Thursday, December 31, 2009

Home at Last - 

(she said with a sigh.) It was a long haul. Yesterday, I braved Vancouver traffic to pick up my son, drive with him to Hon's for lunch, then drop him off at work before heading back to the grandbabies' house. I don't know that I would have made it without Maggie, my trusty GPS. No matter how often I go there, I still haven't the foggiest notion of the geography of Vancouver and its environs. Anyway, I did find my way back. Robin and I packed up and headed to Horseshoe Bay for the five o'clock sailing. We got there at 4 p.m., only to find that the 5 o'clock was already full, so we would have to wait for the 7 o'clock.

(I was tempted to say something here about men and their lack of patience, but that would be a very sexist thing to say, so I won't. I'll just say:  My husband has no patience.)  "I don't want to sit here for three hours," he said. "Let's go to Tsawwassen for the 5:45 p.m." I didn't even argue. I just made a U-turn and set off for Tsawwassen. At four o'clock in the afternoon. In rush hour. On the evening before a holiday. So instead of sitting for three hours at Horseshoe Bay, taking the 7 pm ferry, and arriving back in Nanaimo at 8:30, we drove for an hour and three quarters through rush hour traffic (which involved a good deal of sitting still in traffic jams) and arrived at Tsawassen too late for the 5:45, which meant we sat there instead, for over two hours, to catch the 8:15 The trip from Tsawwassen takes two hours, as opposed to the 90 minutes from Horseshoe Bay, so we got back to Nanaimo at 10:15.

Fortunately, we were still glowing with joy and excitement over the extra special Christmas present we (well, Robin - but I get to share it) had received from his sons and their wives. Robin's 70th birthday is coming up, and the kids knew we would be heading off to England in the Spring, so for Christmas they gave us brochures on Mediterranean cruises and cheques to cover the cost of tacking a Med cruise onto the end of our English holiday.

"Malta!" said Robin.

"Greece!" I added.

"Crete," Robin amended. Sure. That works for me. So now we have to work out the details. It would be lovely to add a touch of Italy to the stew, but that might not be possible on this trip. But I GET TO GO TO GREECE! Sorry to yell, but I've wanted to go there for a long time.

Happy New Year, everyone - and please check out Yoko Ono's New Year affirmation.(Thanks to Rebecca Woodhead for pointing me there.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This message says "I love you."

Okay. We haven't done the Christmas thing, but it looks as if that may not happen until after dinner, so I'll check in now. We went out to lunch - to a fish and chips restaurant (not a chippy - a proper restaurant with tables and waiters and everything.) Both the children are just getting over colds, so they didn't eat much - except Jasper really liked the mushy peas. When we got home, he went down for a nap, and Jasmine (that's she in the photo) set about doing some crafts. I mentioned pinwheels, and she commented "When I was a little girl, I used to make pinwheels all by myself!" Then her mom made a pinwheel for her (I guess Jasmine had forgotten how, in all those years since she was a little girl) and she happily pranced around the room, making a breeze to turn the blades. After that, I painted her fingernails pink, so she wrote me that message. I think I'll paint her toenails tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2009

WAR IS OVER - If You Want It

Browsing Twitter this morning, I came across John & Yoko's "WAR IS OVER - If You Want It" video, which is forty years old today. Then I was called in to work, so I'm going to let John & Yoko speak for me tonight.

I suffered a temporal disconnect while I watched the video. For a moment, I thought of John and Yoko as kids - as the next generation - I suppose because when the film was made, they were the age that my children are now. Then, suddenly, I remembered that John was older than I - that had he lived, he would be nearly seventy. Film is a disturbing medium. It belies - denies - age, decay, even death. Yet here we are, forty years on. John is dead, I am old, and we still haven't figured out how to settle disputes without sending our children out to kill each other.  I hope our children are more successful at learning to make peace.

Tomorrow morning, we will be sailing to Vancouver for a belated Christmas with the grandbabies. (My camera is already packed.) I'll try to check in tomorrow night, celebrations permitting.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finding my way back -

Ever since NaNoWriMo ended, I've struggled to write. I think I've been suffering from a tiny burnout - a fizzle, maybe. Did I mention that I've considered revisiting the memoir I started and abandoned a couple of years ago, as a springboard back into writing? Well, I have - and today I opened it up to have a look. It looks a little too much like "What I did on my Summer Vacation" for my taste, so I decided to (no, not delete it) go back to the beginning and start again, thinking not so much about History as about memories. I'm going to follow Natalie Goldberg's advice and back into the memoir, instead of facing it head-on. I'll still use all those facts I've been piling up, but I think I could make the memoir a lot more interesting than it is at the moment.

Somehow, the idea of memories led me to think of memes. You know those memes we play with here on the interwebs? I used the "ten random facts" meme to jog my memory. This is what came to mind:

Dear Children -

Right up front - ten random facts about your grandmother:

1. She loved liver and onions. She served liver and onions for dinner once a week. Oh, I almost forgot - she liked the liver rare - but then, she liked everything rare.

2. She didn't drink, but she claimed to have just as much fun as the  drinkers at any party, and I don't doubt it.

3. I remember scooting around the perimeter of the living room, trying to get from point A to point B without coming within range of the pancake turner, which your grandmother wielded with deadly accuracy. If you take your own pancake turner and slap the couch with it, you'll note that it sort of twangs. It does that when it connects with your bum, too.

4. She loved to read, especially over breakfast - or when she was ready to sleep. She was forever falling asleep with a book in her hand and her glasses still on. I inherited that habit - I think we all did.

5. She claimed to be a baritone. I think she was really a contralto, but even that was surprising, considering how small she was - five feet, one and a half inches tall.

6. She always wore pajamas. No nightgowns for her, thank you. She probably thought only floozies wore nightgowns. That would have been in character.

7. She beat the boys at track when she was in high school. That's her story, and I'm sticking to it.

8. Her breasts were flat. She said they had collapsed when she underwent her Caesarean section. I think it bothered her, but we never really discussed it.

9. She loved to watch game shows - I think "Truth or Consequences" was her favourite. We went to see it one time, in Burbank.

10. She never used soap on her face. She spoke as if it were a matter of principle (that way lie wrinkles, etc.) but I suspect she developed the habit because she was allergic to several soaps. She used to mock the Ivory ads by yelling "99 and 44/100% pure LYE!" - and Palmolive took her skin right off.


You know, I think I may have stumbled on a useful tool. I've been working so hard on chronology, and on getting my facts straight, I think I've been forgetting what it's all about - making the memory of my mother real to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who never got a chance to meet her. Maybe I should browse the meme bank and see what else I can find. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to figure out why the first thing I came up with was liver and onions.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day!

And lookee here! I braved the Boxing Day crowds to buy a new camera - a Canon A1100IS Power Shot. It has more megapixels than I need, likely, and the door I have to open to get the card or batteries out is a little challenging, but other than that, I think it will be fine. Somebody made a comment a few days ago that made me realize that the fuzzy photos I had  been taking, just before my camera started clucking at me, were probably the result of camera malfunction, rather than an indication that I couldn't take a picture to save my life. Time being of the essence, what with the Hawaiian holiday coming up, I decided to replace my camera, rather than repairing it (I'll check out the repair option later, and if I can have the camera repaired at a reasonable price, I'll do that - and either give it away or keep it as a spare).

I took the above photo while I was sitting on the sofa, putting the camera together. It's in focus, isn't it? I used 4x magnification, and I think it did a better job than my old one did, even when my old one wasn't broken. So I'm pleased. I am also amazed that I had the patience and courage to shop today. First of all, the entire town is beclouded, befogged, mighty hard to see where you're going in. I drove slowly and carefully, stopped along the way at the tanning salon to work on my pre-Hawaii tan, and turned up at Best Buy at about 10:30 this morning. Finding a camera to buy wasn't difficult. Having no idea what all those numbers mean (except for the price) helps - I can pretty well choose at random, but the line-up to buy the thing was very long. Apparently Best Buy opened at six o'clock this morning for their Boxing Day sale, and some people had spent the night in the line-up outside the door. Some people are just crazy. It took me about twenty minutes to buy the camera and be on my way home.

I decided to stop at the supermarket to get some things for dinner (I have to leave for work in a few minutes, and I wanted both to pack dinner to eat at the office and to leave something for Robin to eat when he gets home). I had forgotten that all the supermarkets would be closed today. They were closed yesterday, too, which was understandable, but I figured I would be able to go shopping today. Wrong. I ended up buying a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce at the drugstore. I knew I had some spaghetti in the cupboard at home. That wasn't the dinner I had planned, but oh, well. The thing is, you see, that on Boxing Day you can buy a television or a camera (and probably a car), but you can't buy a loaf of bread - except at the 7/11. Hmmmph. I never thought of going there.

P.S. I have been suffering daily spam attacks for the last couple of weeks, so for the time being, I've put the word verification gizmo back into play. I do apologize. I know what a nuisance it is - but so is the porny spam and the completely incomprehensible spam - oh, it's all a pain.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Wishing you and yours a peaceful and happy holiday -


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mist on the Mountain

There is indeed mist on our mountain - Mt. Benson, that is, which overlooks Nanaimo - and it gives an aura of mystery to the scenery  - not in this photo, of course. This looks as if it dates to maybe August. I have searched my archives in vain for a photo that shows Mt. Benson shrouded in mist, which is odd considering how often it is.

There was mist on Mt. Washington, too, when we drove up there yesterday to have a look at the view. Remember when we went to Mt. Washington the last time? That was back in June. We drove through a bright, sunny day, hoping to see the view from the top of the mountain, but when we got there, the mountain was shrouded in fog, and we couldn't see much at all.

This trip was almost completely different. The sun was shining - at just above freezing - and the road was clear until we got to Mt. Washington, when we found ourselves driving into a mist. About 1/4 of the way up to the lodge, a young man waved us down. We thought he was somebody who worked for the lodge, and that he was going to turn us back because of the weather, but it turned out he was just hitch-hiking up to the ski lift. So he put his snowboard in the trunk, hopped into the car, and rode to the top with us, assuring us that the fog didn't go all the way to the top. He was right. As we passed the halfway point, we came out of the fog, and I started muttering about how annoyed I was that my camera wasn't working. It was really quite splendid, looking down from the sunny heights at fog like whipped cream over the landscape. We parked the car near the ski lift, said good-bye to our stowaway, and went inside the lodge to buy a cup of tea. From there, we could look out through the picture windows at hundreds - hundreds! - of people careening down the slopes on snowboards and skis. There was even one man who skied sitting down. He turned out to be using something like this - It is called a monoski. I had never seen one before.

We all enjoyed watching the skiers, but we agreed that you would have to be crazy to come flying down a mountain on a couple of sticks. I suspect that we are getting old - but on the other hand,

I don't recall ever having the urge to do that, even when I was young. Of course, my favourite snow is on calendars, or on mountains in the distance when I know I don't have to drive over them.

We drank our tea, walked across the snow to the parking lot, and drove back to Nanaimo, having had our fill of snow for this winter - we hope.

I was trying to find a good picture of Mt. Washington to show you, and I ran across a set of webcams. I snagged this photo, but of course it's night now, and the mountain doesn't look the way it did when we were there. It looks quite festive, though, doesn't it?  If it's daytime when you read this, you might try clicking here to get to the rest of the webcams, or to this one by day.

We put Clarence on the train today, back to Victoria. The two of us will be working over the next four days, and then Christmas will start all over again when we take the ferry to Vancouver for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, La Boheme is playing on the television, so I'm very happy. Ah, Musetta is singing. Must go swoon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

 All Aboard the Santa-Kart!

TFE has worked his holiday magic. While the Poetry Bus is under repair (We know how long getting a car repaired can take, and a bus is that much longer) he has contrived to set the Santa-Kart on the road, and we are all invited to hop aboard. Price of a ticket? A poem.  Here's mine - (By the way, this photo is from TFE's blog, borrowed for the occasion with thanks.)

In Mid-Winter

Under cover of darkness,
swathed in silence,
await the slow coming
of the sun's new light.
Listen to your breath
caress the velvet night.

Sway with the new snow
on a scented branch;
mourn another chance gone by.
Make a gift of your pain
to the dying year,
and then, begin again.

On this first day of the earth's new year,
let us raise a toast to the future.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fiat Lux!

I lit the tree today, and for real fire I lit three tea lights (one of them scented) in a glass bowl on the coffee table, so my living room is full of Solstice cheer. Robin and Clarence have gone off to see the movie 2012, but I opted to stay home and feel the warmth here. It was a good decision.

When I checked the comments to yesterday's post, I found one from Karen, who invited me to read the poem at her blog,  Keeping Secrets. I did that, and decided then and there to pass the word on - do check out Karen's fascinating ballad. It captures the mystery of this magical season. I loved reading it.

I wandered over to YouTube, looking for a musical selection to mark today, and I found this:

And just now, as I was making my way slowly through the long list of blogs I've been neglecting, checking up on my bloggy friends, I found myself at Roy's World, listening to "In the Winter's Pale" by Tim Story and Jethro Tull's "Ring Out Solstice Bells."  The world is full of music, isn't it? It seems as though every day brings with it a new sound. I hope you will pay Roy a visit, too, and celebrate the Solstice in song.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And today...

I spent my morning at the office, then collapsed into the afternoon, tried to nap, couldn't.  All last night, while I tried to get some rest in preparation for the 4:45 alarm, I kept waking up, thinking that I had heard the alarm. No, I hadn't, and I would go back to sleep, only, I gather, to dream again about my alarm going off. It was almost a relief to finally hear the alarm go off for real, about a minute after I had once again opened my eyes, thinking I had heard it.

I'm reading another of Natalie Goldberg's books, this one called Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir.  Yes, it's another book about writing, but this one is different, because it is interactive.  Natalie talks a bit about her own writing and writing in general, and then she says something like "Tell me about how a relationship ended. Go. Ten minutes." and at that point I put the book down and write for ten minutes. These cues come up at various intervals. I might read five pages, do an exercise, then read one sentence (like that last one, which constitutes a chapter in itself) and be sent off to write some more. I love this book.

After my pseudo-nap I drove to Best Buy to see whether I could play the pity card and get them to have a look at my camera, what with the holiday and my going to Hawaii next month, but no. I suspect that their holiday spirit is wearing a little thin, which is only to be expected.

Which reminds me: My daughter, The Christmas Queen, called me the other day to say "You know how to kill your Christmas spirit, Mom? Work in retail." I'm afraid the Christmas Queen, who does in fact work in retail, is seriously considering abdicating.

Tonight, Robin and I went to the Fox and Hounds for dinner. When I finished eating, I took out my notebook (I've finally found one that fits my purse perfectly) and wrote for ten minutes starting with "I am looking at..." These ten-minute writing sessions are just about all I can handle right now - as I'm in one of those all-too-frequent moods of mine in which I could crawl into a closet and not come out for a week. I don't know how I managed to get through NaNoWriMo. If I had it to do today, I would just throw up my hands.

Now I'm going to settle in and watch Oliver Twist on Masterpiece, then retire for a good night's sleep with NO ALARM at the end of it. I have three days off (THREE!), then I'll work through the holiday. Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice (Winter Solstice 2009: Dec 21 17:47 UT 9:47 PM PST, says Google) and our friend Clarence is arriving in the morning to spend the next couple of days with us. I have stuck by my resolution not to light the tree - I must have done a good job of it, because Robin was surprised tonight to learn that the lights were even on the tree - and I plan to have a little ceremony tomorrow night to welcome the return of the light. Mine won't be anything like as elaborate as the one that's already taken place on the other side of the world, but I may just borrow a bit of the poetry:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On This Day of Christmas...

...a good friend gave to me a big bag of crostili.  Have you ever eaten crostili? They are a  dangerously tasty Italian pastry.

I suppose I should put the confession right up front, so I don't chicken out and forget to mention that I'm pretty sure that the crostili were meant for Robin and me, but they came to me earlier today, so I ate some at lunch time. Then, several hours later, I came home from work, ate my supper, and decided to have crostili for dessert. The trouble is, they kept tasting like more (and more and more) -- and...

Well, I've been rehearsing what I was going to write. I started rehearsing in my head about the time I started eating crostili tonight, and I was going to say something like "I suspect there will be no crostili left by the time Robin gets home" but it's gone way beyond that now. There are no more crostili. I ate them up like a little Miss Piggy, and I fully expect to have gained ten pounds when I check my weight tomorrow morning.  And Robin doesn't get any crostili.  So I'm a pig AND a bad wife. Two strikes, and the night is young.

The one good thing that came out of this orgy of crostil-eating is that the hallway carpet is nice and clean. Every time I got up and went to the kitchen to grab some more crostili, I scattered crumbs on the carpet, so I started vacuuming them up. Grab, eat, spill, vacuum. Rinse. Repeat. I have an overfull belly and my vacuuming arm has had a workout. The rest of me, not so much -- but I deserve a rest after last night, when I got out my dvd "Walk Away the Pounds" with Leslie Sansone and the Stepford Wives. What with the snow and the rain and then not feeling well, I hadn't been getting any exercise, so I popped the dvd into the player and did the 3-mile walk. Oy. I really must get back to a regular exercise routine. That routine used to be easy.

But I digress. What I intended to say was that the crostili (by the way, crostili is a very short pastry dredged with icing sugar - the stuff of dreams) made me remember how when my mother baked pies, which she did often, she would put whatever pastry dough was left after trimming onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar, and bake it. The result was romantically called Cinnamon Crust. I don't know which was better, the pie or the Cinnamon Crust (except when it was lemon meringue pie, because I'm not especially fond of that. Then it was definitely the Cinnamon Crust.)

So thank you to Franco for the crostili and for bringing back fond memories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Writing - 

It feels like weeks since I was last here. I am pleased to report that I have ceased thinking of nothing but My Belly, the trials and tribulations thereof, and proceeded to My Navel, the gazing at. After feeling crappy for a couple of days, it occurred to me that my ailment might be stress-related,which would not be surprising, given the season, and even if it weren't, it was high time I got back to my practice, so I sat and meditated for a few minutes. It felt great. I've set my alarm for fifteen minutes early in the morning, so that I'll have time to get up and sit down.

On the other hand, I suspect I ate something I shouldn't have. And on yet another hand, I've just read the previous paragraph and realized that it sounds as if I cured my sick belly by meditating. No, no, no. First I felt better. Then I meditated.

Anyway, while lying around, I've gotten some reading in, and I've written a few holiday cards, which actually puts me ahead of my usual form for December. And I put the decorations on the tree, though I haven't turned the lights on yet (awaiting the Solstice, I am.) Best of all, I think I've figured out what to buy my Impossible-to-Buy-For Husband for Christmas. He doesn't want anything that he can't either eat or drink, and somehow buying him candy or whiskey doesn't feel very wifely, but I have thought of something that might just come in handy for our trip to Hawaii, so I'm going to get him that. I can't say what it is, because from time to time, I hear the sound of music coming from the next room, and I realize that it's music I've posted here at The Turtle.  He doesn't follow officially, but he does read my blog. (I'll be listening for this song.)

Thank you for your get-well wishes, friends. I'll be over to see you as soon as I can.

Oh, and about that clipart image at the top. I found it here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A.W.O.L. -

but stopping in for a moment just to say I'm a little under the weather. I shall come back for real when my innards start behaving again.  Meanwhile, I hope you are all having a happy week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Little Enlightenment and a New Bookshop - Hallelujah!

(Channeling Estelle Getty) Picture it. It's earlier today. I'm sitting at The Vault, drinking a half-caf Americano, eating a delicious, fluffy spinach & feta quiche, and reading Natalie Goldberg's Long Quiet Highway -- all at the same time. Across the table, another book lies waiting -- but that's another story.

On the other hand, maybe I should tell you about that first.

I've been reading on Facebook and Twitter (courtesy of poet Kim Goldberg - no relation to Natalie!) that there's a new indy bookshop here in Nanaimo, and today (Saturday) is my day to check it out, because I don't have to be at work until one o'clock. Off I go to Heritage Mews, where I find Back Page Books nestled neatly into the mews, almost directly across from Mad About Ewe, the world's greatest yarn shop. Ignoring the siren call of the Ewe, I walk into the bookshop, where another kind of temptation (or six) awaits me. Before I even have a chance to check out the books, I see a huge tray of goodies sitting on a coffee table. There are cookies, carrot cake, brownies -- oh, all sorts of temptations. I ignore them, too (although I'm saying to myself Hmmmm. This seems to be my kind of shop!) and I proceed to look around at the books. There is a children's section right at the front of the shop. I regret having bought my grandchildren's Christmas books at Chapters before I heard about Back Page. I note the selection anyway, for future reference. Then I spot Poetry and head straight for it. A gently-read copy of Pablo Neruda's Residence on Earth (bilingual) catches my eye. I take it from the shelf and retire to one of several easy chairs scattered around the room, (The whole shop is only about a room and a half big) where I sit and read a poem before I finish my inspection of the books. There is a Fiction section, and Cookbooks, and I forget what else, but I've got my Neruda book , so I take it to the till, where I introduce myself to Richard, the proprietor, and let him know that he's being talked about in cyberspace. He is delighted to hear it.

After running a couple of errands, I fetch up at The Vault, where I order my coffee and quiche, sit down, and try to do four things at once. About halfway through my coffee, a third of the way through the quiche, I hear a voice (mine) in my head. It says:

You know, you don't have to do everything at once.

Shazam! It's like a bolt of lightning. No wonder I'm stressed out. I'm trying to live Sandra's Life: The Oxford Compact Version -- everything compressed into a space never meant to contain so much -- impossible to lift, much less read, but very, very full. I put my pen down, shove Natalie Goldberg to the other side of the table, turn away from Pablo Neruda, and concentrate on my quiche. It's good. So is the coffee, which I drink afterward. Then it's time to go to work, so I pack everything up and proceed to spend the next few hours in frantic activity.

Here I am now. It's nine o'clock in the evening. I'm listening to Mendelssohn and writing this post for the second time, because Blogger ate my first attempt. Somehow I worked on it for nearly an hour, and all I had to show for it was a single letter (s) on the page. I think it stood for the "s" word. If it didn't, it should have. I have to get up at 4:45 AM, so I guess I had better be going to sleep soon. Tomorrow I'll copy one of the Neruda poems into my sidebar. Meanwhile, I've had a great day. Now, if only that Aha! moment I had this afternoon would stick around. Sometimes I feel like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Looney Tunes cartoons.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Weather

I went to the Friday Photo Shootout site to make an announcement. I wanted to confess/complain that when I was taking photos at the Christmas party the other night, my camera started making a strange sound. Let's see. It was something like this:  "Erk. Erk. Erk. Erk. Erk."  Whenever I turned the camera on or off, that's what it would say. My friend Jane, who was also at the party, suggested that perhaps I should stop turning the camera on and off, because I might be exacerbating the problem by doing so, That made sense. I turned the camera off, and I haven't turned it on since. The problem seems to involve the mechanism for poking the lens unit out of the front of the camera. I guess this is when I say"Drat! I did not buy the extended warranty."

So the upshot of this is that I don't have a camera anymore, at least not for the moment. That makes posting to FFS more than a little problematic.

Then I noticed that I did in fact have a weather-related photo in my archives. Ta-da! The weather that I photographed is not the weather we have today, but it is weather. Rainy weather, to be exact - the kind of weather we expect to have here on Vancouver Island in the winter. What we actually have is freezing weather. I would like the rain back, please. And the warmth to go with it.

Anyway, it was a stroke of good luck to find a weather-related photo, but unless it happens that the FFS topics for the next few weeks happen to fit the contents of my archive, I shall be Photoless in Blogland. I shall try to either repair or replace my camera before I head to Hawaii in mid-January, because I have a feeling I'm going to want to take a picture or two when I'm there. ;>)

To see more Friday Photo Shootout posts, please click on the big black camera on my sidebar.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Drive-by posting

You know, I was about to apologize for not being around and explain that, it being the season, I'm mostly at work and only able to get online when I'm on the verge of falling asleep, but really, we're all in that state right now, aren't we? Therefore, I would like to propose an amendment to the Christmas Act whereby Christmas is to be celebrated on January 25 by people whose names begin with A-D, February 25 by those whose names begin with E-H, etc., to spread the stress out a little. I find that with every passing year, I am more inclined to yell "BAH, HUMBUG!" and retire to my room for the duration.

On the other hand, there are parts of the holiday that do warm my heart - like the Kings College Cambridge music, and my three-year-old granddaughter, who said to her mother today "It's a surprise, but you're getting a new mug for Christmas, because your old one has a chipmunk on it."

When she could stop laughing, her mom said "Ah, that's a chip, not a chipmunk." I suspect that this Christmas present will be one that she remembers even when her children have grown up and left home.

So once a day, every day, I will sit and calm myself and remember that there are wonderful memories tied to this season -- both the memories I have from the past, and the ones yet to be made.

Chipmunk clip art courtesy of Webweaver.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I know I promised...

...that last night's post would be cheerier than the one before -- but things got so cheery, I didn't get here at all.  I went to a party, you see. I ate. I drank (after my fashion) -- and I danced -- again, after my fashion, which is to say, badly. I had a great time.

Oh, yes.  I composed an occasion-specific, humorous version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and led the assembled masses (100+ people!) in singing it. There was the usual mumbling at the beginning, but by the time we got to the fifth day, everybody had got into the spirit, and soon there was the bobbing up and down, shouting, and laughter I had hoped for. Holey Moley. I felt like Leonard Bernstein.  ;>)

Christmas seems to be busting out all over Nanaimo. Just a few nights ago, Robin and I went to dinner at the Fox and Hounds, where we enjoyed the beautifully decorated tree but had to shout to converse with each other, because not only was Elvis singing the dreaded Christmas kitsch at full blast, but somebody's child was operating the Christmas-themed music box on the bar, making the snowmen twirl around and sing. (That's what inspired me to photograph the poster at the top of this post.)

I take great comfort from listening to the CBC, hearing the various announcers stating, almost unanimously, that they can't stand  Christmas muzak either, then playing carols sung by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge (MY kind of Christmas music!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Solemn Anniversary

It was twenty years ago today that Marc Lepine walked into  a classroom at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal. He separated the male students from the female students, and in the space of forty-five minutes, moving from classroom to classroom, he shot twenty-four women and four men. Then he killed himself. Of the twenty-four women, fourteen died.

(For news coverage of the event, click here.)

During his rampage, Lepine screamed "I hate feminists."

In the years since what has come to be called the Montreal Massacre, debate has flourished -- and continues to flourish -- as to the nature of Lepine's crime.  Was it symptomatic of a pervasive misogyny in Canadian society, or was it the isolated act of a deranged man? Will stricter gun control laws prevent a recurrence? Will relaxation of gun control precipitate more such tragic events?

I remember that day. I remember the feelings of sorrow and fear, anger and despair that overwhelmed me as I watched the news coverage. We Canadians like to think we live in a peaceful country where tragedies like the Montreal Massacre simply do not happen. The anniversaries, when we stop to look back at that day in 1989, are stark reminders that we have no special protection.

I saw a sign recently that read "Peace is not something you ask for; it is something you make."  As I reflect on the events of December 6, 1989, I feel the old fear, the old anger, the old despair again. I'm trying to keep that sign in the front of my mind, because all I can do, all anyone can do, is live my own life as peacefully as I know how.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

sympathy for the writer

I had a very stressful day, so I just sat and watched a movie to bring myself down to earth. I watched The Lake House (with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves).   The trouble is, all through the movie I kept thinking about how confusing the story must have been to write. It involves two people corresponding - and falling in love - while they are living two years apart. My mind hurts, and I'm wondering whether I'll ever be able to read a story or watch a movie without analyzing it. (I confess I find the idea of  time travel mind-boggling. However, I still love the movie. I'm just glad I didn't have to write it.)

Earlier today, I was reading my new book about writer's block, and I came to the part about how if you're spending all your time reading about writer's block, you're probably not writing, and maybe you should stop reading and start writing. Duh. It was about that time that I realized that all the books I've read about writing really say the same thing - just write. So I put down the book, pulled out my purse-sized notebook, and wrote for half an hour (at Starbucks) before I went to work.  I could save a lot of time and money by writing JUST SIT DOWN AND WRITE on an index card and pulling it out whenever I get the urge to buy a book about writing. I think I'll do that. I also think I'll pop over to Starbucks again tomorrow morning before work. I seem to do well, writing in coffee houses. There's background noise, but  none of it concerns me, and that allows me to wander off into whatever world I'm trying to inhabit at the time.

Where do you write? At home? In coffee shops? At the library? Do you need silence? Noise? Music?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thank you very much -

Angel May (of Angel May's Growing Pains) has sent me a lovely bouquet. I shall treasure it.

That's a great thing about virtual bouquets. They stay fresh forever, don't they?

This one comes with homework. I'm supposed to tell you seven things that you probably don't know about me, then send the bouquet on to seven more people.   Okay. First things first. Here are seven things:

1. I am vain about my fingernails. That is only natural, I must say, because I have great fingernails! ;>)

2. I am afraid of flying bats -- not bats as such. (Oh, and not baseball bats. Mousey bats.) As long as the bat clings to a wall or sits on a wire, I think he's a cute little fellow, but the moment he starts to fly, I, too, fly -- into a panic. I think I hear the batty sonar, and it makes my ears crazy. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

3. I smoked a pipe for a little while, when I was very, very young.

4. I tried to learn to water ski, but I gave up after sixteen attempts to stand up. The fellow driving the boat said I was "very game". That was after the pipe smoking, but still quite a long time ago.

5. My recording career began and ended when I was five years old. I recorded "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" in a booth on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

6. My first celebrity crush was on Mario Lanza, with whom I fell in love when I was eight. He was much older.

7. I am always hungry. I started to modify that statement to read "I am nearly always hungry," but changed my mind. With very few exceptions, I have always felt at least a little hungry, and even when I didn't, I could eat. (If I am sick and I lose my appetite, I am REALLY sick.)

Okay. That's it. Everything you wanted to know about me but were afraid to ask.

Now to the fun part - passing it on:

1. I am delighted to be able to send a bouquet to Eberle, and to her alter egos, Platypuss and Pinky, whose new blog, Platypuss-in-Boots, is a joy to read.

2. Although she has a houseful of  awards already, I would like to send a bouquet to Poetikat, because there's always room for flowers, and she certainly deserves them. Maybe she can keep them over at Kigo of the Kat. She's only just started spending time there, so perhaps there's still room for some flowers.

3. If you haven't been to visit Doc Pammy DuMond, D.C. at FeelingFabulousDarling, I recommend that you have a look there. Pam is a chiropractor with some excellent advice for those of us who spend way too much time sitting at computers. In gratitude to her, I proffer a bouquet.

4. Julie of Literary Jules is another newcomer to the neighbourhood,  and again, I recommend that you pay her a visit. She is a great hostess with some fascinating insights. From me to you, Julie.

5. John Hayes has a new blog. It's called The Days of Wine & Roses, and it offers All Poetry, All the Time.  I applaud the blog and its theme, and I hope John will find room for a simple vase of flowers there.

6. Elizabeth Stelling (ChefE) at TMI is one of the busiest people I know, and I would like to send her a bouquet in recognition and appreciation of her hard work both at Friday Photo Shootout and at her own blogs.

7. Jeanne, of The Raisin Chronicles, is an inspiration. I have been shamefully truant from her blog -- along with pretty well all my favourite places -- during NaNoWriMo, so I offer her a bouquet with thanks and apologies for my absence. I'm B-A-C-K!

I'm away now, to drop off notes at these seven blogs. Thanks again to AngelMay for the bouquet and the opportunity for a little introspection.

Bat clip art from

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Home again, home again....

...after a delightful, if short, visit with Angel May. We talked and talked, and we ate and ate. It was perfect. A lot of our talking was about writing, both hers and mine, and about our insecurities around writing. We spent part of yesterday at the used bookstore, William James Bookseller, where I bought books about writing by Natalie Goldberg (a long-time favourite) and Lawrence Block. I also bought The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Beating Writer's Block, by Kathy Kleidermacher.

I thought it might be useful some time - but it turned out to be immediately helpful. There are some great suggestions and exercises in there, and inspirational quotations, too.

AND: The author recommends blogging as a writing exercise. Ms. Kleidermacher is now one of my favourite authors.

Note to Angel May: I see that the book is available on Kindle.

Note to self: Remember to take a larger suitcase when you go to visit Angel May. You should know by now that when it's time to come home, you always end up struggling  to fit half a dozen newly-purchased  books into your suitcase, which was full when you left home.

I didn't write as much as I had planned on the boat, but I did write some, and I spent time gazing out the windows at the scenery, which I should do more often. Then I sat down and wrote about what I saw.

Now it's back to work, and back to writing at my usual place.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Room with a View

Okay, this isn't the view from my room. It's the view from the balcony -- but it is the view that I saw first thing this morning, because I am living in the lap of luxury, being pampered by my dear friend Angel May. We have only two days together, so we are making the most of them by talking and talking and talking. In a few minutes, we're going to wander downtown and do a little window shopping. I bet we'll end up in the bookstore again, though where I'll put any books I might buy, I do not know.

I was sitting on the ferry yesterday when I realized that NaNoWriMo was well and truly over. It was a strange feeling. I think there should  be more than one NaNoWriMo a year, because I seem to respond well to the carrot/stick approach.

This post is just to let you know that I'm alive and well and luxuriating on the Olympic Peninsula. I'll check in on all my bloggy friends as soon as I can.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

He-e-e-e-e-re they go! Off and pacing........

We went to Vancouver - to Fraser Downs Racetrack - to watch the pacers today. The ferry ride was smooth, though when I looked outside, the water was grey and so was the sky.

I kept thinking that the sun was bound to come up.

Then I realized it was about 9:30 in the morning, and the sun wasn't going to get much more up.

Robin and I decided to call the scenery "atmospheric," because that sounds much better than "grey."

We had brunch with the grandbabies and their parents. Then we headed for Fraser Downs to watch the harness racing. Between the brunch and snacking at the races, I think I ate every possible Bad for Me food. I ate anything that stood still long enough. I ate Eggs Benedict, for god's sake. I haven't done that in years. Then I had part of an order of nachos at the races. I am so going to have to be really, really good for the next week or so.

Anyway, I did enjoy the day. Robin won enough money at the races to almost compensate for the amount I lost, so I didn't come away feeling guilty. And when Robin and I were on our way to the ferry terminal afterward, my daughter-in-law found my cell phone, which had apparently fallen out of my purse at the racetrack. She and her husband called us on Robin's cell, told us they had my phone, and met us in a parking lot along the road to give it back. I hadn't even realized the phone was missing. Phew. Disaster averted -- and we still got to the ferry on time.

Now, I'm back at home, laptop in lap, listening to my characters call my name. (The one I killed is still dead, so far.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Remember NaNoWriMo?

This is Day 28. I did take a couple of days off, because my brain hurt, but this morning I started my next installment. That NaNo deadline, I've decided, is magical. Now that I don't have the 50,000 words in 30 days stick goading me on, I'm finding it much more difficult to write than I did even a week ago.  However, I made an effort. Then I went to work. When I got home, not long ago, I remembered suddenly that I had killed one of my main characters this morning. Now I'm a little panicky, and very guilty. I'm not saying who the character is (was!), because I may want to change my mind. Maybe the next chapter will begin with that
character saying "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." 

I rather feared that once I stopped writing, I wouldn't be able to start again at all, that it was only the fact that I was running headlong through the manuscript that was keeping me on my feet. There was some justification for that fear, but after some stumbling and reeling, I did regain my balance and get going again.

Tomorrow, we are off to Vancouver (again) to watch the harness racing. That means I'll have two more ferry rides, and I plan to use that time for writing - and for reading Margaret Atwood's Life Before Man, which somehow I have never read before. I am always of two minds about Atwood's work. I respect it, but I don't always enjoy reading it. It seems to me that she stands back from her characters, carefully moving them around, but doing it with gloves on, so as not to dirty her hands. That can't be a fair judgment, because I know that millions of people have read her books and loved them, so with Life Before Man I am trying once again to feel comfortable in the company of Atwood and of the unhappy people who inhabit her books.

P.S. I posted this, then read it and thought Oy. Look at me. I write 50,000 words, and suddenly I'm the newest literary critic on the block.  Somebody peel me a grape. ;>)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout, with 59 minutes to go.

The photo on the left shows the  Rocksalt Anthology group, who read their poems at the Poetry Gabriola Festival last week. I borrowed (?) the picture from Facebook, where Kim Goldberg (that's she at the front of the photo) had posted it. Such happy faces. This week's topic, Faces and Smiles, was suggested by Sarah.  For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, just click on the big camera in my sidebar.

And the 59 minutes? That's how long I have to wait before my ferry leaves. I came went to Vancouver today - on the 8:30 a.m. ferry) to visit my son, this being his day off, but I wanted to get back to Nanaimo in time to do WordStorm (remember WordStorm?) We decided I would have to catch the 3 pm ferry, which would get into Nanaimo at 4:35, lots of time to go home and have supper and then go to WordStorm for 6:30. However, by time I came by ferry to Horseshoe Bay, caught the bus downtown, and then caught another bus to where my son lives, we only had an hour and a half to spend together before I had to do the route in reverse. I could live with that. We went  to a Thai restaurant for lunch and spent an hour catching up on each other's lives, but then it turned out that the bus going back downtown was re-routed due to construction, so I got to the connecting bus stop three minutes too late to make my 2:07 connection to Horseshoe Bay. The next bus (the 2:20) was five minutes late, and in the end I got to the ferry terminal at precisely 3:00 p.m., ten minutes too late to catch the ferry (they cut off ticket sales 10 minutes before sailing.) So here I sit, enjoying an Americano at the Blenz coffee shop, watching for my 5 o'clock ferry to come in, reading Margaret Atwood, trying not to be too annoyed about being here when I could just as easily have hung around with my son for a couple of hours more. Okay, an hour more.

I sent a Facebook message to David Fraser, my connection at WordStorm, explaining my situation and asking whether, if I don't get to the theatre until 7 o'clock, I might still take part in the open mic (which doesn't actually start until then). Then I scrolled down a little on his page and saw that on the 22nd, he was sending messages from Mazatlan. Hmmmm. So I sent a p.s. that read "Never Mind." If he has returned to Nanaimo, I hope he'll find my message before he goes to WordStorm. If not, I'll just have to take my chances. I do have the poem in my bag, so I can have Robin pick me up at the ferry and drop me off at the theatre without going home first.

All this is to let those of you who don't live on islands know that once in a while, the situation is less than idyllic. ;>) - especially if you don't organize very well.

Oh, and this means I'll be having ferry food for dinner, folks. Pray for me.

Later:  Well, the boat ran half an hour late, so I didn't get to read my poem, but I did tell my sad story to the emcee, who suggested that I get on the list for January, as there will be no WordStorm in December. I told her I would be in Hawaii in January, so we settled on February. Then I sat down and listened to the poets and musicians  - first, the open mic folks, and then the three featured performers. They were all very good, all very different. Speaking of faces and smiles -This is Dinah D,the last of the featured performers, who made me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt. She lives on Gabriola Island. I think I have to move to Gabriola.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 23, which was another day of less-than-stellar accomplishment, and
Day 24, on which I won! I won! I won!

Doing a happy dance, I am. To backtrack a little, I fell asleep over my work again last night, having added only 1,133 words, so I was a bit discouraged.

Today started out with a trip to the swimming pool (stress reduction), then work (stress enhancement). After work, I went to The Vault, where I wrote the first 1,000 or so words of today's NaNo. I had a decaf Americano. There was no pumpkin pie, but they did have a slice of pecan pie, so I ate that instead, to bolster my spirits.

At home, I ate a little dinner and sat down again to write. I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up writing over 3,000 words, and as of just a few minutes ago, I sent in 50,141 words to NaNoWriMo for verification, and they sent me this lovely banner. Actually, I had a choice of banners. I chose the big one, because if I can't jump and shout "Woo-hoo!" and wave my arms  about this, well  ---

Isn't it pretty? I'll keep it here until the 30th, and then I'll move it over to the sidebar, where I can admire it all the time.

Now, the fact that I've won NaNoWriMo does not by any means indicate that I have finished my first draft. I'll keep on plugging, and I'll start printing, so that I can look back at some point and see what I've written. As I was copying and pasting from My Writing Nook to Open Office tonight, I found myself glancing at the text and saying things like "Who on earth is Christine?" and "Oh, yeah. Now I remember that scene!" and such. If I go much longer without looking back, I'll completely forget what I started out to write about.

I shall, however, spare you the blow-by-blow. I know now that I can do it. Isn't that just cool?

One more thing -- the musical celebration. I listened to this on the CBC yesterday, and I thought yep. When I win NaNoWriMo, I'm going to post this music. It's perfect.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 22 - Steady progress on the NaNovel, and the saints come marching in.......

I added another 2,675 words today. I just quit a few minutes ago, when I realized that this scene could go on forever, but I couldn't. 45,877 now.

I  nearly went to sleep without posting, as I hadn't much to say, being pretty well written out for the day, but then I remembered that today  was the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of "music and also of musicians, composers, instrument makers, and poets." That seemed to call for a quick visit to The Turtle, since so many of us fall into one or more of those categories.

(The photo on the left is Saint Cecilia by Guido Reni, 1606 , as found at Wikipedia.)

In celebration of the feast, I offer the Sanctus from Gounod's Mass of St. Cecilia, sung by Stephen Costello.

 ....and this, the Grand Chorus from John Dryden's "A Song for St. Cecilia." For the entire poem, click here.

As from the pow'r of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the bless'd above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

Isn't that last line a wondrous thing?

Good night, now. I wish you all a happy night and a year full of music and poetry.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 21. So, was there a problem?

No problem. I just finished my 2,000 words -- 2,126, actually, bringing the count up to 43,201. Again, I had a scene that absolutely begged to be written, and that helped a lot. Also, my eyes are fully open tonight. That helped even more. I'm an okay touch typist, so I can type with my eyes closed, but writing in my sleep is outside my skill set.

Today's scene took place in 1945 in New York City, which is a pretty iconic setting.  That was a big help. So was the fact that the scene was a crucial plot point, and that it involved a tearful reunion.

That honeymoon that I thought was over? It's back on. Sigh.

Day 20, when I'm thinking it's a good thing this race is nearly over -

not that I'm not enjoying it. In fact, I'm loving it. But I'm tired. I suspect that it's the rest of my life that is making me tired, but NaNoWriMo, being the new kid on the block, is a handy scapegoat.  NaNo has, in fact, given me some moments of real, honest-to-god joy this month. Just this morning, I found the latest pep talk in my e-mail. It was written by Kristin Cashore, a best-selling author of YA fantasy novels, whose writing process is so similar to my own that I nodded and said Yes Yes all through the pep talk, then followed the link to her blog, where I found music and inspirational readings and this YouTube video that made me cry while I smiled and vice versa, because it is so full of joy.

You see? NaNo has opened new worlds to me, and I am grateful. I have been having little pep talks of my own, self-directed ones, in which I consider the possibility of doing a mini-NaNo all year, establishing a daily word count goal and sticking to it (except when I fall asleep at the keyboard, as I did last night). Not 2,000 words a day. That's a lot, when you have to do annoying things like go to work, do the laundry, brush your teeth, as well. But 1,000. That is do-able.

But yesterday was another of those days when the honeymoon seemed to be over. I did finally remember what I had planned to write about, and I started writing about that, but I wandered off topic by about twenty years, which was okay too, because it will all be relevant at some point, but (yes, another but!) I would be typing away, seemingly making progress, and then I would realize that I had actually been asleep, sitting up, with my hands resting on the keyboard. Closing my eyes just felt so-o-o-o-o good. I gave up the fight when I had 1,074 words on the page. That brought my total to 41,075, and that would simply have to do.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 19, AND Friday Photo Shootout - The Double Whammy

By a stroke of good fortune, this week's theme at the Shootout is "My Town's Premier Attraction" - The theme was assigned by Kent. (Thank you, Kent. You are a lifesaver.) As it happens, I do have some photos of Nanaimo's premier attraction, which is our beautiful harbour. Thus, without actually taking - or having - the time to go out and shoot a photograph, I can contribute one (several, actually)  to the shootout, thus retaining my membership in the gang. At least, I hope so.

This is a photo of the harbour as seen from the dock where our float planes load and unload. There are two airlines operating out of downtown Nanaimo, so watching the planes come and go is a popular pastime. 

There are usually some people standing along the railings, watching the planes, but the day that the Snowbirds, the Canadian Forces Demonstration Team, came to town, our gangly, overgrown adolescent of a city turned into a small town again, just for the day, as hundreds of people lined the docks, oohing and aahing and shooting pictures. I had a great time, and it looked as if everyone else did, too.

I did take pictures of the Snowbirds, but I kept being distracted by the play of light on the water, so my camera ended up filled with shots like this one.  In fact, even when there is no special occasion, I find it impossible to walk along the waterfront without stopping to take photos. I always seem to find something interesting to look at. Sometimes it is something new, but not always. I love it when something familiar, seen in a different light, becomes newly fascinating.


I have been playing hooky from Friday Photo Shootout and from Theme Thursday, as well, devoting my time to NaNoWriMo and neglecting some of my favourite theme posts - neglecting, as well, my visits to bloggy friends. As NaNoWriMo winds down, I look forward to returning to my familiar haunts.

Not that the project is finished.  I still have over 12,000 words to write, but the task does not seem nearly so daunting now as it did at the beginning of the month. I hope to finish my 50,000 words by next week at this time.

Now, my next confession - and my last for the evening, I promise. Remember that I said I was going to be very brave and read my poem at WordStorm tonight?  Well, this is what happened. I was held over at work, so I didn't even get home until 6:10 p.m., and WordStorm starts at 6:30.  I threw a Weight Watchers dinner into the microwave, printed a copy of my poem (the original, by the way), ate my dinner, brushed my teeth, and rushed back out into the storm - the rainstorm, I mean. It was ugly out there.  I drove to the theatre where WordStorm is held, parked the car - which was easier than I expected. I was able to park only a few feet from the door - locked it, and walked over to the theatre door, which was locked. Oh, dear. I rang the bell. Nobody answered. I walked down the street a bit, to make sure I hadn't gone to the wrong door. No, it was the right place. I knocked on the door. Nobody answered.

This is what I thought:  Hey, I'm only five minutes late. Surely they haven't locked the door on purpose. The readings don't actually start until seven, and people are always wandering in, even after they start. This must be a mistake. Someone must have locked the door by mistake, and nobody has figured it out yet.  Phew. I'm glad I figured it out. I'll go home and find a phone number to call, and I'll explain what has happened, and then I'll come back and somebody will let me in.

So I came home. I turned my computer on and found the website where WordStorm events are announced.  Look!  See? WordStorm is now held on the fourth Thursday of the month - the WHAT? The fourth Thursday of the month. That's next Thursday. A few hours ago, I would have sworn that WordStorm was held on the third Thursday of the month. Obviously, I would have been wrong. I was wrong. I was all dressed up, with no place to go.

(This is the end of the confession.)

If my time were my own, and not given over to the whim of my muses, I would take advantage of my dressed-uppedness by heading straight to TFE's poteen party, but I have some writing to do, so I've changed into my official Writing Pajamas, and I am even now thinking of donning my Hat for Conjuring Stories and my sandara goddess of the written word wig. Yes, that's what I'll do. Good night, bloggy friends.

p.s.  Oops! I forgot to say - If you click on the big black camera over there on the sidebar, you will be magically transported to the Friday Photo Shootout site, from which you can reach all the other Shootout blogs.

p.p.s. It's 12:41 a.m. now. I started to write, and I sort of got carried away. 2,626 words tonight, 40,001 to date. 9,999 to go. Hot damn!
Day 18 - ended.


When I came home, I did manage to scrape out 1,166 words. I had resigned myself to writing no words at all, but a voice in my head kept telling me that if I didn't write something, I would remember how restful it was to lie around soaking up whatever the television wanted to throw at me, and That Way Lay Failure.

So I wrote a scene. I think I'll write it again when I'm not so tired, but I am glad I made the effort. Total words now? 37,375.

Today, I'll be working until 3:00 p.m., and then I'll be working myself into a lather over my pledge to read a poem at WordStorm tonight. I decided to read one of the poems I published here - the one that begins "Death comes in the morning" - Then I decided I didn't actually like the poem, so I rewrote it, and I asked Angel May to read it for me and tell me her thoughts. She thought she liked the first one much better. So I've printed out both versions of the poem, and today I'll decide whether to use the poem in its original form or incorporate some aspects of the new one. I owe my dear friend a great deal of gratitude for her efforts.

If I don't die of stage fright, I'll come back tomorrow - or tonight - and tell you how it went.

Meanwhile, I think I'll go check out TFE's castle to see whether the poteen party is under way yet. I'll bet it is, because they keep their clocks eight hours fast over there

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 17, when Week Two's stormy seas finally give way to the calm waters of Week Three -

And high time, I think. The week is half over. I wrote a little bit extra today - 2,606 words - because I doubt I'll be able to write much, if anything, tomorrow. I have at least a 10 1/2 hour work day ahead of me, and something tells me I won't be In the Mood.  That brings my word count to 36,209. Again, today, I had a good idea what scene I would write - it was one I had thought about weeks ago - so writing it was not a problem. The wandering plot that afflicted me last week has settled back into line, and I am feeling much more hopeful that when I finish writing my 50,000 words, I will have something in the way of a story to work with, not just 50,000 words.

At any rate, I wrote a little extra today, and I'll write a little extra on the weekend, Muses willing, to make up for tomorrow's expected shortfall.

And now for the really good news -  There's going to be a party - another party - in Blogland!  Totalfeckineejit (That's his self-portrait on the right. I borrowed it for purposes of the invitation. I hope he doesn't mind.) Anyway, TFE,
whose grand entrance at Willow's Manor Ball was the talk of the interwebs,  is throwing a party of his own, the Maximus Miracle Poteen Party, on Thursday, and we're all invited, all those who visit TFE's blog and read the invitation and learn what on earth poteen is. If you haven't done that yet, here's your chance - just click here to read TFE's post and RSVP.  Don't miss this gala - not only will there be a special guest, poet Liz Gallagher, but there will be a prize - not to mention a stellar cast of entertainers and celebrities with whom to rub elbows. (I'm not kidding. Check out the guest list!)

Speaking of being In the Mood, I think a little music would be a good way to close, don't you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 16 - Putting the Horse Before the Cart

Before I talk about my writing, I must give a shout out to John Hayes. His new blog, The Days of Wine and Roses, brings poetry back to its rightful place - front and centre. I am thrilled, and I wish him all the best.

Now, as for my writing: I had almost convinced myself that waiting until late in the evening was the best way for me to write. I don't know what gave me that idea. I am most decidedly not a night person. Having fallen asleep on the job a couple of times, I finally decided to try something different. When I finished work today, I felt exhausted, but Robin wanted to go for a walk, so that's what we did. We parked the car down by the supermarket and walked along the waterfront. It was a mite nippy out, and as we started to walk, the wind came up, so we both donned the chin straps for our Tilley hats and walked downwind.

Along the way, I took a leaf out of Reya Mellicker's book by taking some pictures in the dark. It was a mixed experience. (Reya makes it look so easy!) First, I saw a fishing boat named  Ivory Gull. It was such a lonely sight, it stopped me in my tracks, so I photographed it. I only hope you can see it.

Then I remembered the blue lights that the City had put up all over the parking lot by Swy-a-Lana Lagoon. That's where the park is, the one where I took pictures of my grandbabies in the playground, and where the statue of Black Frank is. The lights are very striking, and I hope they become a permanent fixture.

When we got tired of walking, and we really didn't want to head into the wind to get back, we called a cab to take us back to the supermarket. No flies on us. ;>) Robin was right. We both needed the exercise - but we didn't need to freeze our noses off.

At home, we prepared and ate dinner, and then I sat down and wrote 2,109 words. Just like that. Maybe it was so easy today because I'm still riding on the high from yesterday, or maybe it was because I had an idea for a scene in my head already, or maybe it was because I didn't wait until I was really tired to start writing.

Whatever it was, I'm grateful for it, because now my word count is up to 33,603.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 14 (about which the less said,the better) and Day 15, on which Sandra's beleaguered soul is restored by a whopping dose of real, live poetry...

First of all, there was yesterday. I took a notebook and pen with me and managed to write a bit, off and on, during the day. I think I came home with 622 words, or thereabouts, which I then typed into My Writing Nook in order to count the words and get them into the story.  I figured I was home free. 2000 would be a breeze, with this great head start I had made. I didn't count on the effect of exhaustion, which was to send me off to dreamland with only 1123 words to my credit. I had had high hopes (alliterative, or what?) of reaching the 30,000 mark last night, but I got some sleep instead. I did read somewhere, in the last couple of days, that Week 2 is the time to give yourself a break if you need to, and I seem to be doing that, intentionally or otherwise. So...I came into Day 15 with 29,477 words, which is still ahead of schedule, but not as dramatically so as I had hoped.

Today, I didn't have to work. What I did do was go over to Gabriola Island - a twenty-minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo - to take part in the last day of the four-day Poetry Gabriola Festival. I dithered, because the ferry fare, including my car, was close to $30, and then there would be lunch, plus a fee for each session I wanted to attend - and I knew I would come home with at least one book. In the end, though, I decided to go. This has to rank as one of the best decisions I've made in quite some time. I took my netbook along, thinking I would find a table near a wall outlet when I went to the pub for lunch (that being the first item on the agenda) and make a start at today's writing. The netbook never came out of my bag, though, because as soon as I walked into the pub, I was invited to sit at the long table where the presenters were sitting. I knew a couple of people at the table - Kim Goldberg, whose book "The Red Zone" is in its second printing (She launched the book at The Vault just a few weeks ago), and David Fraser, poet and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine. I know David (slightly, as yet) through WordStorm. David presented me with a gift certificate for my lunch. That was a complete surprise, and it allowed me to feel free to buy a copy of Rocksalt, the first anthology of BC poetry in 31 years. Seven of the poets featured in the anthology read at the first session I attended after lunch.

After the poetry reading, novelists George Szanto and Sandy Duncan read from their jointly-authored novel, Never Sleep With A Suspect on Gabriola Island, and offered some insights into their collaborative methods.

At 3:00 p.m., I was treated to a round-table discussion by Alexis O'Hara, Christian Bök, and Paul Dutton. The brochure advised that these three would: discuss what has led them out of standard narrative and into the cacophonic hubbub of sound. What causes artists to make departures from language as we know it? How do these artists understand the relationships between form and content, improvisation and scripted scores? ...I went, because I had absolutely no idea what this meant. I'm not sure that I'm any the wiser now, but I had a wonderful time listening to them. Just now, looking for links to put here, I came across some YouTube videos of Christian (who, by the way, is very charming.) I'll embed just one of them, so that in case you are as ignorant as I of the art form under discussion, you can hear it first here.

Finally, there was a reading by the absolutely delightful Antony Holland,who read a number of poems from a variety of genres. We heard Dame Edith Sitwell, Ogden Nash, Dylan Thomas, and - oh - this special poem, which Antony referred to as the Worst Poem He Had Ever Read. It was written by William Topaz McGonagall. I found it online. This link takes you to the poem, Attempted Assassination of the Queen, but then if you click on Home, you will be taken to a page where you will find the following description: (McGonagall)  "poet and tragedian of Dundee, has been widely hailed as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language.." so apparently Antony is not alone in his assessment.

At the end of his presentation, Antony read from King Lear. He has played the part of King Lear on stage. He read from the beginning of the play and then from the end, to demonstrate the change in Shakespeare's use of language over the course of the play. He brought me to tears.  When he had finished speaking, I had to rush out in order to catch the ferry back to Nanaimo, but I did so with regret. I would love to have spent some more time getting to know these people. Fortunately, I know that at least some of them are involved in WordStorm, so I may well be seeing them again next week.

On the way home, I sat in my car on the ferry. The boat was dark, and Gabriola was also dark, at least by comparison to Nanaimo, which  positively glowed, just off the bow. Because I couldn't see the water, the trip home seemed much shorter than the trip out had. I turned on the overhead light inside the car, and I leafed through my new anthology. I came across a poem by Rachel Rose. When I went googling, I found a post about her at a blog called Nowhere, B.C., whose author, Zonko, says of Rose,

"...she's writing some Of the most vivid poems of her generation, poems so intense they're nearly
Scary, easily passing emily dickinson's test of poetry q.v. making the hair on The back of your neck stand up."

The poem that I read in the anthology is called What the Sea Perhaps Heard. I don't dare reproduce it here, because I don't have Rachel Rose's permission. I can say, loudly, Buy This Book. I read the poem, read it again, then turned off the light and just stared out across the bow, felt the boat rise and fall  on the waves, and decided I had had a truly wonderful day.

Now, having written nearly 1,100 words here (I couldn't help myself. I was well and truly stoked!) I'd better go do some NaNoveling, don't you think?

p.s.  It is almost midnight now.  My word count for today is 2,017. To date: 31,494. Enough.

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