Monthly Archives: February 2014

Did I ever tell you about the time Cher saved my life?

I don’t mean that in the way that most people do when they talk about artists and how their work influenced them.  How they were going through a messy breakup or were about to stuff their head in an oven a la Sylvia Plath and heard a song/saw a painting/read a book/watched a film that totally changed their outlook.  I mean Cher saved me from physical harm.

I live in a small town outside of a small city, which means a lot of highway travel between home and work and back again.  This also applies for trips to the movie theatre, the mall, restaurants, basically anything remotely interesting.  In Canada, encountering wildlife on the highway is common.  Encounters with wildlife while going 110 on the highway can be deadly.

One warm summer night, I was driving home on said highway.  It was a gorgeous night, so I had the windows rolled down and the music cranked up.  The album was “Believe” by Cher.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement in the ditch.  A deer bounded out onto the road and right in the path of oncoming traffic, which in this case was me.  At that instant, Cher sang out,

“Do you beleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve…”

Upon hearing this, the deer decided that they didn’t want to do the watusi with the front of my van and promptly bounded back into the ditch.  I continued to drive, waiting for my heart to return to its normal rhythm and for my very own version of “This is Your Life” to stop playing in my mind’s eye.

In the 13 years that I have driven that highway, I have had about three such encounters.  But this is the one that will always stand out as “The Night Cher Saved My Life”.

3-cher-believe-album-cover

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Behind the Light

My great, great, great grandfather George McConnell was the first lighthouse keeper on Miscou Island.  But he wasn’t a lighthouse keeper when he arrived.  According to an article published on the “Lighthouse Friends” website, he was “a practical engineer and mechanic, who had been selected by the Commissioners from a pool of thirteen applicants.”

George passed away in 1877, after more than 20 years on the island.  His great great Grandson (my second cousin) Ralph Mark, still owns property there.  It has been in my family since they first settled there and is just down the road from where the lighthouse still stands.

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Miscou Lighthouse

Needless to say, I have had a lifelong fascination with lighthouses and those who earn their keep by ensuring everything remains in working order.  Sadly, a job that used to be done by three men is now handled by a microchip.  The days of the lighthouse keeper are over, but the stories remain.

Lighthouse Keepers Bill Arnold, Handel Bluer, and Eddie Matthews give us a glimpse of what life was like in this short film by Ronan Glynn and Liberty Smith.

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Closeup of one side of the lens – Miscou Lighthouse

“You had the time.  When you read a book, you read a book.  You had time to read the book.  Most things now, we just skip through them, don’t we?”

“You didn’t have to hang pictures on the wall to get a view.  It was there looking at you.”

“I find that even now, I wake most mornings at 4 o’clock.  As thought I was getting up for the morning watch.”

It wouldn’t be an easy life.  But for those who enjoyed solitude and not only loved but had a healthy respect for the sea, it was the ideal job.  It is obvious that it was something none of these men wanted to leave behind.  You can see it in their eyes, which light up when telling the tales and fill with a quiet sadness when they recall their retirement.

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Lens of the Miscou Lighthouse

My only complaint is that this short film is too short.  At just 6 minutes, it offers but a glimpse into the world of the lighthouse keeper and leaves the viewer wondering about the many stories they didn’t get a chance to tell.

http://aeon.co/film/former-lighthouse-keepers-reminisce/

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Book Haul – the library edition

I posted earlier about the huge pile of books that I found in my personal library.  I told myself that I would not buy any more books until I’d read all of them.  Note.  I said I wouldn’t BUY any more books.  I said nothing about borrowing them.

Upon finishing ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, I decided to head to the library.  Not only did I bring home that title, but three others.  I asked how many I could borrow at once and was told 50.

FIFTY?  As in, five zero?

So, without further adieu, here is my very first Book Haul – the library edition!

Feb Library Haul - part one

‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’

‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’

‘The Awakening’ by Kelley Armstrong

‘The Reckoning’ by Kelley Armstrong

For those who aren’t familiar with Kelley Armstrong, she is the author of the “Women of the Otherworld” series, which begins with the book ‘Bitten’ (which I have written about before).  I have read the first three books in that series and discovered today that the library in my little town has the rest, so I will definitely pick up where I left off.

Last summer, I borrowed ‘The Summoning’.  It is the first book in the “Darkest Powers” series for Young Adults.  I enjoyed what I’ve read from Kelley Armstrong thus far and wanted to see what she brought to the YA circle.  After reading ‘The Summoning’, I intended to continue but soon found myself working on the Author Quest, so I put any and all recreational reading on hold.

I look forward to not only immersing myself in Harry Potter’s world, but also to seeing what Kelley Armstrong has in store.  Stay tuned for reviews.  Meanwhile… is there a series that you started and have been meaning to finish?

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My Harry Potter Experience

What could be called the most successful series in literature consists of 7 books, 8 films, 8 video games, a list of 400 other officially endorsed products, and a theme park.  Believe it or not, I was never swept up in it.  Being a bookseller, I had obviously heard about it, but hadn’t immersed myself in it.

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released June 30, 1997.  I don’t remember when I first heard about it, but at the time I was working on my own novel.  I had decided that I would wait until it was published before reading any of the Harry Potter books, so I missed out on all the excitement.

I have to admit, I wasn’t certain that the book would live up to all the hype.  I have seen a couple of the films but because I intended to read the series, I didn’t want to see them all.  I wanted to be at least a bit surprised.  I loved the story and was looking forward to finally digging in.

Now that I have finished reading the first book, I get it.  I see exactly what all the fuss was about.  I almost wish I had been among those who didn’t have a clue what to expect.  But then, I am glad that I don’t have to wait for what must have seemed like forever until the next book to come out.  I just went down the road to the library and there it was!  (another bonus to being tardy to the party is that the books are readily available and I don’t have to get on a waiting list to borrow them)

Harry Potter Book 1 for Blog

Nothing goes better with a good book than a cup of tea.

It’s charming and magical and fun.  On a personal note, after the last few weeks (which were truly craptastic) I needed charming and magical and fun.  As I turned the last page, I thought to myself (spoiler alert)

“Surely they aren’t going to send him back to live with those people for the summer!”

I promptly picked up the phone, called the library, and had them put ‘Chamber of Secrets’ on hold.  A friend suggested I pick up ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’  if possible because I would certainly plow through book 2 and this way I could start book 3 immediately.  So I did just that.

I am going to be doing my own little writer’s retreat in the near future and have arranged for two 4-day weekends in a row!  So for those who are thinking ‘Shouldn’t she be writing?’, my answer is yes.  I definitely should be.   I plan to do nothing but write for 8 days solid, in two blocks of 4 days each.  But for now, I will curl up on the couch with the Hooligans and enjoy another trip into the world of Harry Potter.

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Shelfie Saturday! The Super Deluxe Extended Director’s Cut.

Welcome to a super deluxe edition of SHELFIE SATURDAY!

A few years ago, I moved two bookcases downstairs because (although I had room for them upstairs) it was too crowded and cluttered for my taste.  I also moved a lot of my books down there.  I am fairly certain they were organized at some point but over time things were shuffled about and put “wherever”.

So I decided to tidy things up a bit.  It’s not finished, by any means (I have to clean up my office and am fairly certain there is at least one stack of books there that will need to be moved downstairs) but I wanted to share it.

Shelfie Saturday - 02.08.14 001

First up, we have my fiction hardcovers.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Most of them are fiction, I also have biographies by Tori Amos and Susanne Vega, as well as three coffee table books about Oscar Wilde.  The stack in the middle are poetry, quotes, and classics.  One of which is “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.  I am familiar with the story but haven’t read the book yet, so I am really looking forward to it.

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Next up, fiction softcover.  Included is the vampire trilogy by Whitley Striber which I loved.  I am a HUGE David Bowie fan, so needless to say I saw “The Hunger” long before I read the book.  I highly recommend all three and will definitely do a post on the trilogy in the future.

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The third shelfie is my collection of children’s books, most of which are hard-cover picture books.  When I was a child, I had a large collection and almost all of which were lost in a housefire, which is truly heartbreaking.  At any rate, I have managed to find some beautiful books – many of which were published in the UK and found in the bargain section at Chapters.  The edition of Peter Pan was all done with actors and photography, rather than traditional illustrations and is absolutely breathtaking.  I think I bought 4 extra copies for baby shower gifts.

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Last but certainly not least, is my collection of hardcover coffee table books on various subjects.  My favorite among these is probably “Remarkable Trees of the World”.  It was a book that I coveted for months, until I had saved up enough dreampoints and staff bonus giftcards to get it.  All of the other books were found in… you guessed it… the bargain section.  Were it not for bargain books, my library would be a sad sight, indeed.  Oh, and the little mouse is actually a doorstop that I bought while I was away for a girls weekend in Canmore.  I found him in a cute little shop and just had to bring him home.  Until now, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him but he makes the perfect bookend, don’t you think?

I hope you enjoyed this super deluxe edition of Shelfie Saturday!  I am currently in the midst of my fabulous 4 day weekend and should get back to work.

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When sleeping women wake…

After reading “No Opportunity Wasted”, I decided to put some of what I learned into practice.

I am a very visual person.  I make the most of posterboard, markers, photos, and artwork in order to keep me focused and inspired.  So needless to say, a list written on a piece of paper wasn’t going to cut it.

I also like to take ideas and make them my own, rather than “follow the leader”.  There are exceptions, of course but I find that you have to personalize everything at least to some degree.  If your heart isn’t in it, then it won’t have any meaning no matter how amazing the ideas behind the exercise.  In fact, you are more likely to cast it aside or not follow through.

The book focuses on ‘8 ways to create a list for the life you want’.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to focus on the 5 areas that I felt needed attention and improvement in order to see more balance in my life.  Those areas are :

Physical

Intellectual

Emotional

Creative

Spiritual

At first, I was going to do a giant list on poster-board and decorate that with photos, artwork, quotes, and drawings.  I soon realized this wasn’t going to work for a number of reasons.  The most obvious is that one piece of poster-board would not be adequate enough to support my vision for 2014.

Then I remembered my Smash Journal.  I was given this as a gift by a friend two years ago and was saving it for something special.  I do that a lot.  Get a beautiful journal but can’t bear to use it for anything that may not do it justice.  I often wonder if other writers torture themselves this way.

So I gathered some supplies, printed some pics, collected my thoughts, and got to work.

Scrapbook

Much to my delight, it’s filling up nicely and I am enjoying the process.  I still have plenty of room to jot down ideas and quotes, add ticket stubs and photos, make a top 10 book list for the year (I intend to read at least 60 books before 12.31.14), along with any milestones and achievements I want to make note of.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb which states,

“When Sleeping Women Wake, Mountains Move”

I intend to move a lot of mountains this year.  How about you?  Any big plans, goals, dreams that you are focusing on in 2014?

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Alternative to “bucket list”

Many of you will recognize Phil Keoghan.  He’s the host of The Amazing Race and the founder of the “No Opportunity Wasted” (or NOW) movement.  It started out as a TV show which aired on the Discovery Channel.  26 contestants were given 72 hours, 3 thousand dollars, and the opportunity to make a dream come true.  There were three versions of the series that took place in the US, New Zealand, and Canada.  After doing a bit of research, I discovered that Phil has recently unveiled a line of energy bars and does speaking engagements.  So in spite of the fact the book was published in 2004, the concepts remain relevant and people are still getting all fired up about it.

NOW

When I buy a book, I often tuck the receipt inside.  It comes in handy if I can’t find a bookmark.  So imagine my surprise when I look at the date on the receipt and realize that this book has been sitting on my shelf since 2008.  Apparently I felt it needed to marinate for over 5 years before I was ready to tackle what was waiting inside.

8_picture

“No Opportunity Wasted” outlines ‘Eight Great Themes’.

1)       Face Your Fear

2)      Get Lost

3)      Test Your Limits

4)      Take a Leap of Faith

5)      Rediscover Your Childhood

6)      Shed Your Inhibitions/Express Yourself

7)      Break New Ground

8)      Aim for the Heart

The idea is to identify the 8 things that you can do to create a “N.O.W.” life.  To step outside your comfort zone, to push yourself beyond whatever fear is holding you back, to see where your imagination will take you.

I haven’t taken the time to make my list yet, but have been putting a lot of thought into it.  The book is full of examples (almost too many, to be honest) and I found it really inspiring.  But I should point out that my dreams will not be the same as yours, which aren’t the same as the next person, and so on.  So some of the examples and stories in the book may not appeal to you (such as participating in any activity where clothing is optional).  But that’s what makes this idea so great.  No two lists will be the same.

Having said that, my one complaint about the book has more to do with the layout than the content.  There are little bits inserted in grey boxes with no semblance of order that I am sure are meant to enhance the material, but to be honest I found them distracting.  I would have preferred them to be separate.  Perhaps at the end of a chapter or at least at the end of the discussion, rather than pasted in here and there with no concern for how it interrupts the flow.  Another bit of honesty… I found it so annoying that I started skipping them altogether.  I’m sure I missed some great material and am going to go back and read through all of them separately.  Having said that, not everyone is willing to go back and read things later.  Unfortunately, it really made it difficult to follow and I had to re-read a few things more than once to get the intended message.  Again, very annoying.  I can say with some degree of certainty that they lost a lot of readers due to this, which is a shame because overall it’s a great book.

No Opportunity Wasted

I am pretty fired up about the concept of making a “Life List”.  I may alter it slightly from the formula given above, because that’s what I do.  I make things my own.  Put my own stamp on it.  Incorporate aspects of my spiritual path and my personality.  Create something that I can identify with and know that I will follow through on.  The important thing is that I learned something new and am excited about it.

It took me over 5 years to read “No Opportunity Wasted”.  What is the longest period of time you’ve gone between buying a book and actually reading it?

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