Thursday, June 30, 2011

Muskie-bait Makeover

MISTY YESTERDAY MORNING: Lookit me, I'm all hairy. Even my feet are hairy. I look so snooty.  And I'm fat! Lookee how fat I am. How can I smile when I am this fat? You wanna talk about hot flashes? Don't even go there, girlfriend; I'm a walking talking waddling hot flash all day all the time. Do I look happy? Well? Do I, punk? Go ahead. Pet me. Make my day. I will grab your fingers in my tiny white teeth and, grrrrrr, bite them off like pre-wrapped sausages. How come they don't have pre-wrapped bacon? Oh wait. They do. And it's gross, but I'll eat anything in a pinch because I am so fat and so snooty. I am hairy, hear me rowr-rowr.

MISTY LAST NIGHT AFTER TRIP TO MUSKOKA SPA FOR DOGS: (Note: her voice has gone up two octaves.) Lookit meeeee! I am happpeeeeee! I lose 10 pounds in one day, even though I only weigh 7 pounds to begin with. Years younger, I look. Everyone say. Oil of Olay, that's meeeee. Big eyes, I have. No make-up, just natural beauty. I sleek and light, like greyhound. No, like black squirrel, especially with poofy tail that you can't see, but have I. Sleek with puffy squirrel tail and so-Cosmo pink scarf to match happeeeee tongue. Lookit how happy my tongue is! I soooooo happy! Masters say, "where Misty? where Misty go?" But I right here in disguise. I look so good, they don't recognize me. They think Paris Hilton dog has moved in, or Great Black Squirrel. No more hot flashes; I Cool Paw Luke. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Graduation Day

CONGRATULATIONS, GUS: Angus looking incredibly dapper, sporting his Archie Stouffer Elementary School Grade 8 diploma, his new suit and the silver chain Dave and I gave him as a graduation present.

GROUP SHOT: From left, my ex Doug's parents, Jack and Mary, Doug, Angus, Sam, me and Dave. Thanks to my Mom for taking the photo!

GREAT LOOKING COUPLE: My adorable mom and my adorable son.

STACHE ALERT: Sometimes a good bow tie needs a moustache.
LOOK SEXY, SAM: So he did.

THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN: Angus and his friends all dressed up with some place to go - the Grade 8 graduation dance. Watch out, girls!
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."  

– Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles," 1992 (commonly misattributed to Nelson Mandela, 1994 inauguration speech)

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Big Surprise

Sure glad that weekend is over.
Let's move on, shall we?
What? You want to hear about my big surprise? Really? You're not humouring me, are you? You're not one of my relatives who ask, to be polite, how my book is going, then, when I ask if they want to hear a bit of it, they get that scared rabbit look in their eyes and make up an excuse about how it's time to go...
You really want to hear this?
(I love one-sided conversations where I imagine you hanging on my every word, looking adoringly up at me like these are the finest pearls ever to drip from the lips of a middle-aged fat woman.)
Friday night and I was exhausted. It as a week straight from hell. I came home, dropped my purse in the middle of the living room floor and headed straight to bed. "Dave?" I yelled, "come snuggle."
So he did and proceeded to listen to me whine about how tired I was until the phone rang and he leapt up from the bed like a singed cat. Never have I seen him jump out of bed in such a hurry.
The conversation he had was brief.
"Who was that?" I hollered, after he had hung up.
He came back to bed so he wouldn't have to holler back. "A survey company," he said.
"Oh yeah?" I said, intrigued. "What kind of questions were they asking?"
"Y'know, usual stuff. How many people lived here, where we worked."
"It was a pretty short conversation," I said. "Usually those surveys take ages." I imagined some kind of phone scam and remembered when Dave invited a vacuum cleaner salesman to the house (kind of like inviting a vampire).
"Is there a salesman coming?" I asked. Nervous.
"No!" said Dave.
"Well it's not some kind of scam, is it? Maybe they were scoping out the place to rob us."
Dave sighed and got this funny look on his face.
"I can't lie to you," he said. "That was a delivery guy. They're bringing a dishwasher tomorrow."
A dishwasher? Gobsmack me with a feather.
1. I hate doing dishes. I used to fight with my father about doing dishes. The minute I went away to college, my mother bought a dishwasher.
2. I am 50 years old and have never had a dishwasher EXCEPT for one glorious year a few years back. Dave and I were renovating our old house in Sundridge and part of the renos including a dishwasher. IT WAS THE BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE. Then we sold the house. End of dishwasher.
So how does a woman who hates dishes and who has worked full time all her working days, not have a dishwasher? I don't know.
Anyway, point is, my sweetie-pie decided to surprise me with one. I am going to leave Friday night, now, because he earned himself some big brownie points for that announcement.
Saturday afternoon found me writing up in the bunkie. I heard the delivery truck pull in the driveway, so I tweeted "MY DISHWASHER IS HERE" or something similar, then ran to the window to watch my present being unloaded.
Dave went out to meet the guy. The guy said, "do you want me to take the box off here?"
Dave said, "Sure. Might as well have a look at it."
Off came the cardboard box.
There was a big paint chip/ding on the front. Right in the middle, obvious as can be.
Guy said, "Guess you don't want to take this, eh?"
Dave said, "Guess not."
Guy drove my dishwasher away.
I had that dishwasher for, oh, 30 seconds.
I miss her already. I even had a name picked out for her. Melba.

Today's a big day in our family: Angus' grade eight graduation.
It doesn't seem possible. Only yesterday he was a tiny baby listening to the CBC as I fed him and changed his diaper in the middle of the night. Now he's 14 and almost as tall as me, listening to god knows what. Don't all parents hate their children's music? Isn't it a mandatory rite of passage for parents?
I couldn't be prouder of my blue-haired boy.
I took this photo last Monday morning. His school had an awards ceremony to make the actual graduation evening a little shorter. (Great idea.) I'll be sure to have photos of Angus with his new suit and the tie that matches his hair.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The good, the bad and the ugly. That was my yesterday.

The Good
Last night I shared the latest three chapters of my novel with the girls in my writers' group. I was so excited about this – excited and nervous. Would they like it? Would they laugh? In my mind I thought the writing was going well but the proof was hearing their reaction and, oh my, never has the sound of laughter been such a joy in my heart. I now feel I'm going the right away and can hardly wait to get back to the computer and write more.
It was also the first time I hosted the group. That, too, was a genuine pleasure, having Dawn, Linda, Paula and Sasha up in my "writing space," the bunkie. I adore these women. So talented, so friendly, so much fun. The more time I spend with them, the more I love them.

The Bad
Tragic news from Dave's hometown, Sundridge, Ontario.
One of the mechanics Dave worked with at the Mac Lang Chrysler dealership was Ben Rich. Ben was there when Dave started and he was still there when my husband left 14 years later. They worked side by side, wrench warriors in the constant battle against squeaky brake pads, engine knocks and wheels that lost their bearings. Ben was an experienced, talented mechanic who Dave looked up to when he was learning the ropes. If Dave ever had a question, he knew Ben would have the right answer.
Yesterday at lunchtime Ben was driving through the village's main intersection, likely headed towards the bank or the hardware store, when he was broadsided by a truck going through a red light. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
Our phone has been ringing off the hook with the horrifying news. So shocking.
Our most sincere condolences to Ben's family, his friends and his co-workers. Certainly the atmosphere at Mac Lang will be subdued, to say the least, at this time. Best wishes to everyone there as they cope with this terrible loss.

The Ugly
Work. Ugh. Well, I took everyone's advice and kept my eyes on the prize. Surprisingly I managed to stay relatively calm as I worked through a mountain of tasks.
Did I finish?
In fact, I would have stayed late (and missed the beginning of my writer's group meeting) and finished the last little bit, except that I got a last minute reprieve from the printer. "I LOVE YOU" I e-mailed Kelly, the cheerful customer service rep at Central Ontario Web. She said it wouldn't be any problem at all to get the final few pages to her this morning.
So, I'm off for another day, hopefully nowhere near as stressful as yesterday.
An hour or two to finish laying out Sideroads, then some goofing around and celebrating, then an appointment with the hairdresser to touch up an inch or two of roots.
Now that my hair is blonde, HOW COME MY ROOTS ARE BROWN?
Oh, and I had the WORST dream last night!
I dreamt that, as I finished Sideroads, I was laid off! And not even by my boss, by a HAMBURGER!
Don't ask...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Your Mark ...

So much to do today.
I'm almost afraid to go to work. A 5 o'clock deadline looms, laughing behind its frenetic fingers. Fourteen intricate, artsy magazine pages to lay out. Many others to adjust. Time waits for no man and neither does the printer.
Breathe, I tell myself.
You can do it.
One page every 20 minutes.
More coffee.
No distractions.
Let this day begin.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

That's MY Tims!

Was watching the boob tube this morning and through sleep-glazed eyes spotted MY Tim Horton's in a commercial.
Immediately googled and was rewarded with the facts according to Rock 95:
May 16, 2011
A Tim Horton’s in Bracebridge is closed today for a commercial shoot. The Timmy’s on Taylor Road will be closed all day. Crews are also expected to be shooting around a private resort and the rock cut on Highway 118 west in Muskoka Lakes Township.
The commercial involves two doofus couples who get "lost" and agree to meet at the next Timmy's. Stoopid commercial but the Timmy's is a place I frequent a great deal. 
So, to Umbrella Lady who kindly sent me a Tim's card, imagine me at that drive-thru, card in hand, filling up the tank with a large regular to go.
Oh heck, I'm feeling generous today - coffee and doughnuts for all!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Peed Off About Pee

My mom had the best solution: "Get diapers for them."
I called her tonight just to rant about three weeks of cleaning up cat and dog pee; of scooping up the odd nugget-size turd; and of washing diarrhea off the cat's ass.
The cat, he has an excuse. Poor baby has been sick as a dog, even though the dog is not sick. He had pneumonia and nearly died. He had runny eyes and a runny nose and he could barely breathe, his chest was so full of phlegm. For two weeks, Dodge laid on the floor (or in the bathtub), not moving. He didn't eat or drink. Sometimes he tried to drink, then wound up resting his head in the bowl of water. Always a clean cat, suddenly he just peed on the floor, where he was laying, and stayed laying in it.
The vet gave him three needles right off the bat and then six pills to be administered twice a day. Have you ever tried to give a cat a pill? 
So it's been a horrible time, fighting with pills, cleaning up messes, washing the cat and hoping Dodge would pull through another day. He's only a few years old, he's had all his shots and he's an inside cat – this sickness has been plain weird. Our other cat, Ben, got a cold from out of nowhere and then recovered a few days later. Then Dodge started sneezing and everything went downhill.
The cat peeing on the floor, I understand.
But the dog? Our six-year-old dog who has been housetrained since forever? Suddenly she is using the floor as her own personal toilet. We're having a particularly nasty bug season (black flies and mosquitoes) and Dave thinks Misty doesn't like going outside in the bugs. I think she sees and smells the cat pee and thinks, hey, if that stoopid cat can pee on the floor, so can I.
The good news is, Dodge is feeling TONS better. He's still skinny as a rail but he's moving around, using the litter box, eating and drinking and behaving more like his adorable, happy self.
Dave and I are exhausted, however, from cleaning up after the animals' messy selves. Tonight we thought we had everything spic and span. I was cooling my jets on the couch watching mindless TV when I realized I could still smell pee.
Right then and there we moved all the furniture out of the living room and mopped the floors. Then we decided to try rearranging the furniture. So we moved couches here and there, and pictures there and here, and the heavy entertainment centre here and there and here and back... you get the picture. Remember the Flintstones' episode where Wilma had Fred move the stone couch all over the house? Only to have him put it right back where it started?
Yup. That's what we did. All that huffing and puffing and we put everything back the way we found it.
And so far, everything is good on the smell front.
Our house smells like the Lysol gods shat on it.
If I see one drop of urine, one eensy teensy tiny droplet of pee on the floor tomorrow morning when I wake up, all the animals are getting it. 
And I'm not talking about Pampers.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sparkly & Stinky - #fridayflash

'Me and My Pink Shoes' photographed by Isabelle Ste-Marie.
Isabelle is an outstanding photographer whose work can be seen here.
Please take a moment and visit her blog – you won't be sorry, I promise!

Radio’s playing R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion, coffee doused with double sugar and Coffee Mate Vanilla Caramel is steaming in the Timmy Ho-Ho’s travel mug, Cover Girl Natural Beige is hiding her bumpy bits, Soap & Glory’s Sexy Mother Pucker is tingling on her lips and, so far, nothing is staining June’s new faux linen summer dress.

She is wearing her J-Lo Glow perfume and her favourite pale pink flats, the ones with the bows and the sparkles.

The sun is shining and June is off to work at the real estate office where she sits at the front desk, answering the phone, rearranging the photo board and fending off passes from pasty-faced middle aged losers in shiny-elbowed suits and downwardly spiraling sales careers.

She sniffs.

What is that smell?

She wrinkles her natural beige nose and looks around the car to see if there are any dead animals putrefacating on any of the seats.

She lifts her underarms. She smells the collar of her dress. She checks her breath. Everything seems fine. She thinks maybe she has just driven by a swamp.

At work, she notices the smell again. When no one is looking, she takes off one of her sparkly shoes and sniffs. Her face turns the colour of pistachio ice cream and she retches.

She thinks, this won’t do.

Luckily, she has an extra pair of shoes in her desk drawer, so she puts them on. The gaseous green fog that emanates from the bright pink sparkly flats is enough to make a wild hog hold its snout.

June decides to take the shoes out to the trunk of her car so they won’t kill everyone in the office but she sees customers coming up the sidewalk, so she shoves the stinky shoes in her desk drawer and slams it shut, just as the Haskells open the door and ask to speak to Mr. Fitzsimmons, the broker.

“Was someone eating Limburger cheese?” Mrs. Haskell asks.

“Er,” says June, because she can’t think of anything to say that won’t indict herself, or the people she is thinking of blaming. “Mr. Fitzsimmons has a digestion problem,” she is tempted to say, “but don’t mention it because, you know, he is sensitive.” She imagines herself whispering this last part.

She is spared this lie because Mr. Fitzsimmons has heard them arrive. He greets them with a florid smile and a hearty handshake, then escorts them to his little paneled room, decorated with all the hundreds of dead fish he has caught and stuffed over the years.

He waits until the Haskells are well ahead of him, then he turns to June and says, “For God’s sake, what smells? Open a window!”

Mortified, June does as she is told and then the phone rings, and then rings again. The other agents arrive and soon the day is in full swing, always especially busy on a Friday with agents lining up their weekend open houses and appointments.

She forgets all about the stinky shoes in her desk drawer.

In fact, she doesn’t think about them again until she arrives for work on Monday morning, when she opens the door and is literally bowled over, on her pretty butt, no exaggeration, by an overpowering, overwhelming, over-everything, stench.

Mr. Fitzsimmons, coming up the sidewalk, watches June scramble to her feet, run at full tilt to her car and then drive away. 

"Crazy woman," he thinks.

He hopes she comes back to the office soon. He has heard from the public works department that the sewer line has backed up. He is hoping June can meet clients at the front door and steer them to a temporary office across town. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cutest Moose Picture EVER

This is the cutest moose picture I have ever seen. Ever!
I found it on Canadian Roadstories but the photo was taken by Ontario Parks staffer Jill Worthy.
I showed it to big, tough, macho Dave and his face melted and he said, "Awwwwwwwwww."
I sort of thought the mooselet on the left looked like a bunny wabbit and the one on the right like a puppy dawg. (Click on the photo for biggie size moose twins.)
Ontario is renowned for its fabulous provincial park system and we spend every chance we get camping in places like Algonquin, Inverhuron, Balsam and Killbear. In two short weeks we'll be enjoying our annual Canada Day long weekend at Lake of Two Rivers, one of Algonquin's most popular camping spots. And then, a couple weeks later, we'll be going to Killarney, one of the most beautiful parks in the province and the inspiration for many Group of Seven paintings.
I have been in a fabulous mood for a few days because I've been working on my novel and I am actually LOVING what I'm doing.
(As an aside, it takes a great deal of courage to call my WIP a novel because it sounds so pretentious. I realized that's ridiculous so I've been practising saying 'my novel-my novel-my novel' and it seems to be inspiring confidence.)
I thought I'd tell you that because usually I'm whining about writing. Not today, though. Today I was on cloud nine all day, just bubbling with the thrill of finishing Chapter Four with great plans for Chapter Five and beyond.
I sent a wee bit of it to my good friend Lou Freshwater, who is also a famous and fair editor (who is looking for work, btw), hoping for a little feedback and, I am happy to report, SHE LOVED IT!!!
*picture me dancing in my pink pajamas*
In fact, I'm so happy about my writing that I don't even CARE that Vancouver is CHOKING at the Stanley Cup Final.
No, don't care at all.
Not one ... bit.
*runs sobbing hysterically from the room*

Monday, June 13, 2011

That Summer Song

There was a song – I can't remember what it was but I've spent my whole life trying.
Something to do with a highway. Route something. No, it's not what you're thinking. Not that one. Something else.
When you're young and you have a transistor radio by your side like a faithful dog, you live your life by music. Especially summer music. Pop radio stations like CHUM and CFTR played the hits in quick-fire rotation and you probably heard the big songs a thousand times. But if you're quiet now, if you're in tune with the memories of your own skin, you will find there is one place, one moment, when you remember each song.
Except this one.
My uncle and aunt owned a marina in cottage country back in the summers of music and my cousins worked there, all of them, pumping gas, scooping ice cream, selling confectionaries and comic books at the store. The dress code was decidedly casual – the girls, all great looking, curvaceous girls, wore bikinis pretty much 24/7. They were the bronzed goddesses of the gas pumps, selling oil and ice with dazzling smiles and toned long limbs. The radio was the background buzz to what was essentially the lake's living, breathing hive. You went there every day to pick up a Toronto Star and a bag of milk, or a container of worms, while Bridge Over Troubled Water, Some Kind of Wonderful or Maybe I'm Amazed thrummed to the beat of gassy outboard motors and Detroit land yachts.
Until my uncle built a proper house my cousins' bedrooms were rustic sleeping cabins, built decades before by previous owners who dreamed of finding gold in the wallets of travellers seeking the quiet of a northern lake and the song of the loons. Even then the cabins were falling down but no one cared. How utterly perfect to have their own space, physically removed from parents. They decorated their cabins with Beatles posters and their dressers were looped with the dazzling bling of faux pearls and beads in a rainbow of groovy colours. This was just past the Summer of Love, remember, and all you needed to be cool was a cascade of wavy hair, a tan, cut-offs, a bikini top and beads.
The song was playing when I sat on the end of one of their beds, listening to their quick chatter as they were getting ready for a Saturday night with their boyfriends. They laughed loudly, constantly, as they tried to improve on what was already gorgeous. Already perfect.  I was that much younger than my cousins that I wasn't a part of this ritual, or the golden sunshine of their summer lives. 
I wanted to be, though. So much that I can still taste it.
The beads shone in the late afternoon's rosy light and the song played.
I'd give anything to remember what it was.
Hey there - I wrote this piece for a summer tourist guide my company just published for the cottage country crowd in Huntsville, Ontario. The theme of Summer Scene is summer music, the songs that you hear on the radio that make you say, "Yah! Summer!" If you're interested, you can see pdfs from the publication here.
The photo, above, was taken when I was about 13 or 14 years old. That's me in the green tube top, back when I could get away with such nonsense, snugged up close to my first boyfriend, Peter Budd, a tuba player from Windsor, Ontario. Sitting above us are my sister, Liz, and the Megarry brothers, Kevin and Andrew. Their dad was the publisher of the Globe & Mail and I always kicked my arse for dumping Andrew after we dated one summer. I mean, it would have been handy graduating from journalism school when your boyfriend's dad is the publisher of Canada's national newspaper. (WHAT was I thinking?) Standing at top is another friend, whose name escapes me, and my brother, Bill. I can't believe I forget the cute blond's name. Again, WHAT was I thinking????
I couldn't end this without sharing at least one of my favourite summer songs. Strangely, I wouldn't have put God Only Knows by The Beach Boys on the top of my list but I heard it this morning when Brian Wilson was interviewed (he's touring in Canada this year) and it stuck in my head all day long.
I'm curious: what's your favourite summer song?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Writing and Giant Moths

Tony Noland tagged me with the meme.... WAIT. What the heck is a "meme," anyway.
*off to the dictionary*
The definition I just found made little to no sense... something about "an element of a culture or system of behaviour that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially by imitation." OK, it makes a little sense. I was just about to use the word meme without even knowing what it meant. Sometimes I do that because I don't want folks to know my ignorant backswoody nature. At the many cocktail parties I never attend I can be found standing there, wide-eyed, nodding enthusiastically. Not. A. Clue.
So this "meme" is writing and what it means to me. I'm supposed to pontificate and then tag four other people to share their thoughts on writing. For me, this couldn't come at a more or less opportune time.
Writing is the bane of my existence.
I'm teeter-tottering between wanting to write a novel and wanting to just absolutely forget about it. Some days I think, hey, this is pretty good. Some days I think, I SUCK and what the heck was I thinking? I'm in the midst of reading Alice Munro's book, The Beggar Maid, and that's real writing. She is a master. She writes with seeming ease; but the simplicity in her work is deceiving. The character development is intricate and dazzling. During one section of the book I cried, I laughed, I held my breath; I finished, exhausted.
In this section, Rose, the daughter, has done something to anger her stepmother, Flo, and Flo has called in the father to deliver punishment. The deliberate way Munro works through the process of the father's developing anger is chilling.
Rose detects in her father some objections to Flo's rhetoric, some embarrassment and reluctance. She is wrong, and ought to know she is wrong, in thinking that she can count on this. The fact that she knows about it, and he knows she knows, will not make things any better. He is beginning to warm up. He gives her a look. This look is at first cold and challenging. It informs her of his judgment, of the hopelessness of her position. Then it clears, it begins to fill up with something else, the way a spring fills up when you clear the leaves away. It fills with hatred and pleasure. Rose sees that and knows it. Is that just a description of anger, should she see his eyes filling up with anger? No. Hatred is right. Pleasure is right. His face loosens and changes and grows younger, and he holds up his hand this time to silence Flo.
"All right," he says, meaning that's enough, more than enough, this part is over, things can proceed. He starts to loosen his belt.
And then, as the beating, the "royal beating" begins, even the most familiar objects in the kitchen turn their backs on Rose.
She tries again looking at the kitchen floor, that clever and comforting geometrical arrangement, instead of looking at him or his belt. How can this go on in front of such daily witnesses – the linoleum, the calendar with the mill and creek and autumn trees, the old accommodating pots and pans?
Hold out your hand!
Those things aren't going to help her, none of them can rescue her. They turn bland and useless, even unfriendly. Pots can show malice, the patterns of linoleum can leer up at you, treachery is the other side of dailiness.
Oh, to write like that. The depth – amazing. I feel like such a pretender. If you've never read Alice Munro, one of the biggest stars of Canadian fiction, you must go now... now... what are you doing still standing there ... and find one of her books.
I'm not writing this down to elicit encouraging comments ... that's just how I feel.
The other thing about writing is its loneliness. I'm such a social critter that I find it hard to sit my butt down in the chair, all by myself, and just write. Once I start, I'm usually good. It's the starting that I find difficult.
One more thing about the project I'm working on – sometimes I do not like what I'm doing. Everyone always talks about loving their characters and while I do like them, most of the time, sometimes they bore the pants off me. I feel like saying, can't you just write yourself? Why do you need me? What a pain in the butt you are... In journalism, if a story is boring you, it's time to stop. Is this the same with novel writing? I don't know because I've never done it before. Does 'bored' mean the subject matter is terrible? Because, if it bores the writer, surely it will bore everyone else. Or do I just have a short attention span and everything bores me after five minutes?
Maybe a blog isn't enough. Maybe I need a shrink.
So that's what writing is to me right now: the bane of my existence. Tomorrow it will be my salvation, my obsession, my light.
Speaking of light (notice the segue), we have had some exotic visitors to our Light of Death. That's what we call our electric bug zapper, which emits sleazy ultraviolet light that all bugs are drawn to like sailors at a tart convention. I'm not a big fan of the zapper, by the way, because it kills all bugs, not just mosquitoes.
Fortunately for these two beauties, they are too large to enter the sacred portals of the Light of Death, so their lives were spared. (Double-click on the photos for biggie-size big moths.)

The big green one is called a Luna Moth; the brown one is Atheraea polyphemus, or brown one, for short. Obviously the brown moth doesn't inspire people as much as the green one because nobody gave it a cute name. I'm going to call him Frank.
Oh, and I almost forgot. The four people I want to tag with the "how I feel about writing" meme are:

Notice they are all "L-women." (In alphabetical order, no less.) Notice they are all talented writers.
I think the key to writing must be changing my name...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Aaron Polson - Q & A

I've been a fan of Aaron Polson's blog for some time. Outspoken and emotional, he comes out on writing world issues with both guns blazing.
Even yesterday he was bitching about the way his new book was coming ("Doing the Right Thing") and I read it and was like, hell yeah.
And then there's his practically famous tirade against a misguided literary agent who had the wherewithal to say self-published writers don't care about readers and publish for selfish reasons. Not to mention that readers need to be directed by the "gatekeepers" that legacy publishers apparently are.

Oh--that's right, because it's my f*cking job to serve the publishing industry. I forgot. *smacks head* I'm supposed to work for free for years to try and squeak through the needle's eye until the great gate-keeping elite think they can properly profit from my free labor. 
Yes, do you see that little word: profit. Because publishers are in this business to make money. Not "protect" readers. 
I'm sick of the hypocrisy of a system which would publish Snooki's trash and then pretend to be a protector of readers. Sick of it. Stop lying to me. Stop lying to the public. Stop lying to readers.
You know who cares more about readers than you, giant publishing machine? Writers do--all of them, whether "traditionally" published or indie or whatever. I like how we've decided the indentured servant model of publishing is "traditional". Back in Ben Franklin's day, anyone who owned a printing press was published. Don't play word games until you know a little history.
But wait--I'm not the one who has to prove I care about readers. I'm not the one readers are questioning, am I? 
Every story I write is a love-letter to storytelling. 
Go climb back in your stupid castle and shut the gate. We heathens will sit around our campfires and tell stories well into the night--as it should be.

Brilliant, inspiring, honest stuff. Commenters rushed to agree.
As much as I have always admired Aaron's blog, I hadn't, until recently, read any of his novels. When I bought my Kindle, however, one of the first authors I paid a call to was Aaron. Without blinking an eye I purchased almost all of his books. Then I had to decide which one to read first. Being a graphic designer by trade, I picked the cover I liked best – see? Covers really do sell books!
That book was The House Eaters.

Not only does it have a trés cool cover, it also has a cool haunted house concept that pits ghost hunting teenagers against the scariest broken down house you'll ever see in a weird neighbourhood in smalltown U.S.A.
I flew through the book. The plot drives you through it like the speedometer is stuck on 90. The characters are likeable and well-drawn and the tension builds to a fiery conclusion. I didn't realize until I was halfway through that Aaron had penned this as a YA novel but it was so well-written I had no idea it was meant for teenagers. Either that or I'm just sinking into my second childhood. (That must be it.)
I loved the book so much that I contacted Aaron straight away and tossed a bunch of questions his way. I also asked him for some casual photos that people hadn't seen before. Graciously, he acquiesced on both counts; and, for the photos? He said "do whatever you want with them." (Muahahahahaha.... he knows not that I am the Evil Photoshop Queen.)
So, sit back, pour yourself another cup of joe, and read some Aaron Polson. When you're done reading his answers, I highly recommend you go to his blog and buy one of his books.
Trust me. You'll like them. Because when he says "every story I write is a love-letter to storytelling," he's telling it like it is.

Q & A: Aaron Polson
Q: Hey Aaron, how’s it going? With you and your blog there’s always something seemingly on the go, whether it’s angst over the business of publishing or renovating your bathroom. To me, you blog like you write – straight from the hip with little fuss or flash, always delivering an emotional wallop. It’s like you haven’t got time to be frivolous – you’re a man on a mission, driven, it seems, to write as much, and as well, as you possibly can. Am I far off the mark on this quick assessment? How would you describe your writing style?
A: Wow.  To me, your assessment sounds like pretty high praise. I try to teach my students to write in clean, straightforward prose.  I want them to deliver as much punch as possible in few words. Sounds like some of my teaching has rubbed off on me. I try to write in a style which isn’t wordy and “clunky”, yet has a certain lyrical quality.  Reading one of my stories isn’t like reading the newspaper—it’s like hearing your favorite ghost story from your favorite grandfather. 
Q: I’m overwhelmed by the number of projects you have already published. I’d love a complete list of everything you’ve done that’s available to the public and where people can buy/find them.
A: Um… Okay.  Short of saying “Google me” (which sounds so silly) I’d suggest starting at my blog (  I have several short story collections available in e-format for the Kindle, through Smaswords, and at Barnes and Nobel.  I just discovered many of my works at the iTunes store (you can now search for books).  
For the record, here we go:
Short story collections (reprints and new work)
The Bottom Feeders (print, ebook)
Violent Ends (ebook)
Thirteen Shadows (ebook)
Black Medicine Thunder and the Sons of Chaos (ebook)
Monsters Among Us (Collects The Bottom Feeders, Violent Ends, Thirteen Shadows, and Black Medicine Thunder…in one ebook)
The Saints are Dead (print, ebook)
Novels/longer works
Monsters Among Us (ebook)
The House Eaters (print, ebook)
Borrowed Saints (ebook)
Loathsome, Dark and Deep (print, ebook)
Several stories are available to read for free online. I have a list of most at my blog.
Q: What projects do you currently have on the go? What can we look forward to?
A: I’m squeezing a few short stories in here and there, but I’ve started to focus more on longer work.  The second “Sons of Chaos” serialized novella will be available this fall at Red Penny Papers ( Two “novels” are also in the works. One is a MG novel, Raygun, involving an enchanted toy “space gun”.  My wife challenged me to write something Owen, our seven-year-old son, could read. In Raygun, the protagonist, a young boy, finds a stash of his grandfather’s old tin toys—a good, old-fashioned science-fantasy romp ensues.  The other piece is a supernatural thriller involving ghosts and a form of time travel.  I’m sworn to secrecy on the rest. 
Q: What’s your favourite novel and character you’ve ever written and why?
A: Probably a toss-up between Loathsome, Dark, and Deep and We are the Monsters for favorite novel (although We are the Monsters is “technically” a novella).  I wrote both for myself without regard to a “market” or potential sales category.  They’ve been my best reviewed work, too.  Go figure.  
My favorite character is probably Sarah Hawkins from The House Eaters.  She’s the girl I wish I would have dated in high school—cute, athletic, reads a ton of horror books—perfect. 
Q: You’ve said much about the business of publishing – why does this issue get you so pumped? How’s the world of self-publishing treating you? And do you have any quick advice for people who want to follow in your footsteps?
A: Advice?  Be patient.  Keep working.  Keep writing. Be patient. (I’m not.)
Self-publishing is a wide open world today, much different than it was even five years ago.  A writer can actually sell e-books (via Kindle, Smashwords, etc.) without fronting any money.  Self-publishing used to be fairly cost-prohibitive (and a bad business choice) because the up-front investment was so large.  Now, if you have quality work, why not let the readers decide if they want to spend their hard-earned money on it?
Q: You’re a teacher and you have a family... how do you find the time to write like you do and when do you do it? What’s the secret to sticking with a project when life has worn you down and you don’t have a lot of energy to spare?

A: Wake up early and go to bed late. ;)  I find my writing day goes better if I sit down first thing in the morning, even if I only knock out 100 words.  Then I can tell myself, “hey—you’ve already started today.”  I’ve also cut my TV viewing down to about an hour a week.  That helps.  
Q: And regarding The House Eaters: what was your inspiration and how do you really feel about haunted houses? Was this book everything you hoped it would be or are there things you might change? How’s it selling? Is a sequel in the works?
What do your students think about having an author for a teacher?
A: The original “story seed” for The House Eaters came when I took a wrong turn and stumbled upon a ruined building.  At first glance, it seemed to be a Victorian mansion, complete with central garret (almost like the Psycho house), buried in the side of a hill.  It looked as though something had “eaten” part of the building—that is, the front façade had been demolished. The image chilled me—even though, upon closer inspection, it was only an old quarry building.  Once I found the proper highway and headed home, the idea took on a life of its own.
I think I could have fleshed out the relationship between Nick’s parents, but in general, I think it’s a pretty fun read.  Right now, it’s my best seller on Kindle and I hope the audience grows.  Sequel… Well, I’m not supposed to say anything, but I have a few notes and a bit of an outline (shhhh).  
I hope I can inspire my students to write, and keep writing until they get it “right”.  Writing isn’t easy; it never has been.  But what worth doing is “easy”?

Er, I didn't Photoshop this one...
but doesn't Aaron look remarkably like Nicholas Cage?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Dead Raccoon Bridge

What kind of arsehole can purposefully run over another living creature?
They exist. I've seen it once with my own eyes. A few years ago I saw a pick-up truck swerve over on the shoulder to crush a snapping turtle that was laying eggs in the gravel. Then the truck stopped, backed over the writhing turtle, then ran over her again.
A lot of folks around here don't like snapping turtles. I don't particularly like snapping turtles. But not liking something is no reason to take a life. Just talking about this ticks me off.
Well, something similar happened on Saturday night.
We live beside the Muskoka River (thus the title) and, to get here, we have to cross a delightful, one-lane, black iron bridge. I adore the bridge. It's one of the reasons I fell in love with this place. The bridge is just wide enough for one vehicle. Normal-sized snowplows, for example, cannot cross the bridge. Because of the narrow width, car headlights illuminate the entire bridge when you're crossing it at night. What makes it even brighter is the safety rails at the sides – headlights reflect back on the roadway.
What I'm trying to say is, even the worst headlights, the lowest beams, the dirtiest lenses, light up the bridge like it's daytime.
Another point to consider: you have to slow down when you cross the bridge. There's a sharp curve on both ends leading up to it.
So that's the scenario.
Coming home from a movie Saturday night, we saw a dead raccoon in the middle of the bridge.
There was no way this could have been an accident. Anyone coming across the bridge and seeing the raccoon would just have to wait a few moments for the critter to walk away. It's not like a deer, jumping out in front of you when you're going 50 miles an hour down a highway. You can see. You're going slow. What the hell? Just stop and let Rocky go on his merry way.
Dave, being the wonderful person he is, didn't want to see the raccoon squished any worse than he already was. He got a rag out of the back of the Jeep and carried Rocky over into the bushes. The image of entrails dragging behind is something I wish I could forget.
"I wish I knew who did this," Dave said. "I'd drop the dead raccoon at their front door."
Flash forward to Monday night. Dave and I went for our first canoe ride of the season. (It was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.)
As we approached the bridge we couldn't help but notice a giant turkey vulture sitting on top of a road sign. He had probably just had a nice meal of dead raccoon.
At least somebody benefited from the incident.
Top photo: the turkey vulture. He'd be licking his lips, y'know, if he had lips.
Middle: View of the black bridge from the front of our canoe.
Bottom: Dave, the raccoon remover.
For biggie-size photos, click or double click on the pix.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Bumblebee Moth

"Look, Sam," I said to my 10-year-old, "there's a big bumblebee on the lilac bush."
But it wasn't a bee at all.
It was a Bumblebee Moth, also known as a Snowberry Clearwing Moth and a Hemaris diffinis.
If you'd like to know more about the Bumblebee Moth, flutter over HERE.
Didn't I sound like Hinterland Who's Who just now?
(Click on the photo for a biggie-size moth.)

I have another wildlife photo to share. Dave took this one on the same day.
A pregnant painted turtle mommy elected to lay her eggs directly below our mailbox! It's actually a pretty safe place, especially with Canada Post threatening to go on strike.
We are all looking forward to baby paints in approximately 72 days.
I'd better start knitting!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Smell This

Gee, my arm smells terrific.
I've been smelling it all day, bringing my arm up to my nose and sniffing deep and going, "Mmmmm I smell GOOD."
Go ahead, have a sniff.
Wait, just my arm. Hey! Now you're just getting fresh. STOP THAT!
OK, somebody keep an eye on Alan Davidson ... he keeps sneaking up and STOP THAT!
Thanks, Harry. The cuffs are over there –  can you please? Yes, thanks. Alan, stop whining, I'm trying to talk here.
The reason, ladies and gentlemen, that I smell so good is because of Soap & Glory Mist You Madly.
Oh. My. Living. Gawd. To die for, I swear.
I found this stuff in Shopper's Drug Mart a month or so ago and was immediately smitten with the smart-alecky, punny, 1950s vintage glamour girl packaging. All pale pink and bubbly, it was, with black and white photos of young women with too much red lipstick. (How do I know it's red in a b&w photo? Are you stupid? It just is. Back in the day, my mom only had one tube of lipstick in her purse and it was the same colour every other woman at the supermarket had: Ravishing Red.
So I bought this stuff, a complete impulse buy based solely on the groovy packaging. (Who says packaging doesn't sell? Look at Lady Gaga.)
Unlike Lady Gag-gag, the shower gel has substance. It lathers up in a creamy dream and it makes me feel all girly and pretty. The gel doesn't have a lingering aroma, which is good because my workplace has a no-scents policy.
Yesterday, though, I went back to the drug store and bought a whole bunch of new Soap & Glory stuff. Hand lotion. A different kind of shower gel, bubble bath and a body spray. I thought the spray would be my least favourite thing but IT'S MY ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE.
It says something like "spray it every time you need a shot of fabulous" or something like that. So I spray it constantly because it's true, I feel fabulous, all day long, fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
The link to this fountain of fabulosity is HERE. It's available at most Shopper's Drug Marts (the bigger stores anyway, not at the little tiny one in Haliburton) in Canada and at Boot's in the U.K. I checked the American site and it's not available in the U.S. until this September. (It's worth the wait; trust me.)
The reason I am spouting off about the glories of Soap & Glory is because I love it and every time I fall in love with some new product, it gets yanked off the shelves by stoopid businessmen who wouldn't know a great product from a hole in their arse.
They took away Bojac salad dressing. They changed the taste of Goodies. They stopped making my favourite L'oreal Vive shampoo.
So please. Do me and yourself a favour. Smell my arm then go buy yourself or your lady friend a couple bottles of Mist You Madly body spray.
OK Harry, you can uncuff Alan now.
Whaddya mean he likes it?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Clothes - #fridayflash

“Get over here, Josie, you’re missing out!”
It was the fourth time Anita had swung by my desk.
“The clothes will not fit me, Anita.” I pronounced her name with tight-lipped diction, my exasperation showing. “They’re way, way too small.”
I think she heard me but it was hard to tell. She blew by in an almost visible rush of Oscar de la Renta-scented air.
Feeling overwhelmingly size 16 in a size 8 world, I got up from my desk and poked my head around the cubicle divider. Down at the other end of the hall was Anita’s desk, although at the moment I couldn’t actually see it. The desk was covered, mounded, piled high with bags and bags of new and lightly used designer clothing. A gaggle of giggling middle-aged women were pawing through it like ants at a honey sale. Smart little jackets, pencil skirts and leather stilettos from Italy were held up, tried on, snatched and coveted by my excited co-workers.
In an alternate universe where fat wasn’t my curse, I would be there with them, snapping up all that juicy free stuff.
Madeline, a secretary from the front office, came and stood beside me.
“How come you’re not over there?” I asked. 
“I couldn’t wear them,” she whispered. 
“Yah, you could. They’d definitely fit you. Maybe too big, if anything.”
“No, no,” she said. “They’d fit. I could just never wear them. I’d be too weirded out.”
I looked at Madeline like she had three heads.
“Don’t you know whose clothes they are?” she asked. 
“They’re Anita’s friend. She was cleaning out her closet or something.”
Madeline lowered her voice even more. “They’re not Anita’s friend. They’re Anita’s. She’s got cancer and it’s terminal. She’s dying.”
“Oh,” I said.
“I don’t think many people know,” she added. “You might want to keep it to yourself.”
Madeline and I watched the women digging through the pile of clothes. Inexplicably I thought of grave diggers. Soon the top of the desk was visible and only a few items remained. The happy, chattering women went back to their cubicles, arms loaded with treasure. 
Madeline went back to her desk. I went back to mine but no sooner had I opened up a new file than Anita showed up.  
“This,” she said, “will fit you.” 
 She put a stunningly beautiful scarf in my hands.
“It’s pashmina. The real deal. Very expensive,” she said.
Jewel-toned and soft, heavy and luxurious, the scarf was unlike anything I had at home in my closet.
“Wow,” was I all I could say. Then, “thank you, Anita. It’s gorgeous.”
“No problem. I wanted you to have something,” she said, as she bustled off.
Her exuberance in the office never ended. Right up until her last day.
As I dressed for her funeral I remembered her positive spirit lighting up even the dreariest days. She brought doughnuts every Monday. She decorated her cubicle for holidays. She always had a smile on her face. Always.
I pulled the pashmina from my lingerie drawer and unfolded the tissue paper I had wrapped it in. The paper rustled, like a whisper, and the heavy garment slipped unfolded like a sigh.
I draped it over my rounded shoulders, over my sensible black dress, and I didn’t feel weirded out at all. In fact, I smiled. Through the tears, I smiled.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Goes Up

What have I been doing lately? Well, not much writing, that's for sure.
Monday night I came home and there was Dave, starting to set up the gazebo. You can't do without a screened-in-something when you live in a Mosquito Motel. It's necessary as death, taxes and American Idol.
So I get home and there's Dave, and so I sigh and dig in to help because it's a two-person job. After that I planted the three trays of impatiens I bought on the weekend and set the Travelocity garden gnome in a place of pride. We had dinner at 8:30 p.m. and then hit the hay.
Oh, check out the lighting fixture I bought last year for the gazebo. A chandelier! Buahahahaha! It makes me laugh, every time I look at it – this fancy crystal (plastic) grandiose light in a screened tent from Walmart. I seriously went to Canadian Tire to buy the cheapest light they had but they were blowing this one out the door for less than a cheap light – so now we have a chandelier in our gazebo.
It's fancy. Like me.
Last night I got home and there was Dave with a shit-ass grin on his face piling up stuff in the backyard for our cheapo above ground pool.
"Get in the car," I ordered him, without stepping out. "I am SO NOT going to help you with that pool until I have something to eat." All I'd had all day was raw vegetables and hummus and there was no way I was waiting until bedtime to eat real food.
Lacking that, I drove his ass to A&W and we used a coupon for papaburgers. Nectar of the gods, I swear.
Then we got home and fought off mosquitoes, blackflies and deerflies while putting up the pool.
See? This is what it really means to live in Canada with all four distinct seasons: winter, winter, precious short summer and bug season. Every time a new season begins we take stuff down and we put stuff up. Away goes the snowblower, the snowmobiles, the snow tires and the snow boots. Out comes the mosquito magnet, the lawn mower, the gazebo, the boat, the swimming pool and the sandals. Our lives are all about finding room for the old crap and putting up the new crap. It doesn't make me happy to think that, a few months from now, I'll be taking down the gazebo and the swimming pool and helping Dave carry the boat.
It's a wonder I don't have muscles in my shit.

Oh. And our cat has a cold. He's been really sick lately. I'm waiting for the vet's office to open so I can call and get him in. He was snoring under the couch and now it's painfully quiet in here. I hope he's not dead under the chesterfield.
I'm afraid to look.