Narcissism is Deadly

So, it’s official – death by selfie is more common than death by shark attack. I came across this piece while perusing the BBC website this morning: The Dangerous Art of the Ultimate Selfie

When will people realize that they should be reading their classics. Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And that prolonged gazing at one’s image leads to drowning in self – literally, ask any ancient Greek about beautiful Narcissus who fell into an image of himself in a pool and drowned.  I don’t like to include images in a blog about writing but this beautiful Caravaggio found in the Wikipedia entry is too good to miss.

If you were following my blog posts while on holiday you may have seen this one: I am here!  where my husband and I set out to try taking some selfies with our camera (sorry, no phone along) on a rainy day in Munich with amusing results. We were astounded by the number of travellers who seemed to want pictures of nothing but themselves to the point that the backgrounds didn’t matter. “Grand Canal…? nah, I’ll stand in front of this MacDonald’s sign instead.”  Grin and click.

Living life through a lens focused always on number 1 must stifle the creative process which involves looking and thinking and then maybe including yourself in a meaningful frame of reference. Photography is a wonderful way to capture a moment, an expression or a memory.

Sometimes photographs create their own art as this incredible winning photo by Canadian, Don Gutoski, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015-2016:

Tale of two foxes by Don Gutoski

Note the symmetry of heads and tails. You can read about this photo here: Wildlife Photographer of the Year

I had been nibbling at the idea that blogging may be the literary form of selfie taking but on further consideration, no, because it requires to much contemplation to get the words to pile up.  I suppose a continuous stream of texts identifying your position on the globe and every inane thought might qualify – wait a minute, is that facebook?

Don’t get me wrong.  I do love to see photos of my friends and family, just maybe not thousands of them and I don’t want to think that they risked their lives to get the shot.

Never too Busy

When people say they’re busy, how often do they really mean it? And is there a percentage of waking life that needs to be filled with required tasks in order to truthfully claim the adjective for yourself? And if just organizing thoughts and tasks in your mind qualifies, does the word actually have a valid meaning?

I thought of telling a small group of friends I have that I was too busy to go out for a beer with them last Friday night but I reconsidered and encouraged the get together, in fact I even suggested that we lengthen it to take in a meal – what did it matter that I had to be up early the next morning to host a garage sale single-handedly? We don’t meet very often and I refuse to get bogged down in tasks, of which I’ve had a few lately.

As it happens, we were going to take a trip starting in March but got waylaid by illness.  We’re still going but now we’re leaving in about 2 weeks – for 3 months, not all of which is organized.  While we were hanging around waiting for Jerry to get better, we decided to buy a new, cheap home to store all our crap in instead of the aforementioned storage lockers and also so that we wouldn’t have to rent a home on our return.  So, we found a place around the corner, viewed it and bought it.  Well, now we come to the touchy part.  We set a goal once Jerry was able to get around on his hind legs again: the second storage locker would be emptied by the end of February – FOR SURE.

Luckily, we were kind enough to have bought the aging Chevy truck from our son who left for Alberia to work (he assured us that it was a good price, after all, it’s almost collectible!) Now we had a means of transport for the jumbled mass of tools, equipment, china, tubs of kid’s stuff we are storing and a few arty collectibles.  So with a hop onto the mouldering bench seat and a turn of the key, it almost started. No problem, a bit of tinkering and a lengthy recharge and we were on our rumbling way to the mini-storage.

I could have cried when we opened the garage sized door.  There was a mountain of objects, in no particular order. For many, many, many trips we pushed and grunted and shoved masses of junk into the back of the truck and then into our home and back patio. Mission accomplished though.  Next stage was the sorting for keep, resale or garbage stage.

To make a long story short, we sorted, we sold, we went to the dump, we repeated the process with the second storage locker – albeit a lot creakier of skeletal joints, and a lot less fussy about what was worth keeping.  It was nice to have converted so many cubic metres of stuff into a tidy stack of twenty-dollar bills.  The last few things were thrown on Craigslist – that saviour of the frugal junk collector.

Then, there was the move in to a new place and the cleaning up of the old place. Then the re-booking of travel tickets (amendment: we’re leaving in 3 days now), travel insurance, new house insurance, arrangements for looking after things when we’re away.  Busy, busy, busy …. I believe I’m qualified to use the word.

Well, I made it for the beer with friends, the wine and dessert with other friends and a couple of tea and walk events.  We’ve managed to cover it all (I think) and the socializing helped us keep everything in perspective – we should never be too busy for friendship because no matter whether you are going around the corner or to the other side of the world, your compass needle swings on a fulcrum human connection.

If you’re interested, you can click on the link to a new blog  “Where did I put my Suitcase?” and follow our travels.

Ferry Funmas!

My husband is struggling with the online ferry reservation system to make sure that our truckload of Christmas cheer makes it first to Saltspring Island and then to Vancouver on the correct dates for holiday fun.  Our sleigh will be loaded up with locally produced chocolates, wine and lamb and our bulky but still useful lawn furniture and a standing lamp to be dropped off at my parents new home.

It’ll be just the three of us following yonder star, Jerry, me and our 6 ft something son jammed cheek by cheek on the bench seat of his 1991 Chev1500.  Guess who will be in charge of the radio – no Bing Crosby is my guess.

This is the start of a whole new era in holly-jolly for us, the very first year that one of our kids has suggested we move the party to their home. (We did bully our way into my daughter’s place one year for convenience sake in accommodating elderly relatives close to their homes.) But hark 2014 – the angels did sing when our eldest son invited us over.  Not only that but the offspring collectively decided who should cook what and our names didn’t appear on the naughty list although I have extended both culinary and financial help since. Our son (or maybe it was his girlfriend) also organized an online gift exchange – called the “Funmas” draw. It sure is a lot easier to find one perfect gift than stoke the yawning maw of mass consumerism.

Our Christmas wonderland has morphed from a multi-month frenzy of home-made fir bough and ornament decorating with 4 young artists, a floury whirlwind of cookie, square, bun and cake baking, advent dinners, staff parties, mad dashes between choir, nativity play and musical recitals and endless last-minute additions of gift collecting to even everyone out – on an incredibly tight budget.  And I shudder when I think of the times I had to harness up the reindeer for trips to the grocery store, especially the year that we had a total of 22 merry makers at the dinner table, and most with their jammies along too.

We said bah humbug to cutting down a tree this year as we aren’t hosting any holiday parties. Good thing too because all of our frankincense and decorations are buried in a trunk somewhere in our storage locker.  (You may recall that our particular elephant in the room is how to tackle and organize this nightmare of collected junk and memorabilia.) In an effort to provide minimal decking of the halls, I purchased some small disco ball ornaments which now sparkle amidst the silk leaves of my fake Ficus tree and our kitchen window is illuminated with a string of coloured lights hung with Charlie Brown panache. I will add some strings of fairy lights about the room for our New Year’s get together with friends. All these items were purchased at a thrift store, so with the free holly and cedar picked up roadside on our walk today, Jerry and I splashed out in the range of $8, leaving us more to spend on the excellent comestibles for sale at the European deli and at Hot Chocolates in Courtenay.

Sometimes I miss the happy golden days of yore with all the sugar-plum dreamers at home but I’m really looking forward to this big city noel and the most silent of holy nights with my noggin nestled in a pillow at the very swish Lonsdale Quay hotel.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas fellow bloggers!





Make My Day

Yesterday we had a meeting at work with an RCMP constable and she was so cool and tough, that I think we were all in love by the end of her presentation.  She brooked no bullshit and would be there to cover us if we chose to join the law and order team.  It felt great. It was like a Harlequin romance hero had just materialized to enclose us in her sheltering, and armed embrace.

Our workplace isn’t highly unsafe but has the potential to become so in that we deal with the public.  Sad that most of us do and therefore are at risk from members of that public who either are or should be medicated, should be in psychiatric care or are breaking the terms of their probation. This is the new normal in the public sector and we need to prepare ourselves for it if we wish to work there.  Luckily, our manager has jumped all over this project and thus, the meeting with a member of the local constabulary.

There must have been reverberations through the canine universe because our dog decided to join the war on cats, just not ours.  Oscar is 14 and has spent most of his life cowering from all cats and our cat in particular who admittedly, is a bully. When he wouldn’t respond to my husband’s commands to be quiet, due to his selective deafness, Jerry was forced to track him down.  He found him next door barking up at the neighbour’s cat who was perched up on their back deck. Oscar never leaves our yard, in fact he seldom wakes up so it was a surprise to see him there letting the cat know the new rules. “And furthermore, don’t even LOOK at the mice at our place …”  With jaunty, divot loosening kicks of his stumpy hind legs, he decided to spare the cat further humiliation and accompany Jerry safely back from enemy lines.

As it turned out, my co-workers and I had cause to use our training shortly after our meeting yesterday and everything went very smoothly – right down to the snick of handcuffs.  I’m not sure but I think the dog tried to high-five me when I got home.

Break Out the Champagne!

Freshet the e-book is almost born! (Check out the sample chapter on the blog under the Freshet Synopsis tab.)

Laurie and I are about to pop the cork on the champagne (actually we’ll uncap the bottle – a local winery’s finest) and celebrate our small victory and the addition of a few new wrinkles to our brains. I haven’t been this excited about an educational group project since grade three.

Like any new parents, we are getting nervous now that the big day is almost here.  We’ve been fussing with the cover, acknowledgements and table of contents, etc. etc. etc.  We are positively end-of-term pregnant with all the detailed palaver that went into the production of this literary delivery. We know that everyone (by which I mean, a small group of friends) will be looking for 10 fingers and 10 toes!

Now that Laurie has a handle on production, she is already nagging me for a baby sibling to format. I’ve got to admit that I’m feeling a smidgeon of pride for the end result of what started as an on-line, Tuesday night writing exercise that we started just to get the juices flowing. Snippets of prose eventually added up to a bit of bulk on a subject that I was enjoying writing about. With the encouragement of other writing friends, it became a book sized manuscript. Then Laurie signed on to e-publish and as they say, the rest is history or will soon be.

The great thing about completing a project, whether or not it is perfect – it never will be, is that you can move on. I’ve felt the stirring of new writable themes and it is really charging my engine. It is exhilarating to be free to focus on a new project and not endlessly slog through posting and reposting your kindly rejected manuscript although once was enough for me, thank-you. If your objective in writing is to enjoy free expression and the ability to see your work in print, the e-publishing world is for you. And don’t tell me that the body of published literature will become diminished in quality – I have read and seen tons, literally, of “properly” produced by a publishing house, paper books that should never have left the author’s mind and never leave the shelves of the library. Why not let the book consumers of the world decide what is worth reading?

Speaking of free choice though – I’ll make my way to the cenotaph first today in order to remember all those who fought and still do for our right to express ourselves freely.

Remembering those who fought:

Harold A.S.Molyneux

Alexander A. McArthur

Hugh T. McArthur

Nora K. Molyneux

… and those who suffered collateral damage:

Saida Leru, Aino Nilsson, Bjorn Nilsson

Thank-you and God bless.





“I wanna reach out and grab ya,” to quote Steve Miller. After watching snippets of the new Apple Watch launch and the excitement it created, I think this should be the slogan of the electronic age. The tidal wave of information, music, literature, films and games accessed electronically is only missing the grab of a personal web arm to direct our gaze in the direction of the perfect match and not everything else. I’m sure they exist but people like me have yet to make their acquaintance. Eventually, when we have the strength of courage to chuck out all of our cameras, land phones, radios, televisions, books and maps there will be a desperate need for hand holding as we follow Alice down the electronic rabbit hole.

It took $24 dollars in stamps and a kind rejection letter to make me review my attitude toward non paper books. Thus began my first foray into the e-publishing world with a patient friend (observe: hand holding).  The process started about a year ago when I attended an introductory  seminar to working with the new medium by seasoned author, both in print and electronic form,  Nicola Furlong.  Like a Medieval peasant encountering Gutenberg, I longed for someone to interpret the esotericism of this strange thing.  Enter Laurie who joined me for a private seminar where we were able to grill Nicola and launch the project. Finally yesterday, Laurie and I were both feeling a tad excited at our work session. After comical wranglings with tasks like trying to find a copyright character (which incidentally, you don’t need), and opening documents that don’t want to open, we have come to a point where we have a cover page, a new short title, an almost text ready book, downloaded illustrations and an ISBN number. Yee-hah! The endless joys of non-optional learning…

My daughter has also entered the electronic world but for her, it is music. Liz and friends have started a label and Cosy Father, as her one person band is called, has a CD you can download for a donation (shameful parental promotion here) or just have a listen to by clicking on the link. Lucky for me, I actually enjoy her music to the degree that I often find her songs lingering in my mind, so you might too. (I have a friend who can’t listen her way through her son’s entire heavy metal CD.)  Liz tells me that e-recording is the way of the future as it evens out the playing field for everyone. She also told me that there is a huge market for limited new pressings of vinyl which makes me think that we humans will always be drawn to the aesthetic qualities of art such as clumpy oil paint, antique vellum pages and old sepia photographs.

Luddite that I am, I find myself getting excited about some of the possibilities that exist because of  e-magic although I won’t be buying an Apple watch.  And until we are offered free power and no chance of an outage, I’m keeping my shelf of books.



Happy Old Year!

What a busy time of year September is! It always feels more like the new year to me than January 1st does.

The end of summer in Canada usually means the end of the freewheeling outdoor lifestyle of lazy days on beaches, in gardens or hiking and meals enjoyed al fresco with relatives and friends that often have the time to connect only while on holiday. Sad to see it end but also somewhat of a relief to return to a schedule and plans for the new school year, theatre season and maybe a diet and exercise regimen because there is still time to lose a size or two and fit into that great New Year’s outfit.

I usually preserve the last of the garden’s bounty (not necessarily my own) so that we can enjoy the taste of summer peaches and salsas come the dreary days of January. This is the time of year too when I lose interest in nursing along my scraggly flower baskets and dream of smelling exotic flowers in some far away escape this winter.

The outdoor furniture gets tucked up and the flip flops get put away. This year my challenge is to dig out our winter footwear from the higgledy-piggledy mess of the garage size storage unit in which all our worldly possessions are stored. That mammoth task will engender the even bigger task of pulling out a pile of items we need to sell or give away.  Now that my spouse is looking at live-aboard boats for our next place of residence, forty boxes of books and a piano seem extravagant even to me.

Because the year seems to stretch forever until next summer, and because I hate endless gray and rainy days, I decided to buy lots of entertainment tickets to break up our progress down the darkening tunnel to the shortest day of the year.  We’ll be laughing, singing and emotionally moved on a regular basis until Christmas at least.  (I just realized that we didn’t need to pay for all that therapy when the kids still lived at home and provided it for free.)

I’ve taken baby steps toward healthier living too.  And oh, aren’t the planning stages of diet and exercise so edifying!  I refuse to keep any more clothes that I don’t fit into – besides where would I store them all on the new boat/residence?

I thought about classes at the local college as well but unfortunately, my work schedule gets in the way.  I’ll have to self educate with books and cds from the library. Hopefully, next year at this time that won’t be  problem. Until then, Berlitz, bring it on! Kalos se vrika!

There is comfort in the change of season. Quiet evenings with a book or knitting by the fireside beckon. The possibilities of new friends and new directions in education or projects tempt us like new wine. Even though fall signals the end of the exuberant extroversion of the outdoor season there is renewal in the review and reworking of plans for the interior life. Happy Old Year!

Shelter Point Whisky and Sasquatches

My husband returned from Vancouver this week having had skin cancer removed from his temple at the incredible Moh‘s clinic where he has already been a visitor a few times before. It feels kind of clubby there for him now and he likes to get the conversation flowing amongst the room of newbies. Poor guy removed his bandage the next day and found a patchwork of about 50 stitches. So today I suggested we do something fun to take his mind off his latest wound. We decided to drive up the highway to the Shelter Point Whisky Distillery.

Well – what a timely surprise! Tomorrow, having aged their thousand casks the legally required 3 years and 1 day, they can bottle their first batch of single malt. Can’t wait to try it. Brian, our tour guide, ran us through the process of whisky production and explained that until there is whisky to taste, there would be Vodka – their own Still Master triple distilled Vodka, in a variety of flavours. Vodka goes from the tank to the bottle and doesn’t require the subtle addition of cask flavours.

Not really being vodka drinkers it is ironic that we now have a litre bottle in our liquor cupboard. Still Master is distilled in copper pots hand made in Scotland from barley grown in the sea breezy farm land of Vancouver Island. We chose the vodka that hasn’t been infused with one of the delicious but subtle flavours they offer but the bare version which has it’s own barley imparted whisky flavour. We did buy a bottle of the chocolate infused for a gift too.

On the drive home I was thinking about how Jerry is full of conversational surprises.  A couple of weeks back, there was an item on TV about an island near Tofino and he says, “that’s where Alan and that other guy came across the Sasquatch nest.” Now I have been married to him for 32 years and with him for a couple of years before that and I don’t ever remember him mentioning a Sasquatch nest which is something I’m sure I would have remembered. And he wasn’t kidding – apparently it was pushed down underbrush in a circle with a diameter of about 10-12 feet and stunk unbelievably. And yes, there was excrement and fur that bore no resemblance to that of a bear. I know it was the seventies and the wild west but he’s sticking to the story and don’t even ask about the goat legged man of Stubbs Island.

I was thinking of how when he leaves to go anywhere, I automatically expect him to return at least once more for the items which he has forgotten. My husband  might come back for his phone, sunglasses, the required hat, paperwork, his list – forgetting these items or what I just told him is quite usual. But ask him to remember a joke he was told in grade 4 and there it is, punch line perfect. Ask him about one of Sherlock Holmes’ cases and he probably has an accurate answer. Ask him almost any random question that doesn’t have any bearing on our day to day lives and he ferrets out the answer from his subterranean mind vault with great alacrity.  Like the unexpected delight in a local vodka, he’s great at parties. Long may the Moh’s clinic keep him cancer free.


Enter Title Here

What to blog … what to blog?
So many fascinating topics and so many useful words are at our disposal. The problem comes when you have to line them up in the correct order so that they will impart a meaning to someone; make a small emotional ripple in the reading matrix. Here are things that have crossed my free ranging mind this morning:

  • the beach
  • knitting wool
  • crab apple cider (non-alcoholic) stored in the heavy freezer
  • picking Queen Anne’s Lace at the roadside
  • the quality of drinking water
  • the dirtiness of my kitchen floor
  • why I still own a cat
  • if it is worth planning anything in the future

I could probably cast out a few pearly thoughts on any of these topics but I feel uninspired. If the muse doesn’t appear, musing withers away.

There have been galleries of muses both male and female since the originals who were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. I think Man Ray’s muse, Kiki de Montparnasse has a name that positively shouts inspiration. Even the inanimate – leaves,the sea and post-modern architecture have inspired artists and writers. Some think they get closer to their muse in a drug induced state. Think of Wilkie Collins, opium addicted writer of the first detective novel, The Moonstone.

My sister-in-law has a personal saint/muse whom she calls, Chocolate Bob. When called upon, he always provides her with guidance to the perfect parking spot – not artistic I realize but supernatural guidance nonetheless. My artist brother has always been inspired by clouds. I’ve never identified my personal muse but it is worth contemplating. I know that to bid her come I only have to slow down and let my senses do the thinking for a moment. To look, listen, smell, taste and touch always sparks up a synaptic response in me worth following. Try it yourself.

Right now I hear:

  • a bird outside chirping angrily
  • leaves rustling in the wind
  • a plane high overhead
  • the clock ticking
  • the fridge doing it’s thing
  • a far away neighbour running a saw, I think

And suddenly, I am reminded of lying on my bed in Calgary when I was 11 or 12 hearing almost the same sounds and feeling very detached from a busy world and wondering if it would all change. Perched on the cusp of adolescence and about to move to another province, everything changed in the couple of years that followed but funny how those sounds embedded themselves together in my memory like a grain of sand. I could write something about that experience if I chose to and give it the title, “Pre-Teen Musings on the Future,” or maybe not.

That sums up the writing process for me. It is word game that starts with a sensory key and the memory of a scene, a word snippet, a buried thought. A wandering mind can be a handy tool for picking up bits and pieces that connect in some way and then lets the words arrange themselves. A word stitch here and one there can piece together a written tapestry that is available to hang in someone’s mind for inspection. What they make of it defines it’s artistic value.

Holiday Without a Plan

Sadly ,I am now on the last day of my month-long holiday. I feel refreshed, I’m having happy thoughts, I’m not moaning about work to my husband and I’m drinking Cinzano in the afternoon whilst enjoying sweet’n salty kettle corn in an uninhibited, face stuffing way. Aah, the hols!

Although we moved this month. Sounds easy but actually entailed sifting through twenty-three years of accumulated junk and family memorabilia – most of which is currently jammed into two storage lockers in no apparent order. Withdraw a box or bag and you’re just as likely to find my husband’s great granny’s plush Victorian photo album as you are a VHS copy of Mousehunt or a tool for making sausages. Actually this could be a fun activity for the late hours of a party.

So that took care of the first five days or so of the holiday. After that, we avidly did some work on our boat for a day and made big plans for getting her surveyed and out on the briny. Did I mention that while I was on holidays, my husband was not. This meant that the anticipated voyage did not actually leave the planning stage. Oh well, as my darling better-half loves saying, ” that leaves something for later.” Later was supposed to be last summer but due to government bureaucracy, my husband’s contract got extended for yet another summer. This, I’ve been promised, is the last so hopefully we aren’t too creaky to haul up the mainsail next summer for an extended voyage up the coast of BC’s mainland.(More on that later!)

The holiday progressed at an enjoyable summery pace for me anyway. Got to enjoy the new digs, go to the beach, entertain a few friends, make jam, sew a new sail cover and generally fool around with this blogging lark while procrastinating with the seminal internet task of uploading my manuscript as an e-book.

The great thing about a holiday where you don’t actually have to get up the energy to do all that cool stuff there is never time for during the working year, is that you don’t have to garner any energy AT ALL. You drift from day to day, from inside to outside, from snack to drink, from book to laptop, from stove to store and there is absolutely no plan to make you feel guilty about your non-adherance. I think this might be what retirement is like or could be. And the surprise is that it is a good thing. After all, given free rein, I got quite a bit done. I caught up with my paperwork which I hate and consequently put off and piles of ironing which, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I enjoy.

All fun comes to a grinding halt tomorrow. I feel like the condemned. For my last meal, I’ve chosen Chinese take-out from down the road. Maybe I’ll get a touch of food poisoning and have to take a sick day.