Release the Kraken

1/22/15





Well, we marched right through that door marked 2015 folks, and while you can close a door, you can't un-open it. Whatever was hiding inside Pandora's box has already been released, as inevitable and unstoppable as the kraken. We dared the universe to make or break us when we hit the restart button on the calendar and now it's on.

I always feel a little unsettled at the beginning of a new year. Excited, but unsettled. Because it's the unknown. It's the future. And we're in the thick of it.

What will 2015 bring? Well for me it's about finding impossible things. Like a medical specialist who knows ANYTHING about my condition. And an editor who likes novels about guardian angels (there must be one out there). If I can just find these particular needles in this haystack of a world, then 2015 could just be the best year ever. At this point, I'd settle for coming in somewhere in the top five.

So I'm considering myself on the cusp of greatness, as I do every year, because it's bound to be true at some point in my life. I suppose we're off to a good start as I just published my first column. Yes, that's right. Someone was crazy enough to give me a column. It's for an independent magazine in my own humble neck of the woods, but I get to write whatever I want. And you all know how much I enjoy writing whatever I want.

So here is my first blurb about life and whatnot. My nieces and nephews were quite impressed that my picture is in a real magazine with real pages that they got at the grocery store!

Onward and upward y'all!



A Little More You, A Little More Me
*Featured in Quirk Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015*

Breaking a promise to yourself is a shockingly forgiveable offense. Others might be wounded if you betray their trust, but when you break a promise to yourself, you can basically just shrug your shoulders and eat cake. This is the time of year when people overindulge in goals and resolutions almost as much as they indulge in leftover Christmas baking, straight from the freezer. Because making a goal on January 1st and then forgetting it by January 15th will never result in any significant consequences. Not even remorse. I suppose it's just human nature but I'm still sincerely ashamed of us! Because if there's anyone you can truly rely on, it ought to be yourself.

I once made a New Year's resolution to become a fabulous soccer player. Anyone that knows me will find this completely laughable. It was the sport I longed to play when I was a kid but my mom made me take piano lessons instead. So as a fully grown woman, I bought a soccer ball and persuaded (coerced) a friend to kick it around with me. But there was a slight hiccup...or two or three. I have no athletic ability, little time to spare, no appropriate ball-kicking space, and while I have this idealistic vision of being sporty, I'd really rather be reading a good book. As you may have gathered from my clever foreshadowing, the project was an utter failure.

Because I had made a promise to myself knowing full well that I lacked the ability to fulfill it.

This goal setting tradition of ours is called a "New Year's Resolution", not "This Year's Fantasy". So after looking back on several foolish trials of former years, I've realized that the trick to a successful 2015 kick-off is to promise myself that I'll be truer to myself. That I'll develop the skills I have, improve upon the things I do half-heartedly, and become just a little bit more of the person I already have the potential to be. A little more truly me.

And not somebody else.

There are no soccer balls in my future. But there are books and languages and recipes and music. Making promises that you can and will keep is a way of being your own champion. It's taking your real life, at the very core, and making it better and happier. It's a way of proclaiming to the universe that 2015 is going to be the best year ever.

Because who's to say that it won't?


Here's the link to Quirk Magazine!

Say Anything

1/8/15



I wasn't going to write a blog post about this topic - because gee I get myself in enough trouble as it is. But sometimes you just have to say SOMETHING before you explode and it ends up all over the place anyway, only then it's a lot messier. So I guess I'm a believer in cathartic blogging. Get it all out, Ginger.

How shall I begin?

French magazines and lewd satirical cartoons.

Don't worry! I'm not going to post them here. Because they're kinda SICK.

But that's not really the issue.

The issue is, and always is : people.

Life is a balancing act. Be it physical, emotional, or philosophical, we are weighing our beliefs, our principals and our responsibilities. And who's to say how any of us ought to pack the scales? People are in different places on their journey and they do things for reasons that we either totally get, or not. The point I'm getting to is that some people, myself included, would never print anything that intentionally mocks or parodies any religion. Most likely because we attach ourselves to some religious belief or other and we understand what it's like to have your deepest ideals publicly attacked. It's not very cool. But to some, people of faith are simple folk who need a panacea to cling to, and therefore deserve to be mocked at least a little. Some of these non-believers even think that by denigrating religious figures and symbols, they are encouraging discussion and cutting through the blind faith of massive herds of sheep, doing science and reason a huge favor.

And to an extent they are right.

Religion should be discussed, it should be questioned, and it should even be challenged. And yes, most reasonable people understand that there is a time, a place, and a method to challenge religion fairly and that you can and should maintain a decent level of respect for people's beliefs, whether it's one of the major world faiths or a stubborn devotion to Santa Claus.

I'm a Mormon for crying out loud. And I have Jewish heritage. I think I know a bit about mockery, disdain and flat out discrimination. But to tell you the truth, HBO's Sister Wives has not changed my life. The Book of Mormon Musical hasn't hurt me. I wasn't even perturbed by all the jokes and insults flung around during Mitt Romney's campaign. You could get all up in my face and say the most disgusting and horrible things about Mormons and Jews and even Canadians and I would most likely just smile at you pityingly for being such a sad, sorry excuse for a human being.

Well actually, I would probably give you an auto-responsive shove for being too far into my personal space. Respect the bubble, people.

But otherwise, say what you will. I don't care. And neither does my God. He isn't too concerned with the contents of late night television monologues or "adult cartoons". He's much too busy...I don't know...running the universe and stuff. If he doesn't mind a few tasteless jokes at his expense, then why should I? It does not change the type of Mormon I am. If it did, I would not be much of a Mormon.

But we're offended, the people cry. Oh no! What shall we do? Someone made a joke and it's out there for people to see! We must make them stop. We must make everyone be nice. We must make everyone see religion the way we see it. We must make everyone behave just the way we think they ought to. Because...freedom of speech only applies to people who say heck instead of hell? Or maybe freedom of speech only applies to those who behead non-believers with swords.

Whatever you might personally feel about the cartoons published by that french magazine or any other, you have every right to show your disapproval not only by not buying said magazine, but by expressing your outrage in the internet stratosphere. Use the most poisonous words in your vocabulary. Weep and wail and gnash your teeth if you like. But that does not change the fact that an irreverent cartoonist can speak and draw and print as freely as you and I. If there is only freedom of speech for some, then there is really freedom of speech for no one.

And even the most arrogantly irreverent satirist has people who love him and people who depend on him. A life lost to violence should always be mourned and never justified or weighed against some other person's hurt feelings. Because if there is no right to life for all, then there is no right to life for any.

And oh my bloody hell, imagine the pain of the families who lost someone as the world practically apologizes to the shooters. To the shooters!

Sure, we may be tempted to qualify our condemnation of violent retribution by expressing sympathy for the offended. But that's only if we're so delusional that we imagine offense to be involuntary. Offense is never given, it is always chosen.

I have felt displeased with many things I've seen and heard over my lifetime. I even (back in the days when my passion was greater than my wisdom) wrote a scathing letter to a local university paper for printing an image that was atrociously disparaging of the Catholic faith. I did not however question their right to print it. I really just called them out as being intellectualist idiots who'd exchanged thinking, feeling humanity for cold, bitter relativism. It was kind of fun.

But now we come to the crux; the thing that I hope you take away with you when you choose to be offended and click angrily away from this blog. Does someone really get so offended by a cartoon that they feel they must kill twelve people? Of course not. Perhaps they sock someone in the jaw in the heat of the moment, or say things they later regret. But no sane person takes a semi and shoots an unarmed cop in the head.

To say that these men were goaded into a mass killing is a despicable LIE.

Let's calm down and think this through, seeking always for the reasonable truth. Men who belong to an ever growing, and ever more boldly violent group of religious oppressors, stormed a business that was guilty of breaking one of that group's most sacred rules, punishable by death. Those monsters were not there to avenge a prophet, they were there to mete out the corresponding sentence. They were there to show the world that they will - and can - make us bow to their laws whether we recognize them or not. They are not victims. They are terrorists.

If you have ever been in the position to have your faith mocked and insulted - which happens almost daily to a Mormon/Christian/Jew - then you know, by the fact that you cannot identify with their desire to kill anyone who makes jokes about them - that these people do not deserve our pity. They deserve our prayers, but not our pity.

So what should we consider now that another violent attempt to silence free speech has come and gone? That the real war on terror never was being waged in some distant desert. The outcome can only be decided by our willingness to give way to sharia law under some misguided attempt to be politically correct, or our determination to live free. And to let all others live free.

Even if they have bloody awful taste in humor.

These terror attacks will not stop. I'm pretty sure they're just getting the ball rolling (and there are plenty of other groups and even governments willing to get on board this die-freedom-die campaign). This enemy has sworn to kill us all unless we submit to their faith. And while you have no real impact on what happens in the searing heat and sand at the frontlines of Obama's "not war", you are fighting this battle in a very real way, here at home, as you choose each day how to live.

Liberty is their enemy but it is our salvation.

Walking the Walk

11/13/14




I once turned down a date so I could go walking up Broadway, NYC, by myself.

I'm not even joking.
It's a story that I related later on to my mom, who could have strangled me, like any frustrated mother with a single daughter over 30.

But you see, that solitary walk was something I always did at the end of a visit and it was precious to me. I was in New York on routine business, I met this guy through work, it was my last day in the city, and he wanted to go somewhere. I took one pensive look up the magical lamp-lined street, crowded with all those wonderfully mysterious and indifferent city folk, and I totally bailed. And not very gracefully.

I am a horrible person.

Okay, not a horrible person - just a horrible dater. There are a few things that feed my soul, so much that I never turn down a chance at them. Walking in New York is one of the big ones. You'll just have to forgive me that predilection, because there is no cure, and if you go to New York with me I will probably ditch you too at some point, just like that poor, bewildered young man. I could be married and have three kids by now y'all, but we'll never know, because I just HAD to have my customary walk.

Anyway, my point is coming. And it's probably way controversial. Not by design, but by nature apparently - because I have a tendency to think that most videos that go viral are super lame and most neo-feminist drivel is...well, drivel. And it's so easy to be controversial without really meaning to, isn't it?

So here we go. The puzzle of the day. Do men catcall abundantly on the streets of New York City? That is the question raised by millions of youtube connoisseurs lately and it got me scrolling through the memories because I'm not just a casual pedestrian. I've savoured many a Manhattan avenue and therefore must have ample evidence that I can testify to. So let me think...yes they do catcall.

But I've never noticed it much.

Don't freak out, I'm being completely honest with you.
I'm not a fan of bandwagons, witch hunts, or sweeping generalizations. I have to consider more than just the popular memes and video clips of the day and I can't take sides based on gender - because I believe in humanity as a whole. Perhaps you feel the same way. So let's consider.

Maybe I come at this from a different perspective right from the start. I have been bullied and mocked my entire life, by male and female alike - for my glasses, my clothes, my hair, my faith, my shyness, my insecurity, my economic status. Decades later, I am practically immune. A few thoughtless words cannot ruin something I enjoy as much as taking a walk in my favourite city. This is a life skill. People are unkind and thoughtless and that takes many forms. You know you're going to face it every day.

When you walk down a busy street in a busy city, you get people talking at you from every direction. Panhandlers, evangelists, political activists. I don't regard any of them. It's a disrespectful way to engage someone. Period. And believe me, I often heard that subtle smack of the lips as a man walked by, supposedly communicating some mysterious man-code that I have never bothered to interpret. In fact, I laugh at myself to recall how long it took me to realize what it was that I was hearing. Seriously? Was that a kissy noise that dude just made at me? And when I did realize the astonishing truth, was I offended beyond reason? Not at all. Why would I be offended or flattered or in any way affected? It has nothing to do with me.

You see, when you're offended, you give a person's words and actions power and meaning - often more than was ever intended. You make it your problem, when it began as someone else's.

Therein lies the difference between those who imagine themselves insulted at every turn and those who don't. Walking down an urban street is a freedom I value too much to give away. Unless someone does something physically to me, prevents me from doing something, or in some other way invades my space or imposes on my will, I simply don't care if they want to mumble or pucker up as I breeze by. I just don't. Nothing encourages disrespect more than giving power and importance to those who disrespect.

Try to deny me my equal human rights, and I will surely raise hell. But whistle at me and the only harm done is to prove to all bystanders that you are an idiot. And that's actually a conclusion that I can get behind. So go ahead. By all means. Display your desperation to appear more suave or bad**s than you are. It's a free country.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep walking. And let me tell you, my New York wanderings are some of the happiest moments of  my life. I cringe to imagine how different the composition of my soul would be had I chosen to be horrified and petrified by any stupidly innocuous displays of juvenile overcompensation. Think of the moments that are ruined by taking offense! And for what? It doesn't fix things. It doesn't change minds. It doesn't even make you feel better. Calling a man a "pig" has never made him less of a pig.

And it's never made you more of a saint.

But obviously there are rude men out there in the world and with a population as large and as varied as New York's there's bound to be a slightly higher than average rate. But consider this: for the dozen or so ungentlemanly males that I passed by on any given day, there were a few hundred that were perfectly respectful. The actions of a socially stunted few are hardly proof of a global misogynistic conspiracy.

So let me tell you about what I experienced traversing the streets of New York. Because I have stories. Every woman does. And so does every man.

First there was the guy in the suit who looked up from his newspaper on the subway, leaned in ever so slightly, and said "I don't mean to bother you, but you have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen." And then he went back to reading his paper.

There was that billionaire that offered me, totally out of the blue, the use of his apartment in Chicago. Kind of an awkward conversation, but I lived to tell the tale.

There was the soldier on the way to the ferry who said he'd like to marry me.

Or the JFK security guy who was positive I was some famous actress trying to travel incognito.

And then there was the darling old man with the salt and pepper hair in Harlem who said...and I quote..."Ooh girrrrrl, pink is your color. You should wear pink every day!"

Of course I'm relating the humorous and the harmless. Because that's what I remember. The rest has been discarded as superfluous data that doesn't hurt me or help me. The thing I took away from each of these instances was not how they made me feel - because they didn't make me feel anything in particular. My point is this: not one of these men, of differing races and economic classes, was attempting to make me feel small or oppressed or devalued. If they had intended it, they would have failed miserably.

The streets of New York take your breath away. They reveal every side of every story. They challenge every view. And when you dare to mingle with the world on such a scale as a Manhattan sidewalk, you have to be strong enough and brave enough to love humanity. Even if it whistles at you. Especially when it whistles at you.

Because YOU judge as you stroll past people. You assume. You condemn. You admire. You even objectify. Perhaps not out loud, but you do it. Even if you're the most condescending, self righteous feminist to have ever put on a wounded air.

It's never okay, but it's definitely human. Such flaws can be outgrown and overcome - and usually are. Your own respected father was once a cocky young man hanging out of the passenger side window. For those who never do outgrow it...well, that's sad. But it has nothing to do with you.

The only way to walk down a street in New York or any public street at all, is to do so with perspective, with forgiveness for every imperfection, and patience for the personal journey of the individual. Unlike many of the roads in Manhattan, tolerance is a street that goes both ways. How can we honestly protect and preserve human rights and human dignity if we can't handle the less than ideal usage of the vital rights of speech and thought?

And how can we be so unjust and so insensitive as to compare some attention-begging catcall to legitimate harassment? To measure bruised sensibilities against bruised bodies? Or compare a sleezy line to workplace threats and leverage? They don't come from the same place. Bald male insecurity is not the same as predatory aggression.

Hey, if some jerk gets handsy or abusive, pepper spray him to hell and back.

But if you can't tolerate your fellow humans who may travel more slowly along the road to gender enlightenment, then you're going to be offended every damn day of your life.

And honey, what a waste that would be.

Let me tell you about the time I faced down one of these so called "pigs".

I was walking across a park and got catcalled by a very young man hanging out with some buddies. He was obviously expecting the typical reaction: either I would hurry away, hurt and self conscious, or I would get all ruffled and indignant, or I would smile and blush, which does happen - each scenario a victory for his fledgeling ego. Instead, I turned and walked purposely toward him, neither angry nor humiliated. I got within a few feet of him and said, "Hey buddy, that's really not cool". He was startled and embarrassed. The only reason I even attempted to speak to him - and probably the only reason he was too chagrined to retaliate - was because he was just a kid. But I realized that catcalling has nothing to do with the woman. Not really. It's about a person trying to make himself feel less powerless. And that deserves our pity.

The battle of the sexes that rages in our social media culture today has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with wounded pride, vindication, and misunderstanding. It points fingers, makes accusations, and judges without mercy. We could easily make a few youtube videos that prove the flaws and injustices of select groups of womankind. But what good would that do anyone?

The question isn't whether or not men catcall in New York.

The real question is, how do we move forward with compassion, fairness, and a lasting belief in humanity? How do we improve communication between the sexes rather than divide them further?

We are cogs in the grand wheel of a society increasingly chopped up into pixels and sound bytes. Texts, tweets, speed dating, internet porn, prostitution and "hooking up". We try to squeeze human interaction into 140 characters or less. We keep it "casual" without thought, feeling or consequence. No need to fight for real relationships when you're faced with a barrage of quick and easy clickables. This is our culture. And communication will only continue to degrade. Could the way we interact with one another on a public street be at all impacted? You don't need maturity, courage, respect, patience, or any other virtue to live a drive-by kind of life. And that's what "street harassment" is : a drive-by bid for validation.

Could this be a symptom of a deeper problem that has nothing to do with some imagined patriarchy or hierarchy?

Well, these are my thoughts on the subject. Agree or disagree at your leisure. But go beyond your initial gut reaction, will you? No bandwagons for the thinking woman.

Unleash the Pumpkins

10/10/14





There are yellow leaves blowing by my window and there are pumpkins on my kitchen counter. These are harbingers of change as the temperature dips and rises, dips and rises, and we check off another milestone in time that is measured in school years, even long after we've left school. Or maybe that's just me. New clothes, new schedules, bouquets of sharpened pencils and all that. I get a whiff of frost on the morning air and feel like starting over. How funny it is to associate this season with renewal when it's the time of year that everything goes into hibernation, wilting, fading and crunching underfoot.

But that brings me to my current soul searching question: what is this obsession with pumpkins? No, really. Fruit and vegetables come and go every season and we manage to contain our enthusiasm. But autumn hits and the pumpkins are unleashed. I was thinking about this the other day when I unpacked these two little beauties from my grocery bag. I do intend to chop them up and cook them at some point (because what is autumn without the scent of baked pumpkin and nutmeg?). In the meantime, I walk all the way across my house to the kitchen several times each day just to admire them. They aren't spectacular. They're lumpy and blotchy and undeniably orange. If Halloween is your thing, then you'll want one or two for carving, but for a single gal like me, who appreciates the holiday only as far as it gets her more face time with the nieces and nephews, a pumpkin is a superfluous kitchen-counter-hogger.

And that got me thinking about other things in my life that mean something, and yet I can't tell what. The little details and extras and oddities we look forward to for no other reason than to have them in the periphery of life. Maybe it's because the things we love are really just part of a continuous cycle of building and gathering. Autumn isn't just the yard-raking predecessor to the dreaded winter. It's a series of sights, scents, tastes, and experiences that ties our first year of life to every year that comes after. I appreciate a good pumpkin for the simple fact that there has always been a pumpkin. There's nothing special about it. It really is just a vegetable (or a fruit, if you need to be technical). But there is something insanely wondrous about my life. That pumpkin is one of the pieces of my personal autumn.

It's not about the pumpkin. It's about me.

And as the snow begins to fly and the heavy artillery of wool and fleece come out of storage, I will build my personal winter. And then my personal Christmas. And my personal joy.

We're all just trying to build our personal joy, y'all.

The lesson that I take from this particular conversation with myself is that we attach meaning to so many big and small things, when what we're really doing is attaching meaning to life. We fill the corners with symbols and reminders because in a world that continues in a downward spiral of justifying and glorifying the dead and the shallow, we all know, viscerally, that nothing is more meaningful than life. Nothing can be great or beautiful or important unless we first acknowledge that life is all of those things. No talk of poverty, disease, convenience, dignity, security, or the phantasmic carbon footprint can alter the value of human life, although it can fool us into thinking it does.

Life is amazing.

And this woman likes to celebrate her life with pumpkin cheesecake.

Let it Go

8/7/14



Something that's been on my mind a lot lately...

Between my brother and sister and their spouses, there are seven little uns in my family right now. So even though I myself am childless, I know all about dora and lego star wars and pull-ups. Heck, I even know the potty dance. But lately, the most relevant cultural reference in our family is the phrase "let it go". And while it does hail from the movie Frozen, we do not use it in the context of climate-crashing, sister-murdering lawlessness. Instead, it's a phrase used when little mouths set to bickering and cousins and siblings get all bent out of shape over who did what or said what.

You do know what I'm talking about.

"Just let it go", we tell them, when one comes calling for blood.

"But she said I'm a stupid head."

"Are you a stupid head?"

"No."

"Has she convinced anyone else that you're a stupid head?"

"No."

"Then what does it matter what she calls you? You know the truth about yourself. You can choose to be bothered, or to move on and enjoy your life. Let it go."

It's a particularly painful life lesson that takes years to take root, but it's totally necessary for peace of mind and peace of country. The ability to not take offense has always been one of the great keys to happiness, as dictated by normal, reasonable, common sense.

And then came social media.

There is little reason to be found on facebook.

Now grown men and women get caught up in anonymous arguments over who did what and who said what. If you disagree with me, I'm going to call you a stupid head. Publicly. And if you answer back, I will tell on you. I will be wounded and bitter and I will demand reparation. And then I will compare my hurt feelings to a time and place when people could be lynched for drinking from the wrong water fountain. As if that makes any sense.

Or my personal favourite: random angry person claims you are hateful and then proceeds to wish that you would get hit by a bus or die of cancer. Uh huh.

In so many ways, this society has grown, expanded and overcome. Look at history and think of the aforementioned lynchings. In other ways, it has digressed to the mental and emotional state of a four year old who flies into a rage if her sister has more fruit snacks than she does.

The bottom line is not who is right, who is wrong, who is good, or who is evil. The bottom line is who is free.

Are you free? Because if you are, then so is everyone else. And if they aren't free, then neither are you. We don't need laws to protect people who toe the line of political correctness and popular opinion. We need laws to protect the people who don't.

These may be unpleasant dots to connect, but if you demand that a person be fired for a private conversation, or that talented, qualified people be turned away because they're the wrong gender, or insist that a business owner has no right to control their own business, or that a family should be banned because they accept different medical research than you do...then you are offended by freedom.

And you will continue to be offended. Every time you get online. And arguing will not make you right. It will only make you unhappy.

In our family, the phrase "let it go" does not mean people are allowed to be cruel or criminal. They are just allowed to be wrong. To make mistakes. To form their opinions. To find their voice. It's a realization of the power we each have to choose how to think, act, and feel, regardless of what another person chooses. It's human perspective and it's the ability to live free.

If someone calls you a stupid head, they have not hurt you. Not really.

And if one person doesn't want to associate with you, then go and find someone who does.

And you may not be the type of person who participates in smear campaigns on twitter - but I think being offended has become an epidemic of varying gradations, and we all could stand a little self doctoring. We all could let it go a little more often.

And now you're going to be singing the Disney song all day.

You're welcome.

Cry Freedom

7/8/14



I worry sometimes that my babies are going to grow up not knowing what freedom is. It will be an idea as obscure to them as 'privacy'. Or perhaps, it will be like the small-town parade we attend each year to mark the birth of our nation. We park outside gramma's house with a barrage of cousins and wait for freedom to march by in glitter-adorned pomp and circumstance and throw us fistfuls of candy. We wave a few flags and eat chili burgers and swat mosquitos all day long and then fall asleep to the sounds of rowdy teenagers setting off firecrackers down the street. The day just passes in a happy, busy blur, like Christmas, and we thank our lucky stars we live in a place that by all appearances, runs itself.

And maybe childhood is just naturally full of such suppositions that we'll eventually grow out of as we learn about war and election campaigns and drones and executive veto. Or maybe it takes more than a history lesson to learn to be free. Really free.

So these are my Canada Day wishes. And my Independence Day wishes as well - because I consider myself an honorary American.

First off, I hope each one of my little bugs comes out of childhood with a deep sense of personal responsibility. That they don't take direction from some cold, blind bureaucracy. That they understand that everything worth having comes from being free to seek, strive, build, create, and believe. For themselves. Their way. For their own happiness. That there's no shame in enjoying the benefits of a hard day's labour. And that they can't elect someone to help and serve their fellow man on their behalf.

I hope they learn that no government employee will ever feel anything more for them than a sincere but generic compassion, but that family is bound to them by the deepest and truest human ties, forever.

I hope they aren't fooled into taking the easy path. That they understand a hand-out is just a band aid. That they can't travel far on a quick fix. That education is not a national standard, but a personal mission. That communities thrive on individuals. That their bills are theirs to pay. That a government that owes them, owns them. And that choices always come with consequences.

I hope that they won't have to rely on a media campaign to tell them to do the right thing, because they will already be telling themselves, and they'll be ready and able to decide for themselves what the right thing is. That they will never accept the unknown or the untested just because its given away for free. That they will trust themselves far more than they trust any federal court or committee.

I hope they won't be swayed by charisma and catchy slogans, but always seek truth. That they'll know that tolerance means merely to tolerate. That equality is opportunity, not outcome. And that they will never take offense, because what someone else thinks of them will never be as important as what they think of themselves.

I hope that they will grow up and realize that there is so much more they can get from life through their own intelligence and ingenuity than the cheap, road-rashed candy tossed at them by the passing parade and collected in their recycled plastic grocery bags. Freedom isn't a reward doled out by a benevolent leader, it's a way of life that is ours by birthright, not as Canadians, but as human beings. No one can give it. No king or country. They can only take it away.

I pray, desperately, that my little ones will know what freedom is. For real. And that they'll never let it go.

At least not without a fight.

(so, family...we might all have to move to Texas)








Bohemian Rhapsody

6/30/14



Being a writer is not especially romantic. Not even when you're struggling. Puccini may have painted a lovely picture of star-crossed artists, living on hope, talent, and bread crumbs, but it really has nothing to do with me. Maybe if I wrote by the quavering light of a candle stub in a cold flat with walls blackened by coal smoke on some putrid river bank in a novel by Dickens. Maybe then I could claim to suffer for my art. But it's hard to be a true bohemian when you have a laptop and microwavable burritos.

No, a real writer is someone who labours hard and stresses harder. Someone who has to be one part brilliant businessperson and three parts...who the hell knows what. Because their work is not the by-product of the machinations of the musculature or the application of formulae. There is no 1+1=2. You can't matriculate or reason your way into a successful novel. You just have to pour yourself onto the page and hope that you won't be too ridiculous.

Maybe we like to think of writing as being a romantic profession because otherwise, we're just crazy people. Crazy to think we can create something that other people need even more than the next iphone.

But I am a writer. For better or worse.

Right now we're enjoying the 'worse' part, because I haven't paid my cell phone bill in ages. And no one really likes microwavable burritos.

A fellow keyboard jockey invited me to share a little bit about my process in a good old fashioned blog hop and I was happy to oblige. Because the members of other competitive industries might see each other as the enemy, but writers always love other writers. So here are my carefully guarded secrets.

1. What are you working on now?
With my debut novel published and sitting on top of a pile of papers and journals beside my bed, I am hard at work on book #2, the sequel to SPARK, appropriately entitled BLAZE. Fire will be thrown, demons blasted, and tough decisions made. Just like in my real life.

2. Why do you write what you do?
I write middle grade fiction because kids of that age have a way of processing the world intelligently while still being able to believe in something. They don't think they know everything...but they want to know everything! I love to write about courage and redemption because I think you need generous helpings of these things when you're a tween. And I love to write about magical things happening in the regular world, because I think we all need to be able to believe in miracles. Sure it's all fun and games, but a good story should also remind you of the important things.

3. How does your writing process work?
I sit and stew. I am a stewer. I like to write a few paragraphs quickly and then go back and agonize over every word, several times over. The characters are more important to me than anything, so the plot usually develops according to what I want my characters to be and how I want them to change. I used to write at a narrow desk pushed up against the wall, but I sold it to pay the bills so now I write sitting cross-legged on my bed, surrounded by glasses of ice water and tatty coil notebooks. I have to HAVE TO make my notes with sharpie markers. Extra fine tip. In a style of handwriting almost completely illegible. When I finally get a paragraph to go just the way I want it, I giggle to myself.


Now, I was supposed to find three other writers to answer these same questions, which would make it a blog hop, you see. But I'm afraid I asked too late and didn't get things arranged in time. So I am going to send you to the far reaches of the galaxy, to some of my favourite writers. You may not automatically glean the answers to our blog hop questions, but hopefully you'll be amazed by their genius, as am I.

Meg Fee  -  My first selection is not a kidlit author, but a blogger I admire. As a writer, she is absolutely vulnerable, which is something I am not awesome at. Love her musings on life and relationships and new york city.

Claire Legrand  -  One of my current MG faves, although I hear tell she is branching out to YA. I love the careful attention she pays to her characters. You can examine their imperfections and cheer for them at the same time.

Ellen Potter  -  This is a writer whose genius lies in weaving a compelling and beautiful story out of harsh and unusual circumstances. I gasp and cry every single time I read the Kneebone Boy. And I think I've read it four times.

Yes, I realize I chose all women. That is purely incidental, I assure you. I could have gone back and swapped one out for a man for the sake of diversity, but that would be prejudicial and anyway I don't believe in gender quotas.

Special thanks to a new pal, Lisa, who asked me to be a part of this blog hop (hope she's not regretting it). Good things always happen when writers reach out to each other. It's a special sort of literary karma. Check her out here:
readlisalong.com