Saturday, May 31, 2014

An amazing, must-read story - The Reasons

Just now I finished an amazing book.

It had such power that I feel like I've had the wind knocked out of me.

I can't really recall many books that have made me feel that way, and for some reason I am doubly surprised that I know the author. How can someone I know write that damned good??? Stupid thing to say, isn't it? Besides, I know many tremendous writers, but Kevin Craig, well, I've talked to him. I've shared meals with him, and I knew he was good – he's won the Muskoka Novel Marathon about a hundred billion times (four, actually) – but, shit, I had no idea he was that good.

The Reasons is a family story centred around a mother – Maggie Reason – with severe mental illness and her helpful and troubled son, Tobias. There's more to the family, a couple of sisters and an ex-husband, but the story is told by Maggie and Tobias, switching viewpoints at the beginning of each chapter.

Some bad stuff happens to the Reasons. Stuff that would destroy even the sanest families. I can't tell you exactly what, or I'd be spoiling it for you, but the plot isn't what grabbed me. Sure, it kept me turning pages, but it was the way Kevin wrote it that absolutely blew me away. He is a master of prose, truly, a master, and his insights into the human condition (which are Oprah-worthy, I kid you not) coupled with is easy style and his earnest prose, put me in mind of some of my all time favourite novels: The Shipping News, for example. Or anything by Margaret Laurence.

Take this quote, for example. It's the first time I ever highlighted anything on my Kindle and I almost screwed it up – for a moment I thought I'd erased entire paragraphs! But it touched me deep inside, these words from the mouth of Maggie, and I wanted to share them with you:

Like icebergs, we are all mostly under water. A faint glimmer of each of us rises above the surface and is visible for a short pocket of time. When those islands disappear, though ... they are not lost. They flourish beneath the surface. We are still attached where it matters ...
I am a ship. The ocean is vast. But I am not leaving the island of Deja and disappearing off the horizon. I am moored to it. And she to me. Like time, the waters rise and fall. Her time is beneath the surface.
But that is fine with me. I have nothing but time. I will bide it.

Oh be still my heart. Such glorious, meaningful writing. I flew through this book; absolutely couldn't put it down, and when I had finished the last, heart-stopping chapter, I went back and read the final pages again and again.

The Reasons isn't Kevin Craig's first book. He is also the author of Summer on Fire and Sebastian's Poet, both available on Amazon. He's also an accomplished poet, playwright, father and grandfather, and, just this week, he walked the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, with conviction, and with joy. (And probably with sore feet.)

I always knew Kevin was a cool person, but until I finished The Reasons, just now, I never understood the sheer brilliance of his written work.

By the way, nobody asked me to write this. Authors very rarely ask me for reviews. But when I come across something really amazing, I want to share it with you.

And this – this is amazing.

You can find Kevin's books on Amazon here.

You can find his blog, here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Post Mother's Day Post

My sister, Liz, took this gorgeous photo of my gorgeous mom recently.

I am lucky. I have a truly wonderful mother. She is kind, she is generous, she is forgiving. She is funny, she is wise, she is loving. She's a hard worker, she's a great cook and she's always up for a new adventure. I have absolutely no complaints, mom-wise. My only regret is not being a better daughter because she deserves it.

Not everyone is so lucky and, in fact, Mother's Day can be a rough go for a lot of people.

There are people who had terrible mothers. Really horrid women who abused their  children mentally and physically. Who told them they were no good and beat them viciously any chance they could. Who didn't provide proper food or shelter, who cared more about themselves than their kids, who held back love and kindness when it was most needed.

I know a few people like that, and I feel sorry for them and guilty because my own mom was top flight. They struggle hard to see good in their mothers, sometimes to no avail, and they harbour their own guilt for abandoning the most toxic relationships in their lives. After all, how can anyone dislike their own mother? If you find yourself thinking that, then you're one of the lucky ones. You might not have June Cleaver for a mama, but at least you don't have Mommie Dearest.

Then there are people who had great mothers, but lost them. Death is a tough nut to swallow on these special occasions. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, birthdays – they're all hard to take when you are missing someone you love. Father's Day is hard for me because I miss my dad so much, and I never get through Christmas or his birthday without some kind of heartache. But you know, instead of feeling bad, I try to seek out the positive and celebrate that. Yes, he's gone, but boy oh boy, I was lucky to have him as long as I did and I continue to honour his memory every chance I get.

Mother's Day  is also a tough day for women who always wanted to be mothers but, for one reason or another, could never have a baby. They mourn for the children they never had, for the unborn babies they lost, for the mother they desperately wanted to be – while all around them are mothers and children and pregnant women.

I didn't have my first baby until I was 37, and not because I wanted to wait. It took me 11 years to conceive, and for those 11 years, I keenly felt the frustration, jealousy and grief of being childless in a child-filled world. To those who have never been able to have children, I feel your pain, and offer a hug and a kind word – AND the truth that you will live your life with more money, less frustration and fewer grey hairs!

Mother's Day used to be rough for me. It was hard when I was childless, for all the reasons I listed, above. Then it was really awesome for a while – I finally had my two children and I gleefully joined in MD celebrations. Breakfast in bed! Flowers! Cards! Presents! I sucked it all up enthusiastically – trust me, labour is HARD and flowers/breakfast/presents are the LEAST kids can do to make up for it!

Mother's Day took a turn for the worse when my marriage broke up and main custody went to my ex-husband. (If you want to know why, you have to buy my book! I'm tired of telling my sorry tale!) Suddenly I felt like the worst mother in the world. And now I live half a country away from my kids. What kind of a mother am I, anyway? And what kind of a Mother's Day do my kids have, when their mother abandoned them? The reasons, and they are good reasons, can't matter to two kids whose mother has buggered off three provinces away. It must suck for them, plain and simple, and don't think I don't know it.

Ah feck.


I don't mourn on Mother's Day anymore. I send my own mother and my mother-in-law presents. I phone my mom and tell her I love her. I find something fun to do and I don't beat myself up over something I have no control over. Dave usually takes me out for dinner, which is awesome, and I look for joy every chance I can.

I got a card from my boys a few days ago. It was nice – put a smile on my face and a tear in my eye all at the same time. They called last night and we laughed when I ordered them to tell me what a wonderful mother I am. (I love them so much.)

No matter how Mother's Day and these other kind of holidays may try to bring you down, don't let them. They're only card company fake holidays anyway.

Forgive the past. Celebrate what's important. Eat something yummy and do something fun. Look for joy. Look for joy.

Look for joy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Happiness is Death and Chronos!

Death and Chronos are two wild and wacky guys. Actually they're not guys, per se. Chronos (also known as the God of Time) is a befuddled immortal who just wants a little peace and quiet but is always getting in trouble with War, Poseidon and other persnickety gods. Death is, well, he's death. He's the guy who finds you when the jig is up and plants you in the ground with the petunias.

Death is a skeleton. A friendly skeleton who is preoccupied with tossing peanuts in his eye sockets and various other body cavities. He also rides a Harley and, unless you cheese him off, he's an affable sort who makes you laugh as he's hauling your carcass to the netherworld.

Both of them have a penchant for disaster and are constantly getting into mishaps a la Lucille Ball. They're funny, they're sarcastic and they're very cool in a misguided sort of way, and I love them much.

I first ran into Death and Chronos in my Friday Flash days. They were written, almost every week, by one of my favourite flashers, River Fairchild. Like everyone else writing in the flash circuit, I'd line up to see what kerfuffle River had put her two popular characters into. The week I got married, Death and Chronos actually crashed my wedding reception – which was my favourite of all River's weirdly wonderful stories. (Thanks, Riv.)

For years afterward I begged River to publish a collection of her Death and Chronos stories and, FINALLY, she LISTENED! I'm so happy to report that Living the Afterlife is now available in various formats on Smashwords and Amazon. I picked up my copy yesterday and had it read in short order. It's a blindingly fast read and the stories are just as witty as I remember. River has a dry sense of humour, very acute, and I loved finding her little nuggets of happy sarcasm scattered everywhere in the book.

Congratulations River, and oh, thanks ever so much for the kind acknowledgment. If I ever get married again (demi-gods help me), I'll be sure to invite Death and Chronos and their happy gang!

Here's some links for this dynamic duo:

Amazon (U.S.)

Amazon (Canada)


River's blog

Thursday, May 1, 2014

B is for BBQ Sauce

Wait a cotton-picking minute! I don't NEED a letter in front of my post anymore!

*laughing like a maniac and running around the house in my gramma-style pink nightgown, with birdies in cages & drooling cats, and coffee spilled down the front*

I just dumped a practically full bottle of barbecue sauce down the sink. I feel so WASTEFUL and yet so HAPPY, all at the same confused time.

See, I don't waste stuff. Not generally, unless it's a vegetable and I buy it with good intentions and then let it rot in the fridge amidst guilt-juice and weight-mayo. But seriously, I'm old-school because, well, because I'm old, and maybe I didn't grow up in the Great Depression lucky to have any kind of food on the table at all and everyone ate turnips and bedbugs, and my parents didn't either, and my grandparents had money, but SURELY some poor schmuck in my lineage grew up eating bark, so if I buy something I don't like I generally suck-it-up-buttercup and eat it until it's done.

Hang on. I need to breathe.

OK. So. I bought some Bull's Eye Bold BBQ Sauce the other day because I needed BBQ sauce and I picked it up without realizing I HATED IT. Why do I keep doing this? Year after year I buy this crap because I've forgotten, over the long winter, that I detested it. Spring hits, I get a hankering to dig the barbecue out of the snowbank, and I wind up buying Bull's Eye again. Argh! Somebody smack me!

I didn't even realize it until the other night when I made absolutely delicious homemade hamburger patties and grilled them to perfection. I turned off the 'cue, covered the hamboigies with an inch of cheddar cheese, then smothered them with this BBQ sauce.

It absolutely ruined the boigies. I couldn't even eat mine. What a disappointment.

As I was cleaning up the supper mess, I automatically put the evil BBQ sauce back in the fridge. Y'know, as you do. But then I've been stressing about it ever since. This morning I was laying in bed thinking about it, having a conversation in my head with the BBQ sauce.

"You don't OWN me. You're not the boss of me! Why should you get free rent in my refrigerator? You dont' even taste good, for crying out loud. You DISGUST me. I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU!"

And with that I jumped out of bed, well not exactly jumped, more like waddled, marched down the stairs, flung open the fridge door and snatched the offending bottle.

"TAKE THAT, YOU DIRTY RAT," I hollered, as I opened the lid and dumped the brown goop down the garburator.

The sauce begged, I swear it cried, too, but I just laughed, HAHAHAHAHA, and shook the evil bottle and it glomped like The Blob down the drain.