Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thank you, Mrs. Claus

It’s all in how you look at things.

My kids are getting older – this is not the first time I have written about this – and the Christmas season only reinforces the nostalgic feelings of my kids’ childhood that make my throat constrict in tears of fondness.
But alas! I try to remind myself. This is not the time for tears! This is the time to be thankful for the fact that I have even HAD the Christmas’ I have had in the past, as well as in the present and what is yet to come in the future. I have wonderful memories of traditions, fun, joy and tears (a little one up too late, perhaps?) that I will cherish forever. Sure things aren’t the ‘same’ anymore, but as my kids grow I grow, and traditions change. Things can’t be the same E V E R Y S I N G L E Y E A R. They just can’t; they won’t. Fun, togetherness and the spirit of the season comes in many forms. But the challenge is accepting change – because it WILL happen – and focusing on finding the joy in what I DO have. Making the most of every present moment and not pining for what isn’t anymore will only make the NOW, better.

And part of that is finding fun where I can, when I can, and often in the unexpected. Not in a selfish ‘me, me, me’ way, but I realized if could create my own fun then I would still have the ‘umpf’ to spread the fun for my family – no matter how old they get. Happiness and joy – it’s contagious. If fun was still going to be around me no matter the change in traditions – because they invariably will change - no matter how old everyone gets, I had to act it. I had to believe it. I had to foster happiness and joy if it was going to be around us all.

And I knew all this, but still, I wallowed these past weeks leading to Christmas, wasting time and pining for what once was and what wasn’t going to be.

Two weeks before Christmas I was in a dollar store and I was feeling wistful and – to be honest – (stupidly) kind of feeling sorry for myself. Between skidding over the loose jelly beans on the floor, tripping over the bits of tinsel dropped in the mad rush, and wading through the gift bags thrown in a panic, I was wishing my kids were little so I could take them across the street to see Santa.

But then I saw a gift bag to end all gift bags.

But I didn’t see a ‘gift bag.’ I saw shopping tote.

I saw fun.

So I got it.

And it was then that I really GOT IT.

In seeing something not for what it was intended, but for something else – for the better - I was making my own fun. I could use that bag for my own enjoyment and, as well, for the enjoyment of others. I later used it for a few groceries my regular store and it made the cashiers grin. Walking around the shopping center with it put a smile on the faces of people I passed. And my kids – well, for the first time in a LONG time, they actually thought I was cool.

Like, seriously.

It was with that dollar store ‘Mrs. Claus’ gift bag/tote that I remembered just because the same kind of Christmas fun I had with my kids when they were little was now a fond memory (and at least I had THOSE), I could still have fun – for me and for everyone else. I was wasting time pining for what once was. Fun was not over – it was only just beginning anew. And the most important thing was perspective – I have a home, food and family around me. It’s the little things that matter, that come unexpectedly in any shape or form, and I had to keep an open mind and heart if I was truly going to see them. That little bag renewed my determination to keep things fun every year, no matter what the change. Fun is where and how you make it, you sometimes just have to dig deeper beyond what is really there to find it.

Thank you, Mrs. Claus, for that - and for making me look cool.

Seriously.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Signing books! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Wow - it's been a busy week!

I stopped at Save-On-Foods in Victoria BC for dish soap and hot chocolate (the two had nothing to do with each other), and signed copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible, which includes my story 'Taking Aim at Excuses.' Lionel the store manager was kind enough to help me out, and so on a cart of toys, with my dish soap and hot chocolate at my side, I signed the copies they had then made my way to the checkout!

Then I made my way over to Pharmasave in Broadmead Shopping Center, where I also signed copies of the book - and they even set up a little display table to showcase it all! What a thrill! Check them out on Facebook :)


Thanks to all the local business for supporting local writers! XO





Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Hard Habit to Break

It was all so innocent in the beginning....

Or not.

He wanted bread clips; lots of them. They weren’t for a ‘collection’ to compare colour, expiry date or sturdiness. They weren’t for trading with friends; whoever had the most of any one colour would be the ‘king of the world.’ They weren’t to fulfill a neurotic need; no obsessive compulsive desire needed to be satisfied.

They were meant for one thing and one thing only – to be flicked.

The plastic bread clips as we know them today was first created in 1952 by Floyd Paxton. As the story goes, Floyd was travelling home on an airliner when he couldn’t seal-close his half-eaten bag of in flight peanuts. Frustrated and concerned about preserving their freshness, an idea struck all those thousands of miles up in the air. Floyd pulled out an expired cardboard credit card from his wallet and with a pocketknife (allowed in those days), he proceeded to carve a crude version of what we now know as a bread clip to seal the bag. A business man at heart, his invention caught the eye of food processors and he had orders for more. The tiny little discs could be mass produced by the thousands and an expiry date was soon added to their functionality.

Sadly, Floyd would never obtain the patent for his invention we so readily take for granted.

Then in the pre-internet times when kids were bored more often and had only their own imaginations as entertainment some kid somewhere found another use for the easily disposed of clips. Break them in half, wedge the inside half on the tip of your pointer finger ‘just so,’ draw back your finger, use your thumb for extra catapult-like-thrust, and let ‘er rip! FLICK! The little plastic clip-half goes flying through the air at warp-like speed, annoyingly hitting someone in the head, ear, face or wherever the aim-practiced clip launcher intended. The weapon is not meant to maim or kill, but to annoy. The well-practiced gains notoriety for bulls-eye-like accuracy, only to be beaten up by brother, sister, friend or foe.

Mission accomplished.

So in my son’s case, this was actually the intent. When he discovered the easily mastered, ammunition-readily-available sport, he threw himself into the sport and made it his mission to obtain the largest arsenal of bread clips possible. A mug was ceremoniously placed in the corner of the kitchen counter, and instructions were issued to all the bread consumers in the house to SAVE THOSE BREAD CLIPS. One by one we started tossing them in the cup, and on nights where boredom was all-consuming, he’d sit and prepare his ammunition. SNAP, SNAP, SNAP – he’d break them in half one by one. Then, when the time was right and when the right enemy was near, FLICK – and someone would be nailed in the head.

Of course this would only result in nagging from the general (me) to collect all the shell casings (flicked clips) from the carpet and/or couches, but it was all in fun – all in the name of family bonding.

As all things in life grow and change, so did he and his methods of brotherly annoying. The flicking ceased and new methods were contrived. But the clips were still insisted upon being saved. The cup would overflow so I’d put them in a baggie and put the cup back in its place for continued collecting.

Over time he forgot about the clips – but I didn’t. I couldn’t stop savings them. It became a habit; saving them, automatic. As soon as a loaf of bread or buns was done, the bag would be recycled and the clip tossed in the cup. I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the clip or recycle it – but what was I saving them for? He started something I couldn’t stop, and I suspect my saving them was a way of saving a little bit of my boys’ childhood innocence; their boyish antics I don’t want to let go of just yet.

And so I keep saving them.

Sure there are numerous reuse-it ideas for the little plastic discs – crafts, framed art, power cord labellers, jewelry (!), flip-flop repairing, wine-glass markers – the list goes on. But even the crafty person I am doesn’t want to make anything with them, altering them into something other than what they are to me: a memory.

I can’t get rid of them, and I can’t stop saving them. It’s a habit I don’t want to break anytime soon. I know I have to ‘let go’ – it’s the hardest thing to do for any mother – but I’m not ready to let go of the bread clips just yet.

IF and WHEN I do break the habit and stop saving them – I shiver at the thought – I know I will forever relate them to the boyish ways of my kids; when annoying anyone, namely each other, was paramount to their existence and when the worst worry we had was ducking from all the halved bread clips flying through the air. I would give anything to pick one out of my hair right now.

So I’ll keep saving them and likely become the weird little old lady with a zillion bread clips hoarded in her house...

But at least I’ll have something to nail my grandkids in the head with. They’ll never see it coming.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa xo






Monday, November 16, 2015

Here, there and everywhere - catching up!

Wow - I've been so busy the last while; here, there and everywhere! If it's not work, then it's dealing with some personal matters that are soon to be on the mend! I've been writing, just unfortunately not here - so much has been going on! I'm working on a fantasy for teens, have been writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, and have a book to be released this month by Evernight Teen which has required lots of prepping, planning and excitement. I hope you'll stop by my website for young adults at www.lisamcmanus.com

In the meantime, I have been reflecting on how fortunate I am to do what I do, and that is write AND have someone read my work AND like it enough to include it in an anthology of fabulous authors I am humbled to be in the company of. Chicken Soup for the Soul's latest release 'Think Possible' is full of 101 stories by authors who overcame challenges and adversity in various degrees to turn what they thought IMpossible into something possible. I have been fortunate to have previous work published by the fabulous folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul; the opportunities and experiences that have come with being published with them, and many other publishers who have seen something of interest in what I do, are countless. So it's a thrill when you're shopping at Costco filling your shopping cart of warehouse-size groceries for your family and you see copies of the book your work is in for sale - very cool.


Happy reading!

Lisa xo

Friday, October 23, 2015

A New Word About Words

It was a normal Friday morning…..or at least I thought.

I was thrilled that it was Friday, despite anticipating at busy workday ahead, but the knowledge that the weekend was right around the corner (despite inevitable laundry and chores) had me all but skipping to Starbucks for my celebratory early-morning-Friday-latte.

As I ordered my drink from the dear, sweet barista-girl who I always chat with, we exchanged pleasantries about the fact that it was Friday and what our plans were for the day. She said she had a test later that day. I knew she was in school for writing…or journalism…or…something – something to do with words. But it was early, you see, and I was in a fog. My ‘wheels’ weren’t working yet, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but I knew I was correct in remembering what she was in school for – how could I not? We were sisters in the literary world.

The nearby gargantuan coffee machine got its own wheels working, what with all the grinding and churning and steaming that it does to make fancy drinks. But when I asked her what her test was for (puffing out my chest a bit as I wondered if I – the writerly person I am – might be able to help her), the coffee machine chose that moment to execute the grand finale of my latte; a final loud whir and whoosh and burst of steam and the machine was done making my hot latte.

“It’s a test on mor *STEAM/WHOOSH* phines…” was all I heard. I saw her mouth move, and I couldn’t hear exactly what she said, but….WHAT?

“Morphines?” I asked, instantly awake. I didn’t think pharmaceuticals had much to do with the written word (well, maybe for some folks) – or maybe she had switched class and was now going to school to be a doctor, or a pharmacist or….

She patiently repeated ‘morphines,’ but by then the coffee machine was at it again, performing al its’ whirring, whooshing and steaming for someone else’s drink.

“Morphines?” I asked over the coffee/milk-milk-steamer-thing. “Like as in the medicine?” If I furrowed my brow any harder, I was gonna need surgery to unfurrow it – a perfect time for morphine, indeed.

“No,” she started again. If she was counting to ten on my account, she hid it well. “M O R P H E M E,” she spelled out. “It’s the smallest unit of a word.”

HUH?

I unfurrowed my brow so fast I think it nearly fell off.

She tried to explain a morpheme and I kind of ‘got’ her explanation – but I didn’t. I had her write down the word so I could research it (aka GOOGLE it).

I would later learn that, according to the Miriam Webster dictionary, a morpheme is a word or a part of a word that has a meaning and that contains no smaller part that has a meaning. Wikipedia says a morpheme is the smallest grammatical unit in a language – the smallest meaningful unit of a language.

I was intrigued – I didn’t expect to learn about MORPHEMES when I got up that morning. Where she is studying linguistics which is the scientific study of a language, I am a writer and I play with words and jumble them around trying to set them into an order that is entertaining and perhaps meaningful: our interest in the written word and language the same….but different. With departing words of wishes of luck on her test, I had left the coffee shop with my latte in hand intrigued and inspired about what had happened. Where we had had a somewhat (ahem) confusing (on my part) exchange using language, about language, I wondered: do we hear what we want, or assume we think we know what we heard? Words, no matter what size, shape, form or meaning, are powerful yet confusing. They intrigue us enough to study them, dissect them, or play with them. Or, in our case that morning in the shop, share them.

Although I was more confused than ever, I would later realize after spending much too much time doing research (Googling) that I would have to get someone to sit down and explain morphemes to me – over a cup of coffee. I had learned a new word about words, and although I don't claim to know everything about everything, it just goes to show you never know what you’re gonna learn – and when.

Cover Reveal!

I'm proud to share the cover for my upcoming young adult novel, 'That Night', published by Evernight Teen (Evernight Publishing). The tentative release date of this ebook is December 2015 so stay tuned! Hope you'll hop over to my young adult site at www.lisamcmanus.com where I talk about the book and my other writing for teens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible - new release!

I've been away from here for a bit - life had gotten in the way of my writing. Or, I realize upon much-needed reflection, I allowed life to get in the way of my writing. Bad me.

I allowed challenges to get in the way - but at the same time I had to, unfortunately, 'let things go' in order to keep up with some of those all-consuming challenges. But as the dark clouds have finally started to lift - despite it being fall and rainy season upon us (hee, hee - I made a joke!) - good things ARE starting to happen once again...

My story 'Taking Aim at Excuses' is along with many other stories in the newest release 'Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible.' The book is full of 101 stories about possibilities and doing (at least often what one might have thought) the unthinkable - the unimaginable - despite adversity, challenges, roadblocks or...ourselves. Sometimes life throws us life-altering challenges that are out of our control and we have to work with what we've got. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, perspective hard to come by. Either way, no matter what the reason, doing what we can with what we've got and coming out bigger, stronger, tougher and better than what we were in the beginning is what really counts.

My story about archery that I am proud to have in this inspirational book has been published at the other side of a challenging time in my life. This story I wrote reminded me that no matter what clouds may hover, I have to keep shooting, take aim at excuses, and keep perspective. I should practice what I preach.

Now to be not so hum-drum and glum:

Something cool with this release - I participated in a 'Twitter Party' with publisher Amy Newmark and co-author, Deborah Norville of the syndicated show, Inside Edition (on which she had a segment about the book but I missed it!). Anyways, the 'party' lasted for an hour, and Amy, Deborah, other authors from the book twitter-chatted about the book. If you're on twitter go to #CSSThinkPossible to see our chat, or find me at @LisaMcManusLang


I hope you find the book a help to you and remember - anything's possible.

(Coach Bradley helping me shoot a bow for the first time - he's mentioned in my story :) )

Thank you all for reading - hope you'll come back soon!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Finding Gold on My Lunch Break

There’s GOLD at the Royal BC Museum!

But it wasn't gold that had me running through the museum one particular afternoon....

I was on my lunch break from work and although I very much look forward to my break when I can hide away somewhere with a good book, that day I knew it was to be ‘just another’ lunch break....

Or so I thought.

As I trekked through the museum with my book in my purse (I work near the museum, not IN the museum as so some people have thought from my past stories surrounding events there), I dodged the dozens of museum-goers from far and wide who were waiting in line to gain access to the museum’s current Gold Rush exhibit (http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/goldrush on now until November 1, 2015). I picked my way through the crowds anxious to carry on with my own non-museum-related lunch-break plans, but something stopped me in my tracks – and it wasn’t GOLD in them thar hills....!

The tell-tale, saloon-type tinkling of a piano drew me away from my lunch-break mission. I’m not a musician at all, but I could tell this wasn’t just some recorded piano music. As I followed the sound through the lobby of the museum, I imagined myself in an old western/gold rush movie, my corsets straining (I wish), and my potential suitors/cowboys/gold panners offering me bad whiskey in exchange for my attentions.

But alas – no corsets, suitors, cowboys or gold panners were to be found...

Two museum staff sat playing a piano – and a very old one at that. As one girl played, without using her hands, the other tended to what looked like a bunch of old scrolls piled high on a trolley.

Of course I stopped, and of course I bothered them.

They were playing a player piano from 1910 – the same kind that would have typically been found in saloons or musical halls. Able to be played traditionally, this piano can also be played to read sheet music. While pumping the foot pedals, the action sets the inner workings in motion reading the hole-punched scroll inserted in the front. The holes in the paper are placed ‘just so’ so that when each hole is ‘read’ by the mechanics inside the piano, the corresponding musical note of the key is played and out comes a perfectly played song - if you pump the pedals at just the right speed.

So enamoured I was with the whole thing I stayed and chatted with the girls, surely annoying them. But they were more than accommodating and patient, and were keen to show me this entertaining piece of history. As the one girl played, I asked if it was equal to a good workout.

“When it’s not tuned up, it sure is! Better than a treadmill!” was her response.

I snapped photo after photo as the girls entertained and informed, then I hesitantly asked if they could take a photo of my feet on the pedals (I knew a story was there, somewhere, and how could I leave without a few pictures?)

So I sat on the bench and positioned my feet ‘just so.’ The contrast of my ‘Keds’ brand runners with the turn-of-the-century instrument pedals was not lost on me.

Just as I was admiring the look of my feet on the pedals, and idly hoping my legs didn’t look too fat, one of the girls drew my attention to a manufacturers warning just inside the piano. It read:

Notice:
Positively no oil, graphite, Vaseline, or grease should be used on the slide
valves or wooden surface of this motor.
If the bushed bearings should squeak use unsalted beef tallow.

Well, was I ever disappointed I only had SALTED beef tallow with me!

Just as I was sharing a giggle with one of the girls about the ‘warning,’ the other replaced the music scroll with a new one.

Thinking they were gearing-up for their next performance I started to get up but then stopped when they asked me if I wanted to play! ME!

After a bit of back and forth – ‘Oh I just POSSIBLY couldn’t!’ I humbly exclaimed – at their final urging I sat back down and again placed my feet just so. After a bit of instruction – ‘keep pumping at an even speed’ – I started. It took a few beats to get the right rhythm and speed, but the next thing I knew I was playing “Oh Joe With Your Fiddle and Bow,” a foxtrot by ‘Donaldson,’ the original sheet music scroll originally priced at 25 cents (can’t get THAT on iTunes!).

I played and pumped and played and pumped, lost in complete awe of the experience. My legs didn’t get tired, but my face hurt from the non-stop grin I knew was plastered there.

“I sure didn’t think I’d be playing a piano like this on my lunch-break from work when I got up this morning!” I told the girls in excitement. They, too, grinned back – they knew how special playing this instrument, was.

Sadly and all-too-quickly the foxtrot came to an end and the girls, and a few onlookers, applauded my performance. With a switch the rolling-feature was set into ‘rewind’ and I pumped the scroll back to the beginning.

Needless to say I was, and still am, beyond grateful to the staff allowing me the opportunity to do something completely different and unexpected during my lunch-break. I skipped back to work with a foxtrot-spring in my step, and thrilled at having done something totally unexpected.

Oh, and I didn't read a page of my book and my 'corsets' stayed intact. :)


(Author’s note: during my research for tidbits about pianos during the gold rush, I found this article. If you read through, you will find a reference to an accomplished pianist ‘Mrs. Lange’ who, with her husband, opened a music hall way back way when..... spooky finding! http://bcheritage.ca/cariboo/barker/lorna.htm)



Monday, August 10, 2015

Keepin' it Simple...

“THAT’S IT!” I said one day after I lost yet another sock. “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!”

Yup - I had had enough.

Our washer and dryer sit side-by-side in a little closet: folding closet doors hide them away. To get the washer or dryer out, say if you chose to do something odd like clean the lint and dust out from behind them, you have to take the closet doors right off their hinges then ploy one of your in-house strong men with ice-cream to come pull out the washer or dryer for you. The closet is so tiny – so perfectly measured for the average washer and dryer – that whoever built the house sure wasn’t generous with their measurements. There is JUST enough room for both machines to fit.

So when a sock, a pair of underwear or a dishcloth goes tumbling down the tiny space between the dryer and the wall, that’s it, it’s gone. The dishes will have to stay unwashed and someone will have to go sockless or commando – the later most undesirable. My arms aren’t long enough to reach down to retrieve the sock/underwear/dishcloth, and no coat hanger or yardstick can ever get the lost item up close enough for me to reach down and grab it.

But when time is of the essence and my men are too busy, the whole unhook-the-closet-door-off-its-hinges-to-pull-out-the-dryer-procedure just can’t happen right away. It’s a bit of a task and frankly, a pain in the butt. So a pile of lost items collects down the side of the dryer, safely nestled in the dust-bunnies of lint – a fire hazard, to be sure.

So one Saturday when yet another sock met its fate down the dark, narrow abyss it was the final straw. I had had enough. Waiting for someone to come available for the whole door-removal procedure was just silly. I simply couldn’t keep waiting for help and it was time to take matters into my own hands. It was time to give myself a break, and the idea that grabbed me wouldn’t let go.

So off to my home-away-from-home I went. Canadian Tire is my one-stop-shop for all things gadgety, and I knew they would be able to save me. The ‘Gotcha’ reaching tool was what I needed. An extra arm, and a LONGER arm at that, was the answer for my constant lost-laundry quandary. Able to pick up almost anything out-of-reach with a simple pull of the trigger, and I knew my life would be complete.

But as I drove home, my ‘Gotcha’ tool in the passenger seat and me dreaming about all the other things I would be able to grab with my new gadget, I realized the long-arm actually meant so much more than it actually was.

I had recently changed jobs after almost eight years of being at the same job – which I loved by the way. I had been anxious yet excited for my new world and was ready and willing for a change of pace, scene, and situation. A seven-year-itch it was not.

And as I neared the start date of my new job, a wise friend gave me some advice I would not fully realize or appreciate until I was right in the throes of my ‘change.’ Laura Tobias, author of “What Lainey Sees,” advised me to take it easy during the first few weeks of my new job and to not be so hard on myself. She said to give myself permission NOT to do any writing, or do much of anything else for that matter, and to not beat myself up over things like house chores left unattended. I was gonna be tired and overwhelmed, she said, and with my routine turned upside down, things would take a while to settle. She then again reiterated to go easy on myself – to keep things simple.

I should have listened better to my friend’s warnings. In those first two weeks of my new job I DID get overwhelmed, and I DID try to do everything and I DID get frustrated at being tired and unable to keep up with other things. I didn’t realize how much my much-needed change would become more of a change than I realized.

That Saturday at Canadian Tire was after the first two weeks of being in my new job. I was tired and overwhelmed yet anxious to get on with the chores I had let slide. I had a lot to do, and only a weekend to do it in. So as I drove home that day, anxious to put my ‘Gotcha’ to good use, I realized the handy little gadget meant much more than something to retrieve socks or underwear. It was a reminder that it was OKAY give myself a break and that it was OKAY to sometimes make things simpler. Doing so was allowed, but I had to be the one to allow it; I didn’t have to be so hard on myself. My friend’s wise words echoed in my mind and with my ‘Gotcha’ at my side – a silly little symbol of so much, and more – I knew things would get better.

Change is hard – but needed. No one likes it, but it’s inevitable. But in times of change, good or bad, I learned how important it was to let go, and to allow for hiccups along the way. There always is an easier way of doing things – why keep life more difficult than it already is?

I raced in the house, my newfound freedom and excitement at being able to pick up things urging me faster down the stairs to my laundry room. I peeked down the side of the dryer and gave the pile of socks, underwear and cloths an evil ‘gotcha’ eye. With a practice ‘click click’ of my ‘Gotcha,’ the hand-like grip at the end working perfectly, I leaned over the dryer and took aim.

The handle caught on the edge of the dryer, the space between the wall and the dryer still too narrow for the handle of the gadget to fit. The ‘claw’ of my gadget was an inch away from the top of the laundry pile down the narrow abyss and no matter what I did – no matter which way I turned the gadget – it wasn’t gonna fit.

I slumped. All that excitement for nothing. But then I remembered what I had also recently learned during all this change and transition: I had to also allow for hiccups along the way.

It was time to head to the store for ice-cream; I had three men I had to hire for some washer and dryer moving. At least I was still keeping things simple.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pearls, Nail Polish and Horoscopes: What Every Archer-girl Needs

It started with a hole-in-one, or a ‘bullseye’ as it were. Golf and archery are very different, but both dictate that putting something in the middle – in the center – is a good thing.

But at that moment, it wasn't such a good thing.

It was Sunday morning and the weather forecast was calling for high, high HOT temperatures. But days of the week and high temperatures were not my concern right then. I was about to participate in an archery tournament and my nerves were a bit...off. The tournament was distance-challenging and feelings of ‘I’m not experienced enough to tackle distances my bow isn’t strong enough to do’ had me inhaling antacids by the bottle-full. I shoot recurve bow with a draw weight of 20lbs, and since I've only been at this whole archery thing since January, I think I was allowed my over-the-top angst. I hadn’t planned on doing this particular kind of tournament for at least a year or so, but my loved ones – along with my adventurous side – talked me into it.

And I guess deep down I was a tad excited as the true archer I am painted my nails blue to match my bow (it was fluke or fate that the blue nail polish I bought on a whim about half a year ago sort of matched my bow). As I continued with my pre-archery beauty regime, I was sure not to forget my pearl earrings. I have made it my personal ‘cheeky statement’ to always wear pearls to archery.

That’s right – PEARLS.

But that day I chose to go ‘all out’ in honour of the tournament and opted to also wear a pearl pendant saved only for special occasions.

Just as I was clasping the necklace around my neck it snapped and the pearl pendant slid down and off the chain. The pearl bounced and spun and twirled around the bottom of the rounded sink faster than my hand could clamp down and stop it from its dreaded destination – the drain.

Yup, down it went.

It was fate! It was karma! It was a sign I should NOT be participating in the tournament! Serves me right for making a cheeky statement I thought as I stared at my pearl sitting in the bottom of the pipe. It was silly of me to think I, of all people, could compete in such a tournament. Who did I think I was? All the confidence-building techniques I had worked on (and wrote about) throughout this new sporty venture of mine went right down the drain as well.

I couldn’t get at the pearl without risking forcing it further down the pipe. The onsite/in-house repairman kindly offered to dismantle the pipe – just for me. “We can’t do that NOW!” I shrieked. “There’s no time! We have to GO! Oh this is DEFINITELY a sign I shouldn’t be doing this tournament! Oh what was I thinking?! What am I DOING?!” I wailed and moaned all-but renouncing the sport of archery right there in my tiny office/bathroom.

As I downed a few more antacids in angst, the onsite/in-house repairman promised he would work on the pipe after the tournament and proceeded to leave DO NOT USE signs over the sink.

With reassurances and promises of ‘it’s an easy fix’ and kind words of encouragement about my archery skills to coax me out the door - along with the promise of an Ativan-enriched smoothie on the way (well not really, but I sure could have used one right then) – we loaded up the car with our archery gear and snacks and off we went.

But all that pre-tournament excitement had made me a hungry momma, so first was a stop at the good old ‘golden arches’ for a breakfast sandwich and a DECAF coffee (and no, they don’t sell Ativan-enriched smoothies) (I asked). True, my stomach was already in nervous turmoil which for anyone else would ruin their appetite, but I’m an athlete, you see: I MUST fuel-up.

The morning news was playing on the in-restaurant TV screen and just as I was about to sip my coffee a commercial came on – for nail polish of all things. AND they showed a shade of blue even closer in colour to my bow than the shade I was wearing! What were the odds? Was it a sign? I was still rattled by the pearl-down-the-drain business, but the ultimately PERFECT shade of blue nail polish? Now THAT was a sign if I ever saw one!

So a plan was hatched to visit the neighboring drug-store for a bottle of the blue goo. As an archer I know to always go prepared; the nail polish would not only be good for touch ups on my nails, but for any scratches on my bow, as well.

As we dove into our breakfast sandwiches the onsite/in-house repairman passed me the newspaper (he, too, was in the tournament but our young offspring archer was sitting this one out). That’s a good idea, I thought. Some nice quiet pre-tournament newspaper time might do me wonders.

And then inspiration struck.

I quickly flicked through the newspaper to the horoscope page. I don’t regularly read horoscopes but on a significant day, I will.

And I choked on my coffee as I read the first line. By the time I got to the end of the horoscope, I was speechless (which is rare).

I showed the onsite/in-house repairman and he, too, was mystified.

“Well,” he started. “I guess that’s a sign, for sure!” (He isn’t as into signs, luck, superstitions or anything-that-can’t-be-explained, like I am)

So with our bellies full, my nails re-painted and my Scorpion zodiacal sun in astrological alignment (or whatever it is) off we went.

The tournament started after an equipment check and practice and as the tournament progressed, I was calmer than I had been all morning. But the various ‘signs’ – good and bad - that had started before the tournament were not to leave me yet. At about the ¾-mark of the day my BELOVED onsite/in-house repairman sheered a fletch right off my arrow with one of his, embedding the plastic little arrow-wing in my target (three of us shot on one target).

(note: an arrow has three 'fletches' or the little wing-things at the end - I was by then down to two)


I was doomed! Destroyed! Defeated! My archery career was over before it even began! Although I had tried to be prepared what with the nail polish and all, I had no back-up arrows – a mortal sin in the archery world.

“Just keep shooting,” ordered the unflappable judge Helena Myllyniemi as I panicked and wailed about my faulty arrow. “It will shoot fine,” she pacified as she gave my arrow a twirl to test for straightness.

“But what about…”

“Just shoot it.” She interrupted with an order, handed me my arrow, and sent me a penetrating stare. “It will shoot fine.”

Sabotage! I thought as I sent my onsite/in-house repairman the most deadly 'you will die'-glare of all time. I won't disclose the retaliation I planned as we walked back to the shooting line. But I was also worried - and panicking, of course. Would the arrow shoot okay? Was the tournament over for me that day?

And Helena was right (of course). The arrow shot MORE than ‘fine’. I got quite a few ‘10’s’ with that arrow before the tournament was over – a ‘10’ being the highest score you can get (aka: a bullseye, or an ‘X’). I deemed it my lucky arrow.

And after all was said and done I came home with a wicked sunburn, a feeling of pride and accomplishment that I even participated in the tournament at all, and a score of 779 out of a possible 900 on the three target distances of 35, 30, and 25 meters. I had a fabulous time and my pearl earrings and blue nails were a hit (well not really; I was the only girl in the tournament. I sure showed those guys!), and we DID eventually get the pearl out of the pipe.

The lesson learned? Even when things seem to be going down the drain, keep aiming forward. You’re bound to hit something good, eventually.

For results of the tournament, visit The Victoria Bowmen Archery Club.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Parade Marches On

It was the morning of the Victoria Day Parade, May 18, 2015, a parade to mark the holiday honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday (which is actually May 24, 1819). Although I never met Queen Victoria I’m sure she was lovely and it’s always nice to remember someone’s birthday, but I wish someone would have a parade for me. Queens and birthdays aside, however, that morning I was going downtown, but NOT to watch the parade. Our family’s parade-watching days are over; my kids too ‘old’ and too ‘cool’ for such things. I suspect the next time I watch a parade with either of my strapping young offspring it will be with their kids – my grandkids.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let me get through the tumultuous teen years, first.

As the bus rumbled along bringing me closer to my destination, my heart and stomach were going ‘round faster than the wheels on the bus. You see, on one hand I was very much aware of a parade I would likely (sadly) not watch, yet I was also aware of a great transition about to happen.

I was getting my hair cut – and in a big way.

About six inches of hair was going to be removed from my head – as in GONE – and I wouldn’t be able to put it back if I changed my mind.

I was nervous, determined, scared, yet excited all at the same time.

Yes, I know I have written about my hair many times before. I don’t get it cut very often, and when I do it’s a BIG DEAL – to me at least. Where Queen Victoria likely had people to do her hair for her, I am lacking in royal parade-worthiness so I have to rely on my own two hands to do my hair. I’m a busy momma, so although I treasure my tresses and worry about them daily, I don’t have time to fiddle with my quickly greying strands. Keeping things simple by keeping my hair pony-tail-worthy long has always been the easiest.

But it was time to let go and make a change.

Just as we neared the outskirts of downtown and my whirling nerves were picking up speed, we slowed down. I had left the house early to accommodate for any parade-required street closures, so I wasn’t worried about being late for my hair appointment. Traffic was almost at a stand-still and as we inched along I saw the cause of our delay.

The parade participants – bands and floats and so on – had convened near the start of the parade in an empty parking lot of a shopping mall. It was an organized chaos of folks practicing their moves, getting in line, and doing last-minute checks of their parade floats. Excitement hung like a cloud over the parking lot, and I had no doubt many participants were as nervous as I was. As the bus trundled past I looked out over the floats, marching bands and performers with envy and longing. My heart was heavy with the reminder that parade-watching with my kids was over.

Traffic thinned and we started to speed up. As the parade convening area (is that what you call it?) slowly disappeared out of sight a procession across the street caught my eye. A school’s band was marching their way to the parking lot, complete with instruments, gold-buttoned/double-breasted blazers and feather-adorned marching band hats.

As I admired their blindingly clean, white pants (and wondered what stain remover their parents used), I realized that although we were going in opposite directions, we were both marching toward the start of something great.

I had been wanting – no needing ¬- to get my hair cut for a long time. I knew it was time to put an end to something and start anew. Just as parades have a start and an end, and just because my parade-watching days were over with my kids, didn’t mean there wouldn’t be other memorable moments with them down the road. And just like I knew it was time to lose my too-long locks and go for a change, it didn’t mean it would be forever; hair grows. But it WAS time for a change – for a new start.

Not only is Crescendo For Hair Salon near the ‘end’ of the parade, it is also outside the exact spot where my kids and I used to sit and watch many parades. To be making a change at the same spot from something I knew I had to move on was bittersweet. I had to let go of the nostalgic heavy heart that would drag me down every time there was a parade I wouldn’t be attending with my kids.

Just like I had move on and accept that my kids were growing, I had to let go of my hair. Hair always grows back, but kids grow and don’t stop. I was lucky to be able to have the parade days I DID have with them, but it was time to stop pining for the past, and cherish the NOW and what I could have with my kids.

Life has a way of forcing us to ‘let go’ – and always when we least want to. But that day I made a choice to let go of something that was weighing me down – my hair.

The day before my big downtown non-parade-hair-salon adventure, I found a quote by Coco Chanel:
Finding that quote was like a sign. I realized I was doing the right thing at the right time in my life – for so many reasons.

Once downtown, determination to let go and move on had me impatiently picking my way through the fast-growing crowds lining the by-then closed down street. But by the time I walked through the hair salon doors, despite my nerves still a teensy aflutter, I knew the time was right. It was time to march on.

With every snip of the scissors, Chris at Crescendo For Hair Salon watched for the merest hint of a quivering lip or a filling tear duct. The master he is knew cutting off THAT much hair was a big step for a girl. We could hear the parade outside – he even stopped to listen: "Yes, it sounds like it's started!" – and after an hour as the parade still marched on outside, we were done. And I didn’t cry. And in fact, I actually wanted more cut off.

But given the amount of hair already piled on the floor we decided to give it a week to a/make sure I didn’t cry and b/make sure I truly DID want more cut off. I would, indeed, go back and already, now, a week after THAT, I still want more.

With a new bounce in my step – heck, who wouldn’t with all that extra weight, gone? – I left the salon. The parade was still going on, so I figured, “Well, while I’m here...” and made my way to OUR parade-watching spot. A band marched by, some fire-trucks trundled past, and a little boy in his daddy’s arms beside me waved at the passing procession. I clapped at the right time, took a few pictures, and kept patting my hair while wondering if anyone could tell I had just changed.

And I didn’t cry, I didn’t long, and I didn’t stay for the end, either.

I turned around and moved on with my own parade.

I left.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Adult Colouring - Maybe it IS for Me (Part 2)

Okay – so after all that stress, I gave the colouring ‘thing’ a new start (see 'Adult Colouring - Maybe It's Not For Me - Part 1). I was drug-free (Valium was making me too dopey), caffeine-free (too jumpy), and I had plowed through a few self-help books renewing my self-confidence with positive self-talk. I could do this! So the night after my pencil sharpening debacle (see previous blog, Stress-Free Colouring: Part 1) - and yes, I had to wait a WHOLE day to start colouring in earnest - I got busy.

The reading glasses were on, everything was positioned ‘just so,’ I was relaxed and calm and you know what……?

It wasn’t so bad after all.

I had previously flipped through Johanna Basford’s book, ‘Enchanted Forest,’ and found a not-too-complicated design, something not too intricate, and something not too....busy. I told myself this was for no one’s eyes but mine – I did NOT have to show anyone. I wasn’t striving to be displayed in an art museum (my coloured piece, not ME), and I wasn’t being graded. No one was looking over my shoulder telling me what was right or wrong, and if I wanted I could colour in wax crayon (a true artiste can use any medium to create a work of art, but an artiste I am not, so I stuck to half-used pencil crayons). I could do what wanted, how I wanted, and at my own pace.

And as I worked, focusing on one bit – one leaf, as was in the particular design – at a time, I got into a rhythm. I didn’t over-think what right colours were to use, I didn’t second-guess my choices (okay, maybe I sometimes did – but heck, that’s what erasers are for!), and I concentrated on just enjoying it. I found it relaxing, calming, meditative and...addictive.
I couldn’t stop.

But as I coloured, the clock ticking well past my bed-time – ‘Just one more section, MOM’ (um, that was ME) – my mind started to wander.

As I said in my previous post I had been previously been in a creative slump: the whirlwind of this thing we call LIFE was nudging its way into my creativity and threatening to knock it on it’s you-know-what. I was getting antsy: nothing was working in my writing projects, or anything else I was doing. I was cranky, whiney, bitchy, cranky, and antsy – all at once.
It was not pretty.

Hence, the colouring thing.

And as I progressed on that first real colouring night I didn’t completely ignore my family around me: I didn’t. But as I coloured, my mind started to wander. With conversations around me and the TV on in the background I would pick up bits and pieces of this-and-that and....I would get ideas.

For my creative writing.

Out of nowhere would pop a great name for a book title, a concept for my novel-in-progress, or a great name for a character. I had been concentrating on shading an ivy leaf in the design with Forest Green, and my mind was free of everything else. I wasn’t trying to come up with writing stuff – it just happened.

I refused to make notes in my too-fancy colouring book. So on a random piece of paper on the end-table beside me (it was article on tennis elbow common to archers – go figure) I would jot down my writing ideas in Taupe, Raspberry, or Peacock Blue. The tennis/archery elbow article became a rainbow of pencil crayon test scribbles intertwined with all-too important writer’s idea/notes.

And I kept going.

And coloured some more.

And I didn’t cry if I went outside the lines.

And I kept the eraser handy.

And I kept jotting ideas.

And when my arm got too sore (I have to preserve my writers/archery arm, you see), and my neck got too sore (I was starting to nod, even WHILE doing something I loved), I reluctantly put everything away.

And realized one thing I had forgotten to remember: creativity begets creativity.
One thing I have always known and had often preached is when in a creative slump, go do something ELSE entirely different. Knit, sew, write, paint, draw, bead – anything. Renowned creatives (think Julia Cameron, ‘The Artist’s Way’) have for eons taught, written about, and preached about creativity fostering creativity. And as an aside, writers have for eons wailed, “Why do I get my best ideas while driving/showering/mowing the lawn?” Well, as far as colouring goes, not only is doing something else creative fostering creativity, but doing something repetitive relaxed me enough to allow something else other than life’s little hiccups to come to the forefront of my mind.

Wow.

That is some heavy stuff.

(For a more detailed, educated, analysis of creativity, check out Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ and visit her blog at Julia Cameron Live.

So now when I colour I keep a notebook beside me (duh, isn’t that what ALL writers are supposed to do?), focus on staying un-stressed (duh, isn’t that what colouring is SUPPOSED to do?), and just colour....

And if they ever have a colouring contest for a 40-plus age group, I won’t be entering.

I won’t be able to handle the stress.


Thanks for reading!
Lisa

Monday, April 27, 2015

Adult Colouring - Maybe It's Not For Me.... (part 1)

For the first time in just over 35 years, I have one - and my how they’ve changed!

But these days I now need reading glasses to use one, my youthful near-20/20 vision gone. And I don’t go outside the lines provided I have my reading glasses on – most of the time. On the odd occasion I DO gone outside the lines - a slip of the hand from too much caffeine or a nod-off too late in the night after too long a day at work - my peri-menopausal hormones practically send me into a crying fit, something resembling a toddler-like tantrum. Sort of.

So what is it?

It’s a colouring book.

No Little Red Riding Hood, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse pages for me, however fun those might be. This is what is called these days as an ‘adult’ colouring book.

My first colouring book as a 40-something is Johanna Basford’s ‘Enchanted Forest.’ It’s the follow-up book to her worldwide bestseller, ‘Secret Garden,’ which was sold-out EVERYWHERE when I initially got wind of the pencil-crayon phenomenon a few weeks ago. Both books feature whimsical, charming black-and-white drawings just waiting to be coloured. Colouring for adults has long been reputed as a de-stressing activity, many adult-type colouring books featuring black and white zen-like mandalas having been around for years.

But when needing to fulfill the creative urge, and wanting to break-out of the repetitive, yet soothing, way of the mandala, these new colouring books (along with many others) have taken the publishing world – and suppliers of felts and pencil crayons – by storm.

And I’ve gotten caught up in that storm.

And I love it.

I’m a ‘creative’ so doing something like this isn’t new to me. I used to do a lot of scrapbooking and card-making which lead to ink stamping with shading and colouring-in of the stamped images. But I am no artiste. Colouring is for everyone; anyone can do it. If you can scribble, if you like adding colour to your life and, then the new-wave of colouring is for you.

But when I came home with my first colouring book a few weeks ago excited with my purchase, and confident in my colouring ability, closer inspection of the colouring pages sent me in to a panic.

There’s a lot of detail, big and small, I thought with a gulp as I browsed through the book that first night while curled up on the couch. And there’s only one of the design in the whole book! If I mess up, THAT’S IT!

What had I gotten myself into?
I tried not to cry. I thought colouring was supposed to be de-stressing, not STRESS inducing!

I never thought I would associate the word ‘intimidating’ with a colouring book….

But I was excited AND curious! I was in need of something de-stressing. I was eager for a new creative outlet (like I needed another one!). I had been in a creative slump lately, detrimental to a writer, and was looking for some new action - but between the pages of a different kind of book.

I could do this! I told myself. It’s JUST colouring!

So after taking a deep calming breath which is weird in itself given I was about to DO something calming, I picked through the zillions of old pencil crayons from my kid’s school leftovers eager for a few semi-sharp ones. Our pencil sharpener at home is awful, and I knew the one at work would do a better job. I would have to wait until the next day when I could sharpen them.
Okay, I thought. No problem. I was just in a ‘testing’ phase, anyways. (Yes, I am well aware I over-think things).

I swallowed my panic, opted for a least intricate design, and got busy with the few decently-sharp pencil crayons.

The reading glasses were on, the tongue was poised outside the corner of my mouth, the couch was at it comfiest, and I was colouring! What more could a girl ask for?

And then I went out of the lines – not once, but twice. I had to slow down – I had to calm down. And I had to remember it was OKAY to screw up – pencil crayons DO erase (but not felt, as I had learned). As I coloured – as I screwed up – I had to keep in mind this colouring page was ONLY for me. My intention wasn’t to frame any finished pieces – unless I wanted to. This was just supposed to be a relaxing venture – a calming activity.

But then I got so stressed out with my dull pencil crayons I had to stop and wait until the next day when I could sharpen them at work. It was getting to be too stressful colouring with dull ones.

So the next day I loaded up my BIG BAGGIE of pencil crayons, brought them to work, and got busy sharpening with one of those old-fashioned hand-crank sharpeners. Those hand-crank sharpeners are the best – truly, they are. But I had A LOT of pencil crayons, you see, which meant A LOT of cranking, turning, cranking, and turning.

Well, that didn’t work out as planned, either.

If you have read any of my previous posts you will see I have also taken up archery. Yes, I am a woman of the world.

But as I am relatively new in the sport of archery, my muscles - at least, the ones I have started growing in my arms since taking up the sport – are tender, sore, and easily tire. I have to baby them, you see, and take care of my precious arms for not only writing, but archery. My muscles ARE getting better, but so conscious am I of my archery-needed arms and their constantly sore muscles, that manually sharpening a zillion pencil crayons with a hand-crank sharpener with my ever-sore, bow-holding arm proved to be a bit taxing. Not only did my arm tire all-too-soon into my sharpening task, but I remembered that I had practice that night and couldn’t bear the thought of wrecking my important archery arm by over-sharpening.

I started to worry: would I have to eventually choose between archery, colouring and – GASP - writing to preserve my arm?
So stressed-out and concerned about my arm I became I took to the task in increments: sharpening a few – resting; sharpening a few more – resting; sharpening a few more – resting.

But what about my new colouring thing? I wailed. I had to get these sharpened! I moaned as I accidentally stabbed myself with a sharp tip.

Now before you start to think I’m a lazy lout at work, I did this all BEFORE my shift.

Finally done, all while pretending to have downed a few Valium to get through the stressful task, I was content with the fact that not only would I be able to colour, but my bow-arm would go on to shot another arrow. I would live to write another word.

But then...

I immediately realized because of archery practice later that night, which goes relatively late, I wouldn’t have time to do any colouring that night, after all.

My shoulders slumped.

That’s fine, I figured. I needed to give my archery/colouring arm a rest, anyways. A little de-stressing time away from the colouring would do me a world of good, I figured.

I have enough stress with archery, as is (and that’s another story in itself).

Finally, the NEXT night came around, and I was free to do all the colouring I wanted.

And then everything changed.....

(stay tuned for part 2)

Thanks for reading!
Lisa

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nasty Four-Letter Word

I started swearing this year - yup, I did - and it’s a nasty four-letter word.

For some people, their New Year’s resolutions involve vowing to start, stop or at least cut-back on doing something. As for me, I planned a little bit of everything, but just not saying a particular word.

I had great plans of starting – or at least trying – something new this year. But I didn’t exactly count on adding a swear word to the mixture. But what bugs me most about my over-abundant usage of the word is that it’s a word I have often written about NOT using.

Plug your ears, close your eyes, and get out the soap to rinse-out my mouth.

The word is CAN’T.

So far 2015 has been a time of trying new things; but doing so has not always come easy for me. ‘Fear of the unknown’ was one of many roadblocks I often allowed to stop me, but age has given me confidence, and various life experiences has given me perspective to be more adventurous and less restrained. ‘Who cares about what anyone thinks’ and ‘who cares if I make a fool of myself’ are phrases I now frequent. Life is short; I want to do things and be able to say ‘at least I tried.’ And if there is any hesitation or second-guessing before trying something new, I never regret trying – even if I wasn’t exactly the greatest at whatever it was.

But lately my can-do/positive attitude I try to always portray has been shaky. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been attempting so many new things all at once – however exciting, adventurous and progressive they might be. Fear and uncertainty have been trying to knock me down, and can’t has been rudely – sinfully – uttered from my mouth one too many times; too many times, in fact, that I feel as though I am bordering on being a fraud.

Since January I’ve taken up archery. For four years I sat on the sidelines watching my son perfect his skill at the high-focus sport. ‘I’m a mom; archery is HIS thing’ was always my response when someone asked me if I, too, participated in the sport. But I now know that nasty word can’t had been hovering in the background. But on a whim one day last summer I tried it – and I loved it. I got my own bow for Christmas – although I panicked about using it when I opened it Christmas morning – but through support and assistance from my son and other members of the archery club we belong to I’ve been learning. There have been various hurdles to overcome, but I’ve persevered. Trying new equipment and subsequent equipment malfunctions, strength and endurance development, and skill and technique-perfecting have all played a factor in testing my confidence.

But true to my can-do ways I participated in a tournament – just to say I did it. Gosh – I COMPETED IN A TOURNAMENT?! What’s my problem then? What am I so worried about?

But still when new equipment or techniques are presented to me, I struggle/panic/stress about something new and that four-letter word can’t comes out, only to have me beating myself up for saying the horrid word in the first place. Then ‘I can’t’ and ‘who do I think I am?’ play tag in my head and some days they win, and some days I win, but I keep going – I keep trying.

I can’t do what I don’t try.

But it’s hard. That word keeps trying to bring me down.

During all this I was presented with a writing opportunity way outside my comfort zone, knowledge or experience; I was asked to write a short science fiction story. I gulped in trepidation but then looked at it as a chance to stretch my wings and figured: What the heck? I’m used to writing slice-of-life stories, as well as contemporary fiction for kids. I’m no expert in either and honing my craft is on-going – I get that. But I have never tackled writing anything science fiction, and my knowledge/expertise/experience is limited. Well, I figured, why not give it a try? It’s all part of my ‘trying something new’ mantra for the year.

Well, I’ve struggled and struggled with the piece I’ve been working on. I’ve wrote, re-wrote, started, stopped, stalled and re-started too many times to count. Can’t has been clouding my brain, and I have nearly given up a zillion times. But I can’t do it – I can’t give up, I keep telling myself. I won’t. The thought of doing so bugs me.

That word can’t has been really getting to me.

So I’ve decided to snuff it out – completely.

Archery and writing are each about intense focus. I can focus not on what I can’t do but what I CAN do. Maybe I put too many irons in the fire and got overwhelmed – I don’t know. So I have taken a step back and have done what I’m comfortable with; first thing first was writing this. I have further decided I will write what I want, when I want, how I want; I will shoot how I want, when I want, and progressing with what equipment I want – all in my own time. I don’t HAVE to try any new archery equipment or techniques. I can strengthen what I already know, and when I’m ready, I will try something new. It won’t kill me; it’ll only make me stronger.

Recognizing this nasty word usage and writing about it here has given me the much-needed boost. Whether it will be a new piece of archery equipment or a technique, or if it’s that writing project that keeps tripping me up, focusing on what I can do and not caring about anything else will only get me farther ahead. Focus, perseverance and mental strengthening skills learned from each archery and writing can be applied to the other, only enhancing my performance, output, and over-all enjoyment. It's all in the approach.

And if and when that nasty little four-letter word creeps back into my vocabulary just when I have gotten tough and have all but exorcised it out of my life, I will take a step back, remember to focus on what I can do, and then move forward again.

I realize now that part of winning the ‘battle’ has been in educating myself; knowledge is power, and all that. I realized I had to learn WHAT about trying something new in archery or writing was scaring me, preventing me from progressing and moving forward. I have taken the time to learn about the new piece of equipment or technique before trying it; I have taken the time to learn more about writing science fiction and have learned it doesn’t have to be any one certain way. And I have to remember I’m not competing with anyone else and I’m not doing any of this to please anyone. I can do my own thing – learn archery at my own speed and write whatever story my heart desires. It doesn’t matter what I do, just as long as I do it. As long as I follow through; as long as I finish. Arrow after arrow, word after word, I WILL get there. I WILL get through and surpass what’s slowing me down, and I WILL replace that four-letter word can’t with another four-letter word.

WILL.

Bestseller list? ME?

So happy to share that my young adult ebook, 'Newbie Nick,' is FIFTH on the publisher's BESTSELLER LIST and I am a tad in shock - and for once speechless!

Check it out at Breathless Press(Breathless Press encompasses all their lines including those of their off-shoot, Lycaon Press, who published the book)

Thank you to everyone for your support and congratulations to all!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

My First Time

2014 was a year of firsts for me: first novel published (‘Newbie Nick’, Lycaon Press), first time meeting a wing-walker (Carol Pilon, my inspiration for being bold, brave, and fearless), and first time shooting an arrow from a bow (thanks to my pals Bradley and Matthew). Although I’m still writing, yet haven’t taken-up wing-walking (I said yet), the archery thing kind of ‘took,’ so for Christmas Santa was kind enough to bring me a recurve archery bow.

And so 2015 has continued with the theme of ‘firsts’…

My husband and I joined the Victoria Bowmen Association, an archery group that my son has been involved with for the last few years. He has won, or placed, in numerous tournaments and continues to excel in the sport, impressing me with every arrow shot. I love watching him and will always cheer him on, but I guess something had been itching inside of me all along to try it. It was an itch I had to scratch, and my dabbling in the sport became something more. My practices became an escape, a challenge and an adventure. Archery was something I had never done before; had never entertained even doing before. I had no aspirations other than just enjoying it.

Then I did something I never dreamed I would do – compete.

As in be in a competition – a tournament.

My son had signed up for a yearly tournament called the MICA – Multi-sites Indoor Championship of the Americas. All archery clubs throughout North and South America host their own tournaments between January and April, and at the end all of the competitors in all the Americas are ranked.

All clubs host the same tournament - 60 arrows are shot from a distance of 18m at a 40cm target. What’s that you ask? Per round, or ‘end,’ three arrows are shot at a target 40cm wide at a distance of 18m away from the archer. So after 20 ends of 3 arrows each – the scores ranging from a 10 (that’s the center yellow) to a 1 (that’s the white outer last ring) – there’s a potential to get 600 points (for the ‘perfect’ archer, of course). (I’m new at this, so any errors in exact description are mine – but that’s the gist of it)

When I realized the tournament was exactly what I had been practicing with anyways (distance and target size) I figured what the heck?

I didn’t tell my husband or my son my intentions. Only the tournament registrar knew – and he knew my apprehensive, amateur, newbie fears. I’m a writer, after all, not a sporty kinda gal – and definitely not an ‘archer.’ I’m just a mom who, at 40-something years old, learned she kinda likes shooting arrows at a target. But I didn’t tell either of my men about my competitive intentions because a/in case I chickened out, b/I didn’t want them putting pressure on me by bugging me about it, and c/in case I chickened out. This was new, fragile territory for me – I didn’t want anyone, or anything, messing with my first time.

But at T-minus 2 days before the tournament, I told them. I realized I didn’t want to surprise the young lad at the last minute with my intentions. I was worried that the novelty and presence of his mother competing with him (not against him) would throw off his game. His tournaments are much more important to his long-term goals. Me, well, I’m just happy if I hit the damn target.

So when I told him I then quickly offered to withdraw if he felt awkward about his mother being in the tournament with him – because really, who wants their mother in something like that with them?
After they got over their surprise and shock, they both encouraged me. I assured my son I would make sure I would be nowhere near him and, in fact, I wouldn’t even look at him. When I was told “Don’t worry Mom, you’ll just be like one of the other guys” I knew I had his blessing and the rest was up to me.

But as fate would have it I got very sick that week, and my pre-tournament practices were horrendous. I wouldn’t learn until after the tournament that a sinus infection attempted to sideline my (Olympic) archery career. But sick or not, I was determined to participate.

The day before the tournament my son gave me some last minute tips that helped out my ‘game.’ I got myself in order, despite being so sick, and got my ‘mental game’ in check. Focus is huge in the sport – I wasn’t about to let some boogers bring me down.

So on the morning of my first archery tournament ever, where my son was calm, cool and collected, I was a wreck that managed to keep some semblance of calm and serenity displayed on the outside. Having wrapped my hair in the most perfect bun ever sure helped.

Once we registered at the tournament we got our archery gear in order and then had the chance to practice for 45 minutes before the start. I worked hard at ignoring how sick I was and I focused on my practice (and did very well). I kept my jangled nerves at bay and knew that anything valium-related, never mind cold-medicine-related, would only hinder my aim (and have me falling asleep at the shooting line).

But when it came time for the tournament to start my nerves got the better of me and a sweaty hand was responsible for the first 2 ‘ends’ to go askew. In archery even the slightest alteration in ‘grip,’ ‘release’ or ‘stance’ can throw off your shot. My ‘grip’ hand was so sweaty that it mucked up how I held the bow and my previously-practiced perfect shots went all over the place.

My confidence plummeted.

Once I figured out the issue, I concentrated on keeping my hand sweat-free. I kept my clogged/sore/sneeze-ready sinuses at bay, focused on everything I had learned to that point, and continued with the rest of the tournament – with whatever style and grace I could muster. I don’t think I breathed through the whole thing – I could barely, anyways. I was determined to not only finish the day, but finish it semi-un-embarrassingly. I still don’t know what drove me to even compete in the tournament in the first place, despite how ‘new’ I was to the sport. But nothing – no sickness, ailment, or overnight-loss-of-limb – was going to stop me from competing that day. I just wanted to try it – just once – even if I never did it again. There was a first time for everything, and I wasn’t about to let my first time be ruined by a mere sinus infection.

I managed to stay ‘in the yellow’ and ‘in the red’ for the most part, which is good. I finished with a score of 442 (out of 600). I did better than I had ever imagined and after it was over, even though I felt like crap and the next day DID get a prescription for some lovely antibiotics the size of horse pills, I knew…

I would never forget my first time (and I’d be going back for more).

For scores and additional photos, please click here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Freedom to Read Week Feb 22 - 28, 2015

It's freedom to read week - the week to acknowledge the freedoms we have to read whatever we want. As noted on the Freedom to Read Week website: "Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." The notable week acknowledges censorship and freedom of expression.

So get a book - any book - and don't be shy, afraid, embarrassed or inhibited to read what you want, when you want. A writer? I'd say pick up your pen and follow suit - write what you want, ignore your inner censor or that little voice over your shoulder saying 'you shouldn't write THAT - what would people think?' and just GO FOR IT!

Run to the library, run to the bookstore, or run to your computer - just go. And read whatever the heck you want!

For more information visit www.freedomtoread.ca

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Communication Clash

In early January of this year the Royal BC Museum, in conjunction with a week of ‘by donation’ entry, had a letter writing campaign – but not in that way.

By way of fostering the ‘lost art’ of letter writing, the museum set up a letter writing booth and invited patrons to engage in the ‘age old’ art of communication. Complete with writing paper and pens, patrons could write a letter – like an actual handwritten letter – and the museum would foot the bill for postage.

To back up a bit….

My friend Ros had seen an advertisement about the museum’s by-donation week as well as their letter writing booth in the newspaper. Ros is my friend who usually sends me out on various ‘assignments’ (see previous blog post called 'What Happened That Night'), so of course, at her instruction, I set out on another adventure. (To learn more about her romantic suspense fiction works, find her here)

As time is of the essence - my usual state-of-being - one afternoon during my lunch hour from work I hustled my way to the museum. I donated the few dollars I had in my wallet, and made a quick whip around the exhibits. I said a quick ‘hi’ to the woolly mammoth, sipped my lunch hour coffee while I chatted with some seals and sea lions, and then quickly made my way through the rest of the museum, stopping to look at the displays of days-gone-past in the ‘old town’ – I love the old typewriters and sewing machines.

As time was ticking, I still had one mission to accomplish – write a letter. I found the booth and at the encouragement of the kind girl working there, I found a spot at the table between two other women. I grabbed some paper and a pen from the supplies provided and got to work.

And it was hard work, I have to say! Not only did I have write neatly, but I had to think of something on the spot! Something meaningful – something with heart. Something interesting other than the usual ‘weather’ chit-chat (when in doubt, there’s always the weather).

Just when my letter-writing muse kicked into gear two more women arrived. Well, I have to admit, as much as I foster the fostering of anything – especially writing – I was rather put-out. It was MY time, I was in just getting in touch with MY muse, and there wasn’t a lot of space at the table. So I stifled a ‘huff,’ scooted over, and with an obligatory smile to everyone enjoying the getting-back-to-letter-writing moment, I kept my head down and got busy.

I had a letter to write, after all.

I met my friend Ros through a writing group and you’d think, given how we are ‘writers’ and all, that we would have seen each other’s handwriting. But in this technological age where email fosters friendships and a keyboard is a writer-girl’s best friend, I realized she had never seen my handwriting before.

And I was instantly embarrassed. I have atrocious handwriting. It’s a cacophony of half-printing and half-cursive writing, combined with an intricate code of self-created shorthand and abbreviations that half the time I can barely decipher. So I wrote/printed/scrawled as neatly as I could, all while acknowledging and apologizing to Ros for my crappy handwriting. The weather had already been talked about.

Just as my tongue had all-but dried out from being stuck out the corner of my mouth in concentration, someone ELSE arrived at the table. GEEZ! Can I NOT just WRITE a LETTER in PEACE!?!

Chit-chat among the letter writers ensued and suddenly I was eavesdropping - I had no choice.

But I was sure glad I did.

I dare not repeat another person’s story here, but a woman recounted her own family’s letter-writing story surrounding events in 1942 involving a highly recognized politician’s wife. It was during World War II – Europe and England were right smack in the middle of the war - and all is can say is her family owns a historic treasure.

Wow!

I am so glad I didn’t ‘shoo’ everyone away. What a treat to be able to hear the story I did!

After everyone ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the fantastic story – one I won’t ever forget – we all got back to work.

Just when pens-scratching-at-paper was the only thing to be heard, the museum worker broke our getting-back-to-basics moment by telling us she had an iPad, internet ready, in case anyone had to look up an address.

WHAT? What about the moment? What about getting-back-to-basics? How contradictory was an iPad to what we were actually doing! Talk about clash of the communication worlds!

My letter writing adventure was getting more and more introspective with every minute.

I finished recounting the World War II story in the letter to Ros then, upon realizing the time, took a few photos of my letter with my cell phone, bade them all ‘happy letter writing,’ and grabbed my purse and by-then cold coffee. As I made to leave, the museum worker pointed to a table on which to leave my mail. Sitting on top of the table was a museum-style display case showing old writing utensils. Cool!

It wasn’t until I took a few pictures - again with my cell phone - that I saw it. Sitting just beside the display case was a ‘modern’ ink pen.

Wow! When was the clash of the communication worlds going to end?

With the letter writing campaign just too much for me, I guzzled my cold coffee then hustled back to work for a much needed rest.

I’m a receptionist answering phones and forwarding mail for a living. Go figure.