Thursday, November 01, 2007

A new title

I changed my mind about the title.

My Lava Life: A year of drinking scotch with strangers.


NaNoWriMo - Day One

Off to a strong start (but apparently no longer able to type since those five words took me several shots to get right… fingers numb!) with 5,034 words under my belt.

29 days to bash out the remaining 44,966 words!

I feel very good about what flowed. It’s not close to perfect but it’s not total crap either. It’s got a shadow of truth in it and a much stronger element of fiction than I expected to be able to pull off. For this I am very happy. God knows, I’m an eager exhibitionist in a clothing-optional hot-tub, but exposing my body is much easier than exposing how outrageously lame I can be in situations of the heart.

What will I share? How about this – a few words I’ve used in the first three chapters:

Canadian Club
Sex (7 times)

How about this. An excerpt from chapter 2… risky since this is just copy puked from my brain. Not edited. At least it’s English…

Gabrielle pulled up to the house and parked. Se opened the trunk and pulled out James’ bags while he woke himself from his half-nap. As she looked in the trunk she realized that her bottle of scotch wasn’t with her.

“Ah, fuck!”


“I bought a bottle of Auchentoshan while I was waiting for you. I must have left it on the seat. Fuck! I hate that. It was forty-five bucks. Aaaaa-ghhhh!”

“It’s not ‘o-shent-o-shan.’ It’s pronounced ‘ocken-toshin.’ Remember?”

Gabrielle took a deep breath. She remembered.

“Why’d you buy a bottle of Auchentoshan? You don’t like that one. You think it’s too peaty.”

Gabrielle considered telling him why she bought that bottle over all the others, and decided to simply tell him she forgot that she didn’t much care for that scotch.

“Well, I guess my sub-conscious remembered since I left the bottle behind for someone else to enjoy.” She tried to laugh but it came out more as a snarl.

There. Day one under my belt. Now all I have to do is make sure I don’t get too much work this month and I’ll have 50,000 words done, no problem! To heck with the mortgage! This is way more fun...

Monday, October 22, 2007

First goes the mind. Common sense and decency soon follow.

Apparently, although I can't find time or motivation to blog these days (weeks, months), I'm going to write a "novel" in November.

I signed up with NaNoWriMo. That would be National Novel Writing Month.

I tried this once before. In 2002. I failed, in that I did not complete the task.

This year? All I can do is give completion the ole college try again. And since November is looking extremely thin in the work area, I won't have much better to do with my time.

My working title is "My LavaLife: dating tales of an anti-vaccine advocate."

It'll be a work of fiction based loosely on the experiences I had during my 12 months of online dating. I had 24 first dates, a handful of second and third dates, and even one... "relationship."

I met some very interesting characters who deserve to be glorified in a work of humourous fiction. The stories make me laugh - and some of them make me cringe - not in the least, due to my role in the whole dating scene.

Wait 'til you read about my main character's three dates with Adam, a 6'5" lawyer with an affinity for dressing up in gorgeous gowns and 4" heels. (Let me tell you, did that man go to extremes finding stilettos in size 14!).

And then there was Jake, a very shy insurance adjuster who was so concerned that his car would make or break any woman’s interest in him that he made me - of course, I mean, my main character - walk home from their date, in the pouring rain, so that she wouldn’t see his ride… even though he was going to drive right by her house!

Then Steven, the cop. All those stereotypes about cops being overbearing, control-freaks? Yeah, well, believe them!

As I said, fiction loosely based on fact. Hopefully, the fact and fiction parts won’t be easy to distinguish from each other… just in case my mom follows along!

It's not too late for me to change my story idea... opinions?

Friday, June 29, 2007

So shoot me, these days my mind turns to thoughts of euthanasia

It was inevitable.

I believe that I can now officially be called “The Crazy Cat Lady.”

The transformation was not gradual and gentle, as I expected it to be… Incremental ticks and twitches, slow build-up of the smell of stale urine that go unnoticed until one day an old friend who hasn’t seen me in months drops by and comments, “Donna? Medication?"

Rather, it seems that on Wednesday, at about 11:10 AM, a switch in my brain was flicked. At that moment I was no longer “Donna, mom of Liam, girlfriend of Dave, owner of T-2, Eddie and Gryphon.” No. It is clear to me that I am now, “Donna-run-screaming-and spraying.”

As I patrolled the perimeter of my property, water machine gun in hand, I realized that I had become insane! Just like that.

In fairness the transformation started on Tuesday morning, when I returned home from a long weekend at Dave’s place. My neighbour Kathryn fed my three cats while I was gone. And a fourth. A relatively new cat in the ‘hood who's decided that my house is the cool place to hang out. The house to catch a free meal. The house to find a quiet spot to sleep.

This new cat has some strange power over my three. They let him eat from their food bowl. They let him sleep on the blankets they use. But those bastard cats of mine are passive aggressive to the extreme. Somehow, it appears, they’ve decided that I am personally responsible for the intrusion and that although they won’t complain about the presence of Xena, the intruder cat to his face, they’ll tell me after he leaves. By spraying.

When I got home on Tuesday I found my couch had been sprayed. The door of my bedroom. The spare bed in the attic. Liam’s bookcase. A pile of wool blankets.

I called my vet to ask what I could do. Would he put them down? Could I? He suggested I use a water gun to prevent the intruder cat from hanging out in my yard and entering my house. He said that that should curb the inappropriate indoor peeing.

Back to Wednesday morning at 11:10. After I went back inside from my perimeter patrol, I laid my gun down beside my lap top. I got back to work. My mind started to settle. Then I saw Xena in the house. I picked up the gun and started running from the front to the back of the house. Xena ran under the dining room table. I sprayed. He ran onto the deck. I sprayed. He jumped the fence to the neighbour’s deck. I sprayed. And heard a scream of “STOP!!! What are you doing?!!”

I looked up from my rage. What I was doing was soaking Kathryn and her lunch.

I need a vacation away from all these cats. A permanent vacation.

And perhaps some sedatives. Just call me The C-r-a-z-y Cat Lady….

Thursday, May 03, 2007

We are a smoothie now: well-blended

The adventure was epic. Three days of driving south… five days in Disney Land… four days of driving north. The trip was an unqualified success. Testament to top notch parenting skills! (Yeah, yeah… scoff all you want… it’s what I believe, so it’s true).

Highlights of the trip:

Driving. We did a few hours of this. I didn’t get behind the wheel until mid-day of the second day. Southern Oregon though Northern California. I got to drive the exciting, hilly, curvy, 18-wheeler ridden roads around Mount Shasta at the going speed which was about 10 miles an hour above the speed limit of 65 mph.

The van handles much differently than my Subaru which has been set-up for rallying and I found it a bit of a challenge to steer. I attributed this to my lack of experience with having wheels directly under me - until we slowed to take a pee break and the van started to shake and shimmy and rattle and jerk. Dave suspected that a pothole had knocked the alignment out. We carried on with me keeping the speed up since it was much easier to handle at 75 mph than at 50 mph!

By the time we reached Redding, CA, the van was no fun to drive anymore. We found a Les Schwabb Tire outlet. It was closed for the day but the manager was kind enough to take a look. It took him two seconds to see what we hadn’t seen 100 miles earlier: a bulge in one of the front tires that was the size of a banana. The steel belts had started to separate. He told us to get back to his shop at 8:00 the next morning and NOT to drive at highway speeds.

Mmmm.... thank goodness for the guardian pirate bobble head we put on the dash board just before leaving Vancouver!

So, we were stuck in Redding, CA for the night, three hours north of our planned destination of Sacramento. No big deal. Except for the fact that that particular weekend was the Kool April Nites Classic Car Show. We had arrived in a town that was inundated by choppered old cars, some of which were worth as much as my house. Hotels are fully booked a year in advance for this event which draws enthusiasts from all across the country to roar their custom engines up and down the town streets, showing off their custom paint and custom choppedness. Fortunately, there was a no-show at the Holiday Inn and we got a room – with a parking lot full of life-size Hot Wheels! What a perfect introduction to the California experience!

Arriving in Anaheim just after dark, and without a map, we intuited where our hotel should be from my memory of where it was located in relationship to Disney Land. A miracle given my typically pathetic navigational skills. Trouble checking in. We were booked for five days, not the six I had asked and paid for…. Manager gets involved… we’re shown to a suite that has not just a separate room for Liam, but a third bedroom for Marcus. Woo-hoo!

Disney Land was a blast but I have to say that despite being told by several friends that it really is the happiest place on Earth, I’ve had happier moments in the Squamish area… hiking to the top of the Chief and looking down on a real paradise beats It’s a Small World any day in my book!

One highlight of our five days and six nights in Anaheim was the evening that an evangelical gathering kicked off at the Conference Centre right beside our hotel. As the children fell into dream land, the master of ceremonies to their outdoor concert preached about hellfire and brimstone. On one hand it seemed an odd contrast to the image of Disney Land as the happiest place on Earth; on the other hand, it seemed a perfect Disney Land family-values fit...

And then there was the drive home. We took the fast route down – the I-5 – which was about 22 hours of driving plus another 8 of stopping to pee and eat – so decided to take the scenic route home.

After a good breakfast and swim, we packed into the van and headed South to Long Beach for Dave to check out Jesse James’ chopper shop. On the map it looked like a one hour diversion, but by the end of the day we had only made it 138 miles north of LA! Traffic. Holy cow! Seems it’s either 16 lanes moving at Mach 5, or 4 lanes crawling at 5 miles per hour.

And then there was the short diversion we took, following signs that told us the exit we wanted had been rerouted. We followed these signs along small side roads until we reached a dead end. At the dead end: a parking lot for the Legionnaire's Club, filled with old men drinking beer and watching car after car turn around to find their way back to somewhere else! I am certain these old duffers messed with the signs to attract new members to their club.

Looking for a hotel room in Buellton proved a futile effort. Spring weekends in California, it seems, are meant for big events. In this case, it was a mountain bike race. So we drove a little further north to Los Alamos, a one-horse town where the restaurant was closed but the chirping turtles in the pond outside our room were up! We ate our scariest meal that night. No, not turtle soup, microwaved meat-things from a gas station convenience store… Ewwww….

On the road the next day at a reasonable hour (the rooster crowing in the parking lot of the motel made sure of that!) with a mid-day destination of Berkeley to visit the Bastard of Art and Commerce and his family. Our plan was to be there by 3 PM. Well, an unplanned side diversion to the Hearst Castle and some less than stellar navigating (my fault) landed us lost in East Oakland at 9 PM… at a gas station where young men in colours (sorry, that would be colors) were hanging out around the bullet-proof glass cashier box. Call it balls or stupidity, but I walked in, told one of two women in the place that we were lost and asked how to get back en route to Berkeley. She gave us stellar directions and we were on our way to what proved to be an even scarier scene: the Mills’ home!

If Greg and Paula’s kids were cartoon characters, Ruby would be the just-awakened Sleeping Beauty, and Owen would be the Tasmanian Devil – with ADHD. I’m certain that when the homies in the Bay area came up with the hip-hop expression hyphy, they were watching Owen spin out of control!

We had a fantastic time that night and the next morning. Two-for-two on great experience blog cross-over meet-ups. If you’re in Berkeley, I highly recommend a stay chez le Manoir Mills. Five stars for both hospitality and entertainment.

Two more days of driving and we were home: a happy, healthy, harmonious holiday.

And this weekend… A camping trip sans enfants! Happiest place on Earth? Right here, just off the Sea-to-Sky highway, thank you very much!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Are we there yet?

I remember my mom telling me at some point when I was young(er) that if a relationship can survive a road trip, then there’s a pretty good chance that the couple has the skills to tackle pretty well any relationship challenge.

My parents, who are still married, tested and retested that theory for most of childhood by throwing two - and then three - kids into the back of our Mercury Marquis and making the 3-day, 24-hours-of-driving trek from southern Quebec to southern Florida. I remember those road trips with a great deal of happiness...

We lined up to buy gas (and Billy beer) from Billy Carter’s gas station during one of the year’s that his brother was president. We dove deep into the Shenandoah caverns in Virginia. We stopped at 50's style diners and ate pancakes for breakfast every day. My sister and I used hand signals to communicate with a truck driver who driving was on our tail, encouraging him to blast his horn at Dad. (We only did that once!).

So, back in 1991, when my best friend Lizzy and I decided to go on a two week camping, road trip to Nova Scotia and PEI, I expected the trip would be amazing. The theme was “Thelma and Louise” (to this day Lizzy still calls me Louise more often than she calls me Donna) and Lizzy and I even rented the requisite convertible for those rainy two weeks!

In the month prior to going on this adventure, I met Bill, who of course was immediately nicknamed “Cowboy.” (And yes I know it was Thelma who got the cowboy in the original story). Cowboy joined Thelma and I on our adventure, and it was, as I had anticipated it would be, one of my most memorable summer vacations ever.

And when we got home to Montréal, Cowboy moved in with me so we could save money to go on our next adventure: three months of backpacking in South East Asia. Just four months after he moved in with me, which was barely more than a month after we met, Cowboy and I were on a plane to Thailand.

Of course you know how that story ends. We managed 14 years of adventures together but his two week road trip to Turkey introduced him to a new travel buddy. Which, of course, left me open to do the same!

In three days I’ll be going on my most adventurous road trip since Liam was born: Dave (aka “Mr. Wonderful” in some of the comments on previous posts), his 5-year-old son Marcus, Liam and I will be packing into Dave’s MPV for the 22-hour drive from Lotus Land to Disney Land. Most of me is incredibly excited about the ten days we’ll have together, squashed in a moving vehicle... locked in a 337-square-foot hotel room… and of course, riding the coasters at the “happiest place on Earth.” And part of me is only as terrified of getting into that van on Thursday as I am of spiders…

I have no doubt that on our own, Dave and I could tackle the unforeseen circumstances of any road trip. I’m almost as confident that if we were taking just one of the boys, the trip would be a no-brainer. It’s the just-add-water, instant-family element of having two kids who only know life as being an only child, suddenly having to negotiate life with a brother, that has me taking the chewable Gravol with my meals today.

Mom doesn’t have any experience or advice for me on this one. I do recall a story that my grandmother used to tell about leaving a very young version of my dad at the side the road when he was once misbehaving in the car, but I'm thinking her advice should have been buried with her...

"Road tripping with a blended family." There ought to be a book. And maybe after this trip there will be.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And now… watch my head explode!

Look back at my posts from 2005 and you’ll see a very different blog from the blah-blah-blahg posts I write now.

I used to have a great passion for outing the evils of childhood vaccinations and the over-drugging of small children with psychotropics and antidepressants. My intention had been to make a documentary about vaccinations. After far too many years beating my head against the wall with broadcasters who were in and then out, I gave up. I stopped reading about the issues about 18 months ago when income generation became more of an imperative than making change in the world.

But I still have subscriptions to a variety of news sources with the key word vaccine. 95% of the time I ignore the stories. Not today. And I’m more angry at this moment than I was when He-who-shall-not-be-named told me he was leaving the country.

The gist of the story:

Merck's chickenpox vaccine Varivax not only loses its effectiveness after a while, but it has also changed the profile of the disease in the population, U.S. researchers reported Wednesday.

The study confirmed what doctors widely knew -- that the vaccine's protection does not last long.

And with fewer natural cases of the disease going around, unvaccinated children or children in whom the first dose of the vaccine fails to work have been catching the highly contagious disease later in life, when the risk of severe complications is greater, they said.

"If you're unvaccinated and you get it later in life, there's a 20-times greater risk of dying compared to a child, and a 10 to 15 times greater chance of getting hospitalized," said Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, who worked on the study.

So this is where my head explodes. An idiot like me knew this six years ago. I’ve watched my friends coerced into having their 5-years olds get the chicken pox vaccine and wondered what I could have said to have been more convincing than the doctor who was pushing the shot. Nothing, apparently.

The thing that kills me is that measles used to be one disease – about as dangerous as chicken pox is, killing about 100 kids a year in the States – and typically kids who are already immuno-comprised. But today the measles virus has mutated into several strains, all of which have to be included in the shot, of course…

Vaccines are not benign. In many cases, they can cause terrible side effects. In most cases the disease for which the vaccine purports to protect the child is not a serious health risk, rather it’s a serious inconvenience for a parent to take time off work to stay home with a grumpy kid who has measles or chicken pox.

I can’t get enough oxygen to get into why and how the vaccine promoters manage to get away with convincing government and public health officials to recommend their shots – and in some American States, forcibly make every kid get the shots or be prevented from attending public school….

If you’re interested, I’ve ranted on these topics before…

Meningitis (Marketing) Can Strike Out of the Blue

Volunteers Needed for Anthrax Vaccine

Ahhh… May, June, July, August 2005… there’s stuff there abut vaccines.

And here’s the full story, Chicken Pox Vaccine Fades Over Time.

Monday, March 12, 2007

If a painted black cat crosses your path...

Super quick post.

Last week, while roofers were replacing the shingles on my house, door-dudes were here replacing the French doors to my back deck, mon dieu! Condensation between the window panes… door frame starting to rot – who’s crazy idea was it to build a city in the middle of a rain forest??

Anyway… new, unpainted doors. Rain for the past week. Today the first sunny break. So I donned my painting duds and set out to put some protection on the primer before my new doors started to suffer water damage.

All’s going well. I’m 3 minutes from done with just one paint drop on the deck, easily wiped up and onto my jeans.

And then all chaos breaks loose. Gryphon, who until today was the only good cat in the brood, decided it was a good idea to sit on the paint lid – which of course was sitting paint side to the sky! Bum onto black oil-based paint can lid, quick change of mind, lid upturned on deck (peanut butter side down, of course!), cat disappeared back into the house.

Easy to follow Bad Cat III’s path – and the number of times he sat down. Four. Four black, oil-based paint, cat bum prints on my floor.

And now, instead of doing the work I desperately need to get done, I have to find Gryphon and cut his painted tail feathers from him… I figure the embarrassment he’ll suffer having a bare ass is better than the stomach upset he’ll feel if he licks the paint off…

I will be the crazy cat lady one day… heading quickly down that path…

Oh - and if anyone mentions karma... I'll be shipping all three bad cats to you. Consider it fair warning.


Friday, March 09, 2007

At least I’m not pregnant with twins

That’s my new motto.

It was a line used on me last week at the conference I was animating in Toronto. The woman who was organizing the logistics had been handed the event at the last minute by her colleague who had to leave town. It was a little chaotic for all of us.

I threw my hands up at one point, shaking my head at some mess-up and she quickly put it all in context for me… “at least you’re not pregnant with twins.”

She had just found out that that was her situation. I had to agree. And over the last week I’ve called on that blessing several times.

Mr. Wonderful’s car was totaled while it sat in his yard and we goofed around in Whistler (in my car) last Sunday. He’s only getting $750 from ICBC since it has such high mileage… but at least he’s not pregnant with twins!

My eleven-year old house had a new roof put on this week since the original one was flying off in the wind. The initial quote was for $10,000 (tax in). The damage was worse than we thought. Final bill is over $13,000… but at least I’m not pregnant with twins!

The exterior wall behind my chimney has been slowly rotting for over a year. I’ve diligently ignored it but now the damage has gone into the structure. So now I have to pay for more work than would have been required last spring when I first noticed the damage. No doubt that I’m an idiot, but at least I’m not pregnant with twins!

My fabulous roommate announced today that he’s moving out to live with one of his friends. I’ll be very, very sad to lose his company… but… at least I’m not pregnant with twins!

Yes, crap flies freely around my house these days… but I have little to complain about when compared to what I could be dealing with. And … I’m not pregnant – with twins or otherwise. Thank god for small blessings!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Seasonal Schmaltz

Let’s see… not believing in God (despite believing that the man called Jesus was a damn fine role model)… hating to shop even for practical things like food and new underwear… and being a vegetarian who doesn’t love to cook…. Christmas, and all its traditional trappings, doesn’t get me the least bit excited. That said, it doesn’t bum me out either. I’m entirely neutral toward this whole Christmas thing.

Not that December 25th doesn’t cause me some amount of emotion. I enjoy watching Liam’s excitement, of course. And this year is particularly amusing since I know he doesn’t believe in Santa, but is trying to fake it since he hasn’t figured out if the presents end as soon as he admits disbelief!

For me it’s the “Happy New Year” part of the Christmas season that typically has the most impact: the call to reflect on what was in the past year and what new and exciting things I have to look forward to in the new year. And having my birthday on February 1st, the Happy New Year greeting also reminds me that I will imminently be "one year older." And that, more than anything, makes me stop and think.

The year of my 29th Christmas I recall quite clearly. I had a huge amount of excitement about the fact that I was just a month away from turning 30 - and, I believed, finally entering the age at which I would be taken seriously. I honestly believed that by virtue of leaving my 20s - the decade of my mohawk, of having rats living on my person 24 hours a day, of wearing ball gowns with combat boots, and of drinking far too many Black Labels on far too many school nights – I would somehow be given the respect I thought I was due as … umm… an adult.

Throw on top of that the fact that three months after I turned 30 I was going to give birth to my first, (and only), child. Come on! Thirty, bob haircut, pet cat, Dayton boots and a mother. Everything it seemed to me, was working in my favour for achieving what I so desired: respect from a society of strangers.

I think I was 37 before I finally accepted that no matter how old my birth certificate says I am, I will never garner the nods of approval from the suits in the ivory towers. (And now, I can’t for the life of me, think of why that ever even mattered).

Fast forward ten years. The Christmas before I turned 39 launched me into a “this will be my best year ever!” enthusiasm for my new age. My marriage was feeling uncommonly stable. I was entering my third year of self-employment, having beaten the odds and survived longer than the majority of new business owners do before giving up the crazy idea of self-employment to go back to a real job again. And, I’d finally, and firmly, established my position as “the meanest mom in the world” to an eight-year-old who hated the idea that anyone was the boss of him. I was on top of it all!

Ah, 39! The promise. And the delusion!

By the time the next “Happy New Year” season rolled around, and I was contemplating turning 40, my husband had left me for a 26-year-old. And despite the encouragement from friends that “40 is the new 30” I was having a hard time seeing how a woman with grey hair, wrinkles and adult onset acne (pimples at 39/40??? Proof that if God exists, he is a bastard) would ever have sex again.

Forty. I was facing having to get a real job so I could get bank approval for a mortgage on my own. I actually wrote my first job application in 13 years. Cover letter, resume. Damn near killed me. And I wasn’t even offered an interview!

And, to top it all off, in the ten years since the Christmas that I was convinced I would earn respect of other adults by turning 30, I was now facing the reality that my own 9-year-old, having honed negotiation and logic skills superior to my own, had overthrown me in my role as a benevolent dictator and established himself as a fairly equal partner in what had become a democratically-run household.

What the?! None of this was what I had planned as I bit into that first (vegetarian) mince pie the Christmas eve before, making my wish for the new year …

So, here I am now. It’s Christmas eve again. In five weeks I’ll be 41. Reflecting on the year that’s just passed, I feel great about 40. It turned out to be an exciting and interesting year.

Through the miracle of the equity mortgage and having a great lawyer, I was able to buy the house I’d previously co-owned with Liam’s dad – without having to get a real job! (Of course, this is the kind of blessing that challenges my atheism…).

Despite the hormonally-induced zits, I did have sex last year – and it was the freaking best sex I’ve ever had, thank you very much. (And another challenge to my atheism, apparently, given my tendency for calling on God in moments of heightened awareness.)

And Liam has turned out to be a reasonable and thoughtful minority-government ally. Dictatorships seems overrated now and I’m quite enjoying sharing the blame when decisions he participated in making disappoint him.

Looking forward to 41, now. I’ll be thrilled to stay-the-course. And, if the course changes, my guess is that I’ll be good with that, too. Life is good. No. Life is fucking amazing as I head into the new year.

So, to all of you, my wish that your new year will bring you opportunities to learn and to grow, to regularly pee your pants laughing, to face new challenges and accept the outcome as positive (even if it’s not what you had hoped for), to have spiritual experiences when you’re both naked and clothed, and to love deeply and to be loved for exactly the person you are.

Everyone of us deserves nothing less. Happy New Year.