Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Warning - No Baking This Year

I'm not being a ‘Scrooge.’ I'm not depressed, bitter, resentful, neglectful or any other label that could be applied to my lack of enthusiasm or 'tradition-keeping' regarding the matter at hand. It's not that I don't care, nor is it that I have lost the joy, spirit or fun of the season.

This year I guess I’m just trying to focus on the NOW. I have a lot on my plate and my family is growing up, out and beyond my little nest. I am trying to stay afloat among the challenges and changes, and with Christmas only once a year - and the traditions from our own Christmas' past changing right along with my family - I want to focus and hold on to the NOW, without it all being one big rushed blur.
Warning - there will be no baking this year.

REPEAT: There will be no baking, as in the verb, this year. But we will have baking, the noun, in the house, but I just won’t have made any of it.

Yup, you heard it here first. I'm not doing any Christmas baking this year, and if my family is reading this (which is doubtful, given their busy lives), this will be the first they will be hearing of it, as well.

I might, if I find the time, cave and do one or two very easy little things but other than that I’m just….not.

I don't have the time, and honestly – let’s be real, here – the stores make better stuff than I do.

In past years I would take a day off work to bake all day and then spend the weekend (with what little time I had, at that) getting goodies in the oven. I love it – I do – and I would plan, shop, concoct, sort, and scheme special recipes and their special ingredients. New recipes would be anticipated and tested, where tried-and-true good ole stand-by’s would be whipped up from memory. Then there would be the hide-and-seek game, a game I prayed every year I would win by the time Christmas arrived. Not only would I have to hide the end-products from the ‘gluttonous ones’ who reside in my house, but I would also have to hide recipe-specific chocolate and candies. If I didn’t, the yummy ingredients would be devoured before I could even get around to using them, and anything I DID manage to get baked and out of the oven to cool would be eaten sooner than I could clean the cookie dough off the spoon (if I didn’t eat it first, of course). Yes, it’s a compliment, but....

I know it all sounds rather stressful, I know. Some might say Why bother if it’s like THAT? My answer: I love doing it – I do. I love the creative side of baking and I love having goodies for my men and any guests who dare visit my crazy house. The cookbooks and specialty magazines that come out once a year send me into a spin – I love them all and can spend countless hours going through them.

But this year I guess I’m taking a break from it all. The cookie sheets, cookie cutters and rolling pins will have to collect dust for another year.

This great epiphany, or change-of-heart, came during the first week of December. I realized I hadn’t even thought of baking yet – I had forgotten about it all, actually – and time was ticking! I had a slight panic attack then a smattering of guilt fluttered through my conscience knowing I SHOULD be whipping up the shortbread, rolling out the sugar cookies, and buttering up the tarts.

But I can’t. Not this year. I have too many other things going on.

And no sooner did the panic and guilt creep in, it left. And it was for the best. All that hand-wringing and sleepless nights of all I HAVE to do wasn’t going to help matters. So I decided not to let the mayhem of the year get to me, and I cancelled baking. There. Done. Fini.

I’ve run out of time and energy to do any of it, but the weirdest thing is I don’t feel bad about it, compared to years past where worry would have my stress-genes on overdrive (if anything, I feel bad that I don’t feel MORE ‘bad’). Maybe I have over-taxed my Christmas baking hormones. Maybe too many years of sweating it out in the kitchen has dried-up my baking-energy reserves – I don’t know. Maybe, this year, it just wasn’t meant to be. I'm not throwing in the towel this year, as it were, I guess I'm just taking a break.

So if you dare come over you’ll find bakery packaging from the store in the garbage and disgruntled men suffering from my lack of baking.

OR you’ll find content men who are getting much better baked goodies from the store, who are also happier because their momma is in a better frame of mind this year.

I think they much prefer an uncranky, unstressed mom, anyways.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Adventure on the High Seas – Whales, Fish and Bad Hairdos

Many who use the BC Ferries to travel between Vancouver Island and the mainland of coastal British Columbia hope to see some sort of animal-life common to the waters of the Georgia Strait. Whales are always a big hopeful, and only the lucky get to see them enroute. Seeing a seal is neat and even though some might shrug and say, ‘Ah, it’s just a seal,’ no matter how often I see them, I still get a thrill. An even bigger thrill – one I will talk about for days, telling anyone brave enough to listen to my excited ramblings – is when I’m fortunate to see an Orca whale, or two.

But on a recent journey aboard the BC Ferry vessel ‘Coastal Celebration’ I got my wish – and more.

I was out on the ferry deck taking photos when someone shouted, “Look over there!” The few of us brave enough to be out on the windy, rainy deck followed his pointing finger - 3 humpback whales were passing by without a care.

The captain of the ship announced the pod-sighting over the PA system and I leaned with the then-leaning ship to get a few photos – of course everyone stampedes to the windows to get a peek when there’s something good out there. I couldn’t get my camera ‘on’ and pointed fast enough, but the dot in the accompanying picture IS one of the three whales. It was well-worth risking my hairdo in the inclement weather to get the few photos I did.

All too soon the whales swam on their merry way and I ventured back into the safety and warmth of the ferry. I went in search of a washroom to fix my wind/rain-blown hair, and told everyone who’d listen (hello Facebook, Twitter and recipients of my texts!) about the whale sightings, and then went in search of an outlet to charge my phone (I had more messages to send, you see).

But as I wandered by the Chief Steward’s office, I stopped short. I was still buzzing with the excitement of seeing humpback whales, but there was no missing what was just behind the counter. Something so ironic - so unexpected - yet so fitting for the ‘high seas’ on which we were sailing had me stopping to stare in wonder.

Behind the counter two fish tanks bubbled away, brightly lit and clear, while the ship’s officers sat at their desks doing…ship officer stuff.

Two Siamese fighting fish, oblivious to their sort-of-cousins swimming just outside, swam merrily around, enjoying the warmth, pampering and serenity of their personal tanks.

As the ship officers so proudly told me, one was named Woofie, a rescue/lost-and-found fish named after ‘Woo’ the crew-member who found him (or her), and the other fish was named Appie.

The two officers told me the story of Woofie the lost-and-found fish with such love and admiration, I felt a pang of jealousy.

Woofie was found on the BC Ferry vessel, ‘The Spirit of Vancouver Island,’ in June 2014 (5 months before this writing) by a crewmember named Woo. Yes ‘found’ meaning fish in a container and all. I was assured repeatedly that all protocols had been followed in trying to track down the owner of the lost fish. Numerous announcements were made over their PA system trying to locate the owner, but sadly no one stepped forward and the poor little Betta fish was left alone, unwanted and forgotten.

The crew took the lonely little fish into their care. They fed and bathed him (not really) and got him a nice tank. He became the ship’s mascot and all was well. But since that particular vessel is in refit (for maintenance and such) during slow times, only brought out of refit during busy seasons like summer and Christmas, they couldn’t very well leave the poor little fish on his own on the vacant ship. So when the crew moved to the Coastal Celebration for its regular route between Vancouver and Victoria, the fish came with them. He needed a friend so along came Appie, who resides in her own tank because, for those who don’t know anything about Bettas, they can’t be in the same tank together (they don’t get along very well).

The officers finished their story and gave their water-loving crew members another endearing look. The fish-fostering officers also had the decency to overlook my wind-ruined hair, but bad hairdos were far from my mind then (a look in the mirror, later, had me second-guessing my lack of concern). I realized I was as fortunate to hear the story of the little lost-and-found fish as I was to see humpback whales, and fixing my hair could be done anytime.

From whales outside to fish inside, it was quite an adventure on the high seas that day, one I won’t forget soon.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Favorite Skirt

Just a few short months ago (three, as of this writing) we were running around in our bikinis – those of who can, that is (not ME!). Summer was in full-swing with everyone in shorts and tank tops, some (like me) were complaining about the heat, and winter coats were collecting dust in our closets.

And all too soon, because ‘time flies’ and goes by faster than we can blink, those winter coats were dusted off and yanked out of hibernation. Old tissues found in the pockets from last year were thrown out, and the lucky who found a fiver in amongst all the tissues have already purchased a chill-chasing pumpkin spice latte.

Fall and winter is my thing – hot, sweltering summer months are not. By July I’m sick of all the sweating and I long – LONG – for the cool, crisp winter days when I can bundle up in my coat and scarf in the day, my favorite blanket bundled around me on the couch at night. I go through the same thing every summer – I can’t wait for my cool-weather winter clothes. I look forward to the fall fashion trends – in August I drool over catalogues featuring the latest wool-blend skirts, modern chunky/comfy sweaters, and functional yet fashionable knee-high boots.

But I’m no fashionista – comfort, functionality and affordability are my style. The nature of my day-job has me hopping – when I’m not running from floor-to-floor in an 11-storey building, I’m crawling under desks pretending to be a computer techie and untangling computer wires hoping I don’t unplug the ‘wrong’ one. So year-round ‘relaxed business attire’ works for me – black pants and a comfortable top. I dream of all the fancy fashions I would like to wear – one day – but for now, comfort and functionality are where it’s at. I’m a busy momma.

But this past summer, despite being pro-fall/winter, I decided to cut loose and take my chances with ‘change.’ I wore skirts and dresses almost every day. Time IS ticking by and one day I won’t be able to wear the knee-revealing skirts I can get away with wearing now. I was making a statement – what ‘statement’ I didn’t know – but I was going with the ‘enjoy it now’ attitude. Why save something ‘for that special day’ when that ‘special day’ might not come and I never get to use it/wear it/enjoy it? (footnote – wearing skirts and dresses this past summer proved to be not the wisest choice when I tripped and twisted my ankle right in the middle of downtown Victoria giving everyone a ‘free show’ (if you know what I mean) and scrapping both knees so bad that my panty-hose had be chiselled out of the gashes in my knees. Gross, but true).

So given my job and my busy lifestyle any ‘girly clothes’ I choose to wear have to be comfortable, easy-to-wear, and fidget/fuss/adjustment-free (if you’re a girl, you’ll know what I mean.)

While on my ‘summer-quest for girly-clothes,’ I found the perfect Lisa-friendly skirt – a ‘skort.’ For you non-fashion folks, a ‘skort’ is a skirt with a pair of shorts attached underneath. And you know what that meant for busy, non-fashionista, non-fussing Lisa? (It’s about to get graphic here, folks!) It meant I didn’t have to wear a slip because of the built-in shorts underneath. It was just a pull-on skirt – no buckles or buttons, no tucking or adjusting. It was like wearing shorts every day to work and I didn’t have to worry about flashing anyone while a/falling down in the middle of a downtown Victoria sidewalk, or b/while crawling around under desks.

I loved it – LOVED IT. I loved it so much that I – GASP – sometimes wore it twice a week! I went in search of another four just exactly like it but in different colours/patterns/fabrics. But alas no others were to be found, and I had to settle for waiting all week when I could wear it.

But just when I got used to being really ‘girly’ the weather turned cold, and frost-bite on my legs wasn’t working for me. My long-awaited fall/winter clothes/coats were pulled out of the closet, and my favorite skirt is holding their spot in the closet – until next year. I’m happy it’s cool and brisk these days, but oh how I am missing my favorite skirt. Only seven months, weather-dependent, until I can wear it again.

Unlike those winter coats, my favorite skirt I can only hope and pray still fits next year has no pockets. Sadly, I won’t be finding any fivers.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Happened That Night....

As you can see from my last post titled ‘How to Catch a Spider – Advice from Ros’, my friend Ros obviously has great powers over me. She sends me on these great adventures and I do what I’m told. I must be subconsciously scared of her or something because I always seem to do what she says. Recently she sent me on a wild-goose-find-the-haunted-well-chase, but that’s another story for another time.

I have a much better haunted story....

As she and I have an ‘appreciation’ for all things eerie, spooky and paranormal, she kindly advised me of a ‘seasonal’ event she saw advertised in the newspaper. As she lives quite a few hours away from me, accompanying me on this ‘investigation’ would be difficult so I was tasked this quest ALONE. The advertisement my friend Ros saw was not for a typical museum ‘tour’ of The Maritime Museum of BC, but for a ‘Haunted Hallways’ tour of the building.

The Maritime Museum of BC has artifacts and info from shipyards to shipwrecks, to discoveries to losses. Now that stuff is all well and good, and as traitorous to my British Columbian patriotism as this might seem, it’s just not my interest. But given the history of the building, well...

The building was first built as the Supreme Court back in around 1889. Back then when laws, thinking, and social graces where different, hangings were commonplace, and many of the convicted who were tried there were sentenced to death. But prior to that building’s existence, in its place was a jailhouse - complete with gallows. Hangings were a family event and bacon sandwiches and beer were served as refreshments. When the convicted was hung and the thrashing body stilled, “Who claims this body!?” was called out to the ‘audience.’ If no family member stepped forward to claim their loved one – which usually never happened for fear of association with such a derelict – the deceased was buried in the grounds of the jailhouse courtyard. When the jail was later torn down to make way for the Supreme Court to be built on top of the jailhouse, construction workers found skeletal remains. Finding buried bodies around Victoria was quite commonplace so the workers simply shrugged and continued building on top of the bodies (I’m no historian - this is just a brief summary- any errors in this recounting is mine). (For more info, visit http://bastionsquare.ca/bastion-square-history/interesting-facts/)

So back to my friend Ros and her special powers....

“You must go!” said Ros about the ‘Haunted Hallways’ tour.

“Should I?” I asked.

Silence on the other end of the phone was telling. The silent ‘duh’ urged me on.

So at 8pm on a Friday night I armed myself with a camera, an umbrella (like that would help – but it WAS raining, you see), my cell phone with 911 on speed dial, as well as packs of gum to gnaw on nervously, then headed to the museum.

Down-to-earth, passionate-about-her-job Christina gave us the grand tour starting with a history of the building. Her storytelling skills, her knowledge and historical facts mixed with local lore, sightings and experiences had everyone captivated. From room to room we ventured. First there was the room aptly called 'The Knot Room', built right on top of where the gallows was from the previous jailhouse. Accompanying stories and experiences left everyone – including me – with the chills. Then there was the holding cell room, where a ‘presence’ is still felt by many staff. A hallway known for an ghost looking for his wife had us furtively glancing around, eager yet apprehensive to catch a glimpse of this lost soul.

From stories of racism – indigenous people and the British didn’t see ‘eye to eye’ back then – of lost loves and betrayals, and downright violent deaths had us all captivated. From room to room we went, Christina's stories of historical fact laced with first-hand experiences with unsettled spirits had us all believing in the ‘what if.’ We had secret ‘behind the scenes’ tours, venturing up hidden staircases and into recently-discovered secret rooms. We ended up in the courtroom where the infamous hanging Judge Matthew Baillie Bebgie sentenced the convicted to hanging. (Note: The Supreme Court as it was then didn't have 'gallows' - the convicted were sent to a jailhouse off site to meet their fate (for the locals, there was jailhouse complete with gallows by Hillside Shopping Centre)

After an hour the tour ended (I, for one, wasn't 'done' and could definitely go back for more), concluding with a brief and spooky ‘lights out’ moment in the courtroom. I sat on one of the jury benches – the same benches where jury would help Judge Begbie lay down the law – and for a moment I felt my bum go cold. Seriously.

But let me get back to the beginning of the night...

Before the tour started, early attendees were allowed to tour the museum. I had a quick peek around the exhibits then found myself in a room sporting a few pictures of ships. What held my interest was what was in the back corner.

A big black safe, almost as high as your typical door, stood silently in the corner. I approached and took a few photos. My senses were on high alert during my self-guided museum tour, and as I was early, there weren’t many folks around. I snapped a few photos and wanted a close-up of the wording on the outside of the safe.

I barely bent my knees to access a better camera-view of the wording, when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my ankle and then...

My camera seized up. The screen went fuzzy as you can see from the photo, and remained that way for the rest of the tour. I couldn’t turn the camera off or on and no amount of button-pressing could fix it. I resorted to using the camera on my cell phone – a risky move, at that – and my camera didn’t ‘fix itself’ until almost two hours later, right down to the minute from when it first ‘went funny.’ Even when I later got home and plugged it in to charge, it still wouldn’t 'fix' itself. I have never had a problem with the camera before; it was fully charged and was seemingly all right prior to the evening.

I’ll let you ponder that and make up your own mind...

I later told Christina about my camera, sheepishly admitting to the 'coincidence' of it all and brushing it off in a manner of 'I know I am nuts, but....'

She waved off my concern: 'Oh, that happens to people's cameras all the time here' - like this was a normal occurrence.

In the end, it was a MOST fantastic night - one I will never forget. I lived to tell the tale, my camera is fine, and I will continue to do what Ros tells me to do.

Oh - and my ankle is fine.

(Note: The museum is being moved to the basement of the CPR building, where the renowned ‘Wax Museum’ used to be. The museum’s last days residing in the historic building are numbered, so the staff are going all-out, hosting tours and sharing first-hand experience tales of their experiences in the building. Be sure to check them out at http://mmbc.bc.ca/about/contact-us/)
(Me in the court room sitting at The Hanging Judge Begbie's desk)


For more interesting facts about Bastion Square, Victoria, BC, where the building resides, please visit Bastion Square Info.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Catch a Spider - Advice from Ros

I have a secret passion for hardware stores. I’m not a carpenter, electrician or plumber (save the ‘crack’ jokes). I don’t know how to change the oil on a car or repair a leaky roof. I can barely figure out the circuit breakers in our house and don’t bother telling me to pass you the ‘Phillips’ screwdriver – just say the screwdriver with the star.

So when I recently wrote about my ‘adventures’ with a spider and my hair dryer (check out ‘Karma, Irony and Guilt – Lessons From a Spider'), my very good friend, romantic suspense writer Rosalind Villers (www.rosalindvillers.com), was quick to give me some valuable advice. I like her, she knows stuff, and she writes a mean bit of prose; of course I was gonna do what she says!

She recommended the Bug Trapper, a nifty gadget perfect for catching all little things creepy- crawly. Although I’m sure it can be found via many other outlets, she was quick to recommend Lee Valley Hardware.

Well, given my penchant for hardware stores my excitement and curiosity mounted. Not only was I going to get the gadget that would ‘change my life’ (her words), but I could also check out this renowned hardware store I had often heard about but had never been lucky enough to go to!

The store was off my regular well-beaten path, but after a few wrong turns I found it. It was during one of my typically busy Saturday afternoons, but I was on a quest – I had to get this gadget! I was determined to find the store, no matter how busy I was. My car was full of frozen food and meat from a whirlwind grocery shopping spree but since I was ‘only going to be a minute’ I figured everything would be fine (which, in the end, everything WAS – no one died of botulism or salmonella or whatever) (not yet, at least).

Now before I go on I must insist that my story here is in NO way criticizing the store or how it does business. In fact, how they do business was quite ingenious. The store was clean, neat, usual-hardware-store-smell-free, and rather…ritzy for a hardware store. The store clerks were beyond knowledgeable and polite and I will, most definitely, go back again.

Moving right along…

Finally finding the store, I pulled-up to the newly built store and….scratched my head. It was too fancy and too small to be a hardware store – at least to be the kind of hardware store I was used to. But seeing as I was on a quest for something that would ‘change my life,’ I had no time to spare. Dawdling and pondering about the appearance of a store was not on my schedule.

A few steps in I stopped short. Wall-to-wall carpeting, spa-like music in the background along with fancy wooden shelving and display racks made my shopping experience in a ‘hardware store’ a little….confusing. This was not a ‘hardware store’ but a retreat for those needing a getaway from the usual grime and oil-slick of other hardware stores.

Whatever, I shrugged. Ros must only shop at the uber-fancy-hardware stores, I realized. Just when you think you know a person…

But I had no time to spare – food was in the car. I pushed my friend and her champagne-taste in hardware stores out of my head and went in search of the Bug Trapper. But as hard as I tried I couldn’t find it, which was understandable given the fancy store I was clearly unaccustomed to.

The store clerk I asked for assistance was beyond friendly and helpful. She knew exactly what I was looking for and led me to a little wall of gadgets. The first bug catcher she showed me was 4 times what I was willing to pay. No bug is worth more than my hourly wage (well…maybe). The next bug catcher – the exact one Ros showed me – matched the contents of my wallet.

“I’ll take it!” I announced and went to grab the gadget. This was easier than I thought!

“Oh no…” she started, and pointed to a code on the tag. “You’ll need this code.”

She then went on to explain that the store is kind of a like a mail order/warehouse store and then she showed me an order form. At first I didn’t understand. Would I have to ‘order’ the item and wait for it to come in the mail? My excitement deflated – I would have to spend another night in my home vulnerable, unarmed and defenceless.

Seeing my confusion the nice clerk reassured me I WOULD get to go home with my gadget. She explained that I had to first fill out a form then take it to the counter where a staff-person would retrieve the item from the warehouse in ‘the back.’

I looked at my watch. Damn that Ros, I cursed my friend. What had she gotten me into? (No wonder she’s such a good suspense writer – she had sure kept ME in suspense of what I was really getting myself into!)

After ensuring I was okay and understood what to do, the very kind store clerk left me to my own devices and assured me she would be ‘right over there’ (by the scary looking soil and compost thermometers). Using a cute little golf pencil (of which I wish accidentally rolled into my purse) I filled out the form. By then I had my bearings and understood what the store was all about. I wish I had more time to browse but with the threat of the meat frying itself in the warm car, I had to hustle.

Presenting my form at the counter another equally nice clerk went in ‘the back’ to retrieve my Bug Trapper. Before I could truly enjoy the beauty of a copper slug belt (another ingenious gadget) beside me on the counter, she returned with a little box.

“Is that the Bug Trapper?” It seemed too small compared to what the first store clerk had shown me.

“Oh yes, my dear, here…” She opened the box. Oh, my shoulders slumped. I would have to put it together. “It’s from England,” she continued. “It’s quite extraordinary, actually.” Her serious tone had me second-guessing the hilarity of what I was really buying. This Bug Trapper was no laughing matter.

With manners Miss. Manners would envy the clerk processed my order then wished me well in my endeavours. Again I wished I had had the time to look around but I swear I could smell the meat sizzling in my car. Damn that Ros!


I made it home in record time and the food was fine. Despite my lack of hardware/handyman skills, I assembled the Bug Trapper then practiced trapping an imaginary bug/spider/insect/creepy-crawly and relocating it outside. The Bug Trapper sits at the ready and despite me cursing my friend Ros throughout my experience, I am thankful for her advice and introducing me to something new.

But one thing was clear - I obviously need to get out more. First stop - Lee Valley Hardware.






Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Karma, Irony and Guilt - Lessons from a Spider

I’m usually up super early in the mornings to get in a power-walk and a bit of a writing session before work. Doing both, even if only for a bit and even when I don’t exactly feel like it, are a great start to get me energized and motivated for the day.

But one Monday morning when my alarm went off at its usual 3:30am wake-up call, I ‘gently’ turned off the alarm then rolled over and resumed dreaming about all things writerly. I decided to skip the walk but still get in a bit of writing as I rationalized I had been SUPER busy all weekend running around doing chores. I figured a day of rest wouldn’t hurt and allowed myself a ‘sleep-in’ until 5 am.

A little while later with my ‘sleep-in’ over and me sort of awake and dressed, I dragged my sorry self upstairs to my bathroom. Squinting against the bright bathroom light, I threw a facecloth in the sink and just as I was about to turn on the tap……

THERE IT WAS.

The biggest most horrendous house spider I have EVER seen in my life.

At first I thought it was one of my sons’ tarantulas. I’m not scared of his ‘pets’ but I was more concerned that the typically caged creatures had the potential of escape, never to be found again. He would be devastated if it ever happened – perfectly understandable. Closer inspection, however, revealed it was NOT one of his beloved darlings.

But then it moved and THAT, my dear readers, meant WAR.

Now before I continue with what happened next you should know that I truly DO love all creatures great and small. I truly didn’t wish to harm him/her. I just wanted him/her GONE.

So I whipped out my hair dryer and readied for battle.

Why a hair dryer you say? Well, because I had to blow that guy back down the drain from where he came, of course!

It would occur to me later that, in theory and technically speaking, it IS impossible for spiders to come up through a drain.

Right?

But I didn’t have time to worry about technicalities right then because when he took a few steps, I sprung in to action. My sole goal was to blow him down the drain, but I didn’t anticipate what blowing air does in a round, smooth sink. It spins things around like in a tornado, taking everything with it. So, of course, around and around went the spider. When I stopped for a split second to reassess my plan of attack he started running. Can you blame him? I would too!
I panicked some more then redirected my hair dryer to blow the air in a different angle – a better approach sure to direct him down the drain. Around and around the sink we chased each other and then….

…one wrong tilt of the hairdryer had the tornado blowing the poor defenseless spider up and out of the sink, through the air, and right at ME!

I screamed, yelled, squealed and all but begged for mercy from him, from God, from the Universe and from every deity possible. I twisted my already compromised ankle and pulled my already compromised back in my desperate attempt to get out of his way. He was after ME!

Luckily for both of us he landed on the bathmat. While he sat catching his breath on the mat, I kept my hair dryer trained on him like a Glock and stayed out of full range from his potential attack. Before I could whip out my bazooka, footsteps bounded and echoed up the stairs.

My dearest husband was roused from his slumber by my…antics…and had come to the rescue. He knew right away, before even getting near, what it was.

“Is it a spider?” He calmly – CALMLY – asked before he even rounded the corner. (I still don’t get how ANYONE could be CALM at a time like that!)

“IS IT A SPIDER?” I dared not take my eyes off the poor innocent offending creature as I challenged my husband’s silly question. “THIS is NOT a spider!” I spat. “This is….THIS IS….” I couldn’t continue.

And so he picked it up by his hands – by his BARE HANDS, I tell you – and carried the poor offending creature outside. I kept my Glock, I mean my hairdryer, trained on both of them, just in case. What if the spider bit my dear question-asking husband turning him all zombie-like? (This is the imagination of a writer, no matter what time of day).

And that was the end of that. My husband went back to bed without a second glance and I was left wishing I had a personal defibrillation unit.

As I finished getting ready for work (I had a bad hair day after that, and rightly so) I felt dumb. And guilty. And dumb. And guilty. Not only because of the way I OVERreacted about a defenseless creature that was a gazillion times smaller than me but also because, um, there are three tarantulas and two scorpions in residence one floor below my office/bathroom. Talk about irony.

I wondered if the spider showing up in my sink was Karma’s way of getting back at me for not getting up and out for my daily routine. But Karma had much more in stock for me. The guilt weighing me down for days after for taking a hairdryer to a poor defenseless creature was worse. Whether that’s considered Karma or not, I had that guilt comin’ to me. It was only fair – and truly deserved.

So at 5 o’clock on a Monday morning I had had lessons in Karma, irony and guilt, all rolled up into one tornado-like mess. All thanks to an eight-legged creature no bigger than the circumference of the end of my hairdryer.

And I as I write this, I realize now that the real irony was how I felt more guilty about the spider than for my husband having to bolt out of bed at that early hour.

(PS. I never wrote a single word that morning)

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lovin' When the Postman Rings - Even Once

I know in this politically correct world 'postman' should be 'postwoman' or 'postperson' but for the sake of the movie's name, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' (1946), and even though this post and its content really have nothing to do with the movie or ITS content, I chose to stick with postMAN. (Basic movie plot for the curious - A married woman and a drifter fall in love, then plot to murder her husband... but even once the deed is done, they must live with the consequences of their actions.)

Anyways, I love it when he/she comes a'ringin' bringing me mail - specifically a box.

And more specifically a box from publishers/distributors Simon and Schuster containing my author copies of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life.'


The book features my story, 'My Writing Roller Coaster' in which I talk about the twists and turns my writing career has taken and how I got it back on track - and staying there! There were no murders involved to do so (see above-mentioned story plot - See? completely unrelated).

On sale September 16!!!



Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa

Monday, August 11, 2014

National Book Lover's Day Giveaway Winner!!!!

Congratulations to Michelle Biggeman who won a copy of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul - The Cat Did What?' Names were actually written on pieces of paper, put in a bowl (not a hat), and drawn - at 5:05am this morning! (I should have taken a picture of the process).

Congratulations to Michelle and thank you all so much for participating! Your support and kind words mean a lot!

Stay tuned for another giveaway coming soon!

Take care and happy reading!

Lisa

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Giveaway! National Book Lover's Day - I Missed It!

Saturday August 9, 2014 was National Book Lover’s day – and I completely missed it!

Me, the writer and bibliophile, almost missed a MOST important day because....I was making pickles.

Pickles and books have nothing to do with each other – other than if you lounge around with a book good and a bowl full of pickles. But I was so caught up in the boiling, sterilizing, chopping and preserving of the tiny cucumbers that the day – the REAL significance of the day – just slipped right by me. It wasn’t until much later when my eyes stopped stinging from all the vinegar I had to use that I realized....OH! I missed a VERY important day!

So to celebrate – a one day holdover – I’m giving away a copy of the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul book, ‘The Cat Did What?’ Inside are 101 funny, heartwarming and outrageous stories about those felines who often drive their owners crazy. Two of my stories are featured, including ‘ Indoor Hunter’ and ‘I Came Home for This?’ For you country music fans, the book also includes a foreword by awarding winning country star, Miranda Lambert!
Just leave a comment – anything you want – and I’ll draw a name out of a hat. Don’t forget to sign your full name with your comment! The giveaway runs from Sunday August 10, 2014, 12:01am (PST) to Sunday August 10, 2014, to 11:59pm (PST). Be sure to check back on Monday August 11, 2014 to see if you won!! Good luck!

Happy reading to everyone, be sure to support an author, and for those who pickle – happy preserving!

Lisa

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The B25 Mitchell Bomber in Victoria, BC

Record-breaking temperatures made standing around on heat-attracting runway tarmac unbearable. But that didn’t stop me from going back for more – three times, in fact. Although I didn’t get what I truly hoped for, it was all still worth it.

The B25J Mitchell bomber, named ‘Maid in the Shade,’ touched down at Victoria International Airport, Victoria Flying Club, at 10am on a Monday morning. Although I am just an amateur aviation buff, I was itching to go see it. It was a rarity for this piece of history to grace our West Coast Island and it instantly became a local media sensation. Local TV, newspapers and radio stations were buzzing – Facebook and Twitter, if you had ‘friended/followed’ the Victoria Flying Club, were both on fire with pictures and stories from those who visited it. I knew it would be here until the following Monday, so I at least had until the weekend to go see it. I couldn’t wait!

A twin-engine bomber for the Allied Air Forces in World War II, the most heavily armed airplane in the world was used for bombing, photo reconnaissance, submarine patrol, and even as a fighter – as you can see from the patched-up bullet holes from so many years ago (yes, the circular patches under the girl's 'behind'). (For more details visit the website of the Commemorative Air Force)

A 40-minute flight sitting in the waist or middle of the plane cost approximately $400, whereas a spot in the cockpit cost approximately $600. A mom like me with three men to feed and laundry soap to constantly buy doesn’t have spare change like that for airplane rides – no matter how ‘once in a lifetime’ event it would be. I would have to settle for an inside tour for $5.

So the following Thursday my husband and one of my sons and I headed out to the airport. Although they thought seeing an old plane would be neat, I was clearly the more excited of us three. Once there, I hustled through the parking lot and bounded through the terminal out to the tarmac. And there she was – all 9,210 kilograms of her - sparkling in the hot summer sun. I elbowed my way through the crowd of other eager admirers. I guess I shouldn’t have been so pushy – many were war veterans there to admire and reminisce. Don’t worry – no one got hurt in my selfish quest.

We took turns climbing the ladders each to the cockpit and to the waist area of the plane. In the cockpit I took a few ‘selfies,’ such a contrast of times and generations to be using a ‘phone’ as a ‘camera’ to take a photo to post to the ‘internet’ while surrounded by equipment and fuselage dating back to the 40’s.

I held a 50 caliber waist gun, and I itched to crawl through the fuselage to the bombardier’s compartment in the ‘nose’ of the plane. I touched the shell of a bomb in the bomb bay of the craft. During recent years past crew had also visited the plane, their signatures of name, rank and years served in the plane graced the inside doors of the bay.
I snapped a few more photos with my two men, talked with some of the flight crew, and then it was time to head home and sit under a sprinkler.

As we drove away my heart was still with the plane – I wanted to see it fly, and better yet, I wanted a ride.

I knew there was a flight scheduled for the next morning, so the next day I went back. Through the parking lot I again hustled, through the Victoria Flying Club’s terminal I again bounded, and through the crowd outside I once again elbowed. I was able to get MORE photos, this time with less people around, and then….they hooked up the plane to a towing vehicle.

One of the crew from the day before recognized me. “You’re here again?”

I blushed, the kind of girly blush I save for getting what I want, and replied that I was hoping to see it take-off. At this point I had also secretly conjured up a fantasy of a spot coming ‘available’ on one of their flights and that I could just ‘jump on,’ free-of-charge. But I didn’t tell him that.

To my dismay the nice flight crewman said it wasn’t going up but was just being towed to the fuelling station. In my excitement the day before, I must have misheard flight schedules.

My shoulders slumped and my heart sank. As I trudged away dragging my purse on the runway tarmac behind me, the nice flight crewman said it would be heading up at 11am the NEXT morning. I would later find out that my friend had been fortunate to be able to get a ride on that flight, so I figure I’d come watch it take off AND take photos of him and the plane.

So again, for the third time that weekend, I zipped down the Pat Bay Highway, zig-zaging my way through traffic. Through the parking lot I hustled, through the terminal I bounded, and through the crowd I elbowed. This time I REALLY, REALLY badly hoped I could just, you know, ‘hop on.’ There HAD to be a spot available for a girl like me with only two bucks and a coupon for a free coffee from Tim Horton’s in her purse (I was willing to give-up my department store reward points for a flight, even if I sat in the bomb bay).

I waved goodbye to my friend as he climbed aboard, took more photos, and even filmed a VERY up-close-and-personal start-up and taxi out of the plane (see below for video). After the plane lifted off, a fantastic and very exciting sight I had to restrain myself from jumping and cheering for, the SAME crewman from the previous two days saw me. He commented, AGAIN, about it being my third time out there (I started to worry he might call Transport Canada about my stalking tendencies). I turned on the blush, batted my eyelashes, and sidled up to him explaining I was back because I really wanted to see it fly.

Then with a deep breath, I asked the unthinkable.

“So, I hear the plane is heading to Boundary Bay Airport tomorrow.” He nodded in confirmation, looking at me quizzically. (Boundary Bay Airport is in Ladner, BC, barely a stone’s throw of a flight from here to there. Getting back home would be only a ferry ride away). I went on. “So, uh, I was wondering – could I hitch a ride over with you guys?”

Bold of me, yes, but it was worth a shot.

He paused as if entertaining my request and my hope soared. But then he explained, with many big aviator-like words I can’t remember, that as much as he wished he could grant me my request, that it just wasn’t possible. Rules are rules, laws were laws, and it just wasn’t that simple as for the folks going up in their paid flights (it was all something to do with Air Force regulations, Transport Canada rules…yadda, yadda, yadda). He apologized again and we chatted some more. Then, with my purse dragging yet again on the tarmac behind me, I went home. For good.

Even though I never got a ride, every day was a different experience – one that many of the folks who DID go for a ride would never have. I am thrilled and honoured to have seen such a piece of history, yet sad that my charm is obviously losing its touch.

As for now, I’m saving up my pennies for the next time it’s here and I'll also work on my charm – ‘a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do’ and all that….

To watch my video of the B25 starting up and taxiing out, I hope you'll stop by my Youtube channel. (turn up the volume!)

Thanks for reading this LONG story :)
Lisa

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

At Church with Diana Gabaldon

It was a Friday night and I was at church.

And I wasn’t really AT ‘church’ in the religious, worshiping sense, but IN a church; specifically, a building that used to be a church. Metropolitan Methodist Church or Centennial Methodist Church (it had changed names over the years), is in the heart of downtown Victoria, BC. And I can’t even say I was at ‘church’ because the building had been repurposed and is presently dubbed ‘Alix Goolden Performance Hall – Victoria Conservatory of Music.’ But given my religious upbringing I felt the overwhelming need to whisper, genuflect and think only holy, pure, unselfish thoughts.

None of those things happened, despite my being in awe of the architecture and stained glass windows synonymous of old churches. I did, however, sit in a pew; the kneelers long gone.

I would, however, be blessed later in the evening.

I was there with a friend for a presentation and book-signing by Diana Gabaldon, prolific author of the ‘Outlander’ series. Her books have been classed as literature, fiction, historical fiction, historical non-fiction (despite their accuracy), science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, military history and horror. Generally, her novels are somewhat in the time travel/historical fiction genre, with LOTS of (hunky) guys running around in kilts (this is just my own personal summary – the author, herself, can’t even classify what kind of novels the wildly popular books, are).

I had read only one of her books and that was many years ago. So when my friend invited me along, I went along out of curiosity. I have heard Ms. Gabaldon is a funny, insightful, down-to-earth speaker, and her words of wit and wisdom found in many writing reference magazines and books have always intrigued me. I suspected she would be solely plugging her new book, ‘Written in My Own Heart’s Blood,’ as well as the upcoming TV series, ‘Outlander,’ based on the first book in her ‘Outlander’ series named - you guessed it - ‘Outlander.’ (I’m really good at explaining stuff, I know). My suspicions would be soon proven wrong.

Anyways, there I was, in a church/performance hall packed to the rafters with fans – mostly female. Although, given how muggy it was outside and warm it was inside, a few ACTUAL fans around the place would have done us all wonders.

When the author finally did walk on stage, the crowd went wild, the applause and cheers nearly blowing the rafters off the sanctuary. I would have like to have seen the massive still-present organ beat out the noise everyone made!
And everything I heard about her was true. She was funny and witty, and her dry humour delivered with eloquence and sarcasm was spot on.

True, Ms. Gabaldon talked a bit about her books and upcoming TV show – who wouldn’t – but she also spoke about her writing career and how she got started, as well as her writing process – of which, as she proclaims, she has none. Sprinkled throughout her talk were quips and anecdotes, jokes and sidebars. After recounting how she wrote her first book while holding down two jobs, raising three kids, and supporting her husband and his growing business (at the time), she challenged anyone to say they ‘don’t have time to write.’ I will carry that bit of inspiration with me, always. I loved her, and everyone else did, too.

All too soon it was time for the book signing. My friend and I hustled down the winding stairs from the loft to the main floor, scooting in line before the rest of the congregation could parkour over the pews to the fast-growing line. (parkour – see definition here).

The line moved quickly – it had to what with hundreds of anxious women waiting to have their books signed. What added to the experience was Ms. Gabaldon, along with staff coordinating the event, took the time and effort to allow a photo with the author, either using the fan’s phone or camera! WOW! Now THAT is fan appreciation!

While I was standing in line, anxious for it to move so that I, too, could have my book signed along with a chance at a photo-op, divine intervention overcame me. I came up with the most brilliant idea ever. I hashed out my plan and second-guessed myself a few times – “Don’t be silly, Lisa, that’s just…WEIRD.” But in the end I figured – what the heck? Why not?

It finally came to my turn, and I handed my cellphone over to the event staff to prepare for a photo. Ms. Gabaldon was gracious and kind, but the excitement and impending crowds made any chance of a meaningful conversation impossible. She signed my book and ensured a photo-perfect pose by her (me, well, not so much as you can see, despite the photographer’s attempt at another photo).
Then in a rush, before my ‘turn’ could be over, I whipped out a postcard showcasing my young adult book, ‘Newbie Nick,’ and explained what it was to the prolific author. I summoned the nerve to ask her if she would sign it. (Yes, weird of me to ask, I know.)

But she ‘oohed!’ over the card showcasing my book, and with a flourish signed the back of it. It wasn’t until I left with my signed book clutched to my chest, and my very excited friend in tow, that I looked at what she wrote on my postcard:


‘Good luck!
Diana Gabaldon’

Wow. WOW! WOW!

I translated her good luck sentiment into that of wishing me luck on my book sales and future writing. That signed postcard bearing her kind words means more to me than my photo that didn’t exactly turn out (she was gorgeous, of course, and as for me? I don’t get what I was doing with my mouth).

Upon leaving the church/performance hall I got a case of the goosebumps. It felt as though my whole writing career had been blessed by a great literary inspiration. Wow!

Ms. Gabaldon, I learned a lot from you that night in church – thank you for so much, and more!


Thanks for reading!
Lisa

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Not Your Mother's Book - On Family

Just had to share!

My story 'Me vs. Technology' is in the funny anthology, 'Not Your Mother's Book...On Family' published by Publishing Syndicate. My story is my funny take (at least I hope it's funny) on my constant battles with the power of technology and keeping my family away from it, if only just for a moment!

The book can be found in ebook and paper copy at Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, and too-many-too list other good places!

About the book! 'Not Your Mother's Book...On Family' features 60 funny, first-person stories the book’s contributors have written about their own families. As the old saying about families goes: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Ain’t that the truth! How many times have you hollered at your kids then thought, Oh, no! I sound just like my mom! Or looking into a mirror you notice your temples beginning to gray, just like your dad’s? Genetics is the hand we are all dealt, and we have nothing to blame but our family lineage. Regardless of what limb you dangle from on your family tree, your roots play an important part in your everyday life, from “Oh, crap!” moments to family squabbles, from daring adventures to dealing with a crazy aunt or uncle. From those nuclear, blended or extended families, new memories are created, memories that turn into family legacies and stories often repeated. While you can choose your friends, you can’t choose your family. So like the family on the cover of this book, always have a box at the ready. You never know when you’ll need it!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Me and Harrison Ford

Notice how I mentioned ‘me’ before ‘Harrison Ford’? That’s because I was first. That’s right. I was FIRST.

Yet, I was one-upped by the great actor.

Sheesh.

Let me explain....

So I was hustling along, minding my own business as I do, when just outside McDonald’s right smack in the middle of downtown Victoria, BC, I fell. Like right-down-on-my-hands-and-knees, fell. I stepped on something, something unstable and trippy, and my ankle buckled and twisted. I lost my balance, crashed down on all fours, my bags flying out into the middle of the road (I wasn’t ‘trippy,’ myself, in case you were wondering) (sheesh).

I remember seeing a lady bug on the ground when I was down like a dog.

It hurt like a YOU KNOW WHAT yet I managed to stand up, take a few limpy, gimpy steps, and tried not to faint and throw-up at the pain and shock of it all. Within minutes my ankle swelled up bigger than a grapefruit, and my scraped knee bled all over the place (okay, so I’m exaggerating, but it WAS pretty bad). My panty hose did nothing to protect my delicate skin against the harsh pavement.

That’s right – panty hose. And you know what that means, right?

Well, as luck would have it, I was wearing a dress and it was kind of short (save the wolf whistles) and, as I said above, I was outside McDonald’s right smack in the middle of lovely downtown Victoria. That particular fast food eatery has window seats – a long bench along the windows where folks can snarf down their grease and people-watch.

So needless to say, they got a show that day – if you know what I mean. Like a BIG SHOW.

So I limped back to work and seeing as my grapefruit was not getting smaller and my panty hose were sticking to my pulsating, bleeding knee, I knew it was time to call it a day and hit-up the kind folks at the hospital’s emergency room for a little TLC.

The x-rays came back showing that my bones were gorgeous (what can I say) and nothing was out of sorts in that respect. I did, however, tear all the ligaments and tendons in my ankle and would be off work for a week with a 6 – 8 week recovery. It wasn’t a sprain, but ‘one up from sprain’ said the kind doctor: I had done a ‘doozy of a job’ on my ankle. I was given a tensor bandage, some fun little pills (LOVE THOSE!) and advice to use crutches (not possible with my already compromised multi-hernia-repaired stomach).

So I hobbled home, smiled a goofy, fond smile to anyone and everyone I passed (like I said, I LOVE THOSE PILLS), and tried not to get frost-bite on my ankle from all the ice I had to pack on it.

Fast forward a few days and my ankle, foot, toes and half of my calf is a canvas of colours: eggplant, mouldy grapefruit, beet and the burgundy leaves of a Japanese maple tree. I was one hot momma.

During my recovery I would admire my colourful ankle/foot/leg while writing up a storm. It was hard to concentrate, however, what with worrying about getting more pantyhose being forefront on my mind.

Writing while on a computer often involves some ‘net surfing.’ One day during my convalescence I almost fell out of my chair (not a good idea) when I found some ‘breaking news.’ Before I go on, I want to reiterate that I take NO GLEE in anyone else’s pain and suffering, whatsoever.

Harrison Ford, the actor extraordinaire who stole my heart when I was a wee lass when he played the strapping Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV back in 1970-something, had been rushed to hospital after sustaining an ankle/leg injury on the set of filming the current Star Wars movie (Episode VII) being filmed in the UK.

Unfortunately, a door on the Millennium Falcon fell open and landed on his ankle, crushing it – OUCH! It turns out the poor guy (and I am sincere in my sympathies) broke his leg and required metal plates in his leg. It’ll be a few months before he can go back to work.

Where he has a broken bone or two, I have torn ligaments, tendons, or whatever they are called. Where he was airlifted to a hospital, I had to stumble back to work through the streets of downtown Victoria, trying not to puke. Where I was savouring whatever sympathy I could get from those around me, he made headlines. (As of this writing it’s been over two weeks since the poor man’s accident and he’s STILL in the news!)

But oh how I wish we could compare horror stories. Oh how I wish we could compare bruises. I would loan him my mop I used to get up and down the stairs. I would loan him my ice pack and share the funny little pills I LOVE SO MUCH. We could sit on the couch, our ankles elevated, and watch Star Wars in high-def, shoving popcorn in our faces faster than we can knock back vodka shots (always fun with the funny little pills I LOVE SO MUCH).

Where he can say he was injured outside the Millennium Falcon, I can only hang my head and mutter “I was outside McDonald’s.” It’s not his fault a door fell on him. And it’s not my fault I can’t walk properly.

But no matter who has it better or worse, at least we can say we both have our health – as it were.

But I’m still choked he was airlifted by helicopter and I wasn’t.

Maybe, however, despite him making all the headlines he did, along with the helicopter ride and extra attention, maybe I didn't have it so bad, after all. At least I can skip - now, at least, however unattractively, however - to the movie theatres.

Harrison, I hope you feel better soon. While you’re lounging around, gimme a call – we can wallow in our suffering together and share stories about our adventures while comparing bruises.

Come on, call me – it won’t hurt one bit.

(News is always changing, but here is the latest from the Toronto Sun on Mr. Ford's condition)

Thanks for reading!
Lisa


Friday, June 6, 2014

Those Two Houses


There are two houses for sale on opposite sides of North America. Yes, yes, I know – there are many houses up for sale. But these houses are significant. And it’s by pure coincidence and of keen interest to me that their listings were found within a week of each other, especially given their genealogical connection.

It’s very weird, very spooky and very poignant.

On one side of North America is Waltham, Massachusetts, home of my forefathers. My grandmother was born there, her family is from there (or at least in that region), and my dad and aunt were born there.

On the other side of North America is Richmond, BC, the little city on little Lulu Island where my forefathers emigrated to and where I was born and raised.

Within days of each other, we discovered that not only is the house where my dad grew up in Waltham up for sale, but the house where I grew up in Richmond is also up for sale. Yes, these houses have been bought and sold a few times over the years, but this is the first time we could see their listings, and more.

Oh, the miracle of the internet.

Now, for legal reasons, I can’t show you the listings because I am very by-the-book and follow all laws, rules and regulations.

Says me who, during a drive-by-snoop of our old house in Richmond a week before finding the real estate listing, wanted to steal the house number which was nailed to a piece of wood and left leaning, forgotten, against the garage. My dad, being the stand-up kind of guy he is, said ‘no’ to my sticky-fingered temptation. Harumpf....

Over the years I have often imagined walking through our old house. But right then when we were parked outside the house contemplating theft (me) and commenting on the quality of their yard work (Dad), waves of bittersweet nostalgia at the thought of being able to revisit my old room, kitchen, living room and bathroom took my breath away. I had always been curious about the inside but right then, for whatever reason, overwhelming feelings of homesickness and wistful memories had me knowing that if I were to go through there, I would be a puddle of sentimental tears.

(Just thinking about it, here, has my throat tightening in anticipation).

So it was beyond ironic, coincidence and downright spooky that not a few days later, my dad sent me the real estate listing for his old house in Massachusetts – the house I had heard so much about most of my life. Inside photos of the rooms were on the listing, and although they had been remodelled and updated in the old 1920’s house, he said he could still remember the rooms from when he was a kid.


Then, not a few days later, he found the listing for our old house in Richmond – the house I had just driven-by and pined for only a few days before.

(Note: it was built as a bungalow in 1958, and later raised to become a top/bottom duplex in 1974. We lived in the bottom, my grandparents lived in the top)

It was all very weird - two of our houses found for sale in a matter of days.

When I pulled up the listing for my old house, the real estate company’s website had photos of the interior. FINALLY I could see the inside of my old house. With anticipation and trepidation, the same feelings of angst I had had a week or so before at the thought of going through the old house surfacing, I clicked and opened the photos.

And was dismayed.

Nothing looked like how it was when I lived there. Except for the fireplaces on both floors, wall sconces from when I was a kid still on either side of one fireplace, and the layout of one of the kitchens still somewhat recognizable, nothing was the same. Sure I could figure out which room was which based on the view outside each rooms’ window, but that was it. New paint and flooring everywhere as well as new kitchens and bathrooms had the place looking like someone else’s home, entirely. I knew SOMEthings would change over the years, but I hadn’t imagined the concept of not being able to recognize anything.

And I know it’s not MY home anymore.

And just like that, the nostalgic, wistful, sentimental homesick feelings blew out the front door. Sure I had a tinge of disappointment and loss; the house as I knew it from the inside was gone forever. But there was nothing I could do about it.

It wasn’t like I had been pining for my old house all these years, but I had always cherished the thought of it being THERE, exactly as I remembered it.

Things might look the same on the outside, and though the base - the foundation - might still be the same, things change. It happens, and it’s inevitable. Things need upgrading, updating and fine-tuning – inside and out. Sure there is comfort in the knowledge that the house is still there, and no matter what changes cosmetically, it’s still the same house under all the paint, but still......

There have been lots of changes for me lately – lots good, some bad, and some ‘just the way life goes’ - and that house, those changes, were a much-needed reminder to keep moving forward and to accept change. Let go, move on, and get on with things.

I know this is very cliché, but it reminded me, too, that home is where the heart is (you can stop rolling your eyes now). The memories of my home, and all those I have lived in, will always be safe and secure in my memories. Nothing will change those.

Thanks for reading,

Lisa

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blog Hop? What is That?


Laura Langston (www.lauralangston.com) invited me to participate in a ‘blog hop.’ Before I explain further, I just want to thank Laura for inviting me to participate. Laura and I met many years ago through the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and have stayed in touch personally and professionally. Her current release, “Hot New Thing,” is published by Orca Books (I read it – fabulous! The signed copy is on my keeper shelf!)

Getting on with things...

For those of you new to it all (as am I), a blog hop is like a game of tag between authors where they promote each other. Below are four questions each tagged person answers on their site, and then I ‘tag’ three other authors who, in turn, answers the same four questions on each of their blogs/sites, tagging three other authors to do the same, and so on, and so on, and so on....

It sounded like fun; a perfect chance for me to tell you a bit more about myself (as if you REALLY needed to know MORE), and an opportunity for you to learn about other writers, as well. So without further adieu, here we go...

What am I working on?

Wow – that’s a big first question. Well, I’m right now in the middle of promoting my upcoming young adult novel, ‘Newbie Nick,’ published by Lycaon Press. ‘Newbie Nick’ is about 14-year-old Nick Zinsky who secretly busks for money on the streets of downtown – a ‘job’ he soon learns is hard to keep secret. Since first signing the contract, I have been in a flurry of edits, website building, author/computer-techie stuff, and just plain old excitement. All that, and more, has eaten up a lot of scarce writing time – but in a GOOD way! Since I’m sort of in a ‘lull’ between edits while waiting for the bit release day in June, there’s not much I can do other than start another young adult novel (stay tuned – it’s kind of heavy and ‘dark’), and continue to name-drop my upcoming book here and there.

Newbie Nick.

So juggling my teen boys, home life, and my day job, all with a book coming out, has been a bit chaotic. This is not a bad thing, mind you – I mean, who doesn’t want their own book to be published? So for now I excitedly anticipate the release date, all while busy prepping marketing stuff, writing blog posts when I can, working on edits for various anthologies for my slice-of-life stories that have (happily) popped-up unexpectedly, and try to keep all the ideas for other young adult novels sorted in my head.

How does my work differ from others in it’s genre?

Another big question for being only the second question out of four – I hope the next two aren’t as difficult.

Well – how does my work differ from others in it's genre? I have been compared to Erma Bombeck time and again. However MOST flattering and MOST honouring, I couldn't ever compare myself to the queen of all that is slice-of-life.

Saying that, however, I would say – or I would like to think – that my writing differs from others because I have my own distinctive writing voice. I try to write as if I’m chatting with a friend over coffee (me blabbering a mile-a-minute, mind you), while trying to entertain, keep things light and humorous, all with an attempt at offering insight and inspiration. That’s not to say that I am ‘the knower of all things.’ I don’t claim to know everything. But we all have experiences and insights, so why not share them - nicely and with humour - in the hope of helping someone else?

Why do I write what I do?

Now that’s better - an easier question.

I write what I do because, as I said in the previous question, I write to entertain and to hopefully make you laugh (what’s funny to one person is not so funny to another, I know). I also hope to make you cry, but in a good way, because then that would mean that what I wrote mattered, and made you think, feel and ‘be.’ And I hope what I write inspires you to better yourself (not to sound conceited). We all are trying to get through this thing called life – one step at a time.

How does my writing process work?

Process? What process? There are a million ways to do things, and there is no one right way for everyone. I try to write every morning between 4:30 and 6am before heading off to my ‘day job.’ Everyone’s in bed so I have the whole place to myself. I try to write at lunch and sometimes, if I’m lucky, on Saturday nights I head over to a local coffee shop and cram/write hard for two hours.

I get an idea – usually from a snippet of conversation, an image or scene from a book or movie, or come across a quote that inspires me - and then it snowballs from there. It pays to be snoopy and eavesdrop. Then I think, I make notes, I think, I make notes, I think some more, and then I try to make sense of all my notes. For my fiction work it usually takes about seven or eight versions of the first two to three chapters before I really get the ball rolling. Very often as the story progresses, it completely changes from when I first started – and that’s okay. It’s the constant writing, pushing the story along and allowing to screw up and accept change along the way that makes the story progress. Some hair-pulling ensues, but that’s okay. It’s all part of being a writer! Just keep writing, just keep writing....


And there you have it – a little about me and my writing! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll also visit me at my site for my young adult books www.lisamcmanus.com

And now I would like to introduce you to three authors I admire - Ryshia Kennie, Jenny Watson and Jodie Esch. I hope you stop by their own blogs around June 9th and say ‘hi!’

First, I’d like to introduce Ryshia Kennie. We met online (not in ‘that way’) and for the life of me I can’t remember where or how. I think we just ‘found each other’ in the online writing circles we frequent. She’s always one to offer a supportive comment or two and I am inspired by her often-posted writing-words-of-wisdom, as well as the numerous publications under her belt.

Bio: The Canadian prairies are where Ryshia Kennie makes her home. The winner of her city’s Writing Award in 2011, her novels have taken her characters from the depression era prairies in her first book “From the Dust” to the ancient stones of Angkor Wat in her latest book, “Intent to Kill”. For more, visit her website at www.ryshiakennie.com

I’d also like to introduce you to children’s author, Jenny Watson. Jenny and I have recently become acquainted through the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, as well as through the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable. Most recently I spotted her current release “Prove It, Josh,” (published by Sono Nis Press) during my travels on the BC Ferries!

Bio: Jenny Watson grew up in small-town New Zealand, dreaming of big adventures in faraway places. When she was 18, she spent a year as an exchange student in Thailand, where she learned to speak a little Thai (nit noi) and to eat curry and sticky rice with her fingers. After returning to New Zealand to earn a Master’s degree in psychology, she moved to San Diego and trained to be a technical writer. Jenny, her husband and their small but feisty parrot now make their home in Victoria, B.C. where they grab every opportunity they can to go sailing with friends until they launch their own plywood sailing dinghy. Find her at www.jennywatson.ca

Last but not least is Jodie Esch. I met Jodie years ago through the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and have come to know and admire her personally and professionally. A former teacher, she has directed her love of writing towards writing for kids (makes sense to me!), and her book “Little White Castles” is part four of ‘The Girlfriends Series.’

Bio: Jodie Esch lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, dog, cat, chickens and alpacas. When not living in her fictional world, she spends her time as the ‘Waste Management Queen’ picking up manure on the property. She is passionate about words and is obsessed with writing and reading. Find her at www.jodieesch.com

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Step by Step

Many writers get asked, “When did you know you were a writer?” Or, “How did you know you were a writer?” Or, “When did you start writing? Were you good in English as a kid? (I just got that one the other day). Some writers have an answer for some or all, and some don’t have an answer for any.

But I have yet to hear the question, “Where did you become a writer? Where did it all start?” Meaning “Where were you when...” Everyone has a poignant place of personal change that will stay with them forever.

The curious might ask the question ‘where did it start,’ as if becoming a writer hits like an epiphany out of thin air, to which the answer could be: “While bathing in the Ganges River (not advisable) a Mahseer fish (a fish found in those parts) bit me and the over-whelming revelation to be a writer coursed through my body.” Nothing wrong with swimming or fish, but if I was in the Ganges River, no matter how holy or bucket-list-completing the event might be, I don’t think I would be thinking about writing right at that moment. Or maybe I would be? Who knows. Mysterious, unexplainable things happen all the time.

Or some might respond to the “where were you when...” question with: “I was in my stained once-pink housecoat in my laundry room surrounded by piles of laundry when I got ‘the call’ from a publisher offering me an eight book deal. That was where and when I knew I was a writer. It was only after the call, despite my excitement, that I noticed the laundry room was in dire need of painting and there was a Cheerio in my hair. Thank God I wasn’t on Skype!”

Or better yet some might, while wearing a tweed jacket coupled with a cravat loosely tied at the neck, point at you with their pipe (a perfect prop) and answer in the most uppity, smooth voice, “Well, my dear, I got my start while studying 18th century German Literature at ‘Hoity-Toity University.’ I wrote my twenty-two theses in the same dorm I occupied for twelve years overlooking the garden commons, all while transcribing Elder Futhark, the ancient Germanic runic alphabet.”

Alrighty then.....

So obviously the question is open to interpretation. But for me, I actually DO know the exact place where my early writerly start began. I can quote the spot, right down to the step: fourth step from the bottom on the back stairs of my childhood home.

The back steps of the house where I grew up was a central, common area to my sisters and I. It was a place to play dollies, chat and gossip, have a good cry, or lace up our roller skates. But mostly, for me, it was a place to sit and read in the sun during the summer months. Over the years I read countless books on the forth step up, and it was there where I not only took-up sketching (epic fail), but where I wrote a ‘thriller’ short story about an acid-spewing spider which attacked me in my sleep. Seriously. (It was also there, in the summer of ’83, where I discovered I had chicken pox).

I still have the sketches but the countless, numerous, infinite number of books I read, along with the story I wrote, are long gone (oh how I wish I still had the books and the story!).

I sat there day after day, reading book after book (in between roller skating, of course), unknowingly fuelling my inner-writer. Adventure books, mysteries, teen romances, and then all too soon, mature romances. And while I was building my writerly muscles that wouldn’t be put to use until later life, I was also building up a good base tan. Sunscreen wasn’t ‘in’ back then.

I had friends, don’t doubt, but I was, and always have been, a bookworm at heart.

It was during a recent down-memory-lane trip with my dad to the old house that I was able to capture on film where it all started; where I became a writer.

The house, now owned by someone else, has been going through some renovations. The open-air, covered patio you see to the left (your left) of the stairs was where I played as a little kid. A few years later that area was transformed, my dad using the space to build an addition to the house. It was perfect as for many years I had a wall to lean against while I read. The new owners have since removed the addition, and the space has been reverted back to the open-air covered patio it once was. Seeing it like that, back to its original state, sent me on a weird time-warp: I hadn’t seen it like that since I was about six or seven years old.

I realize now the whole ‘old house’ visit was a bit of a revelation in itself – and I didn’t need to be bit by a Mahseer fish in the Ganges River to have that revelation, either. Not only was it great to see where it all began, but it reminded me that things change, I’ve changed, and so will my writing, change. No, I’m not currently writing about acid-spewing spiders, but who knows – maybe one day, I will.

Going back to where it all began was an inspiring reminder of how far I had come – one step at a time.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Love Baking - Mother's Day Giveaway

I have a passion, but it’s something I have no time for - I love baking. Not just eating it, but actually DOING it. As a mom, for me at least, baking comes with the territory.

But I wish I had more time to bake. And I wish I had better tools like fancy mixers, fancy pans, and gizmos and gadgets galore to make the most perfect-est, Frenchiest of baked delights (what ‘French’ has to do with it, I’m not sure, but really good baked goodies always seem to be French). And I wish I had a huge kitchen with an island with pots and pans dangling from the ceiling, the kind you see in magazines. And I wish I would always have great hair when whipping up the most perfect cheesecake/soufflĂ©/flan, and I wish I would not ever make a mess, and I wish...

Aw, heck - I don’t really wish for all the extra pots and pans because then that would mean I would have to cook more, like meals and such. And at this point in my life I’m sick of cooking. I wish I could order take-out every night and not have to wash any dishes.

Because all I want to do is just bake – and not have to clean up the mess in my tiny kitchen. That part’s no fun.

But despite my love and adoration for baking I have to admit, however, that I sometimes hate it. Stupid, I know. I hate having to bake out of necessity or urgency, like needing to make 3 loaves and 2 dozen cookies for a school-do and a work-do the next day – and the only time to do it all is in the evening after I have already worked all day and cooked dinner upon coming home.

That’s no fun, and sometimes that’s when problems arise.

Finding time to do anything extra special, and do it properly, is a constant quest.

And lately, my time has become more and more scarce. I have a full-time job outside the home, three growing men in my house to feed and referee, and a writing career I am trying to maintain with what limited time I have. And so, lately, my baking and cooking has become somewhat, subpar.

One time I cut open a perfectly baked banana bread, only to find a chunk of eggshell. Another time the cookies were taken out of the oven just a tad too soon (raw cookie dough tastes good, anyways). Then there was the time I forgot to put the chocolate chips into the chocolate chip cookies. The worst was when I failed to grease and flour a cake pan, resulting in the pan needing to be soaked in soapy water for the next two days, only to still require a knife to chisel away at the baked-on cake batter. (The missing chocolate chips episode was the most traumatic of them all)

But it’s usually when I’m in a flurry – hair flying, flour all over my clothes, a Band-aid needing application (and hopefully not finding its way into the batter) – that something gets forgotten.

So, like I said, lately my baking has become subpar

Like the other day.

The other day, or should I say night, I made a pumpkin loaf. Simple and straightforward, a traditional recipe straight out of the red-and-white gingham ‘Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book,’ I have made this recipe, and other loaves like it, a zillion times before. I know the recipe for those loaves like the back of my hand.

So when I pulled it out of the oven after it’s required baking time, it just looked....flat.

Like, flat FLAT.

I know I put in the baking powder, and I KNOW I put in the baking soda – two ingredients necessary for leavening. I KNOW I put in the eggs – the eggshells were still in the garbage when I checked later. Knowing how rushed and tired I was, I had made sure to slow down and follow all the steps extra carefully, ensuring I didn’t miss any ingredients.

The toothpick-test showed it was fully baked, but....something wasn’t right.

It was for work the next day, and time had run out. I didn’t have any more eggs to make another.

So huge dollops of cream cheese icing was spread on top, a ploy to add height and mask it’s ‘flatness.’

The next day at work I explained my concerns about my flat loaf to anyone who would listen. One person did some baking research and we had a great lengthy discussion about testing baking powder and baking soda for freshness, uneven oven temperatures and the use of an oven thermometer, what kind of pan I used, did I mix it long enough, was I having a good hair day when I made it...all factors were analyzed.

I made big plans to later throw out the baking powder and soda, call the landlord about the oven, get an oven thermometer, buy a new loaf pan, call up Better Homes and Gardens and give them a piece of my mind, and do something with my hair – all in the name of baking a better loaf.

Later that night as I was nodding off, chin to chest, upright on the couch while watching a TV show, I ‘woke up’ with a sudden revelation. Where the thought came from when I was half-comatose on the couch, I will never know.

WAIT A MINUTE!!!!

Did I....did I forget...?

I stumbled to the kitchen and flipped through the red-and-white cookbook to the pumpkin loaf recipe. A possible reason for my flat loaf sparked through the foggy synapses of my brain, and I realized....

The recipe calls for two cups of flour, one cup added at the beginning of the mixing process and another added at the end, right before going into the oven.

I had forgotten the second cup of flour at the end.

HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THAT?

No wonder everyone commented how moist the dense the loaf was!

In summary, no one died, everyone liked me ALOT for a day (it was the cream cheese icing), and I learned that lack of time and baking don’t go hand in hand – a steadfast rule of a good baker.

All good things take their own sweet time.


To celebrate Mother's Day and those who do last-minute rushed baking jobs, I am hosting a giveaway - comment below and I will randomly draw a name - the winner will receive the anthology 'Not Your Mother's Book - On Being a Mom' (Publishing Syndicate) which features 64 fun and often outrageous stories by moms about raising their families. Inside you'll find my story 'Rules' - a story about loving the landlord's 'rules' for the greater good of my family (you can read about it more in a previous post called 'The Great Reveal'). Giveaway only open to Canada and US - sorry :( Winner will be announced on Monday, May 12th, in the comments section, so be sure to check back!