Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Husband Is The Devil's Helper

I've had a nagging headache since I returned home from the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I just completed a 10-day round of antibiotics for pneumonia, and was very happy to see the last of these pills which were clearly designed by a sadist. Sure, I only had to take one pill every 24 hours, but they were the colour of a day-old corpse, and too big to swallow without panic setting in. Cramps and nausea always followed, and there was the threat that the pill, after 10 minutes or so of choking it down, would make a break for it so to speak, along with the meal taken as a precaution.

I had a 70% pill retention success rate. 

Do the math.

I really didn't want my doctor to order tell me I had to take more torture another round of those corpse fingers pills.

But after four days at home, I've been nodding off every time I sit down to work or read. I've had no energy to walk the dog, and even though I've been going to bed really early for the past four nights, and slept like the dead each time, I've continued to stumble around exhausted.

I've been fretting.

Maybe it's just conference hangover? 


Or maybe the pneumonia is back.

A few minutes ago, my daughter was making herself a coffee and calmly pointed to the bowl where I keep my Extra-Bold Starbucks Deep Dark Smack Yourself Awake And Thank The Universe You're Alive coffee pods. "Did you see what dad did?" she said.

Wait, what?

I leaned in for a closer look. Seems that while I was away, my dear husband, for reasons unknown, decided to "tidy" up the kitchen, and he mixed in decaf pods with my usual extra-bolds.  


These Pods From The Devil (there for guests/heretics who may request such dreck) were stored in a separate box, in a faraway cupboard, behind the sacks of potatoes and dog food. I don't know how he even found them, let alone what made him think it was a good idea to put them in the bowl with the normal ones where his unsuspecting, sleepy, jet-lagged, spouse would stumble in and use them and think, "Hm, my morning coffee doesn't taste the way it normally does, but perchance the cream is off." 

A quick count (box of 12 decaf pods now down to 4 pods) and a perusal of the kitchen garbage confirmed my suspicions. I may have pneumonia, but the headaches and lethargy are from caffeine withdrawal.

FYI Starbucks. It's not a bad idea to make your labeling on the decaf devil pods as bold as your regular coffee pods. Just saying.

Oh, as for the tidying up, the kitchen is still an unholy mess with my husband's papers and journals covering every surface. But the coffee pods stacked in a lovely Villeroy & Boch bowl look like they belong on a magazine cover. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Oh, Vancouver, how you seduce me with your mountains and fresh air and vegan lifestyle. I'm so used to city streets, arguments over politics and smokers on every corner. This is what I saw when I pulled the curtains open every morning.

View from my window, Sunrise, Day One.

View from same window, Sunrise, Day Two.

Luckily the sun came up....

and burned off the fog.
 Got home last night from five invigorating, exhilarating, exhausting, but very fulfilling days at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Amazed at how this conference can leave one wrung out like an old dishrag and leaping around like a spring lamb at the same time.

Spent days and evenings with friends and authors I know well, and I made some new friends, too. I flew there against my doctor's advice, and it was actually a bit touch and go before I left. By my departure date, I felt like things were under control and that I'd beaten down the beast, until I realized I hadn't. 

View from the stairwell on my way up to the magic room on the 21st floor. Don't attempt this drunk.

Last Saturday night was a tad rough, and I missed what everyone later said was the BEST keynote speech of the conference given by Jim C. Hines, as well as Jack Whyte's rendition of Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud.

(stifled sob into my fist)

I'm hoping someone taped both of these events, and posts them on YouTube. I did, however, make it up to the partay room later. I have to be at death's door to miss a good party. This is what happens at the partay. That's all I can tell you, because what happens in Surrey, stays in Surrey.

Tyner Gillies, the Wonder Mountie, won the non-fiction prize. He wasn't told in advance as most winners are, and he was clearly blown away. He blinked back tears as we all pounded him on the back. I just love this guy, and his story is both moving and unforgettable. We passed around a copy of the anthology at the table so we could read his entry, and we were all in floods of tears.

There are Many Things Afoot. Most I can't talk about right now, some have to do with me, others about dear friends. Got some great feedback from an agent who requested material, and also from a presenter who asked me to send her some of my essays.

I laughed, I cried, I ate a lot of chocolate. Just the way it should be.

My husband was late to pick me up at the airport in Montreal, so I passed the time by chatting to airport staff, i.e., the guy directing people to the taxi stand. A friend of my daughter walked past, without saying hello to me, but then texted her and he said, "Just saw your mom at the airport. She was asking a black guy what part of Africa he was from."

Okay, for the record, here is the complete conversation.

Me: "What an interesting accent you have. Where are you from originally?"

Him: "Africa."

Me: "Cool. What part of Africa are you from?"

(See? This is called context.)

Him: "Mali. I came to Canada in 2006."

Me: "So, how do you like our Montreal winters?"

Him: "Oooooh, I will never get used to those. They are bad, bad, BAD."

Us: Much laughter and banter.

In other words, I do NOT go up to random people and ask them what part of Africa they're from. 

As for the title of this post...

The couple sitting next to me on the plane? Oh my. It was like sitting next to lightening.

They were from France. You can tell from their accents, which makes it easy for me to understand as it's the French I learned in high school. They looked similar, thirties, maybe early forties, same slight builds and casual chic clothes, tee shirts and leather jackets. He had messy curly hair, stubble and a scarf casually knotted around his neck and she was pretty without makeup, though she looked tired. They were clearly in love, but not in a gross P.D.A. kind of way. It was as though they were magnets; one moved, then the other leaned in that direction. They reminded me of the French movies I watched in the seventies. You just know they have great sex, probably all the time, because they were both so sensual and beautiful. (And then afterwards, they lounge in bed with croissants and cafe au lait and newspapers, and probably a cat or two.)

It was as though they were attached by invisible strings. It was mesmerizing.

He would put his hand on her leg while he read, and she would put her hand on top of his hand, and lock her fingers into his. He fell asleep on her shoulder, and she rested her head on his. They talked softly to each other, murmuring, heads together, never raising their voices to be heard.

When the plane landed, and everyone jumped up and scrambled for their bags in the overhead bins, they stood in the aisle, faced each other and melded into one, as though no one else was there and they were simply one person. She looked into his eyes, and he into hers. He brushed her hair away from her face, and noticed the pendant on her choker was askew, and gently straightened it then brushed her hair from her cheek. They kissed gently, softly. She touched his forehead with hers, their eyes closed, and eventually they burrowed in each others' necks, as thought they were puzzle pieces that just clicked into place. Have you ever seen horses in a field, just resting, heads and necks entwined? That was this couple. I could not stop looking at them (not that they would have noticed me staring.) They stepped out of the plane and walked slowly to the baggage area, hand in hand, swaying in time.  It was a sight to behold.

Anyway, they disappeared, my husband pulled up in the car, and we headed to the local bistro for drinks, succulent oysters on the half shell, and steaks and frites. The air is crisp in Montreal, a big change after the warm sunny weather in Surrey.

Now we have frost, and snow up north.

 But I have my Buddy back, and he, clearly, has me in his sights once again. I think in his tiny walnut of a brain, he and I are like that couple on the plane.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Family Portrait

Last Christmas, my children decided to surprise my husband with a portrait.

Eldest, on the left, asked her beau take a series of shots.

Most were lovely. But there were some outtakes.

This is what happens when the directive is "Make a bunch of silly faces!" and Middle Kid and Youngest conspire to ignore the advice without informing Eldest.

Then the beau made a GIF.

Then he sent it to me.

Then I got permission from all to post it here.

The one on the left? She really is her mother's daughter.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Field Trip Last Summer

To a supposedly "haunted" church in Gore, tucked away in the woods near our cottage.


St. John's Shrewsbury, now a deconsecrated church, is not haunted. But somehow rumours started, then vandals came and destroyed this once lovely summer place of worship. It is tucked away on a remote dirt road, so it was easy for gangs of teens to break in and party there unnoticed. It's quite sad to see the destruction of a once sacred place. It is both beautiful and mournful there; the sweet chapel is slowly crumbling and dissolving into the gentle gardens of the cemetery surrounding it. Its jagged holes, shattered plaster and profane graffiti are a sad testament to its former glory days.

I have friends whose children were baptized there. Other friends, visiting from Winnipeg, found a relative's gravestone. In fact, Julie's great-great-(not sure how many greats) grandfather William McKnight died exactly 145 years to the day, July 11th, we stood there looking down upon his grave. And as I basked in the warm summer sun and Buddy snuffled around in the grass, I read the stone and realized I was also the exact same age William was when he died.

Not a ghost, just a ghostly reflection of the photographer.

Then again, one can find the divine in an Icelandic train station. Go here.