Friday, October 29, 2010
I love the fall. A lot of people mistake the colder weather and falling leaves for an ending. And while it is an end to summer fun, warm temperatures, and long, sunny days, to me, autumn is just as important a time as spring or the new year for new beginnings. The cooler and more comfortable temperatures, the colourful leaves, and the start of the school year, all bring new adventures, new learning opportunties, and new goals.
And new goals is sort of what the last few months have been about. It's been a little while since I've done an update to Outside the Lines, and let me say that I've truly missed it. It's never been far from my thoughts or priority list, and I am looking forward to growing this blog, and making it the arts and entertainment resource I envision it to be. It has been a wonderful but busy time in my life. Among other pursuits, I am expanding my freelance writing and editing services to include technical writing, and am currently working towards a Technical Writing Certificate. By virtue of the name "technical," you may think that technical writing is the opposite of creative, but I've actually found the writing, formatting, and design to be creative aspects of the process that I've really enjoyed. I've also learned so much over the last couple of months about Microsoft Word styles, and I look forward to learning Adobe Framemaker and other cool software.
Always close to my heart are the arts, and the last couple of months have been no exception. I am always dedicated to making the arts a priority, and have been to several musicals and shows, both in Toronto and New York! Stay tuned for posts on my New York trip, reviews, and a dream celebrity encounter!
After the disaster that was Niagara-on-the-Lake, stay tuned to find out about our recent return visit.
And in case you were wondering, I am still hooked on Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series! I am now up to the 14th book in the Series, Fearless Fourteen, and am still loving these books.
The change in seasons brings the opportunity for growth, learning, and becoming our best selves. Writing this blog this year has meant a lot to me, and I am looking forward to sharing many more new, fun, and creative seasons with you.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Some people call it a Canadian institution. At least one person I know calls it a cult. Whatever you call it, it’s undeniable that Tim Horton’s is huge. Back in my university days, I was a Second Cup girl. Tim Horton’s was just a doughnut shop, and didn’t have the atmosphere or fun factor that other coffee shops did. That was before I tried their coffee. Once I did, I knew why Tim Horton’s was so popular! Their coffee is the best I’ve ever had, and is less expensive than other coffee chains.
Like those commercials where Tim Horton’s has accompanied people on road trips, hockey games, and other important life events, for me, Tim Horton’s has been a trusted companion on many journeys. For years, I have started my day with a Tim Horton’s coffee. Not only do I buy cans of Tim Horton’s coarse grind coffee for my coffeemaker at home, but every morning, I also get into my car and drive to the local Tim Horton’s. It can be quite the production. Call me crazy, but I have driven in snowstorms and torrential rain to get my morning Tim’s, and waited in massive line-ups.
In Hamilton, Tim Horton’s lines almost every street corner, and I always looked forward to my daily drive-thru. Now that I am in Toronto again, my local Tim Horton’s is not a drive-thru, but is part of an Esso On the Run store. I think it has to be the worst parking lot ever. It’s a free-for-all at that parking lot, where you just park anywhere you can and hope no-one says anything about the fact that you have parked at a gas pump, but aren’t getting gas. As much as I hate the parking lot, it still doesn't deter me from going every morning for my cuppa joe. The workers know me now and I usually don’t have to give them my order anymore. “Always the same coffee, you don’t change it,” one worker joked with me recently. I shrug my shoulders a little in disappointment when I get my coffee poured from an almost-empty pot - a full pot is so much better! Yes, my coffee is serious business. Even though the parking lot and line-ups are annoying, when I get my extra large regular in my hand and take the first sip, all is right with the world again.
Apparently, the long lineups and horrible parking lot don't deter others, either. The other day, I walked into my local Tim Horton’s. The line-up was really long, and reached almost to the back of the store. People sighed in resignation and looked at their watches, and then ahead enviously to the front of the line. Behind me, a man turned to the woman behind him. “I have a bus to catch,” he said, chuckling. “Well, it’s either my coffee or the bus,” he laughed. Now that's dedication! “There’s always another bus,” the woman laughed in reply, implying that there may be another bus, but there’s no other Tim Horton’s. I can’t help but agree.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
After the fantastic concert in Montreal back in March, I was excited to see Bon Jovi again on my home turf of Toronto. They performed for two nights at the Rogers Centre, and I had tickets for the first night, July 20. As they did in Montreal, Bon Jovi rocked Toronto with two and a half hours of hits. As the Rogers Centre was a larger venue than Montreal’s Bell Centre, the stage set-up and screens for the Toronto show seemed larger than Montreal's. They opened the show with “Blood on Blood” followed by “We Weren’t Born to Follow” before launching into 80s mega-hit “You Give Love a Bad Name.” The concert was fast-paced, fun, and the song order flowed perfectly to keep the audience on their feet.
The Montreal concert was longer, at three-plus hours, and had two encores, compared to Toronto’s one. An extended version of “Love’s the Only Rule” was also a key difference that Montreal fans were treated to. But songs like “I’ll Be There for You,” “Have a Nice Day,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll,” featuring opening act Kid Rock, which were missing in Montreal, were great additions to the Toronto set list, and I’m grateful to have been able to hear them performed in Toronto.
One slight downside to the Rogers Centre show was that the band chose to keep the roof closed, most likely due to trying to preserve the acoustics. The sound was amazing, but unfortunately, it was hot! And, to top it off, I had lost my bottle of water, and didn’t want to miss any of the show by leaving to buy another one. Being hot and sweaty, and dancing around with no water wasn’t very smart of me. Thankfully, however, a random act of kindness made my night. The gentleman in front of me, who knew that I had lost my water, went out at one point during the show, and brought me back a bottle of water. That was very kind of him, and I am comforted to know that strangers still care.
I am a bit sad that for me, the Circle tour has come to an end. I was lucky enough to see the tour in two cities, and both shows were wonderful. Now, Bon Jovi will have to hurry up and release a new CD, so that they can tour again!
Monday, June 21, 2010
That Superman sure was lucky. I've often wished that I could fly, particularly when stuck in traffic. How nice it would be to don the cape, leave my car in the middle of the chaos, and just fly to wherever I needed to be. What a delicious thought. We who live in the Greater Toronto Area know that commuting sucks. Traffic congests the highways and local roads in the most inhuman way. Road rage runs rampant, as people are late for work and miss appointments. Blood pressures rise with the stress of having to be somewhere and being helplessly at a standstill. In the winter, we're slowed by the snowy, icy road conditions. In the summer, we in Toronto have to deal year after year with months of construction delays. I am a seasoned commuter, who travelled regularly from Hamilton to Toronto for work for many years, so I am used to the daily grind and delays. I wasn’t prepared, however, for just how bad traffic has been this year.
I certainly needed a Superman cape one recent Sunday afternoon. I was on my way to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my sweetie to spend the day and see An ideal Husband, a Shaw Festival play. We had tickets to a 2:00 show on a Sunday afternoon. We left in plenty of time that morning, and thought we would have time for lunch and even a quick stroll around Niagara-on-the-Lake before the play started. Our drive started out well enough, but as we hit Oakville, we knew we were in trouble. “Traffic always backs up around the Ford plant,” we tried to reassure ourselves. “Once we get past the Ford plant, everything will be fine.” It wasn’t fine. We sat and inched our way to the next highway exit at turtle speed, clock ticking, and our plans for the day slipping through our fingers. Brake lights shone as far as the eye could see. We finally made it to the next exit, and decided to get off the highway and take an alternate route. I looked ahead at the miles and miles of cars still on the QEW, certain that if we had stayed on the highway, there was no hope of seeing the play. The culprit? Construction.
“Damn construction,” we sighed as we saw the orange Construction sign, and shook our heads in resignation that we were fighting a force greater than ourselves. “We can still make it if the rest of the drive is OK,” I said as I exited the highway, hopeful that the alternate route would at least be moving. We were doing great on the alternate route, and even the QEW Niagara bound was moving.
“We’re going to make it!” I exclaimed at one point—that is, until we hit St. Catharines. More brake lights and another construction sign. “Expect delays” one sign read. “Delays at the border 2 hours,” another sign said. Hope of seeing the play started to fade and our hearts sank as we saw no end in sight to this mess of traffic. Where was Superman when you needed him? Determined not to give up, we finally took a recommended Detour, but it quickly became apparent that there was no way we would make it to this play on time. We had fought the good fight, and had lost. Defeated, exhausted, nerves frazzled, and a little worse for wear from the whole experience, we called the Shaw Festival box office, which kindly sympathized with our plight, and agreed to give us a gift certificate to see a play another time. Whew! We breathed a sigh of relief that at least we hadn’t wasted all that money.
We finally arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, only to find that there didn’t seem to be one parking spot in the entire town. Our blood pressures started to rise again as we drove around and around, down every street, through every parking lot. Finally, after 50 minutes, we found a spot. We could finally relax. We made the most of what was left of the day, and had a nice time in Niagara-on-the-Lake—minus seeing the play and the four hours of our lives we won’t get back.
The next day, I was hit with a startling realization: construction has taken over my life. Not only have I had to deal with numerous construction projects at home (window replacements, parking garage, hallway renovations, just to name a few) and on the roads, which has also recently caused me to be late for dinners and other occasions, but now it was even causing me to completely miss events that we had paid good money to see!
We were happy to be able to have another chance to see An Ideal Husband, but did we really want to go through this horrible experience again? We are thinking about returning to Niagara-on-the-lake in September, and aren’t even going to attempt to see a 2:00 show. We are planning to see an 8:00pm show, and plan to leave Toronto at noon, if not the day before. Certainly, that would be enough time to fight the traffic and arrive in time ... or would it? Stay tuned. Now if only Superman could work his magic this coming weekend for the traffic chaos of the G20 Summit...
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Back in 1978, my Dad took my friends and I to see the movie Grease. Little did I know that I would never be the same. I'm not kidding, my friends and I fell in love with this movie. I wanted to be like Olivia Newton-John. While I looked nothing like her (I wasn't blonde, beautiful, couldn't sing, plus I was only seven years old!), my friends and I pretended to be the Pink Ladies, and argued over who got to be Sandy. When we played Grease, we would break into song like the characters in the movie. We played the soundtrack over and over again until it was scratched. We debated over whether we liked the "old" Sandy or the "new" Sandy better. My bedroom was wallpapered with Grease posters. When the sequel Grease 2 was released a few years later, it was a colossal flop at the box office, but we loved it! Yes, Grease was the word.
Fast forward to April 2010. Thirty-two years after I first saw the movie, I went to see the stage production of Grease at the Canon Theatre in Toronto. The 2010 version of Grease is the second revival for the Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey musical, which was first performed back in 1971. I never saw the original stage production, but I understand it was different from the film. So, I expected this production to be different. I wasn't quite prepared, however, for exactly how different the musical would be.
The play attempted to combine aspects from both the original play and the film, but failed to effectively connect the pieces. Four songs from the film were woven into the 2010 musical: "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Sandy," "You're the One That I Want," and the title song. The stage production took big liberties. Many details of the plot were changed - they kept Sandy at home during the big dance-off (a pivotal plot point for the movie), changed characters' names, and sang "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee" at the bleachers with the T-Birds, rather than at the slumber party. It just felt strange and didn't work.
Most of all, the play failed to properly create a relationship between Danny and Sandy. As an audience member, I didn't empathize with the characters, and didn't see why they belonged together. There was little, if any, back story. It was almost as if it was expected that the audience would already be familiar with the story. Josh Franklin, who played Danny, was good at showing Danny's vulnerable side, but the tough guy T-Bird that John Travolta played was missing from this production. Sandy was played by Lauren Ashley Zakrin. Her performance was OK, but she just didn't quite pull it off.
The play did have some entertaining moments, and after a slow and disappointing first Act, the second half picked up. American Idol winner Taylor Hicks was cast as the Teen Angel. He was the star of the show, and did a good job with his song "Beauty School Drop Out," though his performance was a little campy for my taste. Frankie Avalon he wasn't, though he was fun. Hicks' harmonica added a great touch to the song. He also performed a song from his new CD after the show, and I really enjoyed the impromptu concert.
While Grease lacked in plot and character development, its strength was in the music. The songs sound just as great now as they did back in 1978. The dance-off scene was memorable, mainly because of Vince Fontaine, played by Dominic Fortuna. Fortuna also warmed up the crowd before the show, and gave the play a much-needed boost of energy. Franklin's rendition of "Sandy" was great also, and one of the best numbers of the play.
I left the Canon Theatre that night feeling a little lukewarm about the whole experience. Grease wasn't horrible, but it certainly disappointed. Oh well, I have my DVD to watch if I ever want to go back to 1978. ;)
Friday, April 2, 2010
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, and as I sat on my new balcony for the first time, I wanted to jump for joy that spring is here. From the balcony, which overlooks a beautiful park, and has a gorgeous south-facing view of the Toronto skyline, the world looked happy. Dogs danced, jumped, and played in the park as their owners leisurely strolled nearby - a big contrast from the dog owners who shivered as their dogs quickly did their business and headed home only a short time ago. The cutest little West Highland white terrier wagged his tail vigorously, excited that his owner was going to throw a ball for him to catch, as another dog tried to join in the fun. Birds chirped, and a little bit of green peeked out from the trees. Life was good.
I grabbed my coffee and notebook, sat down at the patio table, and began to write in my journal. Ah, my journal. My friend and confidante for more years than I'd like to admit. Since I was about 12 years old, my journal has been the dumping ground for all the emotions, life stories, and daily events that I have needed to purge over the years. My journal was there in moments of crisis, through sleepless nights when my mind was too full to sleep, when I needed someone to talk to, but couldn't call anyone because it was too late.
My journal is my essential life tool. It helps me to focus, clear out the clutter in my mind, and set goals. It helps to unlock the creative mind, and gets me writing. In her book The Artist's Way, which I'll be blogging more about in future posts, author Julia Cameron talks about writing three pages of stream of consciousness each morning called "The Morning Pages." The purpose of the morning pages is to get rid of all the junk, negativity, and trivialities in your mind, so that the mind and creativity are opened. My morning pages are more like weekend rather than daily pages, but over the last several years, my journaling has taken on this three-page form. It has evolved from me spilling my problems as a teenager and young adult to almost a spiritual practice of setting goals and putting them out into the universe by writing about them. My journal is also my place to focus on my blessings, and write about my gratitude.
It's funny that something that used to house my negativity is now primarily a vehicle for positive energy and change. Don't get me wrong - I still whine and purge in my journal when I need to - but I am proud that it has become so much more than that.
In honour of journaling, I did a google search to research its benefits. Here are 100 Benefits of Journaling. As the website states, benefits of journal writing include stress reduction, an increase in self-awareness, emotional healing, and healthier relationships. Quite a bargain for the price of a pen and notebook!
I was comfy and content as I sipped my coffee and wrote on my balcony, taking in the beautiful weather, but the busy day ahead was calling. Before I went back inside, I took one last look at the park. I smiled at the springtime activity below me, grabbed my journal, and hugged it tight to my chest before returning it to its special place in my home, grateful for the beautiful way that I was able to start my day. Life is good.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Live music is one of my favourite things in the world. Nothing makes me feel more alive, free, and joyful than a concert. Feeling that connection with the artists on stage, screaming, dancing, and cheering is something I don't get to experience often enough, but when I do, I always look forward to it.
Last weekend, my sweetie and I went to Montreal for three days to see Bon Jovi perform at the Bell Centre. Bon Jovi is one of my favourite bands, and I have been a fan since the 80s. Twenty-seven years later, Bon Jovi is still together, and have hit the road to promote their new CD, The Circle. From the moment the lights dimmed, the crowd was putty in Bon Jovi's hands.
They opened the concert with Happpy Now followed by We Weren't Born to Follow from The Circle. Then Jon Bon Jovi ordered everyone to get on their feet and make some noise as the band played mega-hit You Give Love a Bad Name. Bon Jovi rocked the house for three solid hours, and did two encores! "I'm too old for this!" Jon joked as Bon Jovi came out for the second encore.
The show was incredible from start to finish. They played several songs from The Circle, and the previous CD Lost Highway, in addition to all of their big hits. Montreal was given a special gift when Bon Jovi ended the second encore by playing Always for the first time on The Circle tour, followed by Treat Her Right.
Hearing the songs from The Circle live reinforced what a wonderful collection of music it is. Love's the Only Rule and When We Were Beautiful are two of my new favourite songs. However, at times, the show dragged slightly, and perhaps the old and new songs could have been ordered a bit differently. But this fan is not complaining. I enjoyed every moment. "I've seen a million faces, and I've rocked them all!" go the lyrics from Wanted Dead or Alive. Bon Jovi rocked everyone at the Bell Centre, and gave Montreal an experience it wouldn't soon forget. Merci Bon Jovi for a fantastic time!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Last night, the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympic Games took place. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of writing often about disabled sports, and have interviewed several Paralympic athletes. This has by far been the highlight of my career. I am so lucky to write about a topic that I am passionate about, and am continually amazed and inspired by the skill and determination of the athletes I speak with.
This past December, I had the honour of interviewing the Canadian Paralympic wheelchair curling team for the winter sport edition of the children's book Glowing Hearts: From Play 2 Podium, for which I am a contributing author (www.glowinghearts.ca). Each member of the team told stories of hope, determination, and courage.
One team member recalled a tumor he had on his spinal cord that had shifted, and had ultimately caused him to become paralyzed. "I was OK," he said of his reaction to the news that he would now be in a wheelchair. "I looked around and I saw that there were a lot of people who were worse off than me." Wow! What courage, strength, and grace this man showed. I felt small in comparision. I thought back to the obstacles I've faced in my own life, and how many minor challenges have felt like the end of the world. How many times had I neglected to look around and see how fortunate I am, that no matter what difficulties were upon me, I could push through the hard times and become a stronger, better person?
I had just been through a very difficult year, and speaking with this gentleman reminded me that no matter what life throws our way, we can overcome. When faced with life's curveballs, I believe that we have two choices - we can succumb to the hardship, or we can rise up, learn from the experience, and become better than before.
I am constantly inspired and awed by the wonderful athletes I have had the pleasure of speaking with over the years. I wish all the athletes a wonderful 2010 Paralympics, and wish I could be in Vancouver to cheer them on! To the Canadian wheelchair curling team, it was an honour to interview you, and I hope to make my way to Vancouver one day and meet you in person. Go get 'em!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Things have been a little crazy these days. Work has been all-consuming, with a big project, and putting in long hours. Throw in a stomach flu on top of that, and the result is yuck. Tired, busy, exhausted. Three words that equal me right now.
Last weekend, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I looked at the calendar. When I'm tired like this, it's hard to get me out of the house. My tendency is to hibernate. Last weekend was no exception. I wanted nothing more than to spend the weekend in bed, but I had a busy weekend ahead of me. I spent time with some work friends, and had a fun evening of "girl-talk." The next evening, it was off to a jazz club for another wonderful night with my sweetie to celebrate a special anniversary. On Sunday, Canada won the Olympic gold in hockey (Go Canada!), and then it was off to see Rain, the Beatles tribute for a family birthday.
I must say that before arriving at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, my expectations of Rain were about medium. From the moment the lights went down, however, I was hooked. A montage of Beatles clips from the 1960s flashed across two big screens, culminating in the Beatles' famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Sullivan introduces the Beatles, and the curtains open. The "Fab Four," on the stage, breaks into song. Punctuated by periodic video clips from the different stages in the Beatles' history, the Rain band puts on a riveting live show of Beatles hits from every era. From the early days, to Abbey Road and beyond, Rain delivered. The crowd danced, screamed, clapped, it was a true concert experience. The song choices were amazing, and the Rain band did a great job of engaging the crowd, even congratulating Canada on its gold medal win. I left feeling renewed, energized, invigorated. I wanted to go home, and pull out my Lennon-McCartney sheet music and play Beatles songs on my flute. Rain returns to Toronto in July, and I definitely want to go again.
On my way home from Rain, I realized that during these busy times, it's so important to schedule in fun time, and time to feed the soul. I am so happy that I reconnected with the world last weekend, and it gave me the fuel to face another busy week.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
In my first year of journalism school, we had weekly assignments for our reporting class. I needed some advice on one particular assignment, so I took my 19-year-old self over to the teacher’s office. She greeted me with a smile, and answered my questions. Then, suddenly her eyes changed. Instead of smiling at me, they crinkled with concern.
She took a breath and began to speak. “Tina,” she began, “Do you like this course?”
“Oh yes!” I said enthusiastically.
“Because you seem very shy.”
On the surface, it may seem like an innocent observation. I was a shy, awkward teenager—she was right about that. However, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. You see, in journalism, “shy” was the kiss of death. Since I was 10 years old, I had wanted to be a journalist, and here was my reporting teacher basically telling me that she thought I wouldn't make it in the tough-as-nails world of journalism. Devastated by her words, I politely thanked her for her help, and slinked away in shame. I wondered whether I had any business being in the journalism program, and silently labelled her a dream killer.
Little did my teacher know the impact those words had on my life. You seem very shy. You seem very shy. I couldn’t silence her voice. Her words dizzily swirled around in my head over and over again. I was suddenly in the throes of a major existential crisis. For a long time, her comment stayed with me. I questioned myself, and wondered if I had chosen the right career. I asked friends and family, “Do you think I have what it takes?” I spent a lot of time alone, reflecting on my future. It would be a long three years until I earned my degree. Frankly, I didn't know if I was up to the task.
Amidst many tears, I realized that I had two choices: I could either believe my teacher, or prove that I had what it took. I chose the latter. I decided to turn the “dream killer” into a “dream maker.” I put all my energies into my schoolwork, determined to keep my dream. I realized that while I would never love news reporting, I was a good features and human interest writer. I loved publishing. I could find my niche. I learned that people’s opinions are subjective, that while someone may not like your work, someone else will love it. The key was to believe in myself, keep working at my craft, and I would succeed. School is like those childhood activities that our parents put us into. We are exposed to different concepts, and through trying different activities, we discover what we like, and what our strengths are.
As creative people, we must insulate ourselves against negativity, and not allow other people’s opinions to define us. There will always be dream killers, and it is up to us to turn the tables on the less than supportive comments, and become dream makers. I think about the wonderful career that I have built, and I can't help but smile. I wonder where I would be if I had listened to my teacher's comments. Thankfully, I was able to dig deep and redefine myself.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
It's been a rough month for my dear friend the flute and me. You see, every Monday I travel to Burlington to play in a flute ensemble and concert band. It is usually one of my weekly highlights. I get to feed my creative soul, have fun, and give the creative side of my brain a workout. Music engages me like no other activity. When I play music, I am completely focused, able to shut out the world, and all its stresses. Music brings joy, inspiration, and balance to my life. It burns stress and makes me happy.
So why the troubled relationship between me and my flute? Maybe I was feeling the lingering effects from a chaotic December. Maybe I was burnt out from returning from vacation to a lot of work, and still settling in from "the move." Maybe I would rather be lying on the beach with my sweetie, and reading Stephanie Plum novels than dragging my tired self to band.
Whatever the reason, I'd lost my inspiration. Each week this past month, I'd have to force myself out the door, and was blah and uninspired while there. The music was hard, and I wasn't playing very well, either.
What do you do when you lose your inspiration? Like any long-term relationship, creativity isn't always going to feel like the goosebumps on your arms, butterflies in your stomach, courtship phase at the beginning of a relationship. It's like a marriage that takes work, time, and effort.
Whether it is in my writing, music, or workout routine, when I lose inspiration, sometimes I just ride it out. I go through the motions, and show up in body, even if I'm not there in spirit. I know that if I just keep showing up at the page, practice, or gym, eventually, the inspiration will return. My flute and I have treaded through troubled waters in the past, and like any loss of inspiration, it is always temporary.
So, I rode it out for a month, and this past Monday, prayed that my inspiration would return. I showed up for practice, and ... had a blast! My playing was good, and I had fun with my bandmates. I felt inspired again, my flute and I reconciled after a month of tension and negative feelings. My mojo, my groove was back! And it felt great.
So, if you temporarily lose inspiration, just ride it out. Keep showing up, and eventually, it will return. And you will have the goosebumps, and the butterflies in your stomach all over again.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I don't think I've ever looked so forward to a new year. December is a stressful month at the best of times, with all the Christmas preparations and holiday festivities, but throw in a cross-city move from Hamilton to Toronto on top of that, and I was quickly reminded that a move in December plus Christmas equals chaos. So after a long, busy, stressful December, spent sorting through mountains of boxes, Christmas shopping, Christmas concerts, family gatherings, and putting up my Christmas tree at 9:30pm on Christmas Eve (I honestly wouldn't have bothered, but had bought some new, special ornaments that I wanted to hang), I was counting down the days until my vacation.
On December 28, I went to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic with my boyfriend for New Year's. We spent a week in all-inclusive heaven, lying on the beach or by the pool, swimming, relaxing, and recovering from the move. In the days and weeks leading up to the vacation, I looked forward to spending time with my sweetie and relaxing. I also couldn't wait, however, to catch up on my reading.
I am a notorious book shopper, addicted to the look, feel, and smell of a new book. The experience of going to a book store, perusing the shelves lined with thousands of possibilities, and buying a new book, the anticipation of bringing the new book home, sends shivers down my spine and can give me a high that will last for hours.
For our vacation, I scoured my bookshelves at home. I deserved this vacation, and was determined to find the perfect books to bring with me.
Nothing on my bookshelves seemed appropriate, however. I had already read the fun, easy reading books, and the remaining books didn't quite fit with the vacation vibe I was seeking. Then, one day, the answer appeared on Facebook. "What was your favourite book of 2009?" my cousin's wife, Debbie, posted. Her friends replied with their suggestions, and then one friend asked the million dollar question: "Can you recommend any beach reading?" Bingo! Debbie recommended the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I couldn't wait to go to Chapters and introduce myself to Stephanie Plum.
I bought the first two novels, "One for the Money," and "Two for the Dough" to bring on vacation with me, and couldn't wait to get started. From the first page, I was hooked. Evanovich's hugely popular series, about a lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter, has a huge, loyal following. And it's easy to see why. The books are laugh-out-loud funny, with compelling, entertaining characters, and good mysteries. They are quick, easy reads, and I was able to read both novels within the week that I was away.
Looking at the copyright page for "One for the Money," first published in 1994, I thought 'Where have I been all these years?' In my defence, I never really followed the mystery genre ... until now.
I had a wonderful vacation, and the best New Year's Eve of my life. Coming home to the cold, Canadian winter, wasn't easy. But back at home, I just finished "Three to Get Deadly," and am about to start on "Four to Score," comforted by the thought that as long as I'm reading the Stephanie Plum series, I'm always on vacation in spirit.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
As we embark on a new year, many of us have been busy setting goals and new year's resolutions, wanting to leave behind the stresses and difficulties of 2009, and achieve our hearts' desires in this new year, and new decade. I am pondering my goals, and what I want to achieve this year, and feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of some of the tasks I have created for myself. As I reflect, I am brought back to a conversation I had last year that changed my life.
I was at my aunt's place for dinner. She cooked Sri Lankan food, which is always a treat for me: yellow rice, beef curry, potatoes - a spicy food lover's heaven. She had houseguests staying with her - a long-time friend from Sri Lanka, and his wife. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my aunt's friend was a published writer.
Books, short stories, articles, academic papers - this man had done it all. I was inspired and awed by all he had accomplished, and naturally, our conversation turned to writing. I shared with him that I've always wanted to write fiction, and that I was taking a creative writing course at a local community college, which I was loving.
He looked up at me, smiled, and replied: "No-one can teach you creative writing. You have to just jump in the water and find your way around." I gasped quietly, dumbfounded by his profound words. Their lesson was simple, yet I was struck by their wisdom. Time after time, I had made writing more difficult for myself than I needed to. All I needed to do was show up at the page and see what happened.
As we begin a new year, I am reminded of his words, and am newly inspired to not worry about technique, whether something is worthy of being published, or even half-good, I just need to write. Or work out more. Or eat healthier. I can apply his words to all of my goals. And that is my new year's wish for all of you, that whatever dreams you have, that you just "jump in the water and find your way around."
Happy New Year,