Writing Update

Poor Lingo Slinger Blog. It’s the bastard child who lives in the basement feeding on crumbs. I have been very busy lately, with my writing especially. You wouldn’t know it by looking here, but my writing career (the one I actually get paid for) has been going very well, so my own work has been taking a back seat lately in favor of client work.

I decided not to post any further chapters of my recent WIP book since I am seeking representation for it (just have to be careful with how much I post). Just wanted to post the first few chapters to gauge interest, so thank you to those who provided feedback and comments. If you do want to read it though, drop me an email and I will send it to you personally to review and provide feedback on when it’s finished. The stuff I posted here was raw, unedited and needed some restructuring – so I have since changed a few things. I am hoping to have the book finished by the end of this year so I can start querying it out by January.

So anyhoo that’s what’s up with my writing stuff lately. I am often posting instagrams on Twitter, the occasional VSS or checking in here and there, but aside from that haven’t had much time for blogging. I am working on my author website right now though and will link that to this website eventually.

So thanks for dropping in! Feel free to connect on Twitter or Facebook if you want another way to contact me.

Cheers!

 

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Chapter Three

I woke up drooling sort of hanging off of Jim and Susan’s couch. It took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t at home, and that this crazy power and communications outage was in fact not a dream, but still happening. I could tell that the heat was still off because the living room felt colder and my feet were freezing. December really isn’t the best time in Canada to lose your heating and electricity. I could see the condensation forming on the windows from the cold air. I stretched my arms and looked over to see Mary sitting quietly and contemplatively in the chair.

“Morning” I smiled

She looked at me and tried to crack a smile, but let’s face it… Smiling was pretty hard right now. It was going on 24 hours without heat, electricity and communications and it had to be at least minus ten outside. Smiling wasn’t exactly the first thing on the morning agenda.

“It’s pretty cold in here” I said looking over at the smoldering ashes in the fireplace from the night before.

“Yeah” said Mary “I could barely sleep last night. Did you hear those noises outside?”

“No. I think the wine knocked me out. I didn’t hear anything at all. What was it?”

“It kind of sounded like mobs of people. I heard screaming and crowds of people. I think it must have been only a couple of blocks over.”

“Wow, maybe we should go for a walk today and see what happened. I think I am gonna go home this morning and get cleaned up and changed into some fresh clothes. Hopefully the heat will come back on!”

“Yeah. I think I am ready to go home too” said Mary “This has all been very overwhelming. I think some normalcy and the familiarity of my house is exactly what I need right now. Here let me give you my phone nu-.”

We both laughed. “I’m at 342” she said. “You know where to find me.”

We had breakfast with Susan and Jim – Scrambled eggs and bacon done over their fireplace with their camping supplies. It was actually very good. I headed home nervously after breakfast and stopped on the street to notice how quiet the street was. Usually I heard buses and honking and cars driving past, there was no sound today. It was quiet like it had never been before. It made me slightly uncomfortable. The birds in the trees had stopped their incessant chirping now though. I guess what they were warning about had already happened.

The sky still looked strange with streaks of Purple hanging like curtains where fluffy White clouds used to be. I unlocked my door and looked sadly at my cat who stared at me. I knew he wanted food. He didn’t have in his mind the things that were going on in my mind. He had simple needs and simple thoughts.

I poured some food into his dish and picked up his water dish. I headed over to my sink where there were stacks of dishes from 2 days ago. “I guess I am gonna be washing these in cold water” I thought to myself. I turned on the tap to fill my cat’s water dish with water. It made some sputtering sounds; spat out a few drops of water and then stopped. I dropped to my kitchen floor and cried. I felt completely helpless and alone. My cat came up and rubbed against my leg and then went over to his water bowl. It must have been at least an hour that I laid on my kitchen floor staring up at the ceiling, letting tears fall from my eyes and my mind wander into territory that I wish it hadn’t entered.

I sat up and wiped my wet and snotty face into my sleeve and stood to my feet. The house was so quiet and uncomfortable. You never really realize how addicted to distractions you are until they are all taken away from you.  The only thing I had was myself; just me and my thoughts in complete solitude.

Sitting on my couch with my cat beside me I let my mind go where I was terrified to let it go and asked myself “what if the power doesn’t come back on? What if this doesn’t get fixed?” I began thinking about who I knew in the area and what my plan should look like. I could drive to my parents house an hour away, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough gas to get there. And all of the gas pumps were down because they (like everything) were controlled by computers. Same reason my water probably stopped. It is really astonishing when you sit back and think about how we created our own system of failure. I mean why didn’t we ever think about this happening. We live in an expansive universe that we haven’t even begun to understand. Who were we to think that we were ever above nature?

“Even if this does get fixed soon” I thought, “we will have to change the way life on this planet currently operates. We need something better.”

I grabbed my car keys and ran out the door to check my gas situation in my un-fuel-efficient GMC Yukon. I had a quarter of a tank. That was pretty much what it took to get to my parents house on the nose. But since I had no way to get in touch with them, I didn’t even know if they were there. I went back into the house and tried to think about what I should do.

I needed to get out of the house for a while. I lived in a small but quaint downtown core. On a normal day there were tons of people walking around, sitting in coffee shops and shopping. Even in the winter – people liked to walk around, especially dog people.

I grabbed my coat, hat, and mitts and headed out the door to check out what was going on in my little town. There weren’t as many people on the streets as there normally were, and the businesses all seemed to be closed, except for a few that were boarding up their windows with plywood. Thieves had ransacked the hardware store. Every window was broken and boarded up with a message spray painted on the wood that said, “you should be ashamed of yourself”. It didn’t look like anyone was open today.

My stroll slowed to a halt as I neared City Hall. There were protesters outside demanding that the problems be fixed while others called for a state of emergency.  But the protesters looked weary and defeated, many of them were leaving and going home. I saw a woman bundled up in a sleeping bag with her sign on the ground beside her. Her sign read “Heat and communications are basic necessities of life. Don’t deny us the right to live.” I half smiled at her while reading her sign. She stared at me blankly, void of any emotion.

The streets had a strange glow to them now from the overhanging Purplish-Pink sky. Everything looked pretty, yet dead. No lights, no cars, no life. My walk took me about ten blocks until I returned back to my home.  I went inside and sat on my couch in silence, trying to bring my mind to a point of peaceful meditation. I was on the brink of a total meltdown and I could feel it bubbling up inside of me, but part of me knew that if I let that happen, I would be in an even worse situation than I was. I was here and I was alone. I had no one here with me and this was my reality. I had to decide what my next move would be and figure out a plan that worked for me. There was nobody around to bail old Jane out of this one. When things got tough I often looked to my friends, family and support network for help – and they were always there for me, but I had to think this time.

I sat in quiet meditation for about an hour and slowly opened my eyes to see my cat staring at me intently. He blinked at me approvingly. I guess he appreciated the state that I was in at that moment.

I had a plan, well… kind of.

I grabbed some large storage bins and placed them in the center of my living room. Next, I thought about food – I went through my kitchen retrieving as many non-perishables as I could, along with a few dishes, a pan, some cutlery, knives, and a can opener. I placed them all inside of one of the large storage bins. Next I rounded up kitchen towels, cloths, toilet paper and a case of water from my basement. I put these things in the storage bin as well. I forced myself to think worst-case scenario without making it seem scary or depressing. “I am alive” I thought to myself, “for that, I am thankful.” I rounded up some tools – a hammer, some nails, a couple of screwdrivers, duct tape, measuring tape, and some pliers. I knew that tools would be essential, even though my ability to use them left something to be desired. Next I rounded up some blankets, sheets, pillows and warm clothes. I placed it in the second storage bin. A few months prior a friend had introduced me to soap nuts, saying that she had stopped using laundry detergent and was now using these soap nuts instead. I hadn’t tried them yet but I had a bag of them in my basement that I thought might come in handy, so I grabbed those too.

After about an hour I had two very large storage bins full of essential food, supplies and clothing. These things, I thought – were the basic necessities of life, or as close as I could come with what I had.

I had a very big decision to make – Use the last of my gas to get to my parents house, stay put where I was, or drive a few minutes down the road to my friend Jenn’s house. My SUV was a gas guzzling pig, so any road trip I made had to be for good reason, and possibly be because I would stay where I went. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding what to do. Today was Saturday. I decided to give myself until Thursday, living off of the things in my fridge and cupboards until then.  A lot of the things in the fridge had already spoiled because of the power being shut off. I wouldn’t attempt to eat the yogurt or milk, but other things – like the vegetables and fruit could probably still be eaten.

I went into my fridge and pulled out every last salvageable piece of fruit or veg that I could find and sliced them up into containers. I knew that if this “thing” as I now referred to it, was going to last more than a few days (or months) that I wouldn’t be able to get fresh food for a while, unless I planned on ransacking a grocery store… Which had probably already been done – judging by the state of downtown.

It’s weird when you’re alone with no way to communicate with anyone. A couple of times I even forgot and grabbed the phone and started dialing. I stopped myself in the midst of doing this, wondering what had prompted me to act so robotically without considering the “now” that I was experiencing. It was like I wanted to call my mom or my friend Jenn and tell them about what was happening, which was ridiculous – because it was happening to them too. And just as I couldn’t contact them, they too couldn’t contact me. I wondered what my mom and dad were doing, how they were coping with the changes. I pictured my dad panicking and my mom gathering firewood and organizing supplies. Their neighbour had a huge fire pit in their backyard, and the small community in which they lived, were likely working together to help each other out, as they often already did. Small communities are great for that sort of thing. My city was, by contrast a little snobbier. People didn’t really care who you were or what you did and you might live next door to someone for five years without ever saying hello or good morning. And that… was my dilemma.

I remembered having a conversation in 2010 with one of my meditation guides, she told me that this was going to happen. She forewarned of the global crisis that we were in – citing that it was inevitable and unchangeable but that it would be a new beginning. No amount of recycling, energy efficient bulbs, or innovative thinking could have prepared us for this. We were at nature’s mercy. The universe decided that its intergalactic weather was going to wreak havoc here on earth, and that’s what happened. We simply weren’t equipped to deal with it. Our entire economy is dependent on satellites, computers, and electricity. We now had no way to pump gas or withdraw money, thanks to this “intelligent” system we had designed for ourselves here on earth.

I remembered thinking my friend Evvie was a bit of a cynic for believing what she believed. She had a serene nature about it though. She wasn’t all doom & gloom “the world is going to end”. In fact the opposite, she was excited and almost looking forward to it, which I couldn’t quite wrap my head around – especially as I looked around me and felt helpless and alone.  She used to say “Jane, it’s nothing to fear. Embrace it. Those who are connected to their higher selves will transition beautifully. Those who are disconnected will struggle.”

Somewhere along the lines in late 2011 I stopped meditating, reading and going to my drumming circles. I had spent 3 solid years being highly spiritual and infinitely creative, but I dropped all of that like a bad habit when someone dangled a fat pay cheque in front of my eyes and I got caught up in a soulless 60-hour workweek. Slowly but surely, my beliefs became murky, my spirit cloudy and my memories of what so many spiritual teachers, mentors, and friends forewarned me of – a distant speck in the history of me.  Sustainable living and love of the planet came a distant second to my career and “life” online. I falsely thought that I was “connected” which was ironic now. But the truth was, I gave up real connection in favor of perceived connection. I gave up my real life connections: my drumming circle friends, my Reiki share group, my meditation group and even my old friends from school. My friends were coworkers and online friends, and none of them were anywhere They all, no doubt, sensed that my life was more focused on career and “the internet” and distanced themselves from me as well. I found myself in a constant state of stress and anxiety, and whenever I tried to reel myself in through Reiki or meditation – a little voice in the back of my brain would be doing a fine job of working against me. I couldn’t focus on my spirit because I refused to believe in it anymore. I didn’t have time to talk about the universe in all its infinite glory and my coworkers thought I was a freak when I told them that I had my Master Reiki certification. There was a distinct contrast between what I believed and what I lived, so I had to stop doing one of them… And well, the believing wasn’t paying the bills and wouldn’t change the fact that we were a consumer based society of materialistic consumption. So I simply stopped listening to my spirit and connecting with my . I stopped embracing that stuff, in favor of the here and now life of consumption, material, wealth and all that stuff that contributed to the awful state of our planet.

I sat there thinking about the way I had spent the last year living and it made me sad. I gave up the most important things, in favor of money. Money that I couldn’t even access right now and that I probably wouldn’t ever see again, unless the banks had some way of recovering their systems from intergalactic communications storms.  How would our society reset from this? How would we be able to go back to the way things were? The simple answer was that it won’t be like it was before. For the first time in human life – money was not helpful right now. Money couldn’t buy me a plane ticket, some gas, groceries, or a way out of this situation.

And even if it could, I wouldn’t know who to give it to.

Chapter Two

It was starting to get dark as we all huddled around my neighbour Jim’s coffee table surrounded by candles talking about the unbelievable events of the day. There were seven of us; two couples, a teenager, Mary and myself.  Jim had ventured out two hours earlier to try to get some gas and was telling us about his experience on the road.

“None of the traffic lights are working for miles” he said

“Strangely nobody is out on the street either. There were barely any cars around. I stopped at five gas stations and couldn’t get fucking gas from any one of em’. I guess because they are all electronically controlled or something. Only two of the gas stations had employees. The other ones were just ghost towns. People must be really freaked out.”

We all stared at Jim in disbelief. It was hard to imagine not being able to get gas. Things like electronically controlled pumps aren’t things we imagined failing a few days earlier. Like everything, we just took it for granted and didn’t think about what “could” happen.

It is one thing having your Internet go down or even losing power for a few hours, it is another to lose all communications and power at the same time. You feel a sense of hopelessness… lost. You truly don’t appreciate how dependent we are on technology until you spend a day without it. No television to check the weather or news; no radio in the car to keep us informed; no phone (mobile or landline) to call friends and family, and no Internet to turn to. The entire day had been one sobering display of reality, quickly reminding us just how vulnerable we really are. We’ve just been very lucky up until now.

Jim and Susan (the woman that had been on the street with Mary and I earlier) had a lovely little bungalow. The house had a traditional fireplace. There weren’t many of those in this area anymore; most had been replaced with fancy wall mounts or gas fireplaces. Theirs was the real deal. Jim came in from the garage holding an armful of wood.
“Here let’s start a fire. That’ll help keep us warm. You guys are all welcome to stay here with Susan and I for the night if you’d like. It’s cold out there. At least you’ll have heat. We can cook on the fire too. We have some old camping cookware we used to bring to the trailer with us, we can boil the kettle for tea and make some steaks.”

“Thanks Jim” I said “You really seem prepared for this kind of thing. I am like a fish out of water. I don’t know what to do with myself without my iPhone.”

Jim and Susan’s teenager (Sarah) looked over at me and smiled nervously “me too” she said.

I thought about how strange it must be for her. She was 18 years younger than me and I was a tech nerd. She didn’t know life without WiFi or texting! At least I was a Gen Xer and remembered what life was like BG (before Google). She was born with the internet. She didn’t know life without mobile or internet.

No wonder she was so quiet.

I felt strangely comforted with these 6 relatively unknown people who lived on my street. I felt connected to them through this experience and knew that we would continue to support each other and be friends even after the lights came on.

The other couple in our group (Kristin and Mark) decided to go home and sleep for the night. “Hopefully we’ll wake up to the power being back on” joked Mark “because this sucks balls.” We all laughed and wished them a good night as they headed back to their house.

Mary and I sat on the couch sipping wine while Susan ran around putting stuff in coolers and Jim brought wood in from the garage. Sarah sat beside a candle quietly reading a book. She was in complete emotional turmoil. I could tell by looking at her that she was freaking out inside but just trying to play it cool. None of us really talked about the “what if” factor. We pretty much went on the assumption that the lights would come back on, our internet would be restored, and our phones would work again. Not having those things didn’t seem plausible.

Mary was getting a little hammered by about midnight, she began telling me about how her marriage ended.

“Oh he was a real jerk” she giggled “He was unemployed for five years while I struggled working two jobs. Just used to sit around watching TV all day collecting disability and getting drunk. I was miserable and trying to pay the bills by myself because his money just went on booze. I am so thankful that I got out of that relationship when I did. He died last year of a heart attack. Only 52 years old.”

“Wow, I am so sorry to hear that Mary. You are an incredibly strong woman. How have you managed all these years on your own?”

She smiled and got teary “My son” she said “He is an absolute godsend. His name is Jared. He is in Africa working to introduce education to a small village that was hit hard by AIDS. He helped to build a school, shape the curriculum and works to encourage parents to allow their kids to attend school.”

“Wow. He sounds like an amazing guy.”

“He really is. He is so inspiring. He keeps me going. The reason why I got so upset earlier is that I was expecting an email from him this evening. He goes into one of the larger cities once per week to email me from an internet café. Today was the day.”

We both sat there in silence listening to the crackle of the fire sipping our wine, while Sarah was curled up in a chair across the room occasionally raising her gaze from the book she was reading.

Jim excitedly came running into the living room with a  giant box “I found it” he shouted “I found it”.

“Found what?” asked Susan

“My old telescope” he said. “It’s been years since I used this thing. I thought we could check out the sky tonight and see what’s going on up there.”

Jim set the telescope in the front living room window. There were no street lamps on, no lights from surrounding houses, or other sources of light pollution; just the glow of the moon and the stars, which we could actually see. The pink and purple sky that we had seen earlier was now replaced with a dark night sky, which on any other day would be quite beautiful. But now, it just seemed sort of scary and primal. There was just something about it that didn’t seem quite right.

We all gathered around the giant telescope sitting on the floor around it on couch cushions holding our wine. Jim ‘s telescope was on a mount facing upwards. He opened one of the windows so that we could view the sky without the glass.

Jim went silent for a few moments until he said “Wow… This is… I mean. Wow.”

“What are you seeing?” asked Mary

“I don’t even know how to explain it” he said “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Here come and take a look.”

Mary went and looked through the scope and also fell silent as she moved it around observing the same incredible sky that had rendered Jim so speechless. She backed away slowly from the telescope with her fingers resting on her mouth. “Here Jane. You go look. It’s… Beautiful, but unbelievable.”

I set my wine down and peered through the telescope observing the night sky like I had never seen it before. There were huge streaks of colour, now Green and blue. They cascaded through the sky, just barely visible to the naked eye if you were looking for it but obvious and bold with the telescope. The colours moved and changed and occasionally a streak of Purple or Red would be seen. It was like the Auroura Borealis on steroids.

I had witnessed the Auroura Borealis once in my life when I was a kid. I remember I had been suffering from the stomach flu, which, for a ten year old, was the worst thing ever. My brother excitedly grabbed my arm and ran out the back door with me. There was a hill at the back of the house. We ran all the way to the top. I had no idea why we were running or what we would see, but we ran to the top of the hill and collapsed. We looked up and saw the most beautiful lights in the sky. We sat there in silence for a half hour just looking at the sky.

I backed away from the telescope and sighed thinking about my family, wishing I could just talk to one of them on the phone to see how they were handling this whole thing. I missed them terribly.

first chapter of my new (untitled) book

Photo courtesy of CleanTechnologies.ca

It was a Friday morning. I was hung-over and still in bed. I looked over at my alarm clock, which was flickering from, bright to dim. It said 11:01AM. My room seemed eerie and quiet. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at my flickering clock. I hit it a few times with my hand and then unplugged it. I thought perhaps it might be a fire hazard.  My iPhone beeped telling me I had a text message. I ignored it and sauntered into the kitchen to make myself a much-needed cup of tea.  When I opened the fridge door it hit me like a ton of bricks; the calendar on the fridge. Today was Friday December 21st 2012”.  Suddenly I felt a knot form in my stomach. Today was supposed to be “the day”, the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. I looked up at the clock on the wall, which now said 11:09. I looked in the mirror and whispered, “calm down, it’s all hype. It’ll be fine. It’s just a day.”

A few months ago I had talked to some friends about this and we had all agreed to get together and be together during this time “just in case”. It was half joking, half serious. But here I was alone, completely oblivious to the days date. I started singing the Star Spangled Banner for some reason. I think it made me feel better. The kettle whistled and I heard the second hand on the clock move into position, which seemed louder and more pronounced than ever. I turned around slowly to see the time: 11:11AM.

And it was at that moment that my lights went out.

“Oh shit” I shouted.

My cat came into the kitchen and stared at me in a way that I have never quite seen him look before. He began yowling ferociously at me, staring at me in desperation – expecting something from me. I poured some food into his dish and gave him some water. He didn’t go near it and continued on yowling at me. “Oh gawd I wish I understood kitty language” I thought to myself. I picked him up and cuddled him into my chest as he continued on. I also noticed the birds outside. They were chirping fiercely and loudly and seemed to all be gathered in the tree in my front yard. I opened the front door and looked up at the trees. There were mobs of birds in every tree as far as the eye could see. I have never heard so many birds chirping at one time. I looked up at the sky and noticed it was a beautiful magenta colour with flecks of pink and the clouds were moving at an astonishing pace. Perhaps this was what the birds were chirping about and my cat was yowling about. It did seem strange.  I went back inside to make my tea, unsure of how to process these occurrences, but not wanting to let my imagination run wild with apocalyptic wonder.

My cat was sitting rigidly on the windowsill staring up at the sky intently. He was agitated and on alert. His tail was all fat and spikey, like the way it looks when he is threatened by another animal. I stood and stared at him for a minute wondering what must have been going through his mind. This was all a little too close for coincidence. Conspiracy theories and mean tricks starting running through my mind as possible “triggers” for the power outage… But that didn’t explain the sky or the birds.

I looked at the clock again to do a time check. It was now 11:35AM. So the big 11:11 time had come and gone, and I was still standing here in my kitchen alive looking at my cat. But on the other hand, the lights did go out at 11:11. I played tug of war with my mind going back and forth between coincidence and reality.  I decided that the best thing for me to do was sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and just be in the moment with my tea before resorting to complete and utter panic mode. As a writer, my mind tends to wander into the depths of extremity at times and this was one time when I desperately wanted to avoid that type of thinking.

When I finished my tea I reached for my phone. I was surprised that no one had called to tell me about their power going out, which made me wonder. Maybe it was just my power. Maybe everyone else was fine and the outage was restricted to my block. I pulled my phone out of my purse and hopped to my feet to look out the window one more time. The birds were still congregating in all of the treetops and the sky still looked purple and pink. I noticed that I had no bars on my iPhone, which was weird because I always had stellar reception in my neighbourhood. In fact, people always commented on it. My stomach twisted and turned and I suddenly felt that there might be something bigger at work here.

I am not sure why the iPhone was the trigger for this and not the power outage, the birds, or the pink sky. I guess I was trying to keep my thoughts from destroying me. I got a bit panicky and ran to the back room to get the house phone (which I never used).

The line was dead.

No dial tone.

A couple of tears escaped from my eyes as I worried about getting in touch with my family. I opened my MacBook to check my internet connection knowing that there wouldn’t be one. But I still had to be sure. It was at this moment that I felt the magnitude of whatever this “thing” was hit me like a wrecking ball to the chest. In my 34 years on this planet I have never known a time without a working phone line and in my later years – a working internet connection. I was a GenXer – a wired entrepreneur who thrived on Facebook, Twitter, texting and WiFi. Sure I remember what it was like before these things existed, but I got used to them, and I liked them. This outage was huge, whatever it was. It brought back memories of the big Black Out of 2003; the second largest electrical blackout in history. But this one was different… The sky looked weird and the animals knew something that the humans didn’t.

Accepting that this was way bigger than I had initially thought, I decided to grab my keys and go for a walk in my neighbourhood. Some of my neighbours were outside on the sidewalk talking. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were as scared as I was. I walked over and introduced myself:

“Hi, I’m Jane. I live at #117.”

“Hi Jane” said one woman as she hugged me and sobbed into my shoulder “I’m Mary.”

“This is pretty strange huh? What do you make of all this?”

The other woman (who’s name I didn’t know) jumped in and said “I think it’s some sort of solar storm. I think it will pass. We knew something was going to happen, and here it is. We have to be careful not to panic.”

Mary glared at the woman through soggy eyes and said “My son is in Africa and I have no way to get a hold of him.”

We all stood there in silence for a moment as some strange noises came from the sky above. It kind of sounded like what you hear when you lasso a rubber skipping rope around in the air quickly.

The Santa Debacle

After a week of puking, ear infections, sick cranky kids fighting every 5 minutes, and house-bound lock down – Christmas Eve was a welcome arrival. I even got us out of the house at a reasonable time and arrived at my parents house for 2 o’clock (normally unheard of for me). But this year I was an incident away from having a complete nervous breakdown and needed to get this thing we call Christmas underway for the sake of my mental health, and my daughters (who would surely be helicoptered into the wall if they had one more fight, whined or screamed in my ear one more time). I was teetering on the brink and they knew it. So I put on my happy excited Christmas Eve face and got us out the door and up to the bustling metropolis of Cayuga, Ontario – population 1500, presents in tow.

Christmas Eve is the only evening of the year when my normally bedtime allergic children ask if they can go to bed continually between the hours of 5pm and 7pm hearing a resounding NO from me. My reasoning is purely selfish. Because I know that I am going to be up until 2 or 3am playing Santa and getting drunk with the adults and don’t want them potentially waking at 5am to drag my hungover ass out of bed so they can start opening their presents. Around 7 we watched Despicable Me while my crazy 14 month old nephew pulled hair, gave us Manchester Hello’s (shockingly painful head butts), got up and down from the sofa 65 or 70 times, screamed and tried to eat our feet with his sharp little baby teeth leaving our socks wet with his strategic slobber.

At 9 o’clock bed time had finally arrived and the girls couldn’t have been happier. They had literally waited ALL DAY to go to bed and all of the waiting had finally paid off. In my family we have a tradition (a British thing) where the kids choose a pillow sack from the linen closet, place it at the foot of the bed (to be filled by Santa) and leave cookies and milk beside the bed along with a carrot for the reindeer. Well my mom makes a legendary spiced carrot soup and had chopped up all of the carrots for the soup. Everyone KNOWS you can’t give a reindeer carrot coins, so we instead told the girls that the reindeer were getting tired of carrots, (because everyone leaves carrots) and that they should instead give them parsnips, because parsnips are like luxury carrots, but taste way better. This satisfied their Christmas Even logistical requirements, and we set off to their bedroom to leave the spread out for Santa.

At about 11 o’clock after a few gin and tonics I decided to venture outside in the snow to go to my car where Santa’s gifts were hiding. None of them were wrapped. I was going to leave them unwrapped in their sacks this year until my mom said “what do you mean you’re not going to wrap them? Well that ruins the fun.” So her guilt trip was successful. I felt guilty and started an assembly line of wrapping with my mom, sister and aunt – interrupting our game of Euchre. We had the gifts all wrapped pretty quickly and set in the living room ready to be drop shipped into their bedroom where they would be sleeping soundly while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.

This British custom of going into their bedrooms to drop the presents at the bottom of their beds, removing the cookies, milk and carrots and returning the cup and plates to their proper place was RISKY business. Every year you run the risk of your children discovering that Santa is no more than a tipsy parent hiccuping into their room with presents pretending to consume raw carrots (or in my case parsnips), cookies and milk. The logistics always made me nervous.

We had our first mission attempt at about midnight. My mom slowly opened their door, swiped their pillow cases and had her hand hovered over the cookie plate  until one of my daughters sat up abruptly and said “what are you doing Grandma?” My mom thinking quickly said “Uhhh nothing sweetie. Go to sleep. Just making sure Santa’s cookies and milk are alright.” She left the room unsuccessful and we realized it was perhaps too early for this mission. We continued playing cards and had a couple more drinks. Shortly before 2am, with everyone tired and ready for bed –  a second attempt was made. This time my dad tried, citing that he had done this for years for my sister, brother and I and knew the exact timing and process to pull off a successful operation. He slowly turned the handle on the door to their room, snuck in with their (now full sacks) of presents and quickly backed out shouting “NO. GO TO SLEEP.” He exited their room saying “shit she’s not going to sleep.” After my dad’s exit, I could now hear chatter coming from the bedroom. My sleepless daughter had woken up her twin sister and they were now looking around the room and putting pieces of this puzzle together.

I had to intervene and FAST.

I went into their room and laid down with them. “Mommy I saw Dandad come into our room with a pillow sack and it was full of presents and now Santa isn’t gonna be able to bring us our presents.” She started to whine and sob about Santa not being here yet and asking questions that I wasn’t prepared to answer. “Shhhh” I said “Go to sleep. Santa can’t come until you’re sleeping.” By this time her sister also had some commentary to add to the situation. “Well mommy Santa isn’t here yet and what if he doesn’t come to our house?”. Growing tired of their objecting little voices, I shushed them and raised my voice “Well if you don’t go to sleep then maybe he won’t come because you’ll mess up his entire route. You wouldn’t want that would you?  GO TO SLEEP.” Five minutes of silence went by and the questions and whining started up again. I stood up and said “That’s it – Santa is going to have to eat his cookies in the living room because you won’t go to sleep!” I grabbed the milk and two plates and exited the room with them crying “Noooooo mommy no” behind me. I gave them to my dad and returned to their room to lay down with them again. “Dandad has called the North Pole” I told them “and Santa is going to leave your gifts in the living room this year since you won’t go to sleep and you’ll mess up his route if he has to wait for you.”

I started to see the slight break of day by the time they both finally fell asleep, I estimate it must have been about 6:30 or 7am. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep in before they shockingly awoke on Christmas morning. I woke up to my sleepless daughter screaming “SANTA DIDN’T COME MOMMY” running out of the room crying. My other daughter threw herself on the bed, face into the pillow bawling intensely. This before I have had a chance to fully open my eyes and process what was happening. “No no, he left your stuff in the living room remember?” I said to her. “No he didn’t.” she shouted. “He didn’t come.” As my dramatic daughter cried into her pillow beside me, with me telling her to go look in the living room – her twin sister who ran out of the room was now screaming with glee as she discovered the presents Santa left for her in the living room, and observed the empty plates and milk glass. This perked up her bawling sister who sprung out of bed and ran into the living room excitedly – ready to rip open her gifts. I trailed behind them, eyes barely open, not wanting to be awake at such an unholy hour and still bitter about the horrible night I had.

So we dodged a bullet this year and managed to divert their attention away from the shoddy operation that was the Santa Debacle. *Phew* another year where my kids believe in the mysterious magic of Santa (unless they just don’t wanna tell me that they know what’s going on). Next year there may be a few adjustments to the logistical operations. Things like trusting that they’ll go to sleep so I can sneak into their bedroom and risk being exposed. Forget the risky bedroom business (tradition or not). I’m done with that one.  And carrots are now yesterday’s news! Parsnips are the new carrots!

Joey Fallon’s Life

He had a sort of unusual way about him. Could never quite look anyone in the eye and preferred the company of cats with the glow of his computer screen adorning his face and the low hum of infomercials coming from his 1983 floor model television. It wasn’t always this bad, at one time he had a life, a personality, trusting eyes, and a smile on his face.

This was Joey Fallon’s life.

He grew up in a small village in England. The eldest of 4 boys in a working class family with a typical alcoholic father, passive aggressive mother and walls that had tobacco stained on them like a design finish. His mother couldn’t stand the sight of his father and worked 12 hour days to avoid the responsibilities of motherhood, marriage, and the sad reality that she called life. At the age of 18 he escaped the village and set off to London to rack up a huge student debt and hopefully become something in life. He distanced himself from his parents and siblings and started a fresh life with a new personality; successfully convincing people that he was a well-adjusted intelligent hipster rather than the trainwreck child of an alcoholic he really was.

This worked for several years. He had posh new friends, a great job in the financial sector, a healthy bank account and enough people around him to make him feel secure without his family, who always seemed to make things worse. But that all came to a crashing halt when his brawl-crazy and clearly resourceful brother Bobby showed up on the doorstep of his flat with tears in his eyes and said “Joey – Mum’s dead.”

With the news of his mothers passing Joey’s father began drinking even heavier than he had before (which no one thought possible). Scotch was now on the breakfast menu and he failed to acknowledge or attend something he formerly had called “a job”. They forgave him for a while but he was eventually fired for being a drunk and not giving a shit. Joey had to pack up his apartment and do the only-obligatory-because-his-asshole-brother-had-found-him thing… Move back to the village he loathed so that he could get a substandard go-nowhere job and help to support his disaster of a family. His three brothers were still finishing up high school and couldn’t work yet and his dad was too busy shitting himself, verbally assaulting the world and punching holes in the wall with his feverish booze-induced rages.

Although he was educated in economics and was a Junior analyst in London, the best Joey could hope for in the Village was a bank teller job making one third of what he made in the city. It didn’t take long before landing that; where he worked with 3 other heavy set less-than-graceful women, one with a gap the size of a chicklet in her front teeth. Every day he showed up for work, dealt with the familiar penniless villagers, and lost a piece of his soul so he could bring home enough money to pay the mortgage and stop his whole family from drowning in sorrow.

This went on for three years until his youngest brother Dave was finally old enough to get a job. All four boys were now working, which meant Joey could run away again and escape the reality that he so desperately wished to disengage from. His father would die a drunk and hadn’t made any progress on the road to sobriety; he drank booze with the desperation of a man in a hurry to die.

Joey began stashing away money to save for a plane ticket to Toronto, where his cousin Carl lived with his new wife and child. Life in Toronto would surely be better than here. And he wouldn’t have to think about his drunk of a dad and his dim village roots anymore. When he arrived in Toronto, he walked into a bad situation. Carl had been fired for fucking his secretary and his new wife had filed for divorce and taken the kid. Every night Carl took Joey out to get drunk at a dimly lit pub on College Street where the regulars wore lines on their face from hardened lives of broken dreams. They sat and wallowed in their sad lives, exchanging war stories and plotting out their next moves in a city where they could easily get lost. Carl looked at Joey with tears in his eyes and said “what the fuck am I gonna do now mate?”

Joey swigged back his whiskey and remained quiet.  No advice. no words of wisdom and no way to console his hurting cousin. All he could think about was getting back into the game, getting a good job in the financial sector again, and turning his life around. But he knew that this grungy little bar wasn’t gonna get him anywhere, and would be the downfall of him as long as he continued to hang around with Carl.

After a few months of drunken debauchery, the same old stories, the same table at the pub, and the same regulars; Joey packed up and left his cousin without notice. Took an apartment in the East end of the city. An affordable dive with one room; furnished with furniture that looked like it had been picked up from the side of the road, and a floor model television that barely recognized colour. He woke up early every day and delivered resumes to offices all along Bay Street, hoping that he would land a job and begin his ascent to success again. After five weeks of pounding the pavement he was finally offered a position in the mail room at a major investment firm. They told him he would have to work his way into the big leagues. He accepted the position with a glimmer of hope in his eyes and barely a dollar in his old leather wallet.

Joey worked for months in the mailroom wearing his best threads, trying to weasel his way up by getting to know the investors and executives in the firm, occasionally going on coffee and lunch runs. He made friends with one of the analysts at the firm and started drinking with him at lunch time and at happy hour. It wasn’t before long that Joey started  getting a bad reputation at the firm for showing up drunk, stinking like whiskey and cigs, and violating the women in the office with tasteless sexual prowess. He lost his job in the mailroom and found himself once again drunk on the battered old couch in his one bedroom apartment, listening to an infomercial for the magic bullet. He shot back a finger of whiskey before passing out; dreaming of a life he would never come to realize.

A Thing For Food

I have this weird obsession with taking pictures of food and I’ve been doing it a lot lately. As soon as my schedule clears out a bit (which as you can tell by the frequency of my posts – hasn’t been often) I may have to venture in and mingle with the foodies… maybe create a new food blog.

Anyway. Hi 🙂 How are you? I can’t apologize for life, it happens. And it tends to be crazy when you’re a single mom, writer and a serial entrepreneur. But I am going to try to post more frequently here. I miss my blogging days!

Peace & Peaches!

Lingo

Mmmm enjoy:

Sushi @ Zipang in Vancouver 🙂

Breakfast is served

Annd… this one… Well let’s just say it was a stoner experiment. Yep. This is stoner food at its finest. This my friends is a Cheetos Oreo combo! I have no idea what the thinking was here. But it made for an interesting photo!