Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Gratitude Dance

It's a bit of a steal from Where the Hell is Matt, but it's also cute:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Feeling Blessed

I'm off to feed the hungry and hand out hampers at St. Mary's today. I am feeling especially blessed in my life. Even though God knows my shortcomings and sins, he still loves me. Today the pastor spoke about three things to remember this Christmas...

1) BE a Christian (don't just go to church but live a joyful, fulfilled, blessed Christian life),
2) Be extraordinary (don't hide your light),
3) Forgive (even yourself).

It may sound silly to say that I'm looking forward to feeding the hungry today, but I am, I'm hoping that I receive as much blessing as I can and I give as much blessing as I can.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feel the Fear and Write it Anyway...

Just found this post from the Word Strumpet and I found it very relevant. Especially this part:

I'm so used to the feeling of being nervous that I rarely even notice it anymore. Ratchet it up to terrified (say, book deal) and you'll get my attention, maybe. Meanwhile I go about my business being happily scared half out of my mind, doing it anyway: boarding the plane and hoping some kind gentleman will volunteer to lift my heavy laptop bag to the overhead compartment, meeting the new client, and opening up a new page to write on the computer or the spiral journal.

I'm finally beginning to realize that if you're not scared, you're not living. If you're not putting your nerves on the line on a regular basis, it is time to dial it up a notch. This is true in garden variety living life, and its true in writing.

Fear is the flip side of creativity. But you can--and must--harness it. Maybe there's a creative person somewhere on the planet who doesn't experience fear, but I don't know where that someone is.


Go on, read the rest...

Twitter - Great Resource for Writers

I've run across some writers that don't know what Twitter is, or look down on it as a crazy time-wasting energy-suck. And surely it can be... you can even track how many hours you've spent on Twitter with Tweetwasters.

But for writers looking for sources, subjects or media/PR, there are very few other sites out there that can beat the instantaneous nature of Twitter.

Here are some Twitter people, aka Tweeps to follow, other than ME of course:

http://twitter.com/BreakingNewsOn
http://twitter.com/skydiver
http://twitter.com/prnewswire
http://twitter.com/CopyrightLaw
http://twitter.com/InternetLaw
http://twitter.com/BlogSquad
http://twitter.com/readersdigest
http://twitter.com/Reuters
http://twitter.com/ckrewson
http://twitter.com/msnbc
http://twitter.com/cnn
http://twitter.com/foxnews

I use an application called Twhirl that pops up the “tweets” every few seconds. Because I follow a lot of other writers and media types I tend to know where the great blog posts are and if something is relevant to my current writing, I can include it… plus I try to never forget to tweet my own blog posts and I get more comments and my site hits go up. I’ve noticed my ad revenue go up as well.

There are some netiquette rules to follow of course, just like any other online tool. You don't want to break them, but it's ok if you make a few mistakes... just get out there and try it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ok, Off topic, but....

I laughed my stinkin' butt off at this video... George W. Bush can MOVE QUICK!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life is Good

Sorry peeps, didn't mean to make it sound all doom and gloom the other night. 1 am will do that to you. In the morning light, everything looks a bit brighter I think.

We had a snow storm yesterday, not the big horrible one they were predicting, but a good hefty dump of snow. Everyone acted shocked. Snow? What? And yet it's mid-December here in Canada and we'd been headed straight for a brown Christmas yet again. It might be kind of nice to have a Christmas with snow once again.

So remember we adopted two cats? Yeah, they are awesome. Every morning they are happy to see me, that's more than I can say for my kids who want to sleep in! ;0) But these two wind their way around my ankles, purring and meowing (or m-ow-ing as E would say). On mornings like this when I get to sit, ensconced on my couch, the big one tries to lay across my laptop. He succeeds in pinning down at least one arm and I almost don't want to make him move because he's warm and sweet.

The best thing at the moment is.... drumroll please.... my book is up on Amazon! (And Chapters in Canada!)

What do you think of the cover? I love it, love, love, love it! From what I understand, the cover illustrator entered in into the annual for the Society of Illustrators and was accepted.... now I don't know much about that but my publisher seemed really excited!

Unfortunately it won't be out in time for Christmas as it has a Spring release date, but I'm thoroughly excited to see it OUT THERE.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Late Nights

If there is one thing that defines me as a writing mother, it's the night. I don't mean anything ethereal about the night and the magic of it or anything, I mean, pfft... I mean most nights I sit here until far past midnight. Writing or editing or trying very hard not to procrastinate on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever else I can go to forget that Oh My Gosh Am Worst Writer Ever Why Do I Try.

(See, that never goes away.)

But here I sit, almost every night with the laptop and heavy socks and my feet up and a coffee or tea at my side. I usually make a list of what I need to get done and I keep working at it until my neck hurts or my eyes start to feel like they've been poked with hot coals.

And then when the alarm goes off at 0600, I try not to ignore it. Except today, apparently, I did. I'm supposed to be at work at 0730 and I looked over at the clock and it was 0708. Whoops. With Major Man working nights, he doesn't get off work until 0700 so I'm the one responsible for getting both kids up, ready and out the door. That's an hour minimum.

I admit that I wonder why I do this. I wonder if I can do this. But then I just put one foot in front of the other and one word next to another . . . and just one night after another.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Things That Are Old

When we moved into our house we snickered a bit at the old things that were in it. I mean, not the people, but the things. The wallpaper from the 70's, the original 1960's stove, oven and fridge. The minty green decoration in the bathroom.

They left us a few things: dressers, a bed, some artwork, wine glasses.

My most favourite leftover has been a radio that is quite likely older than I am. They left it on top of the fridge. At night when I am doing the evening dishes I turn it on and listen to the local Christian station. They have good sermons on. I know, I'm turning into my grandmother.

But that's the thing . . . it sounds *exactly* like grandma's radio. Which sat on the top of her fridge. And this radio works great! It's a heavy one, not like the cheap plastic ones you get now with the wimpy little antenna that never works. There isn't even a smidgen of static, just a strong signal.

It makes me think of the cliche, "they don't make things like they used to", which, of course, is only a cliche because of the truth of it. But that's the thing with this house - it is full of older appliances and fixtures that all work beautifully because someone has cared for them. When the stove broke after 20 years they didn't buy a new one - they fixed the old one! Imagine it! When something breaks I'm jumping up and down because wheeeee, I get to buy something new.

I'm turning over a new leaf - looking at my furniture, even the rag-tag, mix-match things I have, I am ok with keeping them around for a while longer.

Okie dokie, need to take a bit of a break from the typing tonight - the kitty is climbing all over my laptop, chasing my fingers. But he's so cute I might keep him around, too.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Well now I'm reallly a writer...

... because I have the obligatory cats.

Two to be exact. Zorro, a three year old male and Ziggy, a three month old male. Both very cool individuals adopted from the Humane Society.

I'm so incredibly pleased with myself because the kids are loving on these cats and the cats (for the most part) are loving on them. Zorro is sleeping in Army Girl's bed and Ziggy with Army Boy. You wouldn't think that cats would voluntarily stay with a seven year old or a two year old. But they did. Both of them were purring like crazy and looking like bliss personified when I left them - the kids were still awake but content to sit and be happy with their new kitties.

Zorro, the older, fluffier cat is the ultimate writer's cat. He climbs up on my desk and curls himself around the mouse because he knows that's where my hand rests.

I've missed having animals in the house. I'm glad they are back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Vices

I have a couple of vices. I admit it. I am not perfect. My family will die of shock right now. Fer shizzle.

One. Books, yeah this is no surprise. I have 700 or so books. The problem is that I haven't read them all. I buy them to HAVE them. It's wrong somehow - I know that. There are people in this world, probably kids in my own city that have no books and here I am, hoarding them. But reading a good book is something incredible. It's like if our life is one massive house, each book is a window or a door. I tend to look for God in every book I read, even when it's not overtly a Christian book.

Two. TV. Yes, I get caught up in all sorts of shows. House. Criminal Minds. Grey's Anatomy. ER. It's been going on for a long time, every since I had a crush on Mighty Mouse as a child. Then there was Little House on a Prairie, which was really the first show I felt I Could Not Do Without. Oh how I loved the story of Laura and Almanzo. It was the first romance I really felt I could believe in. Of course he was a stubborn man and Laura was headstrong, so it probably set the tone for my future lovelife. Nice. Thanks Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Thursday and Sunday nights have always been my night to watch TV. And yet now Mr. PVR has come into my life and everything has changed. I can save up all the shows I want until a night where I have finished all my work and the kids go to bed sweetly (or are at grandma's, like tonight) and I get to sleep in tomorrow. Now I can watch oodles of Criminal Minds and House and the movies I've saved. I love it!

How does this have to do with writing?

Like any vice, the call of it can be almost overwhelming. I'm actually irritated when I'm missing one of my shows or I don't want to start a writing project because a SHOW IS ON IN FIVE MINUTES. Sometimes I just push back my project (aka procrastinate) or I try to do both at the same time (never effective).

But now? Now I can put my vice on hold! And it's like a carrot! Finish work and watch shows guilt-free!

Newest gadget for every writer: PVR. (I think it's called TiVo in the States.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dealing with Loss

How do you deal with loss? Isn't that a question without an answer? I think so.

Last weekend we lost a friend.

At work today - and all week - so many people are sad. Some are angry that he's gone.

Some hardly knew him. Some knew him for over a decade. Some were in the inner circle. Some hung about the outer rim.

I posted his obituary to Facebook tonight, wondering as I did if those who were closer to him might get offended. All day we have been preparing for his visitation tonight and sometimes I felt so wrong planning who I was going to carpool with or who was going with whom - it felt like planning a social event. I wanted to make it stop. Make us not have to check in with each other (time? your car or mine? how do you get there?) in the same way we'd plan a party or a night out.

But I realized that everyone has their own way of dealing. Just read his guestbook. Some are private, and close their office doors and honour him the way they know how, by doing their jobs well. Some talk about it, make jokes and remember how much fun he inspired. Some are silent, not revealing their emotion at all.

I'm choosing to talk about him. I'm choosing to tell people who didn't know Jim Haigh that he was important and special. You didn't know him? You missed out, buddy.

You missed his laugh, that I hear so loud in my head that I think I could actually open my mouth and it would come out. You missed a passion for his job that was the fuel for a small, just $100 million, empire. You missed watching him talk about "the business" and get so excited that he'd rock forward on the balls of his feet like he was going to launch himself into the crowd. You missed him pacing at the back of the room during the National Sales meetings, listening intently. You missed the empty coffee pots he'd leave that would make you shake your fist and call down the hall "this is how I know you're in the building, Jim! Empty coffee pots!" You missed dimples. You missed inside jokes and goblets of wine. You missed vision. You missed a mentor. You missed a friend.

You missed Jim.

And so do I.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Words

On Monday I learned:

People make choices we may never understand - we still love them.

When there is true pain it can block out everything.

We can never know when the words we say to someone may be the last time we speak.

Strong people may not be so.

Crying is never a sign of weakness.

A wish for what you might have said to make a difference can be turned into action: say what you mean today to those you love.

Some friends you choose, some choose you and sometimes you get lumped in and learn to love each other.

There is never any need to compare pain with one another.

Some people leave - but they never leave us.

~~

Words have always been my strength. I rely on them and they always come through for me. But this week I learned that the words I hold in will lose their power. It does no good to think thoughts about someone's well-being and not express them. We often fear that we'll be seen as inappropriate or nosey. We worry if things are our business. We through about the words "how are you?" without even an expectation of a real answer.

Words, whether written or spoken, matter. They matter almost as much as touch. Almost as much as a hug. God, I hope that you gave me this gift of words for a better purpose. I promise that I will no longer keep that gift inside. I've used words to make money, to put food on the table, for my own selfish desires.

But what about blessing others? What about glorifying God? What about changing lives . . . or even the possibility of changing lives? What about delivering comfort? What about lifting spirits? What about telling someone that they matter?

I will do better.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Slackers-Not-So-Anonymous

There's a great group of writing mothers that you might of heard about: The Writing Mothers. Lately, the list has been quiet. Which I'm convinced is because *I* have been quiet, except that would be giving myself a few more powers than I have (the sum is currently zero in the power department). But a very good discussion was sparked today and it seems like there are a few others out there who are also feeling frustratingly quiet.

I recently finished book #2, which will be released before book #1, so technically it will be my first book. Anyhoo...

This book was much harder to write than the first one (book one, which will be book two) because it had more technical info in it. There were certain topics that I knew, but I didn't know them to the depth which I needed to know them. Ya follow? For example, we all know that too much CO2 being released into the air is bad, right? But can you explain (with humor, wit and clarity please!) how much is too much? How many ppm is really bad and how many ppm is super-duper bad? Why is methane worse than CO2 and what's the difference between the concentrations and potency in our atmosphere?

So there was learning involved. And did I mention it was about 85,000 words?

The sheer size of it terrified me. But I did it. I finished.

And immediately I felt like I didn't want to write again for a year. I wanted to be just a mother, hanging out with my kids in the evening instead of rushing to the computer after I'd put them to bed. I wanted to catch up on all the shows I'd PVR'd without feeling guilty. And why did I feel guilty? Because every moment I wasn't writing, I knew I should be. Every moment I was writing, I felt like I should be with my kids. Every moment at my Day Job I felt like I should be either writing or with my kids, knowing that whichever I would choose I'd still go back to feeling guilty about not doing the other one.

What kind of craziness is this that I am afflicted with?!

Since I finished the book and finished the edits, I haven't written much. I've hardly blogged, I hardly email. I had one column due (yesterday) and I finished that (yesterday). But still I have been feeling like much less of a writer than I am used to. Because each time I sat down at the computer, I felt a certain amount of panic at what I had to accomplish. You don't know how many blog posts I started and then deleted because I'd get a paragraph in and think "this is stupid".

I think part of it was going through the edit process. My editor for this last book was wonderful. There were a lot of great comments on the manuscript that helped me to see where I needed to fix it and where I could improve. But as wonderful as the edits were, there's still that niggling voice that says "look at all the mistakes you made!" and my inner perfectionist comes out to perch upon my shoulder and make insinuating eyebrows at me.

So I started to not really want to write, I started to avoid it. Sure, I had things I wanted to write, but I didn't HAVE to - like blog posts. I started to let that procrastination habit creep back in. Then something happened. My friend Karen passed away and a package that I'd made up for her was still sitting, unsent at my office. I had procrastinated my way into a place I'd never been before, I actually missed a deadline (absolutely no pun intended on that one, though it would probably have made Karen smile) that I couldn't recover from.

Part of me just wanted to NOT do anything. If I didn't commit to anything, I would have no deadlines to miss. I embraced my inner slacker. Don't try so you don't miss anything.

But guess what? That's not me. I'm a driven person. I like to DO things. I like to take on scary projects that find me over my head. I think that it might even be the way God created me - willing to take a step or two on faith rather than leaning on my own understanding (or rationale). Willing to say "sure, I can do that" when I'm not sure if I can or not.

So here I am, Heather Cook, a reformed slacker. It was a dark moment, a quick foray into the unknown world of slackerdom. But I'm back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finding my way back

I don't know how we writers continue to do this. Some days I look wistfully across the playground at another mother and think "what's it like to have just one job?" Then I smack myself for being so judgmental because who the heck knows what another mother has on the back burner.

But having completed two manuscripts now, I'm learning for the second time that there's this weird, foggy, grey period after a manuscript is finished. I'm tired, so tired. (There was also the moving and now the unpacking.) But I've yet to go to bed before 11 pm because - get this - I feel guilty if I go to bed early because there's still much work to be done. Then I drag myself off to work in the morning. I work at 7:30 am, and I live really close to work, so some days (like the days when hubby is taking the kids to their respective drop-offs) I actually don't get in the shower until 7, and then I'm at work right on time. I just can't seem to get out of bed. Uh, gee, wonder why.

But slowly I'm finding my way back to writing again. I'm jealous of those that are writing right now, free and loose, able to find all the words they want. Me? I'm feeling, not stuck, just bored and tired at the same time.

Words aren't coming easily. I write at work, I type many emails during the day. But I'm not a "writer" at work. So many mornings I sit down to work and think "oh I could blog right now". But I like my job and want to keep it... and so writing while at work is out.

In short, sorry I've been away... I'm coming back now. I'm finding my way back to the safe spot where I can write and be happy. Because if a writing mother isn't happy, no body's happy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This is a writing blog, really!

Not so much with the writing around here these days. Pictures, sometimes. Writing? Yeah, not so much.

Do you know what I've discovered? I've discovered that writing and editing are hard to do at the same time. It's hard to switch hats. In fact, I have to physically switch locations just to write this post. All night I've been editing. All weekend I've been editing. I've been to Starbucks and McDonalds and now (surprisingly) I know why I'm getting so fat.

Eat. Edit. Eat. Edit. Latte. Edit. Cheeseburger. Edit. Chocolate Chip Cookie made by hubby. Edit.

But please, please stay with me. The book is due on the 16th. I should be sane shortly after that. I'm moving on the 18th and then, well, then I will feel totally renewed with a new office space, a new room to sleep in. Maybe even a new bed.

But for now, I edit. I ignore the packing, I stumble around the boxes littering the living space. I ignore the carpet that required vaccuming and I just edit. And, apparently, eat.

Coming soon: weightwatchers meetings. Yes, really.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

365 Photography Project - Day 5

October 5/08
Picture 5

I know I should take it away from her. We have one last bottle of the disposable inserts and I can't NOT use them. The only thing worse than using disposable inserts would be to buy them and not use them and THEN throw them out. After E hurt her tooth a week and a half ago, the dentist said that it would actually be good for her tooth if she drank from a bottle because it would keep it forward, not the smashed backwards position it was in after her epic fail with the floor. But I'm not a bottle fan. No, I'm a boob fan. I just went on a work trip at the wrong time and weaned her. :(

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

365 Photography Project - Day 3

October 3/08
Picture 3
This is my city. Part country. Part civilized.
Wouldn't have it any other way.
When I moved here, this whole picture would have been fields.
But now it's a mix.
City/Country

Thursday, October 02, 2008

365 Photography Project - Day 2

October 2/08
Picture 2

This is my son. Army Boy. He's high up in a tree, high enough that I had to get the zoom lens out to take the picture. Well, not the BIG zoom lens, but the medium one. :) He's always been what I call "risk averse" ... which sort of makes him sound like an investor. But he's cautious. The thing is, he is only cautious until he is confident he can step out and DO. This is the way he learned to read, actually. Little baby steps, unsure, cautious... and now he's reading like crazy. Last night I caught him reading in his room with his little light on. Warms a writing mother's heart.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

365 Photography Project - Day 1

Carolyn Erickson pointed me towards Project 365 at Blissfully Domestic. I love this idea. I've seen it done before and have always thought it might be neat. So I'm going to post a picture each day. For a full year.

October 1/08
Picture 1.
This is a provincial park located within the city limits of Calgary. It's called Fish Creek Park and every year the Beavers (like Junior Scouts) go out on a hike. The evening's hike presented us with some beautiful weather. The kids - all 15 of them - make quite a racket as they race ahead and duck into bushes. I make an equal racket trying to corral them. Finally a more experienced leader pulled them aside and explained how there might be bears around the corner and if they ran ahead and ran into a bear, the bear might eat them before we caught up. Technically, there are no bears in this park. But they bought it. I see nothing wrong with this little white lie. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Edits!

You know . . . when I'm writing I swear I like editing better.

When I'm editing I swear I like writing better.

Let's face it, I'm a grass is greener writer.

I think I figured it out...

I think I figured out what bothers me so much about American politics.

On one hand they focus far too much on what a candidate looks and sounds like (rather than what they say).

On the other, they take it all SO seriously. Like a hairdo or a 15 second video of a stammer is going to decide how they vote.

So much energy is spent talking about the person's personal life or the pins they put on a lapel or what small errant slip of the tongue might indicate. They expect total and complete perfection in every word.

Mispronunciation? Oh, obviously that means he/she is an idiot. Forgot your flag pin? Oh you are anti-American. Stammer? Total idiot.

Whatever would they make of our candidates? PMs whose native language isn't English, heavy accents, facial paralysis... I mean I was never a fan of ol Jean, but you wouldn't catch me judging him on what he looks or sounds like. We could even forgive some of the dumbest sounding statements because we know that people aren't always perfect and don't always speak in perfect evening news soundbites.

It's almost as though they insist that their candidates be media savvy OVER being a person of action. Almost like they believe it's what you SAY and how you say it, not what you DO.

I've never realized how spoiled we are up here in Canada to have voters that can look past the first layer, past the news soundbite, past the mispronunciations and unpolished interviews. We're much more forgiving.

And, obviously, to my American friends and readers... I realize that not everyone is like this, but these days I can't seem to read as many blogs as I once did without tripping over the same Palin video clips accompanied by the nearly identical commentary about what she sounds like or if she stammers or if she looks nervous.

(Oh, and anyone who says that living next door to Russia doesn't give you any foreign policy experience . . . has never lived right next door to a large and powerful foreign country. Most Americans wouldn't consider Canada that powerful, I get that you don't give us a second thought. But Canadians? We know how our lives are affected by America . . . and our provincial leaders have trade experience and more because they share a border with America.)

(I'm tired of hearing that Obama only says "Change!" The people who use that as some kind of dig have not gone far enough to actually look up what he DOES say. Do your research, he gets a tad more specific. LOL)

Ok, now hopefully I haven't offended the pants off of everyone. I'll try not to be so CANADIAN and say SORRY.

Libel Insurance: The Non-Product

So I'm phoning around for house insurance quotes.

I was surprised to hear that the last insurance company offered me "Libel" insurance on my home insurance. To understand the libel issue, you really have to be Canadian. For Americans you have your "freedom of speech". In Canada, the onus is on the WRITER to prove that what they wrote is true. This means you can be sued by anyone for something you wrote, even if it was completely true. If they don't like you and want to shut you up, well, they just have to sue you and put you tens of thousands of dollars in debt, you lose your home and are destitute and suddenly you don't want to write anything risque any more.

Truth is a defense, yes, but it won't stop you from being sued and spending thousands upon thousands in legal fees. So I was kind of hoping that this libel insurance thing was the real deal. But here was the very frustrating conversation:

Her: We offer libel insurance for $200 a year.

Me: Oh yeah? Even if I'm a writer and I write books?

Her: Yes.

Me: That's very interesting, I'm a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and libel is a topic that comes up quite often. See, there's this thing called libel chill where freelancers don't write hardcore journalism as much because they are worried they'll be sued for libel.

Her: Um, can you hold?

Me: Sure.

I'm thinking, crap, why did I tell her that? Why did I admit it? I could have GOTTEN libel insurance. Oh, wait, because it would have been dishonest and they probably would have denied any claim anyway.

Her: Hi, um, so we can't offer that insurance because you publish your writing.

Me: But, it's LIBEL insurance. How would someone know I wrote something to sue me about if I didn't publish it?

Her: Well, if you say something and someone sues you -

Me: - no, spoken is slander, libel is written. Do you offer slander insurance then?

Her: Well, um, no, see, libel insurance is for if someone sues you over something you write. But you publish what you write.

Me: Right. Because for them to read what I write, I'd have to put it "out there", so I'd have to "publish it". How else would they read what I wrote? If you write something on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket, it's not published. But if you put it where someone can read it, like, say, on a blog or in a magazine or in a book . . . then legally it's published.

Her: Right, but you get paid.

Me: That doesn't matter, publishing is publishing regardless of whether or not the writer is paid.

Her: But, we can't offer libel insurance on anything you publish.

Me: Ok, so your libel insurance covers my diary and the notes I write and stick in my pocket.

Her: But if you say -

Me: - that's spoken, it's slander.

The poor girl, I felt a little bad for her at the end. Selling a non-product and not knowing what that non-product even is...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Offices

As we start to get ready to move, I start thinking about my new "office". Originally I was hoping that I'd get an actual office ROOM. Like, with a DOOR. But I realized quickly that every home we looked at with that all important potential office . . . just didn't work. The room was always too far away from wherever the kids were going to play.

So, for a few more years, I'll be working away in an area just off the playroom. In our new house it will be in the basement, in the "bar" area. The kids will have a larger, longer area. If the area were shaped like a capital L, then my office is in the horizontal part, the kids play area is in the vertical.

I was searching around for great home office areas and found one site that had pictures of "famous" home offices. Except it also had lots of PRON sites as advertisers. So. Not linking there!

But HGTV seems to have some great ideas. But what I really found interesting was a search on Flickr for home offices. I almost can't make up my mind, but I have many years in this house to decide on the perfect office. I think the walls will be blue. That's as far as I've gotten.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Octopus Moms

I was recently interviewed by Lisa Bendall, a fellow PWAC member about being an Octopus Mom. Lisa is also one of the many multi-tasking moms you come across these days. She was interviewed about her life as well.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

SOLD PICS!

I love the trees - they give us such privacy, not to mention they'll keep the house cooler in the summer! It looks like I've have gardens to keep up and everything. I love it!!!





Saturday, September 20, 2008

Buying a House? Don't forget the Valium.

In the grand scheme of things, with all that is going on in the world, there is little need for more drama. As I write this there are stories playing out on TV of horrible things that have happened: floods, deaths, war, loss. But please bear with me for a moment while I tell you a little story about buying a house.

Do you remember the post about buying a house?

Well. We KNEW it would inspect well. We KNEW it. And sure enough, the inspector kept saying "wow" and "they wrote the book on pride of ownership" and "this is a GOOD house". He was happy to be teaching me these little tidbits about a good house with a good example in front of him. Normally he'd be showing someone a problem and saying "now it should look like . . . "

Now, we'd been pre-approved for about $40K more than the accepted offer, so we figured we were golden, right?

Um, wrong. See, we were doing the "zero down" thing that they are taking away as of October 15th. We were fitting in under the wire. Except that last week was probably the worst week in the last five years to try and get a mortgage. The US was imploding; stock markets were roller coasters; companies were being bailed out by governments. We could NOT have timed it worse.

The lender decided that they wanted an appraisal done to make sure that what we were paying for the house was what the house was worth. That way if we default on the mortgage the day after we sign, they can turn around and sell it. This makes NO sense to me because it's the buyer and the buying market that determines the worth and value of a house. The answer to "what's it worth" is always "what someone will pay". The bank doesn't factor in "one block from Army Boy's school" or "across the street from where soccer is held each spring". No, they look at theoretically more concrete things. (What they are, I don't know..)

It wasn't enough that the city's tax assessment put the house's value at almost $100K more than what we paid (I'm going to have a chat with the city tax department about this one, let me tell you) because that has more to do with what it will cost the city to maintain your street/community/alley etc...

There were miscommunications with the appraisers, they had to come back to appraise it (I think they only did a 'drive by' the first time) and they promised a 24 hour turnaround on the report when it took much longer than that... I feel bad that the realtors and the mortgage broker had to do so much work - whatever kind of commission they get, they earned every single penny just having to deal with me. I'm not patient. Factor in that I was sick (fever, ear infection, headache...) and you have a very cranky client.

We were told that yes, we'd been approved for the dollars, just not necessarily on THAT HOUSE. Because the appraisal came by under the purchase price, suddenly the bank didn't want to insure that mortgage. Or, um, the insurer didn't want to insure it and so the bank wouldn't lend it. Something like that. We were qualified to buy, just not any house. The bank wanted their say. In other words, pre-approval means sweet tweet.

The mortgage broker (who I'm sure had better things to do on a Friday night) spent hours on the phone with managers from BC to ON trying to find out how much the silly property had appraised at. Were we talking a difference of $500, $5000 or what?

Finally we heard that it appraised at $5K under the purchase price. Ah, for the wont of $5000. We found the extra $5000 and I signed the paper at 7:55 pm. Just an hour and five minutes before the 9 pm deadline.

And about three hours after I'd lost my mind. I was literally sitting in a chair, staring at the roof and almost not caring which direction this deal would go as long as it would be over soon. Actually, now that I think about it, that reminds me a lot of childbirth. "I can't do this any more, make it stop, make it go away, get it out."

If you are in Calgary and need a home buying team, please let me recommend Kari & Mark Ashlee as well as Debbie Weiss with ProLink Mortgage. Bar none, the best team you ever want to have.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Heart Words

I know, some people are driven BATTY by the phrase "I heart..." but I kind of like it. I like playing with words, making them mine and using them the way I want to. I even like breaking some grammar rules as long as I know I'm breaking them. Because it's horrendous to break them accidentally.

But I love finding words. I subscribe to several "word of the day" newsletters and my current favourite word is cicumlocution. It's the BEST word for the coming political races, isn't it?

Meaning

*1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea

2 : evasion in speech

Example Sentence

*Mr. Harvey was notorious for his tendency to engage in endless circumlocution when a simple, brief explanation would suffice.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Happy End to House Hunting

Just a little over a week ago Major Man and I decided to see if we could get approved for a mortgage. We're in Canada (as many of you may know) so the rules are a little different than in the US. We're not facing a mortgage crisis of any magnitude though the market is softening considerably.

We discovered that the Government was putting some rule changes into effect on Oct 15th. Taking away the 40 year amoritization and the "no money down" option, though you can still withdraw from your RRSP to put money down on a home and you have 15 years to pay that money back. Easily done when you contribute regularly.

The government wants to avoid what is happening in the US so I'm glad that they are making these changes. It would mean that we'd be years away from owning a home though. Since Major Man was finally in a good job and I have a long term job, we figured we'd give pre-qualification a shot. We were more than mildly surprised to learn that we qualified for a decent mortgage. This was last Thursday, the 4th.

We about 20 homes in one week and yesterday we signed the paperwork to buy one! Boy, that was quick! We looked at it twice, first it was just me, then I brought my husband. The couple who owns it now has lived there for 42 years. It is in pristine condition. The deal currently hinges on the home inspection, but I can almost guarantee that there will be no surprises there. The house was immaculate. One of the coolest things was that this couple bought everything brand new in the 60s and they did NOT replace anything. They fixed and maintained. Everything is original except the white carpet in the front that covers the original hardwood.

Have a little look-see:

Just walking up, you can see that it's got a nice front yard, very clean.
There's a carport, no garage.
We really don't need a garage, neither of us 'tinker' in there!

The bathroom is awesome in green, lol.
But look! Dual sinks!


The light is pretty good in the master bedroom.
Inside the closet was a 75 pound turquoise green vacuum cleaner.


This room nearly did me in.
Look at the retro walls!
The bar! Glass on the wall!
ORANGE!
The fireplace is a fake electric one. Love it.
(But, uh, those walls are getting painted!)


The backyard was beautifully maintained.
Gas firepit!


There's also a fenced off garden.
There are many bunnies in the neighbourhood, so I'm glad there's a fence.


Note that the cooktop, fridge and oven (which you can't see here) are ORIGINAL.
There are buttons on the cooktop to turn on the burners.
The inside of the fridge? Turquoise green of course!
With an "icebox"!


Do you see how shiny that floor is??


This will be a reading area.
The kids can eat in the kitchen.
No eating on the white carpet.
Punishment: disem-Nintendo-ment.


They've offered (and we TOTALLY ACCEPTED) to let us keep their floral couch and chair.


What keeps sticking out in my mind is that for so long I thought that home ownership was a fantasy, I'd never own a home. If anyone is fighting their way through debt, divorce, single-parenthood and feeling stressed, let me tell you: IT GETS BETTER. You can do it!

I feel incredibly lucky to be moving in to this home that has nurtured a family for 42 years. The couple who we bought it from had cards from their recent 50th anniversary proudly displayed. Did you hear that honey? Only 47 more years for us.

And the best part? If you look at this picture, you can see how close the house is to TWO schools. Army Boy attends the elementary on the right, while the junior high school is on the left. In the bottom left hand corner is the community centre. This big field is also where we play soccer every summer! Location! Location! Location!


Now, to start the packing . . .

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Newborn and a Notebook

Check out this awesome handout from Writing Mother extraordinaire Ann Douglas.

What does being a writing mother look like to you?


Hello Writing Mothers! I always wonder how other writing mothers actually write . . . what does it look like while they write. So here's a look at what it looks like when I write.

My daughter must be with me, she's a funny child. When she wants to be by herself, Do Not Touch Her. When she wants to be with me, Do Not Put Me Down! Thankfully, like the bell curve, she's only at the extreme once in a while.

But her new favorite place to be is on my desk. She's got a little spot on a two drawer file cabinet (to the left of where she's sitting in the pic), but she often migrates over to the desktop. Unfortunately she's clued into the fact that I can look at her and have a conversation and still keep typing. Sometimes she reaches over to pull my hands away from the keyboard.

What does being a writing mother look like to you?

Call for Submissions: Women and Horses

Well this one is sure near and dear to my heart!

Christina Katz sent out a note about submissions for an upcoming anthology about Women and Horses. If you've ever fallen in love with a horse, you might have a story to submit.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Story of a Sign

Not only will this make your eyes leak, but it says something wonderful about the power of words.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What do you listen to while writing?

I really haven't found one thing to listen to... I know I do well in silence, but really, I might just as well say "I write well in an Austrian spa" because my chances are about the same for silence.

Very often I have the tv on in the background, I try to keep it on the country music channel. I used to have the TV on all day long and I developed this really weird belief that if I turned it off, I Was Going To Miss Something Important!! Nevermind that it was always the same political blah-blah and pop-star-shaves-something crapola that it always is.

With my first book I wrote half of it alone in my living room/office while the kids were with my mother and with the music cranked. I especially listened to Pink. I don't know why, but I was practically a democrat after listening to her for so long that I had to immerse myself in some Toby Keith to get "right" again.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mailbox! Mailbox!

When I try to post the video it posts v e r y w i d e so let's just try this link. It's worth it.

Though I didn't see Georgia there. But I still love Comic Sans!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What Do You Stand For?

Several weeks ago I responded to a query in Help A Reporter Out, looking for people to submit videos and pictures of why they are Standing Up To Cancer.



This is the result of that query. You'll see me briefly at 1:40. I'm holding a sign that says "for the next generation". This was for my friend Karen, who you can see below, holding my daughter at the 2006 NRHA Futurity. This picture was taken after she won her first battle against cancer. She's now fighting for a second time. My daughter turns two tomorrow and I want her to know Karen when she's twenty. So that's why I'm standing up to cancer.


Please go have a look at the StandUp2Cancer site. It's a wonderful project. Especially The Stand part.

And if you feel so inclined, please feel free to support me in the Run For The Cure in October.

RIP Madison

Madison was the first dog that I chose for myself and brought home. Sure, there'd been the little Fizzgig that my parents bought us when we were kids. But Madison was mine. She was a rescue. Tied up in a barn in Conrich, Alberta and awaiting a bullet because she couldn't work sheep. She was a border collie, though from the looks of her she might have something else mixed in there. She's not a typical "tri" coloured border collie.


But I hauled her home from that stall when I was 16 - and now I'm in my 30s. So we figure she was at least 16 or 17 years old. I named her Madison because that was the name I had in my head for my first daughter. I just couldn't wait long enough to save it for a girl. And once I did have Miss E, I couldn't name her Madison because we had Madison the Dog. Unlike my cousin, Jodie, who everyone knows was named after her father's horse, Jodie. :)


Lately all the parts weren't working any more. The front end was fine. The eyes were going, the hearing had long since departed. The back end couldn't support her to stand in one spot for more than a few seconds. It kind of moved sideways as she walked, her right leg seemed to lean into the left for support.


It took a long time to make the decision to put her down. She wasn't my dog any more, she'd been living with mom since 1996 when I moved to Europe. When I came home the next year I didn't bother to claim her back. So it wasn't my decision to put her down, but it was. I don't know if mom was waiting for my ok or not, but last week I said "Yeah mom, I think it's time" and this week they booked the appointment.


I wasn't there for it. I had to pick up my daughter. But these pictures were taken the same day. Mom commented that they made her look so healthy and happy. They do. But I've left out the pictures where she couldn't get up or she was splayed out trying to stand. Or where she sneezed as she walked and almost fell over.


It was hard to take these pictures, knowing they'd be the last I'd see of her. I would try to keep her in one spot, reaching out with my hand to steady her. But she couldn't see my hand until it was touching her nose, so it would often startle her.

M doesn't get it yet, why Madison isn't there any more. Well, that's not true. He understands that she's gone to heaven. But last night he stayed at Mom's and as he was going to bed he said, "First is a baby, then toddler, then kid, then teenager, and then adult. And after that is when you are put down?" So I see we have some more discussing to do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Well thank goodness someone finally explained it to me...

I was married into a Scottish family and I could never get the terminology down pat about Great Britain, Britain, the UK... etc...

Now we have a diagram.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Woe is me... or, I, no... me ... oh what the heck, just WOE.

It's close to 11 pm and I'm up. With the flu. See, I've been sleeping ALL DAY. Sleeping that fitful sleep where you are hot then cold then sweating then not... and it was near record breaking temperatures today. When I was cold, I slept upstairs... when hot, I moved to the basement.

Which is where hubby found me when he came home to tell me that his truck was dead. Some electrical problem. And you know with those problems they could spend ten hours (at $100/hr) looking for the problem and not find it... so I think we're going to be a one car family. Surprisingly I'm not upset about this... now that he's working downtown he doesn't need a car, he can take transit downtown just fine.

But I will miss the little truck. It's a little Chevy S10, a two-seater that wasn't really that appropriate for our four-person family... but still, it was the last little bachelor hold-out for DH. :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Me want! Me want!

Ok, if every I have the chance to build my own house, I am building myself these stairs. I know hubby would like me to move my "collection" somewhere else because the books be takin' over!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Parenting Award


If you look at this picture you will notice that I took my kids to Heritage Park... with a gun. That would be my beautiful daughter throwing a gun at her brother.

Note to self: check out what's stored in the Pikachu backpack before leaving the house.

Writer's Block?

Check out my post over at Mama Needs A Book Contract about writer's block.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Plastic Bags

Have a look at this slide show regarding plastic bag recycling. It's long, but worth it. We no longer use plastic bags and I love it... selfishly I have to say it works for our family because those cloth bags can hold so much more...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If you are looking for a distraction...

... a panorama of Paris at night.

You zoom in for a very clear, full panorama. It's quite beautiful. I've never really wanted to go to Paris before... but now I kind of do!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Run away! Run away!

So last week I laid down the butter tart gauntlet that I would be a skinny biatch lot smaller by the time that the Surrey International Writers’ Conference came around.


I’m down 2.5 lbs so far!

Can I get a woot woot?

Today I ran 1.65 miles in 25 minutes. I know it's not a world record, but it's a record for me! (I THINK that is 2.6 km, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong!)

I've also signed up for the CIBC Run for the Cure on October 3rd. You can donate to me online here. And for my 'mericuhn friends... it's durn cold up here in October so you should donate twice as much!! I think I was feeling especially brave after my lunch run... and I was thinking about my friend Karen who was just told that that biatch breast cancer is back again. So while she's fighting a real fight... I'm going to run to support her.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm more of a short stretch reader myself...

Michael Hyatt is the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He writes a blog called From Where I Sit. Back in June he wrote a post called What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. In it he disects an article in Atlantic Monthly where writer Nicholas Carr asks, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

There's one quote in particular that Hyatt pulls from the article:

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.


I read this and thought... whiskey tango foxtrot ... are you kidding me? That's what reading is like for most mothers. (she said, noting that the writer and the blogger are both male)

I think he lost me where he said he'd "spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose". I have not had long stretches of anything remotely close to reading since early 2001.

Some other pics

Over the weekend (whilst groaning about my belly and lying .. crap.. laying?... whatever on the couch, I did keep my camera close...)

In Which I Will Submit To A Kiss

Oh EEK A Bug!

Try Cut Me Now

Eclipse

Jodie Coston's Photography course - Lesson 1 - Assignment 2

We've had some weird sort of bug going through the house so my creative juices (gah, I hate that phrase... it's sounds so icky!) have been runnin' low.

But here's the lesson where I tried to take pictures of something from different angles. So, um, I present you Tree From Angle #1.


And Tree From Angle #2.


This is not very exciting, I KNOW! But I've been lying on the couch for the last couple of days! Weak excuse, yeah... I really liked assignment #1.

100 Best Novels

Modern Library has come up with the 100 Best Novels. I'm wondering... how many you have read? Sadly, I haven't read even close to a quarter of them... wouldn't that be a cool challenge? Hmmmm ... I am not sure I could get through the first one!

The list below is the Reader-chosen list, there's also a list that's picked by the illustrious board.

  1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
  2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
  8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
  9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
  11. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  12. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  13. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. DUNE by Frank Herbert
  15. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
  16. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
  17. A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
  18. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  19. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  20. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  21. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
  22. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  23. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  24. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  25. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  26. SHANE by Jack Schaefer
  27. TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
  28. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
  29. THE STAND by Stephen King
  30. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles
  31. BELOVED by Toni Morrison
  32. THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
  33. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  34. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  35. MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
  36. ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
  37. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  38. WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Connor
  39. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  40. FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
  41. SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
  42. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  43. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  44. YARROW by Charles de Lint
  45. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft
  46. ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
  47. MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
  48. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  49. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  50. TRADER by Charles de Lint
  51. THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
  52. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  53. THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood
  54. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
  55. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  56. ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
  57. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  58. GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
  59. ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
  60. THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
  61. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
  62. STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
  63. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  64. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving
  65. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
  66. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
  67. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  68. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  69. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  70. THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
  71. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  72. THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
  73. ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig
  74. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  75. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  76. AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O'Brien
  77. FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
  78. ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
  79. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
  80. NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
  81. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
  82. GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
  83. THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
  84. IT by Stephen King
  85. V. by Thomas Pynchon
  86. DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
  87. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
  88. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  89. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  90. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey
  91. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  92. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  93. SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
  94. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
  95. MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
  96. SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
  97. MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
  98. ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
  99. THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
  100. THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

And Now... Something that makes me cranky.

Most Canadians Would Grant Permanent Residence to U.S. Military Deserters

Albertans, males, and those with a high school education or less are least likely to agree.

A majority of Canadians would agree with the decision to let American military deserters stay in Canada as permanent residents, an Angus Reid Strategies survey revealed. Earlier in June, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion calling on the federal government to grant residence to all U.S. soldiers who fled to Canada after refusing to take part in the Iraq War. In the online survey of a representative national sample, three-in-five Canadians (64%) say they would agree to give these U.S. soldiers the opportunity to remain in Canada as permanent residents. Click here to read more.

See, I took this poll... it was an online poll that asked a bunch of different questions. I noticed that when this question came up, it was rather ambiguous.

What most Canadians don't realize is that the US Army is 100% volunteer. No one made anyone sign up; no one made anyone sign a contract. But they did. They signed a contract. Some had their education paid for.

They are not the same "deserters" from the Vietnam War era. I could have some sympathy for those who were drafted back then. But the biggest problem I have is my government granting "residence to all U.S. soldiers who fled to Canada after refusing to take part in the Iraq War" because my family spent several thousand dollars and two years working to get my law abiding husband permanent resident status here in Canada.

We went into debt doing it. We turned down opportunities for him to work under the table because that wasn't right. We would wait, we would fill out all the paperwork, we would follow the letter of the law.

And all these "deserters" have to do is change their minds about something they agreed to do, buy a flight and bingo-bongo they get to be permanent residents of Canada.

Not in my Canada.

Ok. Time to Admit Something

I'm a big geek.

I love William Shatner even if I love Jean Luc Picard more. I never missed an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation.



"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."

The poster above is now stationed at my desk, just looking at it makes me smile!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jodie Coston's Online Photography Course

Thanks to Miss Carolyn, I am trying out Jodie Coston's online photography course. Which you'll see is freeeeee. Awesome.





I have done a bit of photography over the last few years. In fact, I did all the photography for my book, Rookie Reiner. But I could use a lot of help. It was easy to take some of the pictures, in summer with the sun shining and one subject to take a picture of. But what about more creative pictures where you want to actually say something with your photo?





Assignment #1 was to take an abstract photo based on the compositional rules in the first lesson (rule of three, golden mean, triangle, etc...). Here are my first two attempts:



I welcome any feedback, opinions... etc...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Quick Comment on all that Obama-Cover-Stuff

I don't know if it's because I'm Canadian or because I'm a writer or a combination... but I'm not sure I get the big kerfuffle about "the Obama cover" on The New Yorker.

Maybe it's because I'm from Canada and we had this huge controversy where a publisher DARED to print cartoons of Mohammed and was sent death threats, sued and hauled into a kangaroo court called the "Human Rights Commission". Since then I've felt strongly that the freedom of speech we need to protect is the most unreasonable speech.

Why?

Because women didn't get to vote by being reasonable.

Schools weren't desegregated because black people were reasonable about it.

Many things have been accomplished through unreasonable writing. This cartoon is a form of expression that should be protected. When we start to self-censor for fear of offending those with thinnest of skins then we lose something very powerful: the ability to change the world through words and images.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's another countdown time!

Ok peeps, it seems that finishing a book under deadline while working full time, battling allergies and puking babies and juggling the big kid's summer schedule.... I soothe my stress with Food and Lots of It. All of It, apparently.

I say this because I am getting big... big ... big.. biggety big...

I'm going to be very open and honest here (mostly I am, really) and tell you all that I'm at my highest weight ever. Yes, this includes while being 9 months pregnant.

Yes really. And can you pass me those butter tarts please. I'm just going to stick one in my back pocket so that it has the shortest route possible to MY BIG BUTT.

So, here's the deal.

I signed myself up for (no, not weight watchers, that would be kind of smart) a writers' conference. Not just any conference by the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I'm signed up, my flight is booked, time is booked off of work and my roomie has booked the rooms.

And I don't want to go fat.

October 24-26th.

Averaging a pound a week is safe... so, 15 lbs.

Except OF COURSE I'd rather that it were closer to 30 lbs. Probably not safe. On the other hand... it's not dangerous.

Probably not going to happen if I continue my little relationship with Rickards White. But you drink it with an ORANGE so it's part FRUIT & VEGETABLE. And one part GRAINS. Hmmmmm.

So I've been at the gym Wed/Thurs and I rode my bike Thursday night. Today was a bit of a write-off but I did some weights/lunges etc.. at home after the baby went to bed. Yes, ok, so I had a beer. But I have not had a butter tart. Even though they call to me with their sweet voices. The bastards.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This was when I knew it would be ok...



I did it. I hit send.

I need a nap.

Or maybe beer.

Total word count is just under 73,000.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

You call me as soon as you have the courage to."


If you have to tell someone "I'm a complete catch"... you may not be. If you have to say "there is nothing wrong with me", then there may be.


Oh, and abuse in childhood? Mother with cancer? Anxiety disorder?


Look up "passive aggressive"?

Now I can tell you the last time I cried...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Someone pat me on the back... please?

I came across a blog today written by a very rich mommy and detailing her trials and tribulations of motherhood. Like, flying first class without a change table in the first class bathroom.

And I came THIS CLOSE to leaving a troll-ish comment. THIS CLOSE people. I was so very irritated.

But I backed away slowly, reminded myself that it would be WRONG to do that and now I'm going to put my head down and work while the baby FINALLY naps.

I just had to confess it out here so that I can feel a bit more accountable.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Nitty Gritty of The Debt

In March of this year I posted that Major Man and I had decided to do a little switcheroo with the money responsibilities. It was a little difficult for me to take, since I've always been the one in control. So it was a matter of letting go and trusting someone else. Something that should be easy with your husband, right?

Actually. Yes, it has been.

We've had a few bumps in the road but I wanted to tell you that we have gotten rid of $18,495 worth of debt. In four months.

I KNOW!

Part of that was selling my truck, which (despite the doom and gloom prognosis) sold for more than I owed on it. I've also had good luck with sales at the Day Job and Major Man has put most of his paycheques towards the debt.

Want to know how we did it? We just followed Gail Vaz-Oxlade's advice to the letter. She's one straight-talking lady!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Schooools Out For the... oh nevermind...

In honour of The Last Day of School for Army Boy, I bring you:

Emily Dickinson's Kids Are Home For The Summer by Wendi Aarons.

And as a bonus, Wendi pointed us in the direction from some other verra, verra funny ladeeees:

Christy the Writer
BernThis

Friday, June 20, 2008

Something to distract you from something else.


I'm at critical mass at the moment. Even my boss is telling me "you need to slow down" when he's usually saying "Pile on more! You can do it!" And his way of telling me this is to tell me a big story about a woman who had kids and worked really hard and then had some kind of breakdown and now she looks old and really skinny.

Wait, skinny would be cool...

Anyways. Here are some nifty sites to peruse:

To freelance for trade magazines, be a team player over at Word Count by Michelle Vranizan Rafter.

How to get your clients to pay invoices promptly by WikiHow... which is really a weird web site because clicking the "Random Article" link in the right hand corner can take you in directions you don't want to go... I got "how to form the word blood with your fingers" and then "how to panhandle online" and now I'm feeling so icky that I almost don't want to link to them... except the paying invoices article is actually pretty good.

Harness the writing process to become more effective (and efficient) writer by Paul Lima who gives verra verra good advice.

Don’t quote the AP… or else? by Carolyn Erickson... who really does hit the flat bit with the hard thingy.

Back shortly after these messages.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Finding Sources

If you start writing in a niche industry and you are even the littlest bit successful then you'll find yourself using the same sources over and over again. I wrote a Q&A column for several years, it was focused on horses and each month I had to find four experts to answer questions. After the first year I'd used everyone I knew who had any kind of good level of expertise!

When seeking sources, you need to get creative. Here are some examples:

  • Mom Groups – postings on bulletin boards at the local gym or YMCA
  • Mass emails to family members and close friends (you know, the ones who aren’t going to report you as spamming!)
  • Professional Associations – email a request to the communications of a non-profit asking them to forward your request for sources to their membership, often they have regular newsletters
  • Emailing the “Investor Relations” contact at a related company
  • University Professor listings – every university or college I’ve looked at has bios and contact info for their staff members
  • Craigslist, Kijiji.ca, Facebook or any other site that offers you to post an “ad” for free
  • Set up a google alert for the phrase “is a mom who” because Google will send you an email each day every time that phrase appears. I’ve done it for my name, blog name and specific phrases like “a veterinarian specializing in lamenesses” to find vets with specialties…

The BEST resource I've seen, by far, is Help A Reporter Out. During a recent posting I received over 60 emails in response.

Thank You Hillary

I know I'm not American, and I try to be multi-partisan on my blog.... but I felt I had to comment on Hillary's "bowing out" speech.

It was well done, inspiring and graceful.

I felt proud to be a woman when I listened to her. Proud to identify as a "third wave" feminist. As she mentioned, I've grown up with the assumption that women get to vote, that all colours of children can go to school and that we are equal under the law.

"All this talk about women's rights is moonshine. Women have every right. They have only to exercise them. That's what we're doing." Victoria ClaflinWoodhull, first woman candidate for President of the United States, 1872

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Too True

Place Five Arrows in Your Marketing Quiver By Paul Lima

Freelance writers like to write. Freelance editors like to edit. Few like to get out there and sell their services. I find that ironic, because most sales efforts require writing and editing. Think telemarketing scripts, sales letters, promotional e-mails, advertising copy, direct mail brochures, Web copy, media releases, and so on.

Why is it, as writers and editors, we can so easily do for others what we struggle to do for ourselves?

The answer is simple. Many freelance writers and editors, even those who work for corporate markets, don’t understand that they are in business and they fail to apply basic business principles to their freelance business.
Once you accept that you are in business and that marketing is part of what makes a business successful, it is easier to use basic sales and marketing tools to develop your business.

Like any business, I have five arrows in my marketing quiver. I shoot them all a planned and systematic manner to generate new and repeat business. The five arrows include:
* Maintain my website
* Generate repeat business, testimonials and referrals
* Network with friends, relatives, associates and organizations
* Advertising and promotion
* Cold calling and mailing

Website
You can be in business without a website, but it is becoming more difficult.
My website contains information about me and my services and books as well as testimonials and examples of my writing. When I promote my books and services, I always include my website address (http://www.paullima.com/) so that those interested in buying what I am selling can find out more from me. In addition, my website is optimized for search engines so it shows up in search results based on key words such as “copywriter Toronto”, “freelance writer Toronto”, “media interview trainer” and others. Over half my new business comes from searches, so it pays to have a website and optimize it for search engines, as I explain in my book, "How to Optimize Your Website for the Best Possible Search Engine Results" (www.paullima.com/books).

Repeat Business
As any retailer can tell you, their next customer is most likely to be a previous customer. But they don’t wait for repeat customers to walk through the door. They use direct mail and other means to invite them to return.

When was the last time you asked previous clients if they needed your services? Out of site is out of mind, so contact previous clients once every few months – a short email message will do – and make generating repeat business one of your marketing strategies.

Most businesses also know that positive word of mouth is their friend.
Deliver the goods and happy customers are likely to tell others about you.
You can sit back and hope your clients will tell others about you, or you can motivate positive word of mouth by asking your clients – by phone or email – for referrals and testimonials.

Networking
You can also ask people you know to tell others about you. This simple but powerful marketing tool is known as networking. Make a list of all the people you know – friends, relative, associates – and make sure they know what you are doing and who you are doing it for. Ask them if they can pass on your name, email address and website address.

A number of organized groups – chambers of commerce, boards of trades, and trade associations – stage formal networking events. If you are not at those events, you are not meeting potential new clients.

Advertising & Promotion
Why not advertise? That’s right, pay to promote your services. Whenever I suggest this to freelance writers and editors, they look askance – as if it were a sin to spend money on marketing. I am not suggesting your run a full page ad in the Toronto Star. However, if you write for the automotive or financial services industry, why not take out a small ad or classified ad in a trade publication that reaches your audience? Consider advertising in the Yellow Pages and on websites that reach your target market. Also, look into running targeted Pay Per Click ads on Google. It’s what other businesses do to reach their target markets.

Why not promote your services? What do you specialize in? Writing or editing proposals for the not-for-profit sector? Writing or editing IT training manuals? Writing or editing legal, financial, healthcare, government, or other documents? Whatever you do, let the editors of publications that reach your target market know that you are willing to be interviewed for articles that deal with communication issues or strategies. You may even be asked to write a short article on your area of expertise for the publication. That is solid exposure for freelancer writers or editors who are targeting the corporate sector.

Cold calling
Use the Web or business directories to source business contact information and promote your services using cold calling or direct mail. Since marketing is, in many ways, a numbers game, you should be sending out five or more direct mail pitches per week or making five or more cold calls. Your goal here is to land new clients you can convert into repeat business.

Not every arrow in the marketing quiver will hit the target every time, but if you are not taking shots in a controlled and systematic manner, you will never hit the target. So remind yourself that you are in business, and start marketing like it matters. Because if you are in business, marketing does matter.

Copyright, 2008: Paul Lima is a Freelance Writer, Writing Trainer, and author of "The Six-Figure Freelance: How to Find, Price, and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments" and seven other books and short reports (www.paullima.com/books). Visit him online at http://www.paullima.com/ or email info@paullima.com.