How To Make America Great Again

  1. Tell the truth, no matter the personal cost.download (5)
  2. Take care of the people under your command, no matter the personal cost. download (4)
  3. Tell your story, no matter how hard. images (2)
  4. Don’t be like this guy. download (8)
  5. One word: accountability. images (8)
  6. Ask the tough questions in the face of aggression.download (10)
  7. Care as much as this guy. Work as tirelessly as this guy. images (7)
  8. Work together. 5e87c0e1ee36b.imageScreenshot 2020-04-07 14.55.13
  9. Say thank you. Screenshot 2020-04-07 14.55.59
  10. Go into battle with courage — even at great personal cost. images (5)images (4)
  11. Remember the sacrifice of the fallen. No greater love…images (3)
  12. Stand up to corruption, even at great personal risk. download (9)download (6)

 

Today, listening to Nicole Wallace, I heard her say something about Chicken Soup for her tired and battered soul. (I probably butchered her exact quote). But it made me think, yes, I imagine that is how you feel. It is rough enough watching the oddity which is the United States in 2020 from my nice, safe home in British Columbia. It must be absolutely heartbreaking to be in it. For all the news stories where blatant corruption seems to win the day, today I am reminded that there are heroes among us. Maybe this past year I have forgotten, to some extent, that the real story isn’t that there is corruption and incompetence in the White House at present, the story is all the people of virtue which that corruption has revealed.

I get to sit at home and ride this virus out in self-isolation while others fight on the front lines, while some fall, others are weary and battered. But, so much of life is in the framing. Yes, they fired the Vindmans, but the Vindmans showed that there are people out there who tell the truth. Yes, they fired Captain Crozier, but… Captain Crozier! Yes, the conservative leaders who purport to being Christians showed blatant and callous disregard for human life and for human decency all the way up to the level of the Supreme Court yesterday, but the heroes of Wisconsin are VOTING TODAY!

I am reminded that you can only recognize the light because it shines out of the darkness. Sometimes you have to get good and angry before you are ready to fight. Be, as the Bible says, angry and sin not.

Today, I stand with my American neighbors to the South. God be with you, may His greatness shine through your dark time. May your country be the great example of never surrendering the fight for who you know yourselves to truly be. May light stand up to darkness. And, may virtue triumph.

Local News: Local Setting in the novel Sunflowers and Sweet Peas

 

 

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Last night I finished the first chapter in book two of a series set in the town of Peachland, British Columbia — Sunflowers and Sweet Peas. I’m excited to be working on this new series, and am excited to start publishing them in 2021. Mind you, when  I do, disclaimers will seriously apply. I’ve been excited to feature local events, local locations to some extent, actual local bands, local concerns, and today, Castanet gave me ideas for local news. When using real names, I’ve gotten consent — such as with my friend, Lowell’s band, VonReason ( https://youtu.be/tXmH8OEZxdc ), and everything else is pretty much made up or embellished for the sake of fiction.

My goal with this series is not only to showcase a town I love, but also to discuss on a very micro, fictional level, real issues in the Okanagan, where I live. Subjects such as homelessness, forest fires, housing costs, urban planning and development, resource management, as well as recreation, arts, small business ownership, health and wellness are all fair game for within these novels. So, when it happens, is real local news.

This afternoon on Castanet there appeared an article about vandalism in Peachland. This is the sort of thing which builds a novel. First, I get some characters, some basic themes, then I fill in the details. This tagger just added one to Sunflowers and Sweet Peas — you will have to read the book when it comes out next year in order to get my assessment on what he did here.

https://www.castanet.net/news/West-Kelowna/296145/Peachland-mayor-frustrated-with-vandalism-of-public-mural#.XoUjMCFGWjg.email

News stories like these also focus the research I do with a novel. I hadn’t particularly planned to talk about murals — well, actually, I had, just not in this book — but now that I will be, I need to learn how to deal with removing paint from a mural. And so, I found this link, which, although technically a commercial, is also pretty cool.

 

Batty about Bats at Peachland’s BEEPS

 

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There were really only three things I knew about bats prior to my visit to Peachland’s Visitor Centre and my chat with Doris Muhs of BEEPS (Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society). First, bats travel by echolocation, second they eat mosquitos, and third, they turn into vampires. th63IIOWWO

 

 

Okay, maybe only two out of three of those are scientifically verifiable.

 

 

 

I walked into Peachland’s Visitor Centre looking for the Art Gallery — housed in the same building — but before heading to the gallery, Doris gave me a tour. A former history teacher, Doris really knows her stuff, and we had a fascinating conversation about fur trader routes, and early irrigation systems, and bats.

In Peachland, the visitor centre and art gallery are homed in a building which was once the town’s elementary school. It stood empty for years before being repurposed as a visitor’s centre, and when the new group began the process of renovating, they discovered buckets of bat guano in the attic. They were quickly informed that bats are a protected species and could not be removed. They rolled with it. BEEPS was born.

According to the BEEPS website, their mission is, “to promote the protection and preservation of bat species in Peachland, and to educate the public as a means of achieving these goals.” With nominal funding during their renovation, the society built bat houses in the building’s attic and also inserted cameras which they connected to viewing terminals in the lower levels of the building. Now, when people visit BEEPS they can actually watch a live feed of the bats and their pups on monitors.

That’s right, bat babies are called pups. I didn’t know that. Also, bats are mammals. In fact, bats are the only true flying mammals. I wasn’t aware. Bats also hibernate, which is one reason the Peachland Visitor Centre could not evict their tenants. Every year Peachland’s bats hibernate in caves for the winter, then return to the attic to roost and have babies. They remain in the attic from April through the summer with BEEPS volunteers performing regular counts of colony numbers. The fact that these bats can eat 2/3’s of their weight in insects nightly combined with the fact that their favourite meal is the mosquito is likely why so few mosquitos survive in Peachland. As well, Doris tells me, bat guano (poop) is extremely nitrate rich and makes excellent fertilizer — which can be purchased in buckets at the Visitor Centre Gift Shop.
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According to Josy O’Donnel, bats have been around since the days of the dinosaurs (https://www.conservationinstitute.org/10-animals-that-hibernate). In recent years bat populations have been on the decline due largely to loss of habitat as human settlement encroaches on their territory. As well, bats are susceptible to a disease known as white nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus which grows around the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats, sometimes spreading through and wiping out entire colonies. This has rapidly decimated world-wide bat populations. White nose syndrome has not yet been recorded in BC, but it has been discovered in Washington, and environmentalists are gearing up to combat the disease.

At BEEPS, a large part of the conservation effort comes through education. Through BEEPS people can join the adopt-a-bat program, can learn to build bat houses, can hike the local bat house interpretive trail, throw bat parties and more. BEEPS also offers school tours and bat chats — which take several forms depending on the season and the age group involved.

October 24 – 31 is Bat Week, which makes this the perfect week to pop in for a visit and a chat at BEEPS. Located at 5684 Beach in Peachland, the society is open to visitors Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm weekly. All staff at BEEPS are volunteers, and in my experience, they are both friendly and exceptionally well-informed. I highly recommend checking them out.

For more information on BEEPS, see their website at https://www.beepspeachland.com.
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Scarecrow Mania in Peachland

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It is once again time for the Peachland Scarecrow Festival!

A scarecrow is a decoy or mannequin placed in fields to scare birds away and protect crops. Often, scarecrows are created in human form. Burlap sacks are stuffed with straw, dressed in old clothes and staked to the ground by farmers. Currently in Peachland, scarecrows are given faces, and themes, and adorn businesses and “protect” the town.

Scarecrows make common (and simple) Halloween costumes and show up in popular fiction in creatures that range from deities (Japan), to supervillains (DC Comics), to the creation of witches in league with the devil (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Feathertop”). Perhaps the best known scarecrow, however, appears in L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as he searches for the brains of the Wizard. My personal favourite scarecrow, however, appears in an episode of the tv drama, Supernatural, and it scared the crap outa me.

In real life, scarecrows become less effective the longer they remain in a field, since animals become accustomed to them, and adapt. Nowadays, many locations have taken up the tradition of holding annual scarecrow festivals. In Peachland, the idea originated with former town councillor (and member of the visitor promotion committee), Kerbes, who got the idea after visiting Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Kerbes hoped to draw tourist traffic to Peachland during the Fall and Winter off-season. Since this is now the third year for the festival, he just may have succeeded.

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The festival runs from September 29th – October 31st, and scarecrows can be found all over the town of Peachland.

 

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Peachland in the Autumn

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Long before I lived in the Okanagan, the little town of Peachland, on the shores of Okanagan Lake, had captured my imagination. Watching Real Estate TV from the comfort of my Burnaby home, I dreamed with longing of the day I would become a Peachland resident. Well, I haven’t made that happen, but I am now close enough to visit regularly and spontaneously.

According to the town website, Peachland is situated on 11 km of lakefront and is positioned midway between Penticton and Kelowna. To me, though, Peachland is simply near enough to my Lake Country address to be a viable day-trip destination, even on those occasions when I am responsibly sticking to my monthly gas budget. And so, given a succession of glorious Autumn days and a nasty case of writer’s block, earlier this week I packed up my lap top, and I hit the road.

Even travelling Harvey Avenue during the a.m. rush-hour work commute, I made it from my front door to the eastern end of Peachland’s Beach Avenue in under an hour. My first stop, once there, was Todd’s RV & Camping. In 1956, the Todd family opened their three acre Okanagan lake shore family home to campers, and 62 years later, Todd’s RV & Campground continues to welcome visitors to the area. Ten years ago, our family was among their guests. IMG_3848

The summer my children and I pitched our tent at Todd’s, the children ended up with a nasty case of swimmer’s itch from sliding down the chain anchoring the dock in the lake. They were also quite fascinated by the small wooden cross they discovered behind our site. Apparently, we had pitched out tent under the apple tree where the Todd’s family cat had been buried. We played card games, and walked down to the Blue Parrot (which sadly no longer exists) to purchase double scoop ice cream cones. The pictures of that vacation now adorn the hallway wall at home; the memories remain some of my favourites.

Carrying the happy memories of that camping trip with me, I climb back into my car and head south on Beach Avenue, stopping along the way to step outside and snap pictures of the resplendent Autumn-dressed maple trees lining the lake shore. Clusters of people in sweaters and vests — bundled against the chill of a breeze blowing inland off Okanagan Lake — travel the walkway. My car and I pass these little groups and their canine companions, and I find myself reminded, as I am each time I arrive in Peachland, of how much the vibe of this little town reminds me of Whiterock, BC.

Beach Avenue in Peachland is dotted with kitchy little curio shops, pubs, and small, independently owned eateries. Bliss Bakery also has a location there, and it is my plan to head inside with my laptop and settle in for a spell. When I arrive, there is not a single free table, and I decide I don’t need coffee badly enough to stand in the lengthy line and wait. Instead, I find myself drooling inside Deja Vu Gift & Decor. The instant I walk inside, I know I have fallen in love. The curiosities and odds and ends of decor items and paintings are calling my name. I want to purchase everything I see inside this store, from the model airplanes flying in the shop window to the photographic paintings on two-by-four planks, to the many little sparkles glimmering in the streaming sunlight, to the large Trojan Horse-on-Wheels in the corner. I want, I want, I want. My credit card and I flee, although I do pocket their business card on my way out the door.

 

Beach Avenue is also home to the Gasthaus on the Lake Pub and Restaurant, which is where I stop for lunch. This is not my first time at the Gasthaus. On that occasion, I had my cocker spaniel, Daisy, with me, and I ordered the beef stew to go, then shared it with Daisy at the park across the street. This time, I sit in, and when I look up, find the coolest chandelier ever shining down on me. I order the Beef Goulash, which tastes as amazing as it smells. My bowl is empty in a span of minutes, with my taste buds begging for more.

As I drive, I notice a succession of scarecrow figures in front of various local businesses. Peachland, it seems, is in the middle of their second annual Scarecrow Competition. Looping my way off the main avenue of the town, I pull in to Peachland’s strip mall and park in front of Bosleys pet store. At one time in my life, I managed a Bosleys location, and Cam, who owns the Peachland store, was always one of my favorite people within the company. Today, I have missed him, but I chat briefly with his wife and learn that the store is doing well. Also, I tell her how much I enjoy their scarecrow.

“You need a, ‘No animals were hurt in the making of this scarecrow’ sign,” I tell her. And she laughs, and credits a staff member’s creativity for the decapitation.

I spend a fairly extensive time at both the Art Gallery and at the Peachland Museum. Both are free to the public, although the Museum does not open until 1pm. When I am there, though, I will snap photos of artifacts from an earlier time in Peachland’s history. With every picture I take, my mind is at work spinning the beginnings of future historical novels. Right, I think as I snap photos of typewriters and a.m. radios and ancient photographic gear, I remember those. I wonder, I think, what it would have been like to be a miner/railroad engineer/ logger back in the day. I wonder, I think, what it would have been like to ride the SS Sicamous (the steam-wheeler now part of a Penticton Maritime museum) when she rode the lake. Wondering,  you see, is step one in novel-making.

At the Art Gallery I see an exhibit of paintings from Kelowna area artists, and I talk with a former history teacher about the building the gallery is housed in and its relationship to the Okanagan’s protected bat population. She really knows her stuff, and the information she gives me about bats and BEEPS (Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society) is too intriguing to turn into a footnote on this blog. It deserves a post of its own. Writing that post is my plan for my weekend, so stay tuned for more on BEEPS and the Peachland Art Gallery.

By the time it is 2 o’clock, I am getting ready to call it a day. The wind blowing in my hair as I walk from place to place in this town has put that good, fresh Autumn chill into my skin. My cheeks are pink, my nose is pinker. It will be a relief to climb into my car and turn on the heat. Still, every experience I have had today has been positive, from the amazing beauty of the lake to the friendliness of the residents and the uniqueness of these local businesses. As I head for home, I feel the smile on my face reaching all the way to my heart. It has been a good day, and I am recharged, and I even know exactly what has to happen next in the novel I am crafting. I shift into drive, and leave both Peachland and writer’s block fading out my rearview window.

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