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So, You’re a Writer, eh?

Well-meaning people have asked me, “Why do you want to be a writer?”–as if a writer was this poor, unemployed, underfed person, suffering for her art and living in a bare attic room. I must admit I appeared too well-fed and content to look the part of a suffering writer. My other all-time favourite comment, “You’re a writer?” exclaimed in such a tone that I’m never sure if it’s a total revelation that I can write or that it’s inconceivable that I actually do write. Of course this comment has to be justified with a list of what has been written. “What did you write?” is a fair question but if it’s not on any Best Seller list, the New York Times or Globe and Mail Top 10 lists, then I’m not a Real Writer. I’ll bet you all have a tale or two to tell too.

The other day, I was sipping a cup of Timmy’s medium roast and savouring every bite of a  ginormous blueberry scone–as I people watched and did my “character” research. The scone had already been reduced to a few tasty bites as my thoughts jumped from the smart marketing ploy of pairing coffee with baked goods to an elderly man, trying to navigate around several baby carriages to reach a vacant table with his coffee and donut. The young Moms were too busy conversing with each other to notice his difficulty in using his cane, balancing his tray and aiming for the nearby table. Quickly, a young man, wearing paint-stained clothes and dramatically visible snake tattoos curling up both muscular arms, leaped from his seat, steadied the frail man and set the tray on his table. Amazingly, the Moms were too focused on each other to notice a potential accident had been averted.

At another table, a father and his young son were enjoying their snacks when suddenly the 3-year old tossed his empty cookie bag on the floor and proceeded to have a full-blown tantrum. Aha, I though–either Dad has to get more cookies or he’s going to reason with his son. You know, when parents would say, “That is not acceptable behaviour. Big boys don’t litter. Blah, blah, blah. Instead Dad picked his son up, smacked him lightly on the bottom and pointed to the floor. The tantrum stopped in mid-cry; he looked at his Dad and slowly bent to pick up his litter–as well as someone’s  under a neighboring table. Nodding his approval, Dad hugged his son, whispered a few words in his ear and both calmly walked out of the Food Court. I liked that. This was a well-placed smack that got the child’s attention. The little guy knew he was being naughty. I admired the Dad for dealing directly with the tantrum.

A few tables away, there were 8 men—retirees who appeared to be long-time friends, all wearing flamboyant Hawaiian shirts. Their table was a lively one of laughter, a rumble of voices and more laughter. They were sharing a large box of “Tim Horton” doughnuts along with their coffees. Finally, one of the men, wearing a shirt peppered with enormous pink hibiscus blooms, stood up to make a toast. Immediately, their corner became silent as their heads turned towards an empty chair at the head of the table. In a moment of rare Food Court silence, the man’s words were clearly heard. “This is for you, Benny. We can talk about you and remember all the funny things you did since you’re not here to defend yourself. The guys and I miss you like hell and wherever you are, we hope you’re having a Timmy’s and coffee too.  Here’s to you, Benny!” The clink of coffee mugs and a chorus of voices echoing the toast was a very touching moment.

Now, I know you’re going to say–wait a sec–what happened to being a writer?

Well, Life is what happens. There is so much drama, comedy and things left to your imagination that happens each and every day. Being at the computer can leave you numb ’cause you sat too long or hungry ’cause nothing is happening—so taking a long walk or heading out for coffee or meeting with friends—are all potentials for building a story. After all, most stories start with the ordinary that somehow changes to something extraordinary. It’s hard work to keep up the pace and make it believable. It’s definitely a challenge to have your believable characters do unbelievable things. What better place to pick-up characters than at the mall or coffee bar or grocery store or hardware store or library or. . . . And the imagination supplies the rest of the story.

HAZARDS AND OBSTACLES

The simple task of shopping for groceries really isn’t as simple as one may think. There are hazards and obstacles galore when you venture into a supermarket.

When I head for the veggie aisles, I totally detest those thin plastic-like, compostable veggie bags that comes off a roller. How the heck do you open the darn things when squinching it doesn’t work and rubbing it with thumb and finger doesn’t do anything. And, the other indignity is having the bags set high above your head so there’s a really good stretch to reach it. But I must admit it did feel good when another shorter lady asked me to get her one too. Don’t even ask how to grab a twist tie to secure the darn bag if and when you get it ’cause they’re up high too–beside the veggie bags. I finally figured it out. Just check the fresh leafy greens that gets their misty drenching AND THEN open the bag. Wet fingers,–without ee-ew–sticking it in your mouth,— works every time. As for the twist ties, if you’re able to grab one, grab a handful!

I find people are  very nice and very helpful when an item is out of reach. Taller men and taller women are very obliging. If you’re lucky enough to find a shelf-stocker, they are helpful and very polite. But, there are exceptions.

I can only think Mr. Grumpy was having a bad morning. I think his frowning over his ordering list and checking off what needed to be filled was too much without his morning coffee. I can relate to that. When I politely asked if he could reach for an item for me, he was annoyed and didn’t want to be helpful, but he reluctantly followed me to the freezer section.

“Where?” he briskly demanded.

“There,” I pointed, but nervously pointing at the wrong item.

“Here,” he thrust it at me.

“I’m sorry, it was the item two over,” I apologized. Scowling at me, he threw the offending item back in its corner, grabbed the right package tossing it into my cart and then stalking back to his frustrating task. I can only hope his caffeine break was coming very soon.

A few aisles over, I was searching for the coffee filters that use to be on the bottom shelf. I guess there must have been a “make-work” day as the coffee filters were now on the top shelf. Someone had taken the first 6 packages at the front leaving a stack of them at the back of the shelf. I didn’t see anyone who could reach for them so I contemplated Option#2.  I stepped on the bottom shelf and reached up to the top. Nope, still too short. Option#3 would be to climb the second shelf but that made me hesitate because even climbing onto the second step of a step-ladder gave me visions of falling flat on my back, knocking myself unconscious and having strangers gathering around to determine if I was dead.  Darn. . .I went searching for someone to help me. I finally found another shelf stocker who was extremely helpful. He reached up for 2 packages of coffee filters and asked what else was on my list in case they were on another high shelf. Thank goodness, they weren’t.

With a huge sigh of relief, I zipped down another aisle, heading for the cashiers. Unfortunately, a mini-munchkin was zipping along with his “shopper-in-training” mini-cart coming in the opposite direction.  My surprised shriek and his equally surprised yell of “Look out, Lady!” made us each swerve at the last second. He hit the display of paper towels that bombarded the aisle behind me.  I kept on going.

Hubby merely lifted an eyebrow when I eventually got home. I must have looked frazzled, holding my huge “go-cup” of caffeine.

“Grocery shopping, right?”

FAT MIRRORS—Part 2

The following day, Walter  Young joined Charlie Swanson at his round Moka-House table.  Sipping his dark roasted flavor of the day, he said, “I’m not sure what happened yesterday.”

“What happened my friend, is that you got side-whacked by two women who have a mission proving fat mirrors exist.”  Charlie grinned and asked, “When is the shopping trip?”

“Today,” was the succinct reply.

Charlie missed a day with his coffee friends due to his long-awaited visit with his cardiologist, but he heard all about fat mirrors the next day.

“Missed you yesterday, Charlie,” Muriel Long greeted him. “You missed hearing about the whole fat mirror research excursion. Walter went with Annie and Violet to visit several boutiques and unisex clothing shops. Checked out the mirrors in each shop and came to a conclusion. He’s not telling us what he concluded but it’ll be in his article in Sunday’s ‘Around Our Town’ section of the ‘Victoria News’.”  At that moment, Walter Young set his latte and mocha fudge brownie on the other side of Charlie. Violet Whitfield sat beside him with her almond croissant and Americano coffee.

“Missed you yesterday, Charlie,” Violet commented. “Did all go well with your specialist?”

“Annual checkup and I’m still ticking along like that Timex watch commercial.”

“Did Walter tell you about the shopping trip? He’s keeping it a secret on whether or not fat mirrors exist.”

Charlie smiled. “I must admit I’m curious about the plausibility of fat mirrors.”

“I have to tell you, Charlie,” Walter mumbled as he bit into his brownie. “Initially, I didn’t believe the ladies, but there’s nothing like a bit of research to prove or disprove a theory. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my free desserts for a week. . .”

Charlie looked at him expectantly. “Surely you can give us a hint on whether fat mirrors actually exist?”

Taking another bite of his mocha fudge brownie, Walter chewed, swallowed and finally managed a comment.  “I did get to visit a mirror shop and talked to the experts about the quality and tint of the glass used for mirrors. It was quite an education.” Shaking his head, Walter continued.  “I can tell you that the quality and thickness of the mirror; the way it’s displayed;  the size of the change-room and the lighting in the room all influences whether or not a customer looks great.  Does the mirror have a delicate tint? Is it tilted or flat against the wall? These things are all part of the looking terrific game of selling.”

“We tried to get him to declare that fat mirrors do exist, but he won’t admit it yet,” Violet laughed. “Would you like another one of those mocha fudge brownies, Walter?”

“Yes, thanks Violet. I’m enjoying all my desserts but. . .” and making the familiar motions of zipping and locking his lips, Walter grinned and said, “But keep the pastry bribes coming, Violet. Everything will be explained in the Sunday article that I decided to call, “The Skinny on Fat Mirrors.”

“Catchy title, Walter. I’ll look forward to reading the piece on Sunday.” Smiling, Charlie  collected the sections of newspapers he wanted to re-read, grabbed his sturdy walking stick, tipped his hat to his Moka-House coffee mates and cheerfully departed with a “Enjoy your day, my friends, but don’t stand in front of any fat mirrors!”

 

 

 

 

 

FAT MIRRORS–Part 1

Annie Soo set her cup of decaf cappuccino and her napkin wrapped chocolate fudge brownie on Charlie Swanson’s table. Muriel Long grabbed the chair on the other side of Charlie, plonked her cup of dark roasted coffee down and replied to Annie’s earlier question.

“I’ve never heard of “fat” mirrors—have you Charlie?”

“Are you talking about mirrors that are thicker than regular mirrors?” was the puzzled answer.

“No Charlie,” Annie answered. “I’m talking about mirrors in dressing rooms that make you look fatter.  Jeff just laughs when I tell him this, but what do you expect when you’re talking to someone who buys clothes every decade or so.”

“To be honest, I haven’t bought anything in quite some time, but I’ve never heard of fat mirrors.”  Charlie tried to supress his grin at the sudden vision of numerous ladies expressing horror as they looked at themselves in these “fat” mirrors.

“What fat mirrors?” demanded Violet Whitfield as she brought her cafe au lait to the table. “I swear they have them at ‘Petra’s Boutique’, since anything I tried on definitely made me look fatter.”  Ed Barnes ambled over to set his cup of mocha latte and cherry danish on the table, snagging the chair beside Violet.

“Ladies, Ladies,” he laughed.  “If everyone dropped their pastries and passed them over, you wouldn’t have to look into any more fat mirrors.”

“Okay, now I get it,” exclaimed Charlie. “This is one of those female topics, right?”

“We may as well get another table, Charlie. Once these ladies get a buzz in their brownies, it’s a lost cause to grab a more serious topic of discussion. For myself, I’ve never encountered a fat mirror  and I’ll be 67 in another two months.”

“Wait, here comes Walter. Let’s hear what he has to say about fat mirrors.”

Charlie, Ed, Violet and Annie took sips of their coffees and bites of their various pastries, watching Walter Young settle in his chair, sip his cappuccino and take a satisfying bite of his pecan tart.  “What’s up?  Want a bite of my tart?” he asked with a puzzled frown. “I could feel your eyes and waves of tension throwing themselves at me across the room.”

There was a collective rolling of eyes around the Moka-House table as the coffee mates looked at their wannabe writer.

“What’s your opinion of fat mirrors in dressing rooms, Walter?” challenged Annie.

“Umm-mm, is this a trick question?”  Walter took  a cautious sip of his cappuccino. “I’ve never heard of fat mirrors.”

“This is one of those ladies’ pet peeves, Walter. Charlie and I were about to move to the next table over so the ladies can bash away at fat mirrors that exist only to drive women crazy.”

“Hey, not so fast—I’m a writer who’s always looking for a good topic and this one may be a ‘winner’, especially if it attracts the female readers,” was the quick response.  “So Ladies, what are your opinions on fat mirrors. Do they truly exist? Or is this another ‘urban legend’ voiced by women who won’t admit they are slightly overweight and that this  excess is magnified by  a mirror.”

“I must admit Walter’s logic is a possibility. We all know that cameras can add pounds, why not mirrors?” Violet thoughtfully remarked.

“See!” Annie triumphantly crowed. “Fat mirrors do exist regardless of what men think.”

“Too bad Peter isn’t here. He has such a geeky logic about most things,” Violet murmured.

“I’m pretty sure if you ladies passed your desserts over, I can save you all from the agonies of fat mirrors,” Walter commented hopefully. Walter was skinny as a beanpole and ever since the Moka-House friends congregated daily, he had the enviable metabolism  that burned off his calories and sugar intake as fast as he ingested them.  Annie and Violet looked at each other and then at Walter.

“What?” he asked. “Are you seriously going to pass over your desserts? There’s only a bite left in each and I usually get them without any bites in them at all.” He paused and added, “It’s like getting a chocolate with a huge piece missing.”

“Walter, come with Annie and me to some clothing stores and check out the mirrors in the dressing rooms. Tell us if they make you look fatter.”  Walter looked at Violet with horror. “I can’t go into a ladies’ dressing room unless it’s with my wife.”

“We’ll pick an unisex store so it’ll be okay.”

“Or, you can go in as Violet’s boyfriend,” Ed suggested helpfully.  “You know, the younger man/older woman? What do they call these women—oh yes, ‘cougars’. . . .”  Violet’s mouth curved into the beginnings of a grin at the thought.

“Honestly Walter, all you have to do is try on something and check in the mirror. Or, come in when I have something on and tell me if the mirror makes me look fat.”  Violet  looked at Annie and getting her nod added, “We’ll buy you dessert for a week if you do this for us.” Annie added, “Consider it research for your article on fat mirrors.”

Walter looked thoughtful, gazed around thetable and reluctantly nodded.

(to be continued)

 

 

FASHIONS

We all know–especially women–how quickly fashions come and go. Bouffant hairdos and bobby socks in the 50s gave way to long straight hair and sandals in the 60s. Hemlines went up and down faster than Elvis’ pelvic twitch.

I never fell for any of the trends because none of it was flattering to my short shape; besides, I never did “master” the art of fluffing and puffing the hair.

A few months ago, searching for the perfect outfit for a family wedding, I saw a lot of trends that didn’t exactly “make it” in Victoria. Most of these items were on sale for an almost-free-give-away price. Let me tell you about them.

In the summer dresses I never bought, the uneven hemlines were a source of frustrations for me. I finally found a dress with short sleeves, a decent neckline, pockets and in my size except for a hemline that seemed to drag to the floor on one side and went above the kneecaps on the other. I suspect the length was supposed to be worn by someone much taller. This fad was not at all suitable for a shorty. Another annoying   feature also involved  hemlines that ended with pleats—not the entire garment—only the hemlines.  Pu-ul-lease, we can’t all be leggy models!

Foregoing the idea of a dress, I decided to search for a nice top. After all, what can a sane designer do to a nice top?  Well, let me enlighten you. No longer dependent on unique colours, patterns and textured fabrics, tops get embellished. I don’t mind a few sparkles to make it dressier, but I totally detest any additions of cute flounces or bobbles. And,      to find what would have been a great top except the sleeves, necklines and hems had flounces with bobbles  was just too much.  Who let the wacky designers decide that unconventional clothing was the way for the masses? Hey, we’re not all young, confident and quirky to feel unique wearing your designs.

Where are the great designers who put style and class into their clothes? There are an awful lot  of us loving the classical charm of clothes that makes any woman feel good.  The chic, grace and panache of classical clothes will always attract our attention. In this day and age where money is a great motivator, designers who tout their outrageously zany clothing line will eventually discover that traditional and classical sells better. Classical is never boring because there is a wealth of material and designs to make a classical piece unique.

Women do not dress like their mothers, but they know what appeals to them. I love the simple classical styles. The use of updated colours or textures in the fabric, makes it far more appealing to me than any superficial or distracting detail that makes the garment a one-time wear only. Classical pieces are timeless. Dresses can be changed-up with a belt, scarf or piece of jewelry; skirts or suits with a blouse or sweater. Perhaps this is why classical pieces are difficult to find since I’m less likely to search for another skirt or dress when I already have them in my closet.

Classical clothing is out there somewhere on some young, obscure designer’s mind. I’m hopeful he or she will have that  aah-ha moment soon and we’ll see our 21st century version of classical clothing for women.

Meanwhile, those older and younger women–who look chic, attractive and fashionable, are wearing their updated classical pieces that are popping with colour, not bobbles. Or maybe, they’re wearing their older classics that are ageless and have outlasted any fads or trends. . .

 

 

Fortune Cookie Future

This one is for Gillian, Aces and the Hilltop Ladies’ Trekkers, who requested that I repost my fortune cookie story.  So, as I start my “hilly” route and they tackle their hilly hike, here is my fortune cookie post of  2014.

Fortune cookies are one of my secret weaknesses. I know it’s very non-Chinese of me because honestly, fortune cookies were never a genuine Chinese tradition–only in Chinese restaurants as a gracious way to present the bill. I hate it when the Chinese restaurants offer the obligatory fortune cookie to each person at the table. This means you only get one grab at a fortune. But when you get to scoop a bunch of tasty fortune cookies in your own bag, then your chances of getting a decent fortune increases tenfold.

You know, when you have one of those moments when you crave something less potent than dark Belgium chocolates and a lot more than healthy snacks? This is one of those snack attacks when chips and Cheetos just won’t do, but you definitely don’t want a rice cracker either. When all else fails to entice, then it’s a bag of fortune cookies for me.

I had the fortune cookie craving the other day. I felt I needed some fuel for walking the hilly 4-mile route around my neighbourhood. Reading the fortunes always spurred me on as I snacked while tackling the hills. Besides, I could burn off 2000 calories, maybe even 3000, by the time I completed my route.

The first hill is a killer because my knees practically hit my chin as I make my way up the top, munching three fortune cookies during the climb. Before descending the other side, I read my fortunes. Number 1 said: “Beware any obstacles.”  As far as I could see, I had two more hills before the route leveled out and got me home. Fortune #2 said: “Smile and the World smiles with you.”  Just knowing I had two more obstacles made me groan. Who could possibly smile?  Fortune #3 said: “Your efforts will pay off.”  Now, that one was a keeper.  I wanted to look great in my new dress and by gosh, by golly, I will!  Tucked this fortune in my pocket and chucked the others in the trash bin.

Downhill was a breeze—a fast pace downwards, a block of level ground and the n the start of hill number 2. This one is a sneakier hill because it’s a gradual upgrade, then steep near the top and a slow drop down the other side. Because the route is longer here, I ate five more fortune cookies. Finally reaching the peak, I sorted through my fortunes, two were the same: “Stop and smell the roses.”  Not yet, not until I complete the last hill. The next fortune predicted: “Today, indulge your craving. Tomorrow arrives soon enough.” Whoa, was that some kind of dire warning? My last fortune said, “The sky’s the limit this month.”  I liked that. Tucked that one in my pocket; but wait, five cookies should have five fortunes. One of my cookies arrived empty—or, was it? I didn’t think I had dropped a fortune and I sure as heck wasn’t going back to look.

Trudging down the gradual decline I waited until I got to the final hill before I ate my way through the last four cookies. This was actually a medium hill with a medium incline and then a running decline. Finally, a block from home, I checked my slips of paper:  “Laughter is the music of one’s soul.”  Hmm-m, that sounded nice. The next slip of paper said: “Fortune has a fickle heart and a short memory.” Guess that meant my lottery ticket didn’t win–again. The final two were identical and whoever wrote these had a terrific sense of humour.  “Fortune smiles at those who help themselves; but sometimes Fortune needs a good kick in the pants to recognize you.”

Never mind that I devoured a bag of fortune cookies. Of course Fortune was seeing the future thinner Me. That 4-mile walk had to have burnt off 3000 calories. Whoever said “Never trust a fortune cookie” didn’t know what they were eating—I mean, reading!

Side Roads, Fences and. . . .

Beckoning RoadBeckoning side road

I’ve been tackling some challenging walking routes in my daily routine. I’ve walked or more like climbed some very steep hills; the kind where your kneecaps almost hit your chin, if you’re a short person. I’ve also walked a route where the hill begins gentle and gradually keeps climbing. These are my deceptive hills. It doesn’t really start as a very steep hill because it tempts you to keep moving. It isn’t until you look behind you that reality hits that it had been a steady climb upwards; the final hill being a kneecap-to-the-chin climb before it finally leveled off to a fantastic view of water and mountains. I like exploring side streets or lanes that beckons. Sometimes, unexpected surprises pops out when you least expect the unusual.

This is a very creative gardener to use an old bicycle as part of the garden display. And no matter where you roam, the urban deer roams close by, unafraid of any humans.

Bicycle by a Garden - Copy (2)                                                                                    Cropped Pic of Deer on Victoria Drive

Fences catch my attention because Victorians do know what kind of fence they prefer.  Some Victorians can also make their distinctive statements regarding their privacy. . . . .

corner wall                 Decorative Fence in Hampshire Lane                                             fence4

And best of all, the colours and art that springs out to delight the eyes of any walker. . .

Birdhouse               Red Poppies - Copy

Heron at garden Centre2

Walking is definitely a fun way to enjoy exercise, fresh air and the unexpected treasures encountered on a daily jaunt. Just watch out for sneaky hills. . . . .and urban deer.