Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Time for Being Grateful

This past weekend was Thanksgiving and we had three days of sunshine, brisk autumn breezes and colourful swirling cascades of leaves floating gently to the ground. A coat of many colours to dazzle us one more time in a mighty burst of glorious plumage.

It was a time for family – those who were here, those who were in Calgary, BC, and Australia or up north, and those whose light lives on only in our memories. Savoury succulent turkey and ham, mounds of potatoes both mashed and sweet, shared delicacies like cabbage rolls, butternut squash, colourful salad and spaghetti squash, drizzled in gravy and topped with homemade cranberry sauce. Yet still there was somehow room to also enjoy pumpkin or apple or sweet potato pie, apple crisp, with fluffy whipped cream and creamy vanilla ice cream. A table full of bounty, prepared with care and shared with love and laughter.
It was a time for joy – to share news, to catch up and just to talk. It was also a time to share my own good news – that of a short story published this month in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas! It was also amazing to walk into the bookstore and see the book on the shelves there, and know that my story lay tucked in its pages.

It was a time for anticipation – our annual holiday to Hawaii is coming up very quickly. Looking forward to almost three weeks away to rest, relax and rejuvenate.

As I pack my suitcase with summer clothes, I realize my heart is already packed full with everything I need to make my life complete – a loving family, wonderful friends, delicious food, a great job and beautiful home. Our community is safe, our family is healthy and we all have dreams and aspirations to look forward to.

My cup overfloweth…

Friday, 2 August 2013

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Oh, the excitement of packing for a holiday, unrestricted by airline rules and regulations, carry on limits or number of suitcases. Yes, I mean the quintessential and highly underrated road trip!

As a kid, we would cram into the station wagon, piles of books and comic books at hand. Pillows, blankets and hours of reading pleasure awaited. Driving across the endless prairie, blue skies and field upon field of golden wheat nodding lightly in the breeze. Heat, heat and more heat emanating from the pavement, creating wavy mirages ahead and the smell of lightly frying tar.
Stopping at road side diners along the way – Husky Truck Stops for pancakes with syrup, French Toast and chocolate milk…oh for the days when those things were considered a delicacy by my stomach and not a dietary battle. My dad with his drivers’ tan – left arm only, up to the shirt sleeve – and endless radio stations playing Top 40 hits or country music, if Dad got his way.

I still love road trips and the excitement and sense of adventure they conjure. I appreciate having my own vehicle and being able to take more than what I need, just in case. I love being able to bring treasures home that are larger than suitcase size, or too fragile to carry on. I love creating distance from my everyday life into a magical new story, some short, some longer, but all fresh and new and waiting to evolve.
Planes are the best way to get somewhere fast or travel a great distance in a reasonable amount of time but they distort time and create an illusion of less distance travelled. Trains allow us to see the non-ordinary because they follow a road seldom seem every day but they aren't a usual mode of travel here in the west. But automobiles show us how spread out things really are, how vast and beautiful our country is and makes us live in the moment and savour it slowly and sweetly.

Life is a highway (thank you, Tom Cochrane!) and road trips take us out of the ordinary everyday world we live in and into the extraordinary world around us. A full tank of gas, great company, rocking tunes and a highway...let the road trip begin!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Summertime…and the reading is easy…

Okay, I know that’s not how the song goes BUT it does seem that summer, sunshine and reading are the perfect cocktail for a hot July day. While working on my writing with limited results, I realised that my psyche was craving stories – not the ones I was trying to write but ones that could inspire, tantalize, entertain and motivate me to delve into deeper parts of my emotions, dreams and imagination. Who am I to argue with my psyche? If I can’t write, I can most certainly sink my teeth into a little reading. Except, as I discovered, there’s been no little about it.

It all started with Karen Spafford Fitz’s Vanish. From there I moved on to the vampyre series House of Night by P.C. and Kristin Cast before tackling Orca’s Seven the Series by seven extremely talented young adult writers. I then discovered Shade & Sorceress by Catherine Egan and Moira Young’s Dust Lands series. Through them all, I’ve been entranced, entrenched and enchanted. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a fresh delight and The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (the Seven Realms series) was spectacular. In between, I’ve included a few series romance authors like Carolyne Aarsen, Patricia Davids and Emma Miller, just to name a few of my favourites. On deck are The Exiled Queen and Grey Wolf Throne, books 2 and 3 in the Seven Realms series, Into the Abyss by Carol Shaben and The Twelve by William Gladstone. Saved for Hawaii in October is Richard Castle’s Frozen Heat (yes, I do know he’s not real but that’s okay) plus the new Heat book due out in September.
So have I been writing much of late? No, but I’ve noticed the past week or so that my imagination is tingling and my fingers are starting to itch – happily announcing that the muse is returning and with it, a new found spark of energy eager to ignite and spew new life into my manuscripts.

I needed to let my brain relax and absorb, to escape my everyday life and leap into someone’s else reality for a while. Books are manna to this writer’s soul and without a steady transfusion of story, I hover on the edge of a wasteland that, at times, edges into real starvation.
I don’t just LOVE to read. I NEED to read, just like I need to eat and sleep. I also need to WRITE but without reading, my writing suffers or at worse, dries up and literally dies.

With my psyche rejuvenated and momentarily sated, I can now slip from reader to writer for a few blessed hours/days/weeks of connection, reflection and inspiration.
And that is why I write. Perhaps one day, my words will inspire,  entrance and entertain someone in the same way I have been over the past several weeks through these wonderful books by amazing authors.

I can only hope. :-)

 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ruggedly Handsome...

A few weeks ago my husband and I had the pleasure of attending Comic-Con in Calgary. After years of watching Big Bang Theory and hearing the guys wax poetic on San Diego’s event, we discovered through our nephew Alex that Calgary had been hosting their own event for years. We aren’t Trekkies or huge Sci-Fi followers but we love interesting adventures. The 3-Day passes were sold out but Sunday passes remained. I was perusing the celebrities who were attending and wasn’t Edmonton’s very own ruggedly handsome Nathan Fillion doing photo ops that very day. A quick text to the hubby at work garnered a ‘sure, we can go’ and a few clicks and a credit card later, we were the proud owners of two one-day passes AND a photo op with Nathan Fillion –aka Malcolm Reynolds and Rick Castle. Serenity and Firefly are household favourites – the series was sadly short-lived, it’s true, but lives on in infamy due to incredible casting, original storylines and of course, the irresistible Mr. F. Castle has been a mainstay for the past few years and continues to charm even after five seasons.

As Comic-Con newbies, we were in for a few surprises. One – the number of attendees was mind-blowing. Two – the professional organization and seamless management of said attendees was astonishing. And three – just wow! As a writer, I love anything that feeds my imagination or gets my creative flow happening – well, between the costumes, vendors and celebrities, Comic-Con was a virtual mecca of inspiration and passion. There was something for everyone, and even things you never knew you always wanted. We were there for over an hour happily milling through the trade show before we looked at a program then realized that autograph sessions had been running since the doors opened at 10. Racing to Nathan’s table, we discovered hundreds of people in line and the access stopped. We were advised to try again at noon but told that that we couldn’t loiter. So we semi-loitered and success was at hand when I managed to make my way into a second batch of folks being admitted just after noon. Forty minutes later, I was selecting my Malcolm Reynolds photo for Nathan to sign then staring into the eyes of none less than Nathan Fillion himself. Thanks to a year of Toastmasters, I was able to keep my composure to blurt out “You really are ruggedly handsome!” to which he replied “And you are…absolutely right!” which made us both laugh. Later that day, I met him again for our photo op – me and a thousand of my closest new acquaintances – he graciously smiling over and over again for the camera.

In between, we walked with Iron Man, Spiderman and every other superhero you can imagine, tried out medieval weapons, marvelled at the pure talent of graphic artists, met authors and comic book legends. There was not one single fight, no hassles between anyone, even though all of these different demographics of people and passions were converged in one place, in one space. It was a place to be yourself, to follow your passions, to believe in fantasy and dreams, if only for a weekend.
It was truly amazing. And yes, Nathan Fillion truly is even more ruggedly handsome that he appears on TV. I’m hoping he’ll be there next year…I know I will! All I can say is - thank goodness for understanding husbands. J

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Relay for Life – Connecting in the Community

Yesterday was one of those inspiring days. I worked a table for the Relay for Life at our local Save-On store to promote our June 7 event here in Spruce Grove. The table was intended to provide information to the event – not to garner donations. As an aforementioned introvert, this is, of course, outside of my comfort zone but the cause of fighting cancer is near and dear to my heart so that means girding my loins and putting myself out there.

I was situated just inside the doors so was able to greet people as they entered the store. Tucked between the watermelons, cantaloupe and deli, it was quite funny to see how many people had eyes only for the melons as they caught sight of me sitting there and sidled past without making eye contact. At first, it was disheartening but I consoled myself by remembering that most tables set up at grocery stores are there with the primary purpose of raising funds so it wasn’t unexpected that customers had that impression.
It’s a great way to people watch and I was hoping that there might be one or two people who might truly be interested in learning about the Relay. To my surprise and delight, there were indeed such people. They smiled as they came through the door, actually held my eye contact and made a beeline towards me. Some of them did make donations, some purchased daffodil mittens and some told me stories of loved ones they had lost to cancer.

By the time my shift was over, I was exhilarated by their energy and encouraged that not only was our Relay going to raise much needed funds to help fight cancer but our Tri-Regional event was going to also make a difference in our community.It was three hours well spent. Thanks to Save-On Foods for their great support and thanks to our residents in the tri-municipal region.

We still need teams, volunteers and of course, donations. Interested in joining the fight? The Canadian Cancer Society hosts relays across Canada - if you're not in our area, there's sure to be one near to where you live.

Our Spruce Grove event is called the Tri-Municipal Relay for Life and will be held in Central Park, Spruce Grove from 7 pm to 7 am on Friday, June 7. A night to celebrate, remember and fight to conquer cancer once and for all. Special guest performers on this evening will include Brandi Morin, Cory Rosenke and Freeburn. Join us for a night you'll never forget.

Twelve hours of people coming together to celebrate survivors, remember those we’ve lost, join the fight against cancer and pledge to make a difference for today and the future.
For more information, visit our website: http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=12368&pg=entry or visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canadian-Cancer-Society-Tri-Regional-Relay-For-Life-in-Spruce-Grove/164920873533692

With your help, cancer can be beaten. Together we are stronger, together we will win this fight.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Getting back to writing...

I am one of those writers who writes in her spare time and it’s always amazing to me how much of that spare time ends up being spent NOT writing.

There’s always a load of laundry or something on TV or a book to read or any number of other diversions that prevent me from sitting down at my desk and actually doing what I truly love to do – writing stories.

When I am at work, I long to be at home writing but when I am actually in front of my keyboard outside of work, I go into a state of numbness where I apparently lose all memory of what I intended to write about. I end up on Facebook, checking my horoscope, catching up on emails or tidying the piles of paper on my desk.
Yet, when I sleep, I dream my stories.  When I drive, I think about my stories. I see my characters everywhere, I eavesdrop on conversations and revel in what people talk about every day, I see my stories like mini movies in my mind. I have notes everywhere – on Post It notes, on random scraps of paper, in one of my multiple notebooks but combining these notes into actual stories is apparently just outside of my reality.

Romance stories, young adult stories, short stories – they are all there, just waiting to be released.
What gives, I wondered? Why don’t I actually write more often than I do?

I came up with any number of reasonable reasons and excuses: too tired, not focused, too busy with day to day things that needed doing, etc.
But the real reason is simply that I haven’t been assigning my writing the importance in my life that it truly has. When I actually did sit down to write, I was dismissing it as an indulgence and therefore a luxury I didn’t need to be spending time doing as often as I honestly wanted to. I was treating it as if I didn’t deserve to write unless the ten things that were dancing around my head that I felt needed to be done first were done.

Well, I have decided phooey to that.

I breathe, dream and live my stories every day – inside my head while the rest of my life goes on. Getting those ideas out of my head and into my computer is the only way my writing aspirations can come true. I do remember that occasionally and have great waves of hours and hours of writing but when life around me is busy or I am tired or winter in Alberta seems to be never-ending, I forget.
Today, I remembered again why I love to write and why I have to write.

It’s as much a part of me as breathing. I would never consider not breathing - therefore I need to write as much as I can, when I can, where I can, and while I can before my ideas dry up and atrophy.
It’s good to be back.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Reconnecting

It’s so easy to get caught up in day to day trials and tribulations, I realized recently. It’s been a strange winter for this part of Alberta and I am missing the cold frosty days and brilliant sunshine that usually accompanies January through March. Teased with many unseasonably warm and wet days that turned into icy roads and grey skies has played havoc with my psyche and, unintentionally I withdrew in my busy-ness cocoon of year-end work. People were tired of me playing my hand of tiredness/too much work/no energy and stopped asking. I completely lost my sense of life-work balance.
 
A chance opportunity made me reach out to a friend to connect and we spent a wonderful evening catching up on the goings-on in our respective lives. My heart was light when we parted, to meet again in a month. I was stunned to realize what along with the sunlight, what I was missing in my life was my people – those friends and family and outside of my work family. Burrowed so deeply in my work, I had failed to come up for air, for life-sustaining rejuvenation and sustenance.

Of course I always have my husband but he too has been busy both at work and at home. He recently reconnected with our home renovations and does his best work without me lurking about.  That meant I had some free evenings, if I could muster the energy and reach out.
To remind myself of what I needed to do, I dug out my rules for life list and turned it into a Toastmasters speech.  My Toastmasters club is one of the high points of my week – no matter how tired I am, I leave those meetings energized and refreshed. After delivering my speech, I chatted with several people and realized that I wasn’t the only one in a mid-winter rut.  We all weren’t aware we were even in a rut – we just knew that something was off.  
The world wasn’t going to come to me and say “hey, girl, what do you need?” I needed to open my heart and step back into the world. And because I’m me, of course I made a plan on how to do exactly that.
Turns out I didn’t need the plan. An email from an old friend was in my inbox the following morning, followed by an invitation to lunch from another friend I’d hadn’t really talked to much since before Christmas. It was as if universe has heard my plan and reopened the path for me. Or was it always open but it was me who’d had my eyes closed?
It is these connections in my life that sustain me. It’s like coming out of a long dark tunnel, blinking in the sudden sunlight, basking in the warmth. Maybe I appreciate it more because I tend to slip into my cocoon now and again or maybe it’s just the yin and yang of balance – you can’t have one without the other.
All I know is that right now, my world is as it should be. Reconnected.