Monday, December 21, 2009

Season of Hope

It is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. At the moment, the light in my living room comes from my small Christmas tree-of-hope in one corner by the window and the sweet grass candle on my dining room table. I light this candle when I want to concentrate on sending good thoughts into the universe and as the sky grows ever darker and night draws in to surround me; I remember that tomorrow the day will be longer and I hope for many things.

I hope that my family members will find work to sustain them. I hope that two of my long-time friends will also find work to sustain them. I hope that a very dear friend's mother will be given more grace and favour time to be with those she loves. I hope that my brother's health continues to improve.

Yes, I hope for the greater good too. World peace, an end to hunger, and the realization that this small blue globe is fragile and needs our immediate care.

I will be hoping and praying for these things this evening.

As my pagan friend says "Blessed be."

May all your hope trees bear sweet fruit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Season of Darkness. Season of Lights

As I type this, the snow is falling thick and fast. The roads are slippery and some sidewalks are invisible. There was a vicious wind this morning when I went out to gather just a few things and lugged two heavy bags full of treats back to my cave - and it isn't even winter yet. I know why our ancestors almost hibernated at this time of year, and why they put weight on in the fall. I think it's ingrained, that instinct to eat and eat because who knows when the next mastodon will pass by. So, I will enjoy my treats, in moderation, and postpone regrets until the weather improves, or until I forget to regret, whichever comes first. After all, it's gloomy out there. It gets dark enough now to need lights on in my apartment by four-thirty in the afternoon and sometimes even earlier.

For me, lights are an essential part of the celebration and the anticipation of return of the sun after the shortest day of the year ends. I do my best to conserve energy, but I must have Christmas tree lights, and lights on in my living space when the skies are grey and the weatherman predicts still more greyness in the days ahead. By 5:30, my lights will be on and they will stay on until it's time for me to go to sleep. There are incandescent lights on the Christmas tree, in my reading lamp and in the ceiling fixture over the dining room table. The rest of the lights are those wriggly energy-saving bulb thingies, and daylight fluorescent tubes in the kitchen. They do not please me.. Incandescent lights give a warmth that other types of lighting don't provide.

Besides, incandescent is an inspiring word, "intense in feeling, expression, ardent," according to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary. I need all the inspiration I can get.

Enjoy the season of lights.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Tiny Reasons for Happiness

Christmas is approaching rapidly. Somehow, as soon as December arrives the days are too short for all the things I think I should do. So I pick some 'want to do" things and let the rest go. I want to say a bit about happiness which is often a fleeting thing but always welcome when it pays a visit. Sometimes the reasons for my happiness are tiny.

For instance, the appearance of a charming and peaceful eight-week-old baby at our condominium Christmas party and my ability to use the tiny (and tinny) keyboard to play Christmas music at the party. I also used a tiny bit of self-deprecating humour to get people to relax and sing along with me.

Then, there's the word itself. "Tiny"" is short and not appealing to the ear, except when used by The Viking in this phrase. "She's a tiny woman, like you." I am not a 98 pound weakling or wonder. I'm a middle of the road woman, with a middle. But, I'd never disagree him. It's too delightful to hear him say those words and they always make me smile.

How can I apply the theme of this post to my writing life. Well, there has been a tiny bit of progress in the last three months. I wrote a short story ( It needs revisions and I will get to them.) I edited a couple of articles for my daughter and also had one paid assignment. Tiny things all, but still, they are good things.

I wish you good things, both tiny and large, for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Harper - No Life Jacket, Lots of Lies

It's a weird ol' world, ain't it? The Prime Minister accuses his parliamentary opponents of slagging the Canadian Armed Forces. They didn't. Before that, he accused a Canadian senior bureaucrat of being both incompetent and a liar. From all reputable reports, the bureaucrat is competent and was forwarding information he had received.

Today, there is a picture of Harper at sea, in a small boat. He is not wearing a life jacket. I can only wonder what lie he will tell about this mistake, and who he will blame. At the moment, I wish he was far out at sea in a small boat, without a life jacket, and alone. I will try to get over feeling this way about our supposed leader, whose actions indicate that he knows only how to attack and doesn't know how to lead by example or by working with others, but it won't be an easy task for me. Maybe the Christmas spirit will find me, and find Mr. Harper too. I sure hope so.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Aim High. Fall on Butt. Get Up. Try Elsewhere

I followed Margaret Springer's advice. "I will do my best work and send it to the top appropriate markets, working down from there as ncessary. (Otherwise I'll never know how good I am)."

So, in the last three weeks, I've had three rejections from major literary short story markets (in Canada). It ain't no fun, but I've accepted them and my next goal is to get the stories out again.

Not this weekend though, since the weather is perfect and The Viking and I will spend time together. I'll start on Monday - that seems appropriate.

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Wild, Weird and Wet Week

I've had more than a week's worth of wildness, weirdness and water. It's been like a roller coaster ride, and while I enjoy roller coasters, I appreciate them more from a distance. So, here's what has happened since my last post.

First, I heard the great news about my brother's health. The major surgery and all the treatments he endured have put him among the 5% of people who beat the odds. It was a terrific birthday present for him and for all of us. And after that there was more good news. The Viking has to have a nasty test periodically and his results were fine. Hooray for our side and all that.

I almost didn't get depressed when I received another rejection note, because - I had aimed high - and I received interesting advice. However, I was fretting and holding my breath for another reason. My daughter and son-in-law were in negotiations to sell their business. it got complicated, way too complicated, and communications were a big problem. I continued to fret about their situation until 4:45 Thursday morning when there was a loud knocking at my door.

If that had happened when I lived in my old apartment in Toronto, I would have known it was a drunk person and would have ignored it. However, if there are drunks in this building, they don't roam the halls, so I went to the door. The man who lives below me wanted to know if I had water in my laundry room. Oh boy! did I, and it was seeping toward the living room. We looked at the ceiling in the laundry room and discovered water was dripping down through the air conditioning duct system, or from somewhere else above me. I grabbed my mop and pail and got to work. I thought I was making headway and then the drip got faster and faster. So I had to mop faster and faster and faster. It was still coming down and I wondered what on earth had happened above me. After a time, my neighbour returned and told me a hot water heater two floors above me had burst and they were waiting for the plumber. I mopped some more, then the head came off the mop (probably in protest at the abuse it was taking), I popped it back in and continued. My arms and my back and arms were aching by then, but I didn't dare stop. Finally at about 6:30 the wet invasion ended and I made progress. By 7 a.m. no more water was arriving and I had mopped up everywhere. But, water had seeped under a corner of the living room carpet.

For two long days and two long nights, I had an industrial dehumidifier and fan running constantly. Everything is dry now, but I have something else to worry about. What about my hot water heater?

There was good news at the end of the week though. My daughter and son-in-law have sold their business. What's next. They don't know yet and neither do I, but I'm sure it will be good.

I hope for a calm week ahead with no more flooding and lots of writing time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mail Oddities

No, it doesn't say male oddities. That's another subject and I have only limited experience with certain kinds of male oddities. Never you mind.

So, about mail, real mail that is. The kind that comes in an envelope and is delivered by a mail carrier. I have received a weird selection of things over the last few days.

First, I got a letter from one of the banks about a RIF cheque that had been issued to my friend, The Bear, in 2000 and never cashed. I found a lot of uncashed cheques in The Bear's apartment when I took over his affairs, but I didn't find that one. I am amazed that the bank has offered to reissue it. However, I filled in the required paperwork and sent it in. If I receive a replacement cheque, I'll be re-amazed.

Then, I found one of my self-addressed stamped envelopes returned by certain Canadian literary journal. I knew right away it contained a rejection because I could see the tiny little slip of paper inside. So, I have another "no" slip to add to my growing pile but the thing is, I can't discover what I sent to them. Normally I write down my submissions in three places, sigh. I know I'll figure it out, it's probably a late, late, late, reply, but I can't figure out why that little envelope took over two weeks to arrive according to the post mark. Maybe it came by lame pony express, or maybe the mail sorters (out of luck writers?) knew what was in it and decided to delay the bad news.

I never expect mail to be swift but once in a great while, I'm surprised. I was surprised today, because I ordered four books from Chapters/Indigo on Monday - ship by regular mail - and they were outside my apartment door today (Thursday). The books wouldn't fit in my mailbox and I wasn't home, so the mail carrier, who is male, brought them upstairs. I don't know if it's legal to do that but he did. Now I have four Christmas presents on hand, but they're not for the males in my life.

Also, today I also received another book in the mail from a friend. "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" is a wonderful title and I'm looking forward to reading the book.

The last item in the mail was a cheque for a little bit of technical writing I completed last week. Things go in streaks, so probably next week there will be nothing in my mail box except bills.

Have you received any good or weird mail?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A BILLION Hungry People - No Media Frenzy

In this morning's newspaper, the UN food agency reports that the number of hungry people has increased to 1.2 BILLION and will continue to rise if the right kind of help is not given. The short article about this appears on the World News page (page 7) rather than on the front page where I think it belongs. There is no editorial addressing this either. The paper does have a local focus, but this issue is so huge, and growing, that I think it should have had a lot more attention.

Has hunger in other parts of the world become just a background noise that we can ignore? After all we have heard the refrain so often. "People are starving in ________.
" Well," some folk say, "we send food, and then more food. and things never improve , why don't they help themselves?" I understand why they say that but, that response ignores a lot of factors like wars, displacement, prolonged drought and the fact that agricultural aid to increase food production has dropped.

When I donate money towards world hunger, as I did today, after reading the newest numbers, I choose agencies that work toward long term results, like The Mennonite Central Committee's Food for All program. My point is a lot more people might do that if they knew the benefits.

Shouldn't we take care of our own first? That's something I've heard people say too. So, what about local hunger? Food banks in our area report that demand has increased because of higher unemployment and other factors. The Thanksgiving food drive hasn't reached it's goal yet. My daughter and son-in-law's business participated this year, as they did last year. The amount of food they collected from their customers was slightly lower this year (847 pounds), but since they have fewer customers due to the economic downturn, I'd say they had a good result, although they had hoped for more donations. A local church offered a free Thanksgiving meal and had record numbers of diners. I am not surprised, since people on assistance (government income support programs like workfare and ODSP) often have a very hard time paying for both rent and food. These are the very same people that are accused of spending all their money on drink and cigs. I can tell you from experience - most recipients of government assistance don't do that. Yet, the myth endures.

Meanwhile, the media give us more and more infotainment (sorry, I hate the word, but that's what they call it) and less and less hard news.

Maybe it's our fault. We don't want to hear about it and it doesn't sell papers, or make people click on Internet ads. Are the people that run the publishing conglomerates right and what we want is more fake news - the latest about the celebrities of the moment? Or, could the real news actually sell?

Friday, October 09, 2009


I don't own more than an average amount of technology and some of what I have is obsolete. My stereo receiver and turntable were purchased in about 1986. They still work, but I can't tune in CBC Radio One on the FM band, though CBC Radio Two reception is fine. When my AM-FM clock radio stopped working, I found a new one at crappy Tire. The price? A whopping $9.00, tax included. The radio is in the bedroom, close to the window and it picks up the CBC Radio One signal clearly. The radio was made in China, as was my previous one which was only two years old when it died. It's impossible to buy small electronic items that are made in Canada. Everything is made off-continent. I wonder how long my new radio will last, and I wonder about a couple of other things, too.

If e-books are the way of the future, and many people believe they are, then how often would one have to buy a new device to read the books, and if the device dies, don't the stored books die with it?

I don't want to read a book using an electronic device - give me the real book My favourite way to read the printed word is on paper. In fact, I just subscribed to the local newspaper because I don't want to read it online. Also, if the local television station folds and it might as cable wars continue. I want a reasonably current source of local information.

How much am I contributing to environmental degradation? Paper can be recycled. Little is said about the cost of disposing of dead electronic stuff. Then there's the Internet - you seldom see much info about the enormous amounts of energy that are required to run it and other electronic devices - Crackberries and the like.

I'm glad I have access to the Internet, however, if I had to, I could live without it. But I absolutely must have my books.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Profit and Cheeeezies

My daughter and I had a chat a couple of days ago and one of the things she said made me think about how I interact with money. She said left-wing people ( she knows I lean to the left) often see 'profit' as a bad thing. I can't speak for others on the left, but I know businesses need to make money and since my daughter and her husband run a business, I certainly hope that it will be successful enough to make a profit.

But ......

I think small businesses, such as the one my son-in-law and daughter run are often far more ethical then public corporations. First of all, treating your employees well by paying a reasonable wage and offering what benefits you can afford is the right thing to do. It also makes good business sense to participate in your community and be a good business citizen. "Doing it right' will not necessarily generate a quick profit, or any profit at all, in the beginning - aye, there's the rub. But, I believe that over the long haul a good business reputation is worth a lot.

"Soulless corporations" used to be a left-wing expression. I haven't heard it much lately though it still has value. Why? A publicly owned corporation has only one purpose and that is to make money for its shareholders. People who own shares had grown accustomed to getting larger and larger dividends, no matter what, so solid long-term investments that would provide a lower rate-of-return were scorned. Big fish swallowed little fish and were in turn swallowed by even bigger (and sometimes mythical ) fish, On and on it went, Then the market crashed and there was a lot of talk about regulations, but little if anything has been done to change things.

Greed, not profit, is the dirty word here.

How does all this apply to writing?Well, think of a best selling writer whose book is like a bag of Cheezies. You pay more for it than it's worth, perhaps because so many others are reading it and you want to be au courant. After you finish it, you're left with orange fingers, and maybe a stomach ache, but little or no substance. Then, the writer produces another Cheezie, because, after all, the first one did so well, he has already has the template and why not take the easy way out and reuse it. The product reaches the shelves quickly but maybe a third one doesn't sell as well as the first two.

However; there are the authors who write books that stay in your mind for years. Often, they don't sell that many books, but their readers are not disappointed, they are sustained, maybe even changed by what they have read.

I'd rather write something lasting than write a Cheezie and if my work should happen to make a profit, I'll happily accept my share.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Word On The Street - in the library and in the park

On Saturday morning, Margaret Atwood read at the downtown library. The auditorium was full. Nancy and I watched her on live video in another room. M.A. was witty and enjoyable. I'm not sure if a certain local television personality, who asked her a couple of questions afterward, would agree, but since his tone of voice was somewhat patronizing (we older women are sensitive to those things) he shouldn't have been surprised when she zapped him for being inaccurate. Many of her anecdotes are obviously well-honed but they work well. She also talked about the emergence of CanLit and how little of it there was before 1960.

An acquaintance told me that M.A. signed books for an hour and a half after the reading and was very gracious to everyone who had waited in line.

If you are interested in what writers wear to these events, here's what M.A. had on - a long tunic top, pants, and flat black oxford-type shoes - not memorable, but very comfortable. Since she is on an exhausting multi-city tour to promote her latest book, I'm sure comfort is important.

Sunday afternoon, we went to the Word on the Street event in Victoria Park. The weather was uncertain, which may have kept some people away. But, there was a good crowd and lots of exhibitors. The New Quarterly had a booth and so did Brucedale Press. I was glad to discover that Brucedale Press is doing well, in spite of the current economic downturn. (They publish work about the Bruce Peninsula area, by writers from 'the Bruce' and environs.) There were two booths with information about Islam, and one booth with information and books on creationism. There was an adult authors' tent, and a children's authors tent where writers gave readings. The writers' collective from the library also had a tent where some members read from their work. The local paper, The Record, had a tent too. Reporters and editors answered questions and talked about journalism. That's where Nancy and I spent most of our time, because she wanted more information about the journalism profession.

I collected a couple of freebies. Zoomer magazine is much better than I expected it would be, now that Moses Znaimer is President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Retired People. The slogan: You've aged differently. Now read differently. I think Moses would also like to change CARP's name, and will stand by for that. I also picked up a copy of Grand magazine, a glossy locally-focused mag which has almost 20,000 circulation. It's purty all right, but I wouldn't subscribe to it.

Before we left the park, I bought a new Word on the Street tee-shirt and tote bag. Both for only $10.00, tax included. I'm happy that I could help support WOTS.

There is also a theatre festival going on in town, from Sept 24 to October 3, Impact 09. I didn't know about it until Friday when I was in City Hall and noticed a sign for the 24 hour play writing competition. Several writers were at work in the rotunda. I applaud them for their ability to work in such a public setting, but have no idea how they manage to do it.

As for my own writing, well, I drafted a new story this month and have also revised and sent out a couple of my older stories. So, I've completed part of the list that stares at me from my bulletin board. It's time to get back to work.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back-seat Writers

My daughter and I had a long chat earlier this week. She was in a jokey mood. Imagine if we all lived with you, she said. We could all sit on the chesterfield and watch you write.I laughed but that scared me. Then, I imagined what else she might say and that was worse. It would go something like this:

Before long, we would be asking when we could read the next page. We could offer our opinions. We could chant - is it ready yet? Whenever you gaze into space, or play games, or just generally fart around we could scold you. We would ask you why you have a fetish about putting your submissions in particular mail box and why you check your emails six times a day. We would ask you why you spend so much time on your short stories, when everyone knows almost no one reads short stories anymore, and why you haven't returned to your novel. And - when are you going to write something funny again. We want more silliness.

It was like having a nightmare while awake. Back-seat writers.

As it happens, I have been productive this week, I've drafted a new short story and tuned up an old one and sent it out again. Maybe if I imagine a chorus of back seat writers urging me on, I'll be able to keep up the pace. Then again, maybe not. The muse is fickle and I may have to bribe her. Bribe suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trust Ye Not The Leprechaun

For verily, I say unto you, ye shall be disappointed. Yon wee leprechaun hath disguised himself as ye federal Minister of Finance and calleth himself Flaherty. He hath not the gold that was taken from us. Let it be known to all those present that he hath spent it all, and mountains more. The weaver of fairy tales, for indeed such they are, had prophesied that all would be well in ye True North, that the vassals would suffer not, nor would they have to pay more evil tax. For taxes be an abomination unto him who sayeth he writeth the budget. Though, truth be told 'tis his master, Harper his ownself, who commandeth him.

Let the edict go forth into all the lands. Let the writ be dropped. Elect him again, we shall not.

(I hopeth)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

No Grumbles Day

Today is a no grumbles day. It's important to have one of those, every once in a while. Some good things have happened lately. Herewith, a few of them, in no particular order:

My brother's grueling series of treatments is nearly finished. His courage continues to amaze me.

There were no bills in my mailbox today, and since I pay my bills and The Bear's bills, I'm happy about that.

I found a long-sleeved peach coloured cotton blouse on sale for $10.00, Bargains give me a little thrill.

The Bear's accountant has almost finished the tax return and has suggested another way to save tax dollars next year.

I received a belated birthday present - a Chapters gift certificate, and yes, I used it. I love going to bookstores, especially when I have money.

I finished revising a story this week and hope to get cracking on another one later today.

The weather is perfect today. We have had a lot of rain this summer and now - it is not too hot, not too cold, not too humid, and the sun is shining. Perfect!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking it Personally

I've often been told I take everything too personally and that is certainly one of my many faults. One of my other faults is being stubborn and that brought results this month. I guess I need to apply that persistence to my writing. But by now you probably wonder what I'm talking about. I'm referring to finally receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which is added to the Old Age Security payment for Canadian pensioners who are eligible. Ah yes, "eligible" as defined by our dear government and receivable - when they get around to it. Notice that part. I became eligible based on my 2008 taxable income which was minuscule, but I didn't receive any payment until this month (August). Why? Because the government does not look at the income tax reported by pensioners until June and they only consider those tax forms once a year (in June).

While I'm grateful to have the added income, I can't help but wonder why it took so long. After all, Revenue Canada would swiftly track me down if I owed any money. So the government's slow response irks me, but unless I want to start a protest movement there's nothing I can do about it except grumble, and tell you this. Don't let any senior you know (parent, friend, person-in-the-street) take money from their Registered Retirement Savings Account in order to survive until they are eligible for the GIS. 'Tis better to borrow than to use one's savings. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Go In There Alone 2 Laundrygate

My dear friend, The Viking, often tells the addicts he listens to not to spend too much time alone with their thoughts.

"It's scary in there," he says,

He's right, but I believe writers have to go into their mental attics often, if they are to produce anything real and lasting.

I've been in this world for a lot of years and there's a huge pile of stuff in my attic. Some of it is useful, some of it is gratifying, some of it is boring, some of it is mean-spirited (more on that later) and some of it is terrifying. I could easily get lost in there - I suppose that supports The Vikings point - but I always return.

Sometimes what I find distresses me. I was not happy to discover that I resent the success of other writers (I mean the bad ones) or to find out that my perfectionist tendencies are even more pronounced that I had believed.

Still, I have to go in there. It's where I find the best stuff for my work. I completely understand why many writers found it necessary to over-drink, or use other substances as a way to 'get in,' 'be in the zone," and cope with/ use what they find. However, for me, the larger problem is returning to the 'real' world. That's probably why if I have only half an hour for work, very little happens. Well, that's my excuse.

How do you 'get in' and how do you get out again?

On a lighter note, there is laundrygate. My friend (and my responsibility), The Bear, is in a supported-living retirement facility. Nine pieces of his laundry have not been returned. The articles went to the laundry on Wednesday. He has quizzed the staff relentlessly and thinks that they should have to replace his clothes, if the clothes don't return - immediately. I'm glad that was his only complaint today.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Montreal, je t'aime!

My Montreal trip is over and I'm already wondering how I can save enough money to visit again, maybe two years from now.

On Monday, the train from Toronto to Montreal was full and I was fortunate to sit next to a young Quebecois woman who was returning home. We chatted and the time on the train passed quickly. Attention: writers of romance - the young woman, who is bilingual and works for the provincial government, said that she doesn't enjoy 'fiction' and only reads romance, because it is 'soft' and relaxing. She also asked if I was gong to visit the Basilica (de Notre Dame) and said I really must see it. I have been there before but planned to see it again.

It was after 4 p.m. by the time I reached my hotel (damn the stairs in the Sherbrooke Metro station), so I walked over to Rue St. Denis and found a restaurant for an early dinner, because I was very hungry. Via Rail will sell you a 'snack' but I had not indulged.

On Tuesday, I went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and saw some of the permanent exhibitions, plus the Frederic Black exhibition. I admit, I knew nothing about Frederic Black before this. Now, I own a 4 DVD set of his animated films. The Museum is housed in two buildings and when I went outside to cross the street and visit the second building, there was a gorgeous vintage white Bentley at the curb. It was adorned with white bows, but the bride and groom were absent. The driver, who stood beside the car, was happy to answer my questions. He also took a picture of me sitting in the car. Perhaps I should have tipped him, but I was besotted by the car and didn't think of it. Later in the day I visited a shop that sells tablecloths and fabrics from Provence and found present I hope my daughter will enjoy. A good dinner was certainly in order after all my walking and wandering. I found a Bistro that had modest prices, and good food.

On Wednesday, I visited the Botanical Gardens. It took over an hour just to tour the ten greenhouses. Then there are the many gardens. I could only visit a few of them before my feet protested. It was a very hot day - that's my excuse. I also visited the Insectarium, which was filled with children and quite noisy, but fun. There's a small train that takes you around the whole of the Botanical Gardens, including the huge arboretum area, and it's free, so I went along for the ride. By late afternoon, I had wilted, though the flowers had not, and I bypassed visiting the Olympic tower and returned to my hotel via the Metro. When it was time to go out for dinner, I walked up St. Denis and eventually settled on another Bistro. This time, I was very lucky, the food was fabulous, the service was excellent, and the price was not as high as I had expected, though it certainly wasn't cheap. No matter - it was worth it!

Thursday was my last full day and I went to Old Montreal and revisited the Basilica de Notre Dame. After that, I needed a coffee, but not a six dollar coffee. I found a Starbucks. I was walking down toward the Port area when I came upon the Maison de Mere d'Youville. It was not in my guidebook, and it doesn't look as if it is open to the public. Still, I tried the door. It opened into a small office area but I could see antique furniture, and stone floors to one side. The receptionist spoke to me in French and asked if I would like a tour. When I replied 'yes,' she said if I would wait a few minutes she would furnish me with a guide who spoke English. An excited young woman soon arrived and gave me a personal tour. It lasted over an hour and the guide provided fascinating information. The Maison is on the site of the first Montreal Hospital, started by a group of religious 'brothers'. They helped the poor and sick men of Montreal in the 1700's. Eventually, they were unable to maintain the hospital. Then Marguerite d'Youville and a small group of women (they became the grey nuns) took it over, repaired it and helped as many of the poor and suffering people as they could - men, women and children. Would you believe they even took in prostitutes and abandoned babies? There is much more to the history, of course, and I am fascinated by the profound courage of Marguerite and the women who worked with her.

After a bit of shopping it was time for dinner and I returned to the Bistro I had enjoyed on Wednesday. It was a wise decision.

Friday, I returned home and I'm happy to be here. I missed out on Montreal Smoked Meat and Fairmont bagels; therefore, I'll have to go back, won't I?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Ready, Set, Go! The Value of Writing LIsts

I leave for Montreal very early on Monday morning and will return on Friday evening. Before I go, I'll spend time with the Viking. Maybe we will go to some Blues Festival events, if the weather isn't miserable. There are lots of things I'd like to do and places I'd like to visit while I'm in Montreal, but I'm not making a list and will decide on my itinerary based on the weather, and my energy level, and how my knees hold out. (That reminds me - I need to look for a gentle exercise class when I return.) In any event, if it rains on Tuesday, I'll make that my museum visit day. Packing will take place the night before I leave, but I do know what's going into the suitcase.

It's wonderful to get out of town, even if it might be 'dangerous'. That's the word a neighbour used when I said I was going to Montreal, alone. She also said, "you're brave." Either I look older and more fragile than I am, or she was worried about Montreal drivers who have a reputation for running into pedestrians. I assured her I would be careful, and indeed, I will. I also plan to enjoy the city and all that it offers. Old Montreal, the museums, the food, the unique atmosphere, the elan of les Quebecois , and did I mention? - the food - seafood, tortiere, bagels, Montreal smoked meat, and whatever else appeals to me. I'd better do a LOT of walking, or I'll return thicker rather than thinner, but if the universe is kind, that won't matter, because I'll have had a marvellous, memorable time.

Going on a trip gives me the opportunity to do a 'restart' when I return. That's why I have a two writing lists posted where I can see them. The first one shows all of my short stories, the magazines they've been sent to in the past - and of course the results. The second list, which I composed this morning, shows the stories that need to be sent out again. A while back, in late spring, I made a similar list (stories to send out), posted it up where I could see it and it worked. I sent those stories out. Then there were multiple crises, including some I can't mention in my blog, and I admit, I had great difficulty in focusing on anything but the troubles. But now, ah now, I have a new list and it is posted on my wonderful new-to-me very large, cork bulletin board. It's a double-sided board and notes for my novel are on the other side. I've been thinking a lot about 'Jennie Carriere' and I'm sure my visit to Montreal will help me with that, too.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Montreal, Jane Austen, and Other Topics

Thanks to Via Rail's temporary price reduction of train tickets, I will be going to Montreal for five days. I can hardly wait to visit one of my favourite cities. There's no doubt that I'll be immediately recognized as a tourist, since my clothing lacks style, I'll have to wear my running shoes, and my smattering of high school French may prove incomprehensible; nevertheless, I know I'll have an excellent time. There are many places I'd like to visit while I'm in the city so I went to the library to get a Montreal Guide. There was only one available - all the others were already on loan to other patrons. Perhaps Montreal is being inundated with les maudits anglais this summer. If so, then I hope Montrealers are still as tolerant as they were on my previous visits.

Before this unexpected opportunity arrived, I had been moping and reading, and fretting of course, as I often do when the Muse takes her leave. I recommend Carol Shield's short biography of Jane Austen, published by Penguin (2001) as part of the Penguin Lives series. If you are a writer, you will appreciate Shield's perceptive comments on writing and on the nature of a writer's life even if you don't like, or haven't read Jane Austen's novels. Though if you do know Jane's work, you will get even more from this book. Carol Shields writes clearly and without any academic frou frou.

And speaking of books and writers, my friend and fellow writer, Jennifer Ross' story, "The Colonial and the Cottontail" is now available in the Northern Roses, Southern Belles Civil War Anthology published by Wild Rose Press. The book is available through Amazon. I had the pleasure of reading and commenting on earlier versions of this story and am happy it has been published.

Now, I need to make a list of things to take on my trip, and of course paper and pens will be at the top, although usually I don't write much when I'm away from my home. Instead, I often get a new perspective on what I need to write, when I return. I hope that happens again, and I'll let you know if it does.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Emergency Department Adventure and The News from Calgary

Last night, I had the opportunity to see how the Emergency Department at St. Mary's hospital handles patients who are not bleeding but may be at serious risk. I accompanied The Viking to the hospital because his blood pressure was very high, and had been very high for over two days His bp was checked (still very high) and he was admitted to Emergency. Then we waited, behind curtain number 4, for three hours. There was only one doctor on duty and we did not see him, or her. After three hours of waiting, I asked if The Viking's blood pressure could be checked again. A nurse did that, and fortunately the b/p had come down close to what is normal for The Viking. So, he decided he might as well go home. Of course he had to sign an agreement saying that he was leaving without seeing a doctor.

All is well this morning, but I do wonder about a couple of things. If I hadn't been with the Viking, would they have checked on him sooner? Did staff expect that because someone was with him, that someone would inform them if there was a change that required their attention? I do know the signs of a stroke, but the staff at the hospital knew nothing about me. I am glad The Viking agreed to go to the hospital, though he is not sure he would do it again, given the care he didn't receive.

In other news, my friend Lori Hahnel, will be the Calgary Canadian Author's Association's Writer in Residence starting in September -- and her novel, Love Minus Zero has been nominated for a Calgary Public Library Literary Award. I'm thrilled for her, on both counts.

As for my writing, I had an encounter with the black dog, but have survived it and am doing a bit of work. That is also good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Teenagers Think

As some of you know, I am the grandmother of two teenage boys. At times, it is an onerous task, at other times there is joy. Most times, there is confusion, my confusion that is. I'm quite sure that behind the volume of meticulously straightened hair which conceals the faces of F and S (my grandsons) there is a computer interface which automatically selects certain responses to information received from adults.

I can provide proof. A reconstructed conversation with S.

Me: When are you going to cut the lawn?
S: screen shows - No Signal
Me: Are you ever coming out of your room?
S: screen shows - No Signal

Thirty minutes later.
Me: You'd better cut the lawn, or else, when Mom and dad get home they'll be pissed off.
S. screen shows - blah blah blah, or else blah blah blah pissed off. Level 1 response required. Select a) yeah, okay, or b) yeah, in a few minutes.
S. responds Yeah, In a few minutes.

Thirty minutes later.
Me: Do it now, S!
S. screen shows - Now! High voice volume requires immediate response.
S. emerges from room for the first time in 18 hours and cuts the lawn, then returns to room and adjusts his internal computer screen to inactive listening mode.

Two hours pass.
Me: downstairs, in conversation with grandad and a long way from S.'s bedroom. - I hear there might be ice cream cake for Sam's birthday and that his present will be an Ipod touch gadget.
S. screen shows - blah blah blah ice cream cake, blah blah, present, blah blah Ipod. Bingo! Immediate response required!
S. emerges from his bedroom again. Yes, folks, it's a record, and says Hi - is there cake?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dont Mess With My Morning Routine

Yesterday was my birthday, number 65 plus one, and it was a mostly quiet day. My daughter took me out for lunch, then the Viking came over for tea and hugs after supper. I was quite content to have a low key celebration. partly because my foot was throbbing, and partly because so much has been happening to people I love that I needed some down time. Life has been way too eventful, but not in a good way, over the last few weeks. I may be wild and crazy sometimes, but on weekday mornings, I need - crave my routine. When it's interrupted things go awry, as they did on Wednesday morning.

I like to start my morning with coffee. All right then, I can hear the laughter- I need to start my morning with two cups of coffee. One starts the right ventricle and one starts the left. That's the rule. I have a wonderful new coffee maker, and right after I brush my teeth, etc. and turn on the computer, which needs time to load all it's functions, I fill the machine and start it. While the coffee brews, I open or close the windows depending on what the weather looks like. When the coffee is ready I take my cup to my desk, log on to the Internet and check my email. Doesn't everybody who writes do this first thing in the morning? There could be good news just waiting to be found and enjoyed.

But Wednesday morning, before I could pour out my coffee, the phone rang. In my un-coffeed state, I rushed to answer it. I'm not spatially deft before coffee and I failed to get completely around one of the living room chairs. I whacked two of the smallest toes on my right foot and limped over to the phone. Of course it was a wrong number. I promise myself, I won't rush to catch a phone call again. I'd like change other parts of my morning routine, but I'm not sure I can. I might be able to resist checking what's new with my friends who post on facebook, and I might be able to stop reading the morning headlines on the CBC website and the Maclean's magazine blogs. Those are the things I do before I write or revise, if I write or revise anything. But I'm not giving up coffee.

It's time to ice my toes.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Baby Steps

I've stayed close to the telephone for what seemed like eons as I waited for news about my brother's health crisis. From the moment I first heard his diagnosis, it's been hard to focus on anything else. I spent lots of time on the Internet, researching his condition, and the options, and the possible outcomes. I also spent lots of time sending him energy, and visualizing better health for him. While all this was going on, (and is going on) three rejections of my work came in. They all arrived on Mondays. That didn't help me at all. But this week, I revised one of the stories that had been rejected and sent it out again. A baby step for sure, but at least I did something. Also, a story continues to ferment in my wee brain and I hope I'll soon be able to work on it.

Yesterday afternoon, I received news that my brother has improved after a horrendous Wednesday night . It's a tiny step forward, and a wobbly one, but I'm hugely thankful for any progress. Likely, I will visit him next week , if he is moved from intensive care to regular care. My sister-in-law tells me that given the massive amount of surgery he has undergone other setbacks may occur, but we are all more hopeful now.

I plan to visit John next week, if he is moved out of intensive care and into a regular room. At first, I thought I'd take the train, but it only goes to Windsor once a day and doesn't arrive till after 11 p.m., so I'll take the Greyhound bus instead. Thanks to everyone for your positive thoughts and prayers.

To end this on a very positive note, I'll mention that my friend, Lori Hahnel, has a short story collection coming out this fall. I highly recommend it and I know what I'm talking about. I've read most of the stories.You can read the blurb and pre-order it here:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Family News and the View from my Windows

On Wednesday my daughter and I visited my brother in Tilbury. His grown children were also home that day. It was good to reconnect after such a long time.

This morning, my brother informed me that he will have his very major surgery a week from today, if nothing changes between now and the scheduled date. I'm glad it will be soon because, the sooner it's done the better his chances may be. I hope for the best possible outcome.

In the midst of all this, I'm comforted by what I can see through my living room windows. Verdant green tree tops, blue sky today, and part of the bell tower on the lovely stone church just south of here on Queen Street.

It's time to go for a walk and think healing thoughts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Brief Update

This may be the last blog entry for a while. Earlier this week, I learned that my brother is facing a health crisis and now that I have more details, I have plans to make. I hope to visit him very soon, once I find a way to get to his small town which is not on a bus or train route. It will be a short visit, a few hours, but I expect there will be more trips in the near future.

There's no writing news, and no writing taking place, for now. I hope to post better news soon.Until then, enjoy the spring and - carpe diem!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Writers Read

Our local library sponsors a writers' collective and this week, some members of the collective participated in a public reading of their work. The event was promoted in the library's magazine, In Touch, which is available free at all the libraries in the system and online. Most of the people who attended, including me, had some connection with the writers. However, at least some folk attended out of curiosity. You know the kind - what do those fiction writer critters look like in real life, and what do they produce? And, I bet I could do it better, if I had time.

I spoke with one such person after the reading, well, really, she accosted me. I guess she needed someone to hear her opinion and I was a slow moving target.

"Wasn't (name omitted) awful?" She asked.

"Some writers have trouble presenting their work," I replied.

That didn't satisfy her and she went to to say a few more uncomplimentary things. (I don't personally know the writer she was referring to, but felt I had to defend the writer, even though I partly agreed with the criticism.)

"Every one's taste is different," I said. Yeah, that was lame, but it did end the conversation, or else it ended because we were at the front door by then.

On the way home, I thought about the encounter a bit more. Not every writer is good at reading aloud in front of a group. It's not an easy thing to do. Some people have a flair for the dramatic and can make prose that wouldn't impress me a great deal if I was reading it on the page, sound more interesting that it truly is. It's good to have that talent because these days, published writers have to do more promotion than ever. The ability to put on a decent dog and pony show helps sales. It's hard for most writers though, or so I imagine. I do know it was difficult for me, and I've only done it once, so far. The audience I spoke to had paid to hear the writers spout off on different topics they claimed to know something about and read from their work. It was more than a little bit terrifying. Would they like my words or hate them? Would they throw things? Would they slink away and say nothing at all? Fortunately, terror helped me do a reasonable job. I'm sure that isn't the case for every writer and I have no idea whether I will be able to do it again, if the opportunity arises.

It's often hard to be one of them thar fiction writer critters. We're strange. We have egos that expand and shrink on a regular basis, maybe with the cycles of the moon, maybe not. We know everyone has a story but not everyone has a compulsion to tell stories. One is calling for me now. I'd better go and write it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Lost Logic. Reset, Reset

When I visit my friend, The Bear, at his retirement residence we often listen to music on compact discs. He has a marvellous CD player with great sound. It's much like the Bose player, but was somewhat less expensive. It also has a remote control. After a year of use, the battery in the remote control died. When I replaced it and tried to use the CD player, it wouldn't work. I couldn't discover what was wrong with it although I read the owner's manual. Have I said I'm technically inept before? Well, I still am. We had to wait until The Viking could arrange to look at it because he couldn't diagnose the problem over the phone. It took all of 10 seconds to fix it. He unplugged it, plugged it in again and hey presto! - it worked. The device had lost its logic, but regained it after it was restarted. If only I could reset my logic so easily.

Mostly, I think of myself as a reasonably logical person, but there are times when I'm not. Almost always, those times are connected with critiques of my writing. I can and do, fail to hear the 'good stuff." in fact, very recently I received a critique from ye Canlit star and the list of "the good stuff'' had to be repeated before I could manage to hear it. But, I seldom have a problem hearing and magnifying any faults that are pointed out to me.

Maybe I'm like this because praise was only doled out in infrequent and minuscule amounts during my early childhood and when it was meted out, a caveat inevitably appeared in the same sentence. That rule was scrupulously followed in order to ward off something - bad Karma, evil spirits, an inflated ego, or so I assume.

It's evident I need a reset button. Luckily, I can imagine I have one. There, I've pressed it. Now it's time to go back to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Fever. The Writing Round-up

Earlier this month, I posted a list of writing tasks on the large piece of styrofoam that is my cheap alternative to a real bulletin board. I stare at it every morning and finally, about two weeks ago, I started to work on it in earnest. May is almost here and many literary magazines do not accept submissions in the summer time.

So, in a burst of energy, and/or desperation, I chose four of the stories on the list, they were ones I had revised again. I gave them a final polish and sent them out. It's good to have things back out on the road.

I also drafted and revised an essay and submitted it to my favourite website because it was too long for all the magazines I investigated.

If the birds don't wake me up at 5:30, I hope to sleep in tomorrow. I haven't completed the whole list, but there are still a few days left in the month.

The round-up will continue in a day or two, if I still have spring writing fever and I hope I will.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Writing and Self-Confidence

I was thinking about writing the other day. Actually, I do quite a lot of thinking about writing, as opposed to actually getting down to work and writing. Anyway, I find that my confidence level is extremely variable.

I'm seldom happy with a first draft but by the time I finish a third draft, or somewhere in that vicinity, I think what I have is really good. If I'm feeling brave, I send it out. Yay for me and all that. By the time I get the rejection - which might be six months later - and look at the piece again, all I can see are the flaws, and there are always lots to see. I'll sneak in a music reference here. I might see the third or fourth draft as a symphony, or, at the very least, a good sonata, when I send it out. Then later (after those six months pass) when I have to look at again, it appears to be a very trite and unsaleable pop song.

It's hard to deal with these fluctuations in confidence. I hope I'm learning to be somewhat more objective. In some ways, I think I've progressed as a writer. I have learned its a long process and I have gained at least a little objectivity about my work. That's a continuing struggle though - as it probably is for everyone else who writes.

Perhaps a bit of early success temporarily spoiled me. It's all a balancing act. Nothing I write will ever be anywhere near perfect. I'm extremely aware of that but I also have to maintain a reasonable amount of belief in what I do, and be able to hear criticism and not cringe, and be able to sort out the just criticism from the less-than-just criticism. I'm working on that. I'll probably always have to work on that.

And speaking of work, I better get back to the fourth draft of one of my short stories.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Almost List, and A Few Other Things

A number of things are almost done, or almost ready to be started. The renovation of my daughter's kitchen is almost finished and probably will be complete sometime next week. That means it's almost time for the cat to go home. The Viking is almost ready for the movers and they will arrive on Tuesday. It's almost time for school spring break. And finally, it's almost time to go back to work on the novel.

The other things -

My daughter and son-in-law's company participates a number of good things and this is one of them.

The mysterious appearance and disappearance of a large picture,which hung in the corridor outside my apartment has not been solved. A smaller painting is now sitting on the floor in the corridor and no one knows where it came from. It is a mild and unobjectionable painting so perhaps in due course, it will hang on the wall somewhere. Either that, or it too will disappear.

And speaking of mysterious disappearances, I may have mentioned that my hairdresser disappeared. I really hate having to find another one. Soon it will be too warm to wear a hat so I must take action and risk trying someone new.

And last, but definitely far from least, I must mention the mystery novelist I enjoyed. Jane Haddam has written 17 Gregor Demarkian novels. I've read two of the later ones in the series -Somebody Else's Music and Glass Houses (St. Martin's Press) - and enjoyed them. Gregor, the protagonist used to head the FBI Behavioural Services Unit, but don't let that put you off. He's fascinating and so is the woman in his life, Bennis. I could read a whole novel about them without the mystery element, though I'm quite glad to have that as well. Jane Haddam is not afraid to write long paragraphs that contain reflections, observations, and detailed place descriptions and she's able to do that without detracting from the plot. Maybe I admire that a lot because it's something I need to work on in my own writing. I plan to read more of them and hope that the library has all the books in the series.

Oh, and one more almost. It's almost spring.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Behoodled and Befuzzed

Things get stranger by the day.. My struggle with the Canada Revenue Agency continues and I will spare you the ugly details. I'm behoodled. That word isn't in my Canadian Oxford Dictionary and I had never heard it until a couple of days ago when The Viking used it. I think it's probably a localism (if that's a word) and according to The Viking, his mother used it to describe being confused or befuddled.

The word would also apply to my daughter's lawn care company's situation - and all the other lawn care companies in Ontario. The new rules governing pesticide use come into force on Earth Day, but were not published until late yesterday. Of course lawn care businesses had to order their supplies well before the information came out so it was like playing roulette, only the odds were even worse than spinning the wheel. The most confusing thing is that golf courses CAN use pesticides. They must have lobbied pretty hard to achieve that.

While I'm on the subject of words, I'll mention befuzzed. I haven't found it in my dictionary, though it could exist somewhere. Anyway, I rather like it. My carpet is befuzzed - it catches Dopeycat's very fine, almost invisible hairs and holds them. Even the bathtub is befuzzed in the morning because Dopey goes in there when I'm asleep. My clothes are befuzzed and my mind is too. At least everything matches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Word Answers to Those Pesky Questions

I've discovered some new-to-me ways to deal with questions I don't want to answer. This may or may not be useful information for anyone else, but it works for me.

There are a only few people who know that I am working on a novel. Unfortunately, two of those people are neighbours of mine. One is a very sweet teacher who happened to notice me at a writers' workshop a couple of years ago and asks about my work every time she sees me. The second person is a retired man who only asks me about my progress after he has imbibed fortifying liquids in large quantities. When they ask 'how's it going?" I used to mumble and stumble through an explanation. I've given that up and have decided use - "can't say" or "no comment." I think the no comment thing could add mystery so I'll try that one out.

The other pesky question I encounter with some frequency is "why not?" As in: Why not buy a subscription to this magazine for only $15.95? Why not donate to this charity again? Why not have your carpets cleaned? - We'll give you a discount. I used to reply "no thanks" but they would keep on talking unless I hung up. So, now I take a different approach. When the "why not" question arises, I say, "I'm broke." I'm happy to report that this works quite well. I've even received apologies, though I assume they are only offered by callers who are new at telemarketing. I wonder if it works because it's different, or because hardly anyone wants to use those words. So far, no one has asked me what I mean by broke, but I do have a personal definition.

Broke means that by the end of the month I have spent all the money received in the previous month, and sometimes a bit more. It's not a technically correct definition, but so what.

And speaking of 'so what,' that might be a handy phrase to use when I visit my always grumpy friend this afternoon. He tends to raise minor complaints to major heights. I likely won't do it, but I know I will be tempted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back on the Fiction Track

It's good to be back in fiction writing mode. I began to wonder if it would ever happen again. In any event, a story came to mind a few days ago. I wasn't sure how to end it but the ending came to me out of the blue yesterday afternoon. I'd had one idea but then a second idea took over more or less in spite of me. I forgot to eat supper until about 7:30, normally I try to eat between 5 and 6:30, but I'm sure it didn't hurt to wait. I hope I'll still like the story after a few days have passed.

My feline editor has stopped trying to retype every word for me. He's been distracted by the smells that come through the window. The grass is emerging from under its snow blanket and the birds and squirrels are busy. I'm pleased that I can see some green, but of course, N. is not. She is super-stressed at the moment. It's always that way as spring approaches. This year there are added complications, what with renovations underway, the need to get ready to go to Mexico on Monday, and the continuing uncertainty about the pesticide laws and issues. I hope it all works out.

In other news, the Viking and I will have the pleasure of attending a birthday party in Toronto on Sunday afternoon . It's for a close friend who will be celebrating the end of one decade and the beginning of another. I'll l also see friends I haven't seen in eons.

It's also been good to see my words online. Okay, so it's not a huge deal , but it's something and I needed the boost. It gave me some energy.

Looking at this link also sometimes cheers me. I usually check it every other week or so to see if there is new addition.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Nap Prevention News and How to Kill Appliances

The guest cat is now ensconced at my place and has taken over. Dopey is very dog-like. He follows me wherever I go and demands to be petted. He also likes to supervise everything. I had cat assistance whilst writing a letter to the editor and so it took twice as long to complete. But never mind - I wrote it this morning and The Record called before noon. So, they may publish it, after they chop it. (I hope they don't take out the reference to the evils committed by the Harris government, but I'm not betting money on that, or on the letter seeing print either.)

I thought I'd take a nap this afternoon, but apparently, only the cat is allowed to take naps in the afternoon - and the evening - and the late morning. The naps are required so that he can wake me in the middle of the night by pouncing on my feet. I had forgotten that cats love to do that.

I have a talent which can be loaned out for a price. I kill appliances and I can manage to do it quickly. I was given two humidifiers at Christmas time. One lasted three days. I'm told that my water caused it to die, but I used filtered water so I must have jinxed it just by looking at it. The second one is so noisy that I can't sleep when it's on. It's not supposed to be so loud and probably it wouldn't be, if it was owned by someone else. I've returned to using my old vaporizer. There is also a problem with my coffee maker. I cracked the carafe (which was made of thin glass, honest). Then I bought a replacement carafe which was supposed to fit all coffee makers of the same brand. It doesn't. My computer printer had a conniption the other day and only agreed to operate properly after it was turned on and off several times. Perhaps I've neglected it and, like the cat, it needed constant attention. There has been a persistent rumour that I might receive a flat screen television sometime this year. I'm afraid that if I do, something strange will happen to it.

I am happy to report that my twenty-five year old stereo still works. Maybe I should acquire only used appliances. I'll have to think about that.

Meanwhile, at my daughter's house, all the appliances have been removed from her kitchen and she reports that there's nothing like the smell of cupboards being sawed apart in the early morning. I agree with that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Welcome to 2009

I hope the new year will bring good things to all of you.

As for me, I'm going to run away from home on a regular basis. First, I'm taking a mini-vacation out of town. After I get back and get more organized (okay, try to get more organized), I plan to spend at least a couple of afternoons each week at the library. They have large tables there and I can spread out my opus and make notes on index cards, research some things that I need more information on and so forth. This plan will keep me away from the Internet - one of the main time wasters in my life - and far from telemarketers and other nuisances. I think It will help me to focus.

But before I can set it in motion, I have to prepare for a few things, including the arrival of a cat. Since my daughter's kitchen will undergo a massive renovation beginning in late January, her cats need temporary shelter. I have volunteered to keep Dopey for a while. I like Dopey. He's smart and laid back and I'm sure we will get along. He has big hair though - in fact most of him is hair. I'll have to lay in a supply of tissue since I'm bound to sneeze a lot.

I've made lots of resolutions for 2009, but in the end they boil down to one, to be more disciplined and write regularly. I'll let you know how that works out.