Monday, December 23, 2013

Comfortable in Our Own....Shoes

The last few weeks have been filled with all things shoes and feet. Not sure why – maybe my feet are telling me something.

“I have come to an age where I am comfortable in my own...shoes!” My friend proclaimed. We were walking down the street and a woman 3-inch heels teetered by.

She further exclaimed “Get it? Instead of saying ‘I’m comfortable in my own skin,’ for me it’s ‘I’m comfortable in my own shoes!’”

Although I did agree with her, I thought of how I often longingly gaze at all the pretty too-high-for-me shoes in the stores and magazines and wish I could wear them. Yet I know deep down I have likely missed the boat for uber-fancy shoes: I have no practice wearing them (‘better late than never’ shoe-fashionistas everywhere would say), and my body/back/legs wouldn’t be able to handle anything other than what I typically wear now.

We were wearing our trusty, comfortable, flat, loafer-like shoes. Trendy yet still ‘in style,’ our shoes are best for us and our lifestyle; we are always on the go. We don’t need 3-inch heels to trip us up or slow us down. And yes, I know there are women who can go for miles all day in their heels, and I’m not saying those who do are less busy, but those angle-twisting ‘ways’ are not for us, not anymore. We used to wear those, back in the day, we reminisced, but we’re happier with who we are and what we wear, now.

But I still secretly long for those days.

But these days, I don’t have time to be worrying about my heel catching in a crack in the pavement. I’m busy! I have stuff to do! Being comfortable, safe and secure without risk of tripping and falling (mind you, I can do that even without heels) is what’s important to me. Sure I love little kitten heels, glamorous uber-expensive high heels, and I long for the days when I could get away with wearing cheap barely-there flats, like I did in my teens. But time and necessity has changed my needs and priorities.

All this shoe-enlightenment came on the heels (yes, pun) of my months-long struggle with a sore foot and quest for finding better shoes. On a Friday I was told by a doctor it was likely plantar fasciitis, and on the following Saturday, I tripped and fell, twisting both ankles and spraining the same foot!

Great, just great. I REALLY don’t have time for all this, I moaned as I limped home. It was putting a cramp in my style, a limp in my step, and a pain in my butt (literally, as my limp was aggravating my sciatica).

In the end, I had to rest my sprained/plantar fasciitis-plagued foot for a few days, and after the black-and-blue bruising faded, I was somewhat good as new.

Good thing my shoe closet doesn’t consist of only heels.

Two weeks later the city was abuzz with overnight snow warnings. We ended up getting only two centimeters, but my tendency to trip and fall and seriously injure something, even without snow, had me pulling out my trusty hiking boots. My dad bought them for me for a group hiking expedition up when I was 14 years old. I know those mathematically keen will figure it out my age.

The boots have been everywhere – through the interior of BC, to Alberta, and to the many Gulf Islands. Oh, if these books could talk…

They’re comfortable, dry, sturdy, and dependable. I’ve never had a blister with them, I’ve never twisted an ankle with them, and I’ve never tripped and fallen with them.

And with my foot being ‘challenged,’ the boots worked out fine – no problem.

So to say I am comfortable in my own shoes – or boots, as it were – is an understatement. I truly am happy with me, who I am, and what I wear. I'm not out to impress, I'm out to have fun - and be comfortable!

Maybe all these shoe/feet issues/enlightenments/encounters mean something. Maybe I need to slow down and take better care of myself (yet again, another reminder). Without happy, healthy feet, there is so much I would miss, otherwise. I got stuff I gotta do – things to see, places to go!

And maybe I, too, have come to a point in my life where I am comfortable in my own shoes, or boots, and forget about the heels.

And keep going......



(My old trusty hiking books - approximately 28 years old)

Thanks for reading! Lisa

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hobbling Along with Perspective

It’s the Christmas season.

It’s not just a day – but a season.

And really, the generosity, good-will towards men, gratitude and counting of blessings should happen year round, but this is life. We get busy, we get caught up in other year-round activities, and we sometimes forget to remember – a lot of things.

As so often happens (sadly) at this time of year when everyone is in a rush, I witnessed exchange of heated words the other day between a young guy who apparently ‘stole’ a parking spot and a grandmother seated in her car, shaking her fist through her window.

“Come here and say it a little louder so my grandson can hear you!” she shouted at the young guy who apparently said something horrific I couldn’t quite hear. Her three-year-old-ish grandson would later follow her out of the car.

“Bring it on!” responded the young guy as he chuckled at her threats.

And it went on and on, back and forth.

Wow.

All that over a parking spot.

I relayed this story to two cashiers in a store shortly after.

“Perspective, people, perspective!” They both chanted. We all got on such a rage about the whole thing, I was sure pitchforks and torches were about to be raised.

I would only later realize I need to apply those ‘perspective’ thoughts to myself.

Previously, I had been moaning about my lack of writing time and all the incidents and challenges that threatened my writing time over the last two past months. I moaned and groaned and slumped and whined. But determination stoked a major fire under my butt, and I have been writing like a madwoman ever since.

And then I tripped and fell, twisting both ankles and spraining my foot. The same foot that, only the day before the fall, I was told had plantar fasciitis – the cause of pain and limping that had been slowing me down for months and months.

Argh!! Why? It’s been a year of weird (relatively insignificant) health issues! If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Just when I got my writing on track!

Feeling a tad sorry for myself, I limped home from the hospital following my x-rays and carrying a note from the emergency room doctor excusing me from work. Yes, many would jump for joy at this notion, but not only was I worrying about what my place of employment might say, but I was feeling kind of defeated. This was just ‘one more thing.’ I have stuff I gotta do! It’s Christmas! I can’t laze around all day!

Mid-limp, however, I stopped. Wait a second. This isn’t so bad. This is ONLY temporary. This is NOT life-threatening. I am fortunate to HAVE a job. I am fortunate to HAVE a home to go to. I’ve been through worse before, I will get over this, too! This is NOT major. And all this time I have been moaning about the fact that I don’t have time to write – well, NOW IS THE TIME!

Bad: gimped foot.

Good: time to write.

Talk about silver lining.

Perspective, Lisa, perspective.

There are much greater things in this world to moan about – things bigger, greater and well beyond my busy/chaotic/stressful little world of cooking, cleaning, working, being a mother, and dealing with silly little gimped feet. I have it easy. I forgot to remember that I have the wherewithal to write – the freedom to write what I want – in the first place. Why let another little hiccup in things ‘trip me up,’ so to speak.

Things don’t always go as planned, but it’s about gaining perspective and an attitude change that gets us through the challenges that seem huge at the time. A ‘stolen’ parking spot, a gimped foot....these are little things. Bigger things would be not having a foot at all. Bigger things would not have a car to drive.

Bigger things would be.....would be too many awful things to mention.

When bemoaning terrible atrocities of the world, many folks say “at least we have our health.”

And it’s true.

I have my health - and I can write about it.

Thanks for reading!
Lisa











Sunday, December 1, 2013

Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Swimming....

I had a plan. I had a goal.

But things just didn’t work out the way I had intended.

For those non-writers out there, November is NaNoWriMo, aka ‘National Novel Writing Month.’ Writers buckle down and commit to writing a 50,000 word (or more) novel from start to finish within the month. In the end they have the notoriety of saying they are a ‘NaNoWriMo’ winner, and have a completed novel in their hands. The NaNoWriMo’s website has sections where you sign-up and log-in your daily word counts, along with online forums offering support, and links to other writers in the area who have signed up for the infamous writing month. On November 1st at 12:00am it’s READY, SET, WRITE, and you don’t stop until November 30 at 11:59pm. Word counts are logged and ‘winners’ are proclaimed. Public accountability is a great motivator, never mind having your own conscience pushing you on.

Yes, a novel can be written any time of the year but committing that month, along with others, to getting something done that most people only dream of doing has worked for many. Just look at the acknowledgements section of many books; they started out as NaNoWriMo books.

I had heard about this before, and the concept of being able to commit to something I am passionate about, writing, for a whole month, without distraction, was a bit of a challenge for me. I’m a mom, a wife, a full-time employee outside the home…I’m a busy momma. I always had the dream of ‘one day’ I would do it.

I had decided this year I was gonna do it – come hell or high water. I could juggle kids (who ARE getting older), home life, work life, and everything else that could come my way. I had broken down how many words I would have to write each day – whether writing five or seven days a week – to reach my 50,000 word novel goal. I plotted, planned and organized. I planned to take a day or two off from work, just for me and my writing. And I knew I would have to let things slide. Sacrifice, having a no-pain-no-gain attitude, and staying focused were all going to have to come into play. Writing takes time, commitment, drive, dedication and sacrifice – and I love it.

But I decided to start early, and made my goal to have my book – a humorous women’s fiction - I started in October finished by November. It wouldn’t be a true NaNoWriMo ‘entry,’ but it gave me a goal – a deadline. I was going to have my own ‘NaNoWriMo,’ but it would be over two months, instead.
But it didn’t happen.

What did happen was ‘life.’ Life happened; reality struck. To say the timing wasn’t right in relation to the stage of my life I am at right now is not an excuse. It’s reality. It’s the way it is, and was.

Some days I could write, some days I couldn’t. Family, health and a whole whack of other things had put a wrench in my plans – my schedule – and I was miserable. Self-doubt crept in, and I beat myself up about it – big time. Some might say I CHOSE to let that happen – that I CHOSE to let external forces get in the way of my one month of writing. Say what you will, but it was my reality.

I have a writing buddy – a mentor, if you will. She was, and still is, encouraging and supportive. She knew about my great plan, and whole-heartedly encouraged me. And the fact that I had told someone meant I was further committed. I couldn’t let her, or me, down.

And when the middle of November came and went, and only a quarter of my book was done, I was miserable. I tried and tried, but the calendar was counting down the days faster than I could write. I wouldn’t meet my November 30th goal. I admitted defeat and confessed all in an email to my writing pal. Despite how hard I tried, my own NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t giving up, but my dream of having it done by the end of the month was disappearing faster than the days flying by.

But I hated admitting defeat. I hated writing that letter to my pal. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t going to let anything get the best of me. So what if a month had passed? Big deal. So what if I wouldn’t get my book written in that tight timeframe. Books get written all the time, YEAR ROUND. So what if things didn’t go my way, when and how I wanted?

But I was wasting time beating myself up over my failed attempt, and I was mad - mostly at myself.

And when I get mad, I get busy.

So I started writing – like REALLY writing.

I had set daily writing goals when I was planning my NaNoWriMo, but this time was different. I had a fire under me, and I was being more realistic. When I had previously planned my writing goals, I think – no, I know - I was a bit overly ambitious. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I hadn’t expected the life-challenges I would have during that time.

This time I had doable goals. I put my writing buddy, the calendar looming over me, and everything else out of my mind. I wrote and wrote. One day I met my goal, and then the next. And the next goal I surpassed. And the next. And the next. Some days my writing sucked, and other days it flowed. But I kept going.

Then, to take it further, I advertised my goals on Facebook. All is said was: ‘Today’s writing goal – 1,500 words’ - that’s it. I’m sure that non-writing folks were wondering ‘What the heck?’ I had to put it ‘out there’ to make me even more accountable for my plan. But the comments and ‘likes’ I soon received not only from my writing pal but from others – writers and non-writers – was much needed. I was doing this for me, but I had to save face by honestly fulfilling my goals.

After this post is done, I will continue with my days’ goal of 1,000 words. And if I don’t make that word count – that’s OKAY. I will keep going.

But I learned a lot from my own so-called NaNoWriMo. Firstly, not to be so hard on myself.

Sure I didn’t finish my book on time, but I don’t consider myself a failure or a ‘loser.’ I consider myself….human. ‘Life’ happens to us humans. We can’t control what happens. But what we can control is what we do after all that stuff called ‘life’ happens. Like Dory from the Pixar movie, ‘Finding Nemo,’ says: ’Just keep swimming…just keep swimming.’

Just keep writing…just keep writing.

Thanks for reading! Lisa

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls - Book Release

They finally arrived!

My story 'Two Girls And Their Dream' is included in the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul release, 'Just Us Girls,' and after much, much waiting, my contributor copies have arrived! As the book is all about women and their friendships, my story is about a....ahem....'experience' my friend, Janelle, and I shared, and with a horse she used to own.

A bit more about the book:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls - 101 Stories about Friendship for Women of All Ages

A woman's friends are the family she picks for herself. Whether it's about something funny or serious, our friends are the first ones we think to call. They are a constant source of support and encouragement. This collection of 101 touching and amusing stories celebrates all that is special about the bonds that women share with their friends — the unique spirit of female friendship. You'll love reading and sharing these stories with your friends.

Thanks for reading!
Lisa

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oh What a Guy!!

We waited, and waited, and waited some more; for five hours, in fact.

But he was worth it. My own marriage aside, it was well worth the wait for my new secret crush.

Hint: he’s only been (back) on earth for six months, he’s one of the most celebrated sought-after Canadian/astronaut/author/all-round-great guys, he plays a mean guitar, he’s worldly, his mom lives not too far from me, and he would give me the moon if I asked (at least I think he would - he DOES have connections, and all).

If you’ve figured it out, I guess it’s not a secret anymore. Col. Chris Hadfield, back on earth for six months after being away for five, is my new….crush.

My friend Elizabeth and I camped out in the middle of Hillside Mall, Victoria, BC, armed with chairs, snacks, and things to do. Our un-cracked, un-read copies of, ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by the outer-worldly Col. Hadfield sat ready and waiting for signing – as we were so instructed. With at least 1,000 people waiting in line to meet the Canadian spaceman, time was of the essence when it would come time for the actual signing. There would be no time for chatting, or staged-photos, or flipping-around-of-pages in the book; “Have the book open to the correct page for signing, step up to the desk, have book signed, and move on” were our instructions.

After waiting 2 ½ hours, unlike many others who had been there since the crack of dawn, it finally came time and the line started to move! Carrying our chairs we shuffled along, following the ropes guiding the lines. Shuffle, shuffle, stop. Shuffle, shuffle, stop. We did this for another hour and half. Luckily we had each other to chat with and people to watch to pass the time - not to mention our warm juice boxes.

Finally we were escorted into the store where we waited in another line, 20-people deep. As we shuffled along some more, soon I could see the top of his head, and then before I knew it, the trademark mustache!

It was HIM! The man from the moon! The guy from outer space! The astronaut who stole our hearts and enraptured kids everywhere with what happens in a spaceship!

Finally it was my turn to step up to the now-retired astronaut. My book was taken from me and presented to him for signing. With the amount of people, assembly-line-book-signing was needed.

But wait! Was he shaking hands? He was! My friend and I each wiped our sweaty palms on our jeans, checked each other’s teeth, and I quickly powdered my nose.

Being away for 6 months, and not just out of the country but out of the earth’s atmosphere, has meant he has a lot of catching up to do. And not just with his family, but with humans far and wide. And maybe the earth’s gravitational pull has been too much for him but he sure didn’t listen to instructions that day. Despite what we all were earlier told – no visiting, no chatting, move along quickly - he chatted and spoke to everyone.

I sidled up to the table, and with a grip sure to squeeze the gravity out of me, Col. Hadfield shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and after we did the formal ‘how are you’ rally, he thanked me – ME – for waiting in line so long. And of course, the polite person I am thanked HIM for being there.

We broke the rules. We had an interlude. We had an exchange. We shook hands and chatted.

I watched those who came after me in line and sure thing, he shook hands and chatted with every single person. Despite the waits. Despite the instructions. Despite how many people he had yet to meet. I guess he figured that we waited for him, so the least he could do was give us each a personal moment.

What a guy. Where I was charmed by him before, I was now hooked.

As we left carrying our books, giggling at the 13-second experience we had waited five hours for, we passed the last person in line waiting so patiently with her book, and knew, just KNEW, he would shake her hand, as well. No matter how long it took to get to her.

Later, exhausted yet elated, with his book on my lap I took a deep, contented, smitten sigh...and promptly nodded off. My secret crush was just too much for me.


Thanks for reading! Lisa



Friday, November 8, 2013

When I Was 'Cool'

This Halloween was a momentous event for me. One of my kids thought I was ‘cool.’

Finally.

If only for a day.

Halloween has always been a big thing for us – two kids in the house has always made it fun. Decorations are put up and costumes are carefully planned and thought-out. When they were younger, I sometimes dressed up for work, and usually in something tame and generic. I was eager to foster the Halloween ‘spirit’ for my kids, but as my own age increased, dressing up for work faded away.

But with my kids getting older and trick-or-treating slowly becoming a thing of the past, I am anxious to hold on to the fun of it all – for my sake and for theirs. Who says you still can’t have fun, no matter how old you get?

So a few years ago I started dressing up, but only for giving out treats at the door. Sure it was just a silly mask and hood, but when it’s dark, everything is that much scarier. I do a whole ‘hunched-over-scary-monster’ act, complete with grunts and growls. The ‘macho’ kids are determined not show their fears, especially in front of their friends. But when a scary face peaks through the crack of the door, only to have the door flung open at the last moment highlighted with a roar, those tough ones crumble.

But after the last trick-or-treater leaves, the silly mask is put away for another year only to be pulled out when the next years’ first trick-or-treater rings the doorbell.

My kids have been impartial to it all. They think my antics are ‘neat,’ but mostly roll their eyes at me. I have been doing this for a few years, even when they were still doing their own trick-or-treating with their friends. For the most part they had been unfazed by my high jinks. I suspect they were slightly embarrassed (but that never stopped me).

But this year where I usually have restricted my costume-wearing in the evening, I decided to go all out. The ‘circle of life’ and all that has had me assessing and contemplating a great many things this past year, and I am determined to have fun; not only for myself but for my family. My kids are getting older and I am desperately trying to hold on to....everything.

In the early morning of Halloween while everyone was still asleep, I got ‘ready’ for work. I wore one of the kids’ past ‘zombie’ outfits, out came the ghoulish face paint, and with a bit of hairspray and back-combing of my hair, I was transformed. I ‘zombied’ my way to the bus stop, and ignored the stares and curious glances from other bus riders. Feigning obliviousness to my appearance was the most fun I ever had on the bus.

Throughout the day many didn’t know it was me. I had great fun seeing folks’ reactions, and was told I was recognizable only by my voice and smile.

I have to work on that for next year.

But I was more anxious to for my family’s reaction later that evening. Would they roll their eyes at me? Would they be embarrassed (like they usually are)? Would they care? With a house of teenagers, you never know.

So when I arrived home that night, my zombie make-up and huge hair still intact, all of them were....shocked. And impressed. And surprised. And in awe. And couldn’t stop staring at me.

But my day’s fun was nothing compared to the compliment the 17-year-old gave me. As I recanted stories of folks’ reactions, my son stared at me in awe and with a smirk said,

‘That is heat!’

My heart filled. I had no idea what it meant but I knew, just KNEW, that whatever it meant was a compliment. I would later find out that it means the same as what we used to say in the ‘olden days:’ ‘rad’ or ‘awesome.’ I wasn’t IN heat; I was JUST ‘heat.’

Underneath my zombie make-up I was glowing.

I was cool. I was ‘heat.’ And I was the happiest mommy-zombie ever.

Thanks for reading! Lisa




Friday, October 25, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Patch

Someone should have told me both times they handed me a tiny newborn baby boy in the labour/delivery room there would be battles I would one day lose.

It’s all part of being a minority in my house of three men, I guess.

Halloween has seemed to be a good measure of my two boys’ growing years. First there were the early years where I could dress them up in whatever cutesy Halloween costume my heart desired. Then came their own costume choices often influenced by trends, friends or TV. Then as the teenage years rolled around and they had one foot in their childhood and the other inching its way towards adulthood, trick ‘or treating became something for ‘babies.’

It seemed like there would never be Halloween at my house again.

But as each year goes by, each boy making ‘alternate’ Halloween plans that have me biting my finger nails in angst every year, I am determined to keep the novelty alive. I hand out treats at the door – in full, scary costume – and I carve pumpkins and ensure the outside is fully decorated.

But never in a million years did I expect to have a Halloween ‘decoration’ such as our new addition to our family.

As well as watching Halloween costumes change with their ages over the years, my young men’s desires for certain pets have changed with each year, as well....

A cat has always been a staple in our house. Even though the boys never chose to have a cat as we had cats before we had kids, I felt it only fair to the cat to include her in the historic list of family pets.

Then there have been fish of all shapes, sizes, breeds and life spans. Presently, we have 15 tiny fish of what breed I have no idea, some ‘Kuhli loaches’ who look like tiny eels, and a baby snail called Bob Dole (don’t ask me why).

There have been caterpillars kept in an aquarium, safe from the annual tree spraying.

Then there were ants – however unwelcomed and ever-growing in our garage, we considered them one of the family. How could we not?

Then came the scorpions. Despite my protests, it was a battle I lost, and it served as a reminder of my minority status in the house. At least the clawed predators have fostered communication between mother and son, something many mothers worry of losing - “Mom, can you stop at the pet store for some crickets on your way home from work.....? I’ll pay you back....” So the two scorpions live on, well fed by unsuspecting crickets.

And now we have a new ‘special’ addition to our family (and here I was worried I would have no ‘Halloween’ in my house!)

Behold the Pumpkin Patch Tarantula.

Yes, the little darling, or ‘sling’ as baby tarantulas are often deemed, is just a wee lad. Orange and black-spotted, this little guy from Columbia who is barely bigger than my finger nail right now, will grow at warp speed and soon outgrow the take-out condiment container he is currently residing in. He’s a ‘dwarf’ version, so whether he grows to have a leg-span of three to four inches typical for the species, I don’t know.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

Presently, non-poisonous ‘Sling,’ as he (or she – I have yet to check) has been named, resides in his/her condiment container in my son’s bedroom beside the fish tank.

I don’t think the cat has figured out what’s in the container, the same container that has me realizing I will never look at take-out tartar sauce the same way, again.

So as Halloween gets closer and I longingly look at all the kids’ Halloween costumes on the racks in stores while hoping I can drag my teens out to the pumpkin patch just one more year, I can actually be happy......

I have my own in-house ‘pumpkin patch.’

And who knows, trick-or-treaters might find a cricket in their goody bags!

Thanks for reading!

Lisa













































Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thankful for Thanksgiving - Whenever it Is

If you are Canadian, by now you will have had your fill of turkey and stuffing from the Thanksgiving holiday. But for many, the busyness of life keeps everyone spinning and a holiday is not really a holiday anymore as many have to work. And so, in turn, many folks ‘do’ the great Thanksgiving feast on alternate days. Years ago, many started having Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday before, as doing it all on the Monday before heading back to work on Tuesday was too onerous.

I, too, have fallen victim to the dinner-on-an-alternate day to cater to everyone’s schedules, including my own. It’s been like that for a few years now. But in trying to do it all at warp speed, at one point during the marathon weekend of prepping and cooking the great feast I couldn’t figure what day was Thanksgiving – Sunday or Monday? I/we have ‘done’ Thanksgiving on an alternate day for so many years I forgot which day Thanksgiving actually was.

I wasn’t ashamed of all the stuffing I consumed with fervour, but was ashamed to admit not knowing the actual holiday ‘day.’

I called my sister and she, too, wasn’t sure. ‘Google it!’ was her response.

And yes, I did actually ‘Google it.’ I couldn’t believe I actually had to ‘google’ the date of Thanksgiving, right in the midst of the celebrated holiday.

And in chatting with folks at grocery stores and such, many didn’t know, either. Some even went so far as to say, ‘Does it matter? We had our dinner on (such and such) day.’

Have we lost the meaning of Thanksgiving in trying to do it all, just to say we ‘had’ Thanksgiving dinner? Does knowing the day actually matter?

As it seems, a ‘holiday’ is not a holiday anymore – both in the working/business world and in extracurricular activities (sports tournaments, marathons, cross-border shopping). Events scheduled for a time when everyone is supposed to have ‘time,’ has blurred what the holiday was initially intended for – to give thanks and be with family. Juggling various schedules has become a...juggle....and many do the whole turkey dinner (or ham for some, vegan for others), either on the Saturday night, like we did, or on the weekend before or after.

But then there are those who feel Thanksgiving has become just another holiday that we HAVE to celebrate and would feel guilty/gypped/left-out if we didn’t, so a huge meal is prepared and guests are invited out of obligation. Or then there are those who don’t ‘celebrate’ it at all, refusing to conform to the ‘commercialism’ and ‘mayhem’ of something that is dictated by a calendar.

All this I gleaned from folks in the week leading up to Thanksgiving - in the stores, at work, at the bus stop, eavesdropping on the bus - everywhere.

And what finally sparked all my deep Thanksgiving thoughts was a comment made to me by someone at work the following Tuesday. After she recounted how busy her Thanksgiving was with all the visiting she had to do she exclaimed, “Phew, I’m exhausted – it felt just like Christmas!”

What happened? Are we doing it just because we HAVE to? What is Thanksgiving supposed to be anymore? Is it only a day/weekend/week that many acknowledge out of obligation? Is it a time, like Christmas, many overdo with cooking/stressing/racing around? Is it a long weekend that is only acknowledged as just that – a long weekend – and nothing more? Or is it an excuse to cram as much as we can into one, two or three days (if places of employment have granted an extra day off, that is), just because we are typically supposed to on a ‘long weekend’?

Or is it something we can be thankful for? Thankful for the powers-that-be for delegating a day to ensure we stop and be together - if only for an hour, if only over ham, or tofu-turkey burgers, or a cup of coffee.

The history of Thanksgiving has been forgotten by many. Heck, I’m embarrassed to admit I know more of the meaning behind ‘American’ Thanksgiving than ‘Canadian’ Thanksgiving (I guess I could Google that too!). But I take the opportunity to cook as much as I can, with ingredients typically only purchased at certain times of year (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc), just so we can have tons of leftovers (which everyone likes anyways) and just because ‘I can’ and am ‘supposed to. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they missed out. I guess some would say I am slave to the calendar.

But I take advantage and use the ‘holiday’ to ensure my family of four gets together at the dinner table, knowing full well we’ll resume our crazy/busy lives the next day as if nothing happened.

Not only does the act of acknowledging a ‘holiday’ serve as a vehicle to ensure we get together, but the leftovers bring us together again the next night.

On Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving, and the night after we had our own Thanksgiving dinner, as I wrapped another dish of leftovers while everyone sprawled on the couch moaning how full they were, I realized it didn’t matter what day of the week we acknowledged Thanksgiving. It was the fact that we were fortunate to do so, and that we did it all.

Thanks for reading!
Lisa

(Photo credit - Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000)







Friday, October 11, 2013

Mushroom Invasion

It had been a funky fungus kind of week, as every time I turned around there were mushrooms – and not the ‘trippy’ kind. They kept popping up everywhere!

Those poor little spore-bearing fruiting bodies of a fungus kind of have a bad rap. If people are not joking about them and all their hallucinogenic ways, then others are fearful of them – not only of the poisonous ones that are often the prettiest, but also of what they represent.

Fungus.

But if you stick to the store-bought ones, life can be good; the cooking possibilities, endless!

But, apparently, fungus can be fairly....helpful.

I recently popped into the doctor’s office to have my ear/nose/throat inspected. Usually when I get sick, my throat and ears are most affected, and the way things were feeling in my throat, I was sure a fungus had to be growing in there.

After the doctor stuck the ear-light-thing in my ear making my shoulders squinch up like a little kid, and after sticking a tongue depressor down my throat making me convulsively gag, he said ‘Yup, you were right – things look mighty red down there.’

So after sticking a massive Q-tip-swab down my throat to send away for testing, he started with his usual doctor spiel that I, although I respected what he had to say, kind of tuned-out until one recommendation had me sit up and pay attention.

“There are a lot of bugs going around these days.” He started and I suddenly felt a fool for going there in the first place. He continued. “So get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, get lots of vitamin C....”

At this point I glazed over. Again, not that I didn’t care about what he had to say, but....

“...and eat LOTS of mushrooms and kale.”

WHAT? Mushrooms!?

Where did that come from?

Had I been, um, unknowingly ‘experimenting’ with mushrooms before setting foot in there? Was I hallucinating? Was I on candid camera? (I surreptitiously looked around for a hidden camera.)

I just did NOT see that one coming.

Not that I am opposed to the immune-building/vitamin-fortifying/health-conscious attributes of vegetables, but whatever happened to the standard “Drink lots of fluids, take lots of Vitamin C, eat lots of chicken soup, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”?

Reeling from the shock of his recommendation, I barely heard him go on about the vitamin D in mushrooms (which I did not know), or about the Vitamin C in kale (I knew it was a super food but the thought of eating kale when I’m sick is not the most appealing, but neither is eating mushrooms).

He certainly cured me because by the time I walked out of there confused and a bit...mystified...my sore throat with swollen glands and aching ear were temporarily forgotten.

So off I went, but I didn’t follow doctor’s orders. I knocked back a few Tylenol with a chaser of a few chocolate-covered cookies. There’s something to be said for comfort food and besides, chocolate has vitamins.

The next day despite being catastrophically near-death, I toddled into work sucking on a cough drop and waiting for the liquor store to open (hot rum, anyone?).

In my workplace are plants intended to provide a sense of health and well-being for all who visit. But they send the wrong message as half of the plants are dying and the other half are covered in dust. I’m in charge of taking care of them.

As I did my duty that day by religiously watering them, I happened to look closely and saw something white peeking out from under the leaves.

What I thought was a dead, decaying, decomposing leaf was actually a....mushroom! (I guess that doesn’t say a lot about my office).

A mushroom!? In a potted plant?

And what is with me and mushrooms these days?

I watered the plant, left the mushroom where it belonged assuming it was good fertilizer and went on my merry, professional way.

When it came time for my lunch break, I made my way down to my favorite shrub-flanked bench by the harbour, hoping beyond hope that no one was sitting on it. I needed a time-out after all the stressful mushroom-appearances in my life during the last 24 hours. But my throat was soothed with another cough drop, the sun was shining, and my bench was available! What a great day!

But just as I sat down, I saw them.

Three little mushrooms huddled together in the protection and security of the shrubs.

Mushrooms! AGAIN!

I know mushrooms symbolize many things, male virility being one of them (!), although I am not of that ‘persuasion.’ I also know of the Chinese belief that mushrooms are symbols of happiness and rebirth and of the Mexican belief that the little fruiting bodies of fungus signify knowledge and enlightenment.

But as for the Canadian medical belief that they’re the cure for the common cold? That was news to me.


I did eventually go back to work, constantly looking behind me to see if mushrooms were following me. The cold-bug-thing I had didn’t do me in, but I realized I maybe need to cut back on the amount of cough drops I was ingesting.

And as for all the mushrooms that week?

All I can say is....trippy, man.


Thanks for reading! Lisa



Friday, October 4, 2013

It's All About the Hair - and More

I’m sorry to write yet another missive about my hair, but really – it’s all about the hair (see story ‘Romance Writers find Romantic Hair at the 2013 Victoria Women’s Show’ dated Sept 28 2013)

Other than the fancy up-do previously shown, I don’t exactly have the most glamorous, modern, age/era appropriate hair-do. I’m stuck in the 80’s, an era of which I can’t let go – even after 20-something years.

But lifestyle, time, priorities and interest dictate my hairstyle. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on it, never mind the gumption or interest – right now. I have too many other things going on. Mornings spent fiddling with my hair for 45 minutes is not my thing – it’s time well spent on something else. I have kids who, despite their increasing age, I still chase after. I’m always on the run, and with my busy lifestyle, keeping it long and straight and pony-tail ready is best.

But deep down, deeper than a deep, hot-oil condition treatment by Alberto VO5, the real reason for my long straight hair that looks the same day in and day out? I can’t let go.

I can’t go of the style; something familiar and easy that I don’t have to put much thought into. The length is a security thing, I suspect, on so many levels; Freud would have a field-day with me and my hair. And, just to add to my excuses, time plays a big part into getting it cut. I don’t have the time to get it trimmed, and when I do have the time, I forget that it needs to be done, and another whirl-wind weekend goes by with dry, frizzy ends left to irritate me for another week.

Most recently I was channeling 70’s-Cher, but only with dry, frizzy ends. I realized how bad it was when the photos of my lovely, lovely do from the Victoria Women’s show revealed not only grey, but one-too-many frizzy fly-aways. It was beyond over-do for a trim – it was time to take action. To make the time.

And it has become apparent to me as, in recently so many facets of my life, that it’s time to make a change.

One step at a time. One inch at a time.

As cliché as it sounds, it’s time to let go.

A lot has been going on my life and in the world, both of which amount to one thing: change. Change is constant. Change is growth. Change is inevitible, and change is healthy.

And if I change my hair one way and hate it, I can always change it again. Hair grows.

So off to the hairdressers I went. Not for dye to hide the grey (I definitely could NOT keep up with dyeing my hair), but only for a cut to clean-up the frizzies and to work my way towards something bigger, grander, different...and shorter.

I wanted to go drastic, shearing off the locks that were halfway down my back, but as with many things, baby steps is often best. Both the hairdresser and I agreed, only 3 – 4 inches would be best right then. Then I’d see how I would do for going shorter.

Many say long hair only works up to a certain age. Not to say that I am totally ‘working’ the whole long hair thing, but as much as I want to change, I know I will miss my long hair. I do want to look nice, and I do want to feel good. But I have decided that it’s not so much the look I am after, but the sense of letting go and moving on. And as I sometimes have moments of panic, I know that, despite all this time, thought and energy put into my hair that I say I have no time for, I can always grow it back. Hair grows.

So the hairdresser did her ‘thing,’ and not once did I cry, despite the pile of hair on the floor and despite feeling practically bald. I felt better. I know I’m going to go for more – and soon. I have to let go. I have the appointment already booked, to cement my commitment, and I’ve told the world (here), just to further qualify my plan. I will miss being Cher, but I know it’s time to let go, move on, and change.

And even though it’s JUST hair, it really IS all about the hair, but much, much more.
(Note: I threw on the t-shirt on pre-haircut, for all the bits of hair that would be attached to my clothes, after. There is no 'hidden' message behind the shirt, and although I do support the cause, I am not endorsing products)

Thanks for reading!

Lisa








Saturday, September 28, 2013

Romance Writers find Romantic Hair at the 2013 Victoria Women’s Show

The 2013 Victoria Women’s Show was not only promoting happy and healthy living but also, unbeknownst to them, that of the romance reader persuasion.

I was there to help staff the booth for the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, promoting not only our chapter but the romance fiction genre and its authors, as well. We gave away over 300 romance novels, the majority of them written by our own local authors. Prizes, candies, bookmarks and information about our chapter were distributed, and many conversations were had with the passing curious – what do we do, how do we do it, and why?

Because we love the romance genre, we love a good story, and we love to write, was our answer.

And in talking with readers, especially those we were trying to tempt with one of our novels, they all said the same thing when it came to discussing what they look for in a book: ‘It has to be a good story.’

How true!

And what fuels a good story is imagination.

Setting, along with how characters look, dress and act, all play a part in the world the writer is trying to create and the world the reader is trying to escape to.

And on that day I, along with a fellow writer, would get to pretend - to imagine - we were a character right out of a historical romance novel - by having our hair done into a romantic up-do.

When not chatting with prospective romance readers at our booth, I was planning what to do at the show after my shift. Would I seek-out the local firefighters who were promoting their calendar (yum), or would I stalk soap opera star, Michael....from the Young and the Restless during his guest appearance? Both were perfect inspiration for romance fiction!

Aromatherapy oil scents wafted around me from nearby booths while I plotted who I would stalk first, when around the corner came Jacqui Nelson, historical fiction author, sporting an up-do to end all up-do’s. With her hair pinned up in a swirl of curl, all she would have to do would be to put on a dress reminiscent of the era of her current novella, Adella's Enemy (August 2013) and she might as well have been on the cover of her own book!

I had only just seen her 45 minutes before, her hair down like mine, and suddenly – a changed woman! After my oogling and fawning over her ‘do,’ she, along with Jodie Esch (Little White Lies – April 2013), told me – no URGED me – to go to the booth by the Richard Mar Hair Academy. They were giving away free up-do’s during the show as part of their promotion, and within twenty minutes a prospective client could have her hair flipped up, twirled around and curled to perfection with a sure hand and nimble bobby-pinning fingers.

My writer-friends didn’t just urge me to go get my hair stylishly coiffed, they all but kicked me out of our booth!

So waving farewell to not only my writing colleagues, I made my way to the Richard Mar booth.

I was excited and nervous - yet skeptical. My hair, thicker and straighter than my friend Jacqui’s, could never be twisted and turned into a ‘do’ as elegant as hers.

I perched in the chair and my stylist, Niki, got to work. I was sure she would throw up her hands in despair, “I can’t do a THING with this girl’s hair!”

20 minutes later Niki asked for the camera I held in prayer in my sweaty hands. After a final squirt of hairspray here, and a bobby-pin adjustment there (I would later count 51 bobby-pins), she snapped a photo and handed me my camera.

I looked and the screen and.....

....started crying.

I LOVED IT!

I had no idea my hair could look like that! How did she do that!?! And with MY hair? I had never had my hair done like that – ever. I felt more royal than any princess; more glamorous than any Academy-award-winning starlet.

I got myself under control. No sense ruining my ‘look’ with blotchy, blood-shot eyes. With a hug and a few photos with Niki, off I went, carefully making my way through the crowds. I was eager to get back to our booth and show the girls my hair.

And when I say carefully, I mean CAREFULLY. I was afraid to turn my head, sure one false move would send the bobby pins flying, the curls unraveling. I wished I had a neck brace, however unflattering, to ensure my head stay perfectly still. I worried someone, or something, would snag my precious ‘do.’ Maybe a dog-cone would have been best. I was the recipient of admiring glances along the way, although by then, many others had had their hair done, as well. But no amount of admiration would quell my worries..

Needless to say, the hair survived the short trek to our booth. My writerly friends ‘oohed and aahed’ over my do, and Jacqui and I posed like the starlets we were for photos. And yes, Jacqui DID say she felt like one of her characters from her historical novel.

My hair survived the rest of the day and through to the next morning – I wore a kerchief around my head when I went to bed. My family of men were supportive, doing and saying all the right things – one said I looked like Princess Leia but better, and the other helped stage multiple photo-shoots of my hair so I could forever preserve the moment on film. The show was a success for our chapter and its authors, and for two of us, we looked and felt like the heroines in our stories.
Jacqui Nelson and I with our new hair.


Featured in photo, left to right Jacqui Nelson, Jodie Esch, Bonnie Edwards, Lee McKenzie


Featured in photo, left to right Susan Lyons, Me, Leanne Ihmels, Jacqui Nelson, Jodie Esch


Special shout out and thanks go to the staff at Richard Mar Advanced School of Hairdressing. Find them at 1675 Douglas Street in Victoria, BC, or visit their website at www.richardmarschool.com

For more information about the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, visit www.vicrwa.ca




Friday, September 20, 2013

No More Nails

At 40-something years old, I have never had a manicure.

I’ve had a pedicure, sure, but why that and not the other, I don’t know.

As a kid I had really bad, BAD nails. I would bite them to the quick, leaving them red and raw. I had no aspirations to have nice nails when I ‘grew up,’ so I didn’t care.

But then I married, and a pretty ring on my finger only qualified the need for nice nails, so I got to work. I worked at not biting them and worked at willing them to grow. But every time my nails were near-perfect, one would break. I often walked around with my hands in the air, as if a doctor preparing for surgery, afraid to touch anything. To touch something meant a sure break or chip. I had a few bottles of nail-strengthener-polish, and a few bottles of ultra bright pink and red polish always as the ready. I hoped the bright colours would make my hands look more glamorous and mature, especially with a ring on my finger. Usually the strengthening polish didn’t help, but I worked nightly to keep those nails, what there was of them, looking sleek. I never had, nor wanted, the long eye-gouging kind – and they never got there, either – but what I did have, I was happy with.

But then, of course, when I had babies, there was no time for any of that, and having long nails while handling delicate newborn skin proved catastrophic. There was no time for the maintenance of long nails, nor was there any place for them in my new baby-filled life. With the demands of my new life, naturally weak and thin nails didn’t stand a chance, anyways, especially with all the washing and cleaning I was doing.

But then the babies grew up, and those ‘babies’ didn’t need me to bathe them anymore. Yes, time was still a factor – I didn’t have the time for such pampering – but I was changing. I wanted to finally, again, have nice nails.

And for a while, I did.

With the old bottles of nail strengtheners and polishes long gone, I was on a mission to get every bottle or tube of new-and-improved nail strengthening/growing/enhancing/elongating/ non-chipping/smoothing chemical available. And some of them worked! I worked in an office, so typing was a challenge, but I managed. I had every kind of tail tool available – every kind of nail file invented. Nail clippers were NOT my friend – oh no. I pretended was a professional manicurist, everything at the ready. I was determined to have lovely long nails, and nail clippers were NOT in my toolkit – that would just be wrong.

So again, for a while, I had nails. Still not the long, eye-gouging kind, but long enough that I could tap a counter top in exasperation (but gently – didn’t want to chip any), and long enough that I waved my hand around, I looked somewhat glamorous.

But then....

My deep-seated aspirations to be a writer started to bloom. My kids were really young, I was working, I had sort-of long nails, but things weren’t just ‘working’ with my new-found hand glamour. Computers and the internet were just starting to bloom into our world, so for the most part, I would write in long hand then, if needed, I would type my stories on the computer and print them out (on a dot matrix printer!) to send to potential publishers. But then as my writing career bloomed, so did technology. Computer use at work became more common, and I was writing more, which meant more keyboard time on our computer and later, my own laptop, at home. My nails were getting in the way.

And just to add to it all, my babies were by then growing faster everyday, which meant they were busier every day, which meant my whole house was busier. Keeping up with work, busy family life which included meals, laundry, cleaning, and homework, as well as trying to keep up with my own writing, meant something had to give – something I just didn’t have time for.

My nails.

Not only were they getting in the way with typing, at home and at work, but I didn’t have the time to keep up with them. I would let them grow a little bit to at least look a bit ‘girly,’ but long gone where all the bottles and tubes of nail-enhancing goo, and those little nail kits? Never mind those.

Now my kids are in their teens, and slowly my life is sort of becoming my own – sort of. But I’m a busy girl as I still have a house to run and, added to that, I have many writing projects on the go. I have a laptop at home, a mini laptop I carry with me and I type at work all day. Having long nails of any length really get in the way; slipping and sliding off the keys. And besides, I have too many other things in my life that still take up my time, and frankly, other things I would rather be spending my time on. I’m a writer, and for me that means no nails. And that’s fine.

And I just don’t really care anymore – or at least right now.

I’m not sad at the sight of my ‘unglamorous’ hands – the nails I, for so many years, desperately tried to have. These are writers’ hands, and I’m proud of them. Many writers, I’m sure, have lovely long nails they can wave around at writing conferences and look all professional and glamorous, and that’s fine. But I don’t know how they can type.

Now, along with a thesaurus at my side when I write, I have a notepad, pens, and nail clippers, always at the ready. A gift of a manicure is not what I need.

I guess it’s like I traded-in my nail polish and manicure set for a pen and keyboard – and I, along with my nails, are just fine with that.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Being Famous Doesn't Matter

I had already waited and waited and waited.

I had a feeling that they might come that day.

And on that day, I waited and paced and waited some more, watching the clock for the approximate time to arrive.

I knew the window of opportunity I had, give or take 15 minutes.

I knew that if I didn’t catch him, to beg him to just hand it over, that I would have to go elsewhere to pick it up the next day. I had already waited long enough – waiting another day would just NOT DO.

Who was I waiting for?

The mail carrier.

And what was I waiting for?

A box of books - and not just any old books.

My author copies of “Not Your Mother’s Book....On Being a Parent” (Publishing Syndicate, LLC) were enroute in the mail, and I was itching to get my hands on them. Two of my stories were published in the book, and I couldn’t wait to see them in print!

And I knew if the box was too big to fit in to the mailbox, the mail carrier would leave me one of those package-pick-up card-things to retrieve the box from the post office - the next day.

And I couldn’t let that happen. I knew if I was standing right there as he sorted the mail into the mail slots, I would have that box in my greedy little hands faster than he could evade a postal-carrier-hating dog.

So I waited and waited. I kept running up to the mailboxes to see if was there – nope. No mail carrier.

Then, while diligently working on The Next Great Bestselling Novel, I heard a truck. And whaddya know? It was the classic red and white Canada Post truck - in front of my house!

OH YAY!

Out the mail carrier ambled, carrying my really big box in his arms.

I jumped out of my chair faster than he could lope up my front sidewalk and flung open the door. I couldn’t believe he was actually bringing it right to my door! He must know I’m famous – that’s why!

“Hi!!!” I giddily sing-songed, trying not to jump up and down. He must have thought I was nuts (most people do, so this was not a big deal).

“Package for Lisa....” he started.

“Yes, that’s me!” I interrupted, all but tackling him for the box in his hands.

“That’ll be $25.10 for Customs...” he said.

Queue the sound of a needle scratching along a vinyl record.

“WHAT?” I screamed? (I didn’t really.)

“What?” I kindly, politely exclaimed in a lady-like, professional manner.

He glanced down at the accompanying paperwork.

“Yup, sorry to say, there’s a Customs charge of $25.10.”

Queue the sound of my shoulders slumping so hard I swear I dislocated a shoulder.

He took in my dislocated, shagging shoulder and said, “I’m really sorry about this – it really sucks, I know.” At least he was compassionate about it all.

But I swear he held it away from my desperate, quivering body, as though worried I would grab it and dash back in the house before he could collect.

Not only was I astounded that I had to pay anything at all, never mind that much, but I had no cash on me.

“I don’t have any cash. How about a cheque?” I brightened, smiling wide. I hoped my charm would do the trick.

“Nope, sorry - no cheques. It will be at the post office for pick-up tomorrow, though!” He tried to sweeten the moment with that consoling fact.

Um, the box is here, right now, in my front yard – I want it NOW! Not ‘tomorrow.’ I miserably whined in my head.

So with shoulders still slumped, I took the package-pick-up card-thing from him (I ended up getting one of those after all), and could only quietly watch as he walked away - carrying my box of books.

I turned away. I couldn’t bear to watch it go back in his truck.

And then he drove away.

It was awful. Talk about a kid being teased in a candy store. Or a dog teased with a bone. Or a.....

It was all too much for my famous self. I went back in the house and slumped around, waiting and watching the clock AGAIN, because I knew that the package would be ready for pick-up after 5:30, not TOMORROW.

So later that evening, after a stop at the bank and with package-pick-up card-thing in hand, I scurried to the post office just a few skips away. I held my breath as I handed over the package-pick-up card-thing, and.....there it was (big sigh of relief). I paid my dues then grabbed the box faster than the post office clerk could give me my receipt.

MINE! ALL MINE!!!! I wanted to cackle.

But my lady-like, professional, famous self would never cackle like that.

Maybe.


Not Your Mother’s Book....On Being a Parent (Publishing Syndicate, LLC, October 2013) has 68 light-hearted and funny stories about parenting and raising kids. Two of my stories, “Lessons Learned from Apollo 13” and “Saved by American Chop Suey” are featured in this new book that can be found at www.amazon.ca




Monday, September 9, 2013

What's That Smell?

My friend was having a garage sale and as we were VIP’s, we were invited to come the night before for her ‘early bird sale.’

YAY!

So off we went, money in hand, eager for a deal or two. My husband was on the hunt for vinyl records – the man of the garage-sale-house is an avid collector. And me? Well...I didn’t know what I was after.

We had lots of laughs and giggles as we perused her goodies. My husband did find some records, including a 45” vinyl of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ And while I purchased a bunch of toddler clothes for my sister’s kids, a new tote bag and some Tupperware for me, my boys graciously helped my friend by putting up signs on the street.

As we were leaving, we joked back and forth, “Hey, is this for sale?” My husband pointed to her potted plants outside. “Hey, what about this?” I pointed to her Christmas decorations stowed up in the rafters of the garage. “What about those shoes?” I pointed to her shoes by the garage door.

As we joked about her selling her worldly possessions, my husband pointed to a box.

“And what’s in there? Is that for sale, too?” My husband teased my friend, assuming it was something personal and not for sale. She had yet to really separate personal items from sale items in her garage.

It was an old-looking box with snap/secure closures and handle, and just big enough to be a....The hairs on the back of neck tingled.

“Oh, that’s for sale, too! That’s a typewriter.”

GULP!

I knew it!

As my husband picked up the case, I could tell by the weight it had to be ‘good.’ I started to get the shakes. He put it down on top of another box on the garage sale floor, and I kneeled before it, as though in prayer at an altar. Up close – OH THE SMELL! That old, musty, antiquey kind of smell! I flipped open the closures....and....

I flipped open the closures and slowly lifted the lid. The first glimpse of telltale keys had my heart quickening – and not just from the overpowering smell. I lifted the lid fully, and...

A Royal! A REAL LIVE ROYAL typewriter right in front of me!

And it was OLD!

I started laughing and crying all at once. You would too if you were a writer/antique lover. My friend, who isn’t a writer, thought I was nuts. My kids and their friend...well they already knew that about me.

I stroked the keys: classic raised ridges encircling the letters made me drool. The metal ribbon spools underneath the cover were shiny and pristine. And what looked like an instruction manual was clipped to the inside of the lid.

I didn’t care if worked, if it smelled, or if it was rigged with a listening device – I wanted it.

Through my tears I asked my friend “How much?”

She shrugged, still looking at me like I was nuts, “I don’t know...$20?”



I didn’t even need to look over at my husband for agreement on the price. I didn’t even need to respond with a cry-muffled “I’ll take it.”

“We’ll take it.” Was all I heard him say.

Money was exchanged. I hugged her, my husband, and grinned at my kids who I could barely see through eyes that were blurred with tears. I didn’t need to be able to see them clearly – I knew they were looking at me like I was nuts.

We got it home, I cranked up the Rick Springfield 45” record, and opened the box, again.

Oh the glory - OH THE WONDER!

This wasn’t going to be scrapped for parts like so many do for jewelry or decor. This was going to be displayed, loved, and drooled over (note: drool is not good for antiques.)

What I thought was an instruction manual clipped to the inside was actually a guarantee/warranty between seller and buyer, from Duncan, BC, dated in typical perfect 1930’s handwritten script of that time, dated November 16, 1937.

And it was mine – ALL MINE!

I dusted it off, and ceremoniously placed it beside my other antique typewriter, a Smith Corona from the 50’s (both beside an iphone charger sitting on the same shelf). After a sigh, a few sniffles, and a flip of the 45” record now sitting idle on the turntable, I took the carrying case downstairs and put it in our bedroom which has become a kind of storage place for things we don’t know what to do with.

Later, I sat down on the couch for an evening of R&R after my night of excitement. Rick Springfield was safely tucked back away in its records’ sleeve, and MY Royal typewriter was just off to the side, the recipient of my ever-loving glances.

Sniff sniff. “What’s that smell?” A few of the menfolk of my house complained.

“Oh, it’s just the typewriter. It’s VERY old and VERY mine. The old smell will go away in a bit.”

Later when I went to my bedroom....sniff sniff. UGH! What’s that smell! The whole bedroom smelled of ‘OLD!’

I realized it was the carrying case, and although closed, it really stank.

So I put it in the crawlspace where it could stink all it wanted, in there.

The next morning when I went up to the living room where my BEAUTIFUL ROYAL typewriter was, I barely got up the stairs when....sniff sniff...UGH! What’s that smell?

The typewriter had stunk up the whole living room.

Well THAT is definitely NOT going in the crawlspace, NO SIREE! I live in a house of three men and one cat. If I have to put up with them, they can put up with the smell of a beautiful antique, I figured.

After numerous complaints over the next day or so, a few ‘mountain fresh’ scented dryer sheets were placed underneath it, hoping to ward off the smell.

Gradually, and with my ears plugged from listening to the complaints of the smell, the smell subsided – a bit. I have been actively researching how to de-stink antiques, but without much luck.

So there it still sits, finally loved again after being stored away for so long....with dryer sheets tucked all around it.

Good thing I have a brand new box.









Monday, September 2, 2013

Keeping in Touch While At Pender Island

The BC Ferry Queen of Cumberland toot-tooted its arrival. ‘We’re here!!!’ I squealed, clapping my hands. The truck full of men I was in didn’t mimic my girlish excitement. Let me clarify – the truck of men including a 17 and 13-year-old. Yes, they were excited to be on our adventure, but I’m the minority, and my antics sometimes embarrass them.

The ferry wobbled and shook as it docked at the Pender Island Ferry Terminal. It was evening, so all we could see, other than the cars waiting to board to leave the beautiful island, were rocky beaches flanked with Douglas firs, cedars and arbutus – everything the Gulf Islands are known for. I was anxious to explore the beaches – I hoped to see pods upon pods of Orca whales.

There are no skyscrapers, no office-buildings, no big-box stores lining the streets of outdoor shopping malls. Yes, there is a little shopping area, Driftwood Center, complete with grocery store, pharmacy, bookstore and little cafes, to name a few necessities, but we were there to slow-down and get away from it all, and to ‘be one with nature.’ Oh, and of course, to be together as a family without any outside distractions. We were kind of looking forward to being ‘cut-off’ from the world as we knew it, for a bit.

Ahem – saying all that, however, the three men in the car were actively texting from their cell-phones as fast as they could. We weren’t sure what kind of cell-reception we would get on the island, never mind at our campsite.

To be fair, the island isn’t completely cut-off from the e-world as we know it. Business’ I had looked-up online have, obviously, a website listing email addresses and phone numbers. They aren’t totally behind the times as many might think.

But like I said, we were there to get away from it all, to explore one of the Gulf Islands we had heard so much about, and to disconnect and be together as a family, if only for a few days.

We made our way down the winding streets of North Pender Island looking for our campground. It was dark and with only a few streetlights to guide our way. We had never been there before, so even looking for the campsite was an adventure in itself.

‘Look on the bright side - lucky for us it’s not raining.’ I chirped to my now quiet men-folk. We knew we were going to have set up camp in the dark.

We found the campground, wound our way along the gravel campground path in the pitch-black of night, and found our campsite – the same campsite I had reserved online. We couldn’t see much - the morning light would show us what kind of site we had. We set up without much angst; our Coleman lantern lit the way. And after me jumping up and down and clapping my hands, ‘We’re here, WE’RE HERE!’(I’d like to note that my three men, in their cool, aloof, macho way truly WERE excited, as well), we crawled into our tents. The fun was about to begin!

The next morning while all three men snored the tarp right off the tents, I crawled out of ours with only one thing on my mind – outhouse. And yes, when in nature ‘do as the deer-do’ and all that, but...

And not that I was overly ANXIOUS to experience the wilds of an outhouse, but....

The morning light revealed the most perfect campsite - never mind campground - there was to see. I knew there was cold running water from a tap, perfect for washing my hair, and other than outhouses, I knew we were going to be roughing it – despite being only a few minute’s drive from the Driftwood Center (the bakery was also calling my name). I guess you can’t fully take the ‘city’ outta me...

So I made my way around the campground, most anxiously looking for the telltale little hut with only 4-feet within which to move around. No wonder they make them so small – who wants to spend a lot of time in there, anyways?

Business quickly done – thank God – I explored the grounds a little further. There was so much that we didn’t see when we first pulled in the night before: fir trees covered in Grandpa’s beard moss, Shelf mushrooms happily multiplying on the sides of cedars, and the red bark of Arbutus trees peeling away to reveal younger red bark underneath (I wish that would happen to me).

Ahhhh, sweet bliss: to be away - from everyone and everything, I sighed.

(I also wondered if I could make it to the Driftwood Center for a coffee and bakery treat before the men-folk woke up.)

My meanderings found me at the campground entrance, and by then I figured I better head back.

But then....BUT THEN!

What is that? I sure as heck didn’t see THAT when we first pulled in the night before!

A payphone! A REAL LIVE PAYPHONE! With a digital screen displaying dialing instructions – yes, I guess those are needed nowadays. And what’s that? $1 per 15 minute call!? What the heck happened to 25¢ a call and blab forever? (It should be noted here that it took me forever to find that ‘cent’ symbol – even THOSE are going out of style!)

Cities like Victoria, where we live, are a maze of busy streets. The sidewalks are laden with folks bustling about - with their heads down. Their cellphones, iPhones, iPods, or iPads – whatever gizmo is the trend du jour – have them crashing into lamp posts. And with all the electronic means of communication able to fit into pockets, purses or briefcases, one thing has become almost extinct in many parts – the payphone.

Okay, let’s be honest – the near extinction of the payphone is not only due to the advent and social rush of social media on social-impeding gizmos. Illegal activity is partly to blame for the extinction of the seemingly archaic invention of communication. Rarely do I see a payphone anymore. I’m sure my kids have never even used one.

I knew it was there for emergencies – smart thing to have. But wow! I truly didn’t expect THAT when ‘roughing it.’ I hadn’t seen one for years!

Still musing about the payphone-sighting, I did, indeed, go to the bakery and sit with a coffee - I was on vacation, after all, despite ‘camping.’ I was relaxing - being away from it all - and marveled at the rare sighting (I never would see any whales).

And low and behold, I got cell-phone reception.




Sunday, August 25, 2013

The ‘Find Lost Kitty’ Plan – A Lesson in Community

We had done it a million times before; leaving the front door open for JUST a second. But she usually didn’t care. We would run in to grab ‘one more thing,’ and then scoot out the door, firmly locking it behind us. And she really didn’t care. Sure, she might come and investigate, but she had food, water, a comfy blankie - she had it made on the ‘inside.’ What was so much better for her on the ‘outside?’

But then, one day, the unthinkable happened.

She got out.

Sam, the indoor-only, seven-year old, collar-less kitty, was gone.

Like GONE GONE - that kind of gone.

She must have seen something REALLY good out there, like another cat, a raccoon or a deer, and when the timing was right, and the door was open – if only for a second – she bolted.

She had only ever been outside once before, and at that time she had barely got past our front yard, so stiff with fear she was of the great outdoors. But this time, fear meant nothing to her. There was no finding her.

We searched high and low – under neighbours’ decks, in bushes, in garages – everywhere. Not a fuzzy kitty in sight.

With heavy hearts, my three men slouched around the house. Every sound outside had them running to the windows, scanning the grounds with hope. Every time we drove through our parking lot, all eyes scanned the bushes for a fuzzy little kitty.

I know everyone was thinking the worst, not daring to speak dreadful thoughts. I tried to keep their hopes up and thoughts positive, but it was hard.

Sam came to us from a local pet store, Pets West. As she came to the pet store via Victoria Animal Control (rescue) one of my sons wondered – did she have a chip or tattoo that we didn’t know about?

So as requested, and only on faint-hope whim, I hustled to the pet store. Maybe they did, by chance, have a record of her being chipped or tattooed. A chip or tattoo wouldn’t find her, but if someone took her to the animal shelter, it might be easy to identify her. I secretly hoped they had implanted a microscopic GPS somewhere on our feline friend.

Meghan, sales clerk of Pets West, said they didn’t have any record of such on our kitty, but told me to call animal control to see what they knew. I later did check, but with no luck....

BUT.....

Meghan gave us something more.

A bit of hope.

After handing me Sam’s file number and the phone number for animal control, she gave me a few pointers. She suggested I send her a photo and details of our lost kitty, and not only would she set up a ‘lost kitty’ notification of Facebook – lots of ‘shares’ of lost pets has helped in the past – but she would also post an ad on the stores’ website. AND she would post a ‘lost kitty’ poster in their store.

Wow.

WOW!

I raced home and shared the news with my heartbroken men. I recanted the ‘Find Lost Kitty’ plan, but sprinkled it with ‘no promises.’ But it gave them hope. The thought that someone was doing SOMETHING lifted their spirits. They were most, most surprised that someone would go out of their way to do all that.

So with details sent to Meghan, and ‘lost kitty’ posters around our neighborhood, all we could do was wait. And hope. And keep our paws crossed.

Two days later, I had two emails. One was from Meghan confirming her facebook/website work, and the other from a concerned animal lover - a total stranger - who saw the advertisements. Not only did she express her concern for our family, but she also gave a few tips to enhance our ‘Find Lost Kitty’ plan. Facebook was full of ‘shares’ and comments from other concerned folks – folks we didn’t know.

When I shared these emails with my family they, too, were overwhelmed. It amazed us that so much was being done for us, and by people we didn’t know.

It was a lesson in community. In folks lookin’ out for other folks. It gave us all a bit of hope, that maybe, MAYBE someone would see some trace of our furry Sam. We weren’t paying anyone to do this, we didn’t know any of these people. Everyone’s actions and concerns overwhelmed us.

Days went by and not a tuft of hair was to be seen. At the recommendation of many, I left her favorite blankie outside, in the hope that her smell/homing beacon would kick-in. Nothing.

Then....

A week and 17 hours later, there she was. Sitting in our parking stall when my one of my son’s and husband came home after a Slurpee run (not that Slurpees have anything to do with it, but I felt it should be noted here.)

Without barely any coaxing, Sam willingly came to my husband, and silently, and without excitement for fear of scaring her, we carried her in the house.

And locked the door – double checking it five times over.

As I write this, Sam is happy and healthy and is wearing her first collar ever, complete with engraved tag and a bell – just in case.

And the way she is sulking around with the unfamiliar ‘noose’ around her neck, the bell and tag tinkling with every step, I suspect she’s thinking –

“And I came home for THIS?”







A special shout-out and thanks goes to Meghan and other supportive staff at Pets West, as well as all the folks on facebook who lifted us up when we needed it!









Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Fall Workshop hosted by the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America


With Vanessa Grant, Alethea Spiridon Hopson of Entangled Publishing, and Emily Sylvan Kim of the Prospect Agency

When: November 2, 2013, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)
Where: Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo
Cost: $20 RWA Members; $30 Non-RWA Members; $40.00 if registering after October 19th or at the door. Lunch, coffee, and tea is included.

Session 1—Character-Driven Plotting
In this workshop, Vanessa explores character-driven plotting, and the technique of using the hero and heroine’s personal territory to build a bridge between character and conflict. We all want the magic formula to work: characters + conflict = a great story. Sometimes, we need a little help, and adding a territorial imperative to the mix could be exactly what your story needs.

Session 2—Pacing to Maintain Tension
Pacing a book involves finding the balance between showing and telling, between emotional intensity and distance, between slow and fast. Vanessa makes this complex technical subject clear with graphic examples. Topics include time and the writer: story time, reader time, and writer time; the simple rule that covers it all; and how pacing relates to viewpoint and narrative style.

Vanessa Grant is the author of 29 novels written for Harlequin and Zebra, and has over 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide. She is also the author of the award-winning Writing Romance, which is in its third edition. Vanessa is currently working on the first book in a new mystery series, while re-releasing her backlist in eBook and print on demand formats.


Pitch Appointments
Pitch appointments, via Skype, will be available with Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Editorial Director of Indulgence and Senior Editor at Entangled Publishing, as well as with Emily Sylvan Kim of the Prospect Agency. Pitch appointment are on a first come, first serve basis. Space is limited!

To Register: Visit the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America www.vicrwa.ca

Friday, August 2, 2013

I’m no Einstein

I can’t do math. That’s it – end of discussion.

I write stuff - I can do that. And I can knit. And I can have babies. And I can organize a house of four to be out the door on time.
But I can’t, don’t, won’t do math. It makes me cry.

My mathematical affliction would make Einstein cry, as well.

As a 40-something (who’s counting?) mother of two, you’d think I would have matured and progressed, mathematically speaking, from the practices of an elementary kid.

Not at all.

My problems can be an embarrassment, but I manage to hide it well. Only those close to me know of my ailment. They understand and are patient. Having a husband whose middle name should legally be changed to ‘Math’ comes in handy; I just ask him stuff. I wonder if he’s related to Einstein. In fact, anyone who can do math makes me wonder of if they’re related to the genius.

When out-and-about sans the math genius, I resort to writing a problem in long-hand on an old receipt from my purse while adding and subtracting on my fingers. I forget that my simple-for-Lisa cell phone has a calculator. But even if I did remember, I would get too flustered to use it. I’m not very up on technology. I have to be in a calm, serene environment for something like that to work.

And then despite my highly academic problem-solving techniques, I usually call my husband for assistance. On the rare time he hasn’t been available, I have hid in the bathroom of the store trying to figure out how many eggs are needed for a recipe I am tripling. Trying to concentrate on my techniques in a busy grocery store aisle is impossible. Plus, I couldn’t very well let anyone see my intricate math process, nor could I ask a complete stranger what 12 multiplied by 3 was, now could I?

Like it was yesterday, I remember spending countless nights at the kitchen table crying over my math homework. I get sick to my stomach remembering. Somehow I struggled through and graduated grade 12, but only by the skin of my teeth when it came to math. I took the most remedial courses I could get into – just to get by. But put me in an accelerated English class and I was a wiz. Go figure.

And don’t get me started on helping my own kids with their math homework. I was supportive and all-knowing and as helpful as I could be through their elementary years, but whenever they mentioned they had math for homework, I dove for the Immodium. Luckily for all of us, my math-lacking-gene wasn’t passed on to them, and we/they got by. Usually we had to wait for ‘dad to get home.’

Back in the day, places like McDonald’s didn’t have electronic or computerized equipment – even in the early 80’s. Teens like my husband whose first job was at the golden arches, had to – GASP – manually write out and tally each customer’s order - with tax and everything! And then (and this part makes me extra nauseous just thinking about it), they would have to count back change! “And two makes four, and three makes six, and ten makes eight.” Blech!

I could have never worked at McDonald’s in the early 80’s – I would have been fired after the first five minutes.
But by the late 80’s, the world was starting to change. My first job, as well, was at the golden arches and technology was surfacing. They had electronic tills that not only calculated the tax for me, but also tallied the amount of change I had to give back to the customer. Luckily I was born when I was because if I had been born a few years earlier and had to manually calculate all that, I would never have been employed. Even in later years when applying for retail jobs, I ensured that not only was the till electronic or computerized (and not too difficult to operate), but also that I didn’t have to count-back change; “Sorry, I don’t count-back change – and that’s just the way it is.” Luckily for me, I always lucked-out and was lucky enough to fall into jobs that luckily fit all my specifications. You can’t put a price on luck (I wouldn’t be able to apply tax to the price of luck, anyways).
Now I work in an office. It’s much easier.

So somehow I get by. Somehow.

We have an old McDonald’s order slip from non-technology-days-gone-by. When I see it, I cringe at what might have been – I never would have survived working there, or anywhere, if I had to resort to using that. The Math Genius saved it as a memento, and after finding it in storage a few years ago, it’s been hanging on a cork board ever since. Someone told me I should frame such a piece of history. I get preserving history and all that, but why hang something in my house that makes my stomach turn at the thought of what might have been?
So these days, I somehow get by - somehow.

I rely on pen and paper, the math whiz at my house, and a solar calculator. I try to use the one on my computer, but I always mess it up. I sort of get-by with the technological and computerized gizmos made for people like me, but even stuff like that sends me into a state of intestinal spasm.





I feel bad for Albert Einstein. After all the ground-breaking work he did all those years ago, all those bad-hair days, and people like me can’t appreciate math – don’t get math. He’d be upset.

If he were around, I’d buy him a Big Mac, large fries and a Coke to make up for it. But if the power was out and the tills didn’t work, and the poor clerk who is like me couldn’t add our order because she just DOESN’T do math (never mind my husband being unavailable to assist), I’d make poor old Albert do it.

And then steal some of his fries.