Saturday, May 30, 2009


I entered the university admissions office dressed like I was going to a job interview. From my floral-print linen blouse to my sensible shoes, I was the picture of sensibility, commitment, and drive, a 'future teacher' poster child if there ever was one. Without a lick of hesitation, I presented myself to the receptionist. 

"I'm here for Campus Orientation.  Am I in the right place?"

"You sure are, honey." She handed me a course calendar, campus map and name tag. "Have a seat over there."

I followed the line of her hand to a large cluster of chairs behind me where sat at least a dozen other prospective students — with their parents.  To make matters worse, I'd missed the 'jeans only' memo. I had a sudden urge to colour my hair. 

A lot has changed since my last university experience.  For instance, the campus library stays open until 4a.m. and serves munchies at midnight. I told my tour guide, a bright-eyed junior, that I hadn't been up at 4a.m. with any regularity since breast feeding. She smiled incredulously. "Really?"  

That was it: I would buy some Clairol on the way home. 

In all honesty, I expected no less.  The good news is that I've been accepted to study education in the fall at an NCATE-accredited school only fifteen minutes from home. So what if I'm the oldest person in the room.  It's worth it. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This American Life

It's taken two months, but the feeling of having moved onto Wisteria Lane on the outskirts of Springfield is beginning to fade. It may not be fair, but I've found it difficult to shed these caricatures of American culture.  They're just so true — and not.  The other night Emma and Mouse went chasing after the ice cream truck, money in hand.  The Captain and I smiled wistfully after them. It was a memory we could never have given them in Switzerland, one that bridged a gap between our childhood and theirs.  Minutes later the pair returned with popsicles as long as my forearm and, whamo, I was back in Springfield. Jeez Louise!  Must everything be super-sized?

I can't say I feel settled yet, but I'm not pining for Switzerland either.  It's strange, this emotional no-man's-land.  Next Tuesday school will be over and the girls and I will be free to explore.  I'm sure that will help. 

Name That Bloom

If you know what this is, please leave a comment. There are three big clusters of these growing in my garden. Lovely.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peanuts from Eddie

In honor of American Memorial Day, I invite you to read my short story, Peanuts from Eddie, which first appeared in Offshoots 9: writing from Geneva and beyond, a biennial anthology of the Geneva Writers' Group.   The effects of war ripple through too many lives.  May peace be with you.

Edward Walker lived in the park outside the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto. His was the bench furthest from the din of Queen Street traffic, the one guarded by a mammoth oak and chronically littered with peanut shells. When it rained, he moved to a nearby streetcar shelter. Only when cold threatened to claim one of his seven remaining toes did he venture indoors.

Harmless when sober, Eddie was down-right charming as he panhandled each day in the deep shadows of Bay Street, opening doors, lighting cigarettes, and exchanging pleasantries with bustling bankers in a voice graveled by a near half-century of smoking du Maurier’s.

Of course, there were many who, in good conscience, would not give money to Eddie. His sweet fermented scent was indisputable, his fingers stained amber by nicotine. But Eddie was not particular. He accepted generosity in all its forms. Even a used newspaper was gold. Complete, he could sell it for full price in less than three minutes; sold in sections, he could make three times that but it could take all day. He once made a clean five bucks off a Globe and Mail, and all before 9 a.m.. He called it quits early that day.

With his spoils Eddie would buy himself a bottle of Wild Turkey, a pack of smokes, a bag of peanuts and a meal, then spend the rest of the day in the park, nursing his bottle and feeding the squirrels. But steeped in bourbon, Eddie became ill-tempered and prone to violence. So when his shoulder was shattered at the hands of an overzealous security guard, treatment was rendered but no charges were laid.

One surgery, two metal screws, and eight days later, Eddie’s reputation preceded him to the rehabilitation department at Saint Michael's Hospital. There he was assigned to the care of Miss Soo Kim, physical therapist and devout Christian. Eddie was late and drunk. With utmost discretion, Miss Kim requested he return the next day, on time and sober. Her smile was friendly, her almond eyes forgiving, but her tone was firm.

Eddie lowered his gaze, scrubbing a tawny hand across steely eight-day stubble. “It helps with the pain, is all.”

Ms. Kim touched his arm. “So can I, Mr. Walker.”

The following morning, Eddie arrived thirty minutes early and so sober he shook. When he launched into a profane account of his assault, Miss Kim interrupted.

“If you want my help, Mr. Walker, you’ll have to stop swearing.”

Eddie attended treatment faithfully and did all of his exercises, often to excess. At some point during his care, he traded his bench with a view for a cot at the Salvation Army, and from there he managed to find a more permanent low-income residence in Regent Park, a short walk from his bench and the clinic.

“Couldn’t go too far,” he said, presenting his new hospital card, now complete with an address, “My friends would miss me.”

He meant the squirrels.

When the pain in his shoulder did not subside, x-rays revealed the splintered fragments had not united. This required a second surgery, a third screw, and yet another round with Miss Kim. In the end, he never was able to reach his back pocket or scratch his own back, but the pain faded to a dull stiffness. On the day of his final visit, he gave Soo Kim a bag of peanuts.

“It’s what I give all my friends,” he said.

Eddie had become a fixture in the physical therapy department, so his absence was felt by all. Months later, when his name appeared on the hospital census, the department receptionist was quick to inform Soo Kim.

Edward J. Walker, Room 813A—Oncology.

Eddie appeared shrunken, his face pale and clean-shaven, smothered under an oxygen mask. But when his glassy eyes met Soo’s, he visibly brightened.

“Sang Cho,” he said, “You came.”

“No, Eddie, it’s Soo—Soo Kim from therapy.”

“Cho, they say its cancer,” he said then erupted in great heaving coughs. Soo helped him sit. He spat blood-tinged mucus into a metal kidney dish.

Eddie clutched Soo’s hand. “I’m sorry I never came back.”

This time Soo did not correct him. All she said was, “So am I.”

Days passed, gilded with best intentions, but Soo never saw Eddie again. The following week, his name was missing on the hospital census. His nurse said he had died in his sleep. Someone from the Canadian Legion had come to collect his effects.
Lance Corporal Edward R. Walker had served in Korea.

That afternoon, Soo bought a bag of peanuts and went to the park. Eddie was gone and someone had to tell his friends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Simple Pleasures: An Opening in My Schedule

I'd booked off this afternoon to harass my former alma maters.  Three weeks ago I requested copies of my somewhat-dated transcripts to be sent to the university where I've applied to study teaching. According to said university's user-friendly student porthole, the paperwork had yet to arrive. On a whim I decided to check matters with a resident human before opening a can of you-know-what north of the border. As it turns out, all three transcripts have arrived, safe and sound, with no harassment required. The university said I should hear in the next two weeks whether I'm accepted . Whoopee! 

Now, what to do with myself?  Considering I was all charged up for some patience-busting bureaucracy, I think I'll go wax my legs.  It's either that or do health claims. Do you hear that insurance companies? Leg waxing is more pleasant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mighty Mom Spin Off: The Creative Parent

I'm proud to present The Creative Parent, a new blog by yours truly on the topic of raising kids.  Never fear: The Adventures of Mighty Mom will continue. Where else could I vent about running two blogs when I barely have time for one? But in all honesty, The Creative Parent will offer a more structured format for fellow caregivers to find solutions for every day life — with kids.  If you have a minute, swing by and take a peek.  If you're feeling brave, share a dilemma. If you have a solution that works, I'm all ears. It takes a village to raise a child. At The Creative Parent, your village just got bigger. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pity Party, Table for One

  1. The dentist office lost my forms but managed to make me sit through sixteen x-rays. 
  2. The credit card company put a hold on our card because of 'suspicious activity.'  It's called moving, people!
  3. My wedding dress was the only item water damaged while in storage. Can mold come out of brocade? 
  4. The pediatrician's office took two hours to read the girls' Canadian immunization records. 
  5. I drove over 45 minutes to another town to buy a lawn mower only to have my credit card declined.  Again!
  6. The university I applied to lost my online application twice.  The third version I completed long hand and faxed only to be sent a bill for not applying online. Visa and Mastercard accepted.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Truth Comes Out

We were driving back from our first family boat trip, when the Captain says to me, "For a person who's never pulled a water skier before, you did really well."

"Are you kidding? Before today I've never even driven a boat."

You should have seen the look on his face. Priceless.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle en Vogue

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I'm not the most fashionable person.  The last copy of Vogue I bought was in in the early 90's and even the Captain prefers when I shop for clothes with friends who have a better eye for style than I do. That said, I have to admit this handbag hits all the right buttons in my book: it's small, stylish, completely recyclable and mine.

A good friend of mine has the exclusive Swiss importation rights to these bags (in various styles and sizes) and, for a short time only, they are available at Globus in downtown Geneva. If sales are good, they may soon be found in Globus and Bon Genie across Switzerland. These bags, made in Brazil, are an immediate conversation piece and as easy on the eye as they are on the conscience.  She also carries bags woven from plasticized map and label misprints. A personal favourite of mine is the London Tubes shoulder bag. Waste not, want not, as they say. 

So, if you're looking for a new accessory and are game for a little attention, head to Globus on the rue de Marché. It will make her day and, perhaps for this mother of four, a new career. 

Markus Zusak: You Wrote My Favourite Book

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has to be the best book I've ever read, and by no means is this an exaggeration. Not only is it a compelling story, but it is told with such disarming originality that I'm promptly rereading it in hopes that it might trickle over into my work. In this tale told by Death during WWII, metaphors consistently do double duty, if not triple, creating mood, character and plot points in a single brush stroke. It was launched as YA novel, but undoubtedly has infinite cross-over potential. Bravo, Mr. Zusak. I should only hope that one day my book might share a shelf with yours.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Confessions from the Land of Guilty Pleasures

It doesn't take much to make me feel guilty.  Given that I'm living in the the drive-thru-buy-now-pay-whenever capital of the world, temptation lurks 24/7.  What am I working so hard to resist, you ask? Here's my top 10: 
  • Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (It's half the price it was in Geneva. That means I can eat twice as much, right?)
  • Champagne (my Kroger carries Krug!!!)
  • Espresso in all it's milky variations
  • Coke Zero
  • Ranch-flavored Doritos (I used have to cross-border shop for these babies. Mmm...)
  • Twizzlers (the 1lb economy size is the best deal, no?)
  • a Harvey's hamburger with mustard, tomato, onion and pickle with  a side of onion rings (only in Canada, eh! What's a 10 hour drive when you're hungry for a burger?)
  • Kraft Dinner (i.e. macaroni and cheese. Read more about my obsession here.)
  • Glossette Raisins (similar to American Raisinettes, only better)
  • Dairy Queen Soft Serve, hold the dip
How can DQ and Champagne end up on the same list? Bloody good question. Perhaps I'm mistaken. A taste test should put this issue to bed.  It's just gone 9pm but I'd be willing to bet both DQ and the grocery store are open. If not, I could always go to Home Depot or Walmart. They're open 24 hours and, last I checked, there's a Starbucks in the latter.  

Sorry, gotta go. A tall cappuccino awaits... and Twizzlers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Back in the Game

No more excuses: it's time to find an agent in the grand ole USA. If you've not been following the saga, let me bring you up to speed: I had two British agents very interested in my novel. One recommended some revisions which, in the end, they liked very much. A second agency read the revised manuscript and liked it, too. But when they heard I was moving state-side, both highly recommended I find representation here. Grudgingly I've moved back to square one, though I have to admit, it makes sense.  
Researching agents and publishers to find the right fit takes time. I spent a half hour in the doctor's waiting room today pouring over the 2006 Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market. Over the next five days I hope to send out five queries. With Mouse home in the morning, that may be the most I can manage. We'll see. I kind of want to find my toaster, too.  I sent off a query less than an hour ago and it's already been rejected. Got to love technology... Onward ho!

(Addendum: track my submission progress in the sidebar. The risk of public ridicule always keeps me on my toes! Oh, and I found my toaster. Five years does not do good things to crumbs.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Double Vision

Honey's got a boyfriend—or a twin!
Meet Butch, the neighbourhood stray.  He's on the left.