Monday, December 26, 2005

The Day after Christmas

Today is a quiet day and I'm glad that it is. The Christmas festivities were definitely joyful and noise-filled too. I generated some of the noise on Christmas eve when I played what's left of the piano on the second floor of the long-term care home where my daughter's mother-in-law lives. The poor piano was so far out of tune that it made me wince and I played only staccato notes and tried not to use too many of the keys at once It was a good thing the singers in the family are tolerant and reasonably loud. I'm Getting' Nuthin for Christmas and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Rudolph didn't need a lot of piano accompaniment, and I tried to be a silent as possible during the rendition of Silent Night.

We went to an 8:00 p.m. Christmas eve mass and there was a good deal of music before and during the mass. I was quite taken aback to hear the lord's prayer sung to a tune by Gordon Lightfoot, (the lamp is burning low upon my table top etc.) and wondered if he gets any money for that. I rather suspect he doesn't.

Christmas day there were two bouts of present opening, one after brunch and one later in the afternoon, when the out-of-town family contingent arrived, and then of course we had "The Dinner" which deserves both it's capitals and it's quotation marks. It was an excellent family time and no one got cranky, that is a record of sorts and a good one too.

I have a new DVD player and have only to face the challenge of figuring out how to work the two remotes, since I think I've hooked it up correctly. I may require the services of someone under 14 to help me figure it out, but I'm sure Frankie can be persuaded to help me.

2006 will be here in a few days and I should reorganize my work area, and try to find places for all the paper I've accumulated in the last few months. But today, I'm going to enjoy doing a fair bit of nothing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When Christmas is the "Real Thing"

It's less than a week before Christmas day and I'm as ready for the season as I can be.

The longest night is almost upon us, and it makes me think of what it must have been like in ancient times, before electricity, before candles, before almost everything except fire, and most of all, before people could be sure that the light would return. I wonder if northern people lit fires on every hill top to encourage the sun.

We will not be huddling around a fire and waiting for the return of the light, but we will enjoy that ancient symbol of life, the evergreen tree, and we will feast and talk and laugh and probably one of my grandsons will get over-excited and be banished, but only for a short while. And the day-of-days will be too long and it will be too short, and it will be too suddenly over.

While we celebrate the season of the return of the light and of the birth of Christ, we'll remember what the "real thing" is all about. We always give thanks for surviving the year and we remember those who have precious little to be thankful for, but are thankful nonetheless.

Our family struggles often, in fact almost constantly, but we are more fortunate than many, and yes, we are blessed. And because we are blessed, the end of the year is when we can, and do, give something to others. This year, I think my contributions will go to Doctors Without Borders and to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

May the season of light and joy bring happiness and peace to you all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Former Party-Girl Indulges in Nostalgia

It's the week before Christmas week, and I'm remembering my not-at-all sordid party-girl past. Every year, for six years, I was extremely involved in putting on major parties for the seniors who came to the Community Centre where I worked. We would prepare and serve Christmas dinners to three different large groups of seniors and their families in four days. Two of the parties were for the frail seniors and seniors with memory loss who came to the day program I coordinated, and the other party was for well seniors. After the feasts came the singing of carols and other seasonal songs. Their favourite song was not a Christmas carol- it was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, although Silent Night was a close second. Since I was the piano player and the song leader as well as the chief organizer, I didn't dare eat too much dinner or I'd never be able to sing.

Five years have passed since the last time I was a party-girl, but I do have pictures of many of the people who took part in the celebrations, and sometimes I spend a little time looking at those pictures and remembering.

Christmas time isn't such a hectic time for me now. I don't come home too tired to bother with anything but a quick sandwich and a warm bed. There are definitely more opportunities to enjoy the season and yet, I miss seeing all those faces light up. But maybe I'll be doing a little playing on Christmas eve. I'll be going with Nancy and Gary and the boys to visit Gary's mother who is in a long-term care home and Nancy tells me there is a piano there so I should bring some music.

Perhaps I'll spend some time this evening practicing my Christmas music.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On The Promise Road

Or - Call me when we get to Oz.

There seem to be enough big political promise balloons floating down the yellow brick road to take us for a ride all the way to Oz, if only they were real enough to lasso.

Some of them look like real balloons but, probably they were created by the political wizard's union. They will vanish on January 24th, right after we choose the new P.M. who will promptly install himself behind the curtain and amaze us with his power to forget all about the balloons.

Seems like every morning the Conservatives promise something - lower the GST a tiny bit and take six years to do it, give a measly amount of money to parents for daycare of choice, a free vote on gay marriage. They're like the high school jock who tries to seduce the girl by swearing he'll pull out in time, I won't (let the hard right) come, baby, really, I promise. Probably there was another announcement today, but I missed it. I don't want to go all the way, and besides, I don't fancy any of their promises.

The Liberals are telling us to remember the good times we've had, much like the spouse who's been unfaithful but begs forgiveness. And they tell us where they will spend more money on us, might even buy us flowers and candy (raising the personal deduction amount) and just generally, well, do - um, more, if that's what it takes to get back in our good graces.

Meanwhile the NDP candidates are grinding away trying to raise their profile across the country and get their platform heard. They're like the guy girls wouldn't date because he was nice, but too nice and too serious. Me, I like the nice serious guys. There aren't enough of them to go around and while they don't have shiny balloons, they've got some good ideas.

I guess it's time to stop thinking about politics and start thinking about Christmas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My Brief Career As a Traffic Cop In Pink Mittens - And an Update on the NaNoWriMo Saga

I had to use a long title for this post, so that you would know what to expect. Or did I? Maybe I'm still in my rather wordy NaNoWriMo mode.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a break from writing and walked over to one of the stores on Victoria street. The store is not far from the major intersection of Victoria and Edna. Victoria street is a major road with a speed limit of 60 kilometers per hour and Edna is the exit from one of the expressways. Those two roads are always filled with traffic. When I came out of the store, I noticed that Victoria street was completely blocked-off just to the west of me. There were fire trucks and ambulances and it appeared there had been a major car accident. As I walked back toward Victoria and Edna, I saw that a woman was standing in the middle of the road and directing west bound traffic to turn left off Victoria and onto Edna. I thought that was admirable and would help prevent a pile up. She could only be in one place though and cars were still turning right from Edna onto Victoria and toward the accident, because they couldn't see the blocked road until after they turned the corner.

So... since I was wearing bright pink gloves, I stood slightly inside the Edna right turn lane and began to be a traffic cop - making large hand gestures - go left, go left. I was not in any danger, since I stood close enough to the curb to get out of the way of the fools who ignored my directions, and there were some.

Our stint as traffic cops continued for at least twenty minutes. Then a police car stopped near the woman who was still directing traffic from the centre of Victoria avenue and the officer told her to stop now that police were on the scene. This upstanding citizen then came over and told me we were off duty.

I was soaked by this time, since it had been raining for a while and so I thanked the woman and walked home. The late local news reported the accident and the fact that one driver died.

After that excitement, I thought I wouldn't be able to settle down and write. But, fortunately, my assumption was wrong.

I finished the last chapter of the first draft of my novel at about one o'clock this morning, a little less than two whole days before the deadline. Then I was so wired I couldn't fall asleep so I was awake until about three o'clock this morning.

And how have I celebrated this accomplishment? - well I stayed in my nightie until noon. I guess that's one way to mark the occasion. But I'm going out now, to find another way.

And maybe I'd better stop wearing those pink mitts.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sic Transit Miniscule Gloria

This is just a short postscript to my last blog entry.

Early this morning I received an emal that informed me more copies of Ten Stories High will be printed.

So, guess how many more will be printed. The answer is 25. That is not a typo - the answer is 25. I guess that might tell me how small the first print run was. It also might tell me how much of an impact the anthology made. I'm not sure if I want to know the answer to either one of those "mights".

I think I'll go to Tim Hortons and console myself before I plunge back into my novel. At least I know what the next four chapters will be about. I don't know much, but it's good to know one small thing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sold Out!

A friend told me she'd ordered the Ten Stories High Anthology but hadn't received a reply to her email. And then, when I looked at the Niagara CAA website, I discovered that in one place the site indicated the anthology was out of print, meanwhile, on another page they said one could order it.

I sent an email to the Niagara Branch's president and received a prompt reply. The 2005 edition of Ten Stories High is sold out. It was more successful than they expected and they are "considering" printing more.

I have no idea of how many copies they started with, but the Anthology has only been out for about two months (less actually), so either they printed an incredibly small number of copies - or something is going on that I don't know about. Either way, I hope they print some more of them.

Hells bells! I only have one copy and was thinking of ordering another, just because, well, just because it might be good to have two.

I'm bullying my way through the NaNoWriMo month and have reached 29,999 words. Don't ask why I'm one word short of 30,000. I don't know. In fact this whole adventure has convinced me that at this point, the less I think about what's going on the more likely I am to get to the end.

I'm not quite sure what happens on the next page, but I'll think about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Canada and Me - Halfway to Somewhere

Last night, I managed to reach the halfway 25,528 word mark in my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm halfway to somewhere, I think, and I might even know where I'm going. It certainly is a struggle to write so many words every day. And when I took a day or two off, it was difficult to catch up. I'm telling myself only 15 more days of this concentrated effort. Of course it won't be true, because I'll need to do at least two major rewrites, but it's a useful delusion.

As for Canada and where it's going and the election to come. I wish the MP's would just have the non-confidence vote and get it over with. I don't know anyone who has any confidence left in the way things are at the moment. Then there's the Liberal "economic update" otherwise known as - have some goodies and be quiet will ya. I guess some of the middle class folk and most of the business community will sop it up. I don't think it does nearly enough for the people who are not part of the middle classes. And furthermore, she said, mounting her platform/soapbox, there's the possibility that first nations people will be left out in the cold again, and nowhere in the economic update is there an increase in foreign aid mentioned. We have the bloody surplus (or so the Liberals say) so why aren't we increasing our contributions. What kind of a country is this anyway, when we can't even get close to the .07% contribution? It's shameful, selfish, and short-sighted too.

I thought Canada was going somewhere as a country. We seemed to be developing a pretty clear picture of how Canada should be and act; but right now its a bit like my novel - halfway to somewhere but who knows where. Or it could be that my novel is in much better shape than the country, because at least I know where I want it to go and eventually I'll find the way. I wish I could say the same for our country, but at the moment we're rudderless and it appears that no one with enough power cares to steer the boat in the direction I believe the average Canadian wants and needs.

I'd better get back to steering my novel.

Friday, November 11, 2005

At The Eleventh Hour

I was at the local Cenotaph this morning for the Remembrance Day service here. It still seems a bit strange not to be going to a service either at Toronto City Hall or at Sunnybrook's Warrior's Hall.

And while I see that there have been large crowds at Remembrance Day events in other parts of the country, that wasn't the case here. I don't know if K-W suffers from a bit of schizophrenia at times like this or not.

After the official ceremonies were over, I came home briefly, but on my way to meet a friend for lunch, I stopped by the Cenetaph for a quiet moment or two. I thought it would be a private time for reflection. But a reporter from Rogers TV was there and wanted to ask me a question or two about why Remembrance Day is important, so I answered, although I was a bit shakey since it was an emotional moment for me. Fortunately, few people watch the local cable TV channel.

This afternoon on the CBC Newsworld Your Call show, they were asking callers what is Canada's proudest military moment. I dialed the toll-free number, never dreaming I'd get through. I've never been successful on any other occasion. I answered the question by saying that when we became known as peacekeepers was our military's proudest moment, in my opinion. There were many many other proud military moments of course (I said) including when we decided not to take part in the Iraq war.

So, that's it, except for all the faces of all the Veteran's I worked with appearing before me as they always do on this day.

There's a long long road a winding into the land of my dreams, and I'll always remember how to play Tipperary for you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Proud and Prejudiced

Lsst week, my daughter, Nancy, asked me for some advice on an article she was working on. She wanted to submit it to the K-W Record as a rebuttal to some pieces that have appeared opposing the use of any pesticides.

I gave her some minimal editorial advice. I'm happy to say that the article appears on the Op-Ed/Insight page of The Record today and it looks good, really good and I'm proud.

It seems that there are writers everywhere. When I went out in the rain (ugh) this morning to pick up my copy of the newspaper, I had a chat with the proprietor of the closest convenience store. As it turns out, he translates books from English to Arabic. Unfortunately, to date, he has not really been paid much for his efforts.

I guess it is time to think about working on today's installment for NaNoWriMo.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Giller Prize. Hockey Night in Canada

CTV is currently running ads promoting iteself as the "literary" channel. Seems they are going to telecast the Giller Prize event. However; they are going to run the program at two o'clock in the afternoon, not in prime time. Will any one watch? Are they cancelling a soap opera to broadcast this? I'm not sure, but I can just imagine how many viewers will tune in, or record the event for viewing later - very few. At least they show "Corner Gas."

Rick Mercer comes back on CBC on Tuesday and I hope he will be as caustic as ever. I've really missed parts of the regular CBC shedule, mostly the comedies.

Hockey Night in Canada is back and I've actually watched a couple of hockey games ( it's been years since I bothered) and I've enjoyed the way the game moves now. I still hate fights and change the channel when one starts, but there seem to be fewer fights, so who knows, I may watch more hockey. It's in the genes somewhere and it all started back when I listened to Foster Hewitt do his inimitable play by play on the radio. Yes, I am that old, and what's more I don't care who knows it.

I'm plugging along on my "novel." I'm using quotes for that word because I don't know if it will turn out to be a novel or only a very long short story or a short novella, or nothing in particular. The characters are in conflict (yay!) and I've written almost 12,000 words so far. There's a long way to go yet.

I'll think about that after I check my mail box.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The NaNoWriMo Adventure at Day Four

It's hard to believe that in three days I've written 6,731 words and some of those words might possibly be ones I'll keep. On day three I worked on proof reading a short story so I could send it out. Then having lost a day's NanoWriMo work I had to do two days worth today.

The paragraphs are long and sprawly and in spots there's an over-abundance of descriptive detail, so someday I'll be pruning them.

The biggest challenge right now is to decide where the plot is going and whether there is enough plot.

I went to the "Evening with Stephen Lewis" and found that he is still a great speaker. Of course I'm biased but the applause and the standing 'O' he received supports my opinion. Yes, I know that people are more inclined to give standing ovations these days (old codger makes a brief grumpy appearance) but his was certainly more than deserved. His comments about the American government were careful but quite pointed and funny too. And he didn't leave out the role right-wing ideology plays in the inadequate distribution of AIDS assistance ($) in Africa. He was most passionate when he talked about the terrible price the women and children of Africa are paying now. But he also talked about some of the hopefull things that are gradually happening and encouraged the people in the audience to get involved in some way.

I suppose I should go and plot my plot, or consult my characters in my dreams.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In 48 Hours, or Less The Clock Starts Ticking

It's almost November first, and I am not ready for the NaNoWriMo adventure. I need to remind myself frequently that I'll never really be ready and will just have to do it anyway.

Fortunately, I was able to obtain Chris Baty's book "No Plot? No Problem! and have read it. I finished it while riding the bus back to Kitchener. I only hope I'll think his comments are still funny when I'm in the middle of the concentrated writing month.

I'll have to take a broom and chase my inner editor out of the room, into the hall and down the stairs. But I've had lots of practice in using real brooms and mops lately, so I should be up to the task.

Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

A Bed, A Bed, My Kingdon for a Bed. Adventures in the T-Dot

I would have liked to start this with a compliment to Sleep Country Canada, but alas, I can't.

My friend, "the bear" was in desparate need of a new bed. We went to the Sleep Country store. We chose a bed. The bed was to be delivered on October 27th. It did not arrive on October 27th. I was there and I know they did not call and it did not arrive. However, Sleep Country said they did come to the bear's apartment building and no one answered their call. Fuck that! There was no call.

After I called Sleep Country, and the bear called them too (he was irate and I can't blame him) an arrangement was made. The Bed he ordered would be delivered by an outside contractor ( a cartage company) on Saturday morning between 10 a.m. and i p.m. The bed arrived at 9:10 a.m. and I just got to the bear's apartment building in time to discover the cartage company people waiting outside his building.

Okay, so the good news is. - The Bed is now installed. It looks like a Laura Ashley oasis in the midst of chaos, but it's there. I've provided the plain blue sheets and four large soft pillows. Maybe he'll sleep on it tonight. He'd better, because I've ensured that he cannot sleep on his despicable couch.

I didn't get to do much while I was in the T-Dot. I'd planned to see the exhibition of Russsian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. That didn't happen because I spent pretty much every moment at the bears apartment. However, I did get to see some great scenery (of the male kind) while staying at the Day's Inn at College and Yonge. Maple Leaf Gardens is closed, but it seems that many hockey players still stay at the Days Inn. It's fun to see those bulky guys tucking into large breakfasts at the hotel. I tucked-in too. I had the breakfast buffet, a small splurge, and really enjoyed myself.

Coming into Toronto on the bus, one sees the waterfront. Well, sorta sees it in between the condominium towers. If the economy is slowing, it's not evident in the T-Dot. Every blank space downtown i s about to be occupied by a condo-tower. Maybe I should be glad I don't live in the T-Dot any more.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will start soon and I am not ready. That could be a good thing.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Canadian Hero Comes to Town

I should say will be coming to town, but that would make the heading too long.

Stephen Lewis will be here, on November 3rd and will be speaking at St. Andrews Presbyterian Chuch, just down the street from me. Of course he'll be talking abou the AIDS crisis in Africa. He's been the U.N.'s special envoy to Africa for AIDS since 2001 and has worked tirelessly in his passionate and outspoken fashion to influence governments toward making effective changes. Rumour has it (and it's mentioned in this weekend's Globe and Mail article on him) that he may soon be fired for being direct and honest about the shortcomings of various powerful governments and the U.N. The Americans in particular are not happy about his honesty.

He's one of my heroes and true heroes are always in short supply.

On Monday, when the church office is open, I plan to pay the $25.00 which goes to the Stephen Lewis Foundation and get a seat for the evening. If the evening is sold out, and I hope it soon will be, I can look for Race Against Time (The 2005 Massey Lectures) when it comes out.

I only found out he was coming to town today when I saw a small squib about it in The Record but I hope that just means I don't buy the local paper often enough. He deserves an SRO crowd.

Sexy Posters Beside Lego Towers

I visited my daughter and her sons earlier this week and was treated to home-made chili for dinner. It gave us a chance to catch up on events in her life. Mine is fairly quiet at the moment.

It also gave me the opportunity to see my grandsons and this post is mostly about them-so if you are not in the mood to read a love letter-scroll down to the grunts'n groans section at the end.

Frank is 13 (and three months) and so far he is sailing through early adolescence and keeping vestiges of his boyhood close by. He has a poster of a sexy young singer in a bikini on the front of his dresser, and parked next to that is the Lego tower (city/space station etc.) that has been growing in his room for years. The current version of this fantastic world replaces one I accidentally toppled a few months ago. He and his brother Sam have collected Lego for years. In fact, they have so much of it that relatives are not allowed to give them more. When the edict came from on high ( 'mom says no') it caused great dismay among the male reli's.

Frank is often dreamy, and apparently he only hears requests or orders issued from on high (mom or dad) after the third utterance. That's totally normal, I think. What really amazes me is how happy he is. He also has 'cred' with his friends who are almost all physically larger than he is because: he has a girl-friend (but not in the city), he does well in school (not outstanding, but quite well), he's studying Judo twice a week and he manages to do his chores. He's going to be allowed to dye his hair black Why black I don't know, but mom said yes. Maybe he's happier and more confident than some 13 year olds I've met because he actually has time to himself. Time to just be in that in-between world of of boyish imagination interspersed with real-world aspirations.

Sam, who is 11 and-a-little-bit is only showing one visible sign of being a teen. And it's not one he's happy with. But since he has an almost uncontrollable sweet tooth, he may have to live with the occasional spot on his face. He's going out trick-or-treating and will be wearing his medieval page costume. He's made a sword and shield to go with it. I'm not sure when he found the time, between books. He's a read-a-holic. Just can't imagine where he got that propensity from. Well, I can, but I refuse to admit any responsibility. Sam is also fond of clothes and chooses what he will wear very carefully. Things must coordinate or he is not satisfied. Dance and cross-country running seem to be his favourite activities right now. But he's a quick-silver child and that could change at any moment. Of course that's one of the things I like most about him. He also has the kind of charm that people (not just family) find irresistible. I hope he has no desire to dye his naturally red-gold hair black, but older brothers have influence.

Grunts'n Groans

I'll soon be literally grunting and groaning when I try to move my friend, the bear's belongings in order to get a new bed into his apartment next week. Can't wait till this adventure is over. Mind you, I did discover I have a latent super-shopper gene when I was searching for new sheets for his new bed. Or maybe I don't, and fate was just assisting me to find a 25% off sale at Zellers so I could get 4 flat sheets for $51 including tax. Mom woulda bin proud.

Internet searching is not all it's cracked-up to be or- Why can't I find anything?

I wanted to find out more about my father's father and his grandfather and so I've been net-trolling. No success yet. His father's surname is too common and while he had three given names, none of them show up. It's back to before square one, or maybe my aunt will remember something. There may or may not be an Acadian connection and that's one of the things that got me interested in the first place. If only people had kept to consistent spellings for names. They didn't of course, and so I've researched Girard and Giruard and Carriere and Carrier and so on with no luck so far.

I'm going to use Windsor, Ontario as the setting for my NaNoWriMo draft/novel-to-be. They (those lit-crit Gods) say that first novels always have biographical elements. So I might as well go with my inclination. Besides, Windsor is a neglected setting (never mind that there may be good reasons for that!) and other cities will enter the fray at various points along the way. Since I'll be using Windsor in the '50's and '60's I may have to rely on memory if my internet research skills don't help. Or, I could take a trip to the Windsor library.

I have a couple of themes in mind, but am not at all sure of the plot elements. Could I write a plotless novel. Doubtful. Robertson Davies said something like, his ideal work would be plotless. Unfortunately, I'm not R.D., so I must figure out at least some of the plot elements and I should try to do that before November first. So much to do, so much dithering to get through.

Maybe I'll think about that tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Vintage or merely Old? The P.M. Speaks Out: Oktoberfest Farriers: Nagging Piano Tuners

And the last shall be first, or something of that sort.

Yesterday, I had my piano tuned. It's been nearly four years since its last tuning. I know, I shouldn't have waited so long, but other uses for money kept appearing. Thanks to a gift from my grumpy friend, the bear, I was in a position to pay the tuner. He got lost on his way here, but called to tell me what street he was on. Unfortunately, that didn't help since I didn't have a clue where the street was. It turns out the street was only about five blocks away. I guess I don't know my neighbourhood well, even after three years here.

During the tuning process, which took two hours, I found out a little about the man behind the wrenches. He's a fourth generation piano tuner who also plays classical guitar and rock guitar and he teaches and plays in a rock & country band that travels to gigs around southern Ontario. He very politely told me I should have my piano tuned more often. Guess there's a story there, but perhaps it's for another time.

Oktoberfest is winding down today, and soon I won't be jostled on downtown sidewalks. I did go to one quasi-Oktoberfest event last Saturday. The downtown market had two farriers (blacksmiths) demonstrating the art of making horse shoes. It was fascinating to watch and the younger of the two men was quite willing to chat away about being a farrier and teaching the art. I was amazed to find out that there are not enough farriers to go around. The popularity of horses is increasing and there are as about as many horses as dairy cows in Ontario, he said. It was comforting to know that a trade that's at least a thousand years old is still viable and that the best way to make a horseshoe that benefits the horse is still the very traditional way.

I didn't participate in any other Oktoberfest events, mostly because I'm not fond of Festhalls filled with drunken people singing Ein Prosit numerous times, or worse yet, Eee I Eee I Eee I Oh.... Eeek! I will admit to liking Walter O. (the polka king) and four years ago I went with a friend to hear him at an Oktoberfest event. We were early, and ended up sitting at a table with Walter and members of his band. He's friendly and unassuming, but I wouldn't go to a crowded Festhall to hear him again.

The Prime Minister is getting testy about the softwood lumber tarriffs and the money Canada is now owed. I'm glad to see him taking a stronger stance. But, will it do any good? It seems that NAFTA decisions (curses to the administration that brought that in!) just don't count if you are America's El Presidente shrub and you say they don't. It's abuse of power, plain and simple, and there is no one to call them on it. We are far too intertwined with the Americans to do a heck of a lot about it. Right here in the heart of money-generating Ontario we have a shortage of electric power and have to borrow from the American part of the grid, frequently. God knows, we should be working fast to change that. But, it's only happening in small increments. Meanwhile we keep gobbling power at an enormous rate, as if we have an inexhaustible Canadian supply. We don't.

Oh yeah, and as for the first topic - vintage or merely old. There was a display of vintage cars by the downtown market this morning. I guess I am not vintage but merely old, since most of the vintage cars on display were from well after my youthful days. I did appreciate seeing a 1972 Jaguar E type. Not that I saw any in Windsor, where I grew up. Car town was Ford, Chrysler and G.M. with the odd Studebaker or two thrown in here and there.

At least it's now apple season and sweet red peppers were 3 for $1.00 at the farmers market. I thought a new house plant would be a fine idea too. Maybe I'll be able to keep this one (an 'aluminum' plant) alive for a few months.

I haven't had to turn the heat on yet, maybe because I'm generating enough of my own by ranting away.

Monday, October 10, 2005

NaNoWriMo Entering the Fray

Here we go folks.

This is my second try at posting this blog entry. I've officially entered the National Novel Writing Month free-for-all. So in the month of November I'll need to write at least 50,000 words. Maybe being part of NaNoWriMo will help me get through a first draft of something approaching novel length.

NaNoWriMo - Onward the Timid Writer

While I was in Toronto last week, having fun and assisting a friend, I kept thinking about National Novel Writing Month, and the opportunity it presents. Of course, I thought about NaNoWriMo last year too, but I wasn't ready. I'm not sure I'm ready now - but I've signed up, so I suppose this is a semi-public declaration of intent. Or maybe an admission that my insanity level is about to rise as November looms and I have to keep my promise to myself.

In a way, November is the ideal month to begin since the weather is usually more than icky and there are no big events as far as I know. I also have a 300 watt floor lamp now that will help keep the gloomy SAD beastie away, or at least banish him to a corner. Maybe I'll be able to develop a consistent writing routine instead of being so damn sporadic and lazy. Deadlines have always helped me focus and get through things. I hate them, but they work for me, or is it that I work toward them?

I should try to write an outline before November arrives, so I have some kind of framework to throw lots of words at.

At least one good thing happened last week. I finally persuaded my friend 'the Bear' to buy a bed. He's desparately needed a new one for over a year, but wouldn't shop for one by himself. After three hours at a Sleep Country store he made a decision just in time; I was afraid we were going to have to sleep in the store. The salesperson was amazingly patient and understanding and should get some sort of award.

My daughter and her family are celebrating Thanksgiving up at their trailer since this is the second last weekend of the season. And Sam is still waiting to see the results of the Grand River Life Writing contest in the age 10 to 16 division. It's likely that someone older will win (Sam is 11) and I do think they ought to have two age categories for teens, but I'm delighted that he entered his charming and funny story.

It's time to consider working on the novel outline.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Arrival of "The Slender Volume"

Thougt I'd post an update before going to Toronto on Tuesday for some fun and some drudge-work.

Yes, I have my copy of Ten Stories High, and it is a slender volume of 85 pages. Probably the size of some poety chapbooks.

I didn't have that jump-up-and-shout feeling when I finally got it, but I did get a quiet glow for a while. Apparently, the Niagara Library system will have copies on their shelves, so it's somewhat possible that an unsuspecting reader may come across it someday.

It's a perfect autumn day, so I'm going to postpone some cleaning and trip preparations and savour the moment.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pedestrians Have Rights Too

I decided not to go to St. Catharines because a) I couldn't find a bed and breakfast that wasn't full due to the Wine Festival and b) I thought I should be practical since the Budget Gods said so.

However; I did do one small thing to celebrate the anthology launch. It's a beautiful autumn day so I walked to the Farmers' Market, bought some fresh tomatoes, some hummous and tablouli, a newspaper and some fresh cut flowers. That put me in an upbeat mood but it was destined to be temporary.

As I was walking back home, crossing the street on a green light - and the WALK sign was on - a car decided to make a left turn when I was in the middle of the cross walk and nearly hit me. I yelled at the guy, yep, it was a male driver, but the only digit I could raise was a thumb since my hands were full, I yelled 'idiot" but I'm sure he didn't see my thumb or hear me shout. He was roaring toward the next red light which was only a block away.

I was only about three blocks from home after that incident and things should have been quiet and smooth. Should have been but were not.

There was only one more light ahead of me. As I approached the light, and I was on the right hand sidewalk, there was a bus stopped at the light waiting to make a left turn. I was behind the bus and behind it was a car with a young male driver (I know, I know, but these are the facts). He was honking his horn at the bus and then he put his head out the window and yelled. He appeared to be getting ready to pass the bus on the right. I could see his hands turning the wheel in that direction. That would mean going up on the sidewalk where I was. Thank God, at that moment the bus was finally able to turn left and the car behind straightened and zoomed off at a speed of least 20 clicks over the posted limit.

I want to know why it is so easy for people who show no knowledge or respect for the Highway Traffic Act to have the right to drive potentially lethal multi-ton vehicles (both were SUV's) They should be demoted to pedestrian status. And maybe pedestrians should have some sort of weapon to use in these circumstances - like a long umbrella with a razor-sharp tip for scratching the paint of offending vehicles.

Tomorrow is The Word on the Street, and the weather forecast is for rain so we may not have many afternoon visitors.

I just came back from Tim Hortons where I had a coffee and a Nanaimo bar to soothe my nerves. Sometimes you just have to have some cheap consolation.

Monday, September 19, 2005

To Go or Not to Go? I wish I knew.

I wasn't going to go to St. Catharines for the anthology launch, since my daugter can't drive me there. However, I'm beginning to reconsider the whole thing since it is possible to go by bus. Possible, but it takes a long time - there and back would be almost 7 hours total travel in one day. The train would be nice, but there isn't one that would get me there at the right time.

So, in typical crab fashion, I'm skittering back and forth, waving my antennae and trying to decide - because - when it comes right down to it. I'd like to be there. This sort of thing doesn't happen every week, or every month or ... and who knows when it might happen again. The Gods of writing contests are a fickle and strange bunch. Of course the Niagara Wine Festival is on the same weekend so it could be that hardly anyone would be at the reading. They might all be out drinking, elsewhere.

Maybe I could go the night before, stay at a B & B and come back after the reading. That way I'd have a mini-holiday and blow all the prize money and then some.

Maybe I should look at the weather forecast and then roll the dice (oh heck! I don't have any dice). Or maybe the universe will send me a sign.

The Word on the Street is Sunday and I've promised to volunteer in the afternoon. So, if I've travelled to St. Catharines and back before Sunday, I hope I don't have to be awake.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spatially Incompetent

I've been dawdling a lot lately and I've also been distracted by the ongoing coverage of the after-effects of the hurricane. So, I've been posting on an internet bulletin board and encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross and so on. Great excuses for not revising my short story draft, or finishing the story that's half-done.

And I found another way to distract myself that's frustrating and fun. There's a game called Troyis (online). It doesn't take long to play (at least not when you're me) and it involves being able to visualize which square you should put the knight symbol on in order to cover the variously spaced open squares. I am not good at this type of game - in fact I'm bloody awful. There are apparently 22 levels - but I keep getting stuck at level seven and sometimes don't even make it to level five. One only has 45 seconds to complete each level, no matter how complex. The upside is that it's impossible to think of anything else, at least on a conscious level, while playing it. And, it does seem to sharpen my concentration.

I've certainly needed distractions lately, since the news from Nancy and Gary has changed again. They have lost some of their staff and are very short-handed. They will both have to go out and do applications if they are going to get all the fall work done for every customer. And, of course, somehow they have to get it all done.

It's a case of keeping my fingers crossed, again. I hope that by November, the end of the lawn care season, I'll be able to pry my fingers apart

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reflections on Events - Small and Large

I'd thought about titling this post "After Katrina, " but in the end I couldn't.

There are earlier events to mention. My Port Elgin experience was excellent. The challenge of being a panelist in the morning and a workshop presenter in the afternoon was exciting and I may have over-prepared. But, I'm glad I did. At least I didn't mumble - that took a lot of effort and concentration. Instead, I guess I dug out my public persona. It was a little dusty but cleaned up nicely. There's a certain amount of strain involved in being "on" for a whole day and I had quite a headache by the end of the event. The participants drank all the coffee, before I could get any - so perhaps it was caffeine withdrawal.

In the morning session, the panelists read from their work and my contribution was about 2 and a half pages of "Peach Fuzz." Now, I'm going to brag - I got the most applause, and lots of questions about where to read the story too. In the afternoon workshop we had lots of fun talking about Sexy Older Characters. There were nine participants and most were well over 65 years of age. I gave them scenarios for two writing exercises and it produced some interesting stuff. We ran a bit overtime but everyone wanted their turn and gave me another great round of applause when the workshop finished. So, I'm very pleased with the way everything went. And, I'll get a chance to give the workshop here in Waterloo on October 3rd.

I did lots of walking while I was up at Nancy's trailer, maybe a bit too much walking, as my knee is now complaining more loudly than usual, but I've taken it easy since I got back and that's helping. Sunday, August 28th, Nancy and I, and the boys went to Sauble Beach before driving back home. It was a magnificent day and the waves were great. I was not going to go in the water, but I couldn't resist although it was colder than I would have liked - it was, as far as Lake Huron water goes - pretty warm. That's what Nancy told me and I suppose I must believe her.

After coming home, i was still in vacation mode and had a serious case of "camp head" that fuzzy state of mind when one can't focus on anything much and doesn't want to.

It was time to get down to business, more than time. But then came the news of Katrina.

As I watched the television news (damn CBC for being on strike when I really needed their coverage) and weather reports, it became evident within a matter of hours that the disaster would be huge. At least, it was evident to me, and I don't claim to be all that brilliant. But, it didn't seem to be evident to a lot of American people or the American government. New Orleans was the main focus of course, but a large area of the Gulf coast was badly hit.

Many people who couldn't leave New Orleans did as they were told and went to the Superdome and the convention Centre. They did what they were asked to do - and then the help didn't come and didn't come. No clean water to drink, no food, no supplies of any kind - no wonder people broke into stores to find supplies. I think that true "looters" were a minority. Many people tried to help each other, but that was not the focus of the reports coming out in the beginning. Anarchy came because the right actions were not taken soon enough, no one was in charge, and desparate people will do desparate things. Dehydration - or drinking polluted water produces craziness too.

The aftermath of Katrina is immense destruction of every kind. But I grieve most for the lives that have been lost, and will continue to be lost because of delays, medical attention not received at the critical time, no clean water, exposure to toxins in New Orleans' filthy water and so on.

Repairs and rebuilding will take years, not months and in the meantime thousands of people are refugess in their own country. Some commentators have objected to the term "refugee" but it seems to me to be the appropriate one. They have lost everything and they need refuge and not just for the short haul either.

What was most striking to me was the overwhelming number of very poor people (mostly black) who bore the brunt of the disaster. No provisions were made to evacuate people who didn't have transport before the storm hit. I guess the repercussions of that will provoke a frenzy of political blaming and hot air, but will the conditions of poverty and neglect be changed? Probably not.

Not too long ago, I belonged to an internet site where there was a more or less continuous discussion about how we as Canadians are way over-taxed and way too socialist and how we ought to consider having a more American style of government. I just happen to think that doing that would lead to the development of deeper social divisions, more poverty and the growth of an "under-class" that wouldn't care about maintaining society because they don't receive any benefit from it. Some people, of course WILL benefit from this disaster, those who will reconstruct, those who have necessary things to sell, and those who get government contracts for this that and the other thing.

I was about to review my own financial situation when Katrina came and swept away so much. And, it was a while before I managed to do that. But, when I did I had a new perspective. It really doesn't matter that there are many things I can't do, due to having to stay inside my tiny budget. I have enough, while so many in the richest country in the world have nothing and the people continue to suffer and die in Africa too. Will they now be ignored, again.

Is there hope at the end of the tunnel of death and destruction? I truly believe there must be - there are signs of it and I look for more signs in the future and contribute what little I can.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

From Mexico to Port Elgin

By Tuesday, I'll probably be in Port Elgin and I'm looking forward to my mini-escape, once I get everything ready. This morning, I was reminded of the plans I had three years ago. At that time, I was planning to get away to Mexico for a week. It didn't happen and I was disappointed that I couldn't afford it. These days, I'm happy to be able to get as far away as Port Elgin.

It's a good thing my imagination can take me anywhere I want to go, even if it takes me to some places I don't want to see.

I'll be unplugged again while I'm away and that could a bonus. Maybe I'll get an outline done, maybe I won't. But it's unlikely there will be any inerruptions from outside the self, that is. If the weather is perfect, I'll spend lots of time outside and even have a camp-fire; and if it isn't - I'll have books and the radio. I'm hoping for clear nights so I can see the stars and maybe see the way ahead too.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Yesterday was hot, humid and smoggy, so at about 3 p.m. after checking my e-mails I went for a swim. It was a 'free transit' day since the local bus company is trying to promote using its services to save the environment. That was a bonus and when I returned home, I was cool and relaxed and I didn't use the computer or try to use the phone until after 10 p.m. That's when I discovered the phone line was dead.

I was unplugged. Unable to communicate by phone or by internet, and that upset me. What if I missed an urgent call - I wasn't expecting one, but what if? Or what if there was an urgent freelance work e-mail message - I wasn't expecting one, but what if? It took a while to shut off the worry machine, a long while.

This morning, I was out by 7 a.m. and used the closest pay phone to call Bell Canada. Their representative was minimally helpful - someone would come over by Monday at the latest. I think at this point I yelled - "what do you mean Monday? This is Thursday morning!" There had to be a better response because I was pretty sure this was Ma Bell's fault. At 8 a.m. I found our building superintendant and asked if a Bell technician had been in yesterday.

"Sure" she said. "He was hooking up unit 503."

Well since unit 503 is right across the hall from me my suspicions were well-founded. Another trip to the pay phone and another call to Ma Bell to give the technical people more information and to state that I was 99-and-a-half percent sure that this "service interruption" was their fault.

Service was "restored." That's how they refer to it, by 9.15 a.m. But if I hadn't followed-up I'd still be waiting and waiting.

I'm thinking about getting a cell phone, but I probably won't. I'll just hope that my neighbour doesn't move out in the near future.

I wonder if my dependence on technology is a good thing but I'm stuck on it and stuck with it too.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Becoming 'Sexy'

Some days ago, I found out via e-mail that there will be a writing worshop day in Port Elgin on August 27th. The Brucedale Press was looking for authors to read and to give workshops. I'd never heard of this event but since no one has heard of me either, I decided to offer my services.

I didn't expect to be taken seriously, but now I've been hired. I'm a "presenter" and will read my work in the morning and be part of a panel. In the afternoon, I'll run a workshop on - Writing 'Sexy' Older Characters. The organzers are just putting out the brochure now, so I don't expect a huge number of participants. In fact, I kind of hope there won't be a lot of participants since this is my first adventure of this kind.

Research is now on the agenda since I have to find some bad examples of writing older characters. But that shouldn't be too hard. I'll have 2.5 hours of workshop time and plan to make the session interesting and challenging. It will certainly be a challenge for me!

In other news, I received the judge's comments on Peach Fuzz and Sunflowers and also was told that I could make small changes in the story before it goes to print. The only suggestion from the judge was that the story could be more dramatic if it were written from only one point of view. Well, I thought about this. Hell - I stewed and fussed and fumed about it in typical cranky crab fashion. I can't do it. So, the story will go to the typesetter later today with some minor text changes.

Nancy and Frank senior are home safe after their trip to England and my grandsons are having a lazy summer and enjoying it. Sammy who turned eleven in July is a ferocious reader and devours his library books so quickly that he runs out of reading material before a trip to the library is scheduled. So, his father has given him a Michael Chriton book to fill the gap. I'll have to look through my collection and see what I can give Sam for the awful times when he temporarily runs out of books.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Back here on Earth and Practicing Harassment

I had a great time but now my feet are on the ground. They would be in the mud if there was any, because then they would be cooler.

By Saturday, or Sunday, or sometime down the road it is supposed to be a civilized temperature. All this heat is making me grumpy. Yesterday I told a friend who is not a writer that if she wanted to read my prize winning short story, she should consider buying the book. Now that was very bold of me - or was it? Yes, I'm delighted to be published and I must say that I don't even know what "rights" are involved yet since I neglected to check (didn't think I'd win) and now the information is not on the website. Fiction writers are the last to know, I guess and maybe we are expected to be humbly grateful.

But, after reading about the "literary" Canadian writers who have contributed so much to us, yet now live in poverty I've decided to get tough with my non-writng friends who can afford to buy books. Afer all, I'm not the only writer in that book and the Niagara Branch of the CAA takes a lot of time and trouble to try and produce something good.

The Canadian Writers Foundation is really struggling to provide financial support to writers who are "national treasures" but later in life are stuck in poverty. My friend Lori and I are considering an idea that may help. It's too soon to say whether we will be able to go forward with it.

In the meantime, I intend to stick with my "buy the book" stance whenever it seems right to me. At least one of my better-off friends wants to buy several copies. I'll have to remind her of her promise when the book comes out in September.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Floating Down Gently

The last few days have been so exciting. Lori arrived from Calgary on Thursday morning and it felt like I'd known her forever. Nancy, Lori and I went out for a birthday lunch, the first of a round of celebrations, and had a great time together.
I was so happy I didn't even think of checking my mailbox. Good thing since there was a rejection notice in it. Why do editors take seven months to say no?

But never mind that, it was a very minor downer in what turned out to be a great weekend. The conference was informative and fun. But the best thing was meeting other writers. Some of the folk from the Kelley Armstrong board were there and putting faces to the names was great fun. In a lot of ways, the whole event was a case of so many people I wanted to talk to and not quite enough time to do everything.

I don't think I've stayed up until 1 a.m. two nights in a row, for a long long time and I'm still very tired, but I'm so glad I did. Lori and I were treated to birthday drinks and then of course the banquet was held in our honour, or so we chose to think.

We "ate out" the whole time, and since my apartment had already been put in a pristine state there was nothing to do but enjoy ourselves and we did, oh we certainly did.

Lori left Sunday afternoon and I came home still to revved up to relax, or even to make food. I ate out again, but this time it was Tim Hortons in honour of budget retraint.

Monday mornng I got a phone call from Sandi Plewis of the Niagara branch of the CAA. Well, actually I was on the internet and found a message when I disconnected. I had to call back long distance. At this point I started to get that thumping in the chest. Would she be calling ne if there wasn't good news? Probably not, but I couldn't be sure because all the message said was - would I call back. I did, and she told me I'd won second prize in the Ten Stories High contest.

I coudn't tell you what I said to her - it's just a blank but it must have been somewhat coherent. She gave me instructions on how to send the text to her for the printer (msword doc attachment) and requested a bio (5o words or less). She also told me the presentation and author (hey - that's me!) readings will be held September 24th in the afternoon.

After the phone call, I screamed. It's a wonder someone didn't come knocking on my door to see if everything was all right. Euphoria is the word, but even that word seems understated for how I felt. Yes, yes yes! I kept saying that out loud and I danced around the living room.

The bottle of red wine that Lori and I didn't get around to opening got opened and I toasted myself, and Lori, and every other writer who has experienced that unique feeling. Then I contacted everyone who would care enough to congratulate me, starting with Nancy and Lori. The congratulations came pouring in and I soaked them up, even revelled in them.

This morning I still have a quiet glow. Reality has taken me down from the ceiling, but gently.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Motorcycle Mama!

I'd like to be one, sometimes. Mama is what my grandsons call me instead of grandma because they have two grandmothers. Friday evening there was a big Show and Shine event held by local motorcycle enthusiasts just down the street from my place. I had to go because proceeds of tee shirt sales and money raised by participants in the Ride for Dad held on Saturday went to support prostate cancer research.

Okay, okay. I really went to see the bikes and the riders. Of course most of the riders are older guys. Who else can afford those huge Harleys, and Hondas, with a few other Japanese brands thrown in? It was bliss. Lots of chrome to admire, old rock n' roll playing and free Tim's coffee. I bougt a tee shirt and gave it to Gary for Father's day and because now he has a new motorcycle (new to him anyway).

The motorcycle saga started when Nancy got her first one at 20 (I think). She later sold it. A couple of years ago she got another one, then Gary got one too. The cost of insuring the bikes went through the roof, so they sold both bikes a few weeks ago. But then, their accountant said that if Gary got a bike and used it for business purposes, which was something he had been doing anyway, they could write off the cost of the bike and the insurance. So, now Gary has a motorcyle again. I imagine Nancy might get to use it sometimes too. But it isn't likely I'll get a ride on it so I'll have to remember riding on the back of her cherry red Suzuki.

Sam's dance performance weekend went well, but it was a long slog for him. At the theatre for 6 hours on Friday evening and the same thing again on Saturday afternoon. He's decided to sign up for next year so I guess the fact that he hated one of his costumes and was very vocal about it that didn't change his mind about performing.

It's already Tuesday and there's still lots to do to get ready for Lori's visit and for the conference. It's strange to try on clothes that have been in the back of the closet and wonder why I ever bought them in the first place. Or is it because most of my better clothes are at least six years old and in the interim some of my body parts have grown and have drifted further south? In the end, I'll opt for comfort, as I almost always do. The forecast for Friday is hot and humid so that will determine the outfit.

I'm planning to enjoy every moment.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I've been Drafted - or I should say Dragooned

Last night, I went to the CAA Branch meeting. Turns out it was the Annual Meeting night and before I knew it, somehow I became the secretary for the Branch. I think I said something about being interested in maybe working on the newsletter. Well, they do have a new volunteer for that so now I'm the secretary, for the time being.

There was a lot of discussion about the Conference and it is looking better all the time. The branch may actually have to close registration since there is only a certain amount of room at the Walper Hotel.

The "goodie bags" will be phenomenal. They are not even sure how to get all the freebies into the bags! Books, lots of books and many other things too.

The hot gossip - certain, prominent members wanted detailed information on the location of the nearest bar(s). Oh, you are not suprised by this.

There was also a speaker last night, a woman who writes war poems. She read from her work and spoke about her relationships with war veterans. And, I had the greatest difficulty in keeping my opinion to myself. Only one or two people ever read this so I'm sure she never will. She believes that no "war poet" who hasn't been in a war should write "as if" they were there. Well, yes, but then again I don't think it's beyond the pale. It's possible, maybe barely possible, but possible just the same, that someone could succeed in doing this. I do agree that war should not be romanticized in any way.

Perhaps what perturbed me the most was the way she romanticized her personal relationships with veterans (although it is not overt in the few poems she read). When she was talking about the Vets with me later - she referred to them as her boys and I wanted to give her hell, but I didn't. Attachment to Veterans is something I understand. I still miss my "guys" (even though a lot of the ones I worked with at Sunnybrook and other places are dead now) but never in this world would I have referred to them as boys. Some would have resented it, others would have taken advantage of it, and still others would have refused to talk to me.

In the end, it just motivated me to start writing more stories, using what I know. Guess I should be grateful.

Friday, June 03, 2005

June - Dreamy Time

This morning it is not all that hot, but it is humid. June humidity. There's something about it that makes me remember sitting in elementary school classrooms in June and drifitng off to somewhere/anywhere else. Maybe young kids should have a longer summer break, because I don't ever remember learning a single thing in June. At least not any academic thing.

I'm sure it's hard for the teachers to get the kids to pay any attention so I hope they have "covered" the essential parts of the curriculum by now. I know that Frank and Sam are already thinking about summer, and camping, and all the boy-things that have nothing to do with school.

All the summer birthdays are coming up soon too. Frank's on the 24th then mine and my friend Lori's, then Sam's in early July. As the boys get older it's more difficult to know what they would like. I may have to resort to gift certificates since their tastes and interests change very quickly.

I don't know all the summer plans yet. Maybe I will stay with the boys at the trailer for a week, if I'm persuaded. I'd also really like a week on my own up there but will have to wait and see what the plans are. Or, maybe I only think I'd like a week away from everything (the computer, the television) and everyone.

The last time I went on a "retreat" was a good ten years ago and it was excellent. I stayed at a camp that is very busy in the summer, but was very quiet in the springtime. There were places to walk, a quiet room with only the bare necessities and meals were available at set times. I did lots and lots of walking, I guess really it was walking-meditation, since I was trying to decide on a number of things.

Maybe I'll investigate what's available for later on in the summer or the fall, if I don't get the opportunity to stay at Nancy and Gary's trailer.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Picasso, The Muse and musings

It's been a fairly productive writing week for me and I'm temporarily pleased about that. Why does being happy about it never last for long? There's always something else lurking and pushing me along. I guess it's the nature of the writing beast.

I've been having a great time though, discussing economics and politics on one of the internet sites I frequent. Sometimes the people who post there infuriate me and sometimes they amuse me and occasionally they cause me to think about something in a new way. It's easy to become insular when I spend so much time alone. Or maybe that's just my excuse. 'Posting' does take more of my time than it should. Now I've given up one not-so-productive habit and acquired another.

I made my usual Saturday afternoon pigrimage to the free movie at the library. This week it was "Surviving Picasso" and I came away from it wondering how he managed to get all his women (and I use his advisedly) to subsume themselves in his life. I guess it was his enormous talent, his ego and his magnetic sexuality/personality. Damn, I wish I could find a magnet that would do that. Sometimes it would be just peachy to have someone at my beck and call so that I could commune with my muse.

But then I wouldn't be able to send them away when I wanted to work. Conscience I suppose and the blessing and curse, the ability to know how someone else feels. I doubt that Picasso cared about how anyone felt. It simply didn't matter. I detest a lot of his work and he was a monster in some respects but Guernica will stand and perhaps that's his legacy to the world.

Friday, May 20, 2005

"Ready to Serve"

One of our local supermarkets uses the slogan "Ready to Serve." Well, so am I. It could happen at any moment. I looked in my closet to see of my Superheroine cape was still there and I found it. I can't locate my magic wand yet but it must be around here someplace.

What prompts me to get ready? I received an e-mail from a dear friend I used to work with at a certain Community Centre. It seems that a lot of staff are going to be away on the long weekend and I have been named as a back-up management person. This nonsense has given me a huge laugh, because I left the job I had there due to political shenannigans four years ago. It seems that I have not been forgotten and so I'm searching for my cape and my wand.

Mind you, I may have to lend it to Belinda Stronach. She might need a new image, an identity fix if you like, now that she has become a Liberal. It's more than odd, but I have a small sneaking sympathy for her. Maybe because I butted heads with people in power and failed to conince them I was right, or should I say correct, since I lean to the left. Or maybe my sympathy is evoked because she has been called such horrible things. Eventually we'll find out what her motives are but in the meantime I think I believe her.

Monday, May 16, 2005

JEOPARDY!- Alex,. I'm Leaving You.

It's all my friend R.'s fault. Once upon a time, I didn't watch the television program "Jeopardy" with any regularity, but now, I'm hooked on it. And not because I know most of the answers, I don't. In fact, watching it makes me realize there are great gaps in my knowledge of geography, history, sports (especially sports) Americana and probably every other category too.

This evening, there was a match to determine the last person who will be in the "Ultimate Tournament of Champiions" (yes Ken Jennings will appear too). The runaway winner of the quiz I just watched was an American writer. He seemed to know so much about so many categories, and I was left with the question - When does the man write? Not to mention, though I will, what the heck does he read aside from all the factual stuff he must have read. Maybe he's one of those people who has a visual memory and everything he's ever read is stored in his video brain.

My grandson is somewhat like that - once he's read a fact, he always remembers it and he can quote it almost verbatim. As for me, perhaps my memory is something like a giant pudding of mixed up things, a trifle. Because I can remember both large events and small ones if they happened at a significant time in my own life. If they didn't; I couldn't tell you much.

Once the "Ultimate Tournament of Champions" is over will the program go off the air? I don't imagine so, but it will in my house. Spring is trying to get here. It made a brief appearance but didn't sign the contract. It will be back for another round of negotiations, but I'm not signing the next watch Jeopardy contract. I'm giving it up, right after the tournament is over so that I can make friends with spring. I promise.

After all, acording to the interesting quiz my friend Lori sent me, I'm a Cultural Creative person by nature.

The test said I'm
Cultural Creative 88%
Post Modern 81%
Idealist 63%
Romanticist 63%
Existentialist 50%
Modernist 50%
Materialist 38%
Fundamentalist 13%

And therefore, I should spend more time being Creative, with a capital 'C.' I did the test twice. Why not? I'm a Cancer and we like to try things more than once. Both times it came out 88% Cultural Creative. Ah! if only these tests ensured anything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seesaw Margie Daw

Is it the effect of spring, or is it something else more insidious? All the federal political shenannigans, all that swinging from political trees to very little effect may be part of what's causing me to be on the seesaw too.

It's been a time of swinging up and down. Starting a story and then leaving it and then tinkering, adding a few wee bits and leaving it in the lurch again.

Theres a bird, a type of thrush I think, somewhere in the trees on a neigbour's property that starts singing at 3 a.m. and does not stop until about 7 a.m. It's confused, like me.

Could it be that what I think is angst about whether I can write fiction that will be good enough to be published is actually only butter withdrawal? I thought I was doing quite well, adjusting to the lack of high cholesterol foods, but then I had a butter dream. Skim milk in my coffee is tolerable, low fat mayo is - well, not the same, but acceptable. but healthy margarine just seems tasteless, like a tacky pop singer trying to sing an aria.

Perhaps I can push up the seesaw with a little positive action.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A.S.A. , I Miss You.

A little over a month ago, I finally found medical care here in K-W. Now, I'm a health centre client. I had been on a waiting list at a couple of places since moving here in 2002. Because I hadn't had a complete physical in at least four years, that was the first oder of things.

The nurse practitioner was great and the first appointment was a full hour. She took a very detailed history and set me up for some baseline tests. Okay by me. Read all the destructions, she said. I was sent for a fasting blood sugar test and some other blood tests plus an EKG. The instructions said no food or medication for at least 18 hours before the test.

My left knee has considerable damage, no cartilage, and it's been dislocated numerous times, my right ankle is also wonky (a previous bad sprain and a break) and so I take two regular strength Aspirin at night. Just two mind you. I really missed them. My knees were swollen and cranky the morning of the test. It was late afternoon before I could have anything to eat and I was longing for my Aspirin, but good doobie that I am, I waited until evening. The next set of tests didn't require givng up my dear sweet A.S.A., instead I was squashed and scanned.

Now, there is one more test I have to complete, and I won't put down the somewhat gross details here. Before completing the steps of the test, I have to abstain from aspirin for at least a week. I'm on day five. Acetominiphin is the substitute but it just doesn't do it - I want my A.S.A. back

There's been nothing in my mail box, so the potential for good news still exists. Myabe next week, or the week after that, or ... sometime.

My friend, who is very involved with Caballah tells me that this is a time of little light in the universe. But I'm hopeful that maybe what little light there is will shine in my direction.

In the meantime, A.S.A., I miss you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

To Review or not To Review?

On Monday, I received the 'book' I mentioned in a previous post. All the way from L.A. and sent by some type of international express mail at a cost to the authors of $7.00 American. They should, perhaps, have saved their money.

I'm in a quandry because I hesitate to even call the pages between covers a book. I've stopped reading at page 81 because I have a metaphorical hangover. The number of boozy lunches in the first 80 pages gave it to me. There's lots of evidence that Trafford (that's the edition I received) does zero editing. And by golly Molly, it sure could have used more than a little. It will be an uphill sans shoes slog to finish reading the pages. And then what am I to do - give it a bad review? Decide not to review it? Send it back with a note? Send them an e-mail indicating I can't review it?

It all makes me think about what it must be like for them, or for any other author who hopes to be reviewed.

It was so cold on the weekend that I almost turned on the heat, almost. But I managed to survive without it. NOw, we have rain instead of snow so perhaps I will not have to enrich Ontario Hydro.

I have two stories started and am not sure yet how to progress with either of them. That may mean I'm foot dragging again, or maybe I'm just figuring out where they will go. I think I'll opt for being in the contemplative phase.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Add, Take away, Prune, Revise, Ad Nauseum

Sometimes, my characters are just too, too demanding. May, who inhabits the short story, "May's Turn" was dissatisfied with the beginning of her story. She made that clear. Every time I re-read the story, there she was, whispering in my ear. Not quite, not yet, you haven't captured me yet.

I kept thinking about her. I'd already rewritten the story, (more than once) and received good comments on it. But I knew what she meant - it wasn't quite her story. Today, she seized me by the arm and led me back to the story. I spent all day on it. Somewhere along the way, I ate some crackers.That's all I remembered to eat. In the end, a new beginning, plus some other changes occurred to me.

Probably this story will amount to 6 or 7 printed pages (2920 words or so). How in the world can I consider writing something longer when it takes months to get back into a short story and find what's needed to make it work? At least, I think it works. I'm going to send it out while May still seems to be satisfied.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Reading too many books about Writing

Over the last two weeks, I think I've read four books on writing. How to write, what to write, how to be motivated. What to do, what not to do, and what not. Maybe I've read too many in too short a time; because now, I'm starting to think too much about what may be wrong with every sentence before I type it. I'm sure I'll recover and it's likely I'll forget some of the advice.

Late last week, I received an e-mail from two women who have written a book together. They appeared to be asking for a book review, but I was not sure. I replied asking for clarification and now they are sending me a free review copy. Apparently, they found my name through the seniorwomen website. Since the book has been published by Trafford, it could be a stinker. But, both women said they were unhappy with Trafford and have published another edition.

I did a little free witing this week for a woman (the cousin of a close friend) who wants to bring more music into the Ottawa pubic school system. The project is a great idea and I hope she can attract the funding she needs.

On another front, the weather front, we are hoping for rain. It has been a dry spring so far. That's not good for my favourite lawn care company. Now that fertilizer, etc, has been applied, rain is needed. I check the weather forecast frquently and remember my grandmother doing the same thing. We would sit at the kitchen table and listen to the noon farm news, complete with a detailed weather forecast on the CBC. We didn't live in the country but many of our relatives were farmers and grandma was always thinking of them.

Unfortunately, I don't know how many still farm and have not been able to visit that part of Ontario since last summer when we paid a brief visit to my mothers grave. Sometimes not being able to drive is more than a nuisance.

Some positive things are happening. The outside windows of my apartment building are being cleaned today. That's a luxury. I lived in a crappy apartment builidng in Toronto for about 15 years and the outside windows were never cleaned during that time.

The other good news is - I've managed to shrink my waist, just a wee bit. But, I'll take any shrinkage as a good sign. I don't own a scale, nor do I intend to buy one. They're depressing and I don't have a place to put one. Of course that does not stop me from acquiring stuff that is not depressing but requires space.

It's time to check the mailbox.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Strange Meetings

The last few days have been a bit peculiar.

The weather has been unkind, and that's the polite way of mentioning there was snow. wind and rain all weekend. My plan to visit the garden show where my daughter's company was exhibiting had to be ditched. And, I'm not sure when I will see her since she is almost camping out at the office. The spring madness of the lawn-care business is taking over.

But, I was going to talk about strange meetings and there is a connection to my daughter. At least in the second strange meeting. There is a local woman who is a frequent and vehement speaker at every event concerning the use of pesticides in the area. Lawn care companies here follow guidelines for minimum use of pesticides. And some, like my daughter's company, are pleased to offer totally organic lawn care. But, they (the lawn care companies) are all bad-guys according to this woman. She does not seem to recognize that home owners who try to be do-it-yourselfers use way more pesticides than reputable lawn care professionals. Rant, rant rant.

I met this person last night at an editing circle. She, of course is not aware of my connection to the evil lawn-care empire. Let me admit this right now. I hoped that her writing would not impress me, because I cannot stand her. That was not the case - her writing is very good. I suppose the only thing I learned from the encounter was not to let my personal dislike stand in the way of appreciating good writing.

The other strange meeting took place in the land of dreams. Saturday night, after learning of Pope John Paul II's death, I had this dream. John Paul meets Mary. (yes, that Mary, the mother of Jesus) and they are in a small anteroom. for a moment, John Paul doesn't realize who she is. She's not wearing anything 'period,' but she is wearing blue, her symbolic colour. He of course falls prostrate at her feet. Heck, I would too, if it happened to me. Mary tells him to get up and he is quite able to, since his body has been restored to health. Then, she asks him to sit in the one chair that is available. It's a cushy chair and he would rather she sat there. But the look in her eye indicates he should keep his mouth shut. He does.

Mary tells him that everyone is proud of the great things he has done. John Paul is humble and does not say much. But then, Mary tells him that she is disappointed, not so disappointed that he will suffer, but disappointed just the same. She explains that she and God had hoped John Paul would begin to see that women should have all the same roles and rights as men in the Catholic church. She says she sent many messages to him through the women of the church, buthe did not understand how important the messages were. Then Mary tells him God has infinite patience.


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Who let the snakes in?

Are there hazards to belonging to a writing group for a period of time? I'm beginning to suspect that sometimes, there are.

One of the two groups I belong to seems to be experiencing a snake invasion. Snakes have appeared on the pages of work from at least two members in the last month or so. Of course snakes are a very common symbol, handy for use by anyone. Perhaps that's why I think they should be avoided, at least most of the time.

It seems that other similarities in the writing of group members are creeping in too. It all makes me wonder if it's best to change groups when this happens. The weird thing, or maybe it's a surfeit of ego thing, is that I don't think I've been influenced much. But I've noticed that little bits of what I think of as "my style" are popping up in other people's work. That's something I was not expecting and maybe I'm just imagining it.

The group meets again tomorrow and I hope that we have seen the last of the snakes, at least for a while.

Monday, March 28, 2005

It's not my fault, the Movies tell me so.

This evening, after my writers group meeting I looked around my apartment and I was appalled. No, that should read I am appalled. What a muddle it all is! But now I know its not my fault and I learned this at the movies.

Our local library ran a film series called "A little bit about the Author" every Satuday afternoon this month. The films, Sylvia, The Hours, Shadowlands and Iris, all feaure British writers. My favourite of the four is Iris, and that may be because I admire Dame Judi Dench, in almost anything including the old series As Time Goes By now showing on PBS. But what was striking in all four films, after the acting and the plots, and the deaths (but I'm not going to talk about them) - was the dimness and the sheer squalor of their environments. Of course some of the dimness can be blamed on the British climate, the lack of enough electrical outlets, and the times the films portray. But the unholy messiness they lived in most of the time, well, I think that happened because they were busy writing. The films seemed to stress that.

So, now I have less stress. I know that I won't sink to spectacular depths of untidiness and dirt, because the other parts of my life intrude too often. But, if things get somewhat out-of-hand, I can blame it on my need to write, because the movies told me so.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

In the beginning ...

I'm somewhat concerned about starting this blogging journey. But what does that matter? It's like any other journey I've taken. It starts and it may continue, but I don't know what the destination is. I do know something about what I intend.

Some of my thoughts on personal matters, and some of my thoughts on world and political issues (how weighty that sounds) will pop up. And, probably a lot of my thoughts on writing and whatever else I may be up to. I suspect I may not be very orderly, since being too concerned with getting every word right the first time is one of the many things I'm trying to conquer. That's why I decided to title this blog 'Free Words' at least for the time being.

The last few days have been pretty much totally unproductive as far as working on my fiction goes. It didn't - go that is. Maybe it's slack time between great ideas. I'd like to think so, but really, I haven't a clue what will be next. Three stories are out for consideration and there are a couple of others malingering here in my computer. I can't seem find a market for one, since it's not a short short or a postcard story and it falls somewhere in between genres. I don't think it's literary enough for a literary magazine. Maybe some new market will appear and I'll have another place to send it. The other story is one I like but editors haven't, at least so far. I guess one of my lessons is to just get on with it and send it out again, rather than sighing and moaning about what's happened so far. But crabs like to sigh and moan, now and then.

Now for a swift change of subject. I've been reading about the Terri Shiavo case in the U.S. and can't help thinking that the judicial system is going to have a hard time tangling with the religious right. I have not been to the U.S. for a number of years, and it's hard to believe that the average American, if there is such a person, would be in favour of seeing the court system under attack. If Shiavo had been an older person, say an older black woman without family - who would have cared and who would have known. Shaivo has become a poster woman for those on the right wing who have an agenda. I grieve for her.

I don't believe in active euthanasia, but assisting a person who is dying to have a "good death" is, it seems to me, a humane thing to do. I was very involved in my mother's last days. She wanted to die at home, and she did, surrounded by family. Because she had terminal cancer, it was easier to ensure pain control and loving care for her at home. The amount of morphine she received to control her pain may have slightly shortened the very end of her life. I don't know. I do know I chose to honour her wish and I have no regrets.

The spring lawn care season is here, at least it's here for those who sell lawn care, like my daughter and son-in-law. They have a booth at a garden show this weekend, and another show next weekend. I hope the result will be many new customers. The debate about pesticides continues in our region and I hope the regional government will not pass any silly unenforceable bylaws. I also hope more customers will buy orgainic lawn care from Nancy and Gary, but it's a tough sell.