Saturday, December 17, 2016
We all have Christmas memories and I was thinking about some I remember from the past years is when the ornaments disappeared from the tree. The tale begins with Robespierre, not the French cleric, but a Maine Coon cat with strange tastes.
I found these wonderful ornaments. Wrapped in colorful foils, shaped like bells and ornaments. Wouldn't they look wonderful on the tree. I bought them, took them home, hid them from the children. When the children were tucked tight in their beds, my husband and I decorated the tree. The cat stayed in the family room. He seemed to be asleep.
Once this was completed and the presents were under the tree and the stockings hung on the bottom of their beds, I felt my job was done. Robespierre still slept, curled on the hearth. My husband and I went to bed.
Imagine our shocked expressions in the morning when we saw bits of foil with a little chocolate on the floor and some of the shredded ornaments still on the tree. There sat Robespierre looking a bit like the Cheshire cat. I know chocolate isn't good for cats and worried. The cat seemed to have no problems. There were times when he thought of himself as a human.
The children missed tasting the chocolate ornaments and learned one lesson. When they had chocolate milk or some chocolate flavored cereal, they had to guard the glass or bowl. Robespierre always sat and stared waiting for a spill or an absence.
Next year perhaps I'll share another memory.
Friday, December 16, 2016
There was a time, not very long ago, when my body parts scoffed at age. Pah! Who's getting old? Not me!
And then I began to hear a sound. Muffled but steady. At first, I couldn't tell what it was. But over time my hearing became wiser (I like to say), and, in direct contrast to my eyes focusing only if the object was at the end of my extended arm, I got it. The sound, that is. The source of that clicking sound.
Now I'm not talking about regular clicking, like a clock clicks, or water drips, or the sound a bird-brained cardinal makes when he's attacking himself on the window pane. I'm talking about clicks. Body clicks. Ahh, now do you get it?
I've been fighting it for a long time - the source of the clicks. Sometimes it's from a knee joint, sometimes a toe knuckle, even the back of the neck. That neck sound is a deep, cavernous click. Makes me shiver in response. But that doesn't bother me so much. It's the clicks and clacks and tearing sounds from my shoulder that jolts me. These aren't the sounds of a young person. Nay nay. These are, um, it's hard to put into words and thus give them credence, but these sounds are from an old person.
Wasn't it just last month when I sang my babies to sleep and wasn't it only a few weeks ago when I played ball hockey in the Provincials, and really, wasn't it just last week when I held my first grand child?
Time, thou travels much too quickly. And I respectfully request that you slow down. Because if you don't, my legs won't - can't keep pace and I'm afraid that the cricks and clicks in my body will take over my brain.
My age and time are not always friends. I'm trying to make them be friends but my body is not being nice and keeps getting in the way. My age is just a number, I tell myself. I like to repeat that to my body. Age is just a number. To that, my body looks pensively in the distance, as if willing my body to reflect the age I really, really want to be. 39 seems like a good age. Or 49.
For now, I'm going to ignore the clicks and clacks from my innards. Especially my shoulder. Yes, that I'll ignore until the sound is too loud and the pain too strong. Then, and only then, will I say 'yes' to age and yes again to Advil. Or wine.
In the spirit of Christmas, I would like to wish you all a joyous and loving season and a year of prosperity and adventure in 2017.
|My first grandchild, Kealii, October 2009|
|Kickboxing Orange belt 2016|
|Shoveling 200 ft of driveway, November 2016. That's crazy.|
Grateful to have age and time as my friends.
aka J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Christmas, though by definition a Christian holiday observing the birth of Jesus Christ, is surprisingly celebrated by a vast majority of non-Christians in North America as well. According to an article in the Voice of America, nine in ten Americans, including eighty-one percent of non-Christians, celebrate this holiday.
Several religious holidays that fall around Christmas time—Hannukah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice—have their own rituals. Followers of other religions in Canada and America—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others—have adopted some of the basic Christmas traditions, such as having a Christmas tree in their homes.
Christmas, while being a joyful season, can sometimes be confusing to newcomers. There is always a desire to “fit in” yet, for many, the question arises as to which of the local traditions to embrace. The answer seems to be: whatever one feels comfortable with. One of the most common is the Christmas tree. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center states that about three-fourths of Asian American Hindus and Buddhists, as well as one-third of American Jews report having a Christmas tree in their homes.
Gift giving is a part of all cultures: during Eid for Muslims or Diwali for Hindus, for example. This practice, already familiar, has become widely taken up during Christmas as well.
Christmas trees and gift-giving are easily adaptable due to their non-religious connotations. Sometimes, however, the exchange goes deeper. Christmas becomes an occasion to reach out to various communities.
“It would be typical of mosques to have a sermon on Jesus at this time of year, praising him as one of the great prophets but distinguishing Muslim belief from Christian belief,” says Ihsan Bagby, an Islamic Studies professor at the University of Kentucky who researches American mosques.
In the temple I attend (I’m a Hindu) religious services are organized on Christmas day, mostly because congregants have the day off. These observances have now become a tradition. While the ceremonies are Hindu, mention is always made of Jesus Christ and his message, and it is not at all uncommon for worshippers to wish each other Merry Christmas. An aura of holiness pervades the day.
In the end, what distinguishes Christmas celebrations, in both Christian and non-Christain communities, are themes familiar to all: sacredness, family, love and friendship.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
No, I'm not talking about Christmas, although I certainly hope to enjoy my fair share of chocolate plus an orange or two over the festive season. Instead I am following through on last month's blog A letter to remind us, which is about WW2 and how much we owe to everyone who lived through it.
Thanks to an conversation I had earlier today, I unexpectedly found myself thinking about my very early childhood. I was born in Southampton, England, at the very end of the war. It was, and still is, a very busy Port which, during the 1940s, was a starting point for troop ships, supply convoys and destroyers. Consequently it was regularly bombed throughout the war, and although the devastation of people's ruined lives had been cleared away long before I was old enough to be conscious of it, I can clearly remember the gaps, like missing teeth, in row upon row of houses. I remember, too, the 'wreck', a large grassy field with a huge dip in its centre that my friends and I used to slip and side down, shrieking with laughter and covering ourselves with a reddish dust, never for a moment realising our playground was the result of an exploded bomb, and that there had once been houses on our 'field.'
I didn't know either, that the wood yard opposite my grandmother's house was a yard only because a bomb had flattened all the houses that had once stood there, at the same time it had blown all the windows our of my grandmother's house. I even thought the dark cupboard under her stairs was exciting and liked to crawl inside, never knowing until much later that she and my mother, then a teenager, had spent many terrifying nights sleeping there when all the men of the house were away fighting.
I guess it is understandable that a war torn generation doesn't want to remember the horrors they have been through or talk about them to their children. Instead they need to create new memories and look forward, so my early childhood memories are mostly good ones, and among them are some real treasures. One of the best involves chocolate and oranges...which is where we came in!
Although my maternal grandfather had a terrible war sailing backwards and forwards across the Atlantic in supply convoys until his ship was eventually torpedoed, to me, as a little girl, he was neither a hero nor someone with dreadful memories. Instead he was a smiley, white-haired granddad, who put on a smart uniform every Thursday morning and went to the Port to help organize a ship's turnaround. I loved trying on his peaked cap and looking at his shiny medals, but by far the most important part of the day was when he came home. On Thursdays, instead of using his key he always knocked the door, and it was my job to open it. (I'm sure he must have unlocked it and clicked it open before he knocked because at only three or four years old I was far too small to do it by myself). Then, before he stepped into the house, I had to choose which of his pockets held a surprise. I never got it wrong...a small bar of chocolate, an orange, a banana. The excitement is with me still and of course I was too young to realise that every pocket was a winner! Nor did I know how lucky I was to have a grandfather whose semi-retired job meant he was able to bring home such treats. I didn't know that chocolate and those oranges had travelled thousands of miles across the sea or that few other children would taste them for several more years.
There are other memories too. One is of being sent to the shop next door to buy a bag of broken biscuits. This was much better than choosing one particular sort. Instead there was the joy of dipping into the bag and never being sure what would come out. Half a custard cream, a chipped ginger snap, or, if I was lucky, something with chocolate on it. The cakes were delicious too, despite rations being short. My grandmother always cooked from scratch and there was never enough sugar for icing, but even so I've never again tasted a Victoria sponge as good as hers.
I didn't know shelling peas was a chore either, or picking gooseberries, or pulling carrots. I thought they were just things I did because I loved how my mother cooked them, the same as I thought going to the library every week was because I liked to read, not because there was no spare money to buy books except at Christmas or birthday.
So that's another debt I owe to my parents and grandparents, and I am sure there are many others who feel the same. I was allowed to grow up without any of their memories of those terrible years of war shadowing my childhood. To me, until I was much older, all I learned were the popular songs they had sung and the strange nicknames of the people they had once lived and worked with. And my favorite dress for a very long time was an Royal Airforce blue pinafore embroidered around the bib with bright pink chain stitch. To me it wasn't a remake of my mother's WRAF uniform skirt, it was a lovely dress, a Christmas present lovingly made...cut out by my father and sewn by my mother.
The ice-cream and the bread might have been rubbish in those early years after the war, and for years to come, but I barely noticed because I had the chocolate and the oranges as well as a whole lot of other things besides. So thank you Mum and Dad, and thank you all those other adults who made sure I and my friends had a shadow-free childhood. It's taken me until now to really understand.
Mending Jodie's Heart (pictured above) is the first book of my When Paths Meet trilogy and as well as a romance it is a story of the sacrifice and love that is needed to raise a child. Books 2 and 3 continue this theme although none of the heroines were as lucky as me. You can find them at:
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.
Road Tripping USA Part Twelve
After visiting my cousin, Betty, in Mayer for two days, our next destination was the Grand Canyon National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stopped in the parking lot of the South Rim. Mike was able to make the short walk to the first of many viewpoints. I’d seen pictures and heard stories of how beautiful the canyon was but I wasn’t prepared for the absolute grandeur of the multi-coloured layers, the river far below, the rock formations. It was amazing to stand on the rim of the canyon and try to visualize the five million years it had taken the Colorado River to form it.We took our time, walking from viewpoint to viewpoint taking pictures and just staring. The canyon is 277 miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide in places and can reach a depth of more than a mile. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Grand Canyon National Park was formed in 1919.
We drove the Desert View Highway and stopped at other viewpoints for a different view of the canyon and to take more pictures. At the Tusayan Ruin I walked around the small site. It is estimated that about twenty people lived in this pueblo or village. Nothing has been done to reconstruct it only to stabilize what remains of the walls, which are now only about two layers of rock high. I looked at the living quarters, the storage rooms, and the kiva. I took the short hike down to a clearing where they may have had a garden. They also used a lot of the trees and bush for medicinal purposes and for food.
It is believed that the Peublo Indians built this site around 1185 and occupied it for about twenty years. Again, I was standing in a place constructed thousands of years ago. How thrilling. From the ruins I looked into the distance and saw Humphries Peak. At 12,633ft (3851m) it is the highest point in Arizona.
Further along the highway we reached the Watchtower. Construction on this tall, circular tower on the rim of the Grand Canyon began in 1930. In order to give it an ancient look the weathered stones picked for it were left in their natural state.
Inside is a visitor's center, a gift shop, and different Hopi drawings simulating what the early natives would have drawn, on the walls. I looked up the open shaft to the third floor ceiling, then climbed the circular staircase which ran along the outer walls. On each floor there are Hopi paintings. At the top are wide windows with an excellent view over the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Before descending I looked down the centre shaft to the bottom level.
After the Watchtower we left the Grand Canyon National Park. As we neared Cameron we drove through miles and miles of the Painted Desert. The layers of the hillsides are made of siltstone, mudstone, and shale. These contain iron and manganese compounds that provide the pigments for the various colours. The layers are easily eroded and so the hills are a variety of reds, tans, pinks, blues, and grays.
When we rose the next morning it was still overcast and raining. We continued our drive through the Painted Desert. The blacks, reds, plums, siennas, and grayish teal were all beautiful.
We reached Marble Canyon, which is the beginning of the Grand Canyon and crossed the Colorado River Bridge. Beside it, also over the river, is the Navajo bridge, which was built in 1929. The old one is narrow and now used as a walkway.
We were on the Vermilion Cliffs Highway and following the Vermilion Cliffs which lived up to their names. They are high and vermilion coloured and run for miles along the highway. We reached the Cliff Dwellings alongside the road. I walked over to look in what remained of the homes created under the large rocks
Sign: Cliff Dwellings-People Who Live In Rock Houses. Erosion of sandstone formations leave a variety of crevices, caves and overhangs. Over time travellers and residents found creative ways to use these natural features as temporary or permanent shelter. Around 1927 Blanche Russell's car broke down as she travelled through this area. Forced to camp over night she decided she liked the scenery so well that she bought property and stayed. The stone buildings under these balanced rock were built shortly after that in the 1930s. Before 1930 a road trip up the east side of Kaibab Mountain was very steep. The early cars had a gravity feed gas pump. When climbing the mountain the vehicles could not get gas to the engine but they solved the problem by backing up the steepest parts.
The scenery changed to mainly forest. We passed a road to the north rim of Grand Canyon which was closed for the winter. We climbed steadily to Jacob Lake. At the summit we descended to the Paria Plateau where we could see forever. We arrived at Freedonia, which was established in 1885. Just on the northern outskirts we entered the state of Utah and were in Kanab.
As instructed, we drove down the middle of the road through the very long tunnel. There were three spaces where an opening allowed us to see the scenery on the passenger's side. Once out of the tunnel we snaked downhill on steep switch backs into the canyon. We turned off the main road onto the Zion Canyon scenic drive. There are walking bridges across the Virgin River to get to trails on the other side. At the end of the drive there is a river hike that follows the river through the narrowing canyon. It is a two mile round trip but I didn’t have time to do it.
I met a young woman from Australia. She and her boyfriend were touring for two months in a van borrowed from a friend.
“We’re from Vancouver Island and we've been on the road for almost ten weeks,” I said.
“Where on the island are you from?” she asked.
“Really? I worked at Mount Washington Ski Resort a few years ago and really liked it. I’d like to go back sometime.”
Mount Washington Ski Resort is about a three hour drive from Port Alberni.
It was December 4, Day 68 of our trip. We now had no schedule. Instead of being on a holiday we were on an adventure to make it home before running into snow. We looked at the map for the fastest, yet warmest route home. Over the next three days we drove northwest through Nevada, Oregon and Washington. We drove through fog, rain, and snow and reached Port Angeles on December 6th. On December 7th , we crossed the Juan de Fuca Strait and pulled into our driveway in the early afternoon. We’d driven 18,758km (11656 miles), travelled through two provinces and nineteen states and been gone ten weeks.
What an experience.
Monday, December 12, 2016
|If Wishes Were Magic |
by Barbara Baldwin
|Twelve Dates of Christmas |
by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey
|To Kiss an Angel |
by Jane Beckenham
|Gracie's Holiday Magic |
by Betty Jo Schuler
|Merriest Christmas Ever |
by Betty Jo Schuler
|Desperately Seeking Santa |
by Jane Beckenham
|Merry Christmas, Marcie |
by Sydell Voeller
|Always Believe |
by Barbara Baldwin
|A Christmas Gift|
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Have you ever been introduced to someone whose name doesn’t seem to work? When something about the combination of first and last names doesn’t sound good together? I have and it’s jarring. I went to school with a John John and in yesterday's obituaries here were a Thomas Thompson and a Bob Olive. All I can say is, “Why?” For writers, characters’ names should be as important as they are to prospective parents. A good name gives a character hint. Due diligence is required.
I rooted through Google and came up with some interesting articles. For example: according to the website Livescience.com, the most hated boy’s names in America are Jayden, Brayden, Hayden, Aiden, Kayden, Madison and Addison, and Nevaeh is the name most “likely to put people’s teeth on edge.” Nevaeh is what is known as a trope—that is, “a concept audiences will recognize and understand instantly.” A trope can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative or linguistics structure or, in this case, a character type because Nevaeth is heaven spelled backwards. The name was non-existent in the 1990s but came into popularity in 2003.
The most disliked girl’s names are Mackenzie, McKenna and Makayla. Makayla sounds made up--as though the bearer came from a low-income family or one of low socioeconomic status. It’s a good trope for a writer but might well handicap the possessor’s future.
People also don’t like names which imply virtue, such as Destiny and Hope or those that hint at violence, such as Hunter. Michael is considered boring and Bentley smacks of being a brand name.
Mystery writer, Elizabeth Sims, has seven rules for chose characters’ names:
1. Check the root meanings. For example, Theodore means “gift of God.” Book buyers are smart.
2. Get your era right. The TV show, Dynasty may have given us the name Crystal (Krystle) but it wasn’t common before then.
3. Say them out loud or use a test-to-speech software service such as Readplease to hear how a name sounds. Readplease has a free version.
4. Manage your cast by using names of varying syllables and which start with different letters.
5. Alliteration can be useful but should be used sparingly; consider Severus Snape.
6. Be sure foreign names and a character’s nationality match.
Other tips: avoid names that are awkward in the possessive form, such as Ross, or have a spelling that will trick Word’s spellcheck; names can tell the reader something about the character; be consistent, i.e. use the name or the nickname but don’t jump back and forth; avoid middle names. There might be many Karla Stover(s) but one person with the name, Karla Ann Stover could sue.
The website, Be-a-better-writer.com suggests using a name generator, which I did. For men, I got Victor Cancel, Connor Lilly, and Alfred Charm. Suggested names for women included, Harper Rekdal, Lolita Adams, and Kennedy Avignone. Yikes! Those are just wrong.
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