Hallowe’en Memories

halloween-wallpaper-large006[1]Whiling visiting my mother at the seniors home last weekend, we started talking about Hallowe’en. As is common with Mom these days, she’s at her best while reminiscing. She reminded me that when I was a kid in the sixties, a number of the neighborhood moms  would make popcorn balls and rice krispie squares to hand out. My mother made a big batch of fudge, and my sister and I would help her place four or five pieces in little paper bags.

My sister and I, and our friends, would spend days making costumes (few of us could afford store-bought anything in those days) carving pumpkins, and figuring out the most efficient routes in our neighborhood. There were no townhouse or condo complexes where we lived, just detached homes, so we planned carefully.

Pillowcases in hand, we scurried from door to door. It was exhilarating and exhausting. After a couple of hours, our pillowcases would be full and  heavy. In those days, it never occurred to us to look for contaminated candy. We ate what we wanted with abandon. But then things changed.

Needles, or some other contaminant, began appearing in candy in other areas of the city. By the time I became a parent twenty-five years later, Hallowe’en came with plenty of cautions…Sort through candy carefully. Don’t eat anything homemade. Don’t go to doors alone. Adult supervision became practically mandatory. Fireworks were banned in some areas, due to accidents and horrific things done to small animals. Somehow violence had permeated what I once thought of as a completely safe evening.

I’m not sure if all the cautions rubbed off on my kids, but they were never big fans of knocking on strangers’ doors to ask for candy, Nor did they like to be scared. So we opted for the malls, which opened for trick-or-treating from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, where the focus was on fun rather than being scared.

These days, my kids are grownups who no longer live at home. We still live on the same hilly street where they were raised. It takes over thirty steps to reach our front door, some of which can be slippery in the rain. On a good night, the most trick-or-treaters I ever had was twenty. New row houses and townhouse complexes have been built the next street over, so I’ve placed myself on a Halloween hiatus.

If I become a grandparent, perhaps the ritual will resume. If it does, I’ll be there, ready to help, and to share stories of the Hallowe’ens I fondly remember.

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Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.

Upcoming Writing Events in Metro Vancouver

golden-ears-writers-2018Fall is one of the most energizing times of the year for me. There are many terrific events to attend…book launches, conferences, workshops, readings, book clubs, and so on. It would be impossible to list everything happening in this blog, but if you live in Metro Vancouver, take a look at the Events listings from the Federation of BC Writers HERE.

One of their listings is for the Golden Ears Writers & Readers Festival on Sun., Sept. 30 from 10:00 – 3:00 p.m. There will be workshops, speakers, a blue pencil café, the Great Canadian Literature Tea, and of course books for sale. I’m delighted to be part of the blue pencil team again this year. It’s a fun event held in Maple Ridge at The ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple. Check out their Face book page for more info HERE.

The annual WORD Vancouver festival is back from Sept. 26 – 30 (the main event is on the 30th) This celebration of literary and reading will feature many author readings, bookselling tables, workshops, panels, and all kinds of fun stuff. It’s a free, family-friendly event that’s held both outdoor and indoors down at and around Vancouver’s main public library on Georgia St. Crime Writers of Canada will have a table there as usual, and what I’m sure will be a lively panel discussion about crime writing. You can learn more about the festival HERE

The annual Vancouver Writers Fest is also back with another lineup of big-name authors that include Ian Rankin, Jodi Picoult, and Miriam Toews. The festival runs from October 15 – 21st and some of the tickets are already sold out, but there are still plenty of terrific authors to see. The events are set at different locations in Vancouver, so check out their website HERE.

So get out there and have fun!

The Aging Writer

senior_woman_working_at_store[1]Those of you who’ve been following this blog a long time know that I’ve written nearly every day for most of my adult life. It’s been an enjoyable habit. Regardless of what I’ve been going through, I’ve managed to write at least a little in all types of different situations (even during the early stages of labor) and in all kinds of places…planes, trains, automobiles, hotel rooms, hospitals, ferries, hockey rinks, sports fields, poolside, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s inevitable that I sometimes wonder if I’ll retire. I’m in my early sixties now and this decade is proving to be an eventful time of change in my life, some of it amazingly good, and some of it not so much.

Recently, I was blown away by a Washington Post article about the growing number of seniors who are still working at 85+ years. Apparently, over 250,000 Americans in that age category are doing everything from driving trucks to working as crossing guards. As you’ll see in the article HERE, the top jobs for the 85+ crowd are ranching and farming. Who knew? Society is clearly changing its attitude about what aging really means and the options available to seniors.

Researchers attribute the growing number of 85+ workers to longer life expectancies, shrinking retirement plans, and the availability of less physically demanding work. Writers comprise just .04% of the aging work force, which I totally understand. It’s mentally exhausting work that doesn’t pay even minimum wage for most.

Although the article breaks down the types of work and demographics, it doesn’t explore how these older workers feel about their jobs. Are they working because they have to out of financial need or because they want to? If they want to, is it simply to keep busy, or because they intend to help family and/or charities?

In Sue Grafton’s first alphabet mystery, A is for Alibi (published in 1982), we’re introduced to a secondary character named Henry, who is in about eighty years old. Henry’s a retired commercial baker who now makes a living designing difficult crossword puzzles. I remember thinking, wow, what an interesting and unusual character. But it looks like there are a lot of real-life Henrys out there now, and I think the world is better for it.

My August Events

aotfposter_2018Taking part in craft fairs and other events has been one of the highlights of my year so far. This month, I’ll take part in three more events, all of which I’ve done before, and I can’t wait to go back.

You can find all of them listed on my website’s News and Events page at http://www.debrapurdykong.com/news-and-events.html

The first one is on Aug. 18th and I invite anyone living in and around the Chilliwack area to visit this event. There will be live music, and the organizers are going out of their way to make it a fun, kid-friendly event with games and even a photo booth.

The week after, on Sun. the 26th, I’ll be at Art on the Vine in Langley. I love this event because vendors can drink wine if they want, though I don’t often do until late in the day.

Lastly, I’ll be out at the Haney Farmers Market on Sat. Sept. 1 at Memorial Peace Park on 224th Street, right in front of The ACT. Vendors are there from 10 – 2 pm, so it’s a fairly short event, but I like this one because of the wonderful produce and baked goods I can buy there. So, come join the summer fun if you can!

Canada’s 151st Birthday

canada-day-614290_960_720-1[1]As I write this, it’s July 4th, Independence Day in the U.S. and three days after Canada Day, here at home. Canada’s only 151 years old and very much a work in progress, but what country isn’t?

What struck me most about Canada Day was the sense of community I saw everywhere, from the multi-generations of families attending celebrations at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge, to the gatherings in many communities I later saw on TV. This country is as much about family and camaraderie and gratitude as it is about marking another birthday on the calendar.

The older I get, the more apparent it is not to take for granted the country where I was born. My grandfather came from England decades ago with only a few dollars in his pocket. He built a life and created a family, and although he’s long gone, it’s only later in life that I fully appreciate what a daring and smart move he made.

For all of my Canadian friends, I hope yours was a wonderful Canada Day. For my American friends, Happy 4th of July!

Five Great Quotes for Writers

success-failure[1]Great quotes are like mantras to me. Words to live by, to be inspired by. They can be funny, poignant, or even maudlin, but if they resonate with me in some way, they go into my collection.

I don’t have a large collection yet, but after reviewing the few I do have, I found that they still work for me, even though some I found over 20 years ago.

I’m sharing five of my favorites. You’ll notice that many have a lot to do with success and failure, which isn’t a negative in my view, but rather a reality, a challenge, and a necessary part of life.

Some of the quotes directly refer to writers or the writing life, but many are more generic thoughts that certainly can apply to writers. Do any of these resonate with you?

  1. Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill 
  2.  Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe. – Sumner Redstone
  3.  Rejection is a writer’s best friend. If you are not failing regularly, you are living so far below your potential that you’re failing anyway. – Gregg Levoy
  4.  I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. – Michael Jordan.
  5. I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. – Douglas Adams

And finally, I’m sharing one that has nothing to do with writing, but given the world’s political climate, I couldn’t resist:

No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office —  George Bernard Shaw

If you have any great quotes, please feel free to send them along!