My children’s story has been published!


When my daughter was little, we would make weekly trips to the public library to borrow stacks of picture books for bedtime reading. The story that Jennifer loved best of all happened to be the one that I had written just for her. It was about a little sprite of a girl named Abigail Bugsby, and we read it together many, many times over the years.

Contributor’s section

When Our Canada magazine, published by Reader’s Digest, called for submissions of children’s stories, I dug my Abigail Bugsby story out of storage, dusted it off, and sent it in. Lo and behold, the editor at Our Canada chose to publish it in their August/September 2017 issue, complemented with artwork by their talented illustrator, Bill Suddick.

If you would like a printed copy of Abigail Bugsby to read to your kids or grandkids, pick up a copy of Our Canada magazine, which you’ll find on newsstands across Canada this month. I have a subscription for a variety of digital magazines through Texture, and it’s in there too. Here are pictures of the original version I wrote (and illustrated) for Jennifer. My drawings were quick and rough, so it was a real treat to see Bill Suddick’s visual interpretation of Abigail!

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A churchy kind of poem

Spring is here… it’s the time of year when children begin to wind down the school year in preparation for summer vacation, and those in Catholic schools are getting ready to celebrate their First Communion or Confirmation.

My poem is for all the parents who’ve been there, done that,
and all of those who are about to.

Confirmation

Perched in church,
nephew’s confirmation,
swaddled in finery,
big family occasion.

Grandma on the aisle,
camera poised.
Grandpa hunched,
both eyes closed.

Cousins ahead,
aunties behind,
uncles a-twitch
in neckties that bind.

Impure thoughts,
flecked with guilt.
Long time since
confessions spilt.

Mind’s a-wandering,
what a sinner…
wondering what
we’ll have for dinner.

We sit. We stand.
We stand. We sit.
Unfold the bench
and kneel a bit.

We genuflect,
we sing a hymn,
we bow our heads
and pray to Him.

Ah, sermon’s over,
we’ve all been blessed.
Tumultuous minds
for now at rest.

We chatter, we shuffle,
our exit’s begun.
We burst through the doors.
Church is done.

 

Can you remember your very first childhood crush?

redhaired-boyHe had thick, dark red hair, and was king of the playground.

I was in seventh grade and new nothing about love. But I did know that he made my heart flutter every time I looked at him.

His name was Paul Warner. It was obvious that he was a popular boy, since all the other boys (and girls) gravitated toward him at recess like a pack of wolves to the alpha.

Boys like him never noticed girls like me—girls who wore their shyness like a cloak of invisibility. If he had ever glanced my way, I know I would have blushed ten shades of red and found the toes of my shoes to be suddenly engrossing.

daydream-girlI daydreamed often about Paul Warner throughout that school year; sweet vignettes that materialized in my mind whenever I should have been focusing on a math problem or listening to the teacher’s commentary on the Hundred Years’ war…

What if Paul Warner bumped into me at recess…and smiled at me…

What if Paul Warner turned around in class…and asked to borrow my pencil… 

What if Paul Warner took the empty seat beside me on the school bus…and…

Perhaps this first crush was simply an omen of my future—a sign that a different Paul was predestined to enter my life someday, the Paul that I would fall in love with and marry happily ever after.

Alas, Paul Warner was never in the cards for me.

girl-dreamingSeventh grade reached its denouement, my family and I eventually moved away, and life rolled on. It wasn’t long before I was head over heels in love with my very first celebrity crush (that’s a story for another day). Paul Warner became as distant a memory to me as Scholz’s star is to Earth.

Although Paul Warner knows nothing of my existence, nor will he ever, I do hope that life’s been good to him. After all, there will always be a special place reserved in my heart for my very first childhood crush.

Now tell me—who was your very first childhood crush?

The Big Bang

bare treeI clutch the creamy vellum envelope in my trembling hands, willing the letter inside to tell me what I have been yearning to hear, as I delay tearing it open.

I have been badgering the Big Guy for the past hundred years or so to consider my plea for a sabbatical. Not only am I weary right through to the marrow of my bones; I am bored stiff as well, and tired of giving to those who take my work for granted. It’s not easy to be creative in a job that you’ve been performing day in, day out, over and over and over again for longer than you can even begin to remember.

I pinch around the envelope, trying to gauge how many sheets of paper might be in there. It seems an awfully thin package—God knows, it only takes one sheet of paper to say the word, “No.”

Unshed tears burn behind my eyelids at the thought of another rejection. Over the past decade, my midnight blue melancholy has begun to stain the canvas of my labours, leaving splotches of ash grey and charcoal. My favourite pots of sunny yellow and sky blue and leaf green have begun to harden and fade. The chill that spreads beneath my brush makes me shiver.

The little rebellions that I have unleashed in recent years have not been bold enough to prod the Big Guy into relenting.

My sigh ripens into a strangled moan as I pluck at the envelope’s golden seal. My damp fingers slide the single translucent sheet of parchment from its holder and I gently smooth it open on my lap.

The proof of my misjudgment causes me to gasp aloud, for there at the top of the page, in His delicate calligraphy, are the four words that I’ve been praying for: “You have my blessing.”

I turn my head to the side briefly so my joyful tears won’t mar the precious missive. Quickly swiping the back of my hand over my eyes, I resume reading His tidy, gold script.

“My dearest Mother Nature. It is with great sorrow that I release you from the significant role you have performed with exceptional dexterity for all of eternity.

Tomorrow, you shall receive your release forms by courier dove, along with formal authorization to execute a final act of mass destruction, upon which your tour of duty will end for an unspecified time.

You have been an exemplary servant and I shall miss you. Go forth and go out like the regal lioness you are. And do enjoy your much-deserved rest.

Bless you, my dear,

God
meteorite impact

A Redneck Christmas Poem

I’ve been negligent with my posts in recent weeks. I was in Cuba with my daughter for a week, and we spent some wonderful, quality time together. I’ll post some pictures in a future post. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. It’s a busy time of year, yada yada.

With all this busyness consuming my life, my brain has been going through a dry spell with any creative writing too. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I moderate a community writers’ group that meets the first Wednesday of every month, and we’re expected to bring something to read aloud at meetings. Of course I had nothing prepared for our December meeting.

To make a long story short, I wanted to write a quick poem during my lunch hour and hadn’t been able to think of anything to write about all morning, when suddenly, an image of a redneck who’s pissed off Santa popped into my mind (only God would know why…and maybe a psychiatrist). You can read the result of my brain fart below.

Mullet_redneckA Redneck Christmas Poem

Santa don’t come down
muh chimney no more,
He don’t even come through
a window or door.

No more presents for me,
‘cuz I think he bin told,
‘bout the six-pack-o Bud
an’ the smokes I done stole.

An’ how I drunk moonshine
straight from the still;
Spent two days in a whorehouse, smashed to the gills.

Borrowed Clyde Dooley’s truck to cross the town border,
An’ pick up the ten pounds of weed I done ordered.

Hid the weed in Clyde’s barn, where I thought I could trust it,
Sheriff got wind, an’ poor Clyde, he got busted.

Next day, I beat a ho with a hickory switch,
‘cause she gave me somethin’ that made muh balls itch.

Dancin’ and scratchin’, I dug out muh 12-gauge,
An’ blew more than a gasket in muh boy-gone-wild rage.

Now, there’s a mess of buckshot in the whorehouse walls,
An’ no more glass windows in the ol’ town hall.

Sheriff’s car? Well it done look like swiss cheese,
spoutin’ with fountains of green anti-freeze.

Needless to say, it weren’t a good year,
I don’t give a damn ‘bout no peace an’ good cheer.

Christmas ain’t comin’ for me anytime soon,
Just the sheriff and his jailhouse posse o’ goons.

There ain’t no frickin chimneys in the county jail,
for Santa to come down and pay for my bail.

Feel free to come knockin’, ‘cause my trailer ain’t be rockin’,
I know I’m getting’ coal instead’a crack in muh stockin’.

‘fraid I won’t be gittin’ no presents no mo’,
No mo’ boobies and butt under the mistletoe.

Yep—Santa—he don’t love me no mo’.
‘cause this year, I bin a baaaad, baaaad bo’.

 

Nursery rhymes for serial killers and other frightening types

I’ve been negligent with my posts lately because I’ve been so busy with work, work and more work. Ugh. Well, there is some light at the end of my tunnel because I’m off next week on a much-needed vacation to the beaches of Cayo Coco in Cuba.

For now, I’d like to offer a belated salute to Halloween with these scary scary nursery rhymes that are NOT meant to be shared with children (unless said children share all the characteristics listed on the FBI’s behavioural science checklist, warning signs that you may have a budding serial killer on your hands. If that’s the case, these nursery rhymes are the least of your problems.)

Little_Bo_Peep_3Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep’s
In trouble deep,
And isn’t sure where she should turn.
She stuck the mister
With her sewing scissors,
Last time her affections were spurned.

In a panic, Bo Peep
Fell sound asleep,
And dreamt that she heard him bleating,
But when she awoke,
There lay the bloke,
Messing her rug with his bleeding.

So up she took
Her silver crook,
Determined to haul him outside,
It took more than a sec,
With the hook ‘round his neck,
To drag him to shore by high tide.

As he bobbed out to sea,
Bo felt wistful, indeed,
For life’s lonely at times with just sheep.
If he’d only behaved,
Her rug could have been saved,
And he’d not now be down in the deep.

Bo Peep heaved a sigh,
Wiped a tear from her eye,
And back over the hillocks she went.
Once again, sought her sheep,
Not a one was a creep,
They were far more endearing than men.

 

pixabay2Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Harold’s eyes,
And Robert’s thighs,
And Ray’s ribs buried all in a row.

 

gratisography.comO Where, O Where Has My Manager Gone?

O where, O where has my manager gone?
O where, O where can he be?
With his ears in the freezer,
His tongue down the drain,
There’ll be no more demands made of me.

 

The Queen Of Hearts’ Son, Jackjack and knife

He cut out the hearts,
Of the neighborhood tarts,
‘twas a signature of Jack’s.

Fortified with gin,
He absolved them of sins,
Tied their hands up with cord at their backs.

Jack’s mission began,
When he punished his mam,
The biggest tart of them all.

She and her feller,
Are laid out in Jack’s cellar,
Tucked up in a funeral pall.

 

pixabay3Sing A Song Of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of lye,
Four and twenty digits,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
By the county coroner,
He quickly then determined
That a murder had occurred.

A hand was in the suspect’s house,
Stiffened ‘round some money,
An ankle in the parlour
‘tween sliced bread and honey.

A torso in the back yard,
Hung among the clothes,
And a scarecrow in the garden
Wore the victim’s severed nose!

 

there was a little girlThere Was A Little Girl

There was a little girl,
Had a gun inlaid with pearl,
Aimed right at the middle
Of his forehead.

When she was broke,
She was very, very broke,
And when she was broke,
She went robbin’.

Photographs compliments of gratisography.com and pixabay.com

Why is everyone scrambling to get their hands on the fall issue of Readers Digest’s Our Canada magazine?

our canada_cover copy…Because a story I wrote is featured in the October/November 2015 issue!

The magazine—produced by the esteemed Reader’s Digest—captures the true essence of Canadian life through its compilation of interesting stories and beautiful photos contributed by Canadians from coast to coast.

You’ll find Our Canada magazine at most magazine newsstands, as well as at community libraries.

My story, Thanks for the Memories, is featured on page 59 of the October/November issue. For those of you outside of Canada, I’ve reprinted the story below.our canada_story copy

Thanks for the Memories

Today is the day I say farewell to an old girl who has been a part of my life for a long time. She has always been dependable, ready and willing to go anywhere, anytime. She expects nothing more from me than the sustenance she needs to keep her alive—the oil that keeps her old parts moving and the fuel that stokes her get-up-and-go.

Although she’s not much to look at, my old car has been a faithful companion for many years. A tug of war pulls at my heart, although I know the time to part with her has arrived. Indeed, the decision has been a long time coming. Still, my hand hovers over the phone. It feels too easy. A quick call and she’ll be gone. The lump in my throat swells as I think of the crushing end that awaits her.

So many journeys we’ve taken together. Sunday drives north of the city, cruising along ribbons of winding dirt roads, oldies playing loudly enough to make me dance in my seat. No air conditioning—instead, her windows rolled all the way down to allow the warm country air to flow in: farmland, freshly mowed grass, garden blooms and road dust—smells of summer.

She also delivered me safely through the most vicious of winter storms. Her wipers slicing through sheets of rain and sleet and snow; her heater warming away the chill as I inched along past bus stops crowded with commuters huddled and bent against nature’s wrath.

She was a companion on countless shopping trips, her trunk packed with Christmas parcels and bags, birthday surprises, wedding and shower gifts. A symbol of my freedom, taking me wherever and whenever I wanted to go.

The old girl embraced us with her seatbelts during milestone outings with my daughter, Jennifer…to purchase her first pair of school shoes; get her first haircut; enjoy her first baseball game; take part in her first dance recital; and attend her graduation ceremony. Enabling pivotal conversations to evolve thanks to the intimacy of her interior, she was a place where my daughter could crack open her aloof, adolescent shell to spill confidences normally kept secret.

My husband, Paul, and I sharing heartfelt conversations during our Sunday afternoon drives—lazy, rambling chats all too rare in our busy lives.

The makeshift refuge she offered for brief escapes…so many workday lunch hours spent curled up on her back seat with a good book, a cup of coffee and a fluffy pillow kept tucked away in her trunk. She served as a hideout, a familiar sanctuary, perfect for stealing away to be alone with my thoughts. She was a safe haven locking out the world, where I could rest my head against her steering wheel to have a good cry.

Really, she is so much more than just an old car.

It’s late afternoon when the tow-truck driver arrives. He hands me a sheaf of paperwork. I chew my bottom lip against the threat of tears, and sign. He looks tired and bored as he hooks her onto a heavy-duty chain and cranks up her front end. To him, this is just another job to complete before his workday ends. Gently, I touch her corroding paint. I turn away briefly as the driver barks a hurried goodbye and disappears into the cab of his truck.

As she fades away in the distance, I thank her for the memories—and then I move on.

A salute to writers of the past, present and future

writers1Let us imagine for a moment that we live in a world where writers do not exist. We express our thoughts verbally or by gesticulating, but no words are recorded for posterity.

There are storytellers who entertain us with impromptu tales. Mimes are the new Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Daily local news is dispatched by word of mouth but becomes diluted and distorted, as usually happens when the masses pass information verbally. And telephone companies are rolling in more dough than ever!

booksBut there are no writers. Imagine that.

There would be no books. No Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Beatrix Potter, or C.S. Lewis to fuel our imaginations. No word pictures from the past painted by Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman or Tennyson or Wordsworth. No Edgar Allen Poe or Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley to chill our spines. No Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne or Mark Twain to sweep us away on amazing adventures. No Louisa May Alcott, Harper Lee or E.B. White to bring us to tears and laughter. No runaway romances, funny anecdotes, or science fiction to entertain us. I wouldn’t have enough space to list all the authors from yesteryear and present day whose thoughts and ideas would never have connected with ours.

No biographies or memoirs to give us a glimpse into the fascinating lives others have led. No history books to take us on great journeys back in time. No geography books to transport us to places we’ll never be able to see on our own. No science books to expose us to worlds we can’t even begin to imagine. No special-interest books to inspire us to learn new activities.

magazinesNo magazines with articles that entertain and teach us. No Good Housekeeping or Reader’s Digest or Popular Mechanics or Psychology Today. No National Geographic or Sports Illustrated or Prevention. No People Magazine or Fortune. No newspapers to keep us informed about the world around us. No comic books filled with scenarios featuring larger-than-life heroes.

No greeting cards or letters. No advertising to help us make choices.

No song lyrics on record. No theatre, television or movie scripts.dictionary comic card

No manuals to instruct us. No dictionaries or encyclopedias or famous quotations.

Consider the impact that writers throughout the ages have had on our lives. Writers make work of seeking out and compiling information about the things that we wonder about but don’t have the time or resources to seek out on our own. Writers use their skills to transform rough ideas into vivid pictures that will teach, entertain and inspire. Writers keep the era that they live in alive in the minds of future generations.writers2

Writers live with constant rejection—it’s the nature of the work. But today, I’d like to take a moment to praise and raise a toast to writers everywhere—those from the beginning of time, those today, and those of the future.

Bottoms up!

When the baby bird spreads her wings for college

My girl has long finished her stints at both university and college, and has worked as an advertising copywriter at an agency for several years now. But I will never forget that turning point in our lives—her transition from my high school baby girl to my college big girl.

Just like that, I was no longer required to meet with her teachers, attend functions at her school, be on top of the day-to-day minutiae of her life. All of it came to an abrupt standstill on the late August afternoon that we dropped her and all her worldly possessions off at the two-hours-away campus dorm where she would live for the next few years.

I was still waving goodbye through the back window of the car as she dwindled to nothing more than a wide grin in the distance. I’d been anticipating my first taste of that glorious newfound freedom that’s part and parcel with being an empty nester, so it came as a huge surprise to find myself bursting into tears the moment my girl was completely out of sight. Mind you, my grief didn’t last long, but I know now that those tears were my final acknowledgement of our rite of passage from roots to wings.

With that said, here’s a glimpse of the college experience through a mom’s eyes.

college_courtesy of gratisography.comMy College Girl

Two years have passed quicker than a sigh since my baby girl left home to embrace campus life. The fact that she found it so effortless to sever what was left of the umbilical cord between us speaks volumes about my child-rearing skills. As they say, “It’s your job to give them roots and wings.” I know I’ve accomplished that task. The real hardship has been with growing wings of my own.

girl_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Julia CaesarShe doesn’t call as often as I’d like her to, caught up as she is in her exciting whirlwind of a life, so when the phone rings and I hear her voice chirping from the answering machine, I toss aside my newspaper, leap from my wing chair and scramble to reach the phone before she hangs up.

I greet her with laughter in my voice. It always happens like this: a cascade of questions flood my mind, surging dangerously like a tsunami toward my lips. I struggle to keep the dam barricaded. If I slip and my questions break free, I know she will fly quickly above the tide and recede with it back to her perch on the other side of the ocean that separates us.

Instead, I try my best to spin interesting stories about an uninteresting week. I hope this will be enough to keep her on my side of the ocean for now. In return, she spins stories of her own, feeding me safe snippets of a life that, I have no doubt, is far more exciting than I’d ever care to know.

We laugh together as she relates a lecture hall incident. Since I’ve been a pretty cool cat so far—no gifts of unsolicited advice to ruffle any feathers—the olive branch she extends is my reward. She tells me about a boy. A boy with soft, brown eyes and a talent for clever banter. He makes her laugh.1280px-Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

Oh my. How the dam ruptures!

I need to know: his name…first and last…the color of his hair…his career aspirations…his family pedigree. Soft, brown eyes and a great sense of humor is simply not enough to keep the tsunami in check.

I can almost hear the squeak of her eyes as they roll in their sockets. I’ve blown it. There is nothing more to tell. He’s just a boy.

courtesy of Andrew SchmidtThe wave crashes onward. What about your test? Essay grades? You missed a class? Why? Walking alone at night? Are you mad? You spent how much this week? You’re not coming home till when?

She stops my barrage with a sudden urgency to prepare for her next class. Her tone is abrupt and final. The swell settles immediately into a drip, drip, drip of dismal regrets.bridge_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Modestas Urbonas

The phone lines bulge and ripple with hurried exchanges of I Miss You. I Love You.

We disconnect and fly back to our separate shorelines.

Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_TasmaniaBaby bird has mastered the art of flight, but Mama bird still has a lot to learn.

 

 

 

Photo acknowledgements:
1. Courtesy of http://www.gratisography.com
2. Water baby, courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com
3. Courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Julia Caesar
4. Pāhoehoe lava meets Pacific, courtesty of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena
5. Wave, courtesy of Andrew Schmidt
6. Bridge, courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Modestas Urbonas
7. “Pterodroma cervicalis, SE Tasmania” by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons-https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg#/media/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg
8. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

There’s nothing like a good power outage to bring the old times back

twin-electric-power-linesIt was the summer of 2003, hotter than ten hells, and daily life in the GTA was whirring along in its usual frenzied state. It was midday, midweek when air conditioning overload caused a massive power outage unlike anything experienced in recent history.

Despite the lack of electricity, the air crackled with the panic of millions who no longer knew what to do with themselves in the event that life as we know it grinds to a halt and sends us spiraling backward to the golden days.

Of course, I just had to write about it.

Power Lost, Humanity Found:
The Blackout Of 2003

three-candle-flames-1431851138OtnThe entire city panicked
When the power petered out,
Everyone, that is, but I,
For I hadn’t any doubt

That this massive power mishap
Would be sure to pave the way
For my boss to shut the office down
Much earlier today.

No working traffic lights!
Drivers in despair!
Gridlock to the nth degree,
Brains impotent with fear.

traffic jamIt took two extra hours
To meander my way home
As I passed distracted drivers
Wailing into their cell phones.

Still—‘twas a lovely afternoon
And my joy was here to stay,
Since no power meant no need to cook
Or wash a load this day!

With sandwiches for dinner
And some still-cold pints of beer,
I joined my spouse and kids outside
On my reclining chair.

remoteThe luscious scent of grilling meat
Spiced the outdoor air,
Neighbors chatted over fences,
Bursts of laughter here and there.

No power meant no computers,
Radios, movies or TV,
Bewildered kids awakened
From their hazy techno sleep.

For the first time in a long time
All ages played outdoors,
Touch football, tag, hide and seek,
Just like the days of yore.

Armed with flashlights in the streetskids-playing-47
As darkness inked the skies,
The children laughed and whirled about
Like happy fireflies.

And once indoors, the blackness ebbed
To amber candlelight,
Board games were played by lantern till
‘twas time to say goodnight.

I realized as I went to bed
How tension-free I was,
My mind at peace, my eyes at rest
So blatantly because

our gangFor a day, we’d traveled back in time
To a simple life so rare,
And survived without the crutches
We’d been leaning on for years.

At first “all power lost” had
Simply meant a work vacation.
But as the lazy hours passed,
Behold! A revelation:

Our collective fixed reliance
On technology as a nation,
Has made us captive lambs
In our humbled desperation.

Progression or regression?
We’ve surrendered to the machine
And forsaken the joys of simple life,
The way things used to be.

We can never go back, too late for that,
But perhaps again someday,
We can blow the power lines again—
Return to yesterday.
courtesy of Joshua Earle of unsplash.com

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