Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Life Imitates Art

Ok, so maybe art is too strong a word. But imagine my surprise when I got a tweet from John Wiswell asking if a news story about a missing woman being found in a church septic tank seemed familiar.
"MABEL!" I shrieked.
Last October I wrote a story called Why Mabel Stopped Going to Church, about a lovely old lady and her gal pal Olive and the mysterious disappearance of a chipper new minister with modern ideas. Here's the story:

“Did I tell you about the new minister?” asked Mabel MacFarlane.
“No,” replied Olive Ferguson. “Is he new, then?”
“Well it’s not a he,” said Mabel. “It’s a she.”
“Oh,” said Olive, nodding her head. “Very modern.”
“Too modern for me,” said Mabel. “I stopped going.”
Olive put down her teacup with a startled clink. “Stopped going, Mabel? That’s not like you, hmmm?”
Mabel stole a swift glance around the social room at Bonnie View Vista to see if anyone was listening. Not that anyone was. Old George Stanfield was leaning heavily over the tea table, stuffing arrowroot biscuits in his toothless gob. Caroline Stapleton was dealing a hand to her tittering euchre cronies and Margaret Fields was batting her eyelashes at the orderly. They were all stone deaf anyway, except for the orderly, and he didn’t care what any of the old codgers had to say, thinking them drooling and daft.
“Look at him over there texting his girlfriend,” Mabel said.
“Who, the minister?” Olive said.
“No you dumb cow, not the minister, the orderly.”
“Oh,” said Olive. “I thought you said he was a she. Is she a lesbian, then?”
“Who?” asked Mabel.
“I don’t know,” said Olive, “you brought it up. I’m terribly confused. The minister, I think.”
Mabel stared at her friend. 
Her forehead with its hand-drawn eyebrows, painted more in the style of a Van Gogh than a Maybelline, wrinkled while she tried to focus.
Olive sipped tea. Lipstick stained the rim of her cup.
“Oh yes,” Mabel said, “I remember now. We were talking about the church and why I stopped going.”
“You stopped going?” Olive asked. “Whatever for?”
Mabel’s left eyebrow twitched. Ever so slightly. “It was that new minister, that woman. Oh, it was all fine at first. Her sermons were nice; didn’t put me to sleep like old Rev. Harold did, bless his soul.”
“It was a heart attack that got him, wasn’t it?” 
“No, Olive, he was run over by Harvey Ashby’s honey wagon.”
“Oh yes, I remember now. Terrible that was. Harvey had been pumping out the holding tank at the manse. Poor Rev. Harold, run over by his own excrement. Was it hard to get a replacement, then?”
Mabel nodded. “Oh yes, it took months to find that woman. The elders did all sorts of interviews but they’re all a bunch of wishy-washy picky-pants and couldn’t decide on anyone. Finally they picked Rev. Amber Spencely, of all people. Probably won over by her straight teeth and yellow hair. Straight out of nursery school by the looks of her.”
“That young, was she? I thought there were rules about that sort of thing.”
“Oh Olive,” Mabel said. “Of course she was old enough. She went to university down in the city. She had to be old enough. But she sure had young ideas.”
“Such as?
Mabel finished the last bit of tea and looked Olive straight in the eye. “She didn’t call God a He.”
Olive gasped a little. “No!”
“Oh yes! She said there were arguments on both sides of whether the Holy Father was a father or a mother. She talked about it in church! Right there in church!”
“Well I never,” said Olive.
“That’s not all. She said the Bible wasn’t necessarily God’s word.”
“What?” said Olive.
“That’s what she said! That it wasn’t to be taken as God’s word, but as a collection of nicey-nice legends and fables – she called them fables, Olive – that show us believers how to live our lives.”
“Fables!” said Olive, suitably aghast.
“The worst thing, though, the very worst thing, was what she said to me and Pauline Rosseau after a church supper one night. We were just finishing up the dishes and Pauline, you know her, she’s that French widow that lives over there on the east side of town.”
“Oh sure,” said Olive, “nice lady that Pauline. Too bad about her husband.”
“He was old, though, lived a long life. Pauline, she’s a lot older than she looks.”
“Dyes her hair black,” Olive said. “I can tell.”
Mabel looked at her friend like she was a bug. “And me I thought that it was natural on an 90 year old woman.” She scowled. “Like I was saying, Pauline was telling Rev. Spencely how important the church is to her and how she tries her best to do everything according to God’s wishes because she wants to get to Heaven and that’s when the Reverend said Heaven wasn’t real.”
Olive’s eyes widened. “No!”
Mabel nodded. “Yes! I heard it with my own eyes! Rev. Spencely said that Heaven was like the fables in the Bible, designed to keep people on the straight and narrow, like a carrot in front of a donkey. And to give us comfort in the shadows and valleys of death. Well, that was precisely the wrong thing to say to Pauline. She kept her composure in front of the minister but the very moment we were outside she started to cry.”
“Oh dear,” Olive said. “Poor dear.”
“Pauline was looking forward to going to Heaven and seeing her husband again. Hearing there was no Heaven meant she would never see his sweet face. And here she had been following all the church rules for all those years – for nothing!”
“She might as well have been swearing and fornicating,” Olive said.
“Might as well,” Mabel said.
“Huh,” Olive said.
The two women were quiet for a moment, lost in thought.
“So what happened?” Olive asked.
“What do you mean what happened?”
Mabel looked around the room. The euchre ladies were gone. Margaret and the orderly had disappeared some place. George was reclined in an easy chair, snoring, little bits of biscuit crumbs around his open mouth.
“Well, Pauline and I stopped going to church, for one thing. She said what’s the point of going when there’s no Heaven and I agreed. I have better things to do on Sunday morning besides listening to boring sermons. That’s when Coronation Street is on the television.”
She leaned towards Olive. “And I heard the new minister disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” asked Olive.
“Into thin air,” said Mabel. “Didn’t show up for Sunday service. Didn’t leave word she wasn’t coming. Nobody has seen her since.”
Olive’s eyes lit up. “So what do you think happened to her then?”
“How should I know?” Mabel said.
Olive looked disappointed. “Oh. I thought you might, for some reason.”
“No dearie, not me,” Mabel said.
“Oh,” said Olive. She sighed. “Well, then, what else is new?”
“Not much. I’m going over to Pauline’s later on. She’s expecting Harvey Ashby over to pump out her septic tank. She has some kind of clog.”
“A clog?” Olive said. “Sounds nasty.”
“You have no idea,” said Mabel.

And here's the news story, written by Crime Journalist David Lohr for AOL News:

The body of a missing mother of three has been recovered from an underground septic system behind a rural Ohio church after the woman's mother-in-law told authorities where to find the corpse, according to police.

Authorities had been searching for 25-year-old Summer Inman since March 22. She was in an alleyway behind a bank that she was cleaning when two men forced her into a car, police in the town of Logan said.

An undated police handout photo shows Summer Inman.
Logan Police
Authorities in Ohio have recovered the body of Summer Inman from inside an underground septic system behind a rural church.
"The body was very much intact [and] we're very comfortable with the identification," Logan Police Chief Aaron Miller told reporters during a news conference today.

Police investigated the incident as an apparent kidnapping and focused on Inman's estranged husband, William Inman II, 26. The couple, who were married in 2004, had been separated for about a year.

Summer Inman had filed for divorce and obtained an order of protection. According to court documentsobtained by 10TV News, she said her husband had "threatened to kill" her.

Police last week filed kidnapping charges against Inman and his parents, William Inman, 47, and Sandra Inman, 46. According to Miller, authorities recently conducted a search of the parents' Jackson County home, during which they said they found "significant evidence" of their involvement in the crime.

Miller said Sandra Inman came forward Tuesday with information in the case.

"[She] asked to speak with her attorney," Miller said. "Shortly thereafter, [she] revealed the location of Summer Inman's body. Officers arrived at the location at about 8:50" Tuesday night.

Miller said police were led to an underground septic tank at Faith Tabernacle Church, off U.S. 33 in Nelsonville. "Her body was in a septic system at the rear of the church," he said.

Police say they have received information indicating that the Inmans may have been members of the church at some point.

Police handout photos of the suspects in the murder of Summer Inman.  From left to right: William A. Inman II, and his parents William A. Inman and Sandra K. Inman.
Logan Police
William A. Inman II, left, and his parents, William A. Inman and Sandra K. Inman, face kidnapping charges in the disappearance of the younger Inman's estranged wife, whose body was found Tuesday night in a church septic tank.
Summer Inman has since been transported to Montgomery County, where an autopsy will be performed. Miller would not speculate on a cause of death, but he did say it appears "she was killed very quickly that evening -- the evening of the crime."

Hocking County Prosecutor Laina Fetherolf has confirmed that her office negotiated a deal with Sandra Inman, but she told reporters today that she is unable to "release any details of that at this time." The district attorney also declined to elaborate on what Inman allegedly said to police.

Fetherolf said it will be up to a grand jury to make a decision in the case regarding any murder complaints, but she was going to encourage a judge to ensure the Inmans would not be able to walk out of jail anytime soon.

"We have arraignments today in the charges that have been filed against the Inmans for kidnapping. ... We hope, at that time, the court will be favorable to our request to set an extremely high bond in the case so they won't be leaving the jail at this point," Fetherolf said.

Miller declined to discuss any other details of the case today. "This is an ongoing case as far as prosecution, and we are still developing information," he said.

This kind of thing has happened to me a few times before and it's always shocking. When I wrote For Bella, a story based on a true family event where a father drowned all his children in a rain barrel, I had the father line all his dead children up in a row in the backyard. A few months later I was watching the movie Shutter Island and just about pitched a fit when Leonardo diCaprio's character pulled his drowned children out of a pond and laid them in a row in the yard.
I also did some writing last summer involving a marriage break-up with 'Lou' as the name of the main female character. Yesterday I saw a movie called Serious Moonlight starring Meg Ryan as an angry wife who gets dumped. Her character's name? Lou.
Crazy, eh?

Thanks to Mr. Wiswell for pointing out this amazing coincidence! And here I thought I was being all original...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why is it if you read at bedtime you fall asleep but if you write at bedtime you lie awake for hours and wind up laying on the couch with infomercials droning in the background while your heart bangs in your chest and you think you're going to have a heart attack?
I even went to the bathroom and ate a tasty child-sized aspirin to stave off the afore-mentioned attack.
They are so choice. Remember when they came in tiny little glass bottles with cute pink and baby blue labels? My mom had to hide them because we gobbled 'em up like they were orange M&Ms. No, of course you don't remember – you're not old enough to remember.
It's got me in a death grip.
The story I wrote last night was about getting old. AGAIN. I read it to Dave this morning and he was, like, "it sure sounds like you," even though it's for the April Fool's Blogswap and it's supposed to be in someone else's voice. I can't help it. I'm death-obsessed. I turned 50 and suddenly realized the world isn't my oyster... well, it IS my oyster: a small container with a lid like a coffin that you have to pry open with a shucker-thing because once the lid is down, it's DOWN, baby.
These things have occurred to me:
1. I may not live long enough to finish paying the mortgage. (Woo hoo! Way to get out of the mortgage!)
2. Despite those cultures that respect old people as being wise, my culture does no such thing. Old people are largely ignored because young people know everything and even though you DO know something, young people ignore it because you're, you know, old.
3. I have to do something to improve my physical self because everything hurts. Arthritis sucks. Bad knees suck. My memory sucks. Hot flashes suck. And how is it that I can have wrinkles and pimples at the same damn time? And all of them with black hairs sticking out of them? *looking for my tweezers* I want to lose weight and am thinking of Weight Watchers but I don't want to know how much I weigh. I mean, I know it's a lot because my ass has its own time zone, but I don't want to know the number because it will send me spiralling down into a "I hate me" depression. Yes, yes, I realize that the number-shock is part of what drives initial success in weight loss but I don't like the shock. It scares me. Maybe I'll sign up if they promise to keep that bad number to themselves and not tell me until I'm 50 pounds away from it.
In the next couple of months I have a battery of health appointments. Dentist. Internist (check-up with lecture about weight). Family doctor for a physical (read: pap smear and lecture about weight). Eye doctor because I swear I'm on the verge of cataracts. Have you ever noticed how people who have had cataract surgery have weird silver glints in their eyes? I saw Ali McGraw on Oprah and she had that weird glint. It's like Stepford Wives or alien abductions.
You have to be 50 to get a mammogram around here, unless you have a history of breast cancer or lumpy breasts or you're a hypochondriac or you just like having your boobs squished. This whole mammogram thing intrigues me. Someone told me I could get some fancy new laser mammogram that doesn't squish your boobs but I think I want the squisher. I think of it as a rite of passage, like circumcision, only it's for boobs.
Speaking of boobs, must go to work.
Gonna hang with a bunch of young people. People who know nothing about boob squishing or hot flashes or that evil glint in Ali McGraw's eye. Frankly, they probably don't even know who Ali McGraw is. Last week I said something about James Taylor and half of them DIDN'T KNOW WHO JAMES TAYLOR WAS.
See what I have to deal with?
James Taylor and Carole King

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ryvita, My Love

The bath is running.
I should go now before it overflows.
But I'd rather just sit here
and eat cream cheese
spread on rye crackers
than start the day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Blogfodder

WHERE did the weekend go?
I have no idea. It went somewhere, though and I got nothing but a drool streak on the couch and a few photos to prove I did anything other than snooze.

On Saturday Dave and I ventured up the road to Port Sydney, where the welcome sign reads "Home to 800 Nice Families and 1 Old Grouch." The grouch in question certainly isn't my good friend Pamela Steel, who invited us up to her annual neighbourhood Sugaring Off Party.
Pamela (who happens to be a bestselling Canadian cookbook author) lives in a stretch of three or four homes where neighbours are more like family than merely good friends. They live in amongst a natural forest of sugar maples and, for several years now, have been tapping the trees and boiling down the sap together. They make an astounding fire over which an evaporator bubbles creating enough syrup for everybody. That's Dave and Pamela in the photo, above, which also features Cocoa, the family dog. Check out her ears in the picture – she looks like she's a helicopter about to take off.

That's me with Pamela. I look like a big red Hulk compared to her cute wee self. She is one of the nicest, funniest people I know with a big soft heart and a dazzling work ethic. If you entered my beaver writing contest, I may have sent you one of Pamela's cookbooks as part of your prize package.

The biggest surprise of the day was discovering Pamela's neighbour, Jo Walton, is from my home town of Markham, Ontario. Her maiden name was Zavitz and her father, in fact, was the well liked vice principal of Markham District High School. What a lovely person she is and, boy, does she look like her dad! Her brother Jeff was in the same grade as me. Jo's a wee bit younger. She's the Martha Stewart of the neighbourhood, creating huge feasts and family gatherings at the drop of a hat. Above, she makes maple candy for the delighted youngsters.

Today we mostly schlepped around the house in our pajamas. At one point we drove into town to pick some stuff up at the hardware store and on the way back we took the long way to see how other parts of the river are doing. Above is the rushing water at Muskoka Falls, a few miles west of us.

This is the dam at Trethewey Falls. For some reason the yellow safety barricade wasn't working. I guess that's how that dock floated down so close to the dam. We saw that dock in our section of the river about a week and a half ago. At the time it was still mired in ice. Then one day it floated away and we didn't see it again until today. Somebody, hopefully the owner, has tied it to a tree and will retrieve it when the water warms up. Docks are horribly expensive. Last year we built a teeney tiny one and it cost almost a thousand bucks. Crazy!!

Despite the bright sunshine it was still freakin' cold today. When we got up this morning it was a balmy 0 degrees outside. That's Dave on the Trethewey Falls bridge. Don't worry if you can't say Trethewey – we still have problems with that word. Try not to spit on anybody as you say it, ok?

This is the Muskoka River from the Trethewey bridge. Pretty, huh? There are hydro-electric dams spaced up and down along the river and this particular section, the one we live on, is about 10 km long. There are people living or cottaging along its banks but not at this end. We fished here last summer and we felt like we were a zillion miles away from civilization. Heaven.

A couple of shout-outs - one to my husband Dave who is beginning to post automotive advice on his blog, Bootcamp Dave. He's also more than willing to answer any questions you might have in that regard. His e-mail address is at the end of today's post. If you got car troubles, my man is the man you need to talk to.

And don't forget to pop by Mari's Randomites to see the story she wrote in my honour. On Tuesday she posted an interview we did and on Friday she posted the story she wrote with Dave and I as the main characters. How often do you get written into a story? Even better, she used many of the interview facts in the story so it mentions my fear of bears, my crush on Tony Soprano and my love for the colour pink. It's a fabulous, mind-blowing event and I want to thank Mari for her fun story and all her sweet comments. 
Make sure you pop in many times at Randomites in the next few weeks as she honours fellow blogger friends, including author Mizz Laura Eno and many others.

I haven't disappeared although it's true I haven't written a #fridayflash in the last two weeks. I'm going to try and refrain from writing a flash while I work on another writing project I've been dallying with. Having only so much time and energy, I thought it would be better to devote myself to the project rather than flash, if only for a while.
That doesn't mean I won't be submitting a story for Volume 2 of the Friday Flash anthology. I'm having a heck of a time choosing one story, though. I've written more than 50 since January 2010. Looking back on them, some are better than I remembered and some, meh, not so much. But I'm proud of all of them and grateful to #fridayflash. The weekly deadline and the support of the flash community was what drove me to do an incredible amount of writing. No way I'd have ever written that number of stories without flash. So thanks, Jon Strother, for coming up with such brilliance. And thanks, CJ, for inspiring me to try.

By the way, time is running out for you to enter my Knocked Up April Fool's door contest. Send me a photo of your door and then try to match up your favourite bloggers with their front doors. I am having a great time seeing everyone's doors and I know you will, too. Click that pink door badge at the top of my blog for details.

Finally, next week is Tony Noland's April Fool's blogswap, where a bunch of us flash writer types will be swapping blogs for the day. So yeah, I will have a story this week, if I can just get off my lazy arse and write one!

April Fool's day is also my son Angus' 14th birthday, as well as my Auntie Ellen's. I'm hoping both of them have a fabulous day and, Angus? Don't be expecting much, my sweet... mommy spent all her money on a Kindle. I hope you like your new underwear!!! 
Sorry, Auntie Ellen, I didn't get you any.
Maybe Angus will share?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

QR Codes - Really?

The big thing at my work right now is putting QR codes on everything.
If you're like me you're going WTF is a QR code? It's these little squares full of computerized gobbledygook that you can find in magazines, in ads, on the sides of buildings – anywhere that people can think to put it. 
The idea is you scan these codes with your cell phone and you're immediately connected to online information. Say you see the code in a real estate ad – you can scan the code and are instantly taken to a detailed description of the property you're interested in.
Which is fine. Just another way to disseminate information, right?
No! Not fine! To me it's just one step to the bad from bar codes at grocery stores and post office scans on our letters. Our whole world is being reduced to scans and codes and numbers. Pretty soon we won't need names or addresses – we'll plaster our forehead with a QR code that contains our driver's licence, rank and serial number. No more need for "Hello, My Name Is..." We'll just zap everyone with our cell phones.
The codes could be imbued with other important information as well:
Job interviews - "Am really hard working until the probationary period is over then frequently am caught drooling on my desk." Or, "Will kiss the boss's arse and buy doughnuts regularly."
Cocktail parties - "Married Romeo willing to cheat on wife and destroy our home." Or, "Single, lonely, with bad breath and a block-sized mole in an embarrassing place." Or, "Can't go home with you tonight because I forgot to shave my legs."
Church - "Bless me Father because I have sinned. Enclosed is a 164-page document with all indiscretions."
The other day I was watching Daily Planet and the hosts were talking about creating computers that mimic human emotions. Their example was a computer "nurse" who could show empathy to patients. I was like, "HELLO - WHY NOT HIRE A NURSE?"
We are living in '1984.' 
If we're not careful, we are going to make ourselves redundant in our own world.

In other news, April Fool's Day is drawing near. If you haven't sent me a photograph of your door for my Knocked Up Contest, get busy! It honestly should be the most mindless bit of fun you have trying to match the bloggers you know and love with their front doors. For details, click on the pink door badge at the top right of my blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Andy Warhol & the Ex

I'd like to welcome my latest blog follower – my ex-husband, Doug.
Hi Doug!
Not sure what I should do – stop writing about him or write about him more? 
*thinking, thinking*
While I ponder that I'd like to point out that I am making like Andy Warhol and enjoying my 15 minutes of fame this week over at Mari Juniper's site, Mari's Randomites. I, um, kinda bought my way there. Poor Mari; her computer blew up so she sent a plea out to the blogosphere asking for a little help, so I sent her a bit of cash and pleaded her case because, well, how can anyone last a day without a computer? Plus I wanted to be famous in Italy and that's where Mari lives. (Mari, do you live close to the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Does it make you nervous? It would make me nervous – I would so walk around it and not under it. Be careful, Mari. I don't want to hear you've been squished by a pisa, although I do prefer a thin crust.)
So she's saying thanks by writing about the folks who lent her a hand and today happens to be my day. I'm a little tiddly about the whole thing – everybody is saying such NICE things. 
Lou Freshwater said I have the best hair on the planet (Planet of the Apes, maybe) but she has never seen me in person and has no idea how talented I am in Photoshop.
Laura Eno said something about drafts... I never realized she was such a beer drinker. How does she drink so much beer and publish so many books? And I just finished one of her books, Prophecy Moon, and it wasn't slurred or anything.
John Wiswell called me a total sweetheart. Total, didja hear that? Not half a sweetheart. Not Canada's Sweetheart. TOTAL sweetheart. I didn't even know he had a thing for cereal. Did you?
 Oh, and my mom commented, too. Said something about people dying for hair like mine. Maybe she meant dying. Not sure. Does anyone else have their mom AND their ex reading their blog? Does this limit you saying bad words and writing #fridayflash sex scenes? Btw, my mom is a very talented writer and the nicest person I know. Check out her blog, Me & Molly, if you have a moment, and say hi.
By the way, have you been over to GP Ching's big launch party for her new book? I purchased The Soulkeepers for my two boys, one a teenaged newbie and one a tween. (Sam sez to me, "I'm not a kid anymore, Mom, I'm a tween.") So far this YA-geared novel has gotten rave reviews from both of them. Sam actually spent a couple of quiet hours glued to my Kindle reading it – amazing, huh? Anything that keeps one of my kids reading for that long is a thing of beauty.
If you'd like to enter her launch contest and win lots of Soulkeepers' swag, drop by GP's blog, So Write.

And again, may I point out the truly excellent time I had reading Laura Eno's book, Prophecy Moon. Really fine writing, really exciting, really good. 

OH! If you haven't entered my April Fool's Door Contest, what the heck are you waiting for? Just send me a photo of your damned door. That's it! For info, click on that ridiculously pink door at the top right of this page. I've been out buying some really cool and tacky prizes, including Canada mittens. (You know you want them - send me your damned door!)

I've got a lot of people to thank for some other cool stuff but I think I'll leave that until tomorrow. My fingers are getting tired of typing and if they're tired, I can only imagine how tired your poor brain must be reading.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Prophecy Moon

Late last summer I won Laura Eno's newest-at-the-time novel Prophecy Moon.
I think I had to flatter her more than anyone else to win it and, being as full of crap as I am, verbage-wise, it was an easy win.
Dutifully Laura autographed it, wrapped it up in safe packaging, went through all the rigamarole that sending anything across the border to Canada entails, and sent it on his way from Florida all the way to beautiful boonied Bracebridge, Ontario. I was so excited when I went to the post office one day and there it was.
  I read the first chapter right away and thought, wow, that is good! Then life got in the way. Wedding plans, the honeymoon, blogging, getting sick, it all added up to me not getting back to Laura's book the way I should have. Fact is, I hadn't read a book for so long it was downright embarrassing. Sure, I was reading every day, but I couldn't get around not picking up a book and sinking it into it the way I used to - the way I loved.
Every time I read Laura's blog I felt guilty that I hadn't read Prophecy Moon yet. She was probably wondering what the hold-up was.
Then, one day a few weeks ago, a friend at work brought in her Kindle. Now I had heard plenty about these little e-book-reading gadgets but never felt moved to buy one for myself until I laid eyes on Cathy Black's. Its matte screen, its adjustable type-size, its light weight, its smart leatherette case with built-in reading light, it all added up to love at first sight. I ordered one right away and the first book I downloaded was Prophecy Moon.
(The second book I downloaded was Shannon Esposito's Strange New Feet. I had purchased Shannon's book months and months earlier to read on my computer but, like everything else, I never got around to it. I promise you, Shannon, yours is on deck.)
I'm happy to say I finished Prophecy Moon no more than an hour ago and it was everything I knew it was going to be: exciting, romantic, well-written, hard to put down. The hero, Travis, is a deeply flawed character who has to fulfill his heroic destiny but with no idea how to go about it. His love interest, the equally heroic Elessa, is everything Travis is not. She is a walking, talking soldier with the soul of Mother Earth and the looks of a goddess. They are joined by a merry band of clever characters, all with various powers and magic skills.
You see, this isn't any average adventure - this is a Laura Eno book and, while it doesn't have Death, Chronos or Mr. Fluffy, it does weave some clever and dark fantasy into the romantic/sci fi mix. For this reason the book will appeal to many different people. My mother would love the romantic angle. My husband would dig the fantasy/science fiction. I appreciate how it all blends together so seamlessly and keeps me at the edge of my seat.
All in all, I can't figure out what took me so long to get around to it. Regardless, it was SO worth the wait.
If you'd like to pick up your own copy there are many places to go. Laura has a list of sites available at her own blog

Friday, March 18, 2011

You're Invited To A Goodbye Party For Jill's Breasts

Every once in a while you come across someone who just blows you away.
Jill Latendre is one of those people. 
She is the feisty, happy proprietor of Daisy-A-Day, a whimsical garden centre in the tiny Ontario town of Burk's Falls (not quite an hour north of where I live in Bracebridge). It's the kind of place you want to hang out in; the kind of place you can always find a funky gift for your mother or your aunt or someone hard to buy for.
One of the coolest things Jill ever did was get married, a few years ago, in a spectacular "redneck wedding," complete with camouflage pants and boots for the boys and all manner of fun stuff.
But she has outdone herself in the cool factor.
This Saturday she is having a party to say farewell to her breasts – and everyone is invited.
Jill has breast cancer and on the first day of spring she is having a double mastectomy. Not one to sit around a feel sorry for herself, Jill's party is a celebration of her body and her beautiful breasts. More than that, it's a fundraiser for cancer research.
If you can't make it to the party on Saturday, Jill has other ways you can contribute – she has all the information you need at the end of this post.
The following is the story she wrote for her local newspaper, the Almaguin News. It's one of the papers I do design work for and when I read her story I was literally blown away by her heart and her determination to make the most out of life – no matter what life serves up.
No, I don't have a #fridayflash this week. I thought Jill's story was far more important than anything I could write.

Mr. C Comes A Knocking
by Jill Latendre
Yahoo! Life is grand. I have finally reached that wonderful plateau. I have become a Snow Bird. Kick back and relax with fun in the sun. After nine months and seven days a week, work on my garden centre is now complete. I am so looking forward to the whole winter off, in a warm climate. But wait, what is this? I have just discovered a long, strange lump on my breast. Not to worry, I'm due for my yearly mammogram in October; it will prove to be a newly formed muscle.
My results are in. To my surprise I must have an ultrasound, no big deal; I've had to do that before. It is now November; our friends have stopped in for a visit. We are laughing together and sharing funny stories. The telephone rings and interrupts our visit. It is my family doctor; he is calling to let me know that my results are in. I am rather surprised when he tells me he will be scheduling an appointment with a specialist for further investigating.
Our doctor is aware that we are going away this winter, however I remind him again. There is quiet on the other end, then a sigh. A pause ... "Jill, you may have to make some alternate plans for your winter holiday. I'm sorry to have to say this over the phone, but we have found something suspicious looking with regards to your tests. I do not believe we can wait until April to check into this matter." A cold shivering feeling went down my spine; my arms are covered in goose bumps. I'm not sick. I feel great.
It is now December 15th and I am on my way to the specialist's appointment. My girlfriend Jenny decides to join me. We have just been advised that I have lumps in both breasts. I am a little shocked to hear that I must have a biopsy done for both breasts. This would determine if they are malignant or benign.
This appointment will not happen until January 4th, so I have decided to join my husband for a short two week holiday in Florida. Still feeling very confident about results, I will fly home for the test.
My doctor believes that the tumours are malignant and I must now have a series of tests to confirm his certainty.
I was about to embark on an adventure that was not a part of my plan this year. My husband Dave is now frantic and hundreds of miles away; he wants to come home. I am still insisting that all is well and I will be back in a few weeks time.
Wrong. In less than two months I would undergo eight separate tests. A few would be very invasive; the rest left me waiting with the fear of the unknown.
Looking on the bright side, I feel very lucky. I believe that my doctors and their assistants have pushed and demanded for these tests in quite a speedy fashion. I am convinced that I have the greatest doctors in the North. However a roller coaster of emotions have set in to invade my body. I felt as if I was losing complete control of my mind and my actions.
I now realize that my role as a mother, who has always had a good outlook on life, has changed. My two daughters, Shyla and Ashley, are now consoling me. They are making decisions for me and keeping me calm. I love them both so very much. 
My Guardian Angel, Jenny, has been with me from the beginning. She would even fast when I had to and keep my spirits lifted lifted. Feeling each and every emotion, she has now become me. Jenny is now my brain, my heart and my soul. Thinking of me, listening for me, acting on my behalf, feeling my heart beat and my head pound. 
Wayne, Rene, Barb and Darin are there for my every want or need. My family and all my friends are also close to my side. Saying prayers, cooking for me, hugging me and holding my hand. 
Judgment Day is approaching. Sleepless nights and anxious thoughts will not let me have peace. Today is January 28th; I will meet with the surgeon and two specialists at Saint Michael's Hospital in Toronto. My sister Robin and Jenny are by my side. Along with thoughts, prayers and love from my family and friends.
Questions are being asked of me by the doctors; my mind is frozen. Jenny and Robin have become my voice. What are they saying to me? Double mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Possibly radiation, too. My stomach is churning inside out; my eyes swelling with tears; my mind racing out of control. No this is not happening, not to me. I am a good person; a great mother; and friend to all. I have worked hard all of my life and have given myself to everyone who needs me. I have volunteered for my communities in every venue possible. How will I tell my husband? My family? My friends?
How will I operate my business, my contracts, clean my house, care for my gardens, look after my family? Is this possibly the worst day of my life?
I am now joining thousands of other people who have met Mr. C. 
The task of calling my husband, family and friends will be even more difficult. I can hardly speak. Robin and Jenny must take on yet another role to assist me. It is a gruelling day, tears are shared by all. People begin to offer words of hope; trying to comfort me. However, some do not give me any comfort at all.
These are some of the spoken words that a person who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer does not need to hear:
• You don't need those breasts anyway.
• They are just boobs.
• They have caught yours in time; my sister wasn't as lucky.
• My cousin died of breast cancer but treatment is better now.
• You can get a new set; pick the style and shape.
How would you like it if I said, "you don't need those lips; nose; leg or arm." I'm sorry, but losing ones breasts could be just as devastating as any other body part.
The good news is that I know that I am not going to die, nor am I alone. Thousands of women have been through this ordeal and are now much stronger for their life changes. I will survive, with a lot of help from my wonderful support team of family and friends.
Did you know that 500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each week in Canada? I do now and now so do you.
Each person deals with a tragic event in their own way. Hence this is the reason I wish to share my story. This is not for self-recognition, but to bring awareness to all who are reading. Mr. C can come a knocking when you least expect him. My mission now is to help others who have and will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. To many, my method may seem a bit bizarre, but it might just bring a smile or some laughter to your day: I will be hosting a party like no other before. Are you ready?
I invite everyone from far and wide and across the globe to support me in my fundraising event.
I will be saying goodbye to my breasts at Saint Michael's Hospital on March 21, 2011.
There are three ways in which you could make a donation to Breast Cancer Research in my honour:
1. Join me for my party, March 19, 2011 at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 405, Burk's Falls from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.
2. During the month of March 2011 visit the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 639 in Restoule, Ont. Pledge forms will be available.
3. Go online to the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of Jill Latendre-Langerud for Breast Cancer Research.
Tax receipts can be issued for donations of $20 or more providing that your name, address and postal or zip code are included.
Thank you to all who have read and participated in my fundraising event.
Sincerely and forever grateful,
Jill Latendre-Langerud

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring? Some day ...

The ice is out!
Finally I sense spring is coming to the Muskoka River. The ice has finally disappeared – it's the first time we've seen running winter since December. Yes, the snowbanks are still piled high but I have faith they will eventually disappear.
Maybe even in time for next year's freeze-up.

We're having a St. Patrick's Day pot luck at work today and folks could bring anything they wanted with one caveat: it had to be green.
This is my potato salad. Mmm, mmm, good!
(I know. It looks like something the dog barfed up. I'm wondering how much I'll be bringing home tonight...)
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Oh, and here's the pix of our pot luck stuff, as per Harry. We've got Irish Stew, homemade Irish soda bread, spinach salad, Caesar salad, green broccoli and chicken salad, my disgusting potato salad, spinach dip, green grapes, Irish cheese and my friend Jason's incredible Pineapple Fluff (sadly hidden by the red lid). It was all yummy and Deb, you missed out on a fine Irish feast!
By the way, this joke is courtesy of my friend Sarah who is as Irish as Irish comes.. she even painted her nails green for today. She recommends saying "Whale Oil Beef Hooked" with an Irish accent.
That's how you'll feel after eating my potato salad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayers for Japan

What to say?
That, like everyone else, I'm devastated by what's going on in Japan? I mean, doesn't that practically go without saying? I watch the news and my stomach does backflips. I'm as afraid of a nuclear disaster as I've ever been afraid of anything.
No longer can we ever be lulled by the 'experts' who say, "nuclear power is safe." Because it isn't.
No matter what we do to try and buffet our nuclear facilities from Mother Nature (Japan) and from our own mistakes (Chernobyl), we can't prevent these disasters. We can not built an absolute earthquake-safe nuclear facility. If nothing else, this fresh horror in Japan is living, dying proof of our arrogance.
Reminds me of the oil spill in the Gulf a few months back. Oil companies promise they can pump and deliver oil without hurting the environment but their promises have proved, time and again, to be empty and worthless.
Dave and I were talking about the nuclear meltdown in Japan and he said, "People complain about wind turbines but, you know what? In an earthquake, the turbine falls down and, unless you happen to be directly underneath it, you won't get hurt."
The same can't be said of nuclear generating stations.
I think the world should stand up and say NO MORE nuclear power.
If present alternatives aren't enough, more alternatives need to be found.

Of course, more than anything, I want to reach out to the people of Japan. I can't even imagine what they are going through.
Sending our prayers, sending our money, it's all needed.
If you are Canadian, go to the Canadian Red Cross website here. If you don't feel comfortable donating money online, go to your bank. Financial institutions all over the country are accepting donations for the Red Cross effort to help Japan.
Google has set up a detailed resources site here, where you can donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross.

Many of my online friends are also doing what they can to help. Linda over at Leftbrainwrite is offering to give one dollar for every comment she receives on her post "After the Shock." Go. Leave a comment. It won't cost you a dime.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cabin (WOOT) Fever

Photo: MJacqueline, stock.xchng

Suddenly I feel like Sally Field when she won the Academy Award for the 1984 film Places in the Heart: "You like me, right now, you like me!"
Best award acceptance speech ever, by the way.
Last night, just before bed, I found out I had won first prize in the Quilt Seams Just Right First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition. "You like me!" (I can't stop saying that - I don't think WOOT was invented back then but Sally would have said it, I'm sure!)
Photo: Darktaco, stock.xchng
I seriously didn't think I had any chance, but I'd check back to the Umbrella Lady's blog now and then, just kinda hoping. Kathy (aka the Umbrella Lady) was only posting the three winners and when I saw Laurita Miller won third prize I was like, oh well, there goes the neighbourhood. Laurita will SO kick my sorry butt. You can read her entry, Cabin Fever, here. Also, if you haven't checked out Laurita's new blog, you really should. Calling Shotgun has all the quirky charm and Newfoundland sensibility I have grown to love about this talented writer.
I was really impressed with second prize winner Barbara Bruederlin who wrote a fabulous poem called Barricade.  Barb has a popular blog called Bad Tempered Zombie - definitely worth a read. Not only is she a great Canadian writer, she's a real sparkplug. I always enjoy seeing what she has to say.
When I saw the first prize post last night I checked it out right away, wanting to see who had won. When I saw my name, I started to bawl and was so excited I lay in bed for hours with a stupid grin on my face.
Thanks Kathy. You've certainly made my year.
Hugs to you, Laurita and Barb and everyone who had a stab at this fun little contest.
Best thing about it? One of the prizes is a Tim Hortons gift card!
Now THERE'S something to WOOT about!