On this day seventeen years ago, in the company of family and dear chosen family on a spectacular autumn day, I married my best friend.
Happy anniversary, HRH. I’m glad to be sharing the ups and downs of life with you.
On this day seventeen years ago, in the company of family and dear chosen family on a spectacular autumn day, I married my best friend.
Happy anniversary, HRH. I’m glad to be sharing the ups and downs of life with you.
Every five years or so, the people of my spiritual path gather together in southern Pennsylvania for a long weekend of reflection, worship, fellowship, and meetings. Between these major retreats, there is a weekend for the leaders within the tradition; a sort of leadership conference where decision-making happens, policy is discussed, and techniques are shared.
This past weekend, HRH and I attended one of the latter retreats. It was the first event I’d been able to attend in seven or eight years, thanks to a variety of instances that prevented me from getting to the others (financial crisis the day before I was to leave, health crises associated with scheduled childcare so I stayed with the kids while HRH went alone) so this weekend fed my soul in a very particular way. I saw people I hadn’t seen in person for almost a decade. I participated in seminars and worship services that I didn’t lead — a rarity for me. Not having to facilitate anyone else’s experience allowed me to actually look to my own, a luxury I am rarely allowed.
The weather was stifling, and the ten-hour drive down and back was not fun. Travel steals a lot of the energy I need to function on a daily basis (thanks so much, fibro), as does dealing with heat and humidity. The metal folding chairs were murder on my back. But I am so very grateful that the universe made sure I could go this time. What I got out of it was immensely valuable to me. I reconnected with other people who practice our tradition. I reconnected with the source of our path. I did some soul searching, and had a couple of revelations that I need to meditate on some more.
We stayed at an absolutely wonderful B&B in Harrisburg, the City House, and after the day’s activities we returned there and walked to pubs or bistros for light evening meals. Our last dinner was at a locally famous steakhouse with nine other conference attendees, and it was good to be with them.
Grandma came to stay with the kids, and they had a fabulous time with her and their grandfather, who came over during the days as well. We are very grateful to them. I missed the kids, but a couple of days without them went a long way to recharging my parenting batteries, too.
On this day sixteen years ago (egad), in the company of family and dear chosen family on a spectacular autumn day, I married my best friend.
Happy anniversary, HRH. I think we’re doing pretty okay. There’s no one I’d rather be sharing this life with.
We took the kids out for a surprise today. Where were we going? We wouldn’t say. It’s a mystery! Just sit back and enjoy the trip, kids. (As best you can in 31 C weather before humidex and with no AC.)
We went to the shelter for a cat one year or older, since the population of those skyrockets around July 1 here (it’s moving day) and whereas kittens always find homes, rehoming adult cats is much more challenging. We felt we were at a place where we were ready to offer another rescue animal a home and a forever family, and the shelter was running a half-price adoption fee for adult cats, since they were overpopulated. We found three we liked as we walked through the cattery (two calicos! a grey!)… except then we saw this three-month-old guy at the end of the hall. He tried to climb through the glass to get to the children, and, well, game over. A full-price kitten it was. Black cats are always harder to get adopted, so we helped him, right?
He’s spectacular with both kids, with whom he played in the meeting room for over half an hour without fear. The adoption facilitator kept saying, “I have to tell you all this stuff about stress and warnings and how adjusting can be hard on the cat, but… somehow, I really don’t think it’s going to be a problem.” She said she hadn’t seen a cat click with a family that well or that fast in quite a while. So far Gryff and Minerva haven’t had hissy fits about the Strange New Cat Smell on the Family, which is also positive, although the true test will come tonight when they are both denied entry to our bedroom, where they like to sleep.
(PS: Bonus points if you get the name reference!)
We did it! We made it to double digits!
These birthday photo posts are getting very long. I think that makes them all the more special, don’t you?
Ten entire years ago, during a humid heatwave, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another nine weeks. In those nine weeks, I had to correct the galleys of one book, deliver the first draft of another, unpack from the move, create a nursery, and perform in a rock concert. All that was rearranged, rescheduled, or cancelled (for me, anyway): the galleys were corrected in the hospital (yeah, I’m hardcore that way; HRH FedExed them to the publisher for me as soon as they were done), t! took my place onstage with Random Colour (I dictated basslines to him over the phone from my hospital bed), the delivery deadline for the first draft of the other book was moved (bless my editor at the time!), the nursery was hastily finished while Sparky was in the neonatal unit, and unpacking happened when it happened.
For what it’s worth, he showed that striped shirt to me yesterday and said, “This is too tight on me now.” We’ve been weeding clothes out of his drawers on what feels like a weekly basis, and he’s eating an awful lot. Not a lot at a time, just frequently.
Oh, let’s add another one where’s he’s actually smiling.
One decade ago he was born nine weeks early, and we’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since.
Books books books books Lego books Minecraft books Pokemon books.
He’s wearing size 10-14 or large youth shirts, and size 9-10 pants for length, although we have to cinch the waists. He’s wearing youth size 2 shoes, and more of my socks and some of my more fitted t-shirts are mistakenly ending up in his drawers when the laundry gets put away.
This year at school he ran into math problems because he didn’t have a basic handle on multiplication/division/fact families. But then he discovered fractions and blazed through those, and plotted coordinates were fun, too. Grade four is the first year of provincial exams here, and we’re waiting on those results.
He’s sensitive, funny, loves sharing stuff he’s interested in, actively tries to engage his sister in play (until she tries to direct said play, that is), and adores puns. We have a special family game or movie night with just the three of us every Saturday night, and it’s a blast.
(We just watched Jurassic Park in two goes, because while he was happy and awed for the first hour, when the T-Rex ate the lawyer it was all “WHY ARE YOU LETTING ME WATCH THIS THIS IS A TERRIBLE MOVIE” and we had to stop it. After a week of getting used to it, he proposed watching the second half, and he was fine. Now he’s changed his idea for his birthday party from a spy theme to a Jurassic Park theme. Uh-oh.)
He’s a terrific kid, and we’re looking forward to the next decade with him.
It’s been ten years this month since my first book came out. It seems only right that I use the icon that HRH drew of me taking a bow after a G&S show for this post, yes? I probably don’t take enough bows. I’m shy like that.
It’s been an interesting ride these past ten years, and I like where my career has gone along the way.
I’ve worked in the book business since my very first part-time job at the local children’s bookstore. I went from there to working at (and then managing) the local F/SF bookstore, then working in the local metaphysical bookstore. I ‘retired’ from the retail aspect and did writing, data entry, and ordering for the metaphysical store, until the owner forwarded me a letter from one of the large publishing companies we purchased from. They were looking for someone with an English degree who was experienced in writing, the book business, and the new age market. “They’re looking for YOU!” she told me with excitement, and encouraged me to send in my CV and an introductory letter. The publisher was astonished that someone out there actually existed who matched their criteria perfectly, and invited me to sign on as a consultant as they established a new age imprint. I got to help define the imprint’s mission statement, help develop a plan and schedule, help vet proposals, and do tech reviews of the finished manuscripts. After rescuing an unfinished manuscript that also featured plagiarism (longtime readers know how I feel about that particular subject), the editor in charge of the imprint asked me to write the next book in the series. I did, and then I wrote another right on its heels at their request.
I was pregnant when that first book came out, unknowingly only a couple of weeks away from giving birth to Sparky. (Ahead of schedule… gosh, a lot happened in those four weeks; we moved a week after it came out, too. I corrected the page proofs for the second book in the hospital. And I had a delivery deadline for my third book the next month, as well. Good grief.) I remember walking into the new age store after they’d called to tell me it had arrived, and seeing a full-sized poster of the front cover mounted on foam board proudly displayed on a table among piles of that first book. It was slightly surreal to see my name that large on anything. And then the second one came out only four months later.
In ten years I wrote about alternative spirituality, practicing nature-based spirituality in urban areas, home and hearth-based practice, edited an anthology of firsthand experiences of discovering alternative spirituality, approaching pregnancy from the point of view of earth-based spirituality, and the spiritual associations of birds. I oversaw the development and editing of two new age series. I worked with some wonderful, wonderful editors, one of whom introduced me to other departments within the publishing company who gave me rewriting/repurposing work, and, ultimately, my current position as a copy editor.
People ask me sometimes when my next book is coming out, and honestly… I like what I’m doing right now. Writing a book takes an tremendous amount of energy and time, and because when I do something I want to do it right, the per-hour fee ends up being below minimum wage when I take into account the number of hours it takes to produce a manuscript I am satisfied with. Copy editing is more lucrative, frankly, and more immediately gratifying. I am one of those weird people who adores copy editing. I like knowing why a comma is necessary, or why it should be taken out. I like being able to tweak the punctuation or syntax in a sentence to clarify its meaning. I take a stupid amount of pride in being able to use a hyphen, en dash, or em dash correctly. I love finessing a paragraph to focus the author’s point, querying to make sure I grasped what they were trying to say. (The answer is almost invariably yes, oh yes, and thank you.) I have the kind of mind that remembers how an author phrased or formatted something seventy pages ago, and I can make sure every instance of a phrase or instruction is presented the same way each time. I have a sixth sense for a wonky fact that needs to be checked. I have a not-so-secret crush on the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And I really like being able to put it all out of my mind when I’ve closed the document and walked away to pick the kids up from school, which I was never able to successfully do while writing on a book contract, and that stressed me out a lot. Add to this the fact that the new age market really shrank about four or five years ago, and, well… at this point in time, I’ve said everything I want to say in a book. (Would I like to produce a book on parenting from an earth-based spirituality POV? Absolutely, but while I like how my kids are turning out, I still feel like I’m flailing around when it comes to parenting, and I couldn’t do it with enough confidence.)
I still get messages from people thanking me for being their introduction to alternative spirituality, for giving them a name to what they felt or believed, for letting them know they’re not alone, and they all mean a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I love what I’m doing right now, and I wouldn’t chose to do anything else at the moment.
This does not preclude writing on the side, of course. I almost had a new book gig this spring, actually, except they wanted me to write it on a crazy deadline, and my current contract with the game studio takes precedence. Not knowing how much work would be coming or precisely when, I couldn’t take on a book contract in good faith. I do have almost-finished novels lying about that I would like to poke at, finished ones that need rewrites, and I have started a new one for the first time in a few years, writing longhand with a fountain pen in a notebook. (It just felt wrong to try to start it on the computer, and if a story will cooperate in another easily accomplished way… well then, story, here is a Parker fountain pen and some J Herbin ink; come and play.)
Ten years. The traditional gift material for a tenth anniversary is tin; maybe I should buy a new fountain pen to celebrate. (I also see that the modern equivalent is diamond jewellery, which just makes me laugh a lot. Seriously? I’d prefer a new fountain pen.)
Thank you to everyone who has been around for this ride so far. To single a few people out (which is always dangerous because one feels dreadful if one misses someone important), I will name Ron, of course; Ceri, who kept me company on writing jams while I wrote that first book, and provided tea and sanity checks; Debra, who gave me the publisher’s contact request for the consultant in the first place; Silver, who told me I could do it, and to stick to my guns when negotiating for future titles and deadlines; Scarlet and Robyn and all the Melange Magique staff who were excited for me, stocked the book, and hand sold it; and all my lovely editors, especially Andrea, who fought long and hard on my behalf during her time as my last editor. Thank you to booksellers and readers, to reviewers and interviewers, and all my friends who encouraged me, came to book launches, and have my books on their shelves, even if they’ve never read them and never intend to. You are all wonderful, and there would be no point in doing this, if not for you all.
Last night, my grandmother passed away.
It was a quiet passing; my dad says that she’d slipped into a comatose state, and died about twenty-four hours later. She was exactly one month short of her ninety-ninth birthday.
We started losing her a while ago, though. Her memory became less and less sharp until she lost most of her short-term memory, and the most recent of the long-term stuff began to disintegrate as well. She ceased recognising people. She had to ask over and over who my dad was when he flew out to visit her.
When I was little, she kept two very special things in her handbag for me to play with if we had to wait somewhere. One was tiny crocheted blue doll with a silky printed Asian-style face, and the other was a tape measure. Oh, that tape measure. I don’t recall the colour, but it was one of the cased ones that would lock when you stopped pulling the tape, and had a button to press when you wanted to retract the tape again. It fascinated me, and scared me a little too, because the tape would snap back pretty sharply. My mother had regular cotton tape measures, so this one was extra-special. When I bought my first retractable tape measure last year, I was pretty excited to own one of my very own. I think of her every time I use it.
I can’t find the box with all my photo albums in it. When my parents went out to Vancouver to help her downsize in preparation for eventually moving into the care home, my dad couriered me a box full of photo albums and keepsakes. She’d kept a series of albums with pictures of me from birth onward. I found one to include below in a box of my own photos, so that will have to do for now.
She worked at the Valois library for a time (possibly when it was first opened?), right around the corner from where I now have my orchestra rehearsals, and around the corner from where friends now live. One of the houses my dad’s family lived in was right around the corner from the apartment blocks where I lived for several years in Dorval, too. She was always tickled to know I was living steps away from where she’d lived, decades and decades before.
She lived in West Vancouver for most of my life, though, with my granddad until he passed away when I was a teenager. We visited them about once a year, though. They lived in an apartment building that had an elevator and a pool, both very exciting to a small child. When we visited, I used to love paging through her huge hardcover Royal Doulton figurine collectible book, sitting next to her tea cart. You could look right out over the water from the windows of their apartment, and walk along the seawalk to the little beaches, where we’d sort through rocks and driftwood. Some days we’d go to Ambleside Park and feed the ducks, which was always terrific fun. Right at the base of the apartment building we could sit and wave at the Royal Hudson as it steamed by in the morning, and the engineers would wave back. (When I was older I finally got to ride the Royal Hudson on its excursion up to Squamish.) My first trip alone as an unaccompanied minor was flying out to see them when I was in high school.
My gran was always there for my graduations (and probably most of the plays I was in, too, although I don’t remember), right at the front, snapping photos with her camera. While I smile at it now, it was mortifying at the time. (Notably, she left the lens cap on at my high school grad ceremony, so it was all for naught.) She followed me around the dance floor at my high school grad dance and snapped photos, too. There’s a hilarious one of me with my head twisted away and my poor date caught looking open-mouthed at the camera. She thought it was just wonderful that I danced a box waltz for a while with one of my friends, too; fortunately that escaped photographic immortalization, because we were both staring at our feet and counting. This is Gran and I at my graduation from John Abbott College in the spring of 1990.
For my high school graduation, she took me on a cruise to Mexico. Somewhere (probably with that box of photo albums) is the souvenir album we put together, full of formal shipboard photos, maps, tour flyers, and various other memorabilia. The cruise experience was probably mostly wasted on a painfully shy and socially terrified barely-sixteen-year-old like myself, but it was my first time outside of Canada or the United States, and I did love the sun and the sea, and seeing the historic sites the tours took us to.
When I turned… sixteen? eighteen? Anyway, one of those, she gave me the ruby ring she’d had made after I was born (the ruby is my birthstone). I wore it for years and years, although now it lives in my jewellery box. A couple of years after Sparky was born, she sent me her sapphire ring, as well, which lives in my jewellery box because it’s absolutely enormous (the stones, not the band) and again, where would I wear it? (I’m rather minimalist when it comes to jewellery, in case you hadn’t figured it out.) When I graduated from university (the first time, so after my BA), she gave me her pearl necklace. I love their shade of aged ivory; I’ve never worn them, though, because I’m terrified I’d lose them. (Besides, where would I wear all these; the grocery store?)
Also in that box of albums and memorabilia were stacks of programmes from my various theatre performances. I can’t remember which she saw and which she didn’t — Dad used to send her copies of the ones she couldn’t fly down to see — but she kept absolutely everything. She had a slightly crazy-making habit of underlining our names in printed materials. I have her copy of a privately printed large family history book called The Book of Menzies (also known as the “Red and White Book of Menzies,” written in 1894 by D.P. Menzie, the original printing limited to 100 copies; it belonged to her grandfather, one of the original subscribers who funded the book) in which she’s underlined several names. (She also used awful, cheap, sticky tape to helpfully mend part of the spine. My antiquarian book-lover side cringes at both.) I sent a signed and inscribed copy of each of my books to her as they were published; I wonder if she underlined my name on those title pages? Gran passed her copies of Emily Carr’s series of books on to me when I was an early teenager, which introduced me to a very different idea of Canada and Canadian art (yes, before I discovered the Group of Seven).
About ten years ago, I tried to record a couple of orchestra concerts for her, but my poor minidisc recorder was just too overwhelmed by the amount of noise and it never worked properly. But on one trip out to see her, my parents took her to the local library and set her up at a computer terminal. She fussed, because she had no idea why they were doing it. But then Dad brought up the link to one of the videos someone had made of one of our concerts, and gave her the headphones. When he told her who it was and pointed me out on the screen, she beamed.
The last time I saw her in person was in the summer of 2007, when Sparky was two years old and we all went to visit my parents so she could meet him. When Dad last showed her a picture of us, some time after Owlet had been born, she said, “Oh, what lovely children!”, but she didn’t understand that they were her great-grandchildren. Whenever I’d suggest sending her a current photo, my parents would quietly say, “Don’t bother. She doesn’t know. She can’t remember.” Telling her who everyone in the photograph was would entail an awful lots of explaining and backstory, and it was challenging enough to explain who my mum and dad were when they went to see her.
The saying I will forever associate with her in various forms is “You can take your education everywhere; no one can take your education away from you.” She repeated this frequently, with various wordings. She thought it was just great that I kept on going to school and collecting diplomas. It alternately amused me and made me want to roll my eyes. I loved my gran, but she exasperated me a lot, too. The generational gap was just so large, and the way she saw the world was not the way I saw it. She also gushed a lot, and I am very bad at handling gushing, particularly when it is directed at me.
I know that she was very frustrated and angry with life when her memory started to erode, and who can blame her? I remember feeling relieved when my mother told me Gran had reached a point where she was living almost entirely in the moment, just admiring the same flowers in the park over and over as they encountered them while they walked around the park. This post has been hard, not because I’ve lost someone dear to me, but because I no longer know that person. Or rather, the person who I knew and loved was gone long ago, and I’ve been able to mourn that loss bit by bit as my parents return from visits and update me on her decline. I’m grateful for the time we were able to spend together throughout her life, and for the opportunities she enabled me to have.
I am so very glad that she is at peace now.