Friday, July 27, 2012

Gettin' Back on Track

A personal crisis knocked my legs out from under me, and I struggled to get up and back on track. I was rattled but with time was able to cope and move on. Life happens - it keeps moving and changing - and so must I. And I did.

It was hard to keep writing, but writers are supposed to write no matter what – if they’re serious about it. After a small hiatus I was determined to get writing again, despite feeling the aftershocks from the crisis. I was proud of myself for the gumption to keep going, but I was stumbling and tripping around my written words, and it showed. My mind was elsewhere, and slowly my self-confidence began to suffer. But I kept going, despite days of no ideas and garbled words.

And just when I thought I had moved past all that circle-of-life stuff, just when I thought I got my groove on and was truly back on track (despite my writing still a little off-kilter), two little blips on the radar challenged me, again. Although they were relatively minor in the great scheme of things, they still attempted to knock me back.

I received rejections for my writing two days in a row. The first rejection was hard to take, but I didn’t let it completely bring me down. I pouted for an hour or two, then got over it. Even though this particular market I am aiming for is a tough one to break into, my determination keeps me writing and submitting.

The other rejection was for a project I held near and dear to my heart. A preliminary ‘yes’ had me so close to publication with them, but alas, a final ‘no’ was to be my fate. But along with it came words of ‘fantastic story, always great writing - but the piece just doesn’t work for our publication.’ Those words helped cushion the blow – a bit.

As the saying goes, ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business.’

Given this was my second rejection in two days with the shadow of the previous crisis still looming, I was starting to waver a bit, and I struggled to shake it off as easily. I realized I was still a little fragile and my self-esteem and confidence were in a delicate state. But still, I continued. Along with perseverance, I tapped into every self-help resource I could muster: self-talk, exercise, and eating chocolate by the truckload (which only gave me the shakes) (and a pimple). I kept telling myself that confidence comes from within. I belong to a writing group, but I didn’t reach out to anyone from the group. I kept pushing myself, but what writing did come out of me was often disjointed and convoluted – my ideas almost non-existent. I sometimes had moments of panic where I thought ‘I am no longer a writer.’

And then one day out of the blue I had a moment of clarity! I came up with a topic for an article, and after some thinking and planning I started writing. It was full steam ahead; I was excited and I was doing great. But then halfway through I floundered and started second-guessing my idea and my writing. I ran it by my writing friend (you know who you are) to see if it was a good idea, if it was worthy of writing, and if it made sense. She knew of my recent personal challenges, but didn’t know I was struggling with my writing. She came back with words of encouragement, complimenting my writing and expressing her confidence in my ‘way with words.’

She gave me the boost I needed. Maybe it was coincidental – her kind words at the right time when I was ‘moving on’ – I don’t know. But what I do know is where I was previously stumbling along, her support was what I needed to kick myself back into high gear.

I returned to my article and everything flowed. And with that my writing improved.

Through it all I learned that time heals and to allow for that time. Everyone – every writer – has good days and bad days, and perseverance and determination do pay off. Writing does not have to be a solitary existence. I learned why writers have writer friends. Bouncing the idea off her was what I needed, and keeping myself focused on trying to write, even if it was crap (and no matter how frustrating), was what saw me through a troubled writing time.

Even though it was business, it was also personal – thanks go to her for unknowingly getting me back on track.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 21st - A Good Day to Get Mooned - UPDATE!

I humbly admit I had a few things wrong - blame it on my exhaustion, my excitement, or....I don't know. Blame it on something - blame it on the moon.

Poor Elisabeth gladly and happily read my story, July 21st - A Good Day to get Mooned, and corrected/clarified a few things. She says it was her fault for the confusion, and apologized. I daresay, Elisabeth, you have nothing to apologize for!!!!

And like I said before, I doubt NASA will be sending the likes of ME to the moon anytime soon (or maybe I would be better off...?)

To save me getting all starry-eyed again (the saying seemed appropriate) and messing up the moon, I figured I better quote the gal herself....

"Since the new moon (meaning no visible moon in the sky) was yesterday, July 19th 2012, that means that it is actually today, July 20th, when the moon will be at its "skinniest" at about 2% moon disk visibility. It will be slightly thicker (about 6%) on July 21st 2012. A crescent moon (either waning or waxing) in general, however, is still the phase when we see the least amount of the moon's disk. Sorry about that confusion! That's my fault." (Elisabeth Giffin, The Center of the Universe Observatory)

See what I mean? She apologized to me! Not necessary, Poor Elisabeth, no necessary at all.


"Our most powerful research telescope most often looks at deep space objects including: nebulas, star clusters and galaxies. Objects within our own solar system like planets and moons are often too bright for the powerful telescope to observe. However, our smaller telescopes are used for viewing of planets and moons, and these are available for public viewing as well on clear nights." (Elisabeth Giffin, The Center of the Universe Observatory)

Well, I can say that I am better off sticking with writing (and getting my facts right). All this stuff is a bit too much for little old me - it just makes me spacey.

Thank you again to Elisabeth for her patience and help - and for getting the facts straight.

Like I said - blame it on the moon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 21st - A Good Day to Get Mooned

July 21st is the 202nd day of the year. Have we really been in this year for a whole 202 days? No wonder I’m so exhausted!

While out one evening watering the plants with the moon in full force above me, I wondered about that vast place called ‘space.’ Despite my exhaustion I was curious, and started digging up a few space facts. I soon realized I really shouldn’t complain about being so exhausted, comparatively speaking. July 21st is a big day in the world of space science.

First there was Jean-Félix Picard, a French astronomer to first measure the approximate size of the earth. He was born on July 21, 1620 (d. July 12, 1682),

Then there was Milan Rastislav Štefánik who was a highly regarded Hungarian politician and astronomer. He made many trips up Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, to study the Moon and Mars, and was the first to record a whole eclipse of the sun. He, too, was born on July 21, 1880 (d. May 4, 1919).

On July 21st, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, with Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin hot on his heels. Michael Collins stayed in the ship to supervise their busy lunar adventures; securing the American Flag on the dusty surface and collecting all those rocks! Trying to get 6 – 9 hours sleep here and there during their 195-hour trip proved difficult. Who could sleep during that exciting trip?

As my research continued, my curiosity piqued with every found fact. The moon would be ‘waxing crescent’ on July 21st – but what did that mean? I excitedly called the one place that would know more - The Center of the Universe, Astronomy Interpretive Center on Observatory Hill in Victoria, BC.

But poor Elisabeth Giffin didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she answered the phone, only to have me on the other end.

I reassured Poor Elisabeth I was not a weirdo/stalker but a silly layperson who just wanted to know stuff about the moon. I don’t blame her if she wondered if I was a little ‘spaced out’ from staring at the sun too long.

She confirmed it would be waxing crescent on its right side on July 21st, and patiently agreed with my highly scientific assessment; it would be at its ‘skinniest’ on that day.

But then I had to know more:

Me (with my super-scientific voice): “So when the moon is scheduled to ‘rise’ at 8:42 am, and then ‘set’ at 9:59pm, what does that mean, exactly?”

Poor Elisabeth: “That is when you would see the moon in the day. You know how you can sometimes see it in the day?”

Me: “Oh right, yes, I have seen it in the day.”

Poor Elisabeth: “You would see it in the morning – rising at 8:42. And then you wouldn’t see it after 9:59 pm.”

Oh. That’s it? I was hoping for something a little more…dramatic.

I guess they won’t be sending me to the moon for research any time soon.

Well, Poor Elisabeth was most kind and patient. I assured her again I was not a weirdo/stalker, and I begged for more facts in order to write about the moon. It was to be, after all, the anniversary of the Apollo 11/Armstrong/Aldrin moon walkabout, and all that.

She went on to say the best time to see the moon with an amateur telescope is not when it’s full as it’s too bright, but when it’s in crescent form.

Did I mention she was patient and kind?

Poor Elisabeth also patiently and kindly mentioned that on Tuesdays through Saturdays, from July 24th onwards, the centre is open from 3:30 – 11:30, with their telescopes in full force (providing there are no clouds, of course). Their super powered telescopes can capture craters, nebulas and stars, and are able to project images of planets and moons on the walls of the observatory.

I bade Poor Elisabeth farewell, and mentally assured her I would not be coming to work at the observatory any time soon. As exciting as all the space stuff is, I just don’t think I’m up for any more research. It’s too exhausting.

Thank you, Elisabeth!

To find out more about the vast place called space, visit The Center of the Universe, Astronomy Interpretive Center on Observatory Hill in Victoria, BC.

Phone: 250-363-8262
Fax: 250-363-8290

5071 West Saanich Road
Victoria, British Columbia, V9E 2E7

For Facts about the moon, visit

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Smells Like Summer?

What smell reminds you of summer? For many, the smell of popcorn and greasy food at summer festivals and hotdogs and onions at baseball parks signifies that summer is in full swing – Coppertone aside.

When I’m at home, freshly cut grass, good old fashioned briquette barbeques and, of course, the constant smell of fabric softener from my clothes dryer means summer has arrived. Yes, the clothes dryer. The endless loads of towels, shorts and bathing suits needed laundering is never-ending. Yes, line-drying is where it’s at in today’s environmentally conscious world, but the sun doesn’t shine in the middle of the night, and clothes are always needed the next day.

But for many folks who spend a better part of their day toiling away at their cherished places of employment, summer-smell association means something different.

I spend most of my days in downtown Victoria, BC where I work. The historic city a magnet for tourists alighting from cruise ships, ferry’s, and planes. As I impatiently dodge tourists strolling along the sidewalks taking in the sights, I am often overcome by sunscreen and expensive perfume trailing in their wake. Foreign languages mingle with just as foreign cigarettes and cigars, and the hot dog vendors vie for their currency – Canadian or US preferred. But not to worry – there’s a currency exchange booth on every block.

But it’s not the tourists’ sunscreen, their foreign cigarettes or hot dogs cooking on the vendors’ grill that remind me of summer.

Historic Government Street flanked by cobblestone sidewalks cuts through the downtown core, Belleville Street separates the Legislative Building from the inner harbour, and Wharf Street takes you to the seaplanes where their airplane-fuel exhaust competes with the smell of the ocean – and all three streets bear something representative of summer.

But it’s what adorns these main streets is what reminds me of summer every year. If I’m lucky I might see the occasional one in the winter, but the warm weather brings everyone out of their stalls. The hot cement is a frying pan which permeates the smell, and every year I savour the scent. Despite living on Vancouver Island for over thirteen years, and seeing them all the time, I never tire of the sights, sounds and smell of this one attraction.

The horses, their carriages, and what they leave ‘behind.’

Yes, I’m talking about manure.

A picture is not necessary – you know what I mean. But I do have countless pictures of the horses I have saved over the years. In the winter, weather permitting, they make the occasional trek from their warm barns to provide Christmas carriage rides of ambiance, sporting tiny Santa hats tucked over one ear. In the summer they need neither hats nor sunscreen, but buckets of water to drink and a hose to cool them down.

Sure, some of the carriages are rigged with a ‘catch all’ contraption behind the horses, but sometimes things…fall through the cracks. And heck, what difference does it make? With the seagulls dive-bombing overhead, I scurry to avoid their ‘bombs.’ I don’t exactly see a ‘catch all’ contraption behind them.

Summer’s heat heightens all smells, and as soon as I emerge from the bus and make my way through the streets, even though the horses I love are all tucked away in their stalls trying to catch some shut-eye before heading into town for work, the smell of their ‘you know what’ still lingers from the day before. It gives me a thrill knowing that later that day I will hear their clop, clop, clop of their giant hooves down the streets. What with the draft horses’ hooves bigger than a dinner plate, you can hear them coming from blocks away.

In the middle of the day when I don my sunglasses and hustle through the tourist laden streets, I know the horses have already made their way down the hot streets – without even have had hearing them. As I occasionally jaywalk - um, I mean cross the street at the appointed, marked, designated area - I happily skip over the droppings flattened by cars. I know the next horse will be by soon to grace the street with fresh…

I love summer.

To capture the sights, sounds, and smells of summer, next time you visit downtown Victoria, BC, be sure to take a carriage ride...

Tally Ho Tours

Victoria Carriage

Black Beauty Carriage

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Elevator Etiquette

If there aren’t the slow-going escalators to annoy me, then there are the elevators.

With escalators, at least, I can run up or down them making my to-and-fro a little quicker. But the sight of an elevator has me rolling my eyes higher than the penthouse. It would be faster taking the stairs, of course, but in some places where you have to travel five or eleven floors up while balancing boxes and bags in your arms, you have no choice.

Even though the time spent within the claustrophobic four walls is minimal, a lot can happen (wink wink) when travelling between floors. Aside from the moments of manic panic where I imagine the suspended sardine cans are hanging by dental floss, it’s a people-watching haven; a mine of exposed human nature oddities and a test of manners and social etiquette.

Whether in an office building, condominium, or hospital, the confines of the panelled, mirrored or glass-walled cube presents may problems. You can seal a deal (think contracts, publishing, sales), or you can ruin your reputation (think nasty Ms. Fink who lives two doors down from you in your apartment building – oops, the doors closed in her face and your hands were too full to hold open the doors).

Elevator-riding is often not the most welcome for everyone. Claustrophobia or social-phobia makes many forget their social graces, nervousness taking the lead. Small talk is necessary, especially when riding with the ‘who’s – who,’ but even taking a vow of silence for a 30 second ride can make those critical seconds feel like hours. It’s okay not to make small talk, but be careful - that vow of silence can make many feel snubbed. Practicing an acknowledging nod comes in handy.

Whatever the issue, there should be a list of elevator etiquette posted – a list of social graces, and `things to think about` when riding in the suspended coffins. These are just a suggestion, mind you, but at least when riders are staring blankly at the walls, the grains in the panelling suddenly the most interesting thing in the world, at least we would be learning how to better ourselves.

1. If you are alone, no problem. Just be aware that sometimes hidden security cameras could be watching your every move; careful adjusting undergarments (undies, bras, etc). The knowing smirk from the security guards or front desk clerk will be surely telling.

2. When the crowds pile in, now is not the time to flick, fluff, or tie up your hair.

3. Don't slurp coffee or eat. Every swallow, chew or gulp is instantly amplified. Being shoulder-to-shoulder with someone as they slurp and smack their lips over their tuna sandwich is not attractive. And don't smack your gum like it's cud.

4. Do not peel a banana and eat it. It`s gross and I don`t like it. I like bananas – just not listening to others eat them.

5. If your cell phone rings, don’t answer it. Again, everyone can hear everything. If the call looks important, quickly plow through the crowd, press the button for the next floor, and jump off just in time. Don’t catch your heel, though.

6. If at a business function where elevators will be your main form of transport, you might want to consider changing your ringtone from the `Rocky` theme song. However inspiring ring tones like that may be to you, might not be so inspiring to others. You will be met with chuckles and guffaws – your future boss, agent or landlord might be riding beside you.

7. Chit chat is not obligatory; a nod or 'hello' is enough. Briskly turning your back to everybody, with your nose pressed up against the door while staring blankly at the metal is a tad rude – and frankly – odd. True, we are not there to make best friends, but don’t be a weirdo – just be polite. Continuing a chat with your co-worker about a nasty boss while others are around is not such a hot idea. You never know who`s around, who knows who, etc. No whispering either. Again, everything is amplified, and others will still strain to hear what you are saying. Didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s not nice to whisper?

8. If you are trying to discretely tap away on your phone, be warned - everyone is curious, and you never know who is peering over your shoulder to see who/what you are chatting to/about. If you do insist on tapping away, no squeals or guffaws at what you just read. Everyone will look at you curiously, then you will be embarrassed, and will have to explain and fumble along saying things like 'you had to be there,' etc, etc.

9. If you are looking for something in the bowels of your purse or bag, be warned – EVERYONE will be watching and WILL be able to see everything in your bag.

10. If you goof up on all the above, keep in mind that people WILL roll their eyes about you as you leave.

11. Don't stare - it's creepy. The emergency buttons are there for a reason - people WILL use them.

And if all these rules are a tad too much for you, stick to stairs; they're good exercise and less stress. But try not to trip the person passing you. That's not very nice, either.