Friday, April 30, 2010

The argument for cars

So, back to regularly scheduled programing: life without a car.

The day before yesterday, my daughter, H, arrived, laundry in hand and with a stiff neck and aching shoulder. As a hairdresser, sore muscles and joints are cause for concern. She has to do what she can to ensure these issues don't persist. Let's face it, if she can't lift her arm to blow-dry a client's hair, her career could be in trouble.

I encouraged her to get to a doctor and we left on foot to the nearest walk-in clinic -- no pun intended.

It was a 20-minute hike -- no big deal except that she was in pain. When we arrived at 11:20, there was a sign on the door that said they were backlogged and would not be accepting anyone until after 1:00.


Since H was scheduled for work at 3:00 and that without a car there was no way she could wait the 100 minutes, be examined and catch a bus in time for her shift.

We opted for another medical centre, a 15-minute walk back toward home. As it turned out, this wasn't a walk-in clinic. Neither was the next one we tried at the IWK Health Centre.

In desperation, we travelled back, past  the first clinic we'd tried en route to the emergency room at the QEII complex. The emergency room has been revamped with a better triage and registration area. We were whisked through to an examination room in minutes. It was 12:50.

We were finally smiling. This was going to be a breeze.

A medical student arrived to give a preliminary exam and then returned for more mobility testing.

And then we waited.

And waited.

At about 2:10, a doctor arrived with the student. As he walked into the room, his cell phone began to buzz and he excused himself. More than an hour later, he returned to a couple of pretty angry faces.

"I had a chest," he offered by way of explanation.

And we got that. We were in emergency after all.

But what a difference that bit of knowledge would have made while we were waiting. We would have understood that he hadn't simply strolled off to take a call but was attending to someone in a worse situation than we.

I realize doctors aren't in the business of client service. They are in the business of healing.

Still, how difficult would it be to recognize that patients who are isolated in closed-off rooms without access to information -- or distractions -- are going to be less cranky if they're given a smidgen of info?

In our case, H -- who had taken two muscle relaxants and was valiantly fighting sleep in order to be coherent when the doctor arrived -- could have napped. I could have gone in search of a magazine or crossword puzzle.

In the end, it was sometime after 4:00 by the time we arrived back home. It had been a five-hour excursion.

In addition to this frustration, was my feeling of impotence at not being able to properly care for my family. That we had to spend so much time walking and walking while my ex had the car that I was, in theory, supposed to be able to access whenever needed. In practice, this doesn't work. I'd have had to be able to somehow get it from him while he was at work. And then there is the fact that we're no longer in touch.

I was in a horribly depressed mood by suppertime.

And then I received a message from an acquaintance of my son's. This guy works at a car rental place and offered to give us the "friends and family" plan that will allow us to take a van for my son's move to Toronto at a savings of $1,000! Plus I can drop it off there for $100 rather than the $1,600 that some companies charge allowing me to avoid the two-day solitary drive home no doubt made while bawling my eyes out over my empty nest.

How sweet can you get?

So, thank you for making my day, Jason.

I still want a car.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Tavernier Stones Blog Contest!

 Ladies and Gentlemen!

To get your weekend off to a great start, I have a super-easy contest for you to enter.

I have in my little mitt a brand-new, fresh-off-the-press copy of The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish.

If you'd like to make it yours, here's all you have to do:

  1. Visit Stephen's blog at
  2. Find your favourite blog entry
  3. Post the link here in the comments section of this post
  4. On June 1, 2010, I'll select my favourite of your favourites et voilĂ ! someone will own a free copy of a great, new book.
  5. I'll announce the winner on this blog and be in touch to get your address so I can mail your prize to you. (Yes, I will cover the cost of postage.)
Odds of winning? I'd say they are pretty good. It's not like 1000s of people follow me. The bonus is that you get to read Stephen's posts. They're good reads.

And the extra-super bonus is this: you will now have one of the needed tools to solve The Armchair Treasure Hunt and be in the running to win a DIAMOND!

How's that to add some excitement to your Friday?


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LEARN something, damnit!

I am in such a pissy, sorry-for-myself mood today and I hate that. I hate feeling woeful and whiny. If I could remove my own leg, I'd boot meself in the arse.

I'm usually a very optimistic person. At least that is how I see myself. When something goes wrong, I know things will eventually get better. They always do. While I don't subscribe to the theory that "things happen for a reason" I do believe that opportunity abounds in challenge.

It pisses me off that I can't see what the opportunity is. I feel like I'm blindfolded.

If I wasn't so fucking flounder-y, if I hadn't been so fucking flounder-y for months now, I'd be okay. As it is, I still don't know how to dig myself out of this hole I so aptly dug for myself.

It all started when I moved to this province, thinking I'd find home. I didn't. Nova Scotia has never seemed to fit me comfortably. But I did find space to write. Space that I carved for myself with little or no encouragement from my significant other. As long as I had money to cover my kids and myself for the year I was going to take away from work, he was fine with it. Taking time away from a paycheque was a bold step for me as I have long carried the mantle of being a sole-support parent. I felt brave. I felt that I was setting an example for my kids that it's important to follow your dreams. To take a chance on yourself.

After some time off -- which turned out to be needed as I'd reached burn-out -- I returned to work, having found a job that would cover the bills while taking only half of my day. It was to allow me time to write.

Then, over a year ago, I started getting these neck tremors. They seem to have no biological basis and, in the past, I have developed physical manifestations of unhappiness. That said, I thought they'd go away when I figured my life out.

Neither has happened yet, so I can't prove my theory. 

The tremors aren't evident when I am walking or being physically active but when I am still. On the computer (like now), watching television, chatting with others. Sometimes I can control it; sometimes I can't. All that jerking around can make it difficult to read.

I used to get tremors in my right hand making writing impossible so I learned to use my left. After seeing different specialists, it was determined that they were caused by some over-firing in a section of my brain.

Those are now gone and have been replaced by this much more intrusive head bobble.

It makes life a little difficult. Embarrassing even. People either think I'm disagreeing with them or that I have some neurological disorder.

I thought they might vanish after my partner and I ended our relationship because ending it was a good thing to do. Of course, losing half my meager fortune to him was not.

Shortly after the split, I quit a sucky job when they changed the terms of my contract without being willing to negotiate my rate. When I quit, I had no idea that I'd be this long out of work. I've never, ever been unable to find a job. In the past, with only one exception, when I've had an interview for a job, I've landed the job. It's what I do.

Where do I go now? Do now?

I wish I knew.

And I wish I could figure out this big life lesson because I'm sure that is what this is: life screaming at me to LEARN something. But what?



Monday, April 19, 2010

Installment VI

While I was waiting for the boy's text message this afternoon, I had a call from The Brick. We'd been to a local store and ordered some furniture for him to be delivered to his apartment in TO.

Should have been simple, but when I hadn't heard from the TO store to arrange the delivery, I called the number the sales clerk here had given me.

It was indeed a number for a Brick outlet, but not the right one. They had no record of the order.

I called my sales clerk back. Turns out she hadn't faxed the order in properly.

The Toronto store and the Halifax store called me later to let me know that the sales clerk had forgotten to have me sign the invoice and asked me to go in.

Now, those three or four loyal readers will know that I no longer have a car. (Long story.) It would take me over an hour to travel to the store by bus. My son had a brainwave. Let's go to Kinkos and fax it over.

Great idea, son. Let's go.

We did. We got the confirmation of successful delivery. We paid. We walked back home.

The next day, I get another call from the Toronto office. They don't have the signed invoice. The Halifax store claims they didn't receive it.

I shlep back to Kinkos, refax, reconfirm, repay. I call the store to ensure they have received it. They have so I leave.

This afternoon I get a call from the Toronto store. Where's the signed invoice? the woman asks.

At the Halifax store I say aloud. This is not what I was saying with my inside voice.

Nope, she tells me. Hali says they don't have it.

They do, I insist. Please call them back.

She does. They do indeed have the invoice. The TO sales clerk explodes. My god, she says. How slow can they be there in Halifax? How long does it take to send a fax?

Welcome to my world, I want to say, but I don't. I've become so used to crappy service since moving here that I barely notice it anymore. The high blood pressure and spewing of vitriol wasn't worth it.

I'm really sorry for bothering you, she says. Delivery has been arranged with the landlady. Everything is right in the world.

Back to real time, I have just checked the virtual flight view monitor on the Halifax International Airport's website and my son's plane is now over Bangor, Maine.

He'll be home by midnight and then the real countdown begins.

Eight days till the move.

He won't know if he's made it into the film centre for two weeks.

Keep sending those good vibes, gentle readers.

And thank you.


Installment V

I finally broke down and texted the kid.

Turns out he got lost somewhere out in Greek Town and had a long hike back to where he needed to be.

I've just gotten off the phone with him. He is already at Porter Air's lovely airport on Toronto Island for his flight home, proud of his budgeting for meals and transportation and tired.

He thinks the interview went well although can now barely remember what was asked or said. He does remember that at least two of the panel were impressed with the quality of his script given how little training he has. He was also asked if his script was made into a movie which director would he chose to direct it. He said Mike Nichols.

Anyway, he's checking in, going through security and calling me back.

He'll be home about 11 Atlantic Time.

And I have a going away party to organize.


Installment IV

I'm sitting at the restaurant that my son worked at until last week, using my blackberry to enter thism

I'm waiting.

I hate waiting. I do it poorly.

I'm waiting for my son's ex-boss to arrive so we can discuss his going-away party.

I'm also standing by to get a text message from junior to let me know that he's out of his interview so I can call him.

My legs are twitching. My hair is a ball of frizz from running my fingers through it. Hair product can only do so much. I'm not drinking decaf. That is a mistake.

Could his interview have run one hour long?

I'll let you know.


Installment III

It's 7:20.

That's 6:20 in Toronto. Too early to send a morning greeting. And I probably shouldn't do that anyway.

I hop out of bed, not quite remembering the list of things I have to do today.

I'm alone. I think about this, feeling the quality of the apartment's stillness. Even though I often wake alone on the days that my son leaves early for work, today's solitude is different. I have to get used to this.

Get laundry started. I make a mental tick against that chore as I shove dirty socks and towels into the washing machine.

I had coffee with a friend a couple of days ago. She's another single mom. When our kid's leave, it's different for us, I told her. Us, as opposed to them -- married parents.

She nodded. They're not just our kids, they become our social lives too.

I knew she'd understand.

This feels like a divorce.

I have to shower now and get on with my day.

There is a lump in my throat.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Installment II

My son has been to see the apartment he rented over the Internet. It's nice and in a nice neighbourhood. Still needs cleaning and painting and the ceilings are ridiculously low, but the first two things will be done before he moves and the latter he can live with. Good thing we aren't a tall family.

The goodnight text went like this:

Me: Night
Him: Night
Me: Are you out?
Him: No
Me: Hope you're not too bummed (about not being able to connect with friends) and you have a good night's sleep
Him: Oh, I'm fine! No biggie. Night!
Me: Do you want me to call you in the morning or do you want to keep to yourself?
Him: I'll keep to myself.
Me: K. Text me when you're done (the interview) and I'll call then. Good luck. Not that you need it. They'll love you. All my friends on Facebook are sending you good vibes!
Him: Thanks Mom! Will do.
Me. Night. I love you.
Him: Love you too.

My Son and the CFC

Live blogging, eh Becca? Here's the first installment.

I was up this morning at 4 to bid my son adieu. He has made it to the interview round of the admissions process to the Canadian Film Centre. He has applied for the screenwriting program.

He had to submit an original, full-length screenplay, two letters of recommendation and some other information to make it this far. Being shortlisted is such a big deal.

The CFC was established by Governor-General Award recipient and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Norman Jewison. It is located in Toronto in what I believe is Jewison's former home and lays claim to having "trained an incredibly disproportionate pool of industry leaders whose enormous impact on Canada’s contemporary media environment is immeasurable."

The school foots the bill to fly the short-listed, out-of-town applicants to TO and puts them up at a bed and breakfast in The Annex, a trendy area of the city between Yonge Street and Little Italy.

I am nearly sick-to-my-stomach very excited for my son. Attending this school doesn't guarantee success. No school can do that. But it does provide lots of opportunity to learn your craft and make industry contacts.

My feelings, as usual, are more complex than this.

I am also rather annoyed because, having just come from his bathroom, I can report that he didn't bring his shaving stuff. I mean why shave just because you have what is the single most important interview of your life up till now? Just because you're more than a little hirsute? Just because I said that you should?

And his attire? Well, rather than wear anything nice, he is set on wearing second-hand clothes that he purchased two weeks ago. A rather hideous orange plaid shirt and a kelly-green and brown striped pullover.

"Don't worry. It's really casual," he tells me.

Sometimes the kid makes me nuts.

And I can't believe I just wrote that. I sound like my mother. ARGHHHHHHH!


So, here I sit fretting and wondering and blowing my diet because this is the first night he is away and in 10 days, I'm going to have to get used to this really fast and I'm not ready. Not ready. Not ready at all.

I've eaten four chocolate bars and half a bag of chips. I've eaten potato skins.

Seven months of dieting and a loss of 55 pounds and I've eaten all that crap.

I'm thinking of selling everything, getting rid of the apartment and going to volunteer in Africa.

Sound like a plan?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Solve the puzzle. Win a Diamond.

The Tavernier Stones is coming!

A first book by author Stephen Parrish is about to be released on May 1st and pre-orders are possible via, and other online retailers.

I'll get back to the book in a minute because in conjunction with the book, Stephen is launching a puzzler's dream: The Armchair Treasure Hunt

All you have to do is travel to, have access to the book and solve the clues to find the prize: a one-carat diamond.

Does this mean you have to buy a copy of the book to solve the puzzle? No. You could get your local library to order one. I must say though that I want my own copy clenched in my tight fist as I work my way through to winning that prize.

According to the rules, the diamond's clarity is SI2 and its colour grade is h. Stephen retains the right to replace the diamond with one that is "larger or of better quality."

It's like being Indiana Jones without the threat of imminent death or the cost of travel.

Not only does the hunt sound intriguing (Not to mention that it gets my heart pumping. I mean, c'mon a diamond for the taking?) but the book sounds gripping. I've already ordered mine.

"When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Loast Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

According to legend, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was robbed of a priceless hoard while returning from his final voyage to the Orient in 1689. The hoard reputedly includes some of the world's most notorious missing jewels. Among them the 280 carat Great Mogul Diamond and the 242 carat Great Table Diamond, the largest diamonds ever unearthed whose whereabouts are unknown.

John Graf is an Amish-born cartographer who has never ventured out of Pennsylvania, let alone embarked on an international treasure hunt. David Freeman is a gemologist who had done his share of prospecting, but little of it within the boundaries of the law. Between them they have all the expertise necessary to solve the mystery. They also have enough differences to derail even the best of partnerships. And ahead are more obstacles: fortune seekers equally qualified and every bit as determined

The race spans two continents. The finish line is in Idar-Oberstein, the gemstone capital of Germany. There, in chambers beneath an old church, where unspeakable events took place in centuries past, winners and losers alike find answers to age-old questions about the Lost Tavernier Stones.

I am looking forward to reading my copy when it arrives -- by the weekend I hope!

I expect that Stephen's background as a cartographer, gemologist and soldier will allow him to add a degree of authenticity others would not be able to.

If you'd like to check out Stephen's blog go here.

I highly recommend that you swing by and order a copy of your book today.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sexual piety as a mating strategy?

Here's a new one... Sexual piety as a mating strategy or Why liberal atheists are smarter than pious conservatives.

From Psychology Today.


Racism and Nova Scotia

For anyone who likes to think that the issue of race has not been a problem in Canada, think again. We might not burn crosses on front lawns (although maybe we have, I don't know) but we certainly discriminate and did, indeed, have slaves.

Here, in Nova Scotia, the home of some who escaped via the Underground Railroad and Black Empire Loyalists, the divide between black and white is still intact.

This isn't a myth or my own meandering mind that says it's there. We have institutions trying to rectify the situation. The Black Business Initiative, the Black Educators Association, the Office of African-Nova Scotian Affairs.

These organizations are here because of the discrimination Black Nova Scotians face in the everyday world of ours. The bank loans that are harder to obtain than if they were white; the jobs that many believe are "white" jobs; the race-related violence in some of the high schools.

Sure, we Canadians pride ourselves on being polite. We don't utter ugly words in public. Usually. Yet they live on that side and we live on this side. If you're a white Nova Scotian, just try smiling and saying hello to a black Nova Scotian and guage the response. If you're like me, most times there is no smile given in response.

There are reasons for this.

In today's Chronicle Herald, a story ran about an apology that will be issued to Viola Desmond, a black business woman who, in 1946 was arrested, fined and jailed for refusing to leave the white-only section of a movie theatre.

Government refers to this sort of apology as a Royal Prerogative of Mercy Free Pardon.

I have no idea what that means. I speak English. I understand the words but what is mercy free pardon?

A mercy-free pardon? That sounds bad.

A mercifully and freely given pardon? That interpretation requires too much finagling.

Whatever the meaning, it won't matter a bit to Viola who is already dead though it might be welcomed by her family and may resonate within the Black community of NS.

If you're interested, the story is here.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Recurring nightmares

Recurring nightmares.

Do you have them?

I do.

Had one last night, actually. And now I completely forget it. Which is really annoying because if I could remember it long enough to figure out the message, it would vanish. That's the way it works for me.

I used to have one where bad guys were chasing me and various members of my family. Guns were blazing, bullets landing all around us. We were in serious danger of being killed. We had one thing in our favour, however, my ability to fly. Hang on to me, I'd yell at said family persons, and I'll get us out of here. They'd grab onto my clothing and I'd run and run but they weighed me down and I couldn't get off the ground. I'd get so tired trying to lift-off but I'd keep trying. It was a terrible dream because if we didn't get out of there, we'd be killed and it would be my fault because I didn't save them.

Not a hard message to sort out, you may be thinking.

Sadly, it was. Took me years but when I did, I never had that dream again.

Or the one where I kept trying to tell everyone that my dad wasn't really my dad. He was an impostor but no one would listen to me. They thought I was nuts and I couldn't believe they couldn't see the coldness in his eyes. At the end of the dream, he would turn into a witch on a broomstick and ride around the living room. It was terrifying and I'd wake up in a panic.

My dad wasn't a warlock (do warlocks use brooms?) but I was the kid that would point out the elephant in the room while the rest of my family would tell me I was being overly dramatic.

Am I dramatic? I suppose that's one way to describe me. I like to think of myself as being animated or passionate. Enthusiastic. But tomato, tomato.

Have there been some big elephants hanging out in corners? Yup. Though you'd never know it by the serious deniers in the crowd.

So, here I am trying to remember a dream that was so vivid to me early this morning so I can banish it forever.

One of these days, when I'm ready for the lesson, it'll come to me.


Monday, April 5, 2010

After the novel is written

The 12 Easy Steps by Eric at Pimp My Novel

A nice synopsis of the process that takes place after you finish writing.

Thanks, Eric!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Does the Right ever get tired of looking stupid?

Roger Ebert's blog on Texas school books.

Some scientist  guy-in-a-lab-coat explaining away that wacky theory of evolution.

Sarah Palin's Real American Stories and the LL Cool J bungle. (Watch the video clip at the end of article.)

It's pretty nice when they make the argument for you.


Friday, April 2, 2010

The real reason I don't get things done as quickly as I might

And for anyone with really great eyesight, yes, that is Erica Orloff's blog open on my screen. As I read her mention of the state of her desk, it was impossible not to notice the disaster of my own.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why I Hate My BlackBerry

I bought a BlackBerry in January or maybe it was December. I wasn't hankering for one, but my cell phone was on its last legs and I am impulsive enough that a sales clerk found me to be easy picking.

As with every new keyboard, regardless of size or device, you have to get used to the layout. QWERTY only helps you locate letters. The feel of the keyboard, where commands keys are located, the agility of the trackpad/ball are things the user has to acclimatize herself to.

I thought I had set up the software for my BB and was becoming increasingly frustrated at not being able to find a menu or to be able to save photos to my computer.

Turns out, I hadn't downloaded the software. How can this be?

I am no techie, that's for sure. I am used to using technology, however, and can usually figure out whatever I am using on my own. This morning I decided to sort it all out.

Stabbing my eyes with a pen would have been more enjoyable.

Because executing the file isn't a seamless process. You have to scan a screen of small print to locate the download button. Sure it's in red, but it's small, over to the side and I am not used to having to do this next step when I pop a CD into my computer for execution.

I had to try the reinstall three times before I figured out what my problem was, was led to online tutorials that I didn't want in hopes of finding a main menu, and the process takes way too long -- so much so that I am doing this on my laptop waiting for the damn softwear to install.

Next, the keyboard. The little keys have a divot at one corner to enhance accuracy, but there is no number lock key to help me key in numbers without having to hit the alt key before every number. The alt key is also located beside the number keys resulting in two thumbs trying to operate in a one-thumb zone.

The ring tone and vibrate don't always work resulting in missed calls.

The back light fades for no reason and only on occasion.

The application icons aren't distinct enough from each other to be really helpful.

Why didn't I hold out for an iPhone?