When old houses make new noises

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I consider myself very lucky to live where I live. Not only is my neck of the woods considered to be one of the most desirable and most beautiful vacation spots in Canada, I won the house lottery when I was looking for an affordable rental back in 2000.

I had just moved back from having lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year and April is not the nicest month to be trekking through Central Ontario looking for a place to live. It was an unseasonably harsh winter that year and I received a tip from a friend about a little house that would be advertised for rent in the near future. My parents and I drove two minutes out of town and ventured down the snow-covered driveway to get a closer look.

The snow was piled high in front of the house but I trudged my way through the banks and climbed a mountain of snow to a window that looked into the kitchen. I was smitten. After making my way around the house to peer in the rest of the windows, I had surmised the kitchen was the biggest room in the tiny house and I knew I was meant to live here. I rented the house for four years before I finally convinced my landlady to sell me the property. She loved having me as a tenant so she agreed to deduct the rent I had paid from what was deemed a fair price for the property and I became a homeowner in 2004.

Fast forward to today. Although this six-hundred square foot gem has been my refuge and the place that has allowed my greatest amount of creativity, it is beginning to show its age. This tiny building, nestled into almost three acres of property, was crafted in 1940 and designed to be an out-building of a long-forgotten farm property. It has given yeoman service as a principal residence but lately it has begun to make noises I have not heard in my almost twenty years as a resident.

There are now creaks in places where once there had been silence. The clicks from the baseboard heaters have become much more pronounced and, when the mercury slips down below minus 30 degrees Celsius, the argumentative pops and bangs from the house are much louder than I remember.

Through no fault of its own, my house has aged. If I consider how much I have changed since I have lived here, I should not be taken aback by the deep wrinkles and age lines of the place I have called my home for almost two decades. Although it is tiny in square footage, it is a giant in its presence on my property. I can only hope its perseverance is as strong as mine and we can tackle a few more years together on this land we call home.

Hold my attention

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Facebook is alive and well with ads for the latest Masterclass contributors. For those of you lucky enough to NOT be sucked into the vortex of Facebook, Masterclass is an online platform for creative people, giving them the chance to learn from their famous mentors. The one who caught my attention and made me investigate this latest phenomenon was Margaret Atwood.

The beginning of her video makes me want to quit everything I have been doing, my job, my charity work and my social life, to just write. When she rewrites the beginning of Little Red Riding Hood by starting with, “It was dark inside the wolf”, fireworks went off in my head. Expletives poured out of my mouth, tripping over each other to be heard and, more than once, I had to pick my jaw up from my lap. Those six words made my entire novel seem like a four-year-old wrote it.

One minute and eight seconds into her official trailer, she said the three words that make writers lose sleep, “Hold my attention”. As an avid reader, I know exactly what she means. If a writer veers into a mundane few chapters, I am more than happy to put the book down and I will eventually forget I started reading it. But if a writer can keep me on the edge of my seat, I am in it for the long haul and I will lose sleep to finish reading that book.

Writing is a tough business, but as Margaret says, “You become a writer by writing. Do it, and do it more. Do it better”. Many people, just like me, have written books. Many people, just like me, believe so much in their story and are convinced it will be published one day. But many people, just like me, are one tiny dot in a portrait created by stippling. We are a minute speck in a massive painting. But the more we write, the bigger our speck becomes. The more we write, the more our words have a chance of being discovered. And the more we write, the more we will master the art of holding your attention.

The needs of the one

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It was the eve of 2019. A creature of habit, I sat in my living room with my Christmas tree lights still on, my dog occupying the space on the other end of my couch and my gourmet dinner for one in the process of cooking.

With the new year only hours away, I spent my new years eve at home, ruminating about the year that has just passed and the one that was inching closer to being a reality. As with every calendar year in the past forty-nine of my life, last year had its wonderful moments and its challenges. Each one of those memories made me realize I am not completely the person I want to be.

I don’t make resolutions but I do take moments to recognize my strengths and my weaknesses and make a promise to myself to focus on the things I need to work on, to nurture myself as much as I do others and to be selfish sometimes and put myself first.

With my fiftieth birthday approaching, it’s time to make this my best year yet. It’s time to cut out the things that aren’t working and it’s time to fiercely embrace the things that truly make me happy.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

Follow the bubbles

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I have learned many things about the ocean and its inhabitants by watching documentaries and television shows.  I have been amazed by the palette of colors the ocean is able to use to paint itself, the varied species of creatures who contribute to life under the sea and the vast array of reefs and wrecks still waiting to be explored further.  But I learned more from the bubbles than I did from the documentaries.

Scuba divers follow their bubbles to the surface when they don’t know which way is up.  When they are so far into their dive they become immersed in their surroundings, those bubbles are the true measure of reality.  Divers can become so convinced the path they are following is the best path for them and they become disoriented and swim sideways, not realizing their journey may put them in peril.  Sometimes the simplest solution is the one that helps the most.

The more I began to think about that, the more I realized those bubbles represent the most important people in our lives.  When we find ourselves a little lost or unsure of where we are headed, we look to those people for support and guidance, knowing they will always lead us to the place where we can once again catch our breath and feel like we are above the surface of our problems.

The ocean diffuses the light, just like life diffuses our perceptions.  We may feel weightless in the ocean, we may feel hopeful and trust our feelings, but our feelings can play tricks on us just like the light can alter our judgement.

No matter how lost you feel or what your brain may tell you, trust those bubbles.  They will always lead you in the right direction.

This book isn’t going to write itself.

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I have been resting on my laurels. I have heard that phrase many times before but never thought it would be a string of words I would use in reference to me. And I really do not have any real laurels to rest on. I have written a book, but until I have an agent and am soon to be published those laurels don’t mean much.

After having completed my first novel, doing several edits and having many beta readers love it to the point of not wanting it to end, I rested. There was a brief resuscitation of my writing but the moments were fewer and further between than they should be. Writing a novel is a huge commitment. It is saying “I do” to a keyboard and a collection of strange characters who slowly become family (except for the bad guys).

Book number two is in the works. A few of the characters have formally introduced themselves and we are slowly acclimating. But their stories cannot be told if I don’t make time to listen to them and jot down what they have to tell me. I know they are eager to get the ball rolling and I am the only one who can give that ball the first push and watch it gain momentum.

It’s time to give this ball a shove. This book isn’t going to write itself!

 

Thirty-six days of pure torture

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I think of myself as a thoughtful gift-giver. There were a few awkward years with my nephews at Christmas that I ended up giving them gift cards, but they were always gift cards that would get well used. It may not have been as personal a gift as I would have liked, but teenagers have very specific likes and dislikes. Gift cards are perfect for those conundrums.

The old saying “it is better to give than receive” is something I believe deeply in. I get an immense thrill watching someone open a gift that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about. I love the element of surprise and the fact I try to come up with gifts that were never a blip on the receiver’s radar. I pulled off a few of those gifts this year, the most recent being a hat for my boss that is embellished with a quote from Ozark, one I will not repeat in this blog because of its profane nature but, sufficed to say, he was surprised and he loved it.

That gift-giving shoe no longer resides on my foot, for the time-being. Right now, the shoe is on another foot. I received a text message from a friend yesterday excitedly telling me they know what they are buying me for Christmas this year. That statement was followed by the line, “I’m so excited, it’s going to be the longest five weeks of my life”.

Now, I have received some lovely gifts during my lifetime, but I’ve never had anyone dangle a rabbit in front of my greyhound five weeks before I can chase it around the track! I’m dying. There are thirty-six days until Christmas and I know am going to spend countless hours during each one of those days trying to figure out what this gift could be. This is my nature – I need to solve puzzles, I need to answer riddles.

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The next thirty-six days are going to go by at a snail’s pace and I’m sure I will receive many more text messages about this gift before the holiday is close enough to be almost tangible. There will be no hints, I know that. There will only be the endless ticking of a clock until Christmas finally arrives.

 

The actual sounds of silence

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I made a bold decision a couple of months ago. I contacted my satellite provider, cancelled my subscription and sealed the deal by sending back my receiver. I had only suspended my service in the past, which resulted in my first finished novel, but I have never gone that extra step to fully end my relationship with my television. If I could catalogue the number of hours I spent mindlessly watching shows that held no interest for me, I would be mortified.

I am a true product of my father. My habitual pattern was to come home from work and immediately turn on the television, as he would do. Perhaps the background noise soothed him from his busy day, but eventually those mindless distractions would lure him from whatever room he was in and he would settle into his chair, randomly flipping through the available channels but never settling on one particular program. I didn’t want to follow in those distinct footsteps.

I am not saying that I do not get lost in the vortex of Netflix or online sporting events from time to time on my computer, but lately my life has revolved much more around the sounds of silence than the overwhelming din of gratuitous television. My post-work hours are spent more on reading and writing than channel surfing through the overwhelming number of anesthetizing broadcasts.

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My Kindle is loaded with new novels. My second book is in the works, my third is more than a promise and my brain is firing on all cylinders. And the moments between reading and writing are destined for the continued quest to become a published author. Those sounds of silence have been loud and clear and have been leading me in a direction I should have been following for a while. And the more I listen, the louder those sounds of silence become.