Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review 2012

Ever since I started blogging in 2009 I have done a Year in Review post. It's always a big, time-consuming pain in the ass and it's so incredibly boring to everyone but me that other bloggers turn away in droves. (Ha! There they go!)

The thing is, I've worked for newspapers my whole life and any newspaper worth its salt publishes a Year in Review between Christmas and New Year's. Why? Mostly because the editors are either drinking or hung over and haven't got the wherewithal to find new news. 

Seriously, life goes by in a blitzing fecking hurry and looking back over the past year slows things down, makes you remember all the things you've accomplished and may have already forgotten about.

For me, 2012 was a fantastic camping year. Dave and I really got "out there," hitting the great outdoors almost every month of the year. I'm really happy about that. Being outside, connecting with nature, spending time with the people I love, feeling sun and wind on my face, it makes me a happy human. Last summer I pledged to go camping every single month of the year in 2013. The thought of it scares me, as I say it. Especially since winter cold is settling in around these parts and the fire in the woodstove sure is cozy. Seems a bit foolhardy to think about winter camping, but then most goals seem foolhardy as we say them out loud. It's one thing to fantasize about finishing a novel, starting a new one, losing weight or camping in bug season. It's quite another to say it out loud and make it come true.

At this time I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to all my bloggy friends. You've stood by me through thick and thin (mostly thick) and I hope you know what you mean to me. You truly are the best friends anyone could hope for and I love and cherish you all. I hope you have a wonderful New Year's celebration and a completely fabulous 2013. May all your hopes and dreams come true. I believe if you say them out loud, they will happen. 

So say them – go ahead – and be happy.

January - Dave and I tried camping in a yurt in Killarney Provincial Park.
 Loved everything about it except the frozen mountain of turds in the outhouse. 
February - I had cataracts removed in both eyes.
The fast-growing type, they got really bad really fast and finally had to step away from work
 for a few weeks because I couldn't see to work or to drive.
The operations were easy-peasy and now I can see! 
March - For me and Dave, early spring is all about splitting wood for the coming winter. It is a huge job, taking about a month to cut, split and pile a truckload of logs. While I don't relish all that work, I do appreciate our efforts at this time of year, when the house is so hot that we have to open the windows. It's also an inexpensive way to heat – a load of logs costs $900 but it heats our house for three years. People we know who heat with oil will pay twice or three times that amount for one winter and their homes are never really warm. The good news is, we won't have to split wood this spring because we have so much piled up and ready to go.
April - Awww, our baby painted turtles. This picture makes me smile so much!
They hatched beside our mailbox, which is next to the road, so we gathered them up
(it was like finding Easter eggs!) and released them in a safe spot along the riverbank.
Every time I pass that spot I smile and think about the baby turtles and hope
they're doing OK.
April - At the end of the month we went up to Kiosk for our spring fishing trip.
Nothing beats that first trip. Nothing! We had an absolutely fabulous time hanging
out with my sister Liz and her husband Don, and Dave's brother Tom and his wife Sue.
May - Every May 24 weekend for the last several years we have gone camping
at Balsam Lake Provincial Park. Why? It's just far south enough so there are
no black flies!!!! The last few years we have been fortunate to go camping with
our good friends the Raneys. We've had some great laughs, sitting around those campfires,
and I will always treasure the memories.
June - Dave bought a motorcycle! So excited! We spent many happy hours
tooling around on his bike. Maybe this year I'll get my license and get one
of my own! A little scooter - wouldn't that be fun?
June - Sam drove the boat for the first time! A big moment in a kid's life and he
did a fine job navigating up the Muskoka River. This was a banner day, a perfect summer
day. One of the best things about living beside the river is just setting off from your very own dock
with fishing poles, books and sunscreen. Summer perfection.
June - My Mom turned 75 on her birthday so we had a party for her at Algonquin Park.
I love her t-shirt! Kawartha Dairy is legendary in these parts for its amazing ice cream and
it just so happened the dairy is exactly the same age as Mom!
July - The Muskoka Novel Marathon was AMAZING for me this year! First off,
I finished the first draft of my novel, a process that took more than two long years. But most
important, I had a fabulous time, making many new writerly friends. If you've ever
thought about taking part, I couldn't recommend the experience more.
July - Had a terrific time at Algonquin Park for a luxuriously long week.
Took the canoes out for a day trip (that's Angus in front of me) that turned
out to be quite an adventure. I still don't think my muscles have recovered!
August - I love this photo of Dave and our little nieces and nephews shucking
corn. Looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, don't you think? We had a family party
to celebrate Dave's Mom's 80th birthday. We swam in the pool, we swam in the river, we ate too
much, we laughed like crazy. It was a fabulous day. 
August - Another photo from Alice's birthday party. That's the birthday girl
holding our dog, Misty, in her lap. To her right, sitting in front of me, is her
sister, Edna. They weren't just sisters, they were best friends and it
was really hard on Alice when Edna died a few weeks ago from cancer.
I'm so glad we had this party. I think she had a good time.
September - That's my sister, Liz, absolutely beaming over the big lunker she
caught during our fall trip to Kiosk. It wasn't the only one she caught, either! Her hubby Don
barely had any time for his own fishing as he helped Liz get so many huge fish off her line!

September - Northwords Literary Festival is becoming a real highlight of a writer's
year in Muskoka. This year I had the fortune of meeting several terrific Canadian
authors including Alissa York and Joseph Boyden (pictured in front, looking "writerly"
along with my writing buddies Dawn Huddlestone and Paula Boon). Also met Elizabeth Hay,
David Layton, Carmen Aguirre, agent Carolyn Forde and my good buddy, author Terry Fallis.

October - WOO HOO! My name in an actual BOOK! I was so excited when The Best of Friday Flash 2 was published. It was a stellar moment for me, to say the least.

October - Sam gives new meaning to the term tree-hugging during a Thanksgiving
hike in Alqonquin Park. He was clinging to the tree because he was on the
edge of a steep cliff. I love having Thanksgiving dinner outside on picnic
tables with family and friends. It's the best.

October - As you can tell from my photos I'm pretty much a country
bumpkin but occasionally I do make it down to the city. In October the girls
in my writers group spent a glorious weekend in Toronto bunking out
at singer/songwriter/author/amazing woman Linda McLean's apartment. We visited St. Lawrence Market,
 browsed in bookstores and did a whole lot of laughing and talking. What a fab group!
From left is Sasha Pringle, Linda, Paula Boon and Dawn Huddlestone.

November - One of the most amazing nights of my life and that's saying something,
because there have been many! Work buddies Gail Knaus (left) and Leah Burton nominated me
for a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award. The event was topped off by an amazing evening gala, where nominees were truly treated like royalty. With me and Gail in the photo is another work buddy, Pamela Steel, who is on the board of directors of the local YWCA.  Pamela, by the way, is
a bestselling Canadian cookbook author.

December - On Dec. 1 Dave shaved off his Movember moustache. If you're not
familiar with Movember, it's when men grow moustaches to raise money and attention
to men's cancer. It was the first time Dave has had a stache since I met him back in 2005. It seems appropriate to close with a photo of him, stached or not, because he is my rock, supporting me through all the bad things, and making good things even better. Everyone should have their own Dave. He's truly the best.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

PJs and Crocs! Hooray!

Look at me! Look at my new pink flannel pyjamas! See the cutie-cute owls on them? Owls with toques and scarves and snowflakes? Look at my new shoes! They're Crocs! I've always wanted "real" Crocs, not the plastic ones they sell at the dollar store that make your feet smell. And look at all the charms I bought for my new Crocs! Which, in case you hadn't notice, are PINK!

Oh I'm happy, I am. Happy, happy, happy! We went to the city looking for Boxing Week bargains. First we hit the Crocs outlet store, where they sold you a second pair at half price, so I bought Dave a pair, too, only his are black, not pink (no accounting for taste). At the check-out I threw in a "mystery box" of charms, only $9.99 for 20! Everyone knows you can't have Crocs without charms, right? When I got home I picked out the manly charms and gave them to Dave. Wait, I'll go take a picture of his feet.

"Dave! I need to take a picture of your Crocs!"

He hands me his shoes.

"No, with your feet in them!"

He makes a cranky face, like I'm torturing him, but puts them on.

"Now put your feet closer together. Closer. No, closer. OK, smile!"

Here's his feet:

As you can clearly see, they are not anywhere near as cute as mine. There were two Canadian flags and two Brainy Smurfs in the grab bag so I shared. But I kept all the really cute girly ones, because they look so girly on my girly Crocs. I'll be all set for camping this year, with my girly waterproof Crocs, perfect for stomping around in forests and paddling the canoe. Or going to work. Or wearing to the mall. In fact, I may never take them off again.

After the Croc store we went to The Fat Ladies Store, my favourite store on the planet, because everything fits and skinny women aren't allowed. They check your weight at the door and if you're under 200 pounds they throw your bony ass to the curb. Ha! I just made that up but it cracks me up, the idea of officers from Big Bertha Security frisking skinny chicks who are wearing lead weights in their shoes in order to buy all the cool Omar-the-tentmaker clothes.

So EVERYTHING was on sale at The Fat Ladies Store, including and especially these pink pajamas, which I love to death because they are as soft and warm and cuddly as a new puppy, but a house-trained puppy, of course, because who wants pyjamas that pee on the rug? And they were 50% off the already discounted price, so they were, like, basically FREE.

I also got a bag full of other stuff... wait, it wasn't a bag, it was a BAG! It was *that* big and it was full of new shirts and underwear and even a pair of jeans! All 50% off already reduced prices! So again, it was practically FREE!

I should have gone back and gotten a bigger BAG!

Hey Dave! Wanna go shopping again tomorrow?


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas letdown

Thank gawd that's over!

WHEW! I mean, I love Christmas just as much as the next gingerbread-craving, present-squealing, tryptophan-induced comatose plum-pudding eater, but, man, I'm actually glad to be going back to work this morning.

Yesterday I felt awful. Down in the dumps, feeling sorry for myself awful. Why on earth, after having such a wonderful Christmas, would I feel this way?

According to Google, Christmas letdown is perfectly normal. Part of the "what goes up, must come down" theory. The build-up to the big day is overwhelming. Not just the massive amount of work, but the expectation that Christmas is going to be peaceful and loving and absolutely perfect. No day can possibly live up to that kind of PR and, as much as you try to quell any expectations of perfection, there's a built-in perfecto-meter in our societal-manipulated brains that tells us otherwise.

Besides, I had been running myself ragged. The last two weeks were a blur of shopping, cleaning, baking and wrapping. On top of that, Dave's Aunt Edna died after a long battle with cancer. Dave and I both got nasty colds. And we had to work. So by the time Christmas Day came around, we were both running on empty.

When everyone left Christmas night, I couldn't help but get into the bawling.

"What's wrong?" Dave asked.

"Nothing," I replied, blubbering.

"Didn't you have a great Christmas? I know I did," he said.

"Yes, Christmas was great," I agreed. And started bawling again in earnest.

I napped on the couch for a couple of hours, then went to bed early. I slept in until 10 a.m. (unheard of for me), then went back to bed after lunch and slept until 4 p.m. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go to sleep at bedtime, but at 9 p.m. I went to bed and slept the whole night through.

This morning I feel almost human.

It's snowing outside, beautiful fat fluffy flakes. My coffee is fresh and delicious. I've got leftover sugar cookies for breakfast and a hot bath waiting for me as soon as I turn off the computer. Now that I'm not exhausted, I can look back at Christmas and see it for what it truly was – a wonderful day to treasure and remember, long after the gingerbread is gone.

I hope yours was just as sweet as mine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'm afraid of my cats

I may have to call for back-up.

They've got me square in their beady carnivorous sights and I can see the word FOOD flashing neon in the reflection of their killer-cold eyeballs and if I don't do something soon I'm going to wind up like those dead cat ladies with their tender vittles supped up with a side dish of catnip and a fine chianti.

It's the day before pay day and all through the house, every creature is meowing, except for the mouse – which, I might add, wouldn't be alive at all if the cats were truly starving to death, which they're not.

But The Bowl.

The Bowl is almost empty. It's got about (excuse me while I count) 23 cat crunchies moldering in the bottom of it. Sacré bleu! That is what constitutes Original Sin in this house. According to our cats, the bottom of The Bowl can not, under any circumstances, be visible. It must, at all times, be covered with Whiskas Hairball Control Cat Crunchies.

Ben-Ben is the Guardian of The Bowl. He lets us know immediately when there is any sign of the bottom, meowing in a tone so mournful that one might think his left nut (which has been missing for 13 years) was twisted in the lid of the kitty litter box. He doesn't shut up, either. Not even while he's walking in front of us, at a snail's pace, weaving around our legs like the waffle-chip maker at a tositoes factory. Weaving and meowing, meowing and weaving.

I knew last night that this morning would dawn with a case of the uglies. But we couldn't go buy any Whiskas Hairball Control Cat Crunchies last night because tomorrow is pay-day and we were broker than Ben's unfortunate nuts.

"Ben-Ben is not gonna like this," I said to Dave. "He's gonna drive us bonkers."

"Let him," said Dave, who threw this brave missive over his shoulder as he headed out the front door on his way to work, leaving me alone with two hungry cats and The Bowl.

I think I've faked them out. For now. I filled up the dog's dish and I filled up the water dish, and then I pretended to fill their dish, picking it up and shaking it around, spreading the cat crunchies around to make them look, um, different.

The cats may be cute, and loud, but they're dumb as a bag of rocks.

They sniffed The Bowl, ate a cat crunchie or two, and retired to the chesterfield where they will snore and stretch and groom their embarrassing parts, and wait until I return home with a new bag of Whiskas Hairball Control Cat Crunchies.

I will have to come home with one. If I don't, my life will be over. If it means stealing some blind old man's white cane and setting up in front of the pet store with a tin can, I guess I'll have to do it. Or maybe I'll sell some blood. It doesn't matter how I get it, as long as I get it.

Maybe I'll hold the pet store up at bowl-point. They'll understand my need, they will. They know what cats are capable of. Furry killers, kitties are. Deviant masters of The Bowl.

I will leave now, while they are sleeping, and some how, some way, the cat crunchies shall be mine...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tea with Mistress Snark

Today I'm having tea with a voluptuous half-nekkid weird woman named Mistress Snark. Y'all are invited to drop by, have a sip of Earl Grey and a suspiciously fuzzy cuke sammich. 

My advice? Stay away from the bloody punch.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy December 6th!

Book me a room at the home, Mabel, I'm coming in.

I have no brain left. I've said that before, but I was lying then because obviously I had a little bitty bit of brain left. Now? No brain.

The sixth anniversary of my father's death was approaching. Now, as any of you who have lost a parent knows, this is a tricky bit of business. You want to call the living parent and offer moral support and comfort on a yucky day. But what do you say? "Happy anniversary of Dad's Death?" There's no Hallmark card for that.

The other thing is, I can never remember the actual date of Dad's death. After much brain prodding and memorizing, I can now remember he died in December 2006. But did he die on the 6th? Or the 9th?

"When did my dad die?" I ask my husband – every single year.

"You ask me this every single year," he replies, every single year.

"I know, I'm an idiot. But please tell me. I'll remember this time."

Dave sighs ... every single year he sighs just like that ... and tells me he died December 6th.

Yay! Thanks Dave! I burn Dec. 6 into my beleaguered brain and swear to the great gods of merciful memory that I WILL REMEMBER next year.

When Dec. 6 rolled around I phoned my Mom, who sounded perky.

"How are you doing?" I asked in a sombre, I-am-worried-about-you tone.

"Pretty good," she said. "My leg is really bothering me but other than that I'm fine. How are you?"

"Oh good," I said, brushing off her question. "But really, Mom, how ARE you?"

There was a pause, then she said, "I'm fine, Cathy. Why? What's up?"

I got all awkward and didn't know what to say so I mumbled, "Well, it's, um, Dec. 6 and I thought I should see how you are."

There was an even longer pause, then Mom started laughing. "He died Dec. 9! Not Dec. 6. You do this EVERY SINGLE YEAR!"

Then it was OK. We laughed like looney tunes. The awkwardness of not knowing how to mark a terrible anniversary dissipated.

"I'll phone you on Dec. 9," I said, just before I hung up.

"Oh, you don't have to do that," Mom said. "It's fine."

But I did. I called her last night and, as soon as she answered the phone I said, "It's Dec. 9," and she laughed, real unabashed laughter, all over again.

I think I might have to do this again next year – in fact, every single year from now on. Because if it can make my mother laugh on one of the saddest days on the calendar, well, there's no need for a card from Hallmark, is there?


Speaking of brain-dead, I had forgotten that today was a special day for everyone's favourite Ninja blogger, Alex Cavanaugh. If you'd like to drop by his blog and wish him well and thank him for being such a bright spot in the universe, do so here.

Alex is one of the most popular and generous bloggers I've ever come across and it's absolutely no wonder that everyone loves him so much.

On this special day I would love to say that the world is a better place because of you, dear, sweet Alex. I wish you nothing but all the very best, on this day and all the ones to come.

(Is there a Hallmark card for Alex's Special Day?)

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to write a query letter

You know, there's so much crap out there being written about query letters – what to write, what not to write, how far do you bend over to get the proper angle for ass kissing – that, really? All I want to say is, "I wrote a damned book. Ya wanna see it, or not?"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spike needed

When I got my first rejection, I was THRILLED.

Suddenly, I felt like a real writer! I printed out the rejection and gleefully showed it to everyone around the office and squealed, "I'm-a-gonna get me a great big spike and I'm-a-gonna stick ALL my rejections on the spike, just like Stephen King!"

I also felt like J.K. Rowling, who couldn't get Harry Potter published if the broomstick under his bony butt depended on it, or Kathryn Stockett, whose blockbuster success The Help was rejected by 60 agents before Agent 61 swooped it up.

This, I thought, is the process. This is what happens. I was pumped.

I was still pumped when rejection #2 came along. And #3.

But by the time #4 showed up late Friday night on the heels of a crappy day, I wasn't as thrilled.

I can tell you right now, I will not be doing what Kathryn Stockett did. I will not be flogging my book out to agents for the next three years hoping someone will eventually take pity on me and throw me a bone. Gawd, I could be dead in three years. I'm old as dirt. If I want to see my book published I do believe I will have to do it myself.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I had originally planned on self-publishing. The way the publishing economy is shaking out, the chances of being published the traditional way is slim to none, unless you're a rock star and I'm no rock star. To carry on with the music metaphor, I can sing OK in the shower but I wouldn't make it past the first round on American Idol.

I dunno, I just thought I'd give 'er a go... see what happened. Ya gotta try, you know?

You have to try.

Besides, some of the most successful books on the market right now started out self-published. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, Still Alice by Lisa Genova and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis were all originally self-published before the authors were offered contracts.

Bonus: I just did a search for the bestselling women's fiction on Amazon and guess what: the number one bestseller is self-published (The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerski).

Even better? This summer FOUR self-published titles made it to the New York Times e-books bestseller list.

I highly recommend you read this post by David Meerman Scott about Lisa Genova's rags-to-riches success story with Still Alice.

And ya gotta love Terry Fallis' determination. He shopped his book around for a year, getting nothing but rejections, before he self-published and began recording chapters and sharing them on iTunes. Having more balls than most, Terry submitted The Best Laid Plans to the prestigious Stephen Leacock Award for Humour – and won. After that, the publishing industry was knocking on his door and he finally got the recognition he deserved.

What I get from all this is you have to do-it-yourself first and, if your book is good enough and liked by enough people, you will get noticed by the publishing industry and the next thing you know you'll have a New York Times Bestseller on your hands.

I think that's the strategy I need to pursue.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I've got a new blog! Say hello to Separation Advice

One of the reasons I wrote Weezie Polk's Man Lessons was to help people, particularly women, as they stumble through the hallowed hell of separation and divorce.

In the book, Weezie sets up a blog with advice for the lovelorn and I thought, well, if Weezie can do it, so can I!

Welcome to Separation Advice.

I've been through a lot on this current road to happiness. I've lost and I've gained and life has basically been rebooted. Overall, I like where I am now but, lordy, lordy, it sure was a tough old go getting to this point.

As a result, I have a lot of advice for folks going through the same thing. It's all basic stuff, but it's stuff nobody warned me about and it's stuff I want to share with you, so you can avoid unnecessary heartache in the very painful segue between unhappily married to happily ever after.

I don't want Separation Advice to be all about me, though. I want stories from all my unmarried friends. If there's advice you want to share, or something you want to warn people about, or if you just want to vent and cry, by all means, come here. Together we can get through this. We can, I promise. Because even though it seems like your life is over, it is honestly just beginning.

Drop by for a visit, give me a follow if you feel like it and, if you want to help spread the word, I'd adore you forever.

HA! Don't you just get the heebie-jeebies whenever somebody promises you "forever?"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boob problems

I have teeny tiny boobies and a big fat back. Imagine a plump prepubescent with twin zits and a moustache and you've got the idea.

This makes brassiere-buying somewhat impossible because the vast majority of bras are built for Amazonian princesses with breasts like cantaloupes and backs like pick-up sticks.

The good news is, the Fat Ladies Store finally ordered hooter holders for the freakishly boobless heifers of the world and it was with no small amount of glee that I bought a bra that should have, technically speaking, fit.

Let me just say I could fit a coffee maker and a bucket of Kentucky Duck in the vast empty caverns of those B cups. When I put it on this morning I didn't know whether to stuff 'em with toilet paper or take them in a notch. Or two. OK, so three notches.

I decided to sew them because we didn't have enough toilet paper. Actually, Wal-mart, Costco and the suspiciously-dusty-variety-store-with-the-bongs-in-it-down-the-street combined don't have enough toilet paper, such is the vastness of the twin grand canyons now strapped to my chest.

I also decided to sew the cups while the bra was on. ("On" being a less than accurate description of the hanging nipple-ended bits of flesh occupying empty corners of the cups.)

I don't recommend you do this.

I have been pierced in places that should not be pierced. And my sweatshirt and brassiere are now as firmly connected as a childproof lid on a bottle of pain pills.

Looks like you won't be getting to first base tonight, honey.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Always look on the bright side of life (woo hoo, woo hoo, woo hoo, woo hoo)

Editor's Note: I wrote this on Thursday when all seemed horrid. Things are not quite so horrid this morning. I mean, I still owe the government a TON of money but I have been looking at the Bright Side of Life and feel ever so much better! :)

What I really want to do is list all the crappy things that are bringing me down. They're all whapping me across the head like a kid with an empty cardboard roll of Christmas wrapping.

I feel like I should be walking around with my elbows over my head just to protect my noggin from the next whapping.
But far be it from me to whine about anything.


Instead I am going to concentrate on the positives!

I am putting a splenderifous grin on my big old whappitty face!

(Speaking of faces, did you see that guy who got paid $15,000 to have the Mitt Romney campaign logo on his face? What a genius, eh? I betcha he's seen the business end of a Christmas roll once or twice before.)

1. I had a really good cry this morning!

A solid, solitary cry in the privacy of my car, replete with fire engine red eye whites and puffy cheeks. When I was done I repaired the facial damage as best I could then went back into the office where a suspicious colleague asked if I was getting a cold.

"No," I said.

"You look like Rudolph," she said.

Not wanting to go into a big song and dance about bawling in the parking lot, I told her, "I have a drinking problem."

2. I don't have to pay the government $12,000 right away! In fact, I only have to start by paying them $560!

3. As far as I know I am not being charged with tax fraud! WOOT!

Oh, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about. Sigh. I didn't let the Canada Child Benefit (baby bonus) people know that my ex had custody of the children back in 2006. I didn't do it on purpose. I let Revenue Canada know. I filed my income tax correctly. And, to make sure the children's father got every penny he was entitled to, we went to the bank together to set up a bank account in his name, where the baby bonus would be deposited every month.

I thought all was right with the world until I got a letter from the government accusing me of taking money away from my own children, committing tax fraud and demanding all their money back.

I phoned the government and some tool told me it didn't matter that I didn't get the money – it was in my name and that was that. In tears I asked how I was going to pay it back. He said, deadpan, "With a cheque."


My ex phoned the government and told them he had proof that I never got the money, that it went to the rightful place – our children, via his bank account. They refused to talk to him because I was the one in doo-doo, not him. They did suggest that he could apply for the baby bonus in his own name, dating all the way back to 2006.

The thing is – and here's the thing: how much baby bonus you get depends on your income. My income, as a matter of fact (it should have been based on his). For the first while, I had a single income and the benefits going to my ex were substantial – sometimes up to $500 a month. When I moved in with Dave, we had a "combined income" and the baby bonus dropped substantially – about $30 a month.

In total, I will have to repay about $12,000.

My ex, on the other hand, has had a single income for all of those years. He will likely be eligible for far more than $12,000. I figure it could be as much as $30,000!!! You'd think the gov't would have left well enough alone and they'd be $18,000 ahead.

What we're going to do, hopefully, is wait until my ex's cheque arrives. Then I'll pay the government the money they want and my ex will have a big chunk of cashola to put towards the children. Good deal, right? I don't know. I hate being accused of tax fraud. I would never even DREAM of doing that. They can accuse me of being a well intentioned dumbass, of being terrible at paperwork, but, as Richard Nixon once said as he was being taken away in shackles, "I am not a crook."

The first time I called their office, that's how they treated me. I guess that's what happens to a person working in that office when all day long they deal with situations like this.

However, the person I talked to this morning, a lovely woman with an even lovelier French accent, was NICE. I told her as much, as I was bawling into the phone, apologizing for crying and telling her over and over how *sob* nice *sniffle* she *blow nose* is.

She didn't change anything. But at least she heard what I was saying and she was NICE.

There's more whapping but I think you've had enough for now. I know I have.

Until next time, "always look on the bright side of life!" 

Some things in life are bad they can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewin' on life's gristle, don't grumble give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best

And always look on the bright side of life 
Always look on the light side of life

If life seems jolly rotten there's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing

For life is quite absurd and death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin, give the audience a grin
Enjoy it it's your last chance anyhow

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit when you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke it's true
You'll see it's all a show keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you. 

"Always Look On The Bright Side of Life"
Written by Eric Idle and Monty Python.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What goes up ....

I'm king of the castle! And you're all dirty rascals!
Yup, it's really cool being on top of the waterhouse.
I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get on top of this thing
and now here I am. Life is good.

Here I am. Huh. Still up here. It's kinda boring up here.
View isn't as good as I thought. And how the heck am I gonna get down?
I need help. Hey! Quit laughing at me! Somebody hellllllp.

"Just trust me," Dave says. It's not his butt up here.
I hope there's no dog poo on the bottom of my shoes...

... if there is, now it's all over my jacket. 

Do I look stupid? Because I feel stupid.
Nope, this isn't humiliating at all. Not if you're six.
Unfortunately I'm 12. 

Stop taking pictures of my butt!

Whew! Safe at last. 

Now I gotta find the camera and destroy the evidence
before Mom posts this on the internet.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Welcome to Friday Flash, Dawn!

I'm so happy right now!

I've been telling the women in my writer's group about for YEARS. What an awesome support group it is, how it has improved my writing and changed my life ... yada, yada.

Finally, one of those wonderfully talented writers has written a flash!!! WOOT!!!!!!!!

Not only has she written one, she has written a DAMNED FINE one!

Please drop by Dawn Huddlestone's blog, Being Deliberate, and read her story, A Spoonful of Sugar. You won't be sorry. I promise, you won't. It's a thing of true beauty.

Welcome to Friday Flash, Dawn!

Now, pass the cake and champagne!

(So many exclamation points, so little time....)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The mini-pad dilemma

Have you ever been carrying a mini-pad around in your pocket, at work, and you had your hands in your pockets, in the staff room, waiting around for the coffee to brew and looking around dopily because you're bored stupid and it takes forever to make so-called "instant" coffee, and you suddenly realize the mini-pad isn't in your pocket anymore, it's on the staff room floor which is called "staff room" because there is staff in it?

What do you do?

Pretend it's not there, knowing full well every person in the office will be saying, "Ew, Cathy dropped a mini-pad in the staff room and didn't pick it up" all day long and possibly for the rest of your career?"

Pick it up quickly and hope no one noticed, knowing full well they did? And the whole picking-up process is so embarrassing that it happens in slo-mo, and your face is a rictus of frozen cherry-popsicle coloured humiliation?

Make a big deal out of it? Like, "Oh lookit that, I dropped my mini-pad! Ho, ho, ho! Good thing it's not a used one, eh? Ho, ho, ho! Lookie me, I'm a big dumbass. Ho, ho, ho!"

Not that it has ever happened to me. (Yesterday.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A world fuelled by peace

My cousin, Kelly, is a veteran who has barely survived her time with the Canadian Armed Forces. Through her job as a counsellor of soldiers who endured horrific moments in places like Afghanistan, Kelly heard every horrible story and tried her best to help heal every wounded man and woman. As a result, Kelly (who has always had the biggest heart of anyone I know) now fights her own terrible battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

She is my hero, she is. A woman of incredible intelligence and empathy. No one loves more than her. No one hurts more than her.

Yesterday she posted this on Facebook, to mark Remembrance Day. It moved me so much I wanted to share it with you here:

On this day I remember my courageous and brilliant clients and colleagues, the scarred yet resilient people who came in and out my door and made me a little wiser, I hope, a little kinder, I hope, who each helped open my eyes to the reality of what passes for serving one's country to those who have never experienced it. It is called elsewhere the "lie of war", it is a terrible lie that keeps getting told and keeps getting believed by those who have so little to give but have such big hearts they will give all anyway because they believe they can make a difference. 

So long as the war machine keeps getting fed by those who have no real knowledge of what it means to put all of one's self on the line, then there will be no difference except maybe to the person next to the person in that trench or hole in the wall who feels a little less terrified, a little less desperate because they are not alone. 

On this day I remember there are all kinds of war being fought here at home and overseas. There is a war against women, there is a war against those who have nothing and there are countless wars not at home. There are horrific crimes committed against men and women and children everyday, why do we not each try and make our own part of the world a little less warlike, a little less hostile. 

Instead of bristling against diversity and striking first, consider being curious about those differences, consider that hidden in that diversity you might find something in common. Consider the unexpected and embrace it. When people celebrate the strengths in each other rather than rally against the differences, we make our world a world fuelled not by war but by peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lest We Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae 
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ill fitting underwear can ruin your whole day

They're new underwear, for crissakes. I should be wearing them.

But they fit funny.


They ride a little high in the places where they're not supposed to be high.


I should really go take them off, but I just put them on! They're on, I'm committed, on they stay. I don't have time for this foolishness.


Oh for crying out loud. If I wear these stupid underwear all day, just because "I'm committed," I'm going to be squirming, yanking, adjusting and feeling uncomfortable all day. But if I take them off I have to get all undressed, put on a new pair, get dressed again, and then I'll have dirty laundry for something I wore for all of 10 minutes.

Why put them in the laundry? If they don't fit, just throw them out.

But I just bought them! That's a waste of good money.

Yeah, but you're not wearing them anyway.

Yes I am. I bought them, I put them on and I'm wearing the jeezly things.


Feck, feck, feckity feck.

*going to bedroom and changing, throwing ill-fitting underwear into wash*


They're new underwear, for crissakes. I should be wearing them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Well worth the snip!

First of all, I have a rant posted over at, in which I whinge about the robot-thingeys that unknowingly plague many Blogger bloggers. You may have these annoying "prove you're not a robot" thingeys on your blog and not even know it! Click here and find out.

My turn in front of the room -
awesome and embarrassing all at the same wonderful time!

I’m feeling real sorry for all you men out there right now because, no matter what you do, you will never be nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award. Well, OK, so there are operations that can get the job done, a nip here and a tuck there but you have to ask yourself this, as the surgeon hovers overhead with scissors the size of garden shears, if it’s worth it.

Hell yes!

It’s the best! The best, best, best thing you can possibly do! I know because I was nominated this year and I highly recommend the experience to everyone. Do you have a mother or an aunt or a sister or a colleague who goes beyond the call of duty? Maybe she volunteers, or she mentors other women, or she’s successful in business. If you know a woman who works tirelessly to make this world a better place, in one way or another, you really should nominate them for next year’s awards.

Why? Because they treat you like a queen. I have never been so feted or felt so special in my entire life. This was an incredible event, something I will never forget – until my menopausal fugue gets worse then I’ll forget everything ... sorry, what was I talking about?

Oh yes, the YWCA awards.

What a ride. What a trip. What a fabulous night.

My nominator and work friend, Gail Knaus, me, and Pamela Steel,
a board member with the YWCA and a very good friend as well.

When I found out two of my work friends, Gail Knaus and Leah Burton, had nominated me for an award I thought they were as loonie and merrily menopausal as me. My first thought was that the YWCA was desperate for nominations and I was merely filling a quota. “Sure, I’ll do it,” I told them, thinking I would help out the poor YWCA in their bid to collect nominees.

Someone else at work asked me what I had done to deserve the award and, frankly, I didn’t have an answer. But when I asked Leah why she had nominated me, she said, “You make people laugh.” I smiled and I felt good about her answer. Maybe I’m not the most dedicated volunteer; maybe I haven’t done anything to bring about world peace; but making someone laugh or smile, well, that’s pretty good, too. 

Alison Brownlee, left, the lovely Huntsville Forester reporter,
with Pamela, at our table. Check out the beautiful room.
Doesn't it look beautifully festive?

When I arrived at the Mark O’Meara Ballroom in Huntsville for the big event I met the 24 other women nominated for awards. These were some of the most spectacular women in Muskoka, incredibly hard working and devoted to their various causes and, you know what? I didn’t hear one of them say they “deserved” to be there. Every single woman I talked to downplayed their achievements, honestly believing they didn’t really deserve the recognition. I thought, either women are the most modest people on earth, or we have no idea of our worth.

Thankfully the organizers of this event recognized this about our silly selves and went about making us feel as special as possible.

First of all, the Mark O’Meara Ballroom – wow. I’d never been there before and all I can say is – wow. What a beautiful place. And the food? Amazing. No kidding. It was gourmet with a capital ‘G’. I had this date wrapped up in bacon (the fruit date, not the Saturday night kind of date) and it was a lil ole bite of heaven. (Any food wrapped in bacon makes me feel like Paula Deen.) And the cheesecake? Seriously, the best cheesecake ever. 


As soon as we arrived we were pinned with a pretty corsage posy, introduced to other nominees, had our photos taken by the paparazzi like we were all Paris Hilton, minus the wee dogs, hot gossip and hotel chain. We were congratulated and warmly welcomed by everyone from the YWCA, who shook our hands and wished us well and treated us like we were important. It was an unbelievable feeling! Believe it or not I’m a bit of a wallflower and having so many people being so nice to me (and all the other nominees) just bowled me over. Their niceness was so very, very ... um, nice.

When it came time for the awards ceremony, all nominees were asked to come to the front of the room. One by one we walked to the stage where the mistress of ceremonies said the most wonderful things about us. It was stunning, having someone point out your accomplishments. We’re all so used to being put down all the time. I have to tell you, it’s magic when someone points out the good. I promise to try to do more of this every day.

After the night was over, that unbelievably fantastic night, people wanted to know if I had won. “No,” I told them, “of course not!” And seriously, I had no hope that I would. The women who did win the awards were amazing; I mean, at a Mother Teresa-Indira Ghandi-Joan of Arc-Paula Deen level of amazing. (Sorry, still thinking about those bacon date thingeys.) But you know what? It didn’t matter who won and who didn’t. We were all treated like winners.

If you know anyone, and I mean anyone, who you think is worthy of a nomination, I highly recommend that you nominate them for next year’s awards. They will be treated like royalty and you will feel like a million bucks for helping them to feel that way.

Kudos to the YWCA for such an outstanding event. Truly, you are all women of distinction.

Here are the other wonderful nominees: Jasmine Arney, Heather Berg, Glad Bryce, Karen Bullock, Laurie Campbell, Nancy Cox-Godfrey, Brenda Cunningham-Moran, Wendy Dingman, Chris Gefucia, Holly Goldthorp, Fran Gower, Kim Jackson, Tara Kinden, D'Arcy Kirkwood, Laurie Lamont, Kelly McBride, Katy McGregor, Shelly Raymond, Marnee Reid, Jennifer Schnier, Martina Schroer, Marguerite Urban, Brenda Wainman Goulet and Jo Walton. Congratulations ladies!

The nominees pose for a group photo... after this picture was taken we had to reshoot because two were stuck in line in the washroom and missed out! Can you imagine a ballroom mostly full with women? There was a lonnnnnnnng line-up in the ladies room! We were thinking about taking over the mens room but were too polite!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My ex's girlfriend

Well here's the thing: I was trying to get a hold of my ex on Saturday night and the phone was busy for hours.

My youngest son said, "He's probably talking to his girlfriend."

As far as I know, my ex doesn't have a GF. I mean, no big deal if he does. We've been separated for seven or eight years. I'm remarried – happily, thank you very much. So if he's got a GF, well, good for him.

Still, I'm nosey. "Who's his girlfriend?" I asked Sam.

"That Moonbeam, the girl whose parents make rings and stuff," he said.

Angus interrupted with, "That's not his girlfriend. They're just friends."

Sam sneered at him. "One day she called looking for Dad and he wasn't there so I asked who was calling and she said 'his girlfriend.'"

"Oh," said I.

So here's the deal with Mizz Moonbeam. I thought for sure (I still think for sure) that she was sleeping with my husband back when we were still married; back even before the affair with another woman that ended our marriage. He denied it, of course, but I was absolutely positive that this girl, who was barely out of her teens at the time, was screwing around with my middle-aged husband.

She worked with him at the hardware store. She taught my son figure skating. I had her over for dinner. Blargh. That's the thanks you get, I guess. Here's supper, here's my kid, here's my husband....

This one time, I had to work late so I told my ex that I would go pick the kids up from daycare, take them home and wait for him to get home from work so I could go back to work – that make sense? Sorry, it's complicated, I know. Anyway, he promised he would hurry home from work so I could go back and meet my deadline.

I waited for him. And waited. And waited. Hours were passing and no sign of him. No answer at the hardware store. Frantic to get back to work, I called my mother and asked her to babysit the kids until he got there. (Thank goodness for my mother.)

I drove into town and on the way to my office I passed the hardware store. There, on the street walking towards his car, was my husband; walking away from him was Mizz Moonbeam.

Furious, I asked him where he was and he said poor wee Moonbeam was having a hard time so he took her out for drinks. Just drinks, he said. A couple days later I found a receipt from that night – he hadn't just taken her for drinks, he had taken her for dinner, to one of the nicest spots in town.

But no, he said, he wasn't having an affair.

Now, apparently, she's his girlfriend.

If you were me, how would you feel about that? I'm curious ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Launch Day!

Angus and Sam at the beach two summers ago,
Inverhuron Provincial Park, Lake Huron.

We were on holiday a couple of summers ago and everything was as it should have been: laughter carried on the lake wind and secrets shared around the crackling fire. Sunburns and sleeping bags. Long days at the beach.

It was all there, a glorious week of it but, when I think of that time, it is only one moment that I recall. One small but shining moment, when time stood so irrevocably still that memory etched a potent tenderness in my heart.

It was late in the day, after supper, and we were down at the beach for one last swim. Our good friends Tammy and Richard were there with their daughters, playing in the waves that were pounding against shore. Lake Huron is a fickle playground – one minute her water is serene; the next it can be dangerously rough. It didn't seem too bad that evening, enough big waves to give everyone a thrill, but not enough to scare anyone.

Not until the plastic rafts Tammy and daughter Megan were on began pulling away from shore in the grip of a needy undertow. Tammy screamed for help and it only took a few minutes for Richard, a former lifeguard, to bring them to safety.

I have to say, Richard is one of my favourite people on earth. He's kind and gentle, and he'd give you the shirt off his back, he would, but he's got a few rough edges and is particularly good at scowling and cussing and teasing his wife.

Tammy, mind you, gives it right back. When I first met them I thought for sure they were headed to divorce court but that's just the way they carry on. Besides, I know they love each other. I saw it that evening on the beach. I saw it as clear as I've ever seen anything.

The way they stood, her hip snugged against him, her smile full of gratitude, and of love. They stood there while the sun set and the beauty of this long-married couple suffused me with pure and unbridled joy.

I'm smiling as I write this, just remembering.

For some reason I associated what had happened with Gordon Lightfoot's classic song If You Could Read My Mind. I played the song over and over, thinking about Tammy and Richard, about heroes, and feeling such overwhelming emotion that I would cry every single time the song played.

A few days later I sat down at my computer and wrote But Heroes Often Fail, a short story for Friday Flash. When I finished, I looked up from the computer and tears filled my eyes. I felt pretty good about what I had written, and I still feel good about it. I've written more than 50 Friday Flash stories but it's one of my favourites and I am thrilled it was included in The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2.

I often refer to Friday Flash and how it changed my life but just because I say it all the time doesn't make it less true.

It's simple, really. You write a "flash," which is a story 1,000 words or less. You post it on your blog on a Friday (or a Thursday night if you're a keener, like me) and then add your blog url to the Collector at You then "advertise" your story on Twitter and on the Friday Flash Facebook page.

The first time I ever did this I was AMAZED at the instantaneous results. Within minutes there were people visiting my blog from all around the world. I remember shrieking, "THERE'S SOMEBODY FROM FLORIDA!" Within a couple of days I had visitors from England and even Australia, all writing heartfelt, insightful and helpful comments about my story. In the meantime, I used the Collector and Twitter to read other people's stories.

What I had discovered – what all people who write Friday Flash had discovered – was an incredible community of writers. They might have been based in Rhode Island or Newfoundland or England, but they became as important to me as my "real" family and friends.

Even better, Friday Flash was a teacher for me. It taught me to be a better writer, both by writing and by reading. It was also a confidence builder. If it wasn't for Friday Flash I never would have written a novel. I wouldn't have joined a writers group. In fact, I'd probably still be mired in a soul-sucking miasma of depression. Not now, though. Now I wake up with purpose, with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

And this is all due to Jon Strother, the writer who dreamed up Friday Flash and made it a reality. Thank you Jon, from the bottom of my heart.

Now, enough maudlin! Today is a day for celebration! Today is LAUNCH DAY for The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2, a collection of 58 of the finest short stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

And if I can brag a little bit, I have not one but two stories in this collection. As well as the story I submitted, But Heroes Sometimes Fail, a story called Running Away was nominated for – and won – the Reader's Choice Award. I actually have to laugh about this. It's a horror story and I almost never write horror. Basically it's totally different than my usual drivel, so it's funny to me to see it included. Regardless, I owe my nominator, Virginia Moffatt of Oxford, a great deal of thanks. Virginia also has a story in BOFF2; called Breakfast News, it is laugh out loud funny.

There are some tremendous stories in this book – I swear you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be scared and you'll think. There are stories for all tastes, for all moods, and they're all in these sweet little bite-sized lengths that are perfect for when you don't have time for anything else.

As writer Dan Powell so eloquently said in the Foreword, "Flash fiction is all about the moment. A snapshot of an event, an emotion, a conflict. A glimpse of something important that flickers in front of the reader. It hints at a whole world beyond the borders of its modest word count and when gone the characters, ideas and images sit in the head of the reader for far longer than the story took to read."

Only five of the stories in BOFF2 are written by Canadians, which makes me even prouder, I have to admit. Canada may be a big country but it hasn't got anywhere near the population of some other countries so we Canadians always think of ourselves as underdogs to some degree. When we succeed at something, we're like Sally Field at the Academy Awards: YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME. Silly, I know – that's just part of our identity.

To celebrate Launch Day, I've joined up with my four fellow Canucks on a wee blog hop. I do hope you drop by their blogs and say hello. They are all really wonderful writers and wonderful people, as I have come to know. They are:

Alan W. Davidson

Lauren Cude

T.S. Bazelli

Jen Brubacher (who lives in England but is definitely Canadian - in fact, Jen is a little jet-lagged and may not be able to post today but she's hoping)

One more thing: I hope you consider buying The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2. It's available in paperback for $9.99 plus shipping and as an e-book. You can buy it from the publisher, eMergent Publishing (thanks to Jodi Cleghorn for all her efforts) and from Amazon. When you buy a paperback from the eMergent, an e-book is bundled in at no extra cost.

To all my family members I have this to say – guess what you guys are getting for Christmas!