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

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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!

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

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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.

And Aw-aaay we go!

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The first time I published a book, it was a 140-pager titled Tailgate Church. My brother-in-law had given me a truck, and I decided to take the truck and the guitar, and drop the tailgate and “have church” — and see what random things might occur. Then I wrote the book.

The second time I published a book, it was called “The Little Green Beetle” and it was a children’s book I illustrated myself. What happened was, I was at a low point in my personal life and feeling completely burnt out, and I went on a family vacation. Lying on the pool deck at our campsite, this little green beetle tried to pass me. No matter where I moved my arm, he just kept going, just kept cruising. At the time, this tiny little creature inspired me to hang in there. After our trip, I wrote and recorded this bouncy little song about that beetle, then realized that I’d really written a poem. I laid it out in children’s book format, drew some really amateur (but seriously cute) pictures, and self-published.

The third time I wrote a book, it was a whole lot harder to do. “Quiet Me” is the story of a mother trying to parent a suicidally depressed son. Told with my son’s permission, this book describes my journey through that incredibly bad patch in his life. It was gut-wrenching to write — and people have said powerful to read — and when I published it, I really just wanted to get copies into my hand before the band I was leading at the time went on tour so I could sell them on the road. Although he hadn’t asked, I decided recently that this book had served its purpose. I didn’t want this to become my now adult son’s identity, nor to have him feel that I saw him that way, and so I have removed it from bookshelves for now. Of course, if you are going through similar struggles and feel the book could help, I would get a copy into your hands.

The last time I published a book, I had no intention of putting it up for public sale. A friend suggested I turn songs I had written into a book of poetry, and I decided this would make a great Christmas gift, so I did some formatting work, and “Song Poetry” was born. People seemed to like it, so it is now for sale on Amazon — and let me tell you, formatting a poetry eBook is not for the faint of heart!

This time, it’s different.

This time, I am being strategic. Continue reading “And Aw-aaay we go!”

Smoke – a novella by Leigh Macfarlane

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Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve chatted with everyone on here, and there are two reasons for that. First, the Okanagan has been living through the winter that never ends, and this tends to make writing a local travel blog a bit more difficult! Second, I’ve been busy with the completion of my novella Smoke!

Set in Vancouver, BC, and in Kelowna, BC, in Smoke the art world collides with the Canadian pipeline debate. Love and murder both ensue. Smoke is set to be released as an eBook in April of 2019.

Check out the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6frgHlJzyg.

Here is a free excerpt:

Bastard.
Jen could hear him. He was still there. The crashing in the brush behind her was even louder than the sounds made by her own mad flight through the woods. She was two minutes away from civilization. This just couldn’t be happening, not here.
Stanley Park was one of the biggest city parks in Canada, but it sure sounded like the psycho chasing her was getting nearer. Any minute now, he was going to have her.
No chance.
She was moving again, sprinting down a path buried somewhere in the centre of the park. Jen had known precisely where she was when she’d first spotted him, but she’d lost track of her exact location a long time ago. Now, the wind that had been blowing against her while she was jogging the seawall was picking up, and the sky had made a couple of moves beyond dusk. At this point, Jen had no choice but to keep dashing through the darkening forest, hurdling the deadfall and hoping to recognize one of the landmarks soon.
On any ordinary day she would have been safer if she’d stayed on the seawall and out of the forest. With the storm warning, though, the park was deserted. No one was around to help her. And she couldn’t outrun him on the flat. Jen had dashed into the woods, knowing exactly where she was and how she was planning to elude him.
And then Tony had made that single shattering scream, and had dropped, a literal dead weight at the end of his nylon leash. There had been no sound of a shot, but the evidence lay at her feet. Tony lay prone, blood draining from his inert form. Someone had just shot and killed her three-year old Rottweiler.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
There was no time for tears. If the guy was good enough to get a clear shot of her dog, he could easily get a clear shot of her. With limited options, Jen veered off the trail and into the relative cover of the bush.
She ran until she couldn’t hear him anymore. But then, she couldn’t hear anything — not even the sounds of her own lungs sucking air past the razor blades in her throat. Sound had ceased to exist other than the screaming wind that was whipping the tops of trees like toothpicks in a cyclone. Even inside the relative shelter of the forest, Jen had to bend almost double to brace against the force of the wind. She really couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her. The forest had become a dense, disorienting, undulating mass of darkness, and she was staggering around like a drunk inside the bowels of night, trying not to let the freaky wind blow her off her feet.
Her dog – damn it! – was dead. She was seriously out of her element, and some lunatic hired gun was chasing her, and was, she was pretty sure, fully intent on killing her.
Not good. So not good.

Watch for smoke in April of 2019!

 

 

Breaking Bread: Kelowna’s Taste of Home

 

Breaking Bread.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “To break bread is to affirm trust, confidence, and comfort with an individual or group of people. Breaking bread has a notation of friendliness and informality, derived from the original meaning regarding sharing the loaf.”

Another, simpler definition of the term is, “To share a meal with someone.” This comes from Writing Explained, an online site for writing instruction. They go on to state:

This expression means more than just eating; it is sharing a sense of brotherhood with someone or some group of people. It is a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.
Perhaps you are enemies; breaking bread with someone indicates a sense of forgiveness and moving forward to the affair.

Writing Explained (https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/break-bread-with-someone) states that the term breaking bread has Biblical origins, originating with the story of Jesus blessing, then breaking 5 loaves of bread — and feeding 5000 people. Then, according to Mathew 14:20, “They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.” Considering Jesus had twelve disciples, there seems to be a moral in this number. First they fed others, then there was a basket full left over for each. Later on in his life, Jesus would refer to broken bread as his own body. Famously known as the last supper, the instruction given that day was to “eat in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Food is about so much more than simply fueling the body. That’s why, every year at Christmas, I make the same cookie recipes — they remind me of the continuity of family celebrations.

Some of my recipes were taught to me by people no longer alive. I think of them every time I cook them. My English grandmother passed on roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, my Irish grandfather passed on potato pancakes, and my German Aunt (still with us – hi Auntie Marion!) passed on borscht and plotz — a white cake topped with fruit and butter and sugar crumbles. I still have Anne’s chicken wings and Lois’ chocolate chip cookies and Grandpa’s pastry written down in the little red notebook that I started in my early twenties, when I first moved away from my parent’s home.

I remember fondly the church potlucks of my youth, and Nellie Romeyn’s (my first boyfriend’s mom) Flying Saucer Cookies. I also remember the casseroles the church ladies brought our family when my grandmother died. I was thirteen at the time. And I remember Rie Beugelink, who had a tablecloth cross-stitched with all the names of her dinner guests on it. This inspired me, and when I bought my first home, I painted a patio bench and had it signed by all my house guests that first year.

Food reminds us of who we are, of our histories, our traditions, of relatives and homes which have gone before us. It bonds us. The smells and flavours of shared culinary creations take us back, and when shared, they build our united futures. All of which is why I was thrilled to receive the invitation to attend Kelowna’s Taste of Home event, and to stop in on my way home after work on Saturday night.

The event was held in the New Life church building on Harvey, which is an interesting choice considering the building’s original purpose after construction was as a farmer’s market. The main room of the building has two levels, and flags from around the world now hang from the top floor.

The Global Citizen’s event, which is in its fourteenth year, was packed. I had to park a block away, and almost let the blustering cold wind and my post-work lag change my mind about attending. Once inside, I was so glad to be there. It cost a dollar at the door to get inside, and then I handed over five dollars for food tickets ($1 each) and wove my way in through the crowd.

Vendors representing different countries were arrayed around the edges of the room, while the centre was set up with chairs where it was possible to sit and watch entertainers in traditional costume perform dances from their corners of the globe. It had been advertised that food items would cost between one and three tickets per item, and so my first goal was to do a full pass of all the vendors and decide which foods I would sample. I stopped halfway through, though, to film the Chinese dragon dance.

On my second pass, I purchased my first item. For one ticket, I received a dinner roll sized plate heaped high with pumpkin lentil stew (on a bed of rice) from Columbia. I’d never tried this dish before, and found it to be a delicious mild curry-flavoured meal. For a dollar, it was also quite filling.

Although I wanted to try the Venezuelan pastries and the Caribbean jerked chicken, I wandered past Thailand and Venezuela and Mexico, Japan and Taiwan and the Caribbean, mostly because the lineups were long, and there was easier places to wait.

I found myself standing in Israel’s line waiting to be served a cheese Knish with berries, which also cost me $1, and tasted great — not tart, but not too sweet, either. Because Syria was located next door to Israel, I next purchased a skewer of Falafel for $2. I passed on the hummus, though, as that would have taken my last ticket. The food was delicious — far tastier than the falafel I’d purchased this summer at the Kelowna Fruit Market, although, I have to admit, my motivations for that purchase were entirely political sentimentality. Israel was next to Syria. That, to me, simply had to be honoured.

With one ticket remaining, my options were a bit limited. I could have purchased tea from Taiwan, or an energy ball from Venezuela or gone back for seconds in Columbia. Instead, I decided to support the home team, and bought two somewhat gooey maple tarts from the ladies who were looking a little bit lonely at the Canadian booth.

I’d filled my stomach – and I was, indeed, full — with an interesting assortment of cultures. I didn’t get to try the bannock from the First Nations Booth, and I’m not sure what was being sold from Greece, although I did see some Kalamata olives on one lady’s plate. I didn’t get any gelato from Italy, but I did see that the servings they were giving out were quite ample. You couldn’t get as large a dish for as small a price in an actual ice cream shop, I can vouch for that.

On one of my passes around the food booths, I ran into my boss and her husband. Ady is from France, her husband, a local chef, is from Australia. They are expecting their first child, and at work this week, she was mentioning that since their baby will be born in Canada, the child will be legally entitled to three different passport options. I am second generation Canadian — my English grandmother was one of the first war brides to arrive after World War 2. And yet, here we all were, sampling meals from other people’s homelands.

With my stomach full, I found a spot to watch and photograph the entertainment. Peru had taken the stage, followed by Ukraine, and then Japan. I heard that Mexico was dancing at 7:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be staying that long. I didn’t expect it to be tears which sent me running for the door, though.

The Ukrainian dancers were part of a local dance club, and as a result, they had sets of dancers of various ages performing. This extended their time on stage a bit, and at some point as I watched, my eyes strayed from the performers to the crowd. At New Life church, the stage is accessible by a set of carpeted stairs which run across the front of the podium, and my attention was suddenly captured by the scene there. Children with various skin and hair colours, with various ethnic backgrounds and in various different traditional costumes had stationed themselves in an undulating line along the staircase. Sitting together, seemingly oblivious to exterior differences, or historical animosities, or cultural variation, they watched the performers. This, I thought, as I felt myself choking up, is the world as it is meant to be. This is a picture of my country, of my global community.

And I am very proud to call myself Canadian, eh.

 

Christmas in Kelowna

 

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I spent my evening last night at a Christmas party with some writer friends. Since we are all people who tell stories, we gathered around and told the stories of our personal Christmas traditions.

My traditions paled in comparison to the stories of shoe-shining in Hungary and pinatas in Mexico and buckets — yes, you read that right — of wine in Romania, so I didn’t regale everyone with the fact that my December 3rd birthday is historically the day we decorate our tree and my mother’s December 24th birthday sees the entire family — believers and non — at church. Christmas day itself is a free-for-all of sanctioned gluttony and gift-giving and playing with new toys / reading new books / watching new videos.

My fondest memories of Christmas, however, happen in the weeks leading up to the main event, when as a child my grandfather taught me to bake. This is a tradition which continues on, as annually I re-create his recipes for the hordes to devour between breakfast and turkey.

Beyond the gatherings of family and friends, the maxing out of plastic at malls, the gorging on feasts, and the celebration of faith traditions, Christmas is a season full of many fun events. Here are some I recommend: Continue reading “Christmas in Kelowna”

On the 400th Anniversary of his Death, Maximillian III

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He captured me, that first day, with the enigmatic expression on his face. It seemed fathomless to me, a different mood depending on the part of the room I was standing in, and that, of course made me have to understand.

The portrait, Maximillian III, Archduke of Austria, is part of the Herman H Levy art collection which has been on loan to the Kelowna Art Gallery — where I work — for several months. Part of the loan agreement stipulated that someone be in the gallery with the art at all times, ensuring the safety of these priceless works from the over-exuberance of the viewers. Since this became my task, I was fortunate to spend a portion of each shift in the presence of these masterworks. I was fortunate to spend a portion of each day with Max.

Within the art community, who hasn’t heard of Peter Paul Rubens? It is a famous name. Rubens painted in the Flemish Baroque tradition, and although he had a studio full of apprentice artists painting with him, he was known to have reserved the most important portraits for his own completion. Therefore, though there is no way of guaranteeing that Rubens himself painted the portrait of Maximillian III, Archduke of Austria, it seems plausible.

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Whomever the artist, he did a masterful job, and the attention to detail astounds me. From the lip churl to the vein throbbing in his forehead and the long eyelashes framing his intelligent brown eyes, the artist captured this man’s likeness in exquisite detail. And, since I’ve always had a thing for brown eyes, I decided to google Maximillian, and learn about his life.

Maximillian was a member of the House of Habsburg, which originated in 1438 and was one of the most influential dynasties of Europe until 1740, when they failed to produce a male heir. Queen Elizabeth II descends from their line, but their ethnicity is Austrian with Spanish, Italian and French influence. Maximillian’s great grandfather, Maximillian 1 became Holy Roman Emperor in 1508, but due to the dangers of travelling from Austria to Rome, he broke a longstanding tradition of papal coronation, and instead was declared Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Julius II at Trent. Once broken, this tradition was never reinstated. Maximillian I struggled with the French, and was plagued by financial issues throughout his life, and therefore became obsessed with arranging marriages for both his children and himself which would increase his fortune and power. He also, in 1496, banned all Jews from Styria and Wiener Neustadt and later ordered the destruction of all Jewish literature, with the exception of the Bible.

Maximillian II was born in Vienna, Austria, but spent his formative years at Innsbruck, Tyrol, meaning he was primarily educated in Italy by humanist scholars. He also came into contact with Lutheran teachings and corresponded with the protestant Prince Augustus of Saxony. None of this went over well with his strongly Catholic family, or with his extremely devout wife, whom his uncle arranged for him to marry to strengthen his ties with Spain and with Catholicism. The relationship between branches of the Habsburg family grew strained, and in 1553, Maximillian II is believed to have been poisoned on behalf of a cousin. He survived, and went on to father 16 children with his wife (9 surviving) and to become Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of the Romans, King of Hungary and Croatia. All of this despite only living to the age of 49.

Maximillian III was 18 when his father died. Since he was the fourth surviving son, he did not inherit his father’s many titles, despite being his namesake. His eldest brother, Rudolf II, would succeed their father. Rudolf was educated in Spain and returned home quite aloof and stiff. This concerned their father, who was disdainful of the Spanish, but pleased his Spanish mother, who saw his new traits as courtly and refined. Either way, Rudolf would for the rest of his life be somewhat elusive and a homebody who ruled ineffectively. Continue reading “On the 400th Anniversary of his Death, Maximillian III”

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