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.

 

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!”

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.

 

Buzzing Ellis Street

It’s Wednesday, and it’s my day off, and Christmas is around the bend, and life is hectic, and tonight is book club night!

We are reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which, I feel, can be succinctly summed up as, religion is foolish, and science is lethal. Also which, I tell the man who picked the book, may have us all going to hell for reading it — with its Bible-bashing meta-references  and allusions — over the Christmas season. When I say this, I think I am being funny. He looks mildly concerned.

Anyway, I started reading the book on Tuesday night, knowing I had the day off and intending to finish while I baked things. Except, it was like Grand Central Station at my house today, with people dropping in left and right. I love it when they do this, but on this particular occasion, these impromptu visits mean I didn’t quite get the book finished.

Well, okay, to be honest, I likely could have, except, every day when I drive into downtown Kelowna for work I think, “Today I am going to stay late and explore all the businesses down here!” And every day, I go directly to my car, and I drive away home. So, I thought to myself, I could stay here and read the last quarter of this tale, or, I could skip ahead to the last few pages to ensure my perspective of Vonnegut’s message isn’t changed and then traipse into town early in order to window shop my afternoon away.

I went with option B. Continue reading “Buzzing Ellis Street”

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”

Peter Pan Journeys

 

 

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It started to hit home last night, when she told me of her plans to move her bed into my living room. She continued speaking, wondering aloud about types of screwdrivers, and worrying in a minor way about the potential for losing components of her bed frame. I’d stopped actively listening, though. Unable any longer to ignore the fact of my eldest daughter’s imminent departure, my brain had stuttered to a halt.

Time waits for no man, someone said. At least, I think that’s the quote. Possibly, though, it’s death waits for no man. Both, I’ve noticed, are true.

I’d had an early miscarriage the month prior to Alison’s conception. That baby would have been due near my own birthday, and of course, from the moment you know there’s a baby in your future, your imagination fires. So, the loss is real. The doctor told us we could start trying to conceive again immediately, and that is how Alison became the only one of my four children who was planned.

When, at approximately the same stage of pregnancy that the miscarriage had happened I once again started to spot, I was terrified. I hit my knees. As I was down there, anyway, I told God that since we were talking, not only did I want a healthy child, I also wanted that child to be a red head baby girl. Which is exactly what we got.

See, there is a God. IMG_8210 (1)

 

 

Quite frankly, the entire pregnancy with Alison sucked. First, there was the spotting and doctor ordered lying on my left-hand side — difficult since at that time I was also raising a one year-old son. Next came the intensely itchy rash which covered my torso and extremities and lasted until I ran out of maternal vitamins two weeks before giving birth. (Apparently, I’d been having an allergic reaction.) Finally, during my last trimester, came the undiagnosed gall bladder attacks. Pain would grip me, so intense I’d throw up, and I’d end up in bed in a cold sweat, thrashing until the worst of the pain dulled enough for me to pass out and sleep the rest away.

And yet, out of a pregnancy which was an ordeal came this human being who is an absolute delight. A human being who, tomorrow, is moving out of my home for the first time.

A mother carries a thousand memories, moments snapped like photographs which spool on a loop, inside the recesses of her mind. There was the way, as a toddler, she’d put her hand to my lips and tell me, “Mommy, don’t sing.” The year she was a tiger, a cat, a ghost at Halloween. That time — and I think she’d proud of this one — when she bit the family dentist. The way she laced up her first pair of ice skates then hit the rink as if she’d been born wearing blades. Continue reading “Peter Pan Journeys”

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