Those Photo IDs

It never bodes well for me when it’s time to get those dreaded ID photos. Driver’s license photos are usually a nightmare. No matter how careful I am making sure my hair is neat, presentable and flattering–the photo usually turns out to be so grim that the only thing missing is the convicted felon number across my chest.

Okay–maybe it’s not that bad.  I’ve often wondered how anyone can take so many terrible photos and I’ve come to this conclusion. First, we have to look straight ahead. No one ever looks straight ahead—even the most reluctant, camera-shy family member knows not to look straight ahead.  We all have a favourite angle or view that we automatically turn to—you know, that slight tilt of the head, that come-hither smile, that twinkle-in-the-eye look. Photo IDs don’t allow this–look-straight-ahead-and-do-not-smile only.

AND did I forget to mention the footprints? At both places, I had to place my feet on these footprints and then look ahead at the camera. Most times, this would be a simple procedure, but when I had to take off my glasses to avoid any camera glare, it is no longer a simple process. To summarize, my feet got shifted out of place, the glasses were half off and the camera snapped the photo. It caught a perfect aerial view of the top of my head.

My passport photo ID is now good for 10 years. The only positive thing I can say about that photo is that 99% of the time, I will be arriving at my destination after a gazillion hours on a plane, so a worn-out, jet-lagged appearance will exactly match my passport photo. But, there is no excuse for my driver license photo, since I have to flash it often for ID purposes. That wild-woman-chased-by-a-psychotic-maniac look was actually caused by a windy day and no doubt, that grim face was a result of seeing the finished photo I’m stuck with for the next 5 years.


Indie Bookstores Are Like Cheers Minus the Beer

Love this commentary—there truly is something special about the independent bookstores. One of my faves in Victoria is Chronicle of Crimes

Eva Lesko Natiello

TownBookStore 001

Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, and two days before Cyber Monday, is a relatively new national campaign to drive business to stores once known as Mom & Pop Shops. While we think of Black Friday as the day to shop department store deals and Cyber Monday as a day to shop online deals, Small Business Saturday is a day to shop local and support non-franchised stores. Independent bookstores have their own name for this day: Indies First Day.

On Indies First Day this year, like many authors across the country, I had the wonderful pleasure of being a guest bookseller at two independent bookstores in New Jersey. I spent the morning at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ and the afternoon at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ. It was a fabulous experience to talk to customers and get an idea of what they like to…

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I am always amazed at the amount of “stuff” a person can accumulate. I’m not talking “collectibles” one gets over a lifetime. I’m talking stuff a person can collect in a week, a month, a year or two or three. And, as long as a person has an empty space, a shelf, drawer, closet or even a part of a basement, stuff manages to make its permanent home there.

I’m an expert on stuff taking up space because Hubby and I have moved five times since we got married. It seemed with each move, we had tripled the amount of stuff that moved with us. Hubby is quick to point out that most of the stuff is mine. And yes, it’s true. I married a “minimalist” and he married a “collector of stuff.”

It’s an insidious thing when collectables sneakily take up space. It’s so easy to toss whatever into a drawer or shelf; after all, out of sight, out of mind never proved truer. As a writer, I love to collect bits and pieces of keepsakes, tokens, souvenirs and/or  information that I can use for future stories. I’m sure there are thousands of us doing the same thing. If I hear an unusual quote or a snippet of conversation that can lead to a future story, it’s clipped or scribbled into a file and/or notebook. Programs from concerts and art exhibits; postcards from friends; road maps and street maps from various cities, clippings of fascinating people who may be a potential interview—all these and more were due for a “clean-out” from my catch-all basket. This was my basket for holding scraps of paper, out-of-date info and all manners of pamphlets that at the time, would be a possible source for background material. Some stuff got filed into a new folder, while others got  pitched into the shredder. Files were tackled in the same ruthless manner–are these files useful or useless?

I love books and my tastes are rather eclectic. My resource shelf reflects this as it holds a number of helpful books that can inspire, help me out of tight writing corners, talk forensics and gives me all manners of information that may or may not help. Some of the books appeared obsolete with potential markets that were long-gone. In the end, there was space on my shelves and in my file cabinet plus a few new ideas percolating in my head.

It only took me 2 agonizing days to have less writing stuff, but give me a month–it’ll all come back. . . .plus all the other stuff to boot!


Oh, Those Supermarket Lineups

There is something to be said about being in a supermarket lineup. There isn’t any other lineup that puts those gossipy Hollywood magazines and tabloids in your path, ready to grab your attention. It use to be candy bars and chips that threw themselves into your cart as you sailed past, but because of health reasons, such temptations were replaced by healthy energy bars and fruity glucose drinks and of course, those scandalous magazines and tabloids.

The latest headlines are conflicting stories and accusations between Brad and Angelina. Hey, anything to do with Brangelina and their brood of six, is always eye-catching news unless there are cute photos of the Royal children, Georgie and Charlotte. Anyway, there we were, captive readers of the ongoing verbal battles and accusations between Brad and Angie. Just reading the headlines made me itch to reach out to read the story. It was obvious the lady in front of me felt the same. We looked at each other and laughed.

“I don’t buy these magazines or tabloids, but I must admit, I do sneak a quick read while I’m in the lineup,” she explained.

“Hey, this is the only time I get hooked into reading beyond the headlines,: I replied. “And, I don’t even feel guilty about not buying this because I  already fell for the pregnancy stories about Jennifer Aniston. If any of those stories were true, the extremely long pregnancy in the animal kingdom, would have produced two baby elephants by now!”

The lady behind me laughed and reached over to grab the tabloid so we could all read it and comment. There really wasn’t much meat in the stories themselves, just a racy headline that would grab your eye-balls and impel you to toss it into your cart. But she resisted and placed it neatly back on the rack.

I have a sneaky suspicion that these magazines and tabloids are placed there for women. Somehow, Marketing has figured out that women are most likely to read and buy. After all, have you ever seen a display of “Mechanics” or “Auto News” placed conveniently by the Cashier for men?  Nada.  And besides,  I bet at least 5% of smart women sneak a quick peek at the stories behind the headlines and after reading, gently put the tabloid back as we move through the cashier lineup. However, it did make standing in line bearable with entertainment at your fingertips.

Grab Your Pet Peeve and Let ‘er Rip

I like to think I’m an unflappable kind of gal. You know, in the face of any alien invasions  or earthquakes or such, I’m the calm, cool and collected person who, hopefully can take charge and delegate duties or, I’m most likely the calm, cool and collected person who can follow orders. But at the end of the day, after battling catastrophes and nincompoops, I want my own peaceful oasis without any further hassles. So, I have compiled a list–a list of my pet peeves that can really wreck any peaceful karma and thoroughly tests your patience.

1) You’ve waited through 4 changes of traffic lights. Just as you prepare to finally make that left turn, two idiots step off the curb without checking for cars and slowly meander across the street. These idiots also don’t know how to check the pedestrian light to see there is a humongous hand in the universal “Stop” position, leaving you, the motorist, stuck  in a half-turn against traffic, due to another light change.

2) The Cellphone and/or Texting Junkie who is welded to his/her tech toy. They don’t have time to check for cars ready to squash them like bugs–after all, Pedestrians have the right-of-way. Somewhere in their “Handbook for Pedestrians,” this is carved in stone and permanently embedded in the Junkie’s teeny-tiny brain. Common sense is left at home whenever they venture out.

3) There is a campaign in my home-town to “Share the Road”–meaning cars and cyclists can co-exist amiably. This certainly sounds good on paper, but in practice, it is a constant struggle to be ever vigilant for cyclists squeezing into a car lane because the bike lane abruptly stops and picks up again after a few kilometers and/or miles. Now, some cyclists are becoming more aggressively demanding–forcing drivers to move slightly over the centre line to allow the bicyclists through.

4) People darting across busy streets for their buses literally take their life in their hands. They have to dash across a busy main street because they have to be on that  bus right now! Listen, you dummy–if you hadn’t stopped for that coffee or whatever, you would have been at the bus stop with plenty of time to spare.

5) Coffee bars are usually fun places to read the newspapers, enjoy a decadent snack and meet friends. But, no one needs to hear a loud cellphone conversation detailing every single moment of a hot date; an ugly fight between partners or the latest juicy gossip of who-cares.

6) Some supermarkets provide mini-shopping carts for little munchkins who like to help their Mommies and/or Daddies. I love kids but I really, really hate with a passion, the few out-of-control kids who race madly down the aisles, careening off ankles that blocks their temporary race-track. Your worst nightmare is when there are more than one child, each with a mini-cart, racing and screaming with manic excitement. Parents are usually 5 aisles over and totally oblivious to the chaos their child is causing.

7) And my all-time favourite peeve–I enjoy my concerts. I love classical music, jazz, blues and rock ‘n roll. I enjoy any music performed well that fully captivates the audience. We are totally immersed in the pure joy of listening when a dratted cellphone blasts forth with its own melody to ruin the moment. At the last concert I attended, I was delighted to hear the request to please turn off any cellphones–that’s progress!

Okay, now I feel better. Tossing out those pet peeves that can drive a person bonkers, (if you let it), is really great therapy. What’s your pet peeve(s)?


I have hats–lots and lots of hats. Hats for all seasons and all types of weather. My Mom use to knit all of us nice woolly hats for the winter–not that Victoria, BC ever experience long, cold winters, but Mom knits us warm, colourful hats anyway. I love my Mom’s knitted hats because I can squash them into my coat pockets, shake it out and plunk it on my head–easy-peasy with no fussing.

Summer has another kind of hat–light, UV protected with wide brims to shade the face. I have summer hats with big brims, wide brims, air holes for ventilation, different colours to match whatever colour I’m wearing for that day as well as hats with funky patterns to suit one’s mood.

The only downside of hats is “hat hair.” I loved those movies where the heroine whips off her huge, wide-brimmed, flower-bedecked hat and her long, beautiful blonde/bronze/raven/red/chestnut coloured curls, falls sexily down and around her shoulders, framing her heart-shaped face. When I whip my hat off, my short curly hair is pressed around my head with the hair in unsightly clumps—that is hat hair, my friend.

AND, where the movie heroine can finger comb her curls back into its sexy tousled look, my finger combing definitely makes it a rumpled look. The only thing missing would be a scruffy raincoat with a huge hood.

At this stage of my life, I think I am resigned to the necessity of hats and the resultant hat hair. Some of us have that flair for fashion and finger fluffing while wearing hats. The rest of us carry big purses or have big pockets for the brush and comb so that we can still look good when the hats come off. Maybe in my next life time, I’ll come back with the sexy hair that falls down and around my shoulders, framing my big brown eyes–only a quick finger fluff to ensure that perfect hair.

On the other hand, it would be my luck-of-the-draw to come back as a llama with sexy, silky hair that falls beautifully around big, brown eyes and a gentle face; a shake of the head to flip off that hat and the hair is still perfect. . .



For Spackle or Worse

For my 20th anniversary, Hubby presented me with my very own tub of Spackle. Bet you thought I made a typo and meant “sparkle” right?

Nope, I really meant “Spackle” which all do-it-yourselfers (DIY) knows is the queen of fillers for gouges, dents and small nails/screw holes left on the drywall after all the wallpaper is removed.

Spackle is great stuff because it goes on a distinctive pink and as it dries, it turns white. I got to wield a small spatula, gooping the pink stuff on the various parts of the wall, filling in the gouges and nail holes, smoothing it flat before it dried. This was great fun as there was none of the guesswork deciding whether the filler was dry enough to paint over. We only had to watch the bubblegum pink colour disappear to a mere white to know it was paint ready. Bet you’re asking yourself–hey, how did you become a do-it-yourselfer when you should be drinking champagne and celebrating?  To make a long story short, it was casting for a project—actually Hubby was casting for a project and I was merely making an observation.

We still had 1/2 can of paint and primer leftover from painting the bathroom. Our kitchen has a utility closet, closed off by a pocket door. Usually the door is open exposing the wall facing into the kitchen. Both kitchen and utility wall had the same wallpaper.  As I made my comment that I really detested that pattern on the utility room wall, Hubby was already checking it out. Hey, he says–this must be the leftover paper from the kitchen that they slapped on the wall because the other two walls are plain. Before you could say “spackle,” a strip of  wallpaper was lying on the floor.

Wow, I say. Should be easy to paint. . .right? Oops, wrong! As Hubby carefully checked things over, he discovered that if the rack holding the mops and brooms was removed AND the shelving above the washer and dryer dismantled, it should be easy to mostly roller-paint the walls with some brush work on the corners and ceiling lines. AND oh yes, if the washer and dryer could be moved forward a bit, we could paint as far down the back and side walls by the washer and dryer–that could be reached.

I like to think I’m a graceful, lithesome senior who can stretch effortlessly to 7 feet and yoga-fold my body into impossible shapes to paint those difficult places, corners and straight-ceiling lines. The truth of the matter is I’m short, a mere 5 feet and not as agile as my granddaughters, who can bend into a pretzel and do a somersault all at the same time. The real test was painting the primer or base coat. This was like a “test-run” and it was surprisingly easy. My ceiling lines were clean and straight except for the very slight wobble in the far corner which was a bit of a stretch for me, balanced precariously on the washer. The rollers were just the right size to roll as far down the back walls as I could reach and the paint brush did the side walls as far down as I could–the end result being that  the back and side walls looked completely painted where it was visible behind and beside the washer and dryer. The sight of a clean and bright white drywall was an incentive to paint the two coats of final colour as carefully as the primer.

So what should have been a 4-hour paint job stretched into a 2-day session. BUT, in the end, the utility room never looked brighter or cleaner. The only damage was the paint smear on the hip and butt of my shorts when I accidently backed into a wet wall, the paint splatters on my favourite old T-shirt, elbows and knees. I’m not sure how I got paint on my knees but I want you to know, the walls are beautiful!

AND before you asked what did Hubby do—well, he did all the needed prep work of dismantling shelving, moving the washer and dryer slightly, stripping off wallpaper and making things ready for me to goop, prime and paint. It was great team work. . .

On the actual  day of our 20th, Hubby took me out to a spectacular anniversary dinner at our favourite restaurant, complete with flowers, wine, chocolate dessert and a lot  of romance. . .Umm-mm, we still have 1/4 tin of paint and primer leftover, but we are definitely not looking for anymore painting projects just yet. . .