Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review - 2011

All newspapers do a Year in Review this time of year, partly because there's nothing much going on in the community except drunken carousing, but partly because we feel a need, as human beings, to look back on what we've accomplished. We want to know, was it all worthwhile? Did we come out on the other side with anything other than a few new wrinkles and a lot more bills?

This is my third Review since I started blogging. Hard to believe Life on the Muskoka River is that old. It all still feels new. I still feel like a luddite, a beginner; sometimes I feel the blogging run has dried up and come to a close. Then I remember why I started blogging in the first place: because I missed writing my column in the weekly newspapers I used to work for. This blog has always been, and will always be, my column. It just doesn't get printed anymore. Oh, and I don't get paid, either. Who cares, though. When you're a columnist, you don't write for yourself as much as you're writing for your boss and for readers. This blog thing, well, it's for me. It's my venting, my personal recording device, my diary, my calendar. I've met friends here, really really wonderful friends, and the blog itself has become my friend. Sitting here at my laptop, banging out a few words here and there and tossing them to the internet winds, is as comfortable as my old jeans – the ones I shrunk out of and am now going to throw out.

Speaking of shrinking, 2011 was the year I realized how fat I was and how I needed to do something about it. I started Weight Watchers at the end of July and have since lost 52.5 pounds. I have let myself enjoy the Christmas holidays but I haven't lost sight of my goal and plan on losing another 50 pounds by July 1. That way I'll be bathing-suit ready when summer holidays roll around (I'm planning on stuffing any extra skin into my bikini top to make me look more well-endowed). My August photo for 2011 was chosen with a great deal of pain. It's the photo of me in a hammock at Inverhuron Provincial Park. Before losing weight, I would never, ever have shown you this photo. I look like an old, fat whale, bloated, pale and, oh, I dunno, BLOATED is as good a word as any. (Kudos to Dave for loving such a fat wife.) It physically makes me uncomfortable to look at it, but I need to see it and realize how fat I was. I can't go back there. I'm getting too old for not looking after myself. A body like that can cause a heart attack and, gawd, I want to at least finish writing my novel before I croak.

2011 was also about writing. This was the year I realized I could actually write a book, thanks to the encouragement of all my writerly friends and a successful run at National Writing Month. Writing 50,000 words in the month of November was gruelling but exhilarating all at the same time. I am now only 10 to 30,000 words away from finishing the book and it's my goal in January to get most of that done. I want it edited and sent off to publishers by the end of 2012. I'm going to shop it around first but am not going to get hung up on publishing the old-fashioned way. If it doesn't get picked up fairly quickly, I'm going to publish it myself. It's a good story. It will make people laugh and cry, and it deserves to be read. Whether that will be in the book store or via Amazon, matters not a whit. It's a fabulous time to be a writer and you can't believe how excited I am to be doing this.

Looking back, 2011 was a pretty good year. I rediscovered the joy of bicycling and cycled almost every day here along the riverbank, as well as on trails on some of this province's most beautiful parks.

I felt settled at work, despite the newspaper industry's state of flux. I contributed every chance I could and I feel my brainier efforts were recognized and rewarded. I finally feel like part of the team and that's a very good feeling.

My family life is solid, warm and welcoming. I have a wonderful marriage, I really do, and I continue to be amazed by my children as they grow up into intelligent, unselfish young men. My mom has had a rough go of it, healthwise, this Christmas but her indomitable spirit will see her through and I wish her nothing but good health in the coming year.

I have good friends. The best, really. I'm lucky, and I know it. I live a peaceful, happy, comfortable life in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

It may not be perfect, but what the feck is?

Happy New Year, everyone!

January 5, 2011
The view from our driveway.
The south arm of the Muskoka River was almost frozen over.  The world was white and wonderful.
I had the WORST cold in the first two months of 2011. I was never so sick and miserable.
OK, so I probably was. But it's whiny-cool to exaggerate like that.
The dead birch in the foreground finally broke off and floated downstream at the end of the year.
The big dead spruce is still there, though. It's a great cover for little fish and the big fish
who drop by to gobble them up.

February 19, 2011 
At the Big Nickel in Sudbury, Ont., freezing our nuts off.
Man, it was COLD. We were up north to watch our friend's daughter, Megan,
play in a hockey tournament with the Almaguin Gazelles. We had an AWESOME
time! As well as hooting and hollering at the hockey rink, we found time for
some tourist-trapping. Science North was closed but we did enjoy our tour of
Dynamic Earth and our photo-op with the world's biggest nickel.

March 26, 2011 
Posing with my pal and colleague Pamela Steel (and her pooch) at
a sugaring off party in her Port Sydney neighbourhood. Every year her neighbours
collect sap from the local trees and then get together to boil it down and share the
resulting sweetness. Speaking of sweet, the dear Mizz Steel
(amazing bestselling cookbook author, award-winning newspaper writer extraordinaire
AND chef) is someone I desire to be exactly like. Thanks for the party invite, Pamela!
We had a suh-weet time!

April 18, 2011
OK, this is ridiculous. I can't believe it's been since last April that
we were at Deb and Dave's house. We had the BEST time, drinking coffee and
talk-talk-talking and laugh-laugh-laughing about everything and nothing. The occasion
was bringing my favourite Great White North blogger buddy her prizes in my Damned Door Contest,
but really it was just an excuse to fraternize with some really outstanding
people. Seriously, Deb, we have to get together again soon. Hopefully before next April.

May 7, 2011
Every spring Dave and I go up north to Kiosk
for our spring fishing trip. This spring we went twice! Once
with family (Tom and Sue Webster) and once by ourselves.
The first time we got skunked, fish-wise (there was still ice
on the lake when we arrived) but the following weekend
we caught plenty. One of our biggest pleasures is camping,
being outdoors and fishing. Kiosk always signals the
beginning to camping season. This year, however, we're
starting things even earlier: we have booked a weekend in
a "yurt" in Killarney Provincial Park. Winter camping!
Bring it ON!

June 27, 2011 
My blue-haired baby, Angus, graduated from
Grade 8. The whole fam-damily showed up to cheer him on.
Thank goodness his hair is back to being blonde as he navigates
his way through the horrors of Grade 9. I remember Grade 9 with
no small amount of wretchedness. I keep telling him, things will
get better when all the dough-heads drop out. Hang in there!

July 16, 2011
Killarney Provincial Park. Dave and I left the trailer at home and
only took the tent and our canoe for an absolutely fabulous camping weekend.
Killarney has to be one of the most beautiful parks I've ever visited.
Staggering white granite mountains; crystal clear water. A zillion miles
from the madding crowds. 

August 8, 2011 
Two weeks into my diet. I'd already lost nearly nine pounds.
I am embarrassed by my bloated ugliness in this photo and thrilled that I don't look
like this anymore. Since then I have lost 52.5 pounds and dyed my hair back to its normal
brown colour. The woman in this photo was unknowingly drowning in an unhappy sea of fat.
I feel so much better now – and I still have so far to go. Losing weight is the
hardest thing anyone can do, but it's so worth it. If you're starting a diet in the new
year, I wish you nothing but luck. Let me know how it goes, will you? I think we need
to support each other.

September 30, 2011 
This was the night I met superstar Canadian author
Margaret Atwood. She was LOVELY, FUNNY, GRACIOUS and really, really cute!
Then, she TWEETED me! Squeeeeeeeee!!!!

October 8, 2011 
For everyone else, Thanksgiving weekend was a time of feasting
and gaining weight. Not for me and my bestie, Tammy. We spent all the entire
weekend at Algonquin Park, hiking, cycling and walking. We never quit.
It was like bootcamp, only with turkey. And it was FUN! Tammy is my inspiration.
She has lost a great deal of weight and she is more determined than anyone I know.
She is also a wonderful, loving friend and I consider myself lucky to know her.

November 23, 2011 
In the homestretch of finishing NaNoWriMo (National Writing
Month), in which insane people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words of
a novel in the month of November. It was a horror show some days, I have to be honest,
but the thrill of banging down most of my novel in a month was FAN-FECKING-TASTIC.
My writing buddies were always my two lazy cats. And that's a sock stuck to my foot,
in case you were wondering. 

December 25, 2011
Walking along the banks of the Muskoka River. This seemed
like an appropriate photo to finish with ... walking into the great unknown of
another year. Will it hold great things? Will everyone be healthy and happy?
Will I finish my book? Lose another 50 pounds? Save some money?
Will I blog?
Does a bear shit in the woods?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deck the halls with boughs of vomit

I was humming Christmas carols this morning while making coffee.

This happens to me every year. I'm slow getting into the Christmas spirit but, by the time it's over, I'm in full-on, meet-me-under-the-mistletoe, buy-something, wrap-something, eat-something seasonal-greetings splendour. So I feel like the little brother in A Christmas Story, the kid who is so overdressed that he can't walk, can't run, can't fart, and is continuously whining, "Come on guys, wait up guys, oh guys..." That's me, whining, as the Christmas train blows past.

Yesterday was one of those days you wish never happened. We were headed north to visit friends we hadn't seen in some time. Sam seemed fine before we left. He was having a little trouble going to the bathroom (he gets constipated sometimes) but nothing untoward. He started looking uncomfortable just as we passed the last turn-off to civilization and public bathrooms. When it was clear we were in the land of nothing-but-swamps-and-bush, he suddenly announced, "I gotta have a crap and I feel like I'm gonna throw up!"

Nothing speeds a driver to a curb as fast as a kid saying the throw-up word. Tires squealed and my face just missed hitting the dash as Dave swerved off the highway. I jumped out to help Sam get out of the car safely and then watched as he scrabbled down a steep, snow-covered embankment. At first it looked like he was going to throw up, all gaggy and retchy and such. Then, without further adieu, he yanked down his jeans and squatted in the ditch.

I was impressed and repulsed all at the same time. My kid was going to defecate at the side of a busy four-laned highway. I have Crohn's disease and I wouldn't be caught doing that in a zillion years. I can't see very well at the moment (my cataracts) so I thought, maybe he's only peeing.

"Are you peeing?" I asked. Hopefully.

"I'm crapping," said my son.

Oh geez.

"I'll go get you some Kleenex," I said. I grabbed a box out of the car.

Dave asked, "Is he puking?"

"No," I said, "apparently he is crapping."

"Oh geez," Dave said.

I thought I could just lob the Kleenex box straight to Sam, but I missed by, like, 20 feet and thus had to slide down the embankment towards the crapping child to wrangle the box out of the only tree in the ditch and hand it over. I did so, discreetly, not wanting to embarrass Sam, who was already crapping in front of every person driving north on one of Ontario's busiest north-south highways and probably didn't care one iota about crapping in front of his mother. Although I would never crap in front of my mother. I don't think. Maybe if I was desperate. OK, so Sam was desperate.

Moving on, we came to Burk's Falls where there is a Tim Horton's.

"Sam," I said, "would you like to go to Timmy's and use their bathroom?"

"Yes," said Sam.

Thank goodness, I thought. An actual bathroom will be so much less embarrassing than a ditch. While Sam was in the bathroom, Angus and I went to the counter and ordered coffee and hot chocolate. I was just about to pay the nice young cashier when Sam came up to us, white-faced and sick-looking.

"Mom," he said, "I just vomited in the bathroom."

The cashier's smile disappeared but she continued to get my change.'

Inside I was thinking, "isn't it cute how he uses the word vomit?" What I said was, "You threw up in the toilet, right?"

Sam shook his head. "There was somebody on the toilet so I vomited on the floor."

All colour drained from the cashier's face and, I swear, went to mine. I looked to her and squeaked, "I'm sorry."

"That's OK," she said, but I wasn't convinced.

I told Sam to go back in the men's room and wash up. Apparently he still had to use the toilet as well, "but the man who was in there got poo all over the seat," so he decided against it.

Those poor Timmy's staff. Cleaning up my son's vomit and some old guy's poo. There ain't enough money in the world to pay me to do that.

Top photo: my new coat and mittens I found under the tree. Thanks Santa!
Second photo: Misty in her Christmas dress.
Third: Dave with our festive mailbox.
Fourth: my handsome non-puking men - Sam, Dave and Angus.
Fifth: me and Dave wishing you and yours a happy ho-ho-ho.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A country church on Christmas Eve

A baby, face red and damp with sleep, dozes in his mother's arms.

His older brother, in a Santa hat, squishes down on the small spot left on her knee.

Her eyes are heavy; they almost close during Silent Night. Two long weeks of shopping, wrapping and cooking with two young children in tow has worn down her edges. She is soft in the glow of candles. Around her the Christmas Eve congregation sings lustily of peace and the birth of Christ, but the young mother dreams of just one night of uninterrupted sleep.

Her baby's hands are chubby and small. I long to reach over and touch them. I remember how perfect a baby's fingers are, like silk, like joy, like love.

He stirs and opens his sleepy eyes. The old man behind smiles at the tyke. The baby smiles back. The young mother kisses his forehead, kisses his cheek, touches him with her loving fingers and her soul.

This is Christmas.

This crowded country church.

These people.

This moment.

This is Christmas and this is why I love it.

To all my friends far and near, may happiness and peace find your heart this Christmas.
And may you find love, the greatest gift of all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Best commercial ever!

Oh man. This is SUCH a great TV commercial, I just had to share. It's so "Muskoka," it might as well have been filmed at my house – I swear, that's the beaver who hangs out at our dock.

Ironically, we can't subscribe to Netflix because we live so far out in the boonies that there's no Wi-Fi service. I don't have any idea how the beaver managed to get it at his house.

I'm gonna have to have a word with that buck-toothed rodent.

Speaking of videos, you simply MUST drop around to see my Newfoundland friend Alan at Conversations From Land's Edge. He just posted about the Rock's unique and wonderful tradition of Mummering and the clip he shared from an old CBC special is just DELIGHTFUL. So Canadian. So very, very sweet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas photos from the chocolate box

"Christmas isn't the same anymore." That's what my mom said last night.

"Your father loved Christmas and it doesn't seem the same without him."

I found these old photos in a long-empty chocolate box when I was looking for photos of him and Aunt Judy for my last post. When all of these were taken, Christmas was pure, unadulterated magic. My siblings and I would get so wound up on Christmas Eve that we'd puke all night. My poor mother. It was bad enough, doing all the work she had to do to prepare, without the added burden of holding back hair, wiping foreheads and cleaning up from those who didn't make it down the hall.

My mom says Christmas isn't the same without Dad, but it has always been Mom who has made the holiday spring to life. She never missed a beat: all the food was homemade and fabulous. Her fudge was neighbourhood renowned. She stored it in a green Tupperware crisper in the bar fridge in the basement, making it in advance so there'd be plenty on Dec. 25. We'd steal it every chance we got in the weeks before, until, invariably, she'd be forced to make fudge on Dec. 24 because we'd cleaned the Tupperware out of everything but crumbs.

Mom had a record book for Christmas cards. In the days before computers, this was her storage unit of addresses, births, deaths, who sent a card last year, who was sent a card, new people, old people – it was all there. As a result, our own house was filled with cards from well-wishers from far and near. Mom hung them all over the house, resplendent in their own Christmassy glory.

She shopped, she wrapped, she decorated, she baked, she worked and worked and worked and I never heard a word of complaint.

Mom, maybe you're feeling a little down this year, maybe you do feel Christmas isn't the same without Dad. But I can tell you, without any word of a lie, that as long as we have you, we will always have Christmas.

Top photo: My mom on Christmas morning in Markham, Ont., mid-1970s.
Above, family photo in Midland. That's me, Mom, my brother Billy and my Dad.
We were posed in the parlour of the old Victorian house on Seventh Street.
 It was a room we were almost never allowed in – the exception
was piano practice and Christmas Day. This photo was probably taken in 1965,
before my sister, Liz, was born in 1967. I remember that old teddy bear.
Much loved, it was.

My parents, probably at a New Year's Eve party.
Look how young and adorable they are.

Christmas, mid-1970s. I think I was in Grade 11 because I remember that stupid haircut.
That's my cousin, Karen, in my lap with one of her ratty dolls. She got a new doll every Christmas
and then proceeded to demolish it with bubble gum and jam and other muck.
On the couch is her brother, Paul, with her parents, Uncle Howard and Aunt Mary,
as well as my brother and my dad.

Once Christmas morning was out of the way we went to my grandparents' house in Buttonville, Ont.
That's a photo of me with my Grandma, Hazel Hooper (and my cousin David in the foreground).
Grandma's house plays a big part in the novel I'm writing. This room, in fact, stars as
Weezie Polk's refuge from the big bad world. The house is torn down, has been for decades,
to make room for a stupid industrial plaza, but I'll never forget it.

Bill, Liz and me, probably around 1973.
Doesn't everybody look kind of dopey and messed up on Christmas morning?
Or was it just us? Liz certainly looks raring to go!

Not sure what year this was, but I was probably a senior in high school, judging by my haircut.
(How I judge everything but I really am terrible at remembering dates.)
One of our family's many traditions included a photo of stocking hanging on Christmas Eve.

Check out the tape recorder one of us got for Christmas. At the time it was
pretty high-tech equipment.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faces in a Crowd

Ghosts are everywhere.

In a flash, in a breath, on one tactile whoosh of heart.

I am adjusting a newspaper photograph taken at a children's Christmas party. The computer screen is lit up with squealing children dressed in their dime store best, sateen dresses with tube socks and scuffed running shoes; daddys' ties hanging crookedly under grinning freckled, dimpled chins; cheap, borrowed Santa suit, velvet rubbed off the elbows and knees, stomach pillow protruding beneath matted fake fur.

A woman in the background catches my eye. Smiling, middle-aged, with loose bleached blonde curls and dark roots, big-bosomed, blue frosty eyeshadow gleaming in the mid-audience gloom.

Aunt Judy.

Big laugh, terrible cook, huge heart.

Scrappy. Punched out my uncle's first wife at the side of a highway one day.

Grew up hard but knew the meaning of love. Survived a first husband that beat her and a fire that destroyed everything in her house but hope.

Forearms ringed with deep, ropey scars.

Had a thing for angels.

Never anything but wonderful to me.

Dead for five years; cancer. I went to see her on her deathbed. She was conscious, eyes sharp-lit with pain. Her children and grandchildren waited outside. I held her hand and remembered the time she made lemon meringue pie from scratch, only she forgot to add sugar and our mouths puckered up like they'd been slapped then turned inside out.

"I can't talk," she had said. So I talked for both of us, stupidly.


I am at the fall fair watching the horse pull. Surrounded by old farmers in suspenders and young bucks in John Deere ball caps, air redolent with manure, chewing tobacco and cotton candy. Sun too hot for autumn sweaters, tied carelessly around women's waists. Kids whine, kids puke, kids are kids. A swift breeze riffs through my son's still-10-year-old hair.

I see him in the crowd. Plaid long-sleeved shirt tight over a round Molson muscled belly. Black vinyl eyeglass case in his front pocket. Blue work pants, filthy cuffs. Silver hair, barely thinning.


Five years gone.

The blood thins through my heart in a fractured sigh.

Photos, from top: Aunt Judy and Uncle George at Christmas in our rec room in Markham, Ont., circa 1975.
Dad heading off to work at the Canadian Pacific Railway in Midland, Ont., sometime in the early 1960s.
Heading off to work again – this time from our home in Markham, probably in the late 1970s.
Mom and Dad on a trip out west, circa 1988. This was Dad's 'uniform' of his later years. Plaid shirt, suspenders, ball cap.
Dad on a snowmobile trip in the Haliburton area, sometime in the late 1970s. I love this photo of him. So handsome. My son, Angus, now drives this snowmobile, a 340 Olympic Ski-Doo.
I miss my Dad, so much. This photo brings me to tears.

Cat poo for Christmas and owie-owie-owie

The cat is so damned annoying sometimes. He's under the Christmas tree, as we speak, stepping on stuff. Oh wait, now he's on the pile of paper in the burn pile, pawing it around. I hope he doesn't think it's kitty litter – he's not the brightest feline on the block. One thing I don't want to unwrap on Christmas morning is a dessicated cat turd.

Ask me what we did this weekend. Go ahead. Ask.

We bought a new TV Saturday morning. We had to, because the old one died. Well, it didn't die so much as whimpered a bit. Occasionally there were purple blotches on the right side of the screen. And then yellow splotches showed up sometimes on the right. Dave has been drooling over the new big screen TVs for some time and those splotches were enough to send him over the edge and straight into the arms of the local TV store. God help me if I ever get splotches on one side. Even a fat zit might be enough to see my arse plunked on the sidewalk.

But we couldn't just get a TV, oh no. We had to redo our entire living room. The old TV was one of those square tube jobbies and it was housed in a solid pine entertainment centre that Dave had built himself back in the early '90s. My husband is a talented woodworker and this puppy was phenomenal – it also had big hair – but it was designed for the old tube TVs so it wasn't any good for our new one. So it was off to IKEA for a new TV stand. Only we couldn't just get a stand – we had to get a matching wall shelf and a book shelf because IKEA is like crack and we had two gift cards from our wedding (thank you Mark and Dave O) and My Name is Cathy and I'm an IKEA-holic.

IKEA is a long way away from life here in the Muskoka boonies so the shopping trip took most of the day. Especially when it was combined with a trip to the Mandarin buffet (oh gawd, it's Weight Watchers tonight – I'm screwed). We got home early Saturday night and Dave set right to work putting the IKEA stuff together. Dave is all too familiar with the IKEA alan-key but obviously I wasn't thinking straight when I said, "You're an old pro at this now. You should be able to put this stuff together in your sleep."

I was in the other room when I heard hims swearing. The first time. Two of the three items were almost completely assembled when he realized he had a couple pieces on backwards and thus had to tear them all apart and start over. The first time he had a sense of humour about it. The second time, not so much.

Yesterday we finished the assembling and started renovating. Because essentially this is what we did. Everything had to be moved out of the living room. All the CDs, DVDs, decks of cards, old photos, books, candles and crap had to be emptied out of the old entertainment centre. Then we had to carry the thing (did I mention it's solid pine?) up to the bunkie. The bunkie, in case you didn't know, and how could you unless you've been here, is a separate apartment on the second floor above our garage. In the summer we use it as a guest house and in the winter it's simply a big crap warehouse.

Oh. That thing was heavy. And oh, my back. My shoulders. My legs. My arms. Even my butt hurts. How did that happen? Dave obviously doesn't realize I was built for eating bon-bons on the couch, not heaving couches up narrow steep flights of stairs. Did I mention we also moved a couch? Needlessly? Once we got all the IKEA stuff set up we had room for another seat of some kind. I suggested the love seat we have in the bunkie. So, after pushing that heavy mother of an entertainment centre up the stairs, we brought down the almost-as-heavy love seat down the stairs. Only to find out it was way too big for our space. (Can anyone say "measure first?") Before we could fully grasp how stupid we were, we moved it back up those stairs. Cathy's Furniture Moving Service: Moving  Crap Needlessly Around Since 2011.

See that pine thing on the left?
That's the old entertainment centre. Twenty-ton Tessie.
Living room's a mess.

That's not a smile on Dave's face. It's a grimace.
Just a moment before he was saying, "I don't WANT my fecking picture taken."

Dave's ass.

"Are you taking pictures of my ass?"
"No, of course not. I'm taking pictures of the Christmas tree."

Our new living room. Notice I took photos while sports was on
because I am so interested in go-kart racing or whatever it is that's playing. 

I have a bookcase! I have a bookcase!
More excited about this than the TV. Okay, so that's not true.
It is pretty good, though.
Now I have a place to store all the books I feel guilty about not reading.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love You and other baloney

"Love you," said my ex-husband.

To me.

Last night on the phone.

OK, so it's just a lingering habit after 19 years of marriage. Or maybe he still does love me because, frankly, who doesn't love me (HAR), and he finally realizes that I was the best frickin' thing that ever happened to him and now he's sorry. Probably though, he only said it because he says it all the time to the kids, his mother, his stepfather, the cashier at Scrawl-Mart and whatever young figure-skating, money-counting ditch pig tart he's seeing; whoever. Whomever. Whatever. He hasn't said it to me, though. Not lately. Not since his cheating shit hit the family fan about a hundred years ago.

He said it and then he realized what he said and then the bluff blustery apologies spewing out of his gob made me feel like puking. And then laughing. Hysterical laughing.

"Yeah, yeah," I said. Brusquely. (I love the word brusque – it's so curt, even when it's an adverb.)

And I hung the hell up.

(That's our wedding photo. August 16, 1986. It was the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. We got married at sunset, on the edge of the pond on my parents' farm. Our reception was held in the barn they had just built. There was a corn roast and porta-potties and food from the ladies of the Eastern Star. We forgot to cut the cake. Marvellous Marvin was the DJ and he was anything but marvellous. I was young and cuter than I thought and stupid as hell. My father looked handsome in his tuxedo, though pensive. He looks like he knew what I was in for, and was worried.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Catherine Austen in my mailbox

The mailbox, just one more thing around here that makes me feel guilty.

Why I think I have time for reading is beyond me. One of my bloggy friends, Kathy, was complaining recently that she had only read "less than" two dozen books since September. Seriously? ONLY a couple of dozen? The only book I have read in its entirety since my holidays last summer, is The War of Art, which is a very, very slim book and easily digested. (Kathy, you should read this – I guarantee it will help you shake writer's block).

Granted, I've been writing, which to me is better, karmic-wise, than reading. But still – reading has somehow deserted me and I'm not sure how to get it back. I have this vague notion that I will miraculously find time to read, sometime soon, but no concrete plans on how to bring this about. As a result I have books piling up that deserve to be read. They sit there, in various spots around the house, screaming at me every time I walk by. They're like Jewish grandmothers, sans the chicken soup, making me feel guilty at every turn.

Icy Sedgwick's delicious looking western pulp fiction, The Guns of Retribution, sits on the desktop of my computer. Every time I turn on the laptop, the e-book glares at me. It is such a cool looking book, too. The cover is amazing. It sits there, waiting non too patiently, while I write my own book. I am torn by indecision. Should I write? Should I read? I choose writing, because the book can wait but my own muse can not. But I feel guilty and sure that Icy is gonna pull out her own guns of retribution some day.

Beside my bed is the half-finished award-winning novel by Terry Fallis, The Best Laid Plans. It is such a good book. So funny. It always makes me laugh. It's sitting gathering dust with my half-finished copy of The Help, which is also a wonderful book. Unfortunately I went to see the movie before I was finished reading and no longer feel the need to finish it. I hear CBC is making a movie about Best Laid Plans. God help me, I hope I get the book done before the movie comes out.

Dave has practically adopted my Kindle, which is chock full of books I haven't read yet. He has been reading it every night. First he fell in love with Aaron Polson's book, Loathsome, Dark and Deep. Then he downloaded a bunch of Louis L'Amour westerns. Dave loves his westerns. I think I'm going to have him read Icy's book. Two birds with one stone, kind of thing.

As if I don't have enough to feel guilty about, my mailbox recently filled up with two books by Catherine Austen. I won them during a blog book tour. Which is fabulous, right? All I have to do now is read them!

The first book is 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, a book seemingly made for my youngest son, Sam, who currently is in Grade 5 and is no doubt worried about Grade 6. I suspect this book is more for girls than boys (due to the magenta coloured cover) but Sam was looking for something to read on the weekend so I gave him this and he was on to page 31 in half an hour, a clear sign that the book is good.

The other book is All Good Children, a young adult story whose back blurb says, "Living with hope is like rubbing up against a cheese grater. It keeps taking slices off you until there's so little left you just crumble." Oh dear. It sounds deep. And sad. And yet funny, all at the same time. Life is like a cheese grater? Perfect! It is, isn't it? It gets the job done but you always wind up with fingernail in your lasagna. Way to be real, Catherine.

Catherine Austen, by the way, sounds really interesting. Here's the bit she posted about herself on her blog:
"I live in Quebec with my husband, Geoff, and our children, Sawyer and Daimon. We live with our old dog, Charlie, and our young cats, Isis and Playdoh. We have a little house with a big yard full of rodents, rabbits, and the occasional fox and falcon. It is inspiring.
"I write reports for corporate clients to help pay the bills. I enjoy all kinds of writing, but I get irritable if I don't take the time to write fiction regularly. I think up stories while walking my dog, exercising, and staring out of windows.
I like to write funny things and sad things. I'm not much good at any other kind of thing. I don't always understand what I write until I've written it and read it back a few times. When I write something well, I feel more like its witness than its creator.
"I like yoga, drums, and swimming with flippers on my feet. I quilt by hand in front of the television while watching So You Think You Can Dance. I make good cookies and great salads. I take awesome photographs of mushrooms.
"I love wildlife, music and museums. I don't care about houses, clothes, or celebrity gossip. I hate fashion magazines, but I sometimes read them in waiting rooms and find them hard to put down. I love to read aloud (books, that is, not fashion mags)."
Doesn't she sound cool? I think so. I'll let you know more when I read her books. And finish Terry's. And read Icy's. And every book I've got enthusiastically languishing around my person.

P.S. to Shannon Esposito - my mom just finished reading Strange New Feet and she LOVED it. Thought you should know!