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....


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.



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.


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

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.