Monday, December 31, 2012

Obligatory New Year's Post: No Resolutions, Please


What I Learned in 2012

That I can survive:

… one child in Afghanistan and his triumphant return stateside,




… another child during prom season, high school graduation, and the first day of college,



… another starting middle school and going to his first dance—with a girl,



... another breaking a tooth,

I don't have a broken tooth photo. This will have to suffice.

… yet another year in the grips of the flaky film industry with a dollar that won’t stop rising,

… yet another rewrite for a book that seems to never find its end (please don't give up on me!),

... the Mayan calendar meltdown apocalypse end of days what-have-you thingie. We're still here. (I secretly knew we would be.)

And I’m grateful that this year, thus far (there are a few hours remaining in 2012), in this household:

… no one contracted Ebola,

… no one broke any bones,

… no one crashed any cars,

… nothing caught on fire (other than my cooking),

… we laughed more than we cried,

… we had access to the medical care we needed,

… I signed with the World’s Most Incredible Agent and have worked/am working with two of the best editors in the industry,

… I got some secret book news that I am dying to share,

… I felt swathed in bubble wrap by friends who love me, who lavished me with signed books, Oreo cookies, and rubber ducks from all over the globe,

… that the confounded U.S. elections are over so people can put their brains back on.




I also learned that …

… I complain a lot but I don’t really mean it. I’m mostly kidding,

… our school district really does have a lot of days off,

... that no matter what my agenda has scratched on it, patience really is a virtue, and if I want my dreams to become reality, I have to understand that the people I rely upon have a lot going on besides just little ol' me,

… there is no accounting for some people’s taste—case in point, everything on TLC,

… that I can shove a needle into the flesh of my ailing cat in order to save his life,

… that I can change out the shower diverter, replace the sink faucet, and fix the black thingie that makes the toilet flush, ALL BY MYSELF,

… that some people are just stupid and can never be changed,

… that Bag Chemistry makes the awesomest messenger bags (we have four now: a Mockingjay, two Shakespeare bags, and the Minecraft Creeper): http://www.bagchemistry.com/,



… that every second of my publishing journey is THIS: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/08/the-publishing-process-in-gif-form.html,

… that despite being late to discover this, GAME OF THRONES is the greatest thing ever invented in the whole long history of cinema and television (#HouseStark!),

… that this is my favorite entertainment website: trulyluminary.wordpress.com. Disclaimer: It’s my daughter. But she’s comprehensive and really cute. Plus, if enough people like this, she can eventually monetize and, well, who doesn’t like a kid with a JOB?

… that I love Grammar Girl: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/,

... that there will never be enough hours to fix bad writing nor enough hours to read the writing that makes me drizzle those happy tears,


Thank you, Heidi ... I still can't believe you did this for me. *heart*

… that I have had the best editing clients ever this year, and every time someone emails and trusts me with his or her work, I am grateful and humbled,

... that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much of yourself that you give, you can never be the right kind of friend. Conversely, sometimes it only takes an “I’m sorry, I screwed up” to get a friendship back on track. Never be too proud to say you’re sorry. And always be humble enough to say thank you to the people who count you among their friends.

I won't make a list of 2013 resolutions here because ... resolutions are made to be broken, and I don't want to fail first day out of the gate, especially because my brain is addled secondary to megadoses of antibiotics fighting whatever beast is currently inhabiting those squishy things in my chest that enable me to breathe. (Oh. Lungs. Right. Those.)

Here's hoping YOUR 2012 was better than expected, and if it sucked, take solace in the fact that only a few hours remain, fiscal cliff be damned. Thank you so much for being my friend. Please keep in touch.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods? Not If He Can Use My Yard ...

Suffice it to say, when you move to Canada, you're in for some nature. Even city dwellers in urban Vancouver and way east over in Toronto will share their tales of urban wildlife--hawks, owls, raccoons, coyotes, and yes ... bears. I live in a suburb of Vancouver (about 35 km outside the city), close enough to make jaunts downtown not too painful but far enough away that I don't have to deal with, well, Vancouver. I'm a homebody. Too much traffic, too many people -- makes Mommy nutty. Granted, comparatively speaking, we still have an impressive population -- almost 216,000 in just the Tri-Cities area (Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam), enough that traffic is becoming a bigger issue every year, as is lack of infrastructure (schools, fire houses, grocery stores) and so many stupid drivers. Did I mention that I hate stupid drivers? Those, we have many.

But we live close to the woods and huge stretches of as-yet undeveloped land (sadly, I don't know how much longer I will be able to say that because of the gross greed of zealous developers). The Coquitlam River is walking distance from my house and is fed by a glacier over those mountains (I'm pointing -- just look north). Funnily enough, folks assume that because I live in the Great White North, we get tons of snow. Not true. Not around here, at least. Our weather is similar to that you'd find in Seattle or even Portland. So when it snows, it's an event. Folks forget how to drive (and get stupider than usual). Kids want to skip school to make snowmen. We sled. (Although around these parts, they call it "tobogganing." And winter hats are called "toques.") We drink cocoa and warm our hands over heat vents after a raucous snowball fight in the yard where at least one child (ahem*Kendon*ahem) will get nailed in the face by a tightly packed ball of white wintery delight.

Each year, we are typically satisfied with our assumptions that the creatures are denning in preparation for the Long Dark as the clouds are impenetrable most days. Sun? What sun? And of course, we think our walks along the river paths will be safer because the bears are finally asleep.

Or so we thought.

This morning, I looked out the bedroom window to the snowy yard below, hoping the neighbors wouldn't see my uber-frightening morning face/hair/penguin pajama ensemble, and I saw these:



First thought: "Damn, that was a big damn dog that traipsed through the yard uninvited. I hope he didn't poop."

Second thought: "Wait -- if that was a dog, then where are the dog's owner's footprints?"

Third thought: "That dog has a really bizarre walking pattern."

Best thought: "Holy shit, those are BEAR TRACKS!"


You can even see the imprint of his rather large claws in these images. Trust me when I say that these flat, full prints are about 7" long. THAT is a big bear. And he is very much not sleeping.


It's sort of dark so that I can show you the contrast of the pads of his feet and the nails.

Husband thought I was being silly. Until he too looked and saw that, though I've been known to have Random Moments of Crazy, this was not one of them. I posted a few shots on Facebook and was validated by folks who've lived here longer than I have -- indeed, these are bear tracks, made in the pristine snow just outside my bedroom window.

Good thing I've stopped sleeping with fresh cookies on my nightstand, or we could've been in real trouble. A few months ago, a bear broke into a car to get the remnants of a ginger-molasses cookie left on the passenger seat. #truth #gingermolassescookiesareyummy

The tracks lead to the neighbor's garbage cans in their carport and then disappear (the neighbors shoveled away their driveway snow like good humans are supposed to).

This probably makes me a big fat dork that I am so impressed by these bear tracks, but more than that, I'm sad for the bear that he's not yet hibernating, that he feels he needs to dig through the garbage because he doesn't yet have a full belly. Wherever he ended up last night, I hope he was warm. And I wished he would've knocked on the window so I could've seen his pretty face and given him a hug.

Okay, FINE, I know I can't hug a bear. But if we could have Fantasy Day during which we could hug all the animals who would otherwise rip our faces off with a single swipe of an outstretched paw or a chomp of the well-toothed jaw, add lion, tiger, honey badger, wolverine, and Smaug the Dragon to my list.

Happy Christmas or December 25 or Winter Solstice or whatever you celebrate, if you do. (If you follow a religion that does not celebrate a winter fest, then, um, yeah ... whatever floats your boat. Just means more marshmallows for us, so thanks.) I will be wearing fat pants and, barring any unforeseen natural disasters or acts of God, not leaving the house. Unless that bear shows up again and then I might follow him ... you know, for a hug.

Xs and Os ...

Postscript: The likely culprit here is a black bear, Ursus americanus. This photo is from Spirit Bear Lodge's website and is not at all mine. Just so you know which bear we're talking about ...

http://www.spiritbear.com/site/wildlife/black_bears.html


Monday, December 10, 2012

Brain Flash for Day 345: The Bard Said It First


As a huge Shakespeare fan--and I mean that in the sense that I am a fan of his work, not that I am a huge person, although since I've turned 40-ish, my pants aren't fitting properly, so huge might not be too far off ...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

BRAIN FLASHES: The Series In Which We Summarize 2012

In honor of the days of 2012 waning like my neglected, wilting houseplants, I shall now proceed to inundate you with my version of  THINGS I LEARNED IN 2012, or something to that effect. This will be a recap of stuff that I found, learned, saw, heard, ate, sang, read, drove over, posted on Facebook, slapped, or screamed about, all from this, according to you Doomsday-Zombie-Apocalypse-End-of-Days-Mayan-Calendar-Counting Eeyores, 
our Last Year on Earth.

I hope you enjoy. And please, share yours too. This is a team effort.

Xs and Os ...



And if you're looking for the Perfect Book to get that bookworm on your holiday list (or maybe you just have a List of Shit I Should Get For Those People I'm Legally Tied To or Else 2013 Will Be the Worst Year Ever), my personal hero, John Green, has a fun video chock full-o-recommendations:



 (Oh, and SHOUT OUT to Mr. Green for the honor of his fantastic book, The Fault In Our Stars, being named Time Magazine's #1 Read for 2012. Totally deserved. Best book I've read in years.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gumball #16: NEVER Let Them Win

Magical Gumball of Irradiant Genius #16:


("Meow" works just as well. Last word and all.)

Xs and Os ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gumball #15: No Ha-Ha at the Po-Po

Magical Gumball of Irradiant Genius #15:


The RCMP aren't known for their sense of humor.

Xs and Os ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad Day to Be a Turkey, Good Day to Be a Carnivore

This is my eleventh American Thanksgiving in Canada. The first few years, I couldn't break free of my Yankee* ways -- not having turkey on the fourth Thursday of the month somehow felt wrong. Like I was betraying my people, depriving my children of important traditions of their heritage, NOT DOING MY PART as an American citizen. Those first few years, I'd let the kids stay home from school, don the fat pants, and we'd eat like pigs, just as any other self-respecting American will be doing Thursday. 

Gratuitous image of roasted turkey to make you feel like shit about that thing you overcooked because you were playing Farmville, and now it's dried out and your in-laws will bitch and insist that for next year's Thanksgiving, everyone should just meet at the IHOP.
Such a special day off was a welcome treat for my daughter, the Dog Show Freak,** who'd bounce eagerly on the edge of the couch, her nagging about "when's dinner?" waylaid as she stared at the screen, ears piqued for J. Peterman's voice as he introduced the Purina National Dog Show. "Representing the hound group, the 15" beagle ..."

(*While yankee, within the US borders, generally refers to folks from New England, outside the US, you're pretty much talking about anyone born on American soil. That would make me a Yankee. From Oregon. Does that make sense?)

(**The movie Best in Show, with Christopher Guest, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, et al, should be reclassified as a documentary and made as required viewing for anyone who thinks they might want to get into showing dogs. I jest not. Those folks (she says lovingly)? Their own subset of humanity. Not even kidding. But what do I know ... I'm a cat person.)

Dog show people. Freaks.

A few things you might not know about Canada, though, that I feel compelled to share so maybe folks will stop asking, "Do you guys have Thanksgiving in Canada?" Why, yes. Yes, we do. And believe it or not -- the Canadians did it first. SHOCKER!


According to information mined from various sites and folks who know way more than me (I'm American -- I only know as much as the information contained within the pro-US bubble. Plus I sucked at history because my teachers for said subject were so boring, they made us wish for death pretty much daily.) How much don't I know? I had NO IDEA the War of 1812 was between Canada and the US. Or where Turkey was. Not the gobble, gobble Turkey but the area once known as Anatolia. 


This is TURKEY. Not Canada.

Then again, when I was in wee-person school, there was no such thing as THE INTERNET. God, I love Google. I want to woo, date, fight with, and eventually marry Google so we can have Google babies, I can have an affair with Wikipedia but actually run off with some upstart, poetic, newsie site with a strong jaw and a 5 o'clock shadow who looks and sounds conspicuously like Mark Strong, and then divorce Google so I will end up with half his empire in GOOOOOOOOLD. 


What were we talking about again?

Right. The first Canadian Thanksgiving. My sources tell me that the first foray into giving formal thanks did not revolve around the roasting and basting of murdered poultry. In fact, salt beef was the entree du jour (why does that make my mouth water), peas (BARF -- why not just feed everyone poop), and dry crackers. An English seaman (tee-hee-hee ... you said seaman) named Sir Martin Frobisher was looking for a Northwest Passage to serve as a possible trade route between India and China. Anyway, he eventually found Baffin Island, situated in modern-day Nunavut where it's freeze-your-teats-off-cold, made two more voyages after the first, and it was this third voyage, with a fleet of 15 or so ships, that was super hard. One ship died. Ice and bad weather pervaded. When they finally did land on solid ground in 1578, a fellow prone to preaching said, "Thanks, God, for not dashing our brains against the icebergs. We will live another day to piss our names into snowbanks" in a ceremony otherwise unclassified -- were there dancers? Fireworks? Shirtless men offering aperitifs and appetizers? History does not tell us. Bottom line, these folks were glad to be not dead, and no longer at sea. And despite the fact that they managed to avoid death in the grips of the icy northern waters, they turned right around and did it again, this time with what Mr. Frobisher believed to be tons and tons of gold. He stuffed his ships' holds to bulging and sailed back to Jolly Old England, likely counting all the ways he would spend his untold fortunes. Unfortunately, his "score" turned out to be iron pyrite, or fool's gold. Worthless. Poor sod ...

The Pilgrims -- who we've learned were a rather dastardly, deceptive bunch considering how they treated the Native Americans who helped them upon landing at Plymouth -- celebrated the first recognized settler-initiated American Thanksgiving nearly 43 years later. What does that mean? CANADA FOR THE WIN.

All of these conversations are moot, however, if we don't recognize that societies have been celebrating thanks for the great harvest and our ability to have tons of sex and make loads of babies in some form or another for millennia. It was the North Americans who finally decided that giving thanks meant lining up at 3 a.m. to beat the shit out of their fellow citizens to be one of four people who will get That Deal of the Century on a 22" flat-screen TV. YOU GUYS: Gross. You're making us look like asshats to the rest of the world. Seriously.

Asshats.

Beyond that, here's more Canada Did It First trivia for you. Because once I got started, I couldn't stop. SO. MUCH. INTERESTING.

~ The Canadian Football League's Grey Cup -- ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD this year. Take that, Super Bowl 47, you mewling infant of pigskin and Gatorade showers and paternity lawsuits and black stuff that goes under the players' eyes and yeah ... (Okay, so that wasn't very poetic.)

~ Hockey's Lord Stanley's Cup is the second-oldest trophy in organized sports (awarded first in 1893 to Montreal). The first American team to win the Stanley Cup was the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. And in 1919, the Cup wasn't awarded at all because of the Spanish Influenza pandemic that killed lots-o-folks (estimates run between 20 and 50 million globally. Holy shit.). But what is the OLDEST trophy in sports? FINE. I'll give this one to you, fellow Yankees: sailing's America's Cup. Whatever. Who likes boats? I don't like boats. I barf on boats. And boats sink and are overrun with rats and bed bugs and pirates and cranky fat people who will go Black Friday on your ass when the buffet opens. WHATEVER. "Keep your nasty chips boats," said Gollum. 

~ Invented BASKETBALL. Ohhhhh, yes they did! From Wikipedia (because I'm tired of paraphrasing): 

In early December 1891, Canadian American* Dr. James Naismitha physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA) (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA), was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day. He sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each "basket" or point scored; this proved inefficient, however, so the bottom of the basket was removed,allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time.

*Omigod, he was a Hoser AND a Yankee! Okay, we both win!

~ A Canadian invented PEANUT BUTTER. Well, actually, the Aztecs may have done that (they made a peanut paste). But pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, applied for the first US patent for peanut butter in 1884, and came up with originally as a meal supplement for people who had difficulty eating solid foods -- sort of like an early version of Ensure. Dude lived to be 91, so maybe peanut butter IS the elixir of life after all ... *taps temple in contemplation*

~ Winnie the Pooh. Well, sort of. A. A. Milne was an English wordsmith, wildly prolific as an author and playwright before Winnie-the-Pooh was born (Pooh's name was hyphenated before Disney took over). Milne's son -- you guessed it -- Christopher Robin Milne, renamed his stuff bear (formerly Edward [INSERT TWILIGHT JOKES HERE]) after he fell in love with the Canadian black bear named Winnie at the London Zoo. Winnie herself, named after Winnipeg, had been purchased from a hunter (very sad) for $20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, himself a Winnipegger, in White River, Ontario, during WWI. Winnie ended up in England with Colebourn and became a mascot of sorts to the Fort Garry Horse regiment. (A bear ... horses ... a bear who eats horses ... they didn't think this one out, did they ...) Though Winnie did not, in fact, eat any horses, she did end up at the London Zoo where Daddy Colebourn dropped her off en route to fighting bad guys in France. After the war wrapped, Miss Winnie stayed put. Good thing. In real life, Winnie would make short work of Piglet, me thinks. Who doesn't love bacon???

~ Invented the TELEPHONE. Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell (who also co-invented the hydrofoil boat). Although, if we're going to split hairs here, Bell was actually Scottish, born in Edinburgh, and he held citizenship in the UK, the US, and Canada. Quite a man-o-the-world, I'd say. And you guys, seriously, when you start looking at all the things Bell did in his life? He makes James Franco look like a mollusk. Wow. Mr. Bell, you were, uh, like, super smart. INCREDIBLY LARGE BRAINED.

~ Invented ICE HOCKEY. And the ELECTRON MICROSCOPE. And INSULIN. And SONAR. And the IMAX PROJECTION SYSTEM.  And the WALKIE-TALKIE. And PAGERS. And the BLACKBERRY. And the SNOWMOBILE. And CANADARM (space nerds will know that one). And the WONDERBRA (which finally gave me boobs). And PLEXIGLAS. And the McINTOSH RED APPLE, CANOLA, NANAIMO BARS, and GINGER ALE. 

~ Canada, for better and for worse, has given you filmmaker James Cameron (oh, stop rolling your eyes -- you know you saw Titanic 18 times. And that film about ridiculously tall and agile blue people who have sex with their ponytails), Jim Carrey, Neil Young, Michael Buble, Seth Rogen, NATHAN FILLION, Michael J. Fox, Shannon Tweed, Sum41, Keanu Reeves, NATHAN FILLION, the Barenaked Ladies, Steppenwolf, Rush, Celine Dion (stop gagging), Pamela Anderson (stop staring at her boobs) -- did I mention NATHAN FILLION?

Hi, Nathan Fillion.

Now that you've been edumacated, and I hope you have -- I hope you see that we really are global citizens of a not-so-vast world -- best get busy putting your Black Friday kit together: sleeping bag, camp chair, .45 (don't forget extra ammo), pepper spray, baby wipes, catheter tubing and/or adult diapers, Listerine, Power Bars, and deodorant. GOD don't forget the deodorant.

I'd ask you to comment and tell me what you're most thankful for, but we all know that's an exercise in bullshit, that all we really want to do is put ourselves into food comas and map out plans for maximum Black Friday destruction. 

May the Force Be with You. 
And also with you. 
Amen.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MY AMERICAN LOVIES!

Pour one out for your lonely American comrade in the Great White North.

Xs and Os ...


Gumball #12: I'm Better with a Handgun ...

Magical Gumballs of Irradiant Wisdom #12:


It was a passing fancy, that police academy thingie. I do not have a gun. Which is a very, very good thing.

Xs and Os ...