It’s February 20th, my work Wednesday, and the weather is cold but clear. Gorgeous. I don’t start work until 2 pm, and I have a list of things to do first.
-buy Ali’s Birthday present
– write 2000 words
But, the sunshine is calling to me, and most of the list is just so I won’t forget — most won’t take a lot of time. So, I drop Sheena off at school, grab Timmies, and I commence with plan B — ditch responsibility and drive to Oyama to walk along the lake. To be fair, I did get up early and start the day with yoga, and the walk qualifies as cardio. Or, it would have if I hadn’t been so distracted once I got there, and spent all my time photographing the FROZEN lake.
That’s right, folks, February 20th, and Woods Lake is still frozen. I wasn’t expecting this. I am suddenly feeling better about my whininess over the cold winter we have had. Because, in the thirty-five years I have lived in the Okanagan, I can’t recall another year where Woods Lake was still frozen one week before March.
I walk along and take photos, shots I’ve taken many times in many seasons, but which always feel new every time I take them. First, there is the willow tree with the swing. This angle looks from Oyama to the South, where my house, my dog, and my laptop await. I’ve passed a lot of people out walking their dogs and feel mildly guilty about that. I should have thought ahead and brought Lily with me, but the truth is, she is a terrible traveler and a real pain to take in the car. Good thing she’s cute.
She changes the flavour of all my outings. There is no leisurely stop and start if Lily is along. No, she is all go, go, go. There are also no singing birds like this little guy, who clearly was not as affected by the weather as I was. I’d stopped to take a picture of this tuning fork of a dead log when my little friend flitted to a melodic rest beside me. I took a long spiel of photos of this little guy, edging craftily closer with each shot. He tolerated me right up to the moment that the big cube van lumbered down the road in sound-barrier breaking velocity, and the shock waves of his passing were too much for my buddy to out-sing.
With both the trucks and the bird gone, I continued my walk, jolting every now and then because of an odd noise. Somewhere between a rustling and a creaking, I kept spinning around to look for an animal in the bushes. Until, feeling foolish yet relieved, I realized I was hearing the Spring thaw. The sound tripping me out because I’d never heard it before was the sound of the lake ice cracking.
Continuing on, I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to catch the shimmering translucent crystals of rainbow-light sparkling where the sun cranked up the volume against the icy shore. The iridescence of the sun’s reflection reminded me of a bracelet I had as a kid which would send prismatic colours dancing across the white walls of my bedroom anytime the sun touched it. The reflections also reminded me of the sparkling colours in the scales of certain fish.
About the time I drained the last of my coffee, the cold drained the last glimmer of heat from my phone’s battery. With my camera no longer accessible, I left the fresh morning-at-the-lake air for the still-warm confines of my car. It wasn’t until I cranked the heater that I realized my fingers had turned as icy as my surroundings.
I don’t know if it was the exercise or the atmosphere, but something about the scenery inspired me, and as I drove away, I suddenly and with no warning received a download of creativity to my brain. I pulled the car over then and there and jotted the scene my brain had just spun into a notebook. A woman, about to be kissed, worrying about coffee breath, and a man who spins double entendres and turns words into seduction. A scene, complete, to be used at a future time.
I returned home, greeted the dog, knocked off the entirety of the to do list in mere moments until only one item remains.
-write 2000 words.
These are aren’t the words I thought I meant, but that’s okay. It’s not even noon. There’s still plenty of time. My morning walk in the sun was totally worth my morning’s sloven word count.
Today, at Hambleton Art Gallery on Kelowna’s Ellis Street, the owner asked me what I was doing with my day. I told him I was Gallery Hopping, to which he asked if I was in the market, and I sighed, and told him, I wish.
Currently, I work as a barista at Starbucks while furthering my forever career as a novelist. No art purchasing for me. Still, somehow this week the scheduling diva at Starbucks saw fit to give me a three-day weekend, and since earlier this week I finished editing my third novel in a month — effectively accomplishing my January writing target several days in advance — and since this morning I ordered the hard copies of the novel I will be launching in March (The Way of Things – Book Two in the Lakeland Series), I decided to run with the weekend.
On Sunday, I may possibly head to church to hear my son’s new girlfriend sing. In the afternoon, I am heading to UBCO because my daughter is playing on the JR Heat team and they have practice. And Monday I am heading to Vernon to visit my sister and get the tour of her newly purchased home. Which left today free.
I had only one definite goal for my day — head to Kelowna Art Gallery, where I worked last year, to visit Ryan and return the Margaret Atwood book he loaned me. Other than that, my Saturday was a large maybe. Maybe I’d drive over the bridge and go for a walk along the boardwalk in Peachland. Maybe I’d call up a friend and reconnect. Maybe I’d hit up a pub or go dancing. Maybe I’d take my computer on a road trip to some small cafe somewhere with an internet connection to the world. Or maybe I’d wing it.
I picked wing it.
I’d honestly forgotten that I’d need to pay for parking downtown until I popped in at Starbucks on my way to KAG. My need for caffeine has morphed since working for Starbucks. While I waited for my order (Irish Cream Americano, which, unfortunately I did not receive as ordered but didn’t even notice until I was in my car and realized my drink was iced rather than hot but who cares ‘cuz I’m on days off and this is good, too, and caffeine is caffeine and I’m already driving, and boy, that was a good U-turn I just performed — away I go!), I chatted with Dan, store regular and karaoke facilitator, and he told me a story of parking downtown and I went, oi! I’m gonna need change.
It boded well for my gallery visit that after performing a second U-turn (this one a bit scarier by virtue of its occurring on Water Street in haste), I found a perfect parking spot directly in front of gallery doors. Then I stood in a Winnie the Pooh kind of day and waited extensively for the nice french-speaking couple to figure out how to operate the parking metre so I could pay for my spot.
Once inside the gallery, though, it was good times. I got to catch up with my colleagues, and Ryan took me on a private tour of the exhibits. Then he set me loose to explore on my own, and I discovered the new exhibit, F#Minor (or something like that, I forget). In it, the artist has created a board full of amplifier cones of various sizes, each corresponding to different musical settings, and all motion sensitive so that when you hover near (without touching – do not touch the art – even if tempted) you can create a symphony with the wave of an arm. Well! Once I discovered that, I went to town! I had the place to myself (except for the security cams, but whatever), so I went a little nuts.
First, I very politely stepped to the threshold of the art piece. In response, it started to hum. A lovely soprano hit a note and sustained it. Next, piano keys chimed.
I walked to the left, and the tones changed. By the time I made it to the far end of the piece, I had electric guitars wailing and drums and bass throbbing, and I WAS HAVING FUN! To the left, whispered voices and cackling laughter and squealing feedback turned the darkened room I was standing in into the set of a horror flick. AND IT WAS AWESOME!
I’d completed a polite, investigatory circuit, and now it was time to get my money’s worth (ha! I’m still a member. I get in for free.) I ran up the left to a storm of sound. In front of the percussion section, I whirled and twirled and danced, and quite frankly, felt the pagan side of my Celtic ancestry doing its best to surface as I danced in the dark to a throb of sound in a circle under a dark-as-night space.
Then, I let my inner conductor out, and I pointed, and I stabbed, and I stoked up that band one hand motion at a time.
In other words, go see it. You’ll love it.
Stopping in at Hambleton Galleries after visiting KAG was completely a spur of the moment impulse. The art at Hambleton is so completely different from KAG, that I always find them a good pairing. At KAG, the art tends to take cerebral twists. At Hambleton, a lot of local artists are represented, a lot of nature and landscape work is done in various styles. I get off on both, so they both make me happy. Plus, they are a block apart, and once again, I found parking directly in front. So, good times!
Inside Hambleton, I did a fairly quick circuit. I hadn’t paid for my parking this time (hahahahaha City of Kelowna!), and I didn’t want to overly tempt the metre masters with my parking roulette. Still, I took photos of my favourites along with the artists names (I will research them online later), and I fantasized about where I’d place certain pieces in my house after my clearly-needed lottery win. Then I realized, wait, after the lottery win, I will buy a new place with walls better designed to facilitate my obvious need for an art collection, so… But in all seriousness, the work at Hambleton was gorgeous, and I noticed one thing I hadn’t seen before — not only do they have prices listed, they have monthly payment amount suggestions listed. I could actually afford $57 a month for the gorgeous statue of the sun being swallowed by the silhouetted tree’s gnarled arms. And that is a fact which I can’t seem to get out of my head.
I left the art world behind and decided against driving across the bridge. That meant, no Peachland today. Instead, I drove out to the Mission and parked at the beach. Getting out of my car, I was definitely under-dressed for the wind coming in off the lake. Art Gallery clothes are not winds-of-60-km/hr clothes, and I would later read that winds were reaching that level today.
I have a thing for the wind. Always have. For most of my life, I’ve worn my hair long, and there is just something about the feeling that rises up inside my spirit when I am standing, facing into the wind, breathing it in while my hair whips around in cyclones battering my skin like Medusa and her snakes. It is something good. It makes me feel wild, and alive, and invigorated, and somehow settled, internally, all at the same time. It’s a feeling which defies the boundaries of words, which I’ve never managed to satisfactorily capture. But I know it when I feel it. Standing in the wind at the beach, I felt it today.
The surf was crazy, the noise ricocheting around me as it spent itself in temperamental tantrums against the shoreline. That, alone, would not have kept me standing out there in my too-thin shirt. The kite skiers, though, they kept me rooted to the beach long after I could no longer feel my fingers. I took video clips and photos until my phone battery was all but spent, and thrilled to the aerial acrobatics of these — possibly insane — gladiators of the wind. And decided on the spot that someday, an adrenaline junkie kite skier will be a hero in a book with my name on it.
I climbed into my car and cranked the heater while considering my options. The truth was, I wanted to get a little exercise today, and it was simply too cold at the beach to walk. I was close to the Mission Sports Fields, though, and potentially there would be shelter from the wind there, so that became the plan. When I got there, though, I found the path I intended to beat gated off, so I changed course. You can do that when you are on day one of three days off and you are winging it. I drove one driveway further, and parked at the Capital News Building — aka, the library.
I found a spot inside the library where I could charge my phone, and sat waiting for the battery to come back to life. While doing so, I purused the local book stacks (fiction). I picked up one called The Horseman, which turned out to be set in World War 1 (not my thing) so I put it back. I wandered over to Mary Higgins Clark’s selection deliberately, because she died at the age of 92 yesterday. In her obit, which I read in bed this morning while cuddling Lily, it said she wrote about women surviving difficult odds. I didn’t know that. I only remember she wrote about a woman who won the lottery and then became a crime solver. I don’t know. It’s been awhile since I’ve read one of her books. What was interesting to me, though, was learning she started her writing career by looking at her bookshelf and then giving herself permission to write what she liked to read. Kudos, Mary, I did exactly the same thing!
I’d had a low-grade headache all morning, and while in the library waiting on my phone, it finally got past the Slightly Aggravating stage and made it to the This Bites stage. I popped another pill, and when I next stood and discovered I was both mildly wobbly and also nauseous, I remembered that I had as yet forgotten to eat anything other than coffee. I figured pub fries might just do the trick to soak up some of the Advil overdose I might potentially be suffering, and since I knew there was a pub in the Capital News Building, I decided to seek it out. On my way, though, I realized there was a concession stand between the pub and myself, and that seemed a faster route to take. I purchased chicken fingers and a Gatorade, and I wandered.
And next thing you know, I was accidentally standing behind the goalie’s net at what I first thought (due to the jerseys) to be a Kelowna Rockets game (Why is it free? Is it okay for me to be standing here? Nobody’s kicked me out so far, so I guess I’m going to continue standing here and by the way, this ROCKS!). I realized, once the score made it to 13-3 halfway through the second, that this might not be THE Rockets. Do the Rockets have a Junior team? I texted the question to my sixteen year old daughter, source of all pop-culture knowledge. Her response was, look for this guy — photo included in her text — he’s so pretty. I responded, no, he’s not playing. Her response, do their jerseys say WHL? My response, I’ll check next time they slam into the glass in front of me. Answer, no, but the glass held, so all good.
I’m more a bump-set-spike/love-means-nothing kind of athlete than a slam-your-mate-into-the-boards/ punches-for-penalties kind of athlete, so this was both novel and fun for me. I mean, yeah, I’ve been to hockey games before, and I watch it on TV some, but I don’t think I’ve ever stood directly behind the goalie’s net before. It was kind of awesome, actually. The sounds of the game down at that level were unbelievable — and loud. I LIKED IT. The size of these guys was daunting. The speed they were skating at was really something impressive. And yes, they were constantly doing their best to break the glass in front of me with their opponent’s shoulder. And I am such a girl that when they rammed each other into the glass directly in front of me that one time and the sound of the thudding bodies ricocheted like blow-back from a gun and the boards thunked and the glass which was all that was keeping these two monsters from including me IN the game wobbled, I will admit that I took an involuntarily step back and I think possibly closed my eyes. Eek. So much for my career as a sports photographer!
I stayed to the end of the second period. Then, with my daughter wanting details about who exactly I was watching, I wandered over to the booth some women were manning and asked permission to ask an uninformed question — who am I watching? What level is this? Bantam. Which, I learned roughly translates to fourteen and fifteen year olds. Very large ones. When I mentioned to the women that my daughter was asking, they said, “Just tell her, they all skate. And tell her to stay away from all of them.”
Sound advice, obviously.
I left after that and headed for home and the roast beef I planned for dinner. After eating, I picked Sheena up from the Heat Volleyball game, then Lily and I zonked out on my sofa. I woke up with the headache problem solved, but the new problem of… it’s now 2:42 am and who’s not tired? Me. I’m not tired. But that’s okay, because without planning well, any of it, really, I just had the best day off I’ve had in months. Completely by accident. Thank you, Kelowna!
I am sitting at the precipice of a new decade, and as I’m sure is the case with many of you, I am feeling contemplative. So contemplative that I just cut and pasted the previous post I had written since I had to accept that I was really writing chapter one of a book, and not a goodbye to the teens hello to the twenties of this century.
Over the past ten years, I have been fortunate to release five cd’s of original music plus a cd of Christmas music. Truth: each album has its strengths and weaknesses. Studio time is expensive, and I was always working around the budget, still, I am proud of each project for its own reasons.
identity – 2012. studio album recorded with Dan Marcelino, Chris Schriek and Joe Harrison at DMA Studios. I play keys. Occasionally guitar. All vocals are mine with the exception of the kids “choir” (Jerome Laroche, Sheena Macfarlane, Thea Ley) on “Save the Children” — about trafficking. I wrote all the songs, the guys made them sound like actual songs. Favorite part of the album? It was the first. Every second for me was charged with joy. What might have been better? I was a brand new guitar player and I sucked. lol. Also, I wish we’d gotten the kids choir a little louder in the mix.
Trusting You – 2013. Studio album recorded with Greg Wenger at The Groove Studio in Vernon. The intention with this album changed, Originally, it was only meant to be a demo I could give the band so they could learn the songs, then I decided to publish and so things changed. Best part of the album? Cover art – me riding the carousel in San Fran while on a school band trip with Alison (my daughter). Also, it represents two different bands. One I sang with plus the first I led. Band one, Me, Joe Harrison, Gordie Harrison, Dan Harrison. Band two, Me on guitar and keys and vocals. Pete Petrescu on drums, Cole Hubscher on bass, Deanna DeCosta, guitar and vocals, Lynne Ivanoff, keys and vocals. Guest spots by my niece Adrienne Alexander on bass, Chris Schriek lead guitar, Alison Macfarlane on flute, and Jon Buller on bass. The worst part of the album? Not my best work. Sorry guys. Better material to come.
Legacy – 2014 (?) Live album. SO MUCH FUN! We recorded this entire album in one five hour session — which shows in my voice by the end of some of the songs. lol. Because we were recording live, I stacked the deck with all my friends plus some super strong extras. In no particular order – Lynne Ivanoff, Deanna DeCosta, Mary Machibroda, Dave Newland, Karen Wolfe, Chris Schriek, Dan Marcelino, Gordie Harrison, Alisha Margaret, that guy Deanna was seeing, and my daddy, Marlin Kenneth Penner. The best part of this album? I love this project. We were all breaking up. Lynne moved a week later, Karen moved that summer. Things were changing. But, for this one last moment, we were all together and it was a brilliant night — even if some people complained that I gave them too much to learn to fast. Whatever… I love this album because we all just flowed against one another, just ad-libing, vibing off each other, bringing out the best in each other. And mostly, I love that I got to record a duet “Great is Thy Faithfulness” with the most faithful man I know — my dad. All my feelings associated with this album are happy ones. Worst part of the album? Live. Perhaps some takes could have been better in studio. Like, you know, where I sang the wrong words in one song. I mean, not like I wrote it, or anything! Still, all in all, sound quality is surprisingly good.
Joy to the World – 2015 (?) Ten songs, four originals, one remix of Joy to the World. At the time, I was leading in churches and was soooooo sick of Christmas carols. I think I recorded this partly as a form of rebellion, partly as a way of putting my own stamp on some old favorites. Best part of the album? There are some songs I really love. I love my take on Joy to the World, although it’s at the top of my range and now that I am not singing all the time, the vocal cords are not impressed. I love the way the duet with Dan Marcelino — Merry Christmas — turned out. I love The Smile of a Child as a song. Could use a studio quality recording on that one to improve the sound. And I love The Coventry Carol, which I sing acapella in four part harmony — all me. Fun stuff! Worst part of the album? Definitely the sound quality. Since this was never going to be a main project of mine, we recorded in three different formats — on the church sound system, which provided a fuzzy background hum you just gotta love, on Joe’s personal recording gear, which sounded better but still not perfect, and in Dan’s studio. Which rocked. Stupid money. Why do you always have to be a factor that messes with creativity?? Oh, on this album, Joe Harrison, me, Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Dave Anthony on Away in a Manger, and Dan the man Marcelino.
Lion’s Roar – 2016. This was definitely my most experimental — thus creative — album. Back in studio in Vernon with Greg Wenger at the helm. Greg gave me a skookum deal on the recording of this baby. Best part of the album? First, that we messed around and tried so much stuff. Second – saxophone, yeah baby! Third, Wings, which I recorded and turned into a video which I gave to my niece when she was going through a hard time. Love that song. Love that sound. Oh, I suppose also the fact that a friend’s partner was having brain surgery, and my friend told me at that time in her life she played the song Quiet Me over and over daily and found strength from it. Yeah, that’s kind of the point, after all. And the very best? Cover art by my dad- Marlin Penner. Hands down. XO dad. Worst part? Trouble in the band. sad face. Some of the memories don’t make me so happy. Some of the experiments worked better than others. c’est la vie. On this album, Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Curtis Kieres (sax, yeah baby), Randy Roberts, Dwaine Alexander (my bro-in-law) and Nolan Basset on trumpet. Special thanks to Greg for the woohoos on Lion’s Roar — he knows what I mean! lol
All In – 2016. To me, this is the best sound I produced — ever. After going to town with all the bells and whistles on Lion’s Roar, I stripped it down for All In. Recorded in the Seburn’s basement studio with Luke Seburn as engineer. The price was right, and Luke, you are and likely always will be by far the most creative musician I have ever met. Point in case — he bought a pair of sterling wine glasses at a thrift store and turned them into percussion instruments… and they are on the album somewhere! I wanted to do an acoustic, sitting on the country back porch vibe-ing album, and this comes pretty close in parts. Courtesy of Paul Seburn doing something amazing to the tuning of my guitar, this album is far and away the best my voice ever sounded. If I do say so myself. Best part of the album? It is as close to the sound inside my head as any of my albums ever got. Also, Mary is recorded singing lead on the song she always liked best of mine — pretty cool. Also, one song I wrote in one night and recorded the next day — swaggy (stealing my daughter’s vocab). Also, on Hand this guy I met plays the spoons. Yep. The spoons. There are also birds and other sampled sounds Luke put in there and Dave plays harmonica and it kind of sounds like a train coming round the bend. I got Luke playing my banjo — whoo baby — he got me playing a legit Hammond B3 organ (hehehehehehe), and, yeah, musically, this one works for me. The worst part? Band broke up a week before the album came out. SUCKED. Not only did I take a big financial hit, but I do have some sad feelings when I listen. Then I go all vain on my voice, and I get over it. As well, mastering could have been louder. To be fair, he offered to redo it. On this one — Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Luke Seburn and featuring Ken Riley on spoons!
I learned so many things while pursuing music. Things about myself, such as, I am more in love with creating than with performing. Things about leading, like, it requires humility, the ability to render constructive criticism appropriately, and it takes as least as much work ethic, vision and drive as it does talent. Things about people, for example, supremely talented people will follow a mediocre talent if that talent is coupled with vision and genuine appreciation. I also learned technical things, like singing too close to the studio mic will not sound great on an album, that infusing passion into a song (as a vocalist) is a matter of connecting with the lyric, that it is good to let someone tell you how to hit the high notes better but bad to let them tell you to try to sound like someone else. Plus some other stuff, which, perhaps most significantly of all for me was, it was never only about the music. In the six years I was making albums, I was able to include 49 people on my albums or on stage with me. These people ranged from professional musicians, a couple award winning ones, a couple professional music teachers, to a whole bunch of amateurs of varying skill levels, to children as young as six years old. Musical accompaniments included: Grand piano, Korg and Roland keyboards, Hammond B3 organ, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, various percussion, djembe, electric drum kit, acoustic drum kit, flute, sax, trombone, trumpet, violin, the spoons, harmonica and voices. So many beautiful voices. I loved all of it — and you. Thank you to every person who was involved in the music I made this past decade. People, I have discovered, follow a vision. And when the vision is gone, people will find another vision to follow — myself most of all.
Shortly before 2019, I started daytrippinwithleighmacfarlane thinking it was going to be a travel blog. There is some of that on here, and there will be more — please, God. The thing I’ve realized in the teens of the twenty-first century is that the journey of life really happens inside. Whether that is a geographical journey or a metaphorical, metaphysical one, the way I interact with events and with people is the real journey which counts.
This past decade has seen so many things in my life. Physical injuries which turned me from an athletic focus to a creative one. Growing pains and joys with my children, who now are well on their way to being self-supporting adults. Spiritual highs and lows. The almost marriage which wasn’t. The deaths of people I love. Jobs jobs and more jobs. I think in the last few years I hold the record for how many different industries one person can work in. Friends who have come in and out of my life and thankfully, the important ones have come back in. So much love and joy and pain and sorrow and growth and hope and dreams…
And now, I am pursuing another dream — writing.
That is a whole other blog post. Because in 2010, I graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and since then, I have written two memoirs, a co-authored cookbook, a children’s picture book, a book of poetry, and am now up to eight completed novel manuscripts — four of which were published in 2019.
There have been times in my life where I have jokingly said, I wish God had made me an accountant. Life would be simple and financially secure, and I’d know what each day would hold. Gah! Worst. Plan. Ever.
I am no accountant. I am a creative. And how much more fun is that?!
I am so thankful, at the end of 2019, that God didn’t make me an accountant. People ask me all the time where my story ideas come from, and I can’t answer, because they just come from bumping shoulders with life, from breathing and observing, and experiencing. They are just there. One of my greatest realities is I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO TELL ALL THE STORIES. So, maybe being an accountant looked good to me at one time. Now, though, I am embracing the journey of being a creative — this is me, at the end of 2019, excited for all 2020 will bring.
Including but not limited to:
The Way of Things – April
The Best of Things – July
The Merry Kind of Things – November
Santa’s Surf School – December
(stay tuned for future daytripping, both geographical and existential!)
Awhile ago, I was thrilled when a blog post I wrote was picked up by a magazine. Wanting a copy for my ‘brag book’, I’ve been keeping my eye out for the publication to show on shelves. It is late. So, today I drove down to the street address of this magazine, but no one answered my knock. The waiting continues.
The trip was far from wasted. I’d parked down the street a bit, and on my walk noticed plaques in the yards of several of the residences located on the street. When I stepped up to the first one, I realized I was looking at a heritage house designation marker, and I snapped a photo. From that point on, I wandered the block taking other photos. The shots I captured were of the markers, not of the homes themselves, as that seemed mildly invasive. These might be older homes in one of Kelowna’s designated heritage neighbourhoods, but people do currently make their homes within their walls.
One of the first things I noticed was that these houses represented multiple styles of architecture. Some are quite modest, and later I would read that their construction reflected the financial realities of the time. I liked that these homes were considered important as a marker of the history of Kelowna, not only as a tribute to the wealth which founded Kelowna.
The homes are also all named with the names of former residents — people who had significant connections to the history of Kelowna and who either built or lived in the building named after them. One of the original residents who lived in a house on Lawrence had a street named after him. One helped establish a hardware store. One owned an orchard in Glenmore. One was one of the original administrators of the Kelowna Golf Club. As I heard about the occupations represented, it was like being taken back in time, like falling into a movie set with dirt-paved roads and horses and buggies trotting down the lane. My imagination was engaged.
When I was younger, I worked as a maid in Vernon and cleaned the Vernon Music School — housed in a gorgeous Victorian heritage house. Last summer at Kopje park, I took copious photos of Gibson House because one day I will be writing a novel set there. Brandon, a character in one of my novels (Honey on My Lips), lives in a fictional heritage house. In university, one of my favourite essays centered on the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve been interested in and inspired by character homes for a long time. I’ve also spent years driving through these homes on my routes in and out of downtown Kelowna. Stumbling across these Lawrence Avenue addresses was a great perk to my day.
I didn’t know until today, though, that in the Bernard – Lawrence neighbourhood of Kelowna, there is a heritage walking tour of buildings who, according to the tour’s brochure, are a “Presence from the Past.” I liked the phrase. It really did capture how reading about the owners of these homes made me feel.
It’s an odd thought to know that the people who built Lawrence Avenue are now dead and gone, but they all had dreams, lives, families, a sense of purpose. Now, new families live in the buildings the settlers created. I know this because as I walk, family dogs run up to me from behind their fences with tails wagging. They bark at me from inside windows while I pass by. To me, a dog makes a house a home. Today in one yard a tree is being pruned by a landscaper, in another, leaves are being raked by a resident. The more things change, the more they stay the same for property owners.
According to the City of Kelowna website on heritage planning Lawrence avenue is part of a heritage conservation area. The website defines this as “a distinct area with special heritage value and character, designated for long-term protection and heritage conservation purposes in an Official Community Plan.” Such areas are established because “Kelowna’s older residential neighbourhoods are under redevelopment pressure, and the citizens of Kelowna expressed a desire to preserve the character and quality of these areas” (https://www.kelowna.ca/our-community/arts-culture-heritage/heritage/heritage-planning-initiatives). In other words, even though these properties are now worth extreme amounts of money to developers, we don’t want our local history torn down and forgotten. In Kelowna, we want to remember who our founders were. We want to remember where we came from.
Kelowna offers both a heritage grant program and a heritage building tax incentive program for owners of these properties looking for financial assistance with maintenance or historically minded renovations. In order to qualify for such assistance, a home must be listed on the Kelowna Heritage Register, or must be located within a Heritage Conservation Area.
“We value, respect and celebrate built, cultural and natural heritage as a major contributor to our community’s identity, character and sense of place.”
Sometimes you just know what you know. I know peppermint essential oil and VOXX socks have improved my quality of life.
Ten-ish years ago, I suffered a triad of athletic injuries. First, I tore all the ligaments in my shoulder during a tennis forehand. Second, I tore all the ligaments in my ankle during a tennis dash to the deep far right of the court. And a year later, I tore my hamstring while doing the splits in yoga. No irony there.
The hamstring injury hurt the most at the time, but now, years later, that is but a distant memory, while both tennis injuries have worsened over the years. They have brought both vocational and recreational changes to my life. This year, when the repetitive motion of putting stamps on envelopes at my desk job was enough to send me home with burning shoulder nerves, I decided, okay, I can’t afford it, but I’m going to look into physio therapy. Clearly, I can’t afford not to. I’m too young to live this way.
And then, by fluke, if you like, by divine intervention, if you prefer, one week after deciding this, I ended up at an outdoor artisans fair. I thought I was going to look at local art works. Instead, I found two booths, side by side, which have both contributed to changing my quality of life. One of the tables had a big jog of cold lemon water and a bunch of essential oils on display. The table beside them had socks.
At the first table, I stopped in my browsing to read a poster labeling the parts of the foot. The literature claimed that VOXX Life technology could help with foot pain and with balance. Their tool? Socks.
This wasn’t normally a claim I would waste any time on. It turns out, I am a bit of an alternative medicine sceptic. Then the woman manning the booth invited me to remove my shoes and step up for an experiment, and because I was getting desperate for some improvement in my health, I gave a mental shrug, and shucked my flipflops.
“Okay,” I said, “But I have a bad ankle. I already know I’m going to be bad at this.”
With bare feet, I stepped onto the board she indicated, then made fists with my wrists, and placed them on top of one another underneath my breastbone. The woman then placed her hands on top of mine, and pushed down. I immediately toppled. I inadvertently pitched forwards and stepped off the board.
“Okay,” she said, bending over to place a pair of insoles on the board, “Now stand on these, and fold your hands again.”
I let her position me correctly on the insoles, placed my hands as instructed, and let her push her weight down on my hands a second time. She added enough force that my arms dropped down several inches, but I… didn’t budge. It was a startling and dramatic demonstration.
I stepped off the board, put my flipflops back on, and followed her back to a rack of socks. Where I caught my first glimpse of the price tags. Ouch. $40 for a pair of ankle socks.
Normally, I’d never pay that kind of money for socks. I raised four kids on my own, so I can be frugal. Forty bucks can fuel my car for a week. Forty bucks can pay half of my cable bill for a month. Forty bucks will send my daughter away for a weekend with her volleyball team and put food on her plate while she’s there. On the other hand, physio is going to run me a lot more than forty bucks. Even if I am throwing my money away, giving these socks a chance might be an affordable alternative.
I deliberately didn’t bring any cash with me as I perused, but I put my name down on the woman’s pre-order list, and when she contacted me by email a few days later, I charged it. Then I jumped on the VOXX Life website to see what exactly it was that Canada Post was speeding my way.
VOXX Life is a company which spent six years developing the technology in their products. They studied “decades of research in brainstem functionality and the peripheral nervous system, and also reviewed the latest research in sensory mechano-receptor mapping,” and also a bunch of other health science stuff (https://voxxlife.com/15-2/).
At VOXX, they wanted to know how the brain’s sensory receptors, the peripheral nervous system and the brainstem interact. Then they wanted to implement what they learned into a line of products designed to increase balance, manage pain, and generally improve energy and function.
VOXX discovered that the relationship between the brainstem, peripheral nervous system and the brain’s sensory receptors are interconnected. They work together to gather sensory input and create motor output. The brainstem connects the brain to the central nervous system, relaying signals between the brain and the spinal cord. The brainstem also “controls several important functions of the body including pain management, alertness, arousal, breathing, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, swallowing, walking, posture, stability and sensory and motor information integration.”
VOXX developed technology with a “very specific sequence and pattern of neuroreceptor activation on the bottom of the feet that triggers a signal that aides in the brainstem reaching homeostasis.” In other words, wearing VOXX products triggers the brainstem to signal the brain in ways that induce a relatively stable equilibrium between all three elements of the body. These trigger point patterns are woven or molded into footwear products. The results people saw were significant enough that the technology was then sold to the army and to professional athletes.
The result VOXX users observed included improved posture and balance, improved mobility and energy, and generally reduced or more easily managed pain levels. VOXX says, “The concept is simple. The science is proven. The results are extraordinary.” I just say, “It works.”
When you get your socks, you are instructed to keep them on 24/7 for a week. Apparently, they come with an antibacterial ingredient which allows this. You can wash them in the machine when necessary, but hang to dry. I followed these instructions religiously. Within three days, I no longer recognized myself. The difference was undeniable, yet I tried to deny.
“This has got to be a placebo,” I said, pretty much to anyone who would listen. So, I took a day without the socks. Not, I was forced to concede, a placebo. VOXX technology is the real deal. I was so convinced, I signed up as a rep.
My job at the time was largely sedentary, but I’d also worked at a fast-food restaurant on the side briefly. I remember sitting in my car after one eight hour shift unable to drive out of the parking lot because my ankle was spasming. That feeling when your leg has gone to sleep and the circulation is returning? That was happening all at once — and was focused in my Achilles tendon to the point that I was unsafe to drive home. I’d also, on more than one occasion, had my foot simply collapse underneath me as I walked up the four steps to my patio. It’s a terrifying thing when you are a relatively young woman and with no advance warning, your foot simply crumples underneath you. All this changed.
I started taking walks. I resumed swimming. I started jogging up my stair case. I quit my sedentary job and took jobs requiring me to be on my feet for eight hours at a time. At the end of these shifts, my feet would hurt. Because, you know, feet get tired after running around on them for eight straight hours. So, my feet got tired — normal, been-standing-on-you-all-day tired. And my life changed.
Best forty dollars ever spent.
Now, I wear them all the time. I’m someone who likes big fluffy, floppy socks in winter, and bare feet all the rest of the time, but I don’t even notice these socks. They don’t make me sweat, and they feel great. Mostly, though, they make me feel healthy in them.
I don’t know that I’ll ever hit the tennis courts again. Not sure I even still want to. But the discovery of VOXX technology has gone a long way to getting me moving again. If you suffer from balance or pain issues, give VOXX a chance. It might just be the best money you ever spend, too.
For more information on VOXX, visit their website https://voxxlife.com. They’ve been a game changer for me.
My shoulder would tell you, so have essential oils, but that is part two of this story. Stay tuned for that story, coming soon!
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.
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.