Saturday, November 28, 2015


Black Friday we clawed and scratched our way through dense crowds to get to the winter parkas that had been marked down over 50%. "excuse me", "oh sorry", "here let me hold that for you", "here's a size medium"… the platitudes threatened to drown out the Christmas music that rang through the air. Seriously - if you want to do Black Friday, Canada is the place to do it. There was no shoving. People talked and laughed together in the lineups. It was a happy adventure. Not only for the patrons - the employees were helpful and friendly, enjoying their day.

I even got complimented on my pink hair. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz what! Yes, pink hair. This is not the first time this colour has shaded my head - the first time I was 21 or 22. I had just gotten my hair permed (the 80s you know), and as a lark/joke my friend and I put food colouring in our hair. It turns out the joke was on me. The damage done to my hair by the perming process left my hair like a sponge for colour. It lasted a few months.

I went with my parents out west to a family reunion. I went to my friend Jennifer's wedding. I went to work. With P I N K hair!

I wanted a taste of those days from my 20s, so when I saw temporary hair dye at the drugstore I had to have! Today at the grocery store the older lady behind us had a few streaks of pink in her white/grey hair. We two old gals rocked that grocery store!

Is everyone stocking up on treats for the Grey Cup Game? The Red Blacks are in the game!

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."  ~Rosa Parks

Thursday, November 26, 2015

WYL #20 Religion and Spirituality

It was fitting that the sunset drew me outside to take photos tonight. As I turned from the spectacular display another of Nature’s wonders caught my eye. A rainbow, clear from end to end, painted the sky. I didn’t get a very good photo (it was getting to be dusk - hence the sunset) but it struck me with wonder.


Soar, Marvel and Wonder

The ceiling of my church soars into the sky. It is painted in an azure blue and glows with a blazing golden sun. Clouds may sometimes paint details with a cotton batten haze, or night time may cloak the ceiling in midnight blue velvet dotted with silver sequins. I am moved by the vastness.

The floor of my church is the musty dark earth which has been carpeted with a green or white mosaic.

There are no carved statues or painted murals, instead the church is decorated by the bones of the earth that have emerged as great rocky outposts and wild flowers of every hue paint the surface.

The congregation includes colourful butterflies, spotted baby fawns, cheeky chipmunks, every animal imaginable.

Birds, large and small, sing to the heavens, a choir with perfect pitch. The wind whistling through the trees is the pipe organ.

I marvel at everything Nature blesses us with.

And me? I am made of star stuff. My atoms burst forth at the moment of the 'Big Bang' and travelled through space for countless millennia until the earth was created. From there I have been rock, earth, plants and animals, until, in a miracle of epic proportions, those atoms came together to make me.  

When it is my time to leave this life I want to be returned to the stars. Blow my ashes over the open prairie and let them fall where they may. Let my ashes nourish the plants which in turn will strengthen the animals that walk that land.   

Miracles. Everywhere.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Under the blue light

When I threw open the curtains this morning I was (slightly) dismayed to see a light frosting of snow on the ground. It was still barely coming down and there was no sun. The light was the harsh, white light that you see in a doctor's office. You know, the glaring light that makes your legs slightly blue and seems to accentuate every pocket of cellulite. I suppose instead of a doctor's office you might be in a change room cubicle, trying on bathing suits or other piece of clothing that requires stripping down. It is a light that defeats instead of inspire.

We have been watching a series of shows about Italy. The light there is golden and warm. It reflects off the buildings that all seem to be made of rose stone or pale yellow stucco. If I lived there I'd want to take up painting in an effort to capture the sun onto canvas.

Before I leave you thinking we got tons of snow I'll pipe up and say that we didn't. There are little pockets where the flakes have drifted together, but they are mostly hidden from view. At least from the view inside. And I didn’t go outside looking for them with my camera!

"The soul exists partly in eternity and partly in time.”  ~Marsilio Ficino

Monday, November 23, 2015

the act of writing

Thousands of snow geese burst into the sky, like white feathers released into the air in a pillow fight. They circled, rising higher and higher in a column of flashing light. Something on the ground must have scared them, as the sun was already low on the horizon. The snow geese always seem to be the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave, guests reluctant to leave the party.

In my last post I was ready to quit both writing groups, and stop writing altogether. Maybe not my blog. But the other writing. I was at a low point, exasperated by a shift in mood. I think my thoughts about writing and my mood played off against each other until I was pretty much feeling useless. Thankfully, with some pep talks by Carm and another friend, I feel re-energized and not so much like a dud.

I set the alarm for 8am this morning. When the music blared from its plastic speaker part of me wanted to pull the covers back over my head and forget all about the creative writing class, but the other part of me - the stronger part - remembered that it is a supportive group and that I would probably feel better at the end of it. I did. Thanks.

Saturday afternoon we decided to go for a short drive to the German Club which was having its annual Christmas sale. We'd heard about it many times (our friend Trudie is from German stock), but had never been. It was three floors of baked goods (stolen or strudel anyone?), and hand crafted items: dirndls, ornaments, table linens. On the bottom floor were tables set for a full meal: schnitzel, sauerkraut, and potatoes. We skipped the sit-down meal and instead stood in line outside for bratwurst and leberkase.

Saturday night our friend Cathey arrived late (having got lost in the inky black night). We talked and laughed for hours. I read a few of my stories and got some feedback which helped me over my dark mood.

Sunday was another one of those days when we had to get out of the house for a little while. But where? A few weeks ago I had gone with Christina to a conservation area where we walked through the woods on a wide trail. I wanted to show Carm where it was before I forgot so we jumped in the car and drove. The sandy trails were dry despite the rain we’ve had lately, so we went for a bit of a tramp in the woods. Unfortunately, that built up our appetite so next we drove to St. Albert where we shared a hamburger. Burp.

The top of the pool now has a skim of ice floating on top of it. No snow. The forecast is calling for a few warmer days later in the week. We can no longer be in denial about winter, it is time to finally shut the slides of the camper. (or quickly pack it up and rush south!)

“Through the act of writing, a writer learns more about himself than he could ever imagine.”  ~Rob Bignell

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1996 Alberta Cattle Drive

There are holidays and then there are ADVENTURES FROM WHICH YOU NEVER WANT TO RETURN. In 1996 I had the greatest adventure ever - I got to be a cowboy for 7 days. And not just any old where - I got to live in the land of my heart, the grasslands of Southern Alberta.

It all started when my Auntie Jean passed away in January of that year and I travelled to Medicine Hat, Alberta to attend her funeral. While there I heard about a cattle drive that was being organized for the centennial celebration of the Alberta Stock Growers Association. For seven days a group of people would travel through open range land, starting from the edge of my great grandparents homestead, and ending up in Medicine Hat. As soon as I was back home in Ontario I met with my friend Deirdre to see if she wanted to go - it was a clear YES. Then I made a hard phone call to my sister to see if she'd reschedule her wedding. She is a good sport and understood my anguish so said yes. I got on the phone 9w6 (the brand for the association) and reserved two spots.

A dilemma presented itself. This was a cattle drive and to drive cattle you need a horse. Luckily, I was buying my first horse, a Norwegian Fjord, from Helena, a Calgary woman, and she agreed to provide the horses if I paid for her to go. DONE!

There was only one problem left: it wasn't until July - a long 6 months away!

I was excited when the trip was first arranged and by July I could barely sit down, let alone sleep. Concentration was out the window. I was wired. Not only was I getting my first horse, there was this little thing of the cattle drive. I may have been a bit overwrought. (I relived a bit of that excitement when I wrote this)

Anyway, July actually arrived and I got on the plane for the flight to Calgary, which seemed to be the longest flight ever. In fact we might have taken the eastern route and flown over China on our way there - I felt like I could have run to Alberta faster.  When I debarked, there was Helena; I stayed with her for a few nights before we trailered the horses to the starting point. We'd be meeting up with Deirdre there as she was flying in 'on the day' and catching a ride with an unknown cowboy.

As soon as I unloaded my bag from Helena's truck we stepped out to the corral to meet the ponies, including my new horse Justin (soon to be renamed Frey).  Our cow ponies were Jovan, Lars, and Dora, whom I purchased several months later. My sweaty hands gripped a new leather halter that I brought for my new steed. He didn't have it on for 5 minutes before he flew back against his tie and broke it. I wasn't good at foreshadowing, but that's a whole other story.

The next day Helena and I did the final preparations, then I tossed and turned all night in anticipation. Finally the big day arrived! We loaded gear and horses, then headed south to the starting point. A recording of Jeff Foxworthy 'You know you are a redneck' sped us down the road. I don't know if we laughed so hard because he was funny, or if we were punch drunk from excitement.

We arrived. I might have cried.

Organizers met us at the gate and directed us to the black bandana group and showed us where to water and tie our horses. We got the horses settled and our tents up, then Helena drove the trailer down to Medicine Hat, taking the bus back with all the other trailer drivers. Deirdre showed up, and we showed her the ropes.

The drive people were well organized - they had to be with 1500 riders! The riders were divided into groups, and each assigned a bandana colour. Coloured flags on tall poles designated the tenting area for each group. The caterers had transport trucks full of supplies - the food was great with beef on the menu every night - I'm pretty sure there were no vegetarians. Port a-potties were placed at the edge of the tenting area of each group; trailers were assigned to each group to transport our tents, and bags; hay was available; huge water troughs sloshed with clean water; during the week transport trucks fitted with showers visited the site. Everything ran smoothly.

We visited my cousin George who lived nearby, then had supper back at the camp. We met up with my great Uncle Olaf, Uncle Buster, cousins Ed, Wendy and Janet who were also on the adventure.
Another sleepless night and then rodeo time!

Feed horses, water horses, tack horses, mount horses: I rode Jovan. All calm except for shaking hands and butterflies doing cartwheels in my stomach. Around us there was a rodeo. Fresh horses bucked and spun. Riders hit the ground. We watched from the comfort of our reliable Fjord horses.

Southward Ho!

Group by group we headed through the gates into the expanse of the 'British Block', aka CFB Suffield, or in my words: home. The land spread out before us, the kingdom of cowboys and long ago Natives. The grasses rippled and the sweep prairie fragrance threatened to make me swoon. Sage brushed at our horses knees, a patch of cactus with their thorny arms brushed their ankles.

When we arrived at the next night's destination, after a 10 - 12 mile ride, we gave the horses a long drink of water, then lifted the saddles from their weary backs. They were happy to take their places on the 'line' and chow down on some hay. We set up our tents and ate the bagged lunch we had been provided with. A sandwich eaten while sitting on the parched prairie ground beats lunch at a 4 star restaurant any day.

The steers, all 2000 of them, were well away from the main group, but everyday a group of riders would travel with the herd. We chose to stay with the riders.

I don't know why, but the land we were traversing touches the deepest part of my soul and I wondered if I was alone in this. Every night a big stage was set up and people from the drive would get up to sing, tell tales and read poetry. The people on this drive were real cowboys, ranchers and farmers. They were people of the land, rough and tough and ready to handle nature's challenges. Craggy faces and worn hands, younger people, skin still smooth, but with determination in their eyes, all got on the stage and sang softly about the beauty of the landscape. Cowboys, more used to being out on the range, read poetry they had written about their feelings for the prairie. One old guy had written a poem about carrying a weak calf in front of him on his horse to the ranch through a blinding blizzard. He spoke of awe for the power of Nature and reverently about the land. I had wondered if people used to living in this utopia would appreciate it as much as I did. Not only on stage, but all around me through the week I heard talk that showed me they did.

Each day found us at the summit of another belvedere and gasping at the beauty. One hill held an ancient t-pee ring; from its centre I could see miles each way and the smell of sage and grass seemed especially sweet. For those of you who think the prairies are flat - they are not, especially in this region of Alberta. One night we camped by the South Saskatchewan river and Deirdre and I put on our bathing suits and went for a swim. We saw pelicans fishing in the river, and a rattlesnake as we were making our way back up the hill. One evening a thunderstorm rolled in - we could see it coming for miles. A quick drench and it was on its way, leaving an end-to-end rainbow as an apology. Everyone stared in awe - the only sound heard for moments was the horses chewing on their hay, and a lonely meadowlark.

The magical days and nights continued much like each other, until… we hit a fence, our first once since we started this fantastic voyage. My heart fell as we waited our turn to squeeze through the hole, back though the looking glass, out of Wonderland. My heart pounded and I looked wildly around me - I couldn't leave this world and return to a life of city and high tech. But there was nothing I could do - I was caught in the flow of 1500 people going in one direction. Looking around I could see my disappointment mirrored in the faces of my fellow riders.

As we rode single file down the ditch of the highway towards Medicine Hat, I could see a speck of a building in the distance. At a horse's pace it grew and grew until it took up half the horizon. The ugly refinery belching smoke on the outskirts of the city jarred me. There was no doubt or hope left - it was over. Tears burned at the backs of my eyes and I felt like I might choke on my disappointment.

We set up camp under the black shadow of civilization. It wasn't just me with a long face, all around me faces were glum. People talked about what a great trip it had been and how they didn't want it to end. There was no mood for entertainment and people went to bed early. Most people. A group of young guys tried to swim the river on their horses to go to a bar in the 'Hat' and one of them drowned.
A pall hung over the cattle drive the next morning as the news travelled around the camp, but as everyone knows, the show must go on. Horses were quietly groomed and saddled, we tied our bandanas around our arms in respect of the fallen, and headed out towards the big city lights.

Excitement grew again as we started to travel residential streets. Fifteen hundred riders, a bunch of cows and a hundred chuck-wagons were travelling through the city - it was a sight to see from the back of a horse, and I heard that it was a spectacle from the ground. I sat up taller in the saddle and straightened my cowboy hat and I felt Jovan get a little bit bigger. Everywhere we went crowds of people were lining the roads. On the north side of the city I saw Carm, Mom, Dad, and Uncle Graham in the crowd, waving wildly to get my attention. Reality was another step closer... choke... We paraded through downtown. It seemed like everyone in Medicine Hat were lining the roads. It was my first parade and it could have been the Rose Bowl - it was that fantastic.

And then, all of the sudden, it was over.

Too busy to cry, we started the job of getting back to reality. Horses had to be cared for, tack had to be carried to Helena's truck, people had to be greeted, my bag had to be assigned to Carm. Reality. I could barely stand it. The emptiness in my chest was unbearable, I felt like I might explode into a million pieces and had to concentrate not to cry. But there. Everything has a beginning and an end, and even though the end might not be welcome, it is inevitable.

Ground-in dirt with a coating of dust went down the drain as my clothes spun in the washer and I reluctantly stepped into a much needed shower to complete my transition to reality. A few tears may have mixed with the last of the dirt from my Wonderland.

Clean, and in fresh duds, we went to the cattle auction that afternoon, which was followed by a dinner and dance. I suffered mightily from lunch bag letdown and could only summon up half-hearted participation. I said my good byes to Deirdre and Helena and the ponies the next morning.

Now it was a regular visit to the 'Hat', a regular holiday.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

CW #5 Homeland

Oh boy - this was a hard one. I had a heck of a time coming up with a plot based on the writing prompt and then there was the writing of it! Certainly a challenge! One more creative writing challenge after this and then it will be time for the Christmas break - whew...


Angie paced through the kitchen and down the hallway, her shoes clacking on the beige tile floor. Everytime she glanced at the neat stack of mail on the hall table she clenched her hands into a sweaty fist, she wasn't sure but she might actually get sick. At the other end of the table was a wedding photo of her son and his bride in an ornate silver frame. "Oh, no... what have I done".

The crunch of gravel on the driveway alerted her to her husband's arrival. With a quick turn on her heel she rushed to the kitchen where she she stood in front of the stove stirring a curry, her slender figure stiffened against the sound of her husband's steps coming down the hall.

"Hi honey, I'm home!" Carl grabbed the pile of envelopes from the table as he passed by. The smell of curry scented the air. Carl walked into the kitchen, his bulky form darkening the doorway for a moment. The corners of Carls mouth dropped into a frown, "Curry again? What's wrong with meat and potatoes?"

Angie opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer. "I have a beer open for you, why don't you come and tell me about your day?"

"Huh, in a minute", he dropped the mail on the kitchen table and seated himself on a chair, took a swig of beer, and started to open the envelopes. Just as he was opening the bank statement the back door opened and Peter, their son, stepped through the door.

"You won't believe it! Vidya is refusing to come home. She wants to stay in India with her family. I wish her parents hadn't lent her the money to go. How will I live without her? I love her!" Peter leaned against the counter, his shoulders slumped.

Carl glanced at the paper in his hands. "What's this? Angie, do you know anything about this," his voice grew louder, "five thousand dollar withdrawal?"

"ummm... well, it's the money I lent to Vidya for her trip." She wiped her sweaty palms on a dish towel, and stirred the pot again. "She was so depressed. I was worried she might do something and thought a trip home might perk her up. I thought seeing her family would help…"

Carl's face turned red and a vein started to pound in his neck. "Are you telling me that you gave Vidya five thousand dollars without consulting me?" his hands shook, rattleing the bank statement that was clasped in his hands.

Peter's mouth formed a snarl. "Mom, are you out of your mind? How are we supposed to pay back that loan? I'm not even sure I'll have a job by the end of the week - AsciiPro is having trouble with the call center in India and might hire someone there to work it out. So I'll be without a job, my wife, and my child."

"Child?" she raised her eyebrows and a smile lit her face.

"Ya. I just found out this morning. Vidya is pregnant, and thanks to you I'm losing everything." Peter slammed the door as he stormed out of the house.

Carl turned to Angie, "You call her and tell her that if she doesn't get her ass back here from that hell-hole I'm calling the police to say she stole the money." He grabbed his beer off the counter and stomped into the living room.

Early the next morning Angie picked up the phone with trepidation. Her hands shook as she dialed the number to Vidya's parents house in India.

"Hello, Vidya speaking." said a disconnected voice over a crackling line.

Angie stared out the kitchen window and a nerve twitched under her eye as she told Vidya about Carl's threat to call the police.

At the other end of the phone line, Vidya stood in front of an ornate full length mirror admiring the perfect job she had done applying the bindi. The perfect red circle was reflected in the round mirrored disks in her saree. She adjusted the burgundy garment over her shoulder and preened at her image. *so much better than American clothes*. Her attention focused back on what Angie was saying but she dismissed Angie's threats as impossible to implement. Angie continued her pleading,  the combination of cajoling and threat didn't budge Vidya's position. She was staying in India and that was all there was to it, even if she did miss Peter tremendously.

Frustrated, Angie called Peter to see if he had more luck.  "Mom, I'm at work, I can't talk. We are really busy here dealing with the call centre I told you about.", his voice lowered to a menacing whisper, "You better find some way of getting her home. I want my baby born here."

That evening Carl returned home from work to find Angie crying in the livingroom. "I take it Vidya said no." said Carl. His eyes didn't leave Angie, his face flushed . "I'll let you try again tomorrow before we take any action. You can find out from the Indian Embassy what steps we need to take. I don't understand why she doesn't want to live here where we eat cows instead of letting them run everywhere."

Angie grimaced at Carl's racist words, "you sure didn't help matters" she mumbled under her breath.

As soon as Carl left for work the next morning, Angie called Vidya again and, again she had no luck. "The baby will have choices when it grows up. If it's born in the US it will automatically be an American citizen. Think what that might mean for its future. Oh honey, it's not about the money, we want you to come back. Peter is distraught without you, we all are.", but Vidya held strong.

With shaking hands Angie dialed the number she had written down. "Hello, I need some advice. Someone we know borrowed some money and have returned to India, what is our recourse?".

"I'm sorry, the staff is unavailable, I'll have someone call you tomorrow.", said an unfamiliar voice.

Angie hung up the phone and pulled a box of tea from the cupboard. She could no longer hold back her tears when she saw the decorated elephant on the lid.

The next day Peter burst in the back door of his parents house. With a goofy grin on his face he said "the company is sending me to India! I'm going in two weeks and who knows how long I'm going to stay there - they say it's a permenant job! Vidya will start looking for an apartment today. Isn't that fantastic! I'll be there when the baby is born."

Angie stood frozen to the spot. She was losing her son and grandchild to a foreign land that she was certain Carl would not agree to visit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Self Doubt

I'm escaping from the truth that I totally suck at creative writing. Every exercise has been increasingly difficult and I struggle not just with finding ideas, but also the execution. I can't figure out show not tell. I can't write flowery description. My stories are simple and juvenile. At this exact moment in time I'd like to give up…

But I won't. I'll keep trying, at least for the last two exercises and then I'll see from there.

Yesterday at the WYL group I read a story about foal training, from imprinting on to the other work that I did with them. It ended up being a bit of a how-to guide, but I had fun writing it, and will enjoy reading it in the future so that's what really counts. After I read it, the newest member of our group, an elderly retired vet, said that he didn't agree with the training and that it was all wrong. Wham. Instead of just saying that our vet and farrier enjoyed working with my foals, I got defensive and spouted off a bunch of other stuff. I wish I could go back in time for a re-do. Here was an expert telling me that I didn't know what I was doing in front of the whole group. It was humiliating, and I guess I can't let it go.

On the positive side, today the sun is shining. It's cold and windy but the sun makes it okay. Christina came over and dragged me out of the house for a walk. Her timing was perfect as I was starting to bash my head against my story. The wind whipped at our clothes, but conversation kept us warm.

We are a bit concerned about Spike as he has developed a limp. It was barely perceptible yesterday, in fact I wondered if I was seeing things, but today it is pronounced. I saw it after I sent him for my socks - I felt terrible! My poor little lame dog was doing chores for me. He gamely returned down the hall with them and after he carefully chewed his treat, lay down on the giraffe bed.

Wednesday, after a lovely visit with my parents, brother and brother-in-law's sister Kenda, we went to the high school for a flu shot clinic. Well. When we got there they were serving #198… we were tickets 279 & 280. Oh gosh this will take ages. And it did. Many of the numbers called were not for only one person, but whole families. Two and three, and sometimes even four children accompanied the parents. Kids were sitting bravely getting their needle until ONE started screaming. First a baby spooked a few kids, and then one 6ish year old boy started screaming so loudly we wondered if they had jabbed an handful of needles into his arm. I'm telling you, he screamed and screamed. After that the kids were skittish about the whole thing. Finally it was Carm's turn, and then mine. I kept my eyes averted and my mouth firmly closed, although it might have been fun to freak out the rest of the kids waiting!

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”   ~Sylvia Plath

Monday, November 16, 2015

CW #4 - Come Sail Away

You'd think that this writing thing would get easier each week, but no, it is getting harder. I took the comments from the workshop and incorporated them into my story, but I know there are still a few problems logistically. I'll leave it to you to decide what makes sense!


Come Sail Away

With shoulders slumped and a frown on his face, Brian kicked at the sand as he walked along the beach towards the resort's marina. He felt trapped by his boring job and a wife that didn't give him a moment's peace. He was uneasy about the 5 million dollar insurance policy that his wife, Cornelia, had taken out on his life and was looking to find solace among the boats.

The hot sand was replaced by the smooth boards of the dock. His frown turned to a smile as he walked along the dock admiring the colourful sailboats. A slender, blonde woman on a boat waved a greeting. He waved back.

The next day, as soon as Cornelia left the room for her day of spa and shopping, Brian headed straight for the docks. The blonde woman was there again; this time, instead of just waving, she called out 'hi'. A butterfly tumbled in his stomach.

"Hi." Brian answered. "Is this your boat?"

"Yup, she's all mine! She's an O'day 14 footer built in 1984." Tulula plunged a mop into a pail and continued scrubbing the deck.

"She's a beauty. She's exactly the same azure blue as the ocean. I'm Brian." He shifted from one foot to the other.

"I'm Tulula, do you sail?"

"No, but I've wanted to since I was a boy. Are you from around here?"

Tulula dipped her bucket into the sea and rinsed off the soapy deck, "I'm from Canada, but left when I was 32, I've lived here for 5 years. It feels more like home here than Toronto ever did. I couldn't stand the winters."

"Oh! I'm from Toronto too, and I know exactly what you're saying. I dream of moving away but my wife… oh, I don't want to talk about her… what does your family think of you living here?"

"I don't have any family." Tulula said quietly. She stowed the bucket in the tiny cabin and emerged with a coconut and machette. With a flourish she chopped open the coconut and offered Brian a drink.

A bead of sweat formed on his brow, and with a shaking hand took the coconut from her, "er… where did you learn to do that?"

"I had a friend here who knew all about native plants and fish and he took me under his wing. He died in a boating accident. I miss him."

She stepped off the boat and sat down on the edge of the dock, dangling her feet in the water. Brian sat down beside her and an easy banter grew between them. Suddenly he remembered that he'd better get back to his room or Cornelia would be furious.

As soon as Cornelia left the next morning, Brian walked quickly to the docks, hoping that Tulula would be there. His face brightened when he saw her blonde head bent over her mop.

"Hey!" she called out to him, stowing the mop in the compartment under the seat. "Do you want to go for a sail?"

"Oh boy - do I ever!" Brian stood at the side of the boat, his face flushed and a wide grin spread across it.

He hopped on the boat, but before he could sit down she handed him a life jacket. "You'd better wear this." she said, putting hers on as she spoke.

They motored out of the harbour and when they were clear of the breakwater Tulula set the sails. As the wind blew through his hair, Brian couldn't imagine anything quite so grand. "This is amazing!"

Lost in conversation, the hours passed quickly. After a quick look at her watch Tulula turned around, shocked to see huge black clouds racing their way. "We'd better get back." As they got closer to the storm the wind picked up and the ocean got rough. "Hold the tiller while I reef the sails!" she shouted over the wind.

The waves tossed them around like a cork, driving rain soaking them. Passing Brian the tiller again she ducked into the cabin and emerged with a scabbard holding her machete slung across her back. Her teeth chattered as she turned to Brian, "just in case…"

Waves crashed around them - Brian couldn't see how they could possibly survive the ocean's wrath. The boat crested a wave and shuddered before it crashed into the trough.  Shudder. Crash. Shudder. Crash. On it went, Brian and Tulula's eyes wide with terror, until a giant wave crashed down on top of them, capsizing the boat. As the boat sunk into the sea, Brian and Tulula clung onto each other as the waves threatened to bring them under too.

The sun was just coming up in the east when they washed onto the shore, their arms numb from grasping each other. They dragged themselves further onto the beach and collapsed.

When Tulula woke up she called out, "Hey Brian! Look, there's a grove of coconuts. I'm parched."

On shaking legs they shuffled through the sand to the trees. The storm had knocked several coconuts to the ground and they drank and ate until they had their fill. Energized, they started walking along the shoreline looking for habitation;  when they had circled the island with no sign of life they knew they were lost.

"We'd better make a shelter." said Tulula as she walked towards a line of palm trees. Later, using hooks and line that had been tucked into a pocket of one of the lifejackets, and matches from another pocket, they waded into the lagoon to catch some fish to grill for supper. Every day they combed the beach looking for washed up sea life, if their search didn't turn up anything they waded out into the lagoon with baited hooks to catch their day's meal. They settled into an easy routine and soon the days turned into weeks, which turned into months.

"How many days have we been here, Tulula?"

She sidled up to him and checked her watch, "361." she said slipping her arm around his waist.

"Just 4 more days till I'll be declared dead and Cornelia can collect my life insurance, she must be ecstatic."

Several hundred feet offshore, a commercial pleasure boat dropped its anchor and a small skiff was lowered into the water. Catching the sound of the droning engine Brian and Tulula looked up. Pleasure and dismay contorted their faces as they realized they'd been rescued.

Rage distorted Cornelia's face the next day at the sound of Brian's voice on the phone. "what, when." she spluttered as Brian informed her that he'd already talked to a lawyer about a divorce. Through gritted teeth she said "You can't take half my business, you have no right."

"You're wrong there - I do have the right and I'm going to take it. I'm not interested in being a partner in your business, I want my half in cash." Brian hung up the phone and turned to Tulula, "we aren't going to have to worry about money for the rest of our lives."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

weep and fret

I’m taking a break from my writing assignment - it is mostly done, just needs some spit and polish. Since I’ve been living and breathing it for hours I have to take a little break away so that I can see its flaws. This was a hard one. Between brain fog, and total lacek of creativity, I struggled. It took me ages to figure out where I wanted the story to go - it took me ages more to get it there.

Friday night the world was shocked by what happened in Paris. My hearts go out to those people affected by all the violence this past week. CNN ran it constantly so we watched (what seemed like) hours of coverage before I escaped to the bedroom. I couldn't take it anymore. Some people can watch the news while still staying remote. Not me. I can't stop myself from being in the car crash, or bombing, or other attack. I think about what I would do and how terrifying it would be. I live it. Unfortunately "un living it" is harder to do…

Saturday we moved Carm’s mom’s furniture into her room at the retirement home she's moving into. She started with a two week trial and loved it, so she's staying. We fit quite a bit of furniture into her studio apartment - it looks very homey. We are all thrilled to see her happy and not as lonely as she was. She’s thriving in the more social atmosphere. She's got early/mid stages of Alzheimer's but since she's been there we've seen a marked improvement. Perhaps some of her memory problems were caused by loneliness and isolation.

After we finished getting her home set up, Crystal Lodge invited us to stay for the lunch. Well. I'd be pretty happy to be served up meals everyday like the one we got yesterday. No wonder everyone in the place is always smiling!

It was 4pm when we got home and I was exhausted. My brain was totally fried. A sleepless night and all the activity had done me in. I wanted to be surrounded by ponies and rainbows. We watched 'Unfinished Song' (aka 'Marions song') which was a good movie, but more heavy rainfall than rainbows.

I'm trying not to think about it, but when I look out the window at what can only be a November sky (no other month has quite that shade of grey) it is hard not to be pulled down. A little bit of sunshine PLEASE!

"November is usually such a disagreeable if the year had suddenly found out that she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it.”   ~L.M. Montgomery

Friday, November 13, 2015

the hamster cage

I'm doing work avoidance right now. It isn't really work, and it certainly shouldn't feel like it is, but my brain has been so fuzzy the last few days that I can't get down to writing this week's creative writing assignment. See what I mean that it shouldn't be work!

The other day I made myself sit down and write an outline. But first I had to see if the spare bedroom desk would be a good spot to write. Then tried different chairs, yes, even the wing chair from the living room. That didn't work out so I moved to the black table in the corner of our bedroom. Wing chair was too big, but my good desk chair fit and was comfortable. Found a placemat to rest my tablet on so I didn't scratch the table. Moved the lamp. Made a tea. Found a coaster for my tea. Put a couple of books on the table to make it look scholarly. Tried a sheepskin on the chair... You get the picture. In the words of my good friend Jo Ellen, I was cleaning the hamster cage…

Today, after being jabbed a bunch of times at the blood clinic, breakfast at the Country Diner, a shop at Liquidation. Oh wait, where was I? Right. I MADE myself sit at my cosy desk and pound out a first draft. It was hard - my brain is not cooperating with me (as you can probably tell from what you are reading!). So, I've got a first draft, but let me tell you, it is really drafty. I should be working on it more right now…

In my post from a year ago today I wrote about 'Giving Advice', a topic for my writing group. In it I talk about changing my thinking - it is a good premise, but I think I might have been manic. There are times when, no matter what action I take, I can't seem to stop spiraling` down into depression. It might be that I haven't controlled triggers like getting a good night sleep, and keeping a low key schedule. Or maybe things that I can't control have a greater influence. Like shorter days. The only way I could control that is to travel from NZ to Canada with the sun.

So far this November I'm managing well, but there are a few things that have alerted me to the fact that this might not continue. I've had trouble sleeping, the odd mood blip, and now this brain fog has descended on me. Knowing means that I can be extra vigilant with triggers I can control. I have hope that keeping in tune with my thinking will get me to the spring unscathed :-)

Change your thoughts and you change your world.  ~Norman Vincent Peale

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

CW #3 Bob & Jim

This is the third creative writing assigment. We are given a writing prompt and from there have to come up with a scenario and the action. It is a challenge!


Bob Carlson and Jim Hanson greeted each other awkwardly as they took their seats on the 747 bound for London, England. Bob groaned inwardly - he couldn't stand Jim and the thought of sitting next to that blow-hard for seven hours was almost more than he could take. He thought of asking to change seats, but the plane looked full, and besides which they were neighbors so he had to at least pretend to get along.

As soon as they were in the air and the seat belt sign went out, Bob undid his seatbelt and tried to get comfortable, loosening the laces on his Reeboks and stretching his worn denim clad legs in front of him.

"You really should keep your seatbelt on. People have been killed by smashing into the ceiling when the plane has hit a big pocket of air." said Jim as he snugged up his belt a bit.

Bob rolled his eyes. "What are the odds of that happening?".

"Not zero, take your chance if you want," he said sarcastically, "Amy is a sweet girl with a head on her shoulders, I'm sure she's happy to have a father."

"You leave Amy out of this! I noticed how much time you two spent talking at the last party, what's that all about?" said Bob as he surreptitiously did up his seat belt. Bob picked up his 'Ontario Grain Farmer' magazine and with the veins in his neck throbbing, turned to look out the window.

"Look," said Jim, "I know you don't like me, and that's fine, but don't put thoughts into my head that aren't there. Amy is a nice kid, with a good brain on her shoulders," he thought to himself, "but that's what she is, a kid. Besides which, we have a long flight ahead of us and it will go faster if we can agree to get along, at least for these few hours." He undid his seatbelt and stood up, his carefully combed black hair barely clearing the ceiling. He shrugged out of his sports jacket, folded it neatly and placed it in the overhead bin, refastening his seatbelt as soon as he sat down. Bob couldn't help but notice that his worn jeans contrasted with Jim's neatly pressed Levi's.

"Why should I believe you don't have the hots for my daughter? She sure can't say enough about you. It's sickening." Bob blustered, his face red with anger.

The stewardess rolled next to them with her brushed aluminum serving cart. "Can I interest you gentlemen in a drink?". Bob ordered a beer, while Jim ordered a scotch, neat.

Jim picked up his magazine, 'The Economist', but was not easily put off by Bob's rebuke. "Look, we were just talking about the chemistry experiments that she's been doing at school. You'll just have to trust that I prefer my women closer to my own age." he gritted his teeth in a frustrated grimace and tried to change the subject. "Have you had any dealings with Genesis Grains Incorporated?"

Bob turned to look at Jim with a bit of surprise on his face. "Well, yeah. That's the company that I'm going over to close up a sale."

"Do you know anything about their GMO research arm?"

"A bit. They are doing some pretty interesting stuff."

"The research that they're doing with golden rice has me really intrigued. Imagine splicing in the gene for making more vitamin A - it will save millions of kids from blindness. I'm seriously thinking of investing in them. I've been tracking their stock for 6 months and the trend is good." Jim sat back in his seat while the stewardess delivered their drinks. "Ahhh. That's not bad scotch."

Bob looked at Jim out of the corner of his eye and put down his magazine. "Where did you hear about them?"

"There was an article in 'the Economist' several months back about the work that's being done with GMO. Not the GMO that lets Monsanto sell more poison, but the GMO that is really going to help people. The internet has lots more information, if you dig for it. There's a lot more going on than you see in the media. They just like to sensationalize and not educate." Jim took a another sip of his drink.

"You've got some good points, Jim. I'd like to hear more about what 'the Economist' said, but here comes our supper."

"This barely qualifies as supper. It isn't anything like the fantastic spread that your wife put out a few weeks ago. Man, she can really cook!" said Jim as he peeled back the plastic on the butter. He was hoping a less controversial topic would ease the conversation a bit.

"Umm, well, yeah. Maria's the reason I have such a paunch! How can I keep trim when she stuffs me with all that stick-to-your-ribs Italian cooking. She's got a good student in Amy too." Bob's face reddened as he thought of Jim's comments about Amy and her irritating infatuation for him - 'metrosexual indeed'.

They were silent as they finished their meals and both contemplated how to keep the conversation congenial.

After their plates were cleared away they resumed their conversation over coffee, with a more neutral topic. "Do you do much investing?" Bob asked Jim, recalling comments about the grain company.

"Tons, I love the excitement of the market - the losses not so much. Do you have an investment advisor or do you work on your own?"

"I have an investment advisor, but I haven't been happy with my returns." said Bob, brushing crumbs from his 'Mets' tshirt. Their conversation started to flow more easily and before they knew it they were starting their descent into Heathrow airport.

Bob turned to Jim with a smile. "You know, you aren't so bad afterall. I'm sorry I was so quick to judge. "

Jim was pleased that a common ground was found and smiled back, relieved that Bob didn't suspect the truth - he was really interested in Bob's wife, Maria, and that she shared the attraction.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Sometimes I hate Facebook. My regular routine in the morning is to sip my coffee while I scroll through pages and pages of posts. This morning was no different.

Post, post, post. One of the 'love your family, love yourself' type posts. Nice sentiment.


Lifeless eyes stare off the page, bruises and blood on her beautiful face. Bruises on her chest. Dead. Stoned to death.

For 3 seconds I didn't feel anything. Then an onslaught of feelings. Shock, anger, grief, sadness. I couldn't (can't) shake the image. I cried for her and everyone who has died like her.

I had to get out of the house. It was sunny so I knew I needed to be outside, or at least in the car. Landscape speeding past is always a good distraction for me which meant a drive would be a good choice. It took us 1/2 hour to figure out a destination and then we were on our way. There is something about going for a drive (as a passenger of course) that calms me. It is my go-to activity if I'm starting a depression or even just blue. Luckily, Carm likes driving me around!

Here's a crazy thing… Carm was talking to a woman in the A&W at our turnaround point; she and her husband left at the same time as us and their conversation started up again. Her husband turned to Carm and said "Is your name Carm?" - they had gone to school together! Small world eh.

Saturday night we visited Carm's mom in her retirement home, then had supper with my family. We are lucky to have family nearby.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

WYL #17 - Turning Points

This topic turned out to be a bit of a durge, perhaps Leonard Cohen would like to put it to music (of course he’d be more eloquent). It came out sounding like a bit of a whine, but that was not my intent. But we are writing about our lives, and this is certainly a big part of mine…


There are forks in our lives where we chose one direction over another and this choice can dramatically change our path in life. The day I accepted a temporary job with the government changed the course of my life in ways I can only guess at. Who knows what would have happened if I had stayed in school and moved with my parents to Toronto. Maybe I would have gotten a degree in Arts and become a clerk in some big city bank? Or maybe I would have flown to a foreign city and fallen in love. Instead I entered a career in IT that lasted 30 years. Staying in Ottawa also set me up for another turning point. The lonely night I slipped a note under Carm's door to meet me for a coffee set in motion a series of steps that led to building a happy life together. I have no regrets with either choice, my life has been happy and full of love.

Not all turning points are choices though. Sometimes things that are out of your control happen that force a new track. That's what happened to me in 2004. My life was perfect. I was living my dream with a farm in the country, complete with a herd of horses in the backyard. I ignored the ominous signs. Occasionally I'd have a week or two of depression but it would pass and I'd forget the grey misery. Spring and summer were euphoric. The sun shone brighter, the grass was greener, everything was a miracle. There was nothing that I couldn't do. I thought everyone loved life as wildly as I did.

In March of that year everything changed. My depression didn't end and just got worse and worse. Moving one foot in front of the other was the best I could do, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it up. Life seemed like an empty void. A trip to the doctor got me a prescription of antidepressants. I thought my problems were solved. Summer that year was great. I bought 2 more mares. I bred 4. I didn't sit still. The next spring was going to be busy and I was super excited about it. My brain was on overdrive… until it wasn't. The September fall from hypomania to depression was like landing on a cement sidewalk from one story up. Thoughts about dying haunted me - it seemed the only solution. Another visit to my doctor got me a leave slip, a different antidepressant and a referral to a psychologist.

The new prescription didn't help but, luckily, I only had to wait a week to see the new doctor. I sat in a big blue armchair in his office and answered question after question. Finally, Dr. Beck put his notes down and looked me in the eye. "You have bipolar, a mood disorder that has no cure. You'll be on medication for the rest of your life, without it you have a 20% chance of dying by suicide.".

I sat stunned. This wasn't what I expected, it wasn't what I wanted. What happened to my perfect life? I asked him why it happened so suddenly and he told me that I had had a mild form which can suddenly turn more serious.

Talk about turning points! Everything had changed but it took a while to sink in. I didn't understand how the diagnosis would change nearly every aspect of my life.

My doctor told me that bipolar is a mood disorder where the hypo-manic highs cycle with depressed lows, with some 'normal' thrown into the mix. Instead of experiencing a mood for a few hours or maybe days, it get's stuck at one of the extremes, sometimes for weeks or months before it cycles through the mood spectrum again. It's been my experience that hypomania can be energetically euphoric, which can be fun, until the energy overcomes me so I can't sit down or sleep, and my brain spins with crazy ideas.  The euphoria can suddenly, like flicking a light switch, change to an irrationally irritable rage. Depression is a loss of feeling. My brain doesn't spin, it lies flat without moving. Thoughts are slow and muddled. I feel like I am moving through a thick grey porridge. It isn't just sadness but is often a painful emptiness from which there seems only one escape.

The weeks turned into months which turned into years as medications were adjusted and I worked hard to learn how to manage this illness. One of the first things I learned is that having a calm environment without frenetic levels of activity was crucial. I could no longer manage the schedule of taking care of 11 parrots, and 11 horses.  The horses and birds had to go. My dream life was over. I thought of keeping one horse, but one of the many side effects of the drugs was a loss of balance. I learned the hard way that the ground is hard! There were rivers of tears over these decisions, but I knew that they were the only ones that I could make, I knew that to carry on the way I was going would keep me ill.

If that wasn't enough to deal with, I found that the depression and medications had affected my brain. I couldn't think. My IQ dropped. Simple tasks were (proved) difficult and frustrating. I kept at it though and with more hard work most of my brain has returned. I still have trouble with concentration and memory, especially when tired.

Some people with bipolar enter remission and no longer experience any of its effects. I'm not one of those people. Every single day I have to make choices towards wellness. The odd late night might be okay, but more than that will likely trigger a mood episode, as will too many activities in a day. I keep track of my thinking to make sure I nip any negative thoughts in the bud. The tremor in my hands is just one side effect of the medications I take, but they are a lifesaver to me so I'm careful to take them on schedule. These management techniques help, but sometimes depression or hypomania gets a toe-hold and I'm brought down.

The reminders that my life has changed are harsh at times, but then I realize how lucky I am, for most turning points have a positive side and this one is no different. Please don't feel sorry for me! I live a good and happy life. I have good doctors, I have supportive family and friends, I have experienced the kindness of others, I have a spouse that is my champion. And, sometimes, I even get to experience a little bit of that euphoria!

This is a quote by Albert Camus that is a reminder that I have within myself the power to overcome:

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”  ~Albert Camus

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Indian Summer

I think I stepped into a time-machine with the dial set for early September. Seriously, the last few days have been that nice. Temps have reached the mid teens (C) every day, and although the nights were cooler there was no frost on the ground. The sun has been shining and the winds have been down. A little interlude before you know what.

The last few days I've been writing and writing, editing and writing some more. My topic for this week's writing group is the cattle drive I went on - the most amazing vacation I have had. I wanted to do it justice and not just toss off something quick. It ended up being over 2000 words so I've divided it up into 2 'chapters'. Part of writing (for me) is trying to recapture the feelings that I experienced - the incredible excitement and profound sadness had me laughing and crying as the words flowed onto the page. I'll post it in a couple of days - first I have to scan some photos as it was long before digital cameras were invented.

This afternoon, while I napped, Carm put away the pool and got the hitch out of the truck. He was assaulted by Asian beetles and when he came in one side of his neck was covered with swollen bites. Those damn things got me a few weeks too. I can see them laboriously flying around outside the window, their rotund bodies unable to pick up any speed.

I took advantage of a warm day to do the final 'putting to bed' of the villetta. Everything that could freeze, and all the food came off right after we got back from our last trip, leaving just odds&ends to come in the house. The last of that 'stuff' is inside, and I've moved things that I might want (but don’t need inside) during the winter to easily accessible areas. I also vacuumed up dozens of Asian beetles… The slides are still out but can go in before the snow flies. (for those that aren’t familiar, the slides open up to make it bigger on the inside than the outside)

The farmers are taking advantage of the good weather too - huge wagons filled with corn rumble down the road, causing me to check for earthquakes. The sound of harvesting equipment in the field is a faint echo that can be heard all times of the day or night. Farming is not a 9 to 5 job.

"The Indian Summer, the dead Summer's soul."  ~Mary Clemmer

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

WYL #16a Where were you then - 1998 Ice Storm

Ice Castles

The lights flickered. Head throbbing from a day long headache, I groped my way to the kitchen sink to fill a bucket of water for the toilet and made sure we (humans and dogs) had enough drinking water, then rushed down to the basement to take care of the aviary full of parrots - 5 pairs of birds waited for me to serve up their supper.

Water and food was taken care of, getting the dogs outside for a break and opening the gate was next. I was shocked to find freezing rain bucketing down and every surface already glazed. It was a miracle that I didn't wipe out as I slip my way to the gate.  With a big heave-ho I wrenched the gate free of the ice and looked down the road. It takes a big dip down to the bridge over the creek, then there is a long, fairly steep hill on the other side. On either side of the road is a sharp, car-busting drop-off to the creek. The slick hill was too much for the few cars that tried, leaving them idling in the dip waiting for a salt truck to come along.

I didn't have to wait long for Carm to skid into the laneway from the other direction. As we stepped into the house the lights flickered again, and then went out. Already. We started a fire in the fireplace and wondered when the power would come on.

Thursday morning we woke up to a quiet house. No lights on downstairs in the birdroom. No alarm clock. No humming of the fridge. Dead quiet. Except for the eerie cracking of trees breaking. Oh geeze, surely it won't be long now. I traipsed outside with the dogs and stopped just outside the door. Thick ice cloaked every surface; even tall grasses were ringed with an inch of ice, sticking out of the ground like miniature crystal skyscrapers. Our driveway was impassable - there was no way we were going to work. The dogs slid and fell as they tried to do their business - they didn't linger outside. The birdroom was lit by two small windows, but it was enough light for them to find the food bowls that we had filled with bird seed rather than their normal scrumptious meal.

It was a long day. We had no phone service and no battery operated radio so occasionally we'd sit in the car trying to get news of what was happening. CHEZ 106 didn't have much to say, but Lowell Green on CFRA had reports of gloom and doom. We sat tight and hoped we'd be one of the first to be restored.

Cracking explosions kept up through the day and into the night as the trees surrendered their crowns to the icy queen.

The next day there was no change so we ventured out in the car. We were shocked when we saw long lines of power poles snapped in two. Every road we drove on the north/south poles were shattered.  A few days later we'd be even more shocked to see a line of collapsed metal power towers. Our hearts sunk and we wondered what we'd do. It would surely be weeks before this mess could be cleaned up and we had a basement full of parrots - tropical birds - that had to be kept warm. There was no way we could leave the house.

Thankfully our house was R2000 and we had an efficient woodstove in the living room. That was good for upstairs, but as you know, heat rises. When we built the house we had roughed in for a future wood stove in the basement, but that was no help (we did remedy that as soon as everything was back to normal). We had to find a way to get heat into the bird room and since we couldn't fight the laws of physics we'd need another heat source. My parents had a kerosene heater that we could borrow which would help a bit but we could only run it when we were there and we'd have to be careful about the fumes - we had 10 canaries in this coal mine.

Heat wasn't our only problem - we had no water. None for toilets, none for washing ourselves, none for the dogs. Luckily by the weekend the temperatures outside had risen to above freezing and water was pouring off the roof. I put bowls and buckets under the drain spouts and collected water into a large garbage bin that we brought into the house. A day of effort gave us enough to get by. We got drinking water from the township.

Firewood was also a problem - we had roasted a lamb the previous fall which depleted our reserves. Carm put many miles on the car collecting wood at various depots. Kind people from the city donated some to us, and the rest came from emergency suppliers.

By a fluke we heard about a delivery of generators that was coming into Home Depot - Carm was in line at 5am on Sunday to cinch one. The American manufactured generators were not designed to handle the frigid temperatures that had moved in. We had to carry the heavy, awkward unit up three steps to get it in the house to warm up for an hour before we could coax the engine to start. As if we didn't have enough to worry about. However, the generator could run a space heater in the birdroom - at least while we were home and awake.

The days passed, we were back to work so our heating efforts downstairs were minimal and day by day the room got colder. By Friday it was at 50F and I had made the commitment to stay up with the generator and kerosene heater until we warmed the birds up. I think it was 8pm when we saw the light down the road. Could it be? Carm disconnected the generator and flicked the main switch on the electrical… and voila! Lights.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy Halloween Part 2

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with all the writing I have to get done… this morning was 'creative writing'. It was a great meeting, but boy - talk about piling on the homework! Each week the assignment increases in complexity. Good though. I'll be referring to my notes often.

Additionally, I've only written about 100 words of Thursday's writing topic. I'm writing about the 1996 Cattle drive that I went on so want to do it justice - it was the best vacation ever. I've got the book that I got afterwards as well as my photo album to help jog my memory. Oh wow, it almost hurts to think about it.

And then this. I want to finish my story about Halloween night before I forget anymore details.

Okay, now where was I? Had the huge group of deaf people left? Their departure signaled the starting of music. Glen, the karaoke guy, had a full setup of controls, word prompt display and sound system. He was prepared for a night of fun! I don't remember what the first few songs were, but that's not to say that they weren't entertaining - they were. But when he started singing 'Sweet Caroline', I couldn't help but sing along (in my seat!!!). He sashayed over and stuck the mike in my face. Did that stop me? Oh no… I was wearing a disguise so continued with my off-tune bellowing. Very uncharacteristic of me…

The music continued. A woman took his place. She belted out a few good German songs, and then sang 'Natural Woman' with another guy who was dressed as a woman. A few more songs and a bearded guy took his turn. I think the first song he sang was a Frank Sinatra. I put down my drink and turned from the conversation. This guy was good. Not good like Glen, cause he was good too, but Talented. He could really sing. He could be 'somebody'. He sang several other songs over the course of the night, and each time you could see the audience turn to listen. I overheard someone saying that they would pay to go listen to him.

So that was how much of the night went - oh! I'm forgetting the costume judging when 10 of us stood in a line and the audience cheered for their favorites. I think I said yesterday that I was fourth (thanks again cleavage!). We collect our prizes then returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The door swung open and an older man stepped in, stood at the door and looked around. His tailored black leather jacket was clearly made to fit his slender frame. A matching black leather fedora crowned his time-worn face. Crisp black leather gloves finished off his perfectly styled look. Coat, hat, gloves? It was the black gloves that slightly slayed me. At first I thought it was a costume - it wasn't like anything I had ever seen anybody wear. I mean, who dresses like that?

He stepped into the room and walked briskly over to Glen, where they discussed matters to which only they were party to, then turned on his heels and left the building. I was intrigued and slightly irritated that I didn't have my camera handy. He was like a caricature of something that I can't quite pin my finger on. I found out later that he is a 91 (!) year old entertainer and that he was coming to see what was going on in the area.

Isn't life fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween Part 1

Our fun on Saturday didn't end with the golf - we had committed ourselves to going to the Acapulco for an evening of costumed Halloween fun. We don't dress up. Carm certainly doesn't dress up. I decided to buck the trend and go as *something* , I just wasn't sure what.

Digging around in my closets and drawers I stumbled upon my motorcycle jacket - yeah! That's the ticket. I'll go as a 'motorcycle chick'. I unearthed a few more bits and pieces to make up the outfit. I dragged out makeup that I rarely use and applied liberally. Bright red lipstick, thick dark mascara on my almost invisible eyebrows, thick black eyeliner around my eyes, mascara, and the crowning glory: blue eyeshadow from lash to brow. Yikes. I almost forgot the stark black shoulder length wig. With a pink skirt so brief that I needed shorts, black stockings, low cut black tank-top, tiny denim vest, all crowned with a stereotypical black leather motorcycle jacket, I could have stood at a corner somewhere and maybe made a few bucks.

I won fourth place! Mainly due, I think, because of cleavage, and maybe a bit because of my clowning around - there is something freeing about being invisible behind a facade (more about that tomorrow). And for the prize, a 4 pack of Boes beer, a craft beer brewed in our area.

Unfortunately the photos of me were taken after we got home and much of the makeup had worn off.

As is often the case when we visit the Acapulco, it was an interesting night full of fodder for an aspiring writer. I savour each moment of weirdness and plan what I might write. Of course by the next day I forget. I'm lobbying Carm for a smart phone cause then I could take notes and maybe a photo or two to help me remember. I think writing has increased my 'powers' of observation, and there is something slightly mindful about it.

Soon after we arrived a school bus pulled into the parking lot and 32 deaf people poured from its guts. There was confusion as they were shuffled into the room setup for groups, and even more when that overflowed and they filled up much of the rest of the restaurant. The bus driver was the only person who could hear, and I'm not sure that he could communicate with the others. But everyone settled in and by pointing and gesture were able to order from the menu.

Like people with hearing, it seemed that some were 'louder' talkers than others. Watching them converse, some were more animated with bigger gestures. Imagine for a moment what it must be like to be trapped in a world of silence and not able to communicate with the world around you. It isn't even like being in a foreign country - you'd quickly learn some key words to communicate. It must be frustrating.

That was just the beginning of the night, but this is already long so I'll save my other stories (which involve entertainers) for tomorrow.