Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alex J. Cavanaugh – Letter from a Friend

I just want to know what Alex J. Cavanaugh looks like. Is that too much to ask?

Yeah, I guess that makes me shallow. I can just hear my mom saying, "Cathy, looks aren't everything," but just because I agree with her doesn't mean I don't want to know what the internet's friendliest and most mysterious ninja looks like. 

Look at the photo he sent me. Like, seriously Alex? Could it be any more silhouetted? I can tell you have a long regal nose and some scruff on your chin and you got some of those long-fingered white guy hands noodling on your guitar but I wouldn't know you if I walked by you on a subway. Which I would – walk by, because I don't know what you look like. If I knew, I'd pester you. (Good plan on the keeping your identity secret.)

By adjusting the exposure on your photo I am getting a couple of vibes from you. You could look like Jon Heder, on a good day, only without his teeth. Because only Jon Heder has Jon Heder teeth but really it's part of his charm, don't you think? Wait... I just reread that. I don't mean "without his teeth" because that would insinuate a toothless guy, which I'm not saying. I'm just saying not Jon Heder teeth. Maybe, like, Brooke Shields teeth. Or Jon Heder if his parents had a dental plan.

But you also remind me of James Taylor, back in the days when James Taylor had hair:

That James Taylor. Now he was a hunka hunka burnin' love... sorry, I was all, ahem, overheated there for a moment. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Any idea what the J stands for anyone? Jon? (As in Heder?) Jeremiah (was a bullfrog)? Jiminy Cricket?

I asked Alex Mysterious J for a Letter from a Friend because I don't know anything about him. Oh sure, he's a published author. In fact, he just released his latest book, CassaFire, TODAY. Talk about hot off the press and all, baby, me and him we are on FIRE. I also know Alex is one of the most popular bloggers in all of blogdom. He has more followers than God. Ok, so maybe not THAT God. Maybe, like a secondary Greek god. Like Zeus, maybe. Or Amadeus. (Note to self: check to see if Amadeus is a god or a musician.)

To be perfectly frank, I know nothing about Alex J. Cavanaugh. I know I like reading his blog. I know that I like it when he shows up and comments on mine. I know I like him. But then again I like pretty much everybody. Our crazy neighbour who grows questionable shrooms in her flower garden, and who doesn't share. My cat, whose hairballs are the same colour as our chesterfield. My liquid Tide, which removes hairball stains from my pants. Frankfurters, even though they're made of eyeballs, testicles and beaks. I like my kids even though they make me NUTS. 

I like everyone. I like everything. If I don't like you, you are seriously disturbed. 

Anyway, I like Alex and today is his special day. So even though I still don't know what he looks like, or anything about him, here's a letter from one of my favourite ninjas. Good luck with the book, stranger – I'm wooting for ya!

Dear Cathy-
I just wanted to thank you for the kind words and cheer. Your comments on my blog always make me smile and remind my of why I do what I do.
I am honored that you continue to return to my blog. Your life revolves around family and the Muskoka River, while mine resides in the world of geekdom. I am just a guy who digs science fiction, movies, music and gadgets. That you find me interesting amazes me. Although I do think we share a sense of humor!
You continue to visit even though I am not always able to return the favor. I try to visit my blogger buddies often, even though that list continues to grow and grow. Preparations for my upcoming book have made it even more challenging.
Your encouragement is what keeps me going. Thank you, Cathy. I hope that I can repay the kindness one day. Repay it a thousand times over.
Just know this Ninja has your back!
Alex J. Cavanaugh

Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh! The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of the first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour. See Alex’s site for details: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:

Book trailer available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa6VINRGtyE.

Barnes and Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cassafire-alex-j-cavanaugh/1034742568

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/CassaFire-Alex-J-Cavanaugh/dp/0982713940/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329417150&sr=1-1

Amazon Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/CassaFire-ebook/dp/B007A2TSNG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329663355&sr=1-1

Monday, February 27, 2012

Completo el poopo

Chuck Wendig knows how to finish his shit.

If you had one more day off, what would you do?

I'm thinking on that this morning... the last morning off from work since what feels like forever, or at least a month. When I first realized I was looking at a substantial break from work due to my cataracts, it seemed like such a looooonnnnnng time. I had ideas to fill that time. Some goals. And yet here it is at the end and I haven't accomplished anything.

I was hoping to lose weight in an intensive home training regime but I think I've gained eight to 10 pounds. (I find out tonight when I drag my sorry ass back to Weight Watchers after a three week hiatus. Oh gawd, I don't want to go ... I know I have to face the music but I really, really hate that song.) I've fallen off the Good Ship Motivation and it's time to get back on before I fall off completely and drown.

I was also hoping to have done some writing on my novel ... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I've been watching The Biggest Loser on TV because even though it's horrendously stupid it motivates me. The show's theme this year is No Excuses so I'm trying to live by that. Yes, I was told not to exercise following the surgery but no one told me to eat everything in sight. And yes, I couldn't see the darned computer so it was hard to do any writing – but that didn't stop me from blah-blah-blahing on this blog. So you see, I really don't have any excuses, other than I am lazy and unmotivated.

Feeling this way isn't nice. It's rather depressing, in fact. Last night Dave asked me, "What's wrong?" And I said, "nothing," because it was easier than going into a big song and dance about never finishing my novel and gaining all my weight back and generally spouting into tears and wailing and moaning and such.

As much as I complained last November about being crazy busy, writing NaNo and exercising like a fiend, I was in my element. I was on point. I was happy as a pig in you-know-what.

Today it all changes. I shall exercise today. I shall write today. I shall go to Weight Watchers tonight and face the music. Tomorrow I will go back to work with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. I have accomplished so much these past months. Instead of thinking, "woe is me, it's all over," I shall get back on that horse and, as Chuck Wendig so eloquently put it in a recent blog post called 25 Things I Want To Say To Aspiring Writers, FINISH MY SHIT. COMPLETO EL POOPO.

(Thanks to Helen Howell for pointing out that post. That Chuck guy, he's a ripper.)


Ah feck it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shannon Esposito – Letter from a Friend

Dear Shannon, writer of light, artist of air, willowy pale sunshine in a state of sun:

I see you dancing in your best bare feet at the ocean's edge, peach toes touching white sand, diaphanous skirts lifting on a salty breeze.

You are grounded, yes. Earth mother, chauffeur of future all-stars, mother of a blushing bride – hard to tell, who was the mother, who was the daughter, thank god for white dresses.

And yet something in you soars, the words, I think, the words. The poetry of your fingertips on  keys of inspiration. 

Write me a story, Shannon. Write me a story as big as your heart, as colourful as your dreams. 

Write me anything. 

Write me a letter.

Dear Cathy,

I hope this letter finds you well and recovered from all the holiday cheer! A new year always brings with it a sense of possibility, doesn't it?  We have a jumping off point with a fresh slate to change anything we want. This year, my resolution was going to be to lose weight, as you were so inspiring with your own weight loss! But, instead I've decided to focus on health and let weight loss be a side effect.
I read a quote that stuck with me about how our body is the vessel that carries us through the world so we must take ownership of how we treat it. I can tell you, I've only been intermittently kind to my own body and have viewed it mostly as a nuisance that must be punished and deprived in order to squeeze it into the proper size jeans. How much nonsense is that? And why has it taken me forty.. ahem... something years to realize this? Instead I've thrown myself into the world of health food. I've discovered things like chia seeds are not just for sprouting scary green hair onterracotta pets. (Is this just an American thing?) The little buggers are actually a super food, high in fiber, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. And spirulina is not a venereal disease. It's a blue-green algae!
I know, not much better, right? But, it's actually another super food that fights aging, cancer, removes toxins from the body, drives your kids to their soccer games...okay, maybe not that last one. But speaking of the kids, it's so easy to slip some algae into their green smoothie and feel good about taking care of them. How seriously cool is this stuff?
As you can tell I'm excited about changing our eating habits this year and making sure the boys live long, healthy lives( so they can take care of us when we're old).
Sending you some Florida sunshine! If you're ever on our end of the map, we can sit on the beach, drink green smoothies and ogle the dolphins together!
Much love and good health to you and your boys,

Shannon Esposito is a Florida-based writer who pens novels and short stories and never ceases to amaze me since I first ran across her work in Friday Flash.

She is the proud author of four novels:

They are all available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. You can find more about them at her blog, Murder in Paradise.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Carrie Clevenger – Letter from a Friend

In her letter, Carrie Clevenger mentions that I am an inspiration to her but, Carrie dahling, you've got things all twisted and screwed up here. 

YOU are the inspiration to me. 

Who's about to publish book number three while I struggle with number one?

Who continues to put out a new Friday Flash short story, every week, on top of editing a novel and working at a job that pays bills, not to mention being a wife and a mother? 

Who has a cool tattoo?

Carrie is, without a doubt, one of my favourite writers on the Friday Flash circuit. Her words are built strong, like railroad tracks laid down in rocky slag – never too many, never too few, all connected to lead the reader to a place Carrie wants you to see. The destination is always different but it never lacks soul. She makes writing look easy, Carrie does, and to me that's the best kind. You never get pulled out of the story, you never have to cheer her along; you just lose yourself in the words.

I have read two of Carrie's books, Just My Blood Type and Blood and Fire (both collaborations with another talented writer, Nerine Dorman). Read maybe isn't the right word because I whipped through them; they were that good. And like all fans of the Clevenger, I am waiting impatiently for the August 2012 release of Crooked Fang. Like everything Carrie does, I know it will be outstanding. 

Some day, when she's a household name, I'm gonna be able to say I once got a letter from her – a letter from a friend.

Dear Cathy: 

I can’t remember the last time I wrote an actual letter.

It’s 2012, that year that everyone has been talking about since they figured out that it could quite possibly be the end of the world. Am I concerned? Not really. Every other date which was sworn to be The End has come and gone, and we’re either left looking incredibly foolish or jaded, I can’t decide which.

I’m double-working, working on work-work, and this letter. A Perfect Circle is playing tonight on loop because it seemed just right to listen to. I wake up with music in my head more often than not. I blame Xan Marcelles for that recent development. Speaking of which, I’m in the real-time edits for Crooked Fang, and I can’t believe I’m about to join the ranks of other novelists out there. I really did it. It’s going to be published and out in the big wide world, and people will love it, and hate it, and I will face one of my greatest fears: receiving attention from people.

I’m a wallflower, always have been. Ever since I was that nerdy girl in school whom no one deemed cool enough to be seen with, to the point that I said ‘fuck it’ and did my own thing, fed-up with the whole trying to fit in with everyone else thing. It happens. Childhood is rarely a full beam of sunshine, but it does build character, for better or worse, and it’s important for me to remember that every day in my life with my daughter.

I’ve been reading lately. My latest read is American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. I wish I hadn’t hesitated so long before trying a new author. I tend to stay loyal to who has always written the fail-safe stuff. It’s like that with a lot of factors in my life. I’m somewhat of a shut-in, and I get teased by Luke, my husband, whenever I get dressed up to actually leave the house.

It’s been a good year so far. I’m hoping to take a trip to Colorado sometime soon, in order to see the area I describe in Crooked Fang which is Pinecliffe. It looks beautiful in the pictures I’ve found online.

I bought a bag of cooked shrimp on sale at Target last week. I wanted to do a stir-fry, but I’m afraid I’ll ruin it. So the shrimp has gone bad in my fridge, due to my reluctance. It’s a symbol, I think. To try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes. I try not to. But I still do.

I hope this letter finds you well, Cathy. You are always such an inspiration to me. Good luck with your cataract surgery.

Kind regards,


Monday, February 20, 2012

Crazy Eyes

How's your eyeballs?

"WHY THEY'RE SUPER-DUPER AWESOME!" I say with a high-beam-voltage, night-skiing kind of stupid-ass grin. Cause there's no point telling people what's really going on. I tried that ... a couple of times. Even with my cockamamie eyeballs I could see their expression gloss over like the meringue on a well-made lemon pie. They don't CARE – they're just asking to be polite. No, seriously, they are.

But then I had someone comment on this blog who was genuinely interested in how my cataract operation fared because she had her cataracts removed and wanted to compare notes. So I'm posting this public service announcement for her sake, and for yours too because, unless you die when you're 54, like me, you're eventually going to get old and get cataracts. Because life sucks that way, in case you hadn't noticed.

The scoop on cataract surgery is thus: if you have to have surgery, pick this one. It's bloodless, it's almost entirely pain-free and it makes an immediate and major improvement in your life. Like, if you have your gall bladder removed, it makes no tangible difference in your lifestyle. You aren't thinner when the anesthetic wears off. You don't hear better. Your boobs certainly aren't bigger. All that's different is you're missing some organ that you didn't use in the first place. It's like the appendix – I have no fecking idea what it does. It's just this lumpish liverish thing that has a free ride in your abdominal cavity, sucking on your blood like some weird internal vampire, until one day it decides it's going to piss you off and hurt like the raging buttocks of Hell. Then you get it chopped out and life continues with no difference except a big fecking scar and the end of the bikini as you knew it.

I had my appendix and gall bladder out at the same time. A two for one deal. The doc promised me I would have an itty-bitty scar. When he took off the band-aid aprés surgery I had a fecking scar from boobs to bellybutton.

Cataract surgery isn't like that. Not nowadays. When my parents had theirs done a few years ago the doctor cut into the whites of their eyes and left big nasty stitches. They don't do that now. With teeny tiny knives they cut into the pupil, I think, and then chop up your lens while it's still inside your eyeball. I know, it sounds gross, but you don't feel a thing. You're all hopped up on drugs and all you can see is pretty lights. It's so psychedelic, man. Like you've just done heroin. Or maybe you have done heroin – who knows what they're shooting into your IV when you're not looking?

Once the lens is chopped up like eyeball sushi they suction it out with a teeny tiny vacuum cleaner. I think my doctor used a Hoover Windtunnel. The reason they do it that way is so they don't have to make a big cut in your eyeball. I know, brilliant, right?

When the old one is out, the eye-doc inserts a new lens that is folded up like a teeny-tiny umbrella. (Everything's teeny-tiny in Eyeball Land.) He pops it open using the magic umbrella button and it sproings into place. He doesn't even have to stitch it. It just sticks there. I don't know how – pressure, I guess. Like shower curtain rods. Or maybe Krazy Glue.

And that's it. End of operation. He sticks a clear plastic pirate shield over your eye and sends you home with a month's supply of eye drops and a pleasant leftover drug buzz that makes you sleepy, happy and dopy.

I was worried about it, I was. Because I am a big poulet. But it was no big deal. I arrived at the hospital, filled out some forms and then the nurses came and inserted an IV and drenched my eyeball with a bathtub load of drops. Some of them froze my eyeball (the drops, not the nurses), some of 'em dilated my pupil, some of them were somebody's used bathwater. Then the eye-doc wrote some graffiti on my eye with a magic marker. He was quite precise about it – said he was measuring stuff. I thought, gee, all this high-tech teeny-tiny stuff and he's writing on my eyeball with a magic marker.

A different nurse gave me one of those gobsmack ugly blue hospital hats to wear and still another one put more freezing drops in my eyes. I was worried she didn't give me enough so I grabbed her arm and hissed, "I NEED MORE." So she gave me more. Because she was afraid.

Then they wheeled me into the operating room and the anesthesiologist asked me how high I'd like to be.

"Gimme everything you got," I said.

He gave me a nice dose of IV bubbly and I was feeling like that time when I had too much rye and was laying flat on my back in an open field watching the stars spin, but then they started duct taping my forehead to the bed and propping open my eyeball with some prop-open-THING and that's when I got scared and yelled, "IT'S NOT ENOUGH."

I remember the anesthesiologist and the rest of the surgical team discussing the matter ... "she had the proper dose".... "I don't know if she really needs more or if she's just a big poulet ..." Then that's all I remember, except for the pretty lights. I think they probably gave me more because, when I had a bath the next day there was this electrocardiac sticky-thing on my back next to my ass and I don't remember anybody being that close to my ass. Despite repeated showers and baths the black mark from that sticky-thing remained. I finally had to scrub my skin raw to remove it. Since I'm having the other eyeball done tomorrow morning I didn't want the nurses to see the dirt from the sticky thing still there... they would think I'm a dirty pig.

The lights... I can't tell you enough about the lights. You do not see any of the eye-doc's tools coming toward you. For some reason, you don't see a bloody thing. Just these lights. Have you seen any of the Austin Powers movies? You know how each break in the action is marked by psychedelic backgrounds for Austin's bimbo dance moves? That's what it looks like and it's grooooovy, baby.

For a few hours after the surgery I couldn't see anything at all out of the new eyeball. Gradually my eyesight returned and I was stunned, absolutely stunned, by the clarity of my vision. The colours were off – the first couple of post-op days everything was red, like looking through cranberry glass. The next couple of days things were yellow. Two weeks later and the colours are normal but incredibly VIVID.
When you have cataracts you don't realize how badly you see things. It's like looking through a steamy window and all the colours of everything are pastel versions of themselves. When the old lens is gone the world is a bright and beautiful place.

The morning after my surgery I went outside and started bawling like a baby when the sheer breathtaking beauty of my part of the world hit me upside the head with a resounding slap. Mist was rising off the river, coating nearby trees with a sparkling patina of ice. Everything was so clear, so crystal-fecking-clear that I was dazed. I thought, how can anyone who can see this BEAUTY not want to live in this gorgeous, gorgeous world?

But I digress.

I wanted to tell you how my vision is. Well, here's the scoop: I used to be nearsighted in both eyes. Now I'm not nearsighted in the left. I can see things in the distance with stunning clarity. Only I can't see anything close up. Like my computer screen? Can't fecking see it with the new lens. Will need pop bottle bottom reading glasses to be able to see anything close up. In the meantime I am using Dave's old reading glasses, which are not my prescription but they're better than nothing, right? As for my right eye, for now it's still clouded with a cataract and it's nearsighted but is good with close-up. Dave's glasses make my right eye downright crazy. Like Steve  Buscemi as Crazy-Eyes in Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds movie.

So, to summarize, I've got nearsighted and farsighted, cataract and non-cataract, all going on at the same time. It's all going to be fine, though. Tomorrow I get the other cataract removed and then in six weeks, when everything's healed up, I'll go to the optometrist and get fitted for new glasses. In the meantime, I'll get some reading glasses from the drug store to get me through the next month or so at work.

Oh, and I've figured out why I had the stupid cataracts so early in my life. I've been taking Solumedrol, a type of steroid, every two months for several years to combat my Crohn's disease. Apparently steroids speed cataract growth. That's the thing about drugs – they help you but they never come without risk. My son asked me today about medication for acne. I told him to wash his face more often before thinking about medication because you never know how it might affect you in the future. Besides, he's only got a few zits. Nothing a bit of soap can't handle.

(C'mere, baby, I'll pop 'em for ya. Nothing Mama likes better than popping a few juicy zits.)


Just a quick shout-out to some folks who have been having a rough go of it lately. To Mark and his family, and to Tammy and Richard and theirs, I send all my love, hugs and wishes. You are in my thoughts, my dearest, dearest friends.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taking pictures in my underwear

You know you live in the boonies when you can go out the front door in your underwear and take a photo. Of the scenery, not your underwear.

The view from my window was particularly pretty this morning so I tried to take a picture from the warm place where I sat then realized my winter-windows are too filthy for that exercise. So I threw a coat on and some boots and wandered bare-legged into the front yard.

The sky was sun-peached and rosy behind the snow-laden trees and the river was as ink black and ice cold as a murderer's soul. A gorgeous morning. The kind of morning you feel so good just to be alive and breathing.

Oh. That reminds me. Somebody online posted a link for a quiz where you can determine how long you're likely to live. I pounced on it, all excited because I quit smoking years ago, I've just lost 58 pounds, I exercise daily – I figured I'd be told I'd live until I was 90.


Apparently I'm going to croak in three years.

I tried not to let this get to me (stupid internet quiz) but I felt the cold finger of death touch my bleating heart. That was two weeks ago and ever since all I can think of is three years.... three years... I wish I could remember whose blog I found this stupid test on so I could share the link and you could try it and be as depressed as me. But I can't remember. Maybe it's a sign of my upcoming demise. I tell you one thing: if I'm going to die in three years you can bet I'll be eating, smoking and drinking every damned thing that isn't nailed down. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Ya think?

On a completely unrelated note, we're babysitting a friend's dog – Charles is his name. He's exactly the same colour and the same size as our own dog, Misty. They're like tiny-dog bookends. Incredibly cute. Diabetes-inducing cute. I tried to take a picture of them but have you ever taken a photo of two jet black dogs in a snowbank? When I got back in the house I blew out the background completely just so you could see their wee faces dusted with snow. They weigh about seven pounds each, soaking wet.

And those flowers? They're mine. A gift from my sweetie on Valentine's Day. Aren't they gorgeous? Aren't I lucky?

All this and it's Saturday morning, the best morning of the week. It's a long weekend here in Ontario. Monday is Family Day so we have three long, lovely days with no "must dos" and no plans. No money, either, but that's beside the point. I have a light, happy heart thinking of the time ahead. I hope your weekend is equally light and equally happy :)

THIS JUST IN: I found the link for that depressing "you're gonna die in three years" quiz.
Let me know how long you've got, OK?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Not over, more than

More than a zillion dead mozzies.

"For over 30 years ... "
"Over 12 people attended ..."
It's "for MORE THAN 30 years ..." and "More than 12 people attended ..."
"Over" means on top of. It is NOT interchangeable with "more than."
It is one of my pet peeves and I see it ALL the time at my job at the newspaper. I can almost forgive seeing it used by ad reps and clients who aren't Grammar Nazis like some of us. I can even forgive rookie reporters for the faux pas.
This week the camel's back got busted right in two when I was working with a letter from David C. Onley, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Queen's representative in this province, one of the top jobs in this whole country. If anyone should know the Queen's English, it's the Lieutenant Governor, am I right?
You'd think so.
But there it was. "For over ..."
Granted, he probably didn't write the letter himself. Some office hack did it, I'm sure. Still. I expected more.
And so it was with a heavy heart and a red pen that I changed the grammar of one of the province's Biggest Cheeses.
What, I ask, would the world do without me?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alan Davidson - Letter from a Friend

Complete honesty. I'm always calling for it, so here's the honest truth: I have a bit of a crush on Alan Davidson. Oh come off it with your high horse and your even higher eyebrows – I know damned well you do, too. 

It's the hair, for starters. That thick silvery hair and beard, so manly that whenever I think of it the words to Irish Spring commercials leap to my lips: "And I like it too!" Alan's hair and beard bring Kenny Rogers to mind, pre-plastic, when he was, ahem, hot. (Fecking celebrities and their fecking plastic surgery ... give it a REST, people! Here's more complete honesty: you all look like fecking FREAKS.)

So Alan has great hair. He's also got these Paul Newman-ish baby blue eyes, you know, when Newman was still alive, not dead corpse eyes, just so we're clear.  And he's got a fez, which is uber-attractive, as all breathing heterosexual women and homosexual men will attest. Nothing like a man wearing nothing but a smile and a fez. Of all things, the object of my desire sent me a photo of His Handsome Self wearing what looks like the tablecloth from our picnic basket – he explains it all in his letter but, I gotta tell you, this may have been a tactical error, abandoning the fez. It's like Richard Simmons abandoning his silk gym shorts or Tom Selleck shaving his moustache, or worse, me shaving my legs. Still, if anyone can carry off the tablecloth look, it is Alan, the fashionista of Newfoundland.

Looks aren't everything, of course. I tell myself that all the time. When you look like me, it's the only thing that gets you through the day. And even though Al is hotter than an October day on The Rock (it was freakishly hot the day we met. I blamed the weather for my sweaty self but, looking back, it may have just been a reaction to Alan's general hotness), he's got plenty going on in that noggin of his – plenty of smarts, plenty of charm and a wicked-good sense of humour. On top of all that, he's a writer. A really, really talented writer. One of the best I know.

That's how I came across Sir Alan of Newfoundland. Through the writing. Like me, he was a regular participant in Friday Flash, an online community of writers who post flash fiction every Friday. Anyone can do it. Anyone. I hadn't written any fiction, at all, ever, when I started writing flash. It was such a stellar experience that I encourage everyone to give it a whirl. Not only did it train me as a writer, it introduced me to some of the nicest people on the web – including dear, sweet, handsome Alan Davidson. 

The first story I ever read of his remains my favourite, A Tale of Love, Misfortune and Nasty Wee Dogs. A Valentine's tale of love and yappy small dogs that was touching and funny and all the things good fiction should be. From that point on I became a fan and an avid follower of his blog, Conversations from Land's Edge. When Dave and I got married in September 2010 we decided to honeymoon in Newfoundland, partly because we'd never been there and partly because I wanted to lay eyes on the Silver Fox of the Friday Flash circuit.

We had the BEST day. Alan is just as charming in real life as he is online. He is genuinely nice, as nice as anyone I've ever met. Unfortunately for all of us who crush on the suavest man on The Rock, his heart belongs to the fair and lovely Ginny, who is also an amazing cook and makes the world's very best cheesecake. I've had it and it's true. Alan and V, as she is known, have an energetic and handsome teenaged son he calls "The Boy," and a rather lazy rescued greyhound named Jet, who leaves turds the size of station wagons in their backyard.

While I love my husband and would never cheat on him (that, too, is a complete truth), I can't help but crush on the Man in the Fez. Even if he's now the Man in a Tablecloth.

Dear Cathy,
I hope this letter sees you and your family well.
Yeah, I know. It’s been ages since I’ve written. Sadly, I owe a ton o’ letters to friends and relatives that I had promised to write over the holidays. Each year I am sucked into a chocolate and turkey induced ‘holiday vortex’ and each year it takes me longer to fight its heavy current and flounder to freedom.
From about late September (when the stores start peddling their Christmas wares) I begin to fret about the upcoming holidays. I view the season with the same trepidation as getting a filling, or hearing the snap of latex glove at my doctor’s office…or even the presentation of my wife’s famed sweet potato soup at the supper table  *shudders*.
But I digress…
We don’t get many visitors here, so it was really nice to meet you in person when you and Dave visited eastern Newfoundland as part of your honeymoon fifteen months ago. It’s crazy…the time has flown by so fast. I am convinced that our lives are best expressed in mathematical terms: our childhoods begin as simple sums, but morph into quadratic equations and then complex exponential formulae in our ‘golden years’. And don’t get me started on the topic of turning 50 this year! 
As noted, it was great to see you folks and tour you about for the day. That guy of yours is a real keeper and I wish your visit could have been longer as there’s so much more to see on this unique island. I hope you both can visit again. Bring your boys, your dog and your camping gear and stay a spell! Also, don’t forget your travel insurance and provincial health cards because the moose do tend to wander onto the highways.
I know, you’re probably saying, “Why is Alan still living on that windswept island if he finds it so isolated?” Good question, my Muskokian friend! It’s that isolation that has kept Newfoundland somewhat ‘insulated’ from the rest of North America, allowing it to maintain its unique culture and language (the islanders have mainly Irish roots with smaller numbers descended from English and Scottish immigrants). 
I suppose that my move here is really just another phase in that accelerating life journey. Life for me began in Scotland, but I was soon relocated to the west coast of Canada (Vancouver Island). As an adult I moved again to Canada’s industrial centre in Southwestern Ontario in search of work—the promised land’ as it’s often referred to by those on the coasts. Over five years ago I chose to move even farther east to ‘The Rock’…to escape that same promised land. Some have jokingly said that I may find myself traveling full-circle and end up back in Scotland. Or at least planted there after I die. Interesting thought, but I think I’ll avoid the family crypt for a few years yet.
Perhaps this moving thing is simply in my blood. My grandfather was a career army man and traveled all over the world with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. And my dad always used to say, “You’ve got to move to where the work is.” It was kind of a family motto. Then again, dad also used to say, “Run up to the store and get me a pack of smokes” and my personal favourite, “If your pipes are leaky, have them seen to.” 
The old man stayed true to his motto and often worked in remote locations of British Columbia. It was probably for better money…or perhaps it was simply to escape the five screaming kids at home. We Davidsons must have gypsy lineage or perhaps a nomadic streak in our background to account for this constant desire to move—this state of flux. I’ve given this plenty of thought and have decided to put away my fez for a while in place of a new head covering that better reflects this family past (see enclosed photo of Jan. 22/12). I know…a lot of people love me in that fez, but I think my new look is less Peter Lorre-esque and more Omar Sharif-ish. So please…don’t send me any hate mail.
I know that I have enclosed two photos, but please post only the one with me clothed…I may want to run for political office one day.
In closing, I must thank you for throwing me a rope and helping to extricate me from that holiday vortex. For prompting me to write something…anything. Because really, my writing of late has been restricted to grocery lists and work memos hastily jotted on sticky note paper. I’m not prepared to say that I’m now walking tall in the world of writers, but at least this Letter to a Friend is a step in the right direction.
Best Wishes,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Debi Davis – Letter from a Friend

I have rowdy cousins. And there are, like, a zilllion of them. Breeders, we are. Rabbits. There are so many of us that we would have to rent a hockey arena for a family reunion.

The  title of rowdiest and rabbitiest cousins must go to the five Gough sisters. They are brilliant and gorgeous and outspoken, and yappy as summer days are long. They are like a flock of exotic, garrulous birds and I have admired and envied them my entire life. I'm sure they must be as dysfunctional as the rest of us, but what they do have is a sorority sisterhood of genuine and unbridled affection that makes mere mortals feel lucky to be in their presence. Like beautiful, confident women everywhere, they glow.

Debi is the oldest of the Gough sisters and she lives just up the road from me. She is whip-smart with a cracking-sharp sense of humour, a fervoured commitment to her family and her community (she was named 'Woman of the Year' a while back) and, I dunno, a deep-seated connection to her roots. I look at Debi and I see our beautiful mothers, Dorothy and my Auntie Ellen; I see our grandmother Hazel, and I even see Great Grandma Pratt. Our faces are cast from the same mold. I see her, and I see me. I see the women who came before us, and I see the faces of our children.

Honestly, though, it's a damned wonder we can see anything. Apparently we're all as blind as fecking bats.

Hello Cuz

We are all enjoying your letters from friends. Here's my addition to the project.

The cataract problems we have must be from our forefathers; you, Karen, Mom, Dot, Uncle Chaz and me; that's proof that either the Hooper or Pratt lineage is tainted. (Editor's Note: I always suspected it.)

I remember the first time my optometrist said, "You have cataracts growing in both eyes, and we'll have to watch them." 

I said, "Are you kidding me? I'm only 42!" 

"This is not uncommon" he said gently, "you probably won't need to worry until you're 60 or so." That sounded better and I forgot about it, really.

Then came the bungee cord incident.

You may or may not know, Cath, that we sisters, our daughters and our friends have been attending curling bonspiels for almost 30 years. We go to Minden and Acton (known locally as the armpit of the world), usually in March, and we take two or three teams. (It's a girl fest, really.)

Anyway, 5 or 6 years ago, we were going to Acton (because it's "worth the drive to Acton"). I had been asked to take a friend of a friend (never met the girl before and I have trouble remembering her name) and drop her off at the airport in Toronto along the way. No problem said I, we love to have company.

So I picked her up – let's call her Cindy – and we headed south. First stop was Barrie to pick up sister Jackie, then we would pick up friend Jane at the kiss and ride parking lot at Hwy 9 before we dropped Cindy at Pearson then on to Acton. (Whew, that's the set-up.)

So Cindy and I landed at Jackie's house in my beautiful white pickup truck. Cindy sat in the truck while Jackie and I started to load her things into the back. I had a huge Rubbermaid box in the back to keep things from flying out. It had two bungee cords holding it closed. You guessed it – when I attempted to remove the cords, one of them flew out of control and whacked me with the metal curved thingy across the nose, narrowly missing my eyes!

I was bleeding like a stuck pig, Cindy was totally unaware and Jackie was in the house getting more stuff to load. I held my hands to my face and ran into the house and held my face over the kitchen sink as the blood poured out. "What the F---?" said Jack. Then she handed me a towel full of ice and I clamped it over the wound.

So we loaded into the truck in front of an astonished Cindy and Jackie headed for the nearby Urgent Care Clinic. My right eye seemed fine but we had no idea if I had hit my left eye, we were afraid to look.

As we backed out of the driveway I had a glimpse of the street ahead. Jackie was watching over her shoulder. Good thing, because 4 or 5 doors down I saw a cat get hit by a car! 

"Don't look Jack, just drive." I said to Jackie the cat lover. 

"What the F----?" and the tears rain down her cheeks but on she drove. Cindy remained silent and aghast. Meanwhile Jane was waiting for us at Hwy 9 and the 400.

When we got to the Urgent Care Centre, I was triaged and asked to wait. Jackie called Jane who said "I'm on my way." The blood flow seemed to be stopped and the ice appeared to be slowing the swelling.

The handsome young doctor took one look at me and said, "You're lucky you did not lose an eye." Well no sh-- Sherlock. He did not even need to stitch the gash on the bridge of my nose. He gave me a band aid and a speech about the dangers of bungee cords and I headed for the lobby full of Jackie, the newly arrived Jane and poor unknown Cindy. Undaunted and not willing give up anymore time we headed to Pearson, Jane driving because we went back to Jackie's and switched my truck for Jane's Yukon.

I spent the weekend as the official drink handler and took many jibes about my raccoon eyes and "you're lucky you didn't lose an eye." We did not tell any husbands till we went home Sunday afternoon. As usual a good time was had by all.

That's a long way around to the cataract story but, you see, my left cataract became a rapidly growing one and had to be replaced last spring. Funny, when the optometrist and the ophthalmologist asked me if I had ever been hit in that eye, I totally forgot the bungee cord incident, until about 2 days after the surgery.

There is no moral to my story, just a recommendation: let the men use bungee cords.

Yours truly,

Cuzin Debi,

Hooterville ON

P.S. – love to that hunka hunka burnin' luv.