Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't Judge Each Day By The Harvest You Reap But By The Seeds That You Plant (RLS)

Big shocker here. HUGE. I can’t believe you didn’t notice. What’s that, you did? You did see that I haven’t written a Fiction Friday in ages? You’re right, I haven’t.

In fact, I am worried that I’ve lost it. Not my mind – not yet – but the ability to write creatively. Or write at all. So I am doing this 12 week thing that MayB is doing. Yeah, it is kinda hippie-dippie, but I’ve written up my own contract with myself to give it a go.

I am going to do all twelve weeks. All the tasks, all the things that are asked, even if they seem silly, or hard, or just useless. This is sort of like migraines: there comes a point when the pain is so bad you’d do just about anything to get rid of it. I am so broken up over my runaway muse that I am willing to give anything a try to get her back.

Here’s the book, if you are interested:

You may find posts here that are tasks from the book. You may find the odd snippet of something that happened that needed/wanted to be posted. There are likely to be recipes, cuz I’m worried that I am losing my cooking mojo too: I totally forgot that my Mister doesn’t like bread pudding. Remembering what people like to eat and don’t like to eat is, like, part of my thing. It’s what I do as a baker/cook. And I forgot something that relates to my most beloved significant other!

Not being a pastry chef anymore and not making bread for the deli anymore has made me lose some of my cooking chops, so I’m working on getting them back, hence the likelihood of recipes appearing. Yeah, hence!

I have no idea when the next fiction Friday will appear. I just hope it does!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

C n C

There are things in life you have control over and things you don’t. I am going to go over two things that are related to each other. One you do have control of, the second you don't, unless you're ok with not being true to yourself.
Introducing today’s topic: Committees and cliques.

The general gist of committees is from an interview on CBC radio with Anne Perry. I’ve taken a brief remark she made and expanded it. My thanks to her for opening my ears to my own committee!

Everyone has a committee in their head. That committee is made up of people like: that teacher that was mean to you, the one kid that would invite everyone but you to their birthday party, that person who broke your heart, the boss that continually passed you over and promoted employees with nowhere near your skills…those people are all in there. And they’re pretty quiet, too, until you want to try something new. Or if you’ve met someone you’re interested in. Or you're taking a leap of faith. Really, they’re quiet until you do anything that lack of confidence can undermine. And THEN they’re busy! “You can’t do that, you’re too old. And too stupid! He/she will never notice you, you’re too plain. Too tall/short/fat/skinny/normal/odd. Anything that they can say to shift your standing ground to quicksand, and they’re on it. It’s up to you whether you listen to those voices. The less you listen, the quieter they get. If you start listening, they get louder until they are running your whole life, and not in your best interests, either!

I am doing better with this one. I don’t listen to that committee very often, although I know they are still there. They tried to convince me not to back to school, but I have a loving husband and family with much louder voices, so I’m back in school. At 51!

The cliques…now that’s a different story. We’ve seen them in elementary school. We’ve seen them in high school, certainly. I had lots of friends in high school so not being one of the popular girls wasn’t an issue for me, most thankfully. But for a lot of people not being in the popular group can make for some pretty depressing years.

This continues into college, but you can bury your nose in your books or sports or special interest groups and generally find a place where you DO fit in and make those years work for you.

It can be a bit of a surprise that this does not stop in the work place. This in no longer a surprise to me, anymore than it is to you, rather more of a disappointment, but goodness: the first time I didn’t get a promotion I was qualified for because the person hiring didn’t like me…yeah, that was weird. I read this somewhere a few months ago “for a second there I couldn’t remember if I was in elementary school or high school and then it hit me: I’m at work”. I’m sure you’ve all seen this scenario play out at the office, whether it affects your job directly or not.

The thing that did manage to surprise me is this: it never stops! I was out last night having supper with my Mister’s grandparents (yup, they are still here, hale and hearty!), listening to the old folks chatter at the surrounding tables. And guess what? Yeah, no surprises for guessing correctly: old age homes still have rivalries and “in” groups. If they were more spry they could have done a bit from West Side Story and it would have fit right it. I'm beginning to wonder if there is an in underground crowd at the cemetary!

Being in an in group is not really something you can control. Well, perhaps you can, a little: when I missed that first promotion I knew that if I would just join the party crowd I would be part of the in group and I’d be fine. But that wasn't me. Not to mention that I was a single mom with a baby and a toddler! Out for beers after work three nights out of five was just not in my budget or timetable even if that was something that appealed to me.

So I didn’t change who I was. Still haven’t. But I have looked around my office and taken a good look at who is in and who is not. And you know what? The “not” crowd? They’re pretty decent people. Proud to be a not!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I think dreaming is a good thing. Not a big surprise that my vague attempt at fiction involves dreams. I also like making the occasional lottery ticket purchase and spending some day-dream time thinking about what I’d do with a win.

I don’t think it works if you get obsessed with wishful thinking and dreaming to the point that you have lost touch with the world you actually live in. I, in fact, live in a pretty amazing world. I’m happy and grateful for that. But I still like to dream. And I am planning on buying a lottery ticket tonight. And I’m going to share my day dream with you guys:

In the gulf islands there is a little island called Lasqueti Island.

14 miles long, 4 wide. You can find it between Texada Island and Hornby Island. And on this car-less island there is an acreage for sale. $898,000.00, but I think they’d probably take less if one were to pay cash. And since I am hoping for a two million dollar lottery win I would have the cash.

My mister has a job that he can do from a home office. And yes, the island is internetted. Yup, new word. I just invented it but it’ll be all the rage this time next year.

If he wishes to quit this job to run a Taiji school (his retirement plan) he can do that too. Doesn’t this look like a lovely place for outdoor Taiji? One would almost think it was meant for that.

What would I do? Well, I no longer wish to have a place with donkeys and horses, etc. But a garden? You bet. Fruit trees would be even better. Jam for us, fresh fruit and veggies that would go to food banks. There is a ferry connection to Vancouver Island, so getting foodstuff to where it’s needed is doable.

One can’t just do that, though. I mean I can’t. I’d need…guests. There’s a guest house! So people can come out and visit and yet still have some time to themselves. Got kids? Teach them to swim. There are two ponds, and one is swim-able. Kids need a break from city life. Send ‘em out for some free run around time. Like a week. We’ll send them back tired, well fed and brown as berries.

Power? Solar, but back-up diesel generator. What would I do with my car? Sell it, buy a kayak. Or a sailboat. Or both, because two million should cover the house, the travelling back and forth to Regina until the youngest is done school, the setting up of the martial arts school and the planting of fruit trees. And the equipment one would need/want for an acreage. I’d say a riding lawnmower would be a must, wouldn’t you?

There. That’s my dream: cooking, gardening, hostess-ing and watching my beloved start his retirement dream long before he is of retirement age. Wish me well on that ticket purchase!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Practice makes closer to perfect. Or so they say.

I have a bit of a problem. Ok, yes, fine lots of little problems, a couple of medium ones and perhaps one large. But what I am really saying here is that I have a little problem that I am about to discuss with you:

You've probably heard the bit about it takes doing something for like a half-bazillion hours to become an expert. (I just looked it up: 10,000 hours of something and you’re an expert*). More recently I read that if you read an hour a day in your current field in seven years you will be an international expert.

*Auto-correct tried to change that to "and you is an expert". Ah, Otto, how you amuse me.

We have doing and reading, both important; for the doing part, you hear a lot about regularity and commitment. Weekly. Apparently (I checked with the universe) regularly does not mean jogging once a year on the same day. Yes, that is regular, but it isn’t the type of regular that makes you good at something. Except perhaps remembering the date of that one day?

I miss cooking. And baking. Pastry y’all. Getting married and doubling the amount of children I have doesn’t make a huge difference as the two that arrived part and parcel with my beloved arrived when my own two left to be all growed up. And – unless I want us all to be on TV as the two thousand pound family (come watch, they’re a ton of fun) - I really should not be making desserts each and every night. But…but it’d be fun. And the stress-busting that baking does is not to be dismissed lightly!

Come to think of it, I’d also be helping Canadian dairy farmers with the purchase of untold amounts of butter. And cream. And the poultry industry, eggs! Sugar, from Canadian sugar beets. Flour from Saskatchewan wheat. Apples, maple sugar, peaches, berries; yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk to go with that butter. Baking to keep Canadian agriculture afloat!

There is a solution. Two, actually. Perhaps even three. One would be to just not bake so we’ll go ahead and skip right to solution number two: bake, but share it around. Keeping in mind who can eat gluten and who can’t. Ditto nuts, dairy, chocolate, citrus and meat (because yes, bacon has a firm place in baking) and whatever else people have for allergies. I know a couple of people who can’t have corn or any of its by-products. I think the worst I’ve met is pepper. I guess if you were allergic to salt that would be worse, but I haven’t come across that one yet.

Solution three would be to work on either the dancing or get my mister to get me going with Taiji. Or yoga. If practice makes all the difference I could work off the pastry gained pounds AND become good at something! As much as I am able, of course. Because we know how this could end up:

I think I should combine a bit of two with a lot of three. Give/sell a fair amount of baking, work off weight/become proficient at some sort of activity. Too bad reading doesn’t get you fit: I’d be the fittest person in the province. Maybe even the country! I’d be less the above Taiji and more of this:

Wishful thinking. Gets to the best of us.

For those of you that managed to get all the way to the end of this ramble, there be rewards matey! Let me know if you are ok with being on the list for things I’ve baked that I want to give away, and if you want to be on the list of people contacted when I have baked goods to sell. I will even keep a baking distribution list! Worried about distance? Not necessarily a problem: I’ve mailed fudge to BC and Ontario, and cookies to so many places I’ve lost count. So sign up, o ye who read to the end of things!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Eight

I got to Swensen’s before my Cajun cowboy did and that, for me, was a good thing. I’m not overly fond of ice cream, but I do love going to Swensen’s. The gorgeous jewel-toned stained glass, the marble topped bistro style tables, the 1940’s soda fountain feel of the place. And the people watching; so interesting it’s enough to make one wonder if ice-cream is some sort of truth serum and that day there were a lot of conversations to listen to. Yes, I suppose you could call that eavesdropping, but hey – public place, public conversation. Whisper or go somewhere private if you don’t want others to hear!

I purposely chose a table next to a couple sharing something known as “the Earthquake”. Picture a mixing bowl filled to overflowing with ice cream, fruit, sauce, whipped cream and a variety of toppings and you’ll get the idea. Takes forever to eat finish it, if you even can, and that only happens when you’re sharing. With at least three friends.

The two with the earthquake were obviously having a discussion of earthquake proportions. They were so intense: hard to tell if they were making up or breaking up. I wondered if there would be enough ice cream – even in something like the earthquake – to sort out whatever they were going through.

The door opened and my (the?) cowboy walked in. The man at the counter greeted him by name and nodded in my direction. What the hell? Did I have some secret sign on my forehead? He asked for coffee and a slice of hot apple pie, no ice cream. Two of us at the best place in the city for premium ice cream and neither of us having any. Figures. Not surprised at the pie, though. I don’t think I’ve ever met a man who would say no to fresh apple pie, with or without the ice cream.

He came over and sat down at the table. “Glad you showed up. Is your dad ok? As much as can be expected, that is?”

Can’t hate a guy who is concerned about someone you love. And given that I made what money I had at the time from baking for friends and family I couldn’t really hate him for eating pastry and still being slim in the hips. Some people have lucky genes.

“Yes, or at least he knows where I am, if not the why and with whom. But then again I don’t know about the why and the who either, so no surprise there. Not much I could tell him, is there?”

“So, do you think we could start over?”

Starting over; I’d thought that a million times, both with Jims and with mom. Wishing that I had done things differently. Told them things when I had the ability to do so. Done more with them when I had the time, said fewer hurtful things. Isn’t that what anyone wants, a chance to do some things again? Not everything – thirteen was not a good year for me. But some things, yes. And starting all over with whatever was going on with the hot Cajun and my maybe not dead brother…yes, I’d like to start over.

“Please?” I nodded.
“Bonjour, I’m Remy LeBeau. I work for a group of people who knew your brother. Do you have a minute to sit and talk with me?”

“This is only because you said please. So yes, I have a minute. Hello yourself. I’m Evina Sulwen Yates, Evi to my friends. Feel free to call me Evina”.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fiction Friday Seven

I slid of the bench and watched him walk away. Not because he was worth watching – which he totally was – I just…watched. He was right about not worrying my dad, so I headed back to the hospital. Everything seemed the same, which I found confusing. How can the world not be different when someone you love is dead? Or when they are, perhaps, dead and yet not dead?

I scuffed my way through leaves that had fallen and then started gathering them the way we did when we were little – like every kid does - trying to find the brightest reds and the most flaming oranges. We used to bring them home to show mum, and I swear every time she managed to make us feel like this time, this time we’d truly found what must have been the very best leaves of the year. She’d press them with an iron between sheets of waxed paper, to show dad when he got home. For someone who died far too young she managed, somehow, to imbue our lives with wonder and the ability to find joy in small things. Please heaven may I do even half as much with my life as she did with hers.

Approaching the hospital doors I slowly dropped all but one red and one orange leaf. I think I was intending to take them home, or give them to day. At any rate, in the end I looked down at the two left in my hand and changed my mind. I waited for a gust of wind and launched them into it and watched them fly away; it was a day for letting things go.

I hate hospitals. Sad faces, fearful faces, lost and angry souls. You’d never think that life starts in hospitals too. The long dingy corridors always felt they were overrun with rivers of sorrow, rivers that I would have to wade against to get where I was going. I don’t remember much of that bit of that day at all. I remember the leaves, and I remember telling my dad I was going out for a bit, to call me if he needed to. I had enough money for the metro and a train home if they needed to leave without me. I didn’t say I was meeting a friend; even that small a lie felt as though it would be too much, as if he would break if the smallest harm touched him. He was, for a while, more akin to a leaf from later in the season: folded in, brittle, without colour. More sorrow for the river to claim.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fiction Friday Six

Man - or woman - this Fiction Friday thing is WAY harder than I thought it would be. I suppose that makes it worth doing, yes? Really, though, I'm a bit stubborn and I have some pride at stake: I'm the oldest of the three of us trying this thing out. If they can keep up with it so can I. With the occasional miss. Because I have a family. And a job. And Choreography to remember. And a diploma to earn. To the other Friday Fiction writers, I'm curious: do you go back and edit what you've already posted? I have. Not the posts themselves, but the originals in the file that I'm saving them.

Regardless - here y'all go. Fiction Friday Six:

The cowboy took his hat off and ran a dark hand through the even darker curls that had been hidden under it. “Merde”.

I don’t know if he thought I was looking stressed out or if my sprirograph – patterned multicoloured dress (hand made by yours truly) and pink hiking boots combination was making him stressed, but something was not going as planned. And that’s when he asked me out. Sort of. Okay, not at all, but that’s what it felt like then. Seventeen, remember?

“Look. There are some things that you need to think about, some arrangements that need to be made. Go talk to your dad and meet at Swensen’s in an hour”. He got up and stood there, waiting. I stayed where I was.

“Really, Monsieur le Cowboy? And I’m trusting you why, exactly?” Ha. I didn’t care – much – how good looking he was. I wasn’t going to let him assume I’d jump if he asked me to. Which I probably would have, but he didn’t need to know that, did he?

His lips curved in a bit of a smile as he shook his head. “Let’s try this again: I’d like to talk to you. Over ice cream. Your dad doesn’t need to have any more worries on his plate right now so go let him know where you’ll be. And as to why you should trust me?” The curve got a little bigger. “Let’s just say that I was warned you could be stubborn, and that if I ever needed to get 'L’il bit off her l’il butt’ I should tell you that Jimmybean says‘tag, you’re it forever'”. And he left.

Jimmybean. No one but me ever called James that, or knew I did. We were a team: Jimmybean and Sunbeam (my full name is Evina Sulwen Yates). Everyone just called him Jims. And no one but no one was with us the last time I saw him. We’d been joking about getting too old to play our own version of tag – Martian tag in the woods with flashlights – and when I left I kissed him on the head and said tagyou’reitforever. The Cowboy had it right: merde.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fiction Friday Five. Finally.

I stood up, metaphorical fists up and ready to fight for answers if I needed to.
“That’s alright, ma’am, no need to get up”. Ma’am? Really? At least it moved me from hot anger and confusion to cold anger and sarcasm. “Whatever you say,
Cowboy: have a seat”. Yeah, he picked up on my not being thrilled with being called ma’am by some out-of-place stranger who’d just thrown me for a loop or ten.

I remember him apologizing, something about respect for the lineage. I’d no idea what that meant, but I had more things on my mind at the time. He tilted the hat back a bit and looked down at me with dark brown eyes. Like dark hot chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. Seriously, what movie did he just walk out of? I was surprised he wasn’t chewing on a piece of straw. Maybe I should have told him to light a shuck. Instead I just moved over and made a space for him on the bench.

“So…how much do you know about what’s going on?” How much did I know? Dick all, dickhead. Not that I said that. I just looked at him. And he sighed. Guess he’d worked out the nothing part on his own. Which meant he’d have to start at the beginning.

I learned quite a bit that afternoon. Not everything, not what I wanted to hear the most and certainly not enough. But something, at least.

In the beginning, the gatekeepers were more like guides, or sages. People who could help you navigate your dream, if needed, or interpret your dream if that’s what you wanted. Over time, people stopped keeping track of their dreams, and those that interpreted were no longer being sought out and started to be seen not so much as sages as charlatans. Eventually, although they continued to exist, they stopped doing – publicly - what they were doing and it truly was only charlatans that talked about dream interpretation. Not everywhere – there were cultures that understood and revered the dreamscape, and travelled between that world and this with ease. Some of those peoples are still with us and their wise ones and elders are regarded with respect.

As a reader, I was not surprised to discover that some of our greatest works of literature are actually retellings of events that true dreamers had experienced in their dreams, and that some great writers created worlds and stories so vivid and fantastical that when people read them, their dream lives were inspired and the dreamscape grew in response.

I may not have been surprised, but I’m still undecided about whether I wanted to know that. It’s changed how I look at certain books. And movies, songs and poetry. All art, really. Which came first? When are you imagining something and when are you just remembering a dream-event?

I sat on the bench thinking about this for a bit. I guess more than a bit because the cowboy gave me a nudge, eyebrow raised. “Still with me?” I nodded. Philosophical discussion of creativity could wait.

“Bien. So, in 391 AD something from the dreamscape made it to this world. Whatever it was had been running, so to speak, the dreams of a Coptic Pope. The end result of that was an actually influencing of the actions of the man, to irreparable harm to the world. It’s possible, likely even, that something similar had happened before, but this was the first time that we know for certain it happened”.

We? What, was he there? Is this some clumsy time-travel con? So help me if he was some psychic hoping to pull money out of a grieving family I’d shoot him where he stood, gorgeous specimen of manhood not withstanding.

Some of my uncertainty must have shown in my face, because he smiled and tucked a strand of wayward hair behind my ear. “No, T’evi, I am not that old. Not quite. But that event was what brought the remaining true dreamers together to prevent it from happening again. That is when guides became gatekeepers and the dreamscape became well-watched again. We all know that date, and we all feel it a little bit, no matter when we were born. You’ll feel it too, when you become a gate-keeper”.

In case you’re wondering: I already knew my cowboy was from Louisiana. My family is Acadian on one side (Celtic on the other), so I have plenty of relatives in the state and I know that look and accent inside out. Calling me Petite Evina, or the more colloquial T’evi was not surprising. My friends sometimes called me L’il Bit when they were in a teasing mood. I am five one – if I am feeling boastful- and sometimes I swear my hair is the heaviest thing about me. I know being overweight can be a nightmare in school, but let me tell you being referred to as “that little boy” when you’re seventeen – in shorts and a t-shirt no less! – is no picnic either. People really don’t like different. And boy howdy I was different in more than just size. A tiny ginger who confused dreams with real life, an optimist who named her fourth grade go-cart “the happy mobile”, a book worm with a book or two a day habit: I was not spared. Fortunately I had a firm group of friends, and that made all the difference. Yes, sounds like glurge, but one good friend can make the difference between a life worth living and suicidal despair. And I had enough good friends that my life – death, oddness and all – was a sunny one. But you probably guessed that with the happy mobile.

Back to the bench with hot cowboy. I might have called him Bayou Boy, but boy he most certainly wasn’t. His name, as I eventually found out was Remy LeBeau. Très beau, but I’ve got a story to tell here, time to move on. And we did, but remember what I said about not learning enough? I wasn’t lying.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Be free, little nestlings.

Ok, yes, I missed a Fiction Friday.
And now here we are on Thursday and I am in a bit of a panic. I guess we’ll see what happens tomorrow, yes? And dad – this may end up being part romance despite being mainly fantasy so you may want to skip the “Fiction Friday” entries!

Today I want to write about kids. Now to be clear…I am NOT talking about the two I’ve had or the two I’ve just gained via marriage. So no comments on how I’m being too hard on my Mr.’s kids, ‘k?

I just found myself wondering – after reading various blogs, and listening to various co-workers and friends talk about parenting – when we started going to such great lengths to cater to our children? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people decide to not move to a new house/neighbourhood/province that would be best for the parents and the family in general because it would upset the children: "They have friends in the neighbourhood, how can we make them move"?

When did that happen? I know the high rate of divorce has changed a number of things. For the first ten years of single motherhood I worried away at various methods by which I could move to British Columbia to be closer to my family. And then one day I finally woke up and realized that while I was not responsible for making sure my ex had a good relationship with his kids, it behoved me to at least not make it well-nigh impossible. Neither of us had money for travel, so if I’d moved that would have been just about the end of him getting to see them. So I stopped planning. Yes, it might have been good for me to move, but I would not take my kids away from their father nor would I advise anyone to take their child away from a parent.

I even know one woman who passed up what would have been just about the sweetest job (for her, at least) in the world because it would take her five year old out of Regina. To move to Saskatoon. Really? At five one has a social circle so important that it leave it would be the end of all things sweet and good?

I am not trying to downplay how difficult it can be – especially if your child is an introvert – to move to a new city. In fact, we’re doing some crazy driving so the youngest can finish elementary school at the same place she’s always been. It’s not that big a deal, and this is her last year. Might be different if she were in grade one, though.

But back to my original question: why all the extra accommodation? And does this not teach our children that the world will bend to fit them? I know single parents that won’t date because their pre-teen (and some post-teen) kids don’t “approve”. I’d like to know if those kids plan on keeping that parent company for the rest of their lives. Or do they “allow” their parents to move on…once THEY’VE moved on?

And food – don’t even get me started on food. Too late. A woman I used to work with made FOUR different suppers. Sometimes just three, but basically, a granddaughter who lived with them was very fussy. Daughter, moderately fussy and quasi-vegetarian. Husband was a “serve me meat and potatoes, period” type of guy. And instead of making supper for herself and leaving them hungry with a “fix your own damn meals then” she made different things for each of them. Macaroni or pizza for the little one, salad and perhaps some of the macaroni for the daughter, salad and perhaps something for herself and steak and potatoes for the hubby. Variations of this, night after night after night.

Me, I had a doctor that said no little kid will starve if you have food available. So I made us all a supper. I made sure there was a side they were likely to enjoy, but what I made for supper is what we had for supper. And once I cottoned on to The Boy not eating supper but having multiple sandwiches at nine, late night snack became whatever we’d had for supper re-heated in the microwave. And guess what? Neither of them starved (although skinny boy did occasionally cause me ill-founded concern) and they are both fairly adventurous eaters. They even like things I don't, like calamari. And I made a point* of getting them involved in the making of supper. So even if they eat horrible meals when they are on their own, I know they are both capable of cooking well.

*I’d like to pretend that’s because I was a brilliant mom. Actually, it’s because I was a single mom. There is only so much one can do at one time, so if potatoes needed peeling whilst I was chopping something up, then someone got potato duty. Or Shrimp peeling duty, or beef browning duty. Whatever it took to get things done.

Recently (wish it had been decades ago) I was listening to a woman on CBC talk about parenting. She said that the whole family should be able to do things for the good of the family. There is nothing stopping a four year old from opening a dryer and pulling the clothes in it into a basket in front of the dryer. A five year old can set a table. Kids can do laundry. And mow lawns. And clean house and make meals. But it seems to me (this is now me speaking again, not the CBC person) that this is happening less and less.

I think being a single mom was, in a way, a good thing. I think if I’d been married to someone with money and been able to stay home I would have done everything. Instead I had to get help where I could, which meant the kids. They may not appreciate it, but it helped make them the independent young adults they are today. Not perfect, but capable.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fiction Friday Four

I can’t even recall which shocked me more at the time, Jims not being dead or my dreams being real. I remember the man, though. One tall drink of water with his long denim clad legs, broad shoulders under a worn blue chambray shirt, and wearing, in Montreal of all places, a cowboy hat. Which he totally carried off, as it happens. It suited him somehow.

Seventeen years old, mired in grief and overwhelmed with hormones I thought he’d walked off the cover of some Louis L’Amour novelette. Dead handsome and those legs…I would have paid good money at the time just to watch those legs. Yeah, he was too old for me - by a few hundred years, as it happens – but seventeen was a very in-between age for me: too naïve in some ways, but losing my mother as a child and now Jims, too old as well. So when Mr. Cowboy suggested meeting somewhere quiet I agreed. He said there were some things he needed to explain. Ya think? Damn straight there were.

I slipped away from my family – not hard to do, the three of us left reeling with grief – and took the back stairs out of the hospital and headed for the park that fronted the hospital along its whole length. I never could figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If I was confined to a hospital bed, what would a park be for me: a bit of green peace to break the monotony of grubby off-white walls or a constant reminder of what I was missing? Right now, though, it was a green oasis in the middle of a busy city, somewhere I could listen to what this stranger had to say without risking my own safety by being completely alone. Naïve, maybe: stupid not at all.

So long ago, but I remember everything so clearly. The day had some heat to it, as sometimes happens mid-September. The sun was warm on my face, with a light breeze blowing. Not hard, just enough to tease my wildly messy hair. Tea-coloured hair my dad always said. Wild curls that I never bothered about, preferring to let it float in a halo around my head or – an indication I was being serious – pulled back in a tight braid away from my face. I could hear birds in the trees, and every now and then the sound of leaves falling mingled in with the sound of the remaining leaves stirring on their branches. Traffic sounds too, but muted by the size of the park. I looked up and saw the Cowboy striding towards me (merciful heavens, those legs!): time to find out what the hell was going on. Time over for the calm before the storm.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fiction Friday Three

So, guardians: you’re probably wondering about that. We’re to be found in every corner of the globe, in every walk of like. Keeping these two worlds as they are means we don’t talk about what we do, though, so you’re unlikely to know if you’ve met one or not. I figure your chances are fifty-fifty. I myself don’t know the exact number, and while we are aware of – and use – more doors than the one we guard we don’t even know how many of those there are, or where all of the ones we do know about are hidden.

Being a guardian isn’t something you ask to do. It isn’t an inherited position either, although there have been crews with siblings or cousins working together. I’ve even met a father and son who were on different crews but worked the same ring of doors. That’s how it works: one crew per door, several doors per ring and all the rings together is the Protective Company of Guardians. Hey, I didn’t name the thing; the company’s been around since, well, ever. No one really even knows when it got a name, story goes that there was a time when the gateways were open and well used and there was no need to keep flesh and blood humans out of their world and nightmares from there out of our world. That sure must have been something.

I became a Guardian the day my brother (also a guardian at the time, although I had no idea) decided that things were better on the other side of the gate and that guarding it wasn’t what he wanted in life. He’d guessed I might be guardian material (hey, I had to have one person I could talk to about my “true” dreams without being laughed at, and he was it, alright?) so before he went through the door for the last time he wrote one note for his crew, and a more detailed one for the ring leader. Yes, that’s where that expression comes from. There are a lot of things in this hidden life that aren’t so hidden.

Seventeen years old, grieving for a brother who had just died, a mess in more ways than one and into my life walks a total stranger who - one nine word sentence – turned my world inside-out and upside down.

“Your dreams are real, and your brother isn’t dead”.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fiction Friday Two

I was seventeen when I was asked to be a Guardian. It wasn’t so much of an asking as an explanation of what I was and what I could do about it. My dream life had always been unusual but I didn’t know that until fourth grade, when I got into a bit of trouble about an essay I’d handed in.

Remember those back-to-school papers you always had to write? The “what I did this summer” things that – at least where I went to school – were a staple of the first week back to school. Maybe they thought a week was the longest we could remember what our summer had been like. Huh. Like every kid wasn’t spending the first month of school day-dreaming about the summer we’d just had and the remaining months wishing for the next one to arrive.

I wrote my essay based on a trip to an amusement park that I’d taken. The trip itself was very clear in my mind so I thought might as well use it. It was a bit unusual, in that I went to an amusement park that was set up on floating docks off the lakeshore road out past the village. It was night, and I didn’t go with my family, and the fair itself had some unusual things going on. I was too young to wonder how heavy things like a monstrous Ferris wheel managed to float on a series of attached floats, or why there were circus animals free to wander around. I just knew it was very exciting and I’d had an excellent time.

Turns out that I hadn’t done any such thing. I got a B on the paper, with the comment that we were supposed to write a report on something we’d actually done, not on something we wish we’d done. I was quite hurt; I was certain it had truly happened. So certain, in fact, that I took the wrong bus after school to check it out. Surely there would still be a fair, or at least the giant floating docks that had supported it all.

The bus left the school, with me so anxious I didn’t even think about how I’d get home once I got off at the end of the route, but I got on none-the-less. We reached the bottom of the hill, where the ferry to cross the river is. As the bus waiting at the stop sign I watched the line of cars waiting to get on the little barge, and admired precise piloting of the tug boat that pulls it across the river, quite relieved that it was exactly as it was supposed to be. I wasn’t losing my mind or my memory.

Driving along Lakeshore Drive I watched houses go by, houses that had been there for a hundred years or more: Glen Mary, with its stone walls which I knew hid espaliered pears and apricots, Red Rock House with its red clay tile roof, huge homes with sailboats tied up to family docks, all interspersed with long breaks of stream and forest. I was comforted by the familiar sights (in a small town there isn’t anything that isn’t familiar). My certainty that the fair had been real and my teacher’s insistence that it wasn’t had left me feeling confused and lost.

In time we came to the stop I had planned to get off at. That in itself almost blew everything. It was a farm stop, for just one student a notoriously anti-social girl that never seemed to have any friends, and parents most of us were afraid of. I was an adult before I realized the two things were connected. Point was, the driver asked me where I was going. I mumbled something about homework and went running down the lane to the farmhouse at the end before he really had a chance to question the likelihood of this being true. I waited until the bus was gone before I went back to the road. I got a glare from the girl, but no questions at all. Grieves me now to think I didn’t take the time to get to know her, but that’s a story for another day.

I walked along the road, green rolling farmland and sugar bush to my left, scrub brush and a field of horses to my right bordered at the far end by a line of trees and a fence. As I approached the end of the field I hopped the ditch to say hello to the horses. I think even then I was beginning to know what I would find when I got past the line of trees. Scrambling up the far side of the ditch and going up to the barb wire fence two horses ambled up to meet me. I stroked the soft muzzle of the little pinto who was clearly hoping for a carrot or two. When nothing was forthcoming he gave me a bit of a shove with his head and wandered away. His buddy didn’t even try and the rest stayed where they were, treats clearly not being offered. I figured it was time to move on, when even a horse was willing to give me a move-it-along shove.

So I did. Shuffling along in the dust and gravel I walked the last few yards, waiting for the lake to come into clear view past the line of trees. And the lake did indeed come into view, just…nothing else. It was a lake. A lake that I’d probably been past a million times with my family. No fair, no docks, nothing.

Why hadn’t I thought of that before I’d written my report? I should have known, even then, that fairs don’t appear and disappear overnight. Not to mention I would not have been out in the middle of the night on my own, at a fair on the water with circus animals free to roam amongst the patrons! I had to admit that I had indeed dreamt the whole thing. But it had seemed so real. Even standing there in disappointment I could hear the music from the carousel, see the lights of the Ferris wheel and remember how delicious hot dogs and cotton candy had tasted in the middle of the night; so real, and yet in the end not real at all.

That was the first and last time I talked about what I came to refer to as true dreams. Not because I thought I was the only one that had them (in fact, I assumed everyone dreamt this way until I was much older) but because I continued to have things happen in dreams that seemed real and real life events that seemed very dream-like. I was teased for months about that essay. I had no intention of having anything like that happen again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I've Bean Day-dreaming.

I moved on from reading the acknowledgements of Bean by Bean and read the table of contents and the introduction.

Reading the table of contents was a first for me, I never do that. If it’s a recipe book and I’m looking for a recipe I’ll use the index. But I figured that anyone who can make the acknowledgements page interesting might have something to say in the table of contents.
The only thing I learned is that a lot of work will have to be done to convince me to try anything in Chapter 4, Cool Beans. For me beans are something that you eat throughout the winter; warm, filling, yummy little packets of protein. As a side, as a main course or as one small part of an overall something wonderful. Fresh green beans, Lima beans, tofu from soy not so much. But we’ll see, I am intending to try as many recipes as possible!

The introduction was fantastic. No, truly. I know not everyone feels this way, when I read the following I was all ready to head out to the community garden and just lay down amongst the bean rows.

“Let us, too, have an eye to the bean. Hold on in the palm of the hand. Discrete, self-contained as an egg, spotted or speckled, dark or light, it’s such a small package holding so much. Inspiration for tonight’s dinner, perhaps a soup or stew? Sure, and no more and no less important than all it contains.

Soften, now, to time, as that bean, soaked in water, would soften. You’ll see more life than seems possible in something so tiny. Eye the future and there, if you allow that bean to sprout, you have the stuff of tomorrow’s salad or stir-fry. Look further: bury that bean in soil, and it sprouts. Emerging from the earth, roots growing down, shoots and leaves growing up, it becomes a bush or a vine climbing a pole, tendrils curled – tenacious, poetic. This is a miracle beans have in common with any other seed, Yet, unique among plant families, beans and their kin generously give back to the soil; they are – it almost defies belief – self-fertilizing.”

Sigh. I have to leave. Time to go walk barefoot in the grass. A demain!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Three To Get Ready.

Before we even get into the meat (ha!) of this juicing post let’s get one thing clear: the word diet here is referring to what one eats, NOT to the “I’m on a diet” definition of the word, ok? Right, let’s move on.

I find myself starting the day with a wee bit of trepidation, for two reasons.

For one, the first three days of a juice fast are supposed to be the hardest. The first two weren’t bad at all, so I’m a bit concerned that today will suddenly be the day that it all falls down.

The other reason is the large variety of opinions out there about juicing. I still think it is a good idea, considering the way (and reasons why) I’m doing it. The objectors seem to be mainly talking about long-term juicing as a quick weight-loss solution or a magic pill for all ills. I would never do this long term. I can see doing three days once a year, and one day a month of all green veggie juice but I do agree that with juice you are missing out on most fibre and all the fat. I don’t think I’m missing all the fibre; there is quite a lot of what one might call texture in the juice that we make. Still, there are things your body can’t do without long term. Your diet needs to be balanced. Your life needs to be balanced!

The people who think it is a good idea (and I’m not talking about the juice for skinny-ness Kim Kardashian’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s out there) all seem to be saying the same things:

Not a good long term weight loss plan.

I’m good there; weight loss is not the driving factor.

Certain minerals and fibre can cause problems juicing long term.

Again, I’m ok. Not doing this long term (I may even reduce it to something less than seven), and we’re being careful with things like extra water, and adding things like bananas for certain minerals etc.

I was talking to my Mister last night, and there are some things I am hoping will happen. Not assuming they will, but they are why I am giving this a try:

One of the doctor’s we read about said a short juice fast would help with “clearing out intestinal debris”. Ick. I mean, yes, that’s a good thing and one I’m somewhat counting on, but still…debris?

A lot of the well-balanced reports talk about boosting your immune system. Not making one into super woman, but boosting. I could do with some of that, three colds in nine months, after years of rare – and mild – colds.

I know from when I cut sugar out of my tea for a year that when I went back to adding sugar I used a miniscule amount compared to what I had been using. It took a pinch to add enough sweetness to make me happy as opposed to the several-spoons-per-mug that I’d become addicted to. I’m hoping that what I crave changes and that the portion size of food I need to feel full is lessened.

Here’s something interesting from my six week one juice a day experiment: when supper time came, it was easier to make healthy choices. The longer I was on the juice for breakfast plan the less I was able to enjoy sweet things, super salty things and fatty things. The few times we went out or ordered in something deep fried and salt laden I didn’t enjoy it the way I used to and had terrible indigestion afterwards. I am betting this will be the case again. My mister has warned me that the banana I get to have today (have keep myself potassium-ed up!) is going to seem unbearable sweet. I suppose, compared to broccoli juice, anything would seem like candy!

The doctors talking about juicing also go on and on about it not being a cure-all for every illness. That’s ok, I don’t have every illness. And whilst I would not complain if it got rid of migraines completely, I would be happy at least fewer and less intense migraines. In fact, hoping that this will improve the headache situation? THAT’S the driving force behind it all. My level of hatred for migraines is all that kept me from a grilled cheese sandwich late last night.

Look out day three, I’m coming at ya!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Juicyfruit, It's Gonna Move You!

This is the first in a series of posts about juicing. It may be a series that you want to skip, actually. But I am desperately digging around trying to find a couple of extra benefits to the whole juicing journey. One of them being it would provide me with posts, which would make the blog less empty looking.

First off, perhaps the why:

I get migraines. I have had them from my early twenties. Recently they started increasing in number again. I looked back over my headache record and realized that when I was juicing once a day as part of a healthy weight loss plan, I had fewer headaches. So I tried a six week once a day juicing trip. And it helped! And then my Mister joined me, so the six weeks extended by about another five. And it was still helping!

And then…I don’t know. I just sort of stopped. I thought we should move juicing to the evening, because it was making me late in the morning. It isn’t as time consuming as you might think, but it still took more time than opening a bottle. So it kinda stopped. And the headaches? They kinda started back at all the time.

Then The Girl recommended the documentary “Sick, Fat and Tired”. Not because she thought we needed it, but it was interesting and there was something about headaches in it. It was indeed interesting; give it a watch if you have some spare time. I’m not in the state he was (lose weight or die) but in the film he drives across the country, and talks to people about this juicing thing he does. Ten days of juicing to “reboot” your system. That’s in quotes not because it isn’t a word – it totally is – but because there is no way to actually reboot your body. Because if there were and I could go back (physically!) to, say, twenty years old I’ve done it already.

What he is really saying is a re-start to healthy eating. He does not recommend juicing for the rest of your life. Ten days, and then eat healthily. My favourite quote (from a different health guru) is pretty simple: eat food, not too much, mainly plants. Not sure how I’d do with mainly plants, but the eat food, not too much that in itself lost me 50 pounds. One of the people he meets on his journey is a woman who tries the ten days to get rid of migraines. It worked for her; I am willing to see if it can work for me.

And on to the how!

I am not doing ten days. I have seven days before the kids come back. I don’t think I could stand making supper and then not eating it! So seven days, with yesterday being my first day.

My Mister is doing is slightly differently. He read up on juicing (we both tend to read and research things) and is going for a slightly altered version. Juicing for three days, then I think two or three days of raw food and then two or three days of whole foods.

Yesterday was interesting. We’d had company on Sunday so I’d eaten a lot of snacky things I don’t normally have: pie, cookies, chocolate and even the not-enjoyed potato chips. Hate it when I eat something because it’s there! Yesterday I had four glasses of juice, one mug of warm lemon water (Mister looked it up, and with just juice you’re not getting fibre, or not much. So you need something else to help…move things along), two mini M&M’s because I forgot and clearing up from the party there were some in a bowl and I ate them. Just before bed I made tea with things from the garden. No headache last night, not especially hungry this morning. I did get up twice in the night for the bathroom though*, compared to rarely or never getting up, so that was irritating.

Today is a work day. Juice and lemon water at the house, and then I took a jar of the remaining juice (including the sort-of-has-some-fibre-foam) with me. Had a cup at 10:30, will have another cup whenever I feel hungry. Or at lunch, just because I’m pretty used to something at 1:00 every day; 10:50 on day two, not dead or ill yet!

While I am not doing this as a weight loss adventure, I did weigh myself last night so I could keep track of any changes. Sadly, I was the one to gain weight from being in a relationship. Thought it was supposed to be guys who put the weight on!

Sorry about the long post. Just thought it would all make more sense if I took the time explain things!

*told you this might be a series you want to skip!

Writing Friends.

As in friends who write, not a statement that I can write the word friends! Here are the permission-given links:

Well. Using the action link thing didn't work. So I will copy and paste, and with any luck you'll still be able to find them:

and then the other:

Bean There.

In the last year I have purchased two bean cookbooks: Bean by Bean and Full of Beans.

I started the first today. Bit of a headache, so just read the acknowledgement a portion, some I only occasionally do. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the read! Now I can't wait to learn more about beans and try some- many!- of the recipes. Will keep you posted if I come across something particularly delicious.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Peer Pressure (Fiction Friday One, revised)

There is peer pressure when you're a teen, but there is also a fair bit as one gets...older. We won't get into how old. And it isn't pressure as much as thinking "well, if they can do that so can I> The "they" in this situation are two friends of mine. I haven't asked if I can link to their blogs, but I will. And if I can add a link I'll do a second post with that info.

Link because yes, their blogs are interesting, but mainly they have both been brave enough to start posting fictional work. Fictional Friday, as they are calling it. I too want to be a writer. Yes, I'm writing right now. Don't be a smart ass. I want to be a REAL writer.

So I have been reading what they've written and dang my friends be smart. I am not thinking "if they can write, so can I" because, well, that wouldn't make any sense. What I am thinking is "if they can be brave enough to put what they are working on out there, so can I". My first entry is short, but if I put it off until I have a whole chapter blogs will be a thing of the past and I'll be six feet underground. I'd rather try the now instead of ending up with the never. So here we go, however brief, my first Fictional Friday entry:

Everyone dreams. Or at least they used to, and it mattered. Perhaps I should start this whole tale with “once upon a time”.

Once upon a time everyone dreamed. They remembered their dreams, they talked about their dreams and it mattered. Not in the needing-a-good-night’s-rest sense of the word but rather in a world – with-end sense of the word. This may seem an extreme statement to you, but I can assure you that the real flesh and blood world we live in only exists as it does because the not so flesh and blood world of dreams exists. Symbiosis, and most humans aren’t even aware that this is how our world works.

There are doorways between the two. Some people go there when they dream, but – so far – very few from the world of dreams and nightmares have made the journey here. And the reason it is only a few is because there are guardians out there standing watch, protecting us. Gatekeepers. This was a surprise to me too, but I can tell you that as fewer and fewer people dream, and work on remembering their dreams, the harder it is to keep the doors from being breached. And if the doors become open on both sides then every creature ever dreamt of – including those that haunt our nightmares – will come pouring through; they hunger to be real. And that would be both the beginning and end of everything.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Frankly Tired of Frank.

I finished reading a book last week (the name of which I’ve forgotten, as I have finished several more in the interim) that had a main character who was fond of saying “Frank by name, Frank by nature”.

The other characters got tired of the saying because he used it too often. I got tired of it because it reminded me of real life. Not, as one might think, because I know Franks who are too Frank. I’ve only known two: one, no longer with us was a friend’s father. At least for the time I knew him, he was a kind and quiet man. Never really understood the marriage but given that I was a teenager at the time all I really thought was “hmmm. I’d be murderous married to her”.

I now know a number of couples where I wonder why one nice partner is married to someone I wouldn’t even consider rooming with for a week. I think about the oddness of it more than I did as a teen, but for the most part I just go with what a wise friend once told me (hey, Hildy, how goes it?): you don’t know everything that goes on in a marriage. True enough. And just because something wouldn’t work for me doesn’t mean it can’t work for someone else. Even if I want to run and shake sense into someone about to jump into one of the “but why on EARTH would you marry HER” situations. Not my situation, not my marriage.

Boy, I sure can digress, yes? The other Frank is alive and well and I think in all the years I’ve known him I’ve heard one solitary harsh comment from him.

All of which brings me to the point of today’s post: telling someone that you “don’t play games” or “say it like it is” or that “I may be brash but I’m honest” has become the secret preamble code for “I’m a dick, and I don’t care whose feelings I hurt, or what harm I do with what I’m about to say”. I, for one, am tired of it.

Not playing games when you speak means you don’t lie, it isn’t a license to tell someone that they need to lose weight, (not to hurt your feelings or anything but have you noticed you’re fat?) and walk away having done a good deed. You haven’t done anything good at all. Fat people know they’re fat. Smokers know smoking isn’t healthy. No one gets “over” a mental illness by being told (I heard this just the other day, truly) to “pull yourself together and get on with life”.

I know this isn’t new. I know that we’re all tired of things like “nothing personal, but” followed by something extremely personal. It just seems like “telling it like it is” has become a statement that people utter with pride. And I’m bewildered.