Majesty The Queen for use of their banner. Another neat site)