Monday, June 24, 2013

The 'Maybe' Dress

It’s not like I didn’t know the day was coming.

I mean, not only had we known about it for the last 17 years, but 13 first days of school, countless school lunches, and too many late homework nights, surely should have been a reminder that the day would inevitably come; my son’s high school graduation day

And yes, the day IS all about him: what he wears (suit), what he does (party). But nostalgia, sentimentality and celebrations aside, the day is also a bit about me – what I’m going to wear.

A few months ago when I mentioned the coming day to my friend, her first response was “You’re gonna have to get a dress!” And honestly, at that point, I hadn’t really thought about it. I should have been a tad more proactive with that timely warning. But time and budget, both in small amounts, had me panicking two weeks before his big day. I had no choice; I had to get something. I don’t have a lot of fancy clothes, and what I do have is worn and dated. I don’t shop a lot – time and money has been spent on 17 years of child-rearing - so I was out of touch and out of practice. I was dreading it.

I started with one store and tried on five dresses. I hated them all. Of course the changing room mirrors didn’t help.

Exhausted and frustrated after all the changing of clothes, I put back the ‘duds’ and was about to leave when I spotted it – a ‘possibility.’ I didn’t have the energy or heart to try on yet another dress, but I needed to try.


The price was right and it fit okay; it would have to do. Thankful the task was over, I skipped home and hosted my own fashion show for my men.

They were kind and sweet, as complimentary and interested as three men can be about a dress. I strutted and twirled and checked-out every mirror in the house.

And suddenly - I hated it. I thought I could make it work with a throw or a wrap, a few safety pins here and there, and of course, sparkly accessories...but no. I wouldn’t take it back to the store just yet, however. I had one more weekend and one more store in my price range to visit. If all else failed, I would wear the dress I bought and make do.

...and cringe for all eternity as every time I would look at the photos from my son’s graduation, I would remember, “Oh, there’s that dress I hated so much.”

So the next weekend, the LAST weekend before the big day, I hit the pavement again. With my sister as support via cell phone, I marched into the store with a determination that would make any General going into battle, jealous. I flitted from rack to rack, my sister’s words of encouragement in my ear.

And then I found it. THE DRESS.

With six dresses in hand this time – I found five others I thought I should try – I said goodbye to my sister, and hustled into the change room.

I tried on THE DRESS, and it fit perfectly; no pins needed, no wraps or shawls needed to cover-up certain flabby parts.

I tried on the others, just in case. One was a ‘maybe.’ I hummed and hawed, trying them on again. I texted my sister from the change room, announcing I had found THE ONE. The ‘maybe’ was kind of growing on me, but THE ONE was best. I hoped/wondered if either/both were on sale. I couldn’t decide between the two. THE ONE fit just perfectly, but I was having doubts. There was just something ‘off’ about it. The ‘maybe’ was just that, a maybe. I couldn’t decide on either, so strong was my loyalty to THE ONE.

I was tired, stressed, and getting very short on time. I hustled to the cashier, and ta da! Both were on sale. I now had three dresses, and knew I would be returning one, if not two.

But I was in even more of a dilemma. What if whichever one I chose for the big day decided be a dud after all? I didn’t want to spend the day tugging, pulling and adjusting, worrying about every little flab and bulge.

But time was of the essence. The mall was closing in fifteen minutes, and I had to make one more stop in the mall. I could decide on which dress later.

As I charged through the mall, I stopped short. The dress of my dreams called to me through a store window. “Oh my God! That’s IT!” I wanted to cry. I ran in, oblivious to what store I was in. The sales lady with her power suit and over-sprayed hair assessed me over the rim of her glasses. I was in a high-end boutique, clearly out of my element.

I found the dress, and seeing the price tag, I swallowed a gag. Yes, one might say, ‘If you could afford three dresses, maybe you could afford that one if you returned the others.’ Um, no - not quite. The graduate would have to be sold for me to afford it.

With the sales clerk eyeing me, I tightened my pony tail, straightened my cat-hair-covered jacket, prayed she wouldn’t see the hole in the toe of my running shoe, and as regally as I could, exited the store. But I realized one critical error in my part. One thing I should have noticed before walking through the mall and entering such a ritzy boutique.

My shorts were on inside out.

It was time to go home. The girdle I needed would have to wait

In the end, two dresses were returned. The one I kept after all that? The ‘maybe.’

It wasn’t overly fancy. Nothing ‘fell out’ like in the first dress, nor did I feel matronly like when wearing THE ONE. The ‘maybe’ was comfortable; it was ‘me,’ it had a built-in tummy tuck panel, and it was just right.

I was happy – the graduation could proceed.

(it might not look like the fanciest dress in this picture, but it's actually really nice)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Like Big Boats and I CAN-NOT Lie...

I saw THEM before anything else. Well, what do you expect when they are 61 meters tall?

I was ambling along Courtney Street in downtown Victoria, BC, minding my own business as I usually always do. I made my way towards Wharf Street, anxious to get to the harbour – the water always calls me.

Usually along Wharf Street, I sidestep tourists and tip-toe around horse droppings. The smell of the waterfront fish ‘n chip restaurants often tempt me to dine while watching the harbour planes take off and land.

And yes, the smell of fish ‘n chips can still be alluring despite being downwind from passing horse carriages.

But one day as I came out of the shadows of the old customs building on the corner of Courtney and Wharf, I gasped – and not from the smell of fresh horse droppings stewing in the sun. All the usual distractions instantly disappeared because before me was something that overwhelmed everything and everyone else around the harbour.

Three tall masts stood out like sore thumbs – but in a good way. Sure there had been the famous Tall Ships visiting in the past (think the ship from Pirates of the Caribbean). And sure the docks had only JUST been over-run by Swiftsure, the international yacht race held every year. And sure many naval ships had graced the docks before attracting attention from far and wide.

But that day ‘Athena’ was in port, and nothing else mattered.

Victoria’s harbour seemed like a baby’s bathtub what with the 295 foot long sailing ship moored at its docks. The folks at the Victoria Harbour Authority must have been having a fit, what with the boat able to displace 1000 tons of water.

As I would later read online, the ship is classed as one of the largest sailing ships in the world. But was it a yacht? What sailing ship has a movie theatre, a library, and room to carry a crew of 18 and 12 guests?

Everyone else on the sidewalks were exclaiming at the sight of the big boat. I had to get closer – and I had my camera.

As I made my way down, part of the deck of the big boat lifted up as though two interlocking flaps on the top of a box of crackers. Out came an arm-like crane carrying a boat - another boat INSIDE the boat! Crew skittered around, cleaning this, tying that. The sun glinted off the perfectly shined railings, the dark wood decor, inside and out, made my dining room set look like a grimy fast food restaurant.

Folks on the docks were mesmerized. Cameras were out, people joked about the size and extravagance of it all. A camera guy from the local news was there, and of course I sidled up to him, aching to see what kind of info I could get. He, too, was itching to know more. He had just done a segment on the boat, and was hoping to get on board for a closer look. Maybe I could follow him as his ‘assistant,’ I thought. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Plus I was on my lunch break from work.

Oh right – work.

So I snuck down to some lower docks as best I could to get as many photos as I could – short of being arrested. I leaned, twisted and turned to get the coolest photos I could. I am not a ‘boat’ enthusiast, per se, and despite having lived around water much of my life, I know nothing about them. They are nice and pretty, and can be fun to ride on when they don’t sink. But that’s all I know.

I was leaning over the railings, trying to get THE BEST SHOT EVER, when I was hit! Splattered on! Pummeled by something wet! Others around me exclaimed! Seagulls!! We’re being attacked!

I couldn’t believe it! I had to go back to work – like this! I ran my hand over my head, knowing I was covered in white you-know-what. I couldn’t go back to work like this! I was sure everyone around me, those not covered in the gooey white mess, that is, were laughing at the stupid girl covered in seagull missiles. The seagulls, too, I was sure, were having a great laugh.

I pulled my hand away, and nothing. Just white, foamy...bubbles. It was soap!

I looked up, and way up in the sky a guy was tethered to one of the masts. Droplets kept coming down from his perch, denser than rain, and the smell of cleaner filled the air. He with his bird’s eye view was simply cleaning the masts. The masts! As if they needed cleaning! What about ME! Look at me!

Oh well, at least I was clean – and getting great photos to show for it.

But why clean the masts? They are ONLY masts. No one can even SEE up there. I get the whole ‘keeping a boat in ship-shape’ and all that, but I guess, as I would later learn, a boat up for sale for a cool $95 million needs to be clean.

Yes, rumors were swirling around the city surrounding the tiny harbour. Word on the cobblestone streets of Victoria were that the big boat had been sold and was here for a cleaning before heading up to its new owner in Alaska. Now don’t quote me on that. Rumors are just that – rumors.

Every day after that, I kept going down to the harbour anxious to get more photos before it left. A daily peek from my fifth-floor office window told me it was still there. I could see the masts high above the rooftops.

As I steered clear of any seagulls or mast-cleaning crew, I made my way to the opposite side of the harbour, keen on getting more photos (to what I would do with all these photos, I didn’t know). And as if karma, or whatever, was making up for me being hit with cleaning fluid, I happened to be there at the right time. An old sailing ship happened to come into port. Cousins of the sailing world all rallied together in the water that could tell stories to feed the gossiping locals. The ‘Athena,’ a yacht, a water taxi and the old sailing ship all bobbed in the historic waters of the harbour. I sometimes forget to admire the other boats around the harbour. I see them all the time, but I never really LOOK at them. I guess I sometimes take what is around me for granted

As I walked away, likely the last time I might ever see such a boat, I had the cliché running through my head - good things come in all sizes, big or small, tall or short. Everything has it's place in this world - enjoy everything for what it is. Even the greatest things come in small packages.

(For more pictures of the 'Athena,' please visit my 'photo gallery')

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Little Light on the Subject, Please.....

I treasure my early morning walks of solitude. I go year-round in rain, snow, sleet or hail. Depending on the time of year, I’m hitting the pavement before the sun himself finally rolls out of bed after hitting the snooze button one too many times. Lazy planet - sheesh.

I stay in well-lit areas as there are times I am just NOT in the mood for being abducted by the bogeyman. But those early mornings before the sun, and people, get out bed is the best time to see stuff - wildlife. And one neighborhood I trek through, one of hand-clipped lawns, freshly painted fences and tarp-covered RV’s bigger than my house gracing their driveways, where I always seem to find the best of nature.

I do see a lot of wildlife in my own back yard, but to see the variety I do, as often as I do, all in this area makes me wonder – did Dr. Doolittle retire there?

In one visit I have seen deer, racoons, rabbits, cats, and quail. They scurry through lawns, hide under cars, munch on prized gardens, and pick through garbage. And yes, although cats are not technically ‘wildlife’ as the astute will correct me, given the nearby nature sanctuary over-run by feral cats, I include them in my list.

So there.

I have been startled by an owl’s ominous shadow trailing the road a he flies under a streetlight. Strange birds chirp at me as I motor by, and something – a hawk, eagle or vulture, not sure – always glowers at me as I walk past the pole he or she guards. Even the moths can seem daunting, their shadows cast on the pavement below the light they are attracted to makes them seem 40 times their size. And trust me, sudden fluttering shadows at 4:30 am in the morning can be rather alarming.

But as the seasons change, the sun decides to set his alarm a little bit earlier (early bird catches the worm, and all that), and approaching summer means it’s a bit lighter as I head out to Dr. Doolittle’s neighborhood. Every morning the animals slowly dwindle in numbers – more light means more people, and things always look much different than they did in the dark.

Some of the trees don’t look so ominous and craggily, and some of those lawns aren’t as a manicured as I thought. What I thought was an über-fancy car hidden under a form-fitted tarp is really just an old beater. A little light on the subject always changes everything.

As I trekked along one morning, the early morning sunrise making stepping around wandering caterpillars a little easier, I saw a mound of something on someone’s lawn. Careful not to step on the grass, and careful to ensure the mound was not the result of one of Dr. Doolittle’s creatures, I leaned over and picked up what I soon realized was a formed mass of twigs and leaves – a nest! I scanned the lawn for eggshells and any inhabitants who might be amiss, but all was clear. The few remnants of shells on the bottom told me this was vacated long ago.

What a find! I knew no one was going to use it now. It was so far from a tree that trying to put it back in the same place for next years' returning guests wasn’t going to work. I knew it would likely end up in the garbage so I took it home as I knew some boys at my house would really appreciate seeing it.

Caked together with mud and poo, the twigs wove round and round, the middle a soft pillow of what looked like dryer lint, rabbit fur, and feathers. The soft bed had me wishing for my pajamas - curling up inside the nest for a nap was tempting (not that I would fit or anything).

As I headed home with the nest, the sun fully awake and enjoying his coffee, I started having deep philosophical thoughts comparing the nest to life and writing. Twig by twig, a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a whole bunch of determination, hard work and perseverance, and in the end of you have something to be proud of. I started to go on and on, forgetting to watch for caterpillars, but I stopped myself.

Life’s too short to be constantly over-analyzing things. Take it for what it is, enjoy it for what it is – it’s a nest. Leave it at that. Life's too complicated as is, what with the sun casting shadows when you least want them. Just enjoy the little things for what they are.

Funny what a little light shed on the matter can do. (I guess I got a little philosophical after all)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Return of the Carriage Return

Sometimes when I’m supposed to be writing, I get side-tracked by the internet. I then chastise myself for doing so because I have then lost valuable writing minutes – precious minutes I have painfully sought out in my busy life. The smart writers shut off the internet component of their computers in the spirit of productivity, but in the spirit of ‘research’ and sometimes needed an occasional mental diversion, I leave mine on.

I’m not technologically ‘sound.’ I have an ancient cell phone I don’t want to upgrade, an e-reader that is barely used, and an iPod with songs I haven’t updated in 4 years. My laptop is basic with no bells and whistles, but I would DIE if it died. I will always carry notebooks and pencils.

Yet I really want an iPad.

And with all these gadgets at my disposal, I am technologically weak – no time, patience or understanding of how to properly use or update these things. I want and need them, they help me get by every day, but the time needed to sit and update/upgrade these things is precious time to write.

As long as I don’t surf the net while I’m writing.

I am one big confused technological contradiction.

One (of my many) my favorite sites is, a local online buy-and-sell site. I (honestly) don’t spend hours browsing; there are just two things I really only ever look for, unless there is a household need (like a canoe, for example – everyone needs a canoe). I browse through the purses for sale - and typewriters.

Yes, typewriters.

I dreamed of owning a good old fashioned typewriter, complete with carriage return lever, typebars and ribbons. Oh and don’t forget the little bell that dings when reaching the end of a sentence, telling you it’s time to push over the carriage. That’s the best part!

And why did I want one? I’m an amateur antique collector, and what writer doesn’t have a REAL typewriter? When the power goes out, laptops are only as good as the charged-battery and sometimes it’s nice to work on another medium. Although I have to say, my typing speed goes way, WAY down when having to push down the keys SO FAR – and the delete key isn’t where it should be.

So after eons of searching I found one at a great deal – a 1952 Smith Corona Silent (LC Smith & Corona Typewriters Inc, Made in the USA). I emailed the owner who was asking $47, and my bartering skills talked him down to $45 – a savings of $2! We e-shook hands over email, I shut down my laptop and with address in hand, my husband and I headed out. I swear he drove like a tortoise on the way there – I was too excited, and too impatient. I could have gotten there faster myself, but it’s always wise to take someone with you in these scenarios. The last thing I needed was to end up as a story on the internet as a missing person; I knew my husband wouldn’t have a decent photo of me to share.

Although any publicity is good publicity for a writer.


We found the house. The typewriter owner, a lawyer in his previous life who wore a purple beanie because he loves purple (there’s a story in there somewhere), reluctantly sold it to me. He was torn in his decision to sell - he had tinkered with it over the years, writing in spurts, but as he had a laptop and too much stuff in his house, he knew he had to let it go. Telling him I was a writer and that I would take care of it sealed the deal.

Money was exchanged, hands were shook, and as the lawyer gave a sad little wave to his typewriter, we hopped in the car with the typewriter securely on my lap. This time I wanted the ‘driver’ to drive like a tortoise so I could cherish the moment. It needed a bit of dusting (the typewriter, not the driver), but other than a small dent it was in perfect working condition. A few letters typed on the piece of paper already in the roller told me all was well.

But in my excitement during the exchange, I didn’t read what was already typed on the paper.

Where most people would type abc or their names with the real adventurous typing the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, he, or to be specific, the ‘typewriter’, sent me a message:

Hello, I’m so glad someone wants to use me again.


We got home all too soon, and as I do every time I walk in the house, plunking whatever I’m carrying on the kitchen table by the front door, I gingerly placed my typewriter on the kitchen table for me to further inspect. I gushed over it for a bit, but as I had things to do like cooking and cleaning, there was no time to play.

As I dashed by throughout the day while doing my chores, my fingers would occasionally tap a deep key, my hand pushing the carriage return lever for fun.

It wasn’t till much later in the day that I stopped for a moment to check my email on my laptop; the same laptop that had sat all day on the kitchen table beside its ancient, ancient cousin, the typewriter.

Talk about contradiction. Talk about the ‘circle of life.’

I realized that sometimes in order to go forwards, we need to go backwards. Maybe writing on something without the lure of technology and internet would get me further. But without the internet, I wouldn’t have found the typewriter in the first place. But without my laptop and internet, I wouldn’t be sharing my (long) story with you. But without the typewriter, we might not be where we are today. And without my new/old typewriter, I might not have had a story to write.

So for now, I write on my laptop, dust my typewriter, and listen to 4-year-old songs on my iPod.

Excuse me – I have to go buy some more pencils.