Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Don't you just LOVE a cat in uniform?

O CANADA! That's how I felt when I was painting this handsome feline. Is he a hunk of burning cat love or what? I've always been a sucker for a man in uniform (I mean, who isn't?) but I have a special appreciation for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when they're in full dress uniform. All that pressed red serge ... and brass ... and, sigh ... (excuse me while I have a cold shower).

I love this painting a lot (it's my favourite so far) and hope to do a few more animals wearing the world famous Mountie uniform. Maybe a moose? Or a bear? Can't wait to get started.

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine (Mr. Harry Sanderford) suggested I call this dashing dude "Cuddly Do-Right." I think the name fits ... what do you think?

By the way, I sincerely hope everyone had a terrific holiday. Mine was ... different! But OK! Glad to get back to normal – whatever the feck normal is. (Let me know if you have a clue.)

8"x10" original acrylic painting on stretched, gessoed canvas, varnished. Sides are painted black so no framing is needed. For more information visit my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/216694736/cat-in-mountie-uniform-original-acrylic?ref=shop_home_active_1

Item is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission from me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kiosk at Sunrise

Did another painting today, which makes me extremely happy. I have been really busy the last week or so doing paintings for Christmas presents and the very last one I did, for a very dear friend, turned out GROSS.

I was so disappointed that I stayed away from the brush for a while.

Finally I told her, "I did a painting for you and it really sucks," and I felt so much better afterwards that I started painting again.

The moral of the story? If something sucks, admit it! Shout it from the fecking rooftops! You'll feel EVER so much happier!

This painting, by the way, was inspired by a photo I took a couple years ago at Kiosk, at sunrise, in the northern part of Algonquin Park. We used to go there every spring and every fall for fishing trips. It's a gorgeous place, desolate and wildly beautiful, and I miss it like crazy. (It's available for purchase at my Etsy shop.)

By the way, I can't show you the sucky one because apparently my friend still wants to receive its suckiness for Christmas. So it has to be a SURPRISE SUCK, if you get my drift.

Geez that sounded bad ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My fabulous new career as an AR-TEESTE

If we're friends on Facebook (and if we're not, what is UP with that?), you know I've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger. I haven't been writing, or blogging much, that is TRUE, but I have regressed to my second childhood and have been painting like a madwoman.

No, not the basement. (I painted that last month.) Actual paintings. Like, art, dude. Like, I'm an ar-TEESTE now, a Group of Sevenish legend in my own mind.

Yesterday I cracked off two paintings. Two. I am feverish about my new thang.

FB friends have been asking, "Wassup with you? Did you always paint?" And stuff like that. So I figured I should blog about it, not only to answer their questions, but also because I'M SO EXCITED I CAN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

I know. I'm obnoxious. Apologies all round. Go watch Ellen or something if offended. She's probably dancing, which is not obnoxious at all. <<< I LIED JUST THERE, btw.

So NO, I have not always painted. But I have always drawn, coloured, sketched and occasionally painted. Art was my favourite subject in high school. I had a brief fling with folk art in the '80s. I painted a billboard and a few backdrops for an environmental fair I was involved with. Mostly, though, I remember, with great fondness, the hours upon hours I spent with my cousin, Kelly, sitting at the kitchen table at our summer cottage, making our own comic books. We drew them and wrote them and coloured them and yakked and giggled and had the best time. Kelly grew up to be a social worker/psychologist with the Canadian military. In short, she was a very smart, very successful professional. But she never gave up her art. When she retired from the army, she became a full-time artist and has had many successful shows, including some in foreign countries. (You can see her amazing artwork on her website.)

Me, I went to journalism school because my life goal was being a reporter. Writing was serious business; art was something I did for fun. After 20-some years as a writer and an editor, I turned to the graphic design aspect of newspapers and rediscovered joy in the act of creating something pretty. After several years of graphics, I discovered I missed writing, and so started blogging. Blogging led to writing Friday Flash and Friday Flash led to writing a novel, and for a while I was hot and heavy into that world.

After my novel came out, and my collection of short stories, I lost interest in writing. I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of my writing career and, try as I might, and I did try, beginning and not finishing several projects, I just couldn't rekindle my interest. For a while I got really down on myself. I couldn't get a newspaper job anymore, because those just don't exist. (Graphic work is mostly one in India these days.) And I'm too old and fat and decrepit to be a reporter. You have to have good legs to be a reporter and my knees are toast. I literally cannot go shopping without being in severe pain.

My short term memory is also toast. I've been taking anti-depressants for many years and they've been playing havoc with my brain. I seriously can't remember stuff anymore. I mean, for the most part, I function OK, but sometimes I absolutely have no memory of things happening. None. It's like it never happened, and that's scary. For a while I thought I had early onset Alzheimer's, but am now sure it's the anti-depressant. I tried switching to a different pill and I had a terrible crash. Was not a good idea. From being on and off meds over the years, I now know I will be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. That's OK with me, and I'd rather have a poor memory than be suicidal.

Anyway, sorry this is depressing! (Go watch Ellen!) As you can see, I am basically unemployable. I can't remember stuff. I can't stand on my feet all day. I'm fat and I'm old and I'm wrinkled. Nobody wants to hire someone like me. No, you don't have to reassure me, it's just the simple truth. And, gawd, don't tell me to diet. I lose weight, I gain it back and then some, I lose, and gain... bah. Talk about disheartening...

Dave works really hard to pay the bills and for a while now I've been wondering how I can contribute. Just recently it came to me. After we painted the basement apartment white, I yearned for some kind of artwork. It was just so stark. But I couldn't afford to buy art, of course, even cheap stuff, and so I thought I would paint something. Besides, I had been thinking of painting a picture of our cat, singing, for some time. Every night I would lay in bed thinking about painting Ben, the kitty we had to put down this summer because of cancer. The urge to paint was getting stronger.

Finally, I went to our cupboard and pulled out all my paint supplies. I had them for years, and never really did anything with them. (I started one painting and never finished it. My son Sam liked it, though, and now this half-finished painting hangs in his hallway, which is adorable.)

I had taken a photo of the Canadian prairies a year ago, because I thought it would make a good painting (I always see this in photos, but never act on it). And because I never do anything by half, I painted TWO canvases, to be hung together, as one. I painted them in a day (above). My paintbrush FLEW. For a few happy hours, I disappeared into the work. When I was done, I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

A couple of days later, I painted the cat (below).

The next day I painted something else. And then something else after that. Pretty soon I was painting every single day. And then it occurred to me: maybe I should do this as a business. I opened a shop on Etsy.com, and began posting my work on Facebook. It wasn't long before I had sold my first painting (below) to my dear writing friend Lou Freshwater, who I love beyond belief. And, since then, I have sold four more. That is not bad considering I've only been doing this for about a month.

Right now I am busy amassing a "body of work" for my Etsy shop and for farmers markets in the spring. I'm also painting a number of Christmas presents. But mostly? I am busy having FUN. Painting is so much more joyful than writing, which for me is done all by myself, in a closed room, with no music and no distractions. It's work, pure and simple. When I paint, I listen to the radio, or music, or I have the Food Network blathering in the background. I talk to friends on the telephone. I drink coffee. I take breaks and go do housework. I am energized, I am happy and I feel like I am contributing to our income.

I'm not pretending to be a Great Artist. In fact, I describe my style as Hokey Folky. Basically, I'm hoping that the bright colours might put a smile on someone's face, and if I can do that, and make a couple bucks in the process, well that puts a smile on my face, too.

Oh, by the way. That little cow? In the corner of every painting? That's my signature. Because my initials – unfortunately – spell COW.

If you feel like visiting my Etsy shop, I'd appreciate it if you could "Favourite" it. It's kinda like Facebook, in that the more people who like it, the better exposure the site gives you. The link to my shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/ColdLakeCathy?ref=hdr

By the way, I'm not the only blogger with shops on Etsy. Joanne Noragon, better known as Cup on the Bus has her shop here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/JoanneNoragonWeaver?ref=pr_faveshops Joanne is a long-time weaver. She recently sent me some dish towels, which I LOVE and use every single day. (Thanks Joanne!)

Writer/blogger Icy Sedgwick sells some beautiful jewellery in her shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/IcyHandmade?ref=pr_faveshops

Writer/blogger Scotti Cohn also does some terrific jewellery in her shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/JewelryByScotti?ref=pr_faveshops

And my niece, Jennifer Baldwin, isn't a writer, but she does have a brand new Etsy shop. Jen makes wonderful "arm woven" scarves. She made me one recently and I wear it all the time! (Thanks Jen!) You can buy her work here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/jenniferknitcrafts?ref=pr_faveshops

If you have an Etsy shop, please list it in the comments so I can come visit!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

World's Biggest Things #3

Polar bears are the "thing" in Cochrane, Ontario, but I'm thinking a giant cup of coffee might be more in order. (Two sugars, one cream, please.)

Tim Horton: yes,
he was an actual guy
but he's dead now.
Tim Horton was born in Cochrane. YES. THEE TIM HORTON. The guy who founded the Canadian coffee empire. And, oh yeah, he played some hockey too. Frankly, I would expect a ginormous cup of Tim's at the entrance to town but instead there is Chimo, a plus-sized chub cub. Dave and I stopped by for a photo op on our way across the country last summer. As you can see from Dave's hair, we had basically just woken up after sleeping in our Jeep. (We did that. Because we are bums.)

Cochrane is in northeastern Ontario, east of Kapukasing and north of Iroquois Falls. Basically, when you get to Cochrane, you're putting the "up" in north. When you're travelling across Ontario, you have to go north for a long time before you start heading west, and if you're taking Highway 11, that turning point is here in polar bear land. 

Not that you see any polar bears roaming around. It's not THAT far north. But it is the southern terminus for the famous Polar Bear Express, the train that takes people across Ontario's real north to Moosonee on James Bay. As far as I know, there are no roads to Moosonee and, as well as being an important transportation link, the Express brings many tourists who want to see what life is really like in the far north. The trip can take anywhere between five and six hours. That's just crazy talk.

There are some polar bears in Cochrane, however. The town is home to Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat, the only captive bear facility in the world devoted to polar bears. They do research and stuff and apparently are all about raising awareness about climate change and how that negatively impacts these beauteous bears. If you'd like to know more, here's the LINK.

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P.S. I'm pretending I have not disappeared from blogland. Shhhhhh....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

World's Biggest Things #2

Did you know Winnie-the-Pooh was a real bear? Did you also know that he was a Canadian bear who was born in the woods near White River, Ontario?

"Pooh" was actually a black bear cub who was captured by a trapper in 1914 and sold to a soldier from Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Lieutenant Harry Colebourn of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps paid $20 for the bear and promptly fell in love with the little black bundle of fur. Other soldiers loved him, too but, as he got bigger, "Winnie" (named after Lt. Colebourn's hometown) started knocking down tents and causing other mischief. Reluctantly the soldier gave Winnie to the London Zoo for safekeeping.

Author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher were regular visitors at the zoo and they were so fond of Winnie that he became the subject of one of the world's most beloved children's books. (You can read more of that story on the town of White River's website.)

In 1992 a statue of Winnie-the-Pooh was unveiled at a park at the side of Highway 17 and has been a must-stop for kids of all ages as they travel the Trans Canada Highway.

We stopped in for a photo op (and a pee break) on our way to Ontario this August. In the photo, from left, is Angus, Sam, Misty and Dave.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Guess the True Statement and WIN Jessica Bell's thriller, White Lady!

Jessica Bell. I've known Jessica for so long I can't quite remember HOW I know her. I'm pretty sure it's through the writing I did with #FridayFlash, when I was first dazzled by her prose. Since then I've also become dazzled by her dedication to writing, and to a book she released last year called Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle. LOVED this book and, if the idea of self-publishing has ever even crossed your mind, it's a must-read.

Unlike some people who are happy with two books (me?), Jessica has a whole raft of work for sale – two PAGES of book listings on Amazon! (I'm really impressed, I really am and yeah, kinda jealous, too!)

To celebrate the release of Jessica’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

Jessica Bell’s favourite book of all time is ...
a. Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
b. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
c. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.

*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.
Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

Friday, October 3, 2014

World's Biggest Things #1

People 'round here are obsessed with giant "things."

A couple miles down the road from me, in Vilna, Alberta, is THE WORLD'S LARGEST MUSHROOM. Last summer I made Sam pose with it. He was, like, "Do I haaaaaaave to?" and I can't blame him for whining because the mushroom was kind of lame. I mean, I haven't seen a bigger mushroom, but it wasn't bigger than a house or anything. At the most, maybe it was bigger than an SUV, but, like, a small SUV, not a Buick Escalade.

Down the road a bit further is THE WORLD'S LARGEST PYROGY. I haven't seen it yet, however. It is six kilometres off the highway and apparently six kilometres is like a trek across the Andes because I can never talk Dave into going to see the fecking thing. It's on my bucket list, though. Giant pyrogies. Mmmm. I wonder if there's a giant vat of sour cream to go with? And is there a giant fork? If not, you'd need giant fingers to manhandle that thing into my giant mouth.

Fellow Canucks will doubtless remember the Corner Gas episode in which the people of Dog River decide to build a giant "thing" to attract tourists. Their vision is to create a giant farm implement to represent prairie agriculture, and one naive resident (I think she's the mayor's grandma) suggests a hoe, but not a new hoe, a well-used one, one with dirt on it and maybe a crack from all the use it has received.

Yep. A giant hoe. A giant cracked hoe, with dirt on it.


One of the coolest things I noticed when we were moving halfway across the great country of Canada, was the overwhelmingly sheer number of small towns with giant "things." They were everywhere. Giant fish. Giant moose. Giant bugs. You name it, it was there.

This summer Dave and I drove the boys back to Ontario (after an awesome couple of months together) and, on our way home, we vowed to stop and take a picture of every giant "thing" we came across. And, lucky you, I plan on sharing all my "things" here on this misbegotten and forgotten blog!

Today's giant "thing" is, indeed, a thing. A Volkswagen Beetle turned into some kind of weird spider/bug/thing wearing a top hat. Because, you know, all giant bugs want to wear top hats. It's in front of an automotive shop outside of Kenora, Ontario.

And, oh yeah, that's my honey-bun dancing in front of the giant bug. (As you do.)

He was NOT dancing after the 534th giant thing we came across. (Whining, yes, dancing, not so much.)

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Red hot and coming soon!

Great news! My author pal, and one of Canada's best writing talents, has a new book coming out just in time for Christmas!

Wait. Didn't I sound like a TV infomercial just now? Hell yeah! I can't help myself – I'm THAT excited about Kevin Craig's new book, Burn Baby Burn Baby. It doesn't come out until December 11, 2014 (that's this year for those of you, like me, who have no fecking idea what year it is because everything since 1973 has been a complete blur), but I get to show you the cover TODAY. (Why? Because I'm special, that's why.)

And without further adieu, here it is:

Hot stuff, eh? I told ya! And if the book inside that luscious cover is anything like Kevin's other books, it'll be sizzling. Here's the deets:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

I seriously can't wait. I liked Kevin Craig the minute I met him at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, but I became a huge fan of Kevin's when I devoured The Reasons. While it was written for a young adult audience, the story was so mature, so engrossing and deep and insightful, that I couldn't put it down. I'm hoping for an equally thrilling ride with Burn Baby Burn Baby. Knowing Kevin, I won't be disappointed.

You can pre-order Burn Baby Burn Baby on Amazon HERE.

Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin Craig

Genre: contemporary, young-adult  Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

About The Author:
Kevin Craig is the author of three previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He is a four-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally. Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.

Find Kevin Craig Online:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Feck You and the Horse You Rode In On

Do you ever have one of those days where you hate EVERYONE?

Where every single person on the face of this earth has found your last nerve and is chewing on its ragged end?

Where people who you think are friends let you down?

Or worse, tear you down?

Where normally you can take it, you can, but not on this day, not today, because everything and everyone just pisses the ever-loving crap out of you?

I just want to say a general FECK YOU to everybody who has crawled under my skin today (and yesterday) and farted. No, not farted, SHARTED, that awful, wet, smelly cross between hot air and the other stuff.

What's crawled up my ass, you may well ask? Oh it's too fecking boring to go into. I'm not being passive aggressive or trying to stir up some drama or anything, I'm just venting.

No, I'm not mad at Dave. No, I'm not mad at Mom, or my sister, or my neighbour. IT'S NOT YOU, you're good, honest.

At least for now.

Gimme a moment, though ...

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Chains That Bind

You're all my friends, so you know this, but in the winter of 2005 my life changed irrevocably. I went from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to a criminal in one fell swoop. Me and the ex had the biggest fight of our lives after he was caught cheating and, in my anger and pain, I swatted him with a Dr. Seuss book.

Green Eggs & Ham. Naturally. If you're gonna swat someone with kid-lit, it might as well be the best.

I called the cops to have him removed from the house, but instead of asking him to leave, they arrested me for assault. When I freaked out, one of cops stuck his hand over my mouth to shut me up, and I bit one officer's gloved finger.

Without further adieu, I was handcuffed, charged with assault police and escorted to jail for the night.

Yada, yada, yada. I apologize if you've heard this a million times before.

No big deal, right? I mean, people spend nights in jail all the time. People on TV crime dramas don't think twice about it. But not "people like me." I was the epitome of Betty Crocker. June Cleaver. Mary Fecking Sunshine. I was a do-gooder, an environmentalist, a politically active world-beater. And I truly used to believe cops were my friends.

Basically I was a naive asshole who didn't know shite from shinola. Or a can from canola. (Substitute any grain or gluten-free product you prefer here.)

Since that time I have carried the weight of a criminal record. You'd be surprised how this affects you. On top of the morbid embarrassment of it all, you can't get a passport. You can't travel out of the country. You can't volunteer at a school or anywhere else that demands a clean record. You can't get life insurance. You can't be bonded or be hired for certain jobs. In short, if you can possibly avoid biting a cop's thumb and smacking your ex, I would highly recommend said avoidance.

Years passed. Life carried on and, in fact, improved. Everything has come up roses for me in just about every way. My marriage break-up was probably the best thing that could have happened. Still, the record lingered, reminding me every once in a while with a sadistic kick in the gut that "you're not normal, you're an outcast, you're a criminal."

This spring I finally decided to find out if my record still held, because honestly I wasn't sure how many years had to pass before the record was expunged. So I gathered up my courage and went to the local cop shop to get fingerprinted. I have to tell you, it was a really traumatic moment. My experience with police made me terrified of them. I don't like them. I don't trust them. When I see events like the killing of Mike Brown I have no doubt the cop was a vicious, racist killer.

That night I reached out for help when I needed it most and instead of helping, or showing any kind of sensitivity, they arrested me for swatting my ex with a book. I mean, seriously? The whole night could have gone so much differently if they had any brains in their heads. But I digress ... just trust me when I say I was shaking in my boots and filling my drawers with stinky stuff when I went to get fingerprinted that day.

I mailed the prints and a form off to Ottawa, to RCMP headquarters, and waited for them to do a criminal record check. I waited. And waited.

And waited some more.

And then got tired of waiting and almost forgot about it.

Last week I finally heard back. A letter from the RCMP was in my mailbox, addressed to me. I opened it with shaking hands and held my breath as I scanned the piece of paper for the verdict:

I can barely describe how awesome I feel. How nine years of pain has been washed away.

I am finally free.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Ben-Ben

To me, a house wasn't a home without a cat. Dave, he was more of a dog person. Didn't really see the value in a feline companion but, after we'd been living together for a few months, because he loved me, he announced that we would go to a local animal shelter and pick out a kitty cat.

There were a lot of cats that autumn day at the All Heart animal shelter near Powassan, Ontario. All kinds of cute kittens. Even more full grown cats, some of them handsome, some of them pretty, all of them sad behind the walls of their kennels. I had my eye on a grey tabby but Dave was interested in a skinny white short-haired male with the most unusual blue eyes. The nice lady at the shelter scooped him out of his cage and carried him over to Dave. Ben, as she called him, had all four legs stuck straight out in front of him, stiff as a board. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen. She plopped him in Dave's arms and Ben instantaneously shed what amounted to another whole cat of wiry white hair on Dave's shirt.

Then he meowed. The most awkward meow I'd ever heard. Like he just got his tail stuck in a car door.

The shelter lady laughed. "Ben's a talker," she said.

A talker. I'd never heard that expression before. "Oh yeah," she said, "he talks all the time. Sings, too. Cutest thing ever."

Dave and I, never having had a "talker" cat before, thought that was cute as well. It wasn't so cute a couple nights later, when Ben was howling mournfully at the top of his cat lungs at four o'clock in the morning. He did this every night. Night after cursed night. Dave and I walked around with raccoon eyes. I thought we were going to die from lack of sleep. It was worse than having a newborn baby because at least the baby didn't shed. Dave resorted to filling a squirt bottle with water and chasing the cat around the house in his underwear (Dave, not the cat), squirting him until he stopped yowling. He did this for weeks before Ben got the message. Dave running around in his gotchies in the middle of the night chasing a howling cat became my norm. It got to the point where I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

One night, during the underwear-squirt festivities, Ben jumped on our bed and scrambled across it at lightning speed, Dave in hot pursuit. Before I could even close my mouth, mid-snore, Ben's leg was down my throat, right up to his giblets. He was gone again before I could even choke, but the feel of that kitty litter encrusted back leg thrust deep past my tonsils scarred me for life.

If someone ever tells me a cat is a "talker," I will avoid that cat like the proverbial plague. I know now it is code for "you will never sleep again."

Eventually Ben figured out that he could sing his opera at bedtime without being chased. We'd go to bed, the house would quiet, and our prima donna would start the first strains of his aria, first a quiet few meows in a simple tenor, then growing in volume, a mezzo-soprano at his peak, then dipping low, low into the baritone of his soul, growling out his feelings in an emotional crescendo, then, finally, finishing with a breathless credenza, and then one long held note, then quiet. Sometimes we would applaud. Sometimes we'd just giggle. I always wanted to paint a picture of Ben with an opera stage as the background. I never got around to it, but I will, some day, when I'm not so sad.

Back at the shelter, I wasn't impressed with Ben. Dave was positively covered in white hair and Ben was staring at me with the most bizarre expression. He looked kind of like a cross-eyed barn owl. I kept thinking about the grey tabby, or maybe the orange kitten.

The lady told us Ben had terrible teeth. "The worst our vet has ever seen. Some are broken right off. We figure he was given bones to chew on."

Ben, she told us, was raised in an ice hut with three large dogs and an alcoholic. When the hut burned down, the man – now truly homeless – brought his animals to the shelter. Which was a good thing, of course. I don't have any idea what happened to the man, but Ben was well fed and well looked after at the shelter. He was neutered and referred to a veterinary dental surgeon to have his teeth fixed.

Dave handed him over to me as the shelter lady told us his story. Ben looked up at me with his weird blue eyes and something loosened in my heart. "We'll take this one," I said. Ben seemingly understood what I said because he dropped a load of white hair in my lap, enough for people to confuse me with the abominable snowman.

We brought him home and immediately regretted it.

Ben was the biggest asshole we had ever met.

He scratched EVERYTHING. Our furniture. Our drywall. Dave's workboots. We bought every scratching post known to man, and still he scratched shit. Between him keeping us up all night and him wrecking our furniture, me and Dave almost got a divorce – and we weren't even married yet!

Worse, even though eight-year-old Ben was fixed, he still carried on like a stud. Every time we turned around he was humping our afghans, especially the ones Dave's Aunt Edna had made. Oh, he loved Aunt Edna's blanket, humping it every chance he got. "It's his girlfriend," our son Sam said. I began hiding Ben's girlfriends in the closet.

I'd never, ever had a cat de-clawed before. Never had a need. Always thought it was cruel. But it was declaw him or take him back to the shelter. So we had him declawed. At the same time we had his teeth fixed. He came back from the vet with sore paws and this dopey, toothless grin. With his silly crossed eyes and his droopy lip, he looked like a stroke victim.

For years, absolute YEARS, we regretted inviting Ben into our lives. We told everyone he was the biggest asshat of a cat in the world. But somehow, somewhere along the line, we began to get accustomed to his crooked face.

He was fearless, for one. Before we had him declawed and turned him into an indoor cat, he used to fight the neighbourhood bully cats who grew feral in the barn next door. One day we watched out the window as Ben stalked a raven that was three times as big as he was. When we moved across the country, our other cat cried and shit himself and thought he was dying, every single day, but Ben rode on the console between me and Sam, looking out the window and enjoying the scenery. When we lived in a log cabin, he got up every morning with Dave and "helped" him light the woodstove. When we moved to Alberta, he visited us in bed every night, usually when Dave was reading. He'd start at his feet and walk right up Dave's body, sniffing his mouth and licking his nose – just one lick – and then curling up on his chest behind Dave's Kindle. I always enjoyed this because Dave never liked cats, and now him and Ben-Ben, his squirt bottle nemesis, were, unexpectedly, best friends.

About a month ago, Ben started throwing up. Once a day, every day. I changed his food to a formula for seniors, but he continued to be sick. Unlike our other cat, who throws up everywhere (usually on a couch or a rug, never on a bare floor), Ben had the good manners to throw up in his litter box. Such a tidy kitty he was, in spite of the cloud of white hair that has followed him like Pigpen for all of his 16 years. We have given up worrying about it and have proudly taken Ben hair to weddings, funerals, supermarkets and every place we've ever worked.

A week ago Ben got lethargic. He laid on our bed all day and I teased him about being a lazy cat. Then he stopped eating, and he started laying on the floor. Yesterday, before I took him to the vet, he lay in our closet behind a semi-closed door.

I should have known something was wrong. He hadn't sung opera for nearly a month.

The vet told us he had cancer. Dave and I talked about it. Cried about it. And decided to have him put down. The kids came to the clinic to say good-bye, then waited in the car while Dave and I kept Ben company. I cuddled his skinny, shedding body in my arms and petted him, then the doctor took him for a few minutes to put a catheter in his thin leg. Dave and I held hands in the next room, and he squeezed my hand when we heard Ben cry out when the IV was put in.

The vet brought Ben back to us. The first needle would tranquilize him, put him to sleep, literally. The second needle in the IV would stop his heart.

My face was right in front of his as we prepared to say good-bye. I stroked his funny, sad face and told him he was the best kitty ever, and I was so glad he found us and we found him, and it was true, I had fallen in love with this asshole of a cat and tears were streaming down my face as I told him I loved him, and Dave was patting his back and, then the first needle and within a second Ben relaxed and his pupils dilated black and his head rested on the tabletop. I cried harder and stroked his head and murmured words of love, and then the second needle and the light left his eyes, and in that split-second I wanted, irrationally to hit "undo" like my computer, UNDO, UNDO, bring him back, I'm sorry, I love you Ben-Ben, and my heart broke, it just broke, with guilt and sorrow.

I know it's for the best. I know, in my head, it was the right thing to do. But my heart doesn't know that. My heart hates me, for having the power to take another creature's life. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe he could have been here longer. I try to take solace that we saved him from suffering, but I've never had to take the responsibility of euthanasia before and being the adult sucked, it just sucked so bad.

Last night Dave dug a hole in the hard-packed clay of our backyard. It was a hot day. The soil was like concrete. It took forever. I sat beside him on the lawn, sharp blades of grass itchy on my hot legs, Angus watching solemnly from the back deck. When the hole was finally deep enough (three feet), he went to the garage and came back with Ben wrapped in a green bath towel. Dave was carrying that bundle like he was carrying a newborn baby, and I could see the tears streaming down his face as he came closer to the grave. He placed Ben tenderly in the bottom of the hole, then covered him up, tamping the dirt down occasionally to help prevent settling, then covering the grave with a patio stone so neighbourhood dogs wouldn't dig him up. We decided, in the spring, we would plant a wild rose there, in his honour. Because wild roses are the provincial flower here in Alberta, and because if Ben was a flower, he would be a wild one.

Last night there was no singing in our sad house. No opera. No whiskery kisses. No crossed eyes or droopy lips. I'm sure there will be white hair here for years to come and you know what? I'm in no hurry to get rid of it.

Already I miss the singing. Already I miss the Ben.

Thanks to the wonderfully caring people at Cold Lake Veterinary Clinic for helping us through this difficult time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

There's nothing wrong with nice

Whatever happened to niceness?

To manners?

To being considerate to your fellow human beings?

I'm the first to admit I'm naive and old-fashioned, but for 53.5 years I've gotten by on the notion that you should treat others like you want to be treated, and generally speaking, I have had a peaceful, productive, happy life. I'm not all crazy about being nice 24/7, and have been known to lose my cool in less than nice ways. Not proud of it, but I'm human, and shite happens. But I do try. I want people to say of me, "Oh that Cathy, she's a pretty nice person," and if that appears on my tombstone, hey, I'll be smiling six feet under.

Lately, though, I've come in contact with internet folks who don't value "nice" the way I do. In fact, I am absolutely gobsmacked at the mean-spirited name-calling and generalizing that has pitted gender against gender, race against race, religion against religion. It just seems everywhere I turn, I see little but venom and hate.

Screaming epithets at each other is like throwing kerosene on a campfire (although, admittedly, sometimes it feels really good to spout off). Not wanting to get burned, and realizing the futility of name-calling, I would like to try to ice these ongoing battles with niceness. Again, maybe I'm naive, but it's hard to be mean to someone who is being nice to you.

Maybe that's the answer to the troubles of this world. Niceness. Saying I'm sorry when it's needed, or excuse me when you bump into someone at the grocery store.

John Lennon used to say that love is the answer, but love isn't something you can make up out of whole cloth. Being nice, on the other hand, is easier than you might think.

Perhaps we should try it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'm Crooked, I Guess

Does anyone else have this problem? It's my neckline. It's fecking CROOKED.

No matter what shirt I have on, it slides to the left, exposing my bra strap on one side and strangling me on the other.

It's not like I'm some dimestore tart who flaunts bra straps like overcoats. I prefer my straps hidden, mostly because they're as wide as planks with yellowish-grey colouration that's supposed to be white, and yet most closely resembles lace-trimmed barn-board.

I'm all HAWT, yes, that's what you're thinking.

So what the feck is WRONG with me? Do I slump? Am I shorter on the left side? Is my left boob magnetized? I mean, WTF?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The bestest kind of poetry

I just finished reading a short and infinitely sweet collection of poetry called Interrobang, written by a woman I've come to know a wee bit in the magical world of internet: Jessica Piazza.

Jessica is smarter than you, me and your bestie put together. At least she's got a ton of higher education which, in some people, isn't saying much. But Jessica has all kinds of smarts, all the smarts, actually, not to mention she's young and she's sassy and she's spirited like I used to be back when I didn't fart when I coughed, and my knees didn't howl after a trip through Walmart like the bellowing hounds of hell.

Interrobang is the sweetest kind of poetry, the blue denim kind, the real kind. The kind you'd see Springsteen writing, the slow easy kind that is rife with humanity and insights and what's going on in the deeper parts of that thing we call a soul. This isn't snooty poetry. This is fresh and easy to read; even easier to savour. I have spent the last couple nights with it, enjoying each poem like I'd let the world's best ice cream melt on my tongue, and I recommend it, highly, to anyone whose heart yearns for truth and wonder.

Monday, June 30, 2014

OMG, I have to post SOMETHING!


JUST HAD TO ... sorry, the all-caps was on and I was too lazy to undo it. See, that's my problem. LAY-ZEE. Do I want to blog? Meh... Do I want to write? Meh-meh ... Do I want to make dinner, clean the kitty truffles and cut the grass? No, wait, I mean NO, but if I don't, Dave will make me get off my lazy backside and get a job. See, if I don't blog,  no one is going to make me work. If there was a choice like that, I would be blogging my head off. Blog, blog, bloggitty blog, all day, all night.

I'm only posting today because I got a message from three bloggers who are infinitely more enthusiastic than me (which isn't saying much), asking me if my cats were plus-sized and I was attracting flies, and if my blog space was available at a discount because my pustulating corpse was stinking up the joint.

I feel like Tom Sawyer going to his own funeral. Only there isn't a funeral, because I'm not actually dead, and even if I was, nobody came and nobody made those little crustless egg salad sammiches that go so tasty with church lady coffee.

And if you tell me you don't know who Tom Sawyer is, I shall have to beat the ever-living snot out of you. Seriously. No sammiches, either. You are SO cut off.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

An amazing, must-read story - The Reasons

Just now I finished an amazing book.

It had such power that I feel like I've had the wind knocked out of me.

I can't really recall many books that have made me feel that way, and for some reason I am doubly surprised that I know the author. How can someone I know write that damned good??? Stupid thing to say, isn't it? Besides, I know many tremendous writers, but Kevin Craig, well, I've talked to him. I've shared meals with him, and I knew he was good – he's won the Muskoka Novel Marathon about a hundred billion times (four, actually) – but, shit, I had no idea he was that good.

The Reasons is a family story centred around a mother – Maggie Reason – with severe mental illness and her helpful and troubled son, Tobias. There's more to the family, a couple of sisters and an ex-husband, but the story is told by Maggie and Tobias, switching viewpoints at the beginning of each chapter.

Some bad stuff happens to the Reasons. Stuff that would destroy even the sanest families. I can't tell you exactly what, or I'd be spoiling it for you, but the plot isn't what grabbed me. Sure, it kept me turning pages, but it was the way Kevin wrote it that absolutely blew me away. He is a master of prose, truly, a master, and his insights into the human condition (which are Oprah-worthy, I kid you not) coupled with is easy style and his earnest prose, put me in mind of some of my all time favourite novels: The Shipping News, for example. Or anything by Margaret Laurence.

Take this quote, for example. It's the first time I ever highlighted anything on my Kindle and I almost screwed it up – for a moment I thought I'd erased entire paragraphs! But it touched me deep inside, these words from the mouth of Maggie, and I wanted to share them with you:

Like icebergs, we are all mostly under water. A faint glimmer of each of us rises above the surface and is visible for a short pocket of time. When those islands disappear, though ... they are not lost. They flourish beneath the surface. We are still attached where it matters ...
I am a ship. The ocean is vast. But I am not leaving the island of Deja and disappearing off the horizon. I am moored to it. And she to me. Like time, the waters rise and fall. Her time is beneath the surface.
But that is fine with me. I have nothing but time. I will bide it.

Oh be still my heart. Such glorious, meaningful writing. I flew through this book; absolutely couldn't put it down, and when I had finished the last, heart-stopping chapter, I went back and read the final pages again and again.

The Reasons isn't Kevin Craig's first book. He is also the author of Summer on Fire and Sebastian's Poet, both available on Amazon. He's also an accomplished poet, playwright, father and grandfather, and, just this week, he walked the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, with conviction, and with joy. (And probably with sore feet.)

I always knew Kevin was a cool person, but until I finished The Reasons, just now, I never understood the sheer brilliance of his written work.

By the way, nobody asked me to write this. Authors very rarely ask me for reviews. But when I come across something really amazing, I want to share it with you.

And this – this is amazing.

You can find Kevin's books on Amazon here.

You can find his blog, here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Post Mother's Day Post

My sister, Liz, took this gorgeous photo of my gorgeous mom recently.

I am lucky. I have a truly wonderful mother. She is kind, she is generous, she is forgiving. She is funny, she is wise, she is loving. She's a hard worker, she's a great cook and she's always up for a new adventure. I have absolutely no complaints, mom-wise. My only regret is not being a better daughter because she deserves it.

Not everyone is so lucky and, in fact, Mother's Day can be a rough go for a lot of people.

There are people who had terrible mothers. Really horrid women who abused their  children mentally and physically. Who told them they were no good and beat them viciously any chance they could. Who didn't provide proper food or shelter, who cared more about themselves than their kids, who held back love and kindness when it was most needed.

I know a few people like that, and I feel sorry for them and guilty because my own mom was top flight. They struggle hard to see good in their mothers, sometimes to no avail, and they harbour their own guilt for abandoning the most toxic relationships in their lives. After all, how can anyone dislike their own mother? If you find yourself thinking that, then you're one of the lucky ones. You might not have June Cleaver for a mama, but at least you don't have Mommie Dearest.

Then there are people who had great mothers, but lost them. Death is a tough nut to swallow on these special occasions. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, birthdays – they're all hard to take when you are missing someone you love. Father's Day is hard for me because I miss my dad so much, and I never get through Christmas or his birthday without some kind of heartache. But you know, instead of feeling bad, I try to seek out the positive and celebrate that. Yes, he's gone, but boy oh boy, I was lucky to have him as long as I did and I continue to honour his memory every chance I get.

Mother's Day  is also a tough day for women who always wanted to be mothers but, for one reason or another, could never have a baby. They mourn for the children they never had, for the unborn babies they lost, for the mother they desperately wanted to be – while all around them are mothers and children and pregnant women.

I didn't have my first baby until I was 37, and not because I wanted to wait. It took me 11 years to conceive, and for those 11 years, I keenly felt the frustration, jealousy and grief of being childless in a child-filled world. To those who have never been able to have children, I feel your pain, and offer a hug and a kind word – AND the truth that you will live your life with more money, less frustration and fewer grey hairs!

Mother's Day used to be rough for me. It was hard when I was childless, for all the reasons I listed, above. Then it was really awesome for a while – I finally had my two children and I gleefully joined in MD celebrations. Breakfast in bed! Flowers! Cards! Presents! I sucked it all up enthusiastically – trust me, labour is HARD and flowers/breakfast/presents are the LEAST kids can do to make up for it!

Mother's Day took a turn for the worse when my marriage broke up and main custody went to my ex-husband. (If you want to know why, you have to buy my book! I'm tired of telling my sorry tale!) Suddenly I felt like the worst mother in the world. And now I live half a country away from my kids. What kind of a mother am I, anyway? And what kind of a Mother's Day do my kids have, when their mother abandoned them? The reasons, and they are good reasons, can't matter to two kids whose mother has buggered off three provinces away. It must suck for them, plain and simple, and don't think I don't know it.

Ah feck.


I don't mourn on Mother's Day anymore. I send my own mother and my mother-in-law presents. I phone my mom and tell her I love her. I find something fun to do and I don't beat myself up over something I have no control over. Dave usually takes me out for dinner, which is awesome, and I look for joy every chance I can.

I got a card from my boys a few days ago. It was nice – put a smile on my face and a tear in my eye all at the same time. They called last night and we laughed when I ordered them to tell me what a wonderful mother I am. (I love them so much.)

No matter how Mother's Day and these other kind of holidays may try to bring you down, don't let them. They're only card company fake holidays anyway.

Forgive the past. Celebrate what's important. Eat something yummy and do something fun. Look for joy. Look for joy.

Look for joy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Happiness is Death and Chronos!

Death and Chronos are two wild and wacky guys. Actually they're not guys, per se. Chronos (also known as the God of Time) is a befuddled immortal who just wants a little peace and quiet but is always getting in trouble with War, Poseidon and other persnickety gods. Death is, well, he's death. He's the guy who finds you when the jig is up and plants you in the ground with the petunias.

Death is a skeleton. A friendly skeleton who is preoccupied with tossing peanuts in his eye sockets and various other body cavities. He also rides a Harley and, unless you cheese him off, he's an affable sort who makes you laugh as he's hauling your carcass to the netherworld.

Both of them have a penchant for disaster and are constantly getting into mishaps a la Lucille Ball. They're funny, they're sarcastic and they're very cool in a misguided sort of way, and I love them much.

I first ran into Death and Chronos in my Friday Flash days. They were written, almost every week, by one of my favourite flashers, River Fairchild. Like everyone else writing in the flash circuit, I'd line up to see what kerfuffle River had put her two popular characters into. The week I got married, Death and Chronos actually crashed my wedding reception – which was my favourite of all River's weirdly wonderful stories. (Thanks, Riv.)

For years afterward I begged River to publish a collection of her Death and Chronos stories and, FINALLY, she LISTENED! I'm so happy to report that Living the Afterlife is now available in various formats on Smashwords and Amazon. I picked up my copy yesterday and had it read in short order. It's a blindingly fast read and the stories are just as witty as I remember. River has a dry sense of humour, very acute, and I loved finding her little nuggets of happy sarcasm scattered everywhere in the book.

Congratulations River, and oh, thanks ever so much for the kind acknowledgment. If I ever get married again (demi-gods help me), I'll be sure to invite Death and Chronos and their happy gang!

Here's some links for this dynamic duo:

Amazon (U.S.)

Amazon (Canada)


River's blog

Thursday, May 1, 2014

B is for BBQ Sauce

Wait a cotton-picking minute! I don't NEED a letter in front of my post anymore!

*laughing like a maniac and running around the house in my gramma-style pink nightgown, with birdies in cages & drooling cats, and coffee spilled down the front*

I just dumped a practically full bottle of barbecue sauce down the sink. I feel so WASTEFUL and yet so HAPPY, all at the same confused time.

See, I don't waste stuff. Not generally, unless it's a vegetable and I buy it with good intentions and then let it rot in the fridge amidst guilt-juice and weight-mayo. But seriously, I'm old-school because, well, because I'm old, and maybe I didn't grow up in the Great Depression lucky to have any kind of food on the table at all and everyone ate turnips and bedbugs, and my parents didn't either, and my grandparents had money, but SURELY some poor schmuck in my lineage grew up eating bark, so if I buy something I don't like I generally suck-it-up-buttercup and eat it until it's done.

Hang on. I need to breathe.

OK. So. I bought some Bull's Eye Bold BBQ Sauce the other day because I needed BBQ sauce and I picked it up without realizing I HATED IT. Why do I keep doing this? Year after year I buy this crap because I've forgotten, over the long winter, that I detested it. Spring hits, I get a hankering to dig the barbecue out of the snowbank, and I wind up buying Bull's Eye again. Argh! Somebody smack me!

I didn't even realize it until the other night when I made absolutely delicious homemade hamburger patties and grilled them to perfection. I turned off the 'cue, covered the hamboigies with an inch of cheddar cheese, then smothered them with this BBQ sauce.

It absolutely ruined the boigies. I couldn't even eat mine. What a disappointment.

As I was cleaning up the supper mess, I automatically put the evil BBQ sauce back in the fridge. Y'know, as you do. But then I've been stressing about it ever since. This morning I was laying in bed thinking about it, having a conversation in my head with the BBQ sauce.

"You don't OWN me. You're not the boss of me! Why should you get free rent in my refrigerator? You dont' even taste good, for crying out loud. You DISGUST me. I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU!"

And with that I jumped out of bed, well not exactly jumped, more like waddled, marched down the stairs, flung open the fridge door and snatched the offending bottle.

"TAKE THAT, YOU DIRTY RAT," I hollered, as I opened the lid and dumped the brown goop down the garburator.

The sauce begged, I swear it cried, too, but I just laughed, HAHAHAHAHA, and shook the evil bottle and it glomped like The Blob down the drain.