Tag Archives: family

Friday the 13th: A Good Day in My Book

November the thirteenth is a special day to me, and though it does not fall on a Friday this year, I thought I would share my musings about this auspicious day and Friday the 13th in general. Someone I care about was born on Friday, November the 13th and because of this, I have never thought the day to be unlucky…though some certainly do!

Friday has been considered a doomed day since Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” in the 14th century. Friday has long been regarded as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. The number 13 is always thought of as extremely unlucky and almost every religion and culture regards it as an evil, sinister digit. For Christians, this is most likely because of its association with Judas Iscariot, the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. The superstition surrounding Friday 13th could also be linked to Norse mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet at Valhalla when Loke, the demi-god of mischief who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the other gods.

Friday the 13th facts:

  • Just as many people are born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but there are slightly more people who die on Friday the 13th.
  • It’s a good day to travel, as many people avoid this day.
  • Friday 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13th in Brazil, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

People born on Friday the 13th must be born under an unlucky star–You’d think…

But several blessed celebrities cut into cake on this unholy of days: Mario Andretti, Kat Dennnings, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Feist, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Walsh, Darius Rucker, DiDi Conn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Max Weinberg, Christopher Plummer…did I miss anyone?

Oh, yeah…and my gran.I think of her fondly on November 13th; and, in fact, on every Friday the 13th.

She may have had pause to wonder if she was in fact born under an ‘unlucky star’ as she had quite the life of turmoil. Raised in wartime England with memories of diving behind a couch when bombs blasted the street outside, and sharing the affections of her mother with five other siblings, and some who didn’t make it. Her life was filled with death and loss. She later lost her husband at a young age, leaving her to raise two children on her own.

At 4′ 11″, she took up more space in a room than anyone else. Her presence was palpable. You had the feeling she knew what you were thinking at all times, so of course I always felt guilty about something when I was around her. She was a stalwart woman, not given over to emotion and superstition. She would have none of it. Many thought her cold and distant, but I think her hard-nosed attitude evolved over decades of hard work. She was practical, strong, and spoke her mind with a wit like a pistol butt to the back of the head.

She was not a woman of many words–I would never have called her chatty; so when she did speak, her words had weight. I remember her observations, not as criticisms, but just how she saw life. Open and honest, she was, with no time for dressing up her words.

Before my mom, dad, sister, brother and I moved to Canada when I was twelve, we lived in my gran’s house for a while. She was even more brusque and distant than usual, and I could tell it was because her heart was breaking. She was going to miss us, but she couldn’t tell us that. When it came close to the day we were to leave, she grabbed me as I passed her one day and hung onto me for a few gut-wrenching moments, her fingernails digging into my back. She did not know how to hug, but I felt more love from her in that moment than she’d ever shown me before. We did not speak.

Years later, just before she died, she made the long trip from England to Canada to visit me and her first great-grandchild. She was awkward holding my baby, but would watch her like a hawk, perhaps trying to see a resemblance in the tiny doll-like face. Gran softened around the baby and after the first few days she relaxed and started sharing more and more stories about her childhood and life, and eventually began discussing her inevitable death. I think she knew. Only a few weeks after returning to England, she had a stroke. She was found sitting in her armchair, a crossword on her knee and a cup of cold tea at her side. English to the end.

I picked up the phone on November the 13th of that year and dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before I slammed it down into the receiver, suddenly remembering she would not be on the other end to pick up.

I hope she is happy wherever she is, and looking down on us all with pride. She would be delighted to see her little great-grandaughter growing up into a strong woman, and her other descendants she never got to meet, unknowingly carrying around a little part of her within them.

Happy Birthday, Gran.

Friday the 13th falls next in February, 2015 for all you superstitious folk. What are your thoughts on whether or not it is an unlucky day?

Parenting Teens Gives Me INDIGESTION

Parenting Teens Gives Me (2)

As a single parent, I feel a HUGE responsibility to raise my kids well. I feel judged when I make mistakes, and spend sleepless nights just contemplating the horrors that could be. Both my kids are well into their teens and testing every parenting theory out there.
With each year comes a different challenge, and the teen years may be the most challenging yet.
Letting go and trusting my children so they can grow into functioning adults is causing me gastric distress. My stomach is in a constant knot of worry—mainly because I have NO control over what my kids are doing out there on their own. I like control and I don’t like the feeling of it slipping through my fingers.
When I warn my daughter about the dangers that lurk in the big, bad world, she brushes me off with, “Oh-ho, Mother, you have NO idea what I get up to.” WHAT? EXCUSE ME? Well, now I am imagining the absolute WORST things possible, and there is no doubt in my mind that she is selling toddlers into slavery and drinking the blood of Marilyn Manson.
If I’m not worrying about whether my teens are contracting STDs and experimenting with drugs, I’m groaning at my son’s jokes at my expense. I purchased a HUGE box of condoms—trying to be a proactive parent—and my son laughed and said, “Wow, look at that! Mom’s spending money on things she’s NEVER going to need anymore!” Thanks for that son . . . the cheeky grin and pat on the head you gave me does NOT make up for the fact that you will one day be getting more action than I could ever DREAM about. JERK! At least no one has been dipping into the box of prophylactics yet . . . should I be glad or worried?
And I’m definitely deluding myself into thinking I have the household under control. Every time I give my son a list of chores and ask if he has any questions, he responds with, “Yeah, could you explain to me in detail where babies come from? With pictures.” or “How come you have hairs growing out of your chin?” And I thought he was staring at me so intently because he really cared about what I was saying and wanted to make sure he understood my list of instructions thoroughly. I laugh but sneak off to the bathroom with a pair of tweezers. And the chores? Yeah, they get forgotten.
*Sigh* at least he is developing a sense of humour. When he is rich and famous he can pay for my therapist.
The bottle of TUMS on my bedside table is getting larger and larger, and my confidence as a parent is growing smaller. I hope desperately that the lessons I taught my children when they were young will help them make choices they will be proud of; all I can do is wait and see . . . and pop more antacids.
But, though my gut is wrenching, and my heart is sometimes on the verge of breaking, every second is worth it—every sarcastic remark, every eye roll, every worry line around my tired eyes.
As my teenagers struggle for their independence, I’m also learning and growing, and taking another step towards being an empty-nester who might be able to sleep at night, but will miss her little monsters. After all, who is going to alert me about my chin hairs?
I love being a mom and wouldn’t trade one single day with them—not even for a day with Robert Pattinson on a remote island in the Bahamas . . . hmm, well, perhaps that is going a bit far—I’m only human!
~ YOUR turn! How do you deal with the pressures of parenthood? What horrors keep you up at night? Comment below . . . and it had better be funny ‘cause laughter cures indigestion.

Canada, My Home

images (2)       shutterstock_1284665181-e1384353431251 I am proud to be a transplanted Brit and a Canadian citizen. I belong to both England and Canada and am lucky to have lived on both sides of the Atlantic. My experiences in each country helped form who I am today, and my memories of both fill me with happiness. England1 My memories of England are of bare-footed, innocent ramblings through ancient woods past waving fields of golden grain and post-war brick buildings separated by cobblestone streets. I remember sitting in front of a fire at granny’s house — my siblings and I still damp from the bath. The firescreen became a rowboat, tossing on treacherous waves. The clothes maiden, turned on its side and covered with a sheet, became a tent in the darkest depths of Africa. The narrow stairs to bed were mountain slopes, and each step a rocky crag that threatened to break if I didn’t make it to the next one. If I dared to peek at the window after lights out, I might catch a glimpse of the giant in the mustard shirt and blue denim jeans that hid behind the poplars on top of the hill. If he saw me peeking…off with my head! The long walk to school in my crisp white shirt and red tie with my imaginary pets, Mischief, the cat, and my little pony, Blackie, to keep me company. I would wait until the street seemed empty, then climb of Blackie’s back and gallop ’til the wind caught my hair and I had to keep checking to see if Mischief could keep up.

Short cut by a church of stone and graveyard full of dusty bones. Basket of shopping from green grocer and butcher as we walk along eating hot steaming pasties.Fish and chips and mushy peas, steak and kidney pies, Blackpool rock, and sweets for a penny. Chucky eggs and conny-onny, sweet tomatoes from Granny’s greenhouse.

My childish imagination helped create a special world that I will always treasure. Having never been back to England, my memories have remained intact, untainted by reality. I do remember some unsavoury aspects — only one bathroom with no shower for six people (unless you include the outhouse), bedroom windows glazed with ice, and hurrying to dress in the morning. The portable washing tub complete with mangle, and hanging the clothes outside to dry. Squeezing into a red phone box on the corner that smelled of urine and lead paint to make a phone call to people who were never home to answer.

We moved to Canada when I was twelve. My only exposure to Canada had been through a friend who wore a first nations style suede jacket with embroidery down the front. It seemed very exotic to my uncultured eyes and I remember staring at it enviously. When I found out we were moving to British Columbia, I imagined evergreen woods, log cabins and teepees and my mind was filled with magic. As I walked out of the airport I expected to see cowboys and Indians, horses and dirt roads. What greeted me was very different. Concrete roads that stretched from side to side, houses big and bright, beautiful mountains and clear skies, and everything so new and clean, clean, clean! People who looked just the same, but somehow bigger and more open, like the roads. I became so small and shy and quiet.

I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn't have to live in it!
I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn’t have to live in it!

I appreciated — and still do — a bathroom with a shower, and a dryer for clothes. I jumped when the phone in our home rang for the first time and admired the brand new television with more than two channels. I slowly forgot the comfort of the row houses and the coal-fed fire, and fell in love with the warmth of the people, the unique houses and the big, beautiful wide open spaces where I could stretch and let my imagination soar even more. It took a while for me to feel like I fit in — to grow into Canada. I learned to love this country after craving my homeland for so long. Now Canada is home, and I could not imagine living anywhere else. Canada means snow-capped lavender peaks, moisture sodden air and moss-covered everything. Gray ocean depths, mountain streams and icy puddles. A myriad of cultures, races and beliefs, all people free to speak and live and love. Canada, my friendly giant, welcoming the world. And everything so green, green, green.

Stanley Park, BC
Stanley Park, BC

Happy Canada Day!

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Pod Sisters – First Pod chat!

micpodsistersEnjoy this first episode of Pod Sisters! I will be primarily interviewing women about business, family, friends, love, and life. That being said, my first interviewee is my poor brother, who was unwittingly recorded and now stars in my very first pod chat. Poor Jon! I love you, and I hope you love me after this!

And This Is How I Ruin Any Eventual Chance I Have For Grandchildren…

Ahh, more loony ravings of a mom who misses the good old days!

Fisticuffs and Shenanigans

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In the wake of Mother’s Day, I’ve been contemplating the real lessons and sacrifices of what it takes to be a mother. Should someday, I lose my mind (read: get incredibly drunk) and tell my children the truth…I’m afraid that it’s going to sound painfully like the following list…

1. Kids, when you were babies, everything about your bodies was miraculous and beautiful, but now my biggest fear is that one of you will grow pubes, and that I might accidentally see them.  I’m pretty sure you harbor the same fear, so let’s all just be cool, and keep this from happening, okay?

2. Children…loves of my life…there is NOTHING I wouldn’t do for you…NOTHING…except let you drink out of my glass.  It’s fucking gross, and you’re old enough to get your own cup, so let’s make that happen, or I’m going to start backwashing on purpose.

3. The ten minute drive between your school…

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Fun and Somewhat Sane Family Activities

Are your kids begging for you to leave them alone? Do you need ideas to get the conversation going, or something going? Well, I can’t help you with that . . . you’re on your own. But I can share some of the weirder activities I have done with my kids that did keep their attention for more than five seconds. These days, with computers and smart phones constantly engaging and entertaining your kids (I know! Those pesky technologies!), parents who actually want to spend some time with their kids have to get creative . . . or crazy . . . both work.

Activities you can do with your Kids:

#1: Stalk your teenage neighbours

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My daughter won’t walk with me anymore since our last outing. Let me explain . . . since my daughter took up drumming, I have been eager for her to meet other musical people. While on a walk one evening, I heard a rhythmic beat and crash of cymbals drifting out from under a garage door. As soon as I returned home, I asked my daughter to go back out with me, because I had something exciting to share. She reluctantly agreed – you see, she is still not totally convinced of my insanity, so I can still trick her into doing things she doesn’t want to do. I told her about the elusive percussionist and I suggested she introduce herself as soon as I could find the damn house. She stood staring dumfounded at me . . . ”What?” I kept backtracking because I couldn’t remember the exact house, and then the rain started. My daughter was not impressed. She told me how uncool I was. I suppose it isn’t like when she was three and I set up play dates for her. But, there’s got to be an easier way to meet other drummers; they seem to be as shy as Big Foot! Then I can arrange a “jam” for her. Won’t that be cute? Meanwhile, I shall have to come up with a devious way to get her out walking again; but you get the point . . . be creative!

 

#2        Enjoy a candy date

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Love candy, but tired of watching my daughter sort her Nerd candies into groups based on size. OCD candidate or future Quality Control Officer? Don’t care as long as she shares with me!!

#3        Reminisce about special toys

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My kids had hobby horses when they were in kindergarten, named Puke and Vomit. I had no input into the name choosing, but they love to talk to me about them . . . over and over again, and come up with equally distressing and disgusting names. Parental participation level: Low (you just have to listen and have a high tolerance for crudities).

#4        Brother dot-to-dot

My daughter has always been gifted in art and I take all the credit. I would often walk into the living room where I had left Amy and Henry placidly watching TV, and catch Henry stripped to the waist while Amy connected the moles on his back with a marker. So creative, always a new picture; though I wish she’d not used the permanent marker from the kitchen drawer! Warning: This activity will not be popular after your kids graduate elementary school. Believe me, I tried. Sorry, but I thought it would be cute to take pictures of a mole doodle, but my fourteen-year-old son was horrified and called me a “Perv.” And that’s why you will not see many photos of my kids. They have to be vetted before I post them.

#5        Critique your favourite movie

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I suppose a better word would be “criticize” your favourite movie. We spent a whole afternoon rewinding and pausing Harry Potter to see how many times Daniel Radcliffe does that strange double blink. No matter how much you love a movie, you know you’ve watched it too much when you start wanting to do shots every time a character blinks . . . and Harry blinks a lot! 😉 Can’t wait until my kids are drinking age . . . does that make me a bad mom?

 

#6        Create food art

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My kids were asked to make food art when they were younger and a story unfolded…”The detective interviewed the mourning widow after she found her husband shot through the head…” Their favourite part was stabbing the toothpick through the head of the penguin. Then they ate the penguins. Twisted kids = great imaginations . . . at least that’s what I tell myself. I am sure your kids will enjoy this activity without the grisly murder scene.

 

#7        Search through Momma’s purse for receipts with amusing item descriptions

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I had to explain what almond butts were. “You know, when you do too many squats, and your butt gets all wrinkly. That’s why momma doesn’t exercise,” I told my curious kids.

#8           Dance naked in the rain

Okay, I did not participate (you may if you wish), but I loved watching my little tykes skip through the garden in a summer rain shower with nothing but an umbrella and a smile. Eventually the umbrellas were discarded as they reveled in the mud, and the phone would ring and a nosy neighbor on the other end would say in a bored voice, “Your kids are outside naked again.”

#9           Butt painting

I seem to have a nude theme going here; but, what can I say? My kids hated clothes and it was easier on the washing machine and my sanity. I would fill paper plates with paint, spread rolls of newsprint on the floor and set my kids free. Inevitably, the body parts would be dipped, and the paper covered in suspiciously shaped prints.

#10         Create a Wall of Shame

Pick a family member, sort through photo albums, find the most embarrassing photos and create a framed collage. Who wants a poster of something pretty when you can be admiring your uncle in drag or your papa who always seems to be shirtless or pulling a face (we have several Wall of Shame collages featuring different family members).  Tip: You might want to switch out the collage for a Robert Bateman when the honoree shows up for dinner!

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Your kind comments are welcome, and feel free to share your ideas!

Tall Ship Tales

imagesIt is difficult to write a novel about 17th century merchant ships when you have never seen a 17th century merchant ship up close. It’s not like you can run down to the local marina and have a gander. That would be nice – I thought often while researching ancient ship building techniques and trying to imagine the layout of decks and rigging.

I am writing a novel set in 1656 in which the main character travels aboard a Dutch merchant vessel. I have found it extremely challenging.

Wandering through the internet for information, I stumbled upon a contest. The grand prize was a VIP pass to see the tall ships visiting Steveston harbour the following week. Coincidence? No, way. I knew I was going to win this, because I had to. I needed to be able to walk on board a vessel that would portray – as closely as possible – the look and feel of a tall ship from 1656.

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Do I really need to say it? Of course, I won! Grand Prize Winner! Four VIP passes to tour the ships and be on board during a gun battle at sea! Yes, I need to use exclamation points!

Now the pressure to finish my book is going to be impressive. Scary. Perhaps even scarier than tossing around on the ocean waiting to see if a cannon backfires. Is that even the correct word? Do cannons backfire? Or, do they simply explode, taking with them half the ship? Important information to know.

What is wrong with me? I am going to be in a gun battle at sea! Exciting as hell. My real worry is how I can talk my sister out of dressing as a pirate for the occasion. Why couldn’t the prize be for one person? I am taking my kids, Amy (13) and Henry 254318_10150335388789968_948512_n(11) and my aforementioned, slightly eccentric sister, Helen (she would kill me if I told you she is almost 40, so I won’t). She even has her pirate name ready…Helen Highwater. And her husband is working on building an animatronic parrot to adorn her shoulder.

At first I thought her enthusiasm and support was cute. Then my daughter began digging through scarves and asking if we happened to have any eye patches lying around. I was thankful that my son kept his sanity and takes after his mother. He kept asking if anyone in past gun battle re-enactments had ever been hit by a cannonball. I reassured him that they fire blanks, but secretly hoped a certain parrot wearer might get taken out by a stray shot.      

The day dawned for the great battle at sea.  Off to Steveston harbour for our Ships to Shore adventure. First, we had to swing by and pick up my very excited sister who had reluctantly agreed not to dress up. I felt the day would be full of spectacle enough. No need to draw attention to ourselves. I had pointed out to Helen that dressing as a pirate may be gauche. We were to board a merchant square-rigger and I was sure the crew would be dressed in period costume but would not look kindly on a ‘Jack Sparrow’ imitation.

Boarding the Lady Washington
Boarding the Lady Washington

We arrived early in the picturesque, historical town of Steveston. The sun shone promisingly on the Ships to Shore event. It took quite a while to walk down to the dock but as we drew nearer, we spied the masts with sails secured. A thrill ran through me and I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear. The Ships to Shore was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was with heart aflutter that I boarded the Lady Washington, amazed by the amount of rope that I saw. One imagines a lot of ropes to hoist the sails and such, but it is mind-boggling to see the intricacies of lines and pulleys. Stepping onto the deck was like stepping back in time.

Ships to Shore: Preparing to fire

Most of our time on board the Lady Washington was spent staying the hell out of the way of the hard-working crew, most of who were volunteers. Captain Cook (his real name) was a leather-faced veteran who you could picture swapping tales with other ship’s masters with a tankard of ale in hand. The gunner was the one we had to be very wary of. He ran around the deck of the Lady Washington with black powder in his pockets and a smoldering stick in hand ready to light the cannons when in range of the opposing ship, the Hawaiian Chieftain. A call of “Prepare for gun-fire!” required the passengers to repeat the order and plug their ears.

It was thrilling to see the Chieftain circling us and maneuvering for a better shot at the more vulnerable areas of the Lady. If they succeeded in getting a clear shot at her masts, rudder, or even crew, they would be awarded a certain amount of points. My sister behaved herself, but kept gesturing to a small boy in pirate attire. When she was close enough to me, she hissed, “I told you so!” and glared at me for the rest of the trip. “He’s five!” I tried to reason.

The Hawaiian Chieftain
The Hawaiian Chieftain

The Lady Washington was used in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It was the Interceptor, the ship stolen by Jack Sparrow.

It also had a small cameo in one of the Star Trek movies. Very exciting to stand on deck, hand on railing, imagining Johnny Depp in the same position, calling to his crew, “Now, bring me that horizon!”

This was an enjoyable family adventure, and one I would highly recommend. Just leave any crazy siblings at home!

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The notorious pirate, Helen Highwater

Humpy Sweat 10, Onny!

So, once again I’m up for the ‎Worst Mother of the Year Award. It was my daughter’s 16th birthday yesterday. This was the calendar of events:
1. Let her sleep in, but sent her off to school with no lunch.
2. Made her a cake, but it was Betty Crocker and the icing clumped in the tube dispenser, turning Happy Sweet 16, Amy into something that looked more like, Humpy Sweat 10, Onny (Hey, at least it was better than the fire-breathing dragon cake I made for her brother when he turned 4 – everyone thought it looked like a puking horse!)
3. Fed her salmon pie (my favourite) for dinner which she barely touched.
4. Kidnapped her and took her on an hour hike with my walking group (made up of men and women between 40 and 80 years of age!) Hey, this was just poor communication. She thought I was taking her to McDonalds – I mentioned a walk, but she heard, “Sorry for the crap meal. Let’s go buy you a burger!”
Not to worry! I have an opportunity to redeem myself! Fish and chips tonight @AustinFishNChip in Mission. They have a deep-fried Mars bar to die for!
HUMPY SWEAT 10, ONNY!
http://www.austinfishandchips.com/mission

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Writer vs. Author: my internal dichotomy

As my first novel is about to go online, I thought I’d better embrace the word that I have worried over using to describe myself: author.

Authors are published, accomplished, and make money at their chosen profession — at least that is what I used to believe. Now I know that while writers write, whether seldom or often, they write alone; authors share what they write and engage with others. That is something I am learning to do bit by painful bit.

Helping others with their writing has been my job and I have enjoyed participating in the journey through the writing process. I observed, from the sidelines, the writer’s emergence into the family of published creators and artists — and they always received a warm and encouraging welcome. I have watched with envy as would-be authors risk everything and open their hearts and minds to the world, expecting little in return. Sure, it’s nice to receive praise, perhaps a little remuneration; but those things are not what drives most of the writers I have worked with. They have something to share, an idea to express, and a need to be heard. When they share, it is without mercenary intent; they have no ulterior motive; and they go about it with a wide-eyed wonder and keen sense of the community to which they are communicating. For some, even reaching out and sharing what they have written with even one other person has been reward enough.

So, I am out of the closet. I have been writing secretly on and off for years, but never fully committed or rarely admitted to my rather self-indulgent activity. Pages torn out of notepads and the backside of phone bills served as my medium for a long time. I kept some scraps, stuffing them into folders and drawers, or used them as bookmarks and drink coasters. Then I graduated to recording my ideas in notebooks, purchased especially for that purpose; and finally stored my precious lines on a hard drive, which seemed terrifyingly permanent and a huge step for me. Each saved document reinforced the idea of writing an actual novel and it became a reachable goal. I felt that each stroke of the keyboard audaciously called out to the world, “I am a writer!” The echoing reply was, “Who cares?” as I retreated back into my imaginary worlds.

At first, I would wait until my family was in bed to open up my computer and add a few lines before hitting ‘Save’ and enjoying the tiny thrill. Over time I became braver, opening files when it was daylight, and eventually owning up to what I was doing with a casual, “Oh, just writing!”, when asked by neglected family and friends. No one expressed shock, or asked excitedly if they could read what I wrote. In fact, I sometimes had to beg people to read my stuff if I needed some feedback. This surprised me. What had I been hiding from? People had their own lives to be getting on with, and their own passions to pursue – and most pursued them out in the open, sharing their successes and failures without fear of judgement.

As my view of authors expanded, my opinion on writers changed. Writing is a self-indulgent activity, and within myself it nurtured my imagination but I did not feed my hunger. There was more to this writing malarkey and I was missing something. That something was communion with my fellow man. I had shut myself away in my mind, creating a pseudo-world with a sole occupant. If I wanted people to care about what I was doing, I had to be honest with myself. Creating something and not sharing it was selfish and cowardly. I wanted to share my love of writing, but was afraid of being judged. But it is not about whether readers think my writing is good, it is about being open about what I enjoy doing. It is about being courageous enough to do what I encourage others to do.

As I began to open up about my stories, people were kind enough to listen which motivated me to share more. I will always be thankful for people’s kind words and interest in my writing. After all, why should they care? I cared deeply for the characters in my stories as if they were real people. I anguished over plot lines and physically ached if I had to run an errand and left a character hanging who needed me to write them out of a predicament. The people in my stories did not know why I had abandoned them; I could not explain to them that we had run out of milk, or my children needed picking up from school. As the dialogue, developing plot lines and character development slowly grew to resemble chapters, and then an entire book, my passion for my little hobby grew until I wanted to introduce my made-up friends to the flesh and blood people in my life. As I spoke about the adventures I was planning to take my characters on, they became even more real to me. They now lived out in the world, in the imagination of other people, instead of just on a cold white computer screen and in my head. Time to set them free and grant myself some freedom too. Freedom to learn, grow, fail, succeed and share.

Opening my door to the world has also created space for more of the world to come in and reside with me. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but I am warming to the idea of curious readers out there peeking in at my sacred sanctuary. So… (breathe)…come on in!

IMPORTANT STEPS

Consider dance lessons to make your wedding day extra special.

I expected to be the center of attention on our wedding day, and wanted to be able to dance with my new husband and look good doing it. My fiancé did not share this vision and was certainly not comfortable with the idea of dance lessons. This bothered me a little bit at first but I shook it off, knowing that our guests would not expect Fred and Ginger; they just wanted to share our day and as long as we could shuffle back and forth, it would be good enough.

I had taken ballroom lessons with my brother, Joe, when we were kids. He was a year younger and I guess he had always looked up to me. We enjoyed our lessons together and regularly took home gold and silver medals from various competitions. Our mother laboured over our costumes, sewing on sequins until I could barely lift the folds of satin and lace to get the dresses over my head.

Boy, did we look good together though, our arms locked in position, backs arched and heads turned gracefully. I felt like a princess, twirling around the dance floor, the faces of spectators a blur of colour around me. Joe was always happy to let me boss him around; I never truly appreciated his patience.

It was when puberty kicked in and I outgrew my brother in height that our partnership came to an end. We had always been close growing up, but without the dancing, we began to grow apart. We both missed our camaraderie but never found much time for one another during the difficult teen years.

It was when we were in our early twenties that we found our friendship again. Both in need of a roommate, we decided to move in together. As we helped one another load our belongings into the basement suite, we reminisced over pictures dug out of boxes that showed us in our ballroom attire, hands clasping medals, our faces lit with joy. It wasn’t long before we were pushing aside the couch on Saturday afternoons to practice our favourite samba routine.

This was the way that we bonded; the subject we had in common. We could both converse easily about the steps, the pace of the music, and the memories of our competitions.

The brief time as roommates allowed us to know one another again, but this time as adults and friends. Joe was a kind and considerate brother. He cooked soup for me when I was sick and offered to help with various parties that I hosted. We had lots of fun that year. It was a time I remember fondly.

When I met my future husband, I was excited for everyone to get to know him, especially Joe. We fell in love fast and within a month were talking of getting married. I moved out of the basement suite, and Joe took another roommate. I never looked back, caught up in the wedding plans and focusing on bridesmaid dresses and photographers. My life again was caught up in satin and sequins but Joe was not a part of it this time.

And so the big day arrived, and everything seemed perfect—until the dancing began. My husband and I got through the first dance, swaying to the music and smiling at one another as family snapped pictures. I knew my sweetheart couldn’t wait until the song was over and I felt some regret that I had not urged him to try a lesson or two. It may have helped him get through this uncomfortable moment.

It was when we were headed back to our seats that I noticed the video camera focused on us. My smile broke as I realized how awkward we would look on the dance floor. I had not admitted to myself until now how truly important it was for me to have my love of dance be a part of my special day. If I could have rolled back time, I would have explained to my fiancé how I wanted to have one dance in my beautiful dress—one moment to feel like a princess again. He would have understood and we could have taken some lessons. Now it was too late.

A couple of dances later I was over my regret and enjoying watching all my friends and loved ones in each other’s arms. I was standing on the edge of the dance floor, clapping in time to a fast song, when the music suddenly switched to a slow waltz. I was perplexed for a moment until I noticed Joe heading toward me, his hand outstretched and a sly smile on his face. With a flush of feeling, I took his hand as he led me to the center of the floor. Everyone stepped smoothly out of the way as our waltz began. I saw my wonderful husband smile and wink as he watched us skim across the floor in perfect time. My eyes overflowed as my brother, my friend, whispered, “I’m not only losing my sister—I’m losing my best friend.”

I knew then that remembering the steps wasn’t important; it was the people who danced with you through life who should be remembered.