Seven Weeks

 

On August 22, 2019, I left my job. Have you ever been in a position where all the signs are just saying, it’s time to move on? I was in that position. Some of those signs were speaking louder than others, but really, when it comes down to it, it was just time for a change.

In 2016, I was managing a Bosley’s pet store, and I loved it. No job is perfect, but since I left that company for personal reasons, I’ve sort of cast around for work which satisfied. I found jobs which paid well that I hated, and I found jobs which paid crap but I loved. I didn’t find the perfect fit.

I’m more a joy and satisfaction kind of girl than a dollars and cents kind of girl, but this time when I quit, I wanted to be a bit more selective about my next position. Ideally, I’d like to find a blend of personal fulfillment, financial security, and flexibility. I am looking to build a writing career, after all, and I weigh that against my other employment options.

Will the job I accept offer enough time for me to continue with writing? Will it leave me too tired and eye-fatigued to write? Will it suck the soul from my being and leave me too emotionally drained to write? I’ve experienced all of these before. Or, will it fit me like Goldilocks’ bed — not too soft, not too hard, but just right?

I’m going to write more about the voyage of my job hunting experience in the coming weeks, but for now, let me just give the highlights — in seven weeks, I received nine job offers. Some of these were career type positions with high paying wages and great benefits packages, some were not. I briefly tried out two of these jobs, and although the people were nice, the jobs were not for me, so I picked up the last of those paychecks today, and tomorrow I begin life as a barista at Starbucks. lol. It might seem an anti-climactic end to such a choosy search, but it’s what I want. Baring early retirement, I am excited to begin.

And, today I received the employees benefits package manual, and let me just say, wow. This is one amazing employer. At least, on paper.

The point of this post is really not about the job hunt, it is, at the outset of Thanksgiving weekend, a tally of all I accomplished in the seven weeks (to the day) from the end of my previous full-time job and the start of my new job. Because, I am so grateful for this time I’ve had these past two months.

In these last few weeks, I have finished writing a novel – Feathers in the Snow. (Which means I am now up to seven completed novels — with publication of the third launching next month.) I have written blog posts, had an article picked up by Okanagan Life Magazine, am in the middle of an art gallery-related writing contract, have created a fiction writer’s course, have submitted several short stories to potential publishers, have formatted print and EBook editions for my soon to be published, The Heart of Things, and tonight reformatted the Ebook version of my former release, Honey on my Lips, which had some glitches the company was unable to remedy. I’ve checked the sample pages, and the book is fixed (yeah me!). I have signed up for a second year of NaNoWriMo, and tonight was contacted by a man who will soon need help writing his memoir. I feel like there is more, but I forget. In short, I have been productive, am on a role, and like I said to my son today, I feel like if I could only have six more months working at this pace, I wouldn’t need to get a second job at all.

I have visited regularly with my mom, talked politics with my dad, hung out with my sister by phone, at least, and with my brother-in-law over coffee. My eldest daughter and I went on a coffee-fueled nature photo shoot, and I’ve been to my younger daughter’s soccer and volleyball games, have tracked my nephews (by marriage) football games. I am prepping two of my children for their driving tests, and having so many great conversations with both my sons. I like these people. I love having the time to be involved in their lives.

I have regularly picked Sheen (the only one still in high school) up mid-day and taken her out for lunch before dropping her back off to sweat it out in pre-cal. Have baked and cooked and made healthy soups and meals and cleaned the house — although I never did get to the lawn and now intend to let winter just kill all the weeds for me, and I will try again next year. I love what being all domestic goddesy does to my soul. It makes me feel settled and somehow fundamentally healthier and (don’t hate me feminists) more female. I like it when it is organized in here and not falling down at the rafters. I mean, I am never going to be accused of being an obsessive housekeeper, but it’s nice to be able to see the floor again.

I’ve been to two art exhibit openings, to the Armstrong IPE, then skipped a bunch of other things I was invited to for various reasons, but mostly because, for as long as I had the opportunity, I just wanted to make the most of my time here at home. I’ve taken day trips and road trips, blogged about some of them, gotten too busy with the novel to blog about others until I didn’t care to bother anymore.  I’ve had great conversations with friends, have swum and hiked, and honestly meant to do yoga, except the dog thinks it is playtime when I sit on my mat, so yeah, that hasn’t really happened.

I have kept up with American politics — best reality TV around — been enraged at times, ridiculously saddened at times and currently am resting somewhere between hopeful and I-told-you-so. I bet you didn’t know that was an emotion, but lemme just attest, it surely is. Bigly. American politics has even led me to reading my Bible on a couple of occasions, although that might also have something to do with my new doctor pen-pal. He’s in Yemen. Doing doctor things. I’m mostly almost sure.

I feel, at the end of these two months, amazed by how refreshed I am. Body, soul, spirit. I feel in touch with the essential, peaceful, content, hopeful, sentient and self-aware parts of my personality which at times get sucked away in the challenges and demands of life.

There are also so many things I wanted to do but haven’t yet gotten to. I still have to create my self-publishing course content — but I have five more weeks to do that. I never did give up the junk food or lose all the weight — have a lifetime to do that. I haven’t always been great at getting to sleep on time (4 am. But that was only once. And the book I was reading was sooo good.). I never called the manager of Chapters, who said she would talk to me about taking on my novel once September arrived, and I haven’t even started the outline for my Nano novel. I need to get on both! I never did go see my boyfriend Gerard Butler in Angel has Fallen, and I didn’t get to the play I was supposed to go to last night or the art reading I had at one point planned to attend tonight. But I did binge watch season fifteen of Grey’s Anatomy and also the Netflix series Unbelievable. And I did cuddle my dog and pet her silky ears (she’s right here beside me right now, as a matter of fact) every day, as much as I possibly could manage. Oh, and I’ve started playing guitar daily in an effort to re-establish callouses. It’s almost like I might want to record again some day.

It turns out that going into Thanksgiving, I have an amazing amount of things to be thankful for. I’ve been feeling that way all month long, like my heart is just full, and brimming, and wanting to spill over — but in a good way. There is such a power in being selective with the choices I make. There is power in accepting the pros and cons which come with each decision. It’s a power that comes from deep down within. Choice is just that gift I get to give myself at this point in my life.

So, tomorrow I begin the journey of learning to be a barista. In the evening, I am meeting my former gallery associates for drinks — and I can’t wait. On Saturday I get to once again go watch my daughter in a volleyball tournament, and this one is just down the street at my alma mater, which is nice on multiple levels. Sunday, my sister is making Thanksgiving turkey and we are having a thanksgiving bonfire at the farm, then Monday, since my kids have to work through C’s thanksgiving, I’ll be doing dinner here. And I know, technically, those dates extend past my seven weeks off, but for some lovely reason, I have the weekend off. My second baristing day isn’t until Tuesday.

This has been a great moment in life. I feel rejuvenated, and am looking forward to what comes next.

Lake Country Cloth Culture

I popped in briefly to my local art gallery tonight. Even though I spent a year working in Kelowna’s largest art gallery, there were only a few faces I recognized at this smaller event. To me, this is one of the best features of the art world. It’s a small community. Except when it’s not.

I attended tonight out of curiosity to see how a smaller, local gallery handles an opening, and I was impressed. It appeared to me that they solicited a decent turnout, and they offered an array of finger food that easily equalled the selections at my former gallery. I had a nice chat with gallery manager, Petrina, who remembered that I had left my former job and asked me about my current life — full-time writer for two more weeks then back to part-time writer, part-time employee collecting paychecks. I thought it was classy that she would ask after me even when she was hosting an opening. She made me immediately glad I had decided to come.

The exhibit that opened is called Cloth Culture, and features, “Six contemporary artists [who] explore the tactic emotional and experiential resonance achieved through the active labor of material production and bodily awareness.” Reading the invitation to the event over Facebook, I gathered that the exhibits would feature cloth in some fashion (pun intended). I wanted to see for myself how the artists would handle their medium in order to achieve their message.

Even though my visit was brief, I came away intrigued. Creativity always has that effect on my brain. The exhibits were varied, some binding garments fashioned into bolts of cloth together in imitation of various recognizable objects, others more abstract in intention.

My personal favourite was the simplicity of the long suspended swath of fabric (linen, possibly?) which had been painted in bold strokes with fluid black smears of paint then draped from ceiling to floor along one wall. I also appreciated the weave of wool, as well as the crinkled design of ribbon and bow-embellished paper. That one had so much texture and variance built into its construction that I had to study it in detail for several minutes before getting any sense of what I was observing. For instance, I first missed the chocolate liquors which had been inserted into the pattern of the work. I also took awhile to see the ivory sewing pins fastening the art to the preserved tree branch from which it hung.

I’ve spent my week anchored to my computer screen building word counts and story scenarios and character complications. I am rushing towards the completion of the fourth novel I’ve written this year, which leaves me well within range of drafting five novels in this twelve month period. It also leaves me with brain bleed, and a serious need for a break, for a change of venue, for a refresh button so I might cement the last two scenes I have yet to write for this novel. This is another reason I popped into Lake Country Art Gallery tonight.

What I got for my trouble was a sausage roll hors d’oeuvre, a brief but pleasant reconnection with real human beings I am not related to and have not crafted from the recesses of my mind, and best of all, sparks for my imagination.

I don’t know if I left the gallery thinking about the relationship of working with cloth to attain body awareness. That was there, but for me, that was a background note. Instead, I left thinking about the impressive way some people have of taking simple, basic materials and re-imagining them into art objects which make a statement. I left thinking about the way art has of creating differing impressions on the psyches of each individual who views them, and about the beauty of transmitting meaning and inspiration in such a fluid fashion. I left thinking about how art works in simplicity and intricate detail with equal power.

Hanging in the window at the gallery is a large cloth hand. From inside the gallery, this was simply suspended fabric which mimicked the flimsy material of a woman’s glove. From the other side, though, when the light from the gallery shone through the material, a shadow world could be seen. Inside the glove was a world of intricate detail which I won’t describe — I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

After studying those shadows, I left. I’m a writer, not an artist, and when I feel inspired, words are my medium of expression. When I slipped out the door, though, I left reminded that in order to really see, you have to take time to truly look. A surface, cursory glance is only stage one in the experiences of life, and of art.

I recommend a visit to Lake Country Art Gallery and Cloth Culture. There you will find shadows under cloth, fluidity of pattern and space, the intricacies of design, and if you take the time, maybe you, like me, will find a moment of contemplative inspiration.

 Lake Country Art Gallery is located at 10356A Bottom Wood Lake Road. Cloth Culture can be viewed until November 17, 2019.

Celebrating Summer’s End in Enderby

Well, it’s still hot out here in the Okanagan. Still sunny and bright. But darkness hits somewhere around 8 pm already, my daughter has completed her first week of grade eleven, and today I bought two new cozy sweaters. Which means, summer is officially done for another year.

As well, after a couple of weird weeks of job transition, I am back to work tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to move on from the job I had in an art gallery. I really loved the job for a long time, and so it wasn’t an easy choice to make. It was also a pretty easy choice to make. As in, one day, I got angry, went home and typed up a resume, took it into a job, was hired on the spot, and gave notice the next day.

Well, okay, it was a little bit more complicated than that. There had been enough signs that it was time for a change in my life that I’d already put some things into motion. I’d already put out some feeler on-line resumes with companies I never really expected to hear from. And then I did. And, people kept offering me jobs. Over the course of two weeks, I was fortunate enough to be offered six different positions with six different companies. I stuck with the first one — the hired-on-the-spot job. (I like the boss, and it turns out she is related to a writer friend of mine.) And today I accepted a second position — with London Drugs.

I’m excited about this new job — start training in a week — but way back when I gave notice, I timed it out so that I could have a week off before starting new things. I finished off my two plus weeks notice at the gallery,  drove out to Salmon Arm the next morning to pick my daughter up from the summer camp where she worked all August, and promptly caught my son’s summer flu. This bug was a nasty, persistent little beastie, and I pretty much spent my week hacking my lungs out to the point where I completely lost my voice yet somehow managed not to lose any weight. What the heck?

And so it has only been the last few days where I have felt reasonably healthy again. Tomorrow I am back at work. Which meant if I was going to say goodbye to summer with one last road trip, today was the day.

I chose Enderby for my destination. This summer, with my daughter working in Salmon Arm, I drove through Enderby three times, noting that gas prices fell with each successive trip. Nice! I figured it was worth the trek out there to see if prices had stayed low, and they had — 124.9, so much better than the 133.9 here at home. I gassed ‘er up from almost empty for just slightly more than it costs to fill half the tank here at home.

When I pulled up to the pump, I noticed the young woman cleaning the towel rack nearest me. She held a spray bottle and a rag, and was completely freaking out over the spiders inside the towel dispenser. When she called a co-worker over to help her then smiled at me, I laughed.

“You remind me of my daughter,” I said, “She hates spiders too. Mind you, you’re completely blowing all my pre-conceived ideas about tough country people.”

She laughed and owned it. “But, spiders!” Then she thanked the young guy as he first sprayed then stomped the — I will freely admit — massive black spider.

When in Enderby, I always go to a particular gas station, and the reason for my choice is obvious — donuts. It was Deanna who introduced us. “These are the best donuts anywhere,” she informed me one summer, and she’s not wrong. Southerland’s Bakery is located inside GTI Petroleum gas station, and it’s a must-do when in Enderby. Today I got the Skor éclair for myself and the mint Aero éclair to take home to Sheena. The woman helping me explained that the difference with their donuts is that they are baked fresh.

“I can’t believe other people use frozen donuts,” she said.

Me either. Well, I can believe they use them, I just don’t know why anyone would buy them. Not when Southerland’s donuts are available instead.

After Southerland’s, I headed for the local beach. Years ago, I dated a man who lived in Enderby. We used to go to rural locations and take photos together. One of my vivid memories is of the many snakes which were sunbathing on the cement walking path by the Enderby River. Yuck. I mean, there were a lot of snakes. Today, instead, I found myself confronted with a sign reading Be Bear Aware.

Bear Aware? How does that help? So, now, as I walk down this path thinking about snakes I am aware that it could be worse, it could be bears?

As much as I like Enderby, I’ve never forgotten the snakes. Back in those days, I was contemplating getting a tattoo. I wanted to get something that represented my personality, in the sense that I am a country girl at heart. Except, I am also a water baby by nature. So, when I thought tattoo, I debated something equine versus something aquatic. Which more truly and fully represented me? I never did decide.

The debate can also be articulated by the top two alternate towns where I might someday wish to live — Peachland, on the waterfront of Okanagan Lake, or Enderby, beside the river and in the shadow of the cliffs, and framed by corn fields on every side. In Enderby, I think as I walk along the shores of the river snapping photographs of scenery which lowers the heart rate with its impressive wholistic beauty, I’d have to be aware of the wildlife. In Peachland, where the beauty is equally impressive but, with boats and forest fires, is not remotely serene, I’d have to accept the population-swelling influx of vacationers. Tourists.

I know you can’t see me from where you are, but I have just shuddered over here. It’s a toss up. Good thing I already live in one of the most beautiful places around.

Today after leaving the beach, I get the brilliant idea to photograph cornfields with the Enderby Cliffs as a backdrop. I’ve wanted to do this every trip I’ve made out here this summer. On the highway, though, there’s no great place to pull over and get to my happy place behind the shutter. Today I decide to find a back road with cornfield access. By lucky coincidence, I also discover Waterside Vineyard & Winery.

I’m kind of on rations financially until regular paychecks recommence, so I don’t go inside or buy anything. I do take some gorgeous pictures and decide I will come back again another day. And then I decide to head home where last night’s leftovers await me (wrong — the child got there first). First, though, I stop and take a quick picture of Starlight Drive-In.

On their website, Starlight Drive-In claims to have the biggest screen in North America. I think they are also one of the last Drive-Ins in British Columbia. At least, that I know of. And sure, I can now go to a theatre in Kelowna with reclining leather seats and enough leg room that I don’t care about aisle seats, but how does that compare to sitting outside and feeding the local mosquito population while listening to poor-quality, car-battery-killing sound underneath the stars? No comparrison. Also, the last time I was at the Drive-In, I watched people get engaged on the big screen. How cool is that?

The first time I ever went to Starlight Drive-In was when I was myself a teenager working at the same Salmon Arm summer camp where my daughter just spent her summer. That year, my buddy Calvin and I hit up the Drive-In together to watch a Clint Eastwood flick,  Dead Pool. Today when I pulled off the road to snap the picture of the Drive-In, it was 4:47 pm. There were already three cars in line for the double horror-flick feature. Come to think of it, a drive-in would be a pretty perfect place to watch a horror flick. But if you are going to try out Starlight, be prepared to arrive in advance.

I pull back onto the highway after only a one car delay. As always, when I drive home from Enderby I want to stop and photograph the fields stretching before me. Corn and hay and right now something plowed up and brown with fresh dirt alternate. The word that always comes to mind here is nestled. As in, the homes and barns are nestled in the V’s made by the hills and the fields. I also always wonder just where Enderby’s fields become Armstrong’s fields. I don’t know the answer, don’t need to know the answer, but once you get past Armstrong, everything opens up. The Okanagan Valley spreads out for you in all its varied shades of greens and blues and golds. Everything in side me lets out that big exhale of breath, and gratitude rings inside my ears.

I’ve been to Enderby four times this summer. I haven’t made it to Peachland once. In the Peachland / Enderby debate, it’s quite possible Enderby is currently ahead. Regardless, what I know, as I head back home to a messy lawn and fast-growing children and pets who love me pretty much unconditionally, is that I am in love with this amazing place where I live. The Okanagan of Beautiful British Columbia. So good to call you my home.

 

Top Ten Things I’d Do after Winning the Lottery — plus bonus #11.

pile of gold round coins
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today’s post brought to you courtesy of the lazy days of a three-day weekend, and the financial juggling mastermind which is me.

Lottery Winning Fantasy List:

In which, Leigh prioritizes, schemes, and budgets her way into the future. 

LOTTERY WINNER TO DO:

1. Quit My Job
Here’s the thing. I love my job. I’m lucky that way. I work at an Art Gallery, and it’s an inspiring, happy place to spend the day. Still, when it comes down to it, I’m a writer, not an artist. And if the salary weren’t in play, as much as I love the artworks, I love writing even more.
2. Pay off all Debts and Put Half into a High Interest Bearing Bank Account
I’ve done the math. And I’ve done the fantasizing. It really wouldn’t take that large a sum to enable me to live off the interest of a high interest bearing savings account for the rest of my life. I don’t actually have hugely expensive tastes. As a single mom, though, I’ve lived without for a long time; I’ve juggled between paying hydro and cable for too long. I’m running out of penny-pinching steam. I’d like to be solvent. Not richer than Zeus, but not shopping at Walmart, either.
3. Health Improvements
Once upon a time, I was fairly athletic. To go with the competitive nature and fun times were a couple semi-serious injuries which currently lower my quality of life. So, I’ve been researching things like massage therapy and physiotherapy, etc. So, yeah. This one is on the list. High up there on the list.
4. Purchase a Car I am Certain of with an Environmentally-Minded Fuel System
In the past three months, my car has had one minor repair ($450), one major repair ($3450), and currently has a leak in the front tire so needs a new set. Every day as I drive it to work, not only does its giant engine contribute to global warming — which I actually feel guilty about in an I-don’t-have-the-income-to-change-this kind of way — I’m also always wondering in the back of my mind, what’s going to break on you next? Not optimum.
5. Splurge on a Waterfront, Water-Adjacent Home
Just ‘cuz. I mean, this one’s self-explanatory, is it not? Me doing me. The dream life version.
6. Hire Bodygaurds for the Children
It would seriously suck to have my financial needs met only to have my wealth jeopardize the health of the ones I love. So, bodyguards.
7. Help Friends and Family and Other Worthy Causes
Even if this weren’t true, I think there’s some sort of lottery-winner requirement to say this. For me, it is true. Although, the people on my personal list might be surprised to find themselves there. My parents, who don’t hugely need the help, but they’ve always helped me, so I’d want to splurge on them. Fern, because she makes Thursday’s fun, and I know she could do a lot with a little, my kids, but not just in a free-for-all, never-have-to-work-again kind of way. Just in a, now-I-can-help-you-out-when-you-need-it way. But you still get to experience the joys of making your own way in life. Which is full of satisfying moments I wouldn’t want to rob them of. I’ve already had my share, so go ahead, Lotto 649 – rob me of them anytime.
8. Travel
Here’s the list:
Ireland, England, Scotland, Prague, Greece, PEI and the rest of the Maritimes, Colorado, Nashville, New Orleans, Oregon Coast, All the Gulf Islands, Grand Forks (lottery win not required), Alaska, Aruba, other miscellaneous warm places, German Museum of Books and Writing, the Black Forest, Auschwitz, Venezuela when it’s safer, Maybe New Zealand, Maybe Moscow, Maybe New Orleans. Hamilton, Ontario to re-visit the Herman H Levy art collection, Bill Reid’s art gallery, a whole bunch of art galleries across Europe, Maybe Rome and the colosseum, ANY WRITER’S CONFERENCE I WANT TO ATTEND ANYTIME, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!
9. Write Novels for a Living Full-Time
I long for the day. My passion. My burning desire. My please, God, help me pull this off, my retirement plan. With or without the lottery, this is the goal. I’ve started. Am on my way. I have a plan, and a five-year goal. And today I bought a fridge magnet which says, Keep Going as if Success is Not a Question. Done deal. If, though, I won the lottery, I would do item number one on this list followed immediately by hiring a marketing assistant who could take all the work side of novel writing off my hands, leaving the creating side the FTG (full-time gig).
10. Seriously Catch Up on Sleep. The Middle Class Hamster Wheel is Exhausting!
You ever tried working a full-time day job while raising a family and putting the hours into pursuing your passion? Oy. I need a three-month nap.
11. ANYTHING I DANG WELL WANT, BABY!
– such as, go to concerts, buy a bookstore, start a scholarship fund for single moms, record an album, buy one of those big chunky wool sweaters they make in Scotland, start my own publishing house, turn one of my novels into a motion picture, buy a new mattress and a new couch and a new camera and a new… Etc.

HAPPY CANADA DAY LONG WEEKEND, EH, CANADA!! HOPE YOU FIND YOURSELF AS RELAXED AS I AM TODAY. 🙂 

PS – watch for Honey On My Lips, the new novel coming July 19 to Smashwords and Amazon and possibly a bookstore near you!

Golf, Rodeo and Yorkshire Pudding: Armstrong’s Fairways Bistro

Saturday night.

I’ve just finished up my week at Kelowna Art Gallery on Water Street, downtown Kelowna, and my daughter has requested I chauffeur her out to see a friend in Vernon. It’s been a stressful week because my transmission has died on my car, and the vehicle is sitting in a lot awaiting the arrival of parts. It’s been a fun week, because I’ve had to rent a car for work, and so I am driving a 2019 Hyundai Elantra which has heated seats, Apple Play and amazing gas mileage.

By the time I get Sheena to Vernon, it is 6:30, and my stomach is saying, feed me! I realize that with Sheena elsewhere,  I don’t have to cook. Neither do I immediately need to go home. Darren Bezanson and Fairways Bistro comes to mind.

Some years back, I worked, very briefly, for Darren. My life was overcrowded at the time, and so this ended, but I hadn’t forgotten how delicious his food tasted. His bistro is located at Fairways Golf Course in Armstrong, BC, twenty minutes north of Vernon. I’m already halfway there, and I have the dream-team of gas tanks at my disposal. After two weeks of renting cars, my budget for the month is shot, anyway, how much worse can one dinner out make it? I flip open google on my phone, notice that, yes, I have time to get there before closing. No time like the present, I figure, and crank the wheel north.

It is raining and grey when I pull into Fairways, but this doesn’t stop me from snapping a few pictures of the gorgeous log and stone entrance to the clubhouse. Trees drip around me, and there are puffy white mist clouds snagged on the hills across the street, silhouetted by the storm clouds behind them. Parked on either side of my itsy-bitsy silver Hyundai are serious looking trucks with four doors and King cabs and extended boxes. It’s official — I am now in cowboy country.

Knotted pine vaulted ceilings, thick warm cedar beams, rock work, chalet feel, groomed golf course grounds, high and bright windows with natural lighting. These are just some of the words I jot down as descriptions of the place. In summary — gorgeous.

I am sitting in a dining room that is one hour away from closing, and there are only a handful of patrons still here. Dress code leans towards denim and ball caps, t-shirts and work boots. Brett Kissel’s You’re My Anthem gives way to Jordan Davis’ Singles You Up to Chris Stapleton’s Broken Halos. I may look out of place in my art gallery duds and with my lap top slung over my shoulder, but actually, I am feeling right at home as I look up at the twinkle lights caught in sheer tule netting suspended from the cedar beams of the ceiling.

My stomach rumbles in appreciation of the savoury smells drifting towards me from the realm of the kitchen, and I am scoping out the food on other patrons plates as I contemplate my menu choices. In the middle section of the restaurant sits a table of seniors on what appears to be a double date, their plates heaped high with down-home cooking. Behind me, an attractive man my own age who smiles as I walk by — ‘cuz I still got it, baby — sits with an older man with a handlebar mustache who I suspect is his father. I overhear snatches of their conversation about race horses, and when Shawnee, the waitress, brings their food, both plates are full of meat, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. 

Decision made. I follow their lead and order the roast beef. It arrives mounded on the plate, heaps of meat and a gigantic Yorkshire pudding piled high atop a bed of julienned carrots, green beans and slivered zucchini slices which have been sauteed in butter. This huge meal is smothered in thick brown gravy and topped with crystallyzed onions. The food is piping hot — I can actually feel the heat coming at me without even picking up my fork. Next time, I decide, I will try the salmon. For now, the hearty smells are making me salivate. Come to Momma!

There is so much food here and it is piled so high that it is hard to know how best to attack the meal. Darren has been cooking professionally for 29 years, and has worked in a kitchen since he was 14 years old. Trust me, he knows how to do this right. The al dente veggies, which I try first, positively melt in my mouth. They are tender but firm, not the least bit mushy, and taste absolutely amazing. Next, I take a bite of the cheesy twice baked potatoes, and although they, too, are so so good, they are to my surprise, my least favorite part of the meal. That’s not because there’s a problem with the potatoes. No, they are scrumptious, and with the peel in, I know they are packed with nutrients. It’s just that everything about this meal is so overwhelmingly perfect. By the time I get to the meat and the gigantic Yorshire, my taste buds think they have died and gone to heaven.

Chef and owner, Darren Bezanson, tells me his slogan is Food Made Simple. A carrot, he tells me, should be a carrot — not deconstructed and then told it is a carrot. Well, he has nailed it. I dig into the beef, and it is roasted well done and is so tender it melts off my fork and disintegrates inside my mouth. The Yorkshire is huge and perfect and would have done my British Granny proud. It was fluffy and light, smooth with just the hint of egg in the batter. I devour the entire thing.

Darren tells me that on Prime Rib night, everyone is in awe of the size of the Yorkshire Puddings. This is a personal favourite for the chef. He tells me he creates the menu by getting to know the neighbourhood his restaurant is serving then, with a bit of trial and error, he works up a list of comfort food that isn’t complicated, and that people feel good about trying. Fairways Bistro has been open for five years, and although they are currently a seasonal business, the goal is to operate year round. They want to be more restaurant than clubhouse in the future.

For my visit, I decide to be a wanna-be food critic, and in order to do so, I get a take out box, then order dessert without eating my full meal. For dessert, I select the Brownie Cheesecake, and when it comes out looking like a layer of brownie topped by a layer of cheesecake, topped by a scoop of homemade ice cream drizzled with caramel topping, everything inside me wants to stand up and cheer. Since it won’t make the trip home, I eat all the ice cream, and honestly, it is so fantastic that a scoop of ice cream alone would have been a completely satisfying end to the meal. But, as a dutiful food critic, I force myself (This is a lie. I attack it like I might never get a chance to eat ever again.) to sample the brownie cheesecake before packing it up in a second to go box.

I tell myself I will eat the contents of both boxes for lunch the next day. Of course, none of the food will make it through the night. It did make for one amazing midnight snack, though. I decide then and there that in the interest of not weighing three hundred pounds, I am giving up my food critic aspirations.

Check out Fairways Bistro.  You can find more information including menu and driving directions at their website https://www.fairwaysbistroandcatering.com. Every Friday night is Prime Rib Night, and Father’s Day Brunch is happening June 16th from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. The location is great, and the food is well worth the trip.

Thanks, Darren, and Fairways. I will see you again soon!

 

 

 

 

Honey on My Lips Book Trailer

Hey everyone! It’s been an exciting time for me. Not only does it seem like Spring is finally here to stay — cue travel and daytrips — but also, I am getting set to launch my new novel, Honey on My Lips.

This is the book that started it all. In 2016, when the band I was leading broke up very acrimoniously, I decided I wanted to write some of my thoughts and feelings into a book. I decided that fiction was the best format to take. Honey on My Lips is not autobiographical in any way, but it does feature Dania, a former musician who has fallen down the rabbit hole of addiction, has climbed back out on the other side, and is now in a place of deciding what life she wants out of life. Does she want to go back into the music business full-time? Or does she want to continue teaching the next generation of rockers, while loving on sexy local carpenter, Brandon?

This romance is set in the tiny Okanagan community of Oyama, where my family moved me, kicking and screaming, when I was sixteen. Dad’s job had moved us away from the city of Vancouver, and I was not amused. It took one summer of riding my horse in the hills behind our house, walking down the hill to the beach, and eating fruit picked from the trees in our backyard to convert my to a proud Okanagan girl. Now, it is my pleasure to set novels in this area of the world I love so much.

Here is the trailer for Honey on My Lips, launching online July 19, 2019.

 

Sentences I Never Expected to Say: I Just Got off the Phone with the IRS

th

Earlier this week, my first work of fiction was published. Cue fireworks and cheering crowds and confetti falling from the sky. (Smoke. Available on Amazon as a print copy and on Smashwords as an Ebook. Please buy me. Support the arts. Support a starving author). I already have orders for the print version filled and in the mail, and it is pretty sweet that you can produce something, then let the Internet do the rest of the work for you, while you get about the business of the next story.

And then, this morning, Smashwords sent me an email saying my W-8 BEN form was missing information and was rejected by the IRS. If I need help completing the form, please contact the IRS. Huh. Not a real-life experience this little Canadian girl ever anticipated!

The problem, as far as I could tell, was that I do not possess a foreign TIN (Tax Information Number). Although I get to opt out of Smashwords withholding money for taxes from my revenue (because I am Canadian, eh!), they have to submit the amount I earn (which I imagine will be in the millions) to the IRS. On line five of this W-8 BEN form, it wants to know either my SSN (American for social insurance number) or my ITIN (international tax information number). On line six, they want my foreign TIN, issued by my tax reporting country. I understand this to be Canada, but I think, now, that Smashwords means the USA. I blithely enter my SIN in both line five and line six, only to have the form bounce back again with a red message saying the number cannot be the same on both lines.

Hmm.

So, I try to research my way out of the problem. First, I call H&R Block, who has kindly helped me file my taxes for the past five years in a row. Their office closed. Yesterday. Hmm. So, I call the head office number for H&R Block and am put on hold. While on hold I think, you know what, maybe I should just go to the source. So, I type in the web address for the Canada Revenue Agency. I type W-8 BEN into the find me slot. No results. I type ITIN. Way too many results and none that seem to tell me what I need to know. Like, you know, how to apply for one. So, I dial the 800 number provided (nice of them!), and sit through a pre-recorded message of options, none of which apply to me. I push the speak-to-a-human option, and am then asked if I would like to fill out a survey on how well they helped me after my call. If so, stay on the line. FYI, not gonna happen.

So, I am put on hold, which I put on speaker phone. For the next fifteen minutes while I wait with elevator music filling my living room, I cruise the Internet, decide to book the more expensive hotel for my upcoming trip to Kamloops, book said hotel, get up and bring the phone with me for a brief potty break, eat a cookie, pet the dog, nag my son — who has hurt his back — about going to the doctor, and generally realize my day off is not looking anything like I planned.

Finally, a voice answers, and identifies with a name and an agent number, and when I haltingly try to explain what I need, he has no idea what I am talking about. He is nice enough, and wants to be helpful, but he is as confused as I am. Since I am not a business, neither of us know why I need any number other than a SIN to file taxes. He transfers me to someone who will be able to help me. Okay, great, and thanks, and back on hold I go.

I wait for another ten minutes, then another agent answers with name and number. He listens as I read the description off the form and tells me, Canada only uses social insurance numbers. That is the only number they have on file. I know this. Again, he is nice, but not helpful. He does, however, have the number for the IRS, which he gives to me. I thank him, and he wishes me good luck.

And sitting in my little British Columbia living room, I phone the IRS. They are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I am thinking this is going to cost me large in minutes. Which, maybe it did, but not becuase I was on hold. Because, no, in the US, apparently, there are no wait times to pay your taxes! My call was, in fact, answered on the very first ring. I had no time to prepare my spiel, even, and yet, the man knew immediately what I was talking about. Also, he knew he had not been trained to help me, so he would pass me on, and have a nice day, ma’am. Also, just in case I got disconnected, he gave me the number to call, then told me what buttons I needed to push to get through the automated system.

He needn’t have worried. I got through no problem, and once again, the agent picked up on the first ring. Wow. And even with my bumbling, uninformed Canadian schtick, she knew exactly what I needed, and told me I had to fill out a W-7 form, and if I mailed it from Canada it could take up to 11 weeks to be approved. So, okay, not what I wanted to hear, but still, I have to admit, the Southern side of the border was a bit more impressive than my side of the border today. This lady also called me ma’am, which I’ve decided I kind of like. I mean, maybe not if the Canadian twenty-year old at the liquor store is doing it, but in a southern drawl, yeah, it has a nice ring.

I didn’t like to think that all the millions I’m earning with this novel would be sitting in stasis for eleven weeks, so after I hung up from the IRS (!!!), I did what I should have done in the first place — I emailed Smashwords help desk. Turns out, I only need to fill out line five or line six, not both. My SIN will suffice. And Canada carries the day.

CBC’s The Debater’s on Is Easter the Best Holiday

So, it’s been a heck of a week.

In Salmon Arm, a shooting in a church service. In Penticton, a shooter on the streets. In Kelowna, bank robberies and police takedowns at gunpoint appear to be becoming the norm, and yesterday the courthouse next to the art gallery where I work was evacuated when someone pulled the fire alarm. Local news called it a false alarm, but in the gallery we noticed the commotion not because of sirens and flashing lights and hot-bodied men in uniforms wandering the street, but rather because the gallery smelled of smoke — causing concern and an immediate investigation of our entire building. Fire is not the friend of art. And I’m not saying the news is lying to you, but…

In France, we saw Notre Dame burn. In response to Notre Dame… memes? Really people? Is nothing sacred with this generation?

In the US, the Muller report, redacted but released, and showing how depressingly immoral a government and apathetic a democratic country can become. Nixon was gone for a lot less; a poll shows that half the American people determined prior to the release of the report that its contents would not change their opinions. Look how far we’ve come, baby.

On the home front, a broken car, a repaired car, a broken car, a repaired car… and a daughter who came home from school in tears twice because of the social and academic pressure dispensed at this mandatory government institution.

Living in the 21st Century, apparently, is not for the faint of heart.

And then it’s Easter. And in a bizarre turn of events a woman with two jobs (me!) has both Good Friday and Easter Sunday off.

This year, I have found that an antidote to the stresses of life and of media immersion is laughter, and I have been turning to comedy more and more often for relief. Thus, I have become a great fan of CBC Radio’s The Debaters.

When my University profs used to speak about listening to CBC Radio in their cars on their way to class, I privately thought, I will never get that old. Turns out, I did. I even downloaded the ap on my phone. So, for those who aren’t familiar with The Debaters, two comics debate opposing sides of a given argument in a comedic fashion, and a studio audience votes for their favourite. Winners are determined by the volume of the audience’s cheers. And it is hilarious.

With topics such as Are the Toronto Maple Leafs the Worst Franchise in Hockey and Pierre versus Justin: Who was the Superior Trudeau, this show is so funny it often has tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

This week’s topic was Is Easter a Fun Occasion, and the debaters were Lara Rae and Derek Seguin. Once again, I find myself laughing, and crying, and I think, I should post this to Facebook in honour of Easter! I wonder which of my friends would enjoy the humour in it, as I do, which would be touched, as I am, and which would be scandalously offended, as I’m certain a portion of the faith community within my acquaintance would be. To post or not to post, this is the question.

Lara Rae, comedian, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and transwoman, is given the side of the debate that Easter is a truly “hoppy” occasion. She is given two minutes to argue for her point of view.

Montreal-based Derek Seguin, a comedian who speaks about getting divorced by saying, “I got divorced…not really divorced, I think to get divorced you have to get a lawyer or file paperwork… I’m not really a paperwork kind of guy. I’m more a change the lock on the house kind of guy. But I’m also Quebecois, and I travel all over Canada, so I’m uncomfortable with the word separate, so I always just say divorce,” is given the other side of the argument.

Lara Rae opens, and it is incredible. She starts by talking about the hunger associated with Lent, then says, “Jesus was the first social justice warrior, and the best.” Continuing, she describes the Easter story in terms that would do justice to the script of an epic movie. “It’s got a rock; it’s got a roll. It’s got Golgotha, which literally means hill of skulls. Awesome. It has courage; it has betrayal. It has three women standing up to a fascist military dictatorship; feminism, and a centurion that gets Van Goghed by a hot-headed disciple with a machete.”

And it’s funny, because although I am laughing, it feels a bit like I am in a really good church service. And if more preachers paraphrased the Bible as well as Lara Rae, I’d likely attend a lot more regularly.

Seguin comes back by wondering about the math in the Bible. “Hey, Steve, if I ask you on a Friday, hey, let’s go for lunch in three days, what day are you showing up for lunch?” When Steve responds, “It seems like Monday,” Seguin agrees. “Steve,” he says, “Is very good at math. A terrible Christian, though. ‘Cuz apparently, in the Bible, Friday plus three days is Sunday. What the hell happened?” Then he goes on to say, “What Jesus did, is come back from the dead! That is so huge. What a huge message! And who did we, as parents, choose to bring this message to the kids? A frickin’ bunny rabbit? What? What?” He says, “Maybe Jesus should sneak into the house and.. hide the secret of how to come back from the dead. Maybe in a Kinder Surprise or something.”

And again, I am laughing, but I am actually thinking, that’s pretty profound, really, and some would even say, is exactly what Jesus did that first Easter, year zero (Another Seguin quote).

The debate continues into the bare knuckle round, and Lara Rae laughs that she was “this close to the priesthood! I was set to be one of Rome’s primary transgender female priests.” Even she can’t say this without laughing, and when the host gives Seguin the last word on the topic he says, “I just, I learned a lot about the Bible I didn’t know,” and he sounds serious, actually. The show moves into the firing line, where the comedians answer questions about Easter with their best guess, then finishes up with closing arguments.

Derek Seguin suggests that we are a multi-culture, multi-faith country so we could have an all-faith free 2019. In order to do that, kids should just stay in school on weekends so that parents can have fun with melted chocolate on the long-weekend while the kids are at school. He knows teachers wouldn’t enjoy this, but says, “Suck it up, you have a whole two months off.”

When Lara Rae closes, her speech is reverent, more serious than funny. I mean, she’s funny, but I could be listening to a sermon. Just, a more palatable sermon than most. She says, “You can’t taint Easter. So, they made a pagan holiday to sit alongside it with rabbits and chocolate. Whether you believe in the resurrection, or have a deep respect, it’s still the centre symbol of Christianity and contains a powerful message of forgiveness the world needs terribly today.”

Listening, the audience is hushed, and I find there are tears in my eyes, not of humour, this time, but of respect, of need. And then, in place of an altar call, she concludes with a joke, but the moment is not lost on me, and I find myself extremely thankful that before I move on with my planned day off activities of sweeping the living room floor and swishing the bathroom toilet with its brush, I have had this faith moment, laughing in the comfort of my living room, yet still reminded why I have this day off today in the first place.

In a week that hasn’t had a lot to laugh about, thank you, Debaters, for making me laugh. Thank you, Jesus, for your love that lead you to sacrifice. And thank you Lara Rae and Derek Seguin, for reminding me of the beauty of faith in a world which is most certainly in need of a little faith.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑