Thanksgiving Gratitude and Surprises

CA_thanksgiving1[1]Last weekend, my Canadian friends and family celebrated Thanksgiving. Other than doing a little editing and book formatting, this wasn’t a productive writing weekend, but rather a weekend for family and for reflection on the many things I’m grateful for. It was also a day to remember my mother who would have celebrated her 85th birthday on Sunday the 13th.

Her ashes were scattered on Sunday. We toasted her with a bottle of sparkling wine, her favorite celebration beverage, and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, which was her favorite holiday meal. We also began the task of sorting through the last of her belongings that I’d been storing in our spare bedroom since early June.

When we packed up her apartment in July 2018 to move her into assisted living, we thought we’d been through everything. As it turns out, we didn’t closely inspect every book and photograph. You won’t believe what we found.

Stamp album.jpgFirst, we came across what looked like a book, but what was actually The Victory Stamp Album, which is pretty much self-explanatory. The title page says that the book was made in England but published in Toronto (in England and French) by The Copp Clark Co. Ltd. I’ve never heard of them but stamp enthusiasts and others might know who they were. Inscribed on the inside of the book, is the caption, “To my dear little son Clifford with love and all good wishes, from Mother.” Clifford was my grandfather, born in 1908. Some of the stamps are missing, but others are still there. It felt like I was holding a bit of history in my hands.

 

War time book.jpgThe second surprise was a thin book called “How to Solve Some of Your Wartime Home Problems” published by Canadian General Electric Co. Limited, dated Nov. 1943. Some of the chapter headings are “How to Conserve Fuel and Still Keep Warm” and “How to Get the Most Out of the Food You Buy” that includes meat rationing recipes, like Braised Beef Heart, Beef Liver Creole, Pic Hocks and Sauerkraut, and Creamed Sweetbreads with Mushrooms”. How different our Canadian diets are today!

The third book was apparently the first book given to my mother. The cover has all but fallen off, but handwritten inside is the date 1939. Mom was born in 1934. It’s an illustrated book of Bible stories.

Lastly, I came across a photo of my grandfather Clifford’s grandmother, whose name was Jane Anne Taylor before marriage to the Mason clan. In other words she was my great, great grandmother. I had no idea. Looking at more family photos of my aunts, I can still see some resemblance. Simply amazing. My kids and I learned some valuable family history on Sunday, and I’m thankful that my mother kept these things, and that her memory will live on.

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October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

As a crime writer who studied criminology in college, I’ve always had a particular interest reading and writing about white-collar crime. A few years ago, I maintained two blogs a week, one devoted solely to the wacky, bizarre, and disturbing goings on in white-collar crime capers. Needless to say, there was a lot to write about.

My first two published mysteries, Taxed to Death (now out of print) and Fatal Encryption, were about fraud and computer hacking respectively. It’s still a topic that’s dear to my heart, and as you well know, computer hacking, scams, and other forms of fraud are more prevalent than ever. Whether we know it or not, just about all of us have been hacked and invaded at one time or another.

Cyber SecurityOctober is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and there are plenty of things we can each do to help protect ourselves and our families. Seniors are especially vulnerable, but so are teens who are acquiring their first credit cards and paying with debit cards or through other means that were unheard of a decade ago.

One thing you can do right now is check your social media sites. I see many people on Facebook receiving hearty congratulations for their birthdays. I see frequent pictures of family members and children from folks who include all sorts of personal information that just shouldn’t be there. If you can restrain yourself from revealing too much, then do so.

When you join a social media site, you don’t have to fill out every bit of personal information about yourself. In fact, I’d advise you not to. Facebook, etc, is one of the few places where you shouldn’t be completely forthcoming about your age and birthdate, family names and so forth. You never know who’s watching and learning all about you, as if we didn’t already know this, right?

For great tips and reminders about staying safe, please visit StaySafeOnLine .

A Wedding Celebration!

Cutting the CakeFollowers of this blog know that my family’s experienced a fair bit of grief and sadness this year, but today’s blog is to celebrate something quite wonderful, my daughter’s wedding last Saturday.

Held inside a beautiful room at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens, it was truly a spectacular day. I won’t have copies of the photographer’s photos for a few weeks, but my sister snapped a few on her phone, showcasing a couple of moments, which you’ll see here.

It was simply breathtaking to see Elida and her dad walk down the aisle and enjoy their father-daughter dance. To hear all of the amazing, and often funny speeches, to see family and friends come together and enjoy a fabulous meal, conversation, laughter, cake cutting, and dancing was simply amazing.

Elida & Brandon, DinnerThe sparkling backdrop behind the bride and groom’s table was a last-minute decision we added just before the wedding. The vendor didn’t supply backdrops or decorations, so I phoned the It’s My Party shop near my home and found that they could accommodate us, despite it only being a day or two before the wedding. My son, husband, and brother-in-law assembled and erected the 24- foot long structure, finishing about an hour before the guests arrived. Sometimes, flying by the seat of one’s pants pays off .

The most important thing, though is that everyone left that night happy and smiling. So now, after fifteen months of discussions, shopping, decision making, growing anxiety and stress, this event is in family’s history books. The bride and groom will be moving into their brand new home in two weeks and there will be more celebration over the coming months, and for that I’m very grateful.

Elida & Bark dancing

Celebrating International Literacy Day

tumblr_ma0chcq3dn1qedj2ho1_1280[1].pngFor those who don’t know, today is International Literacy Day. Created by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1966, the purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the important of literacy in communities around the globe.

According to one website, 16% of the world’s population, two thirds of them girls, are unable to read or write in their native language. While many programs are underway and doing great things to help, there’s still a long way to go. You can learn more HERE

There are plenty of things people can do to help promote literacy, but just helping someone with reading challenges is a huge and important step forward. When my kids were little, I spent many hours over the years reading to them. It’s one of the best things I ever did as a Mom.

This year’s theme is Literacy and Multilingualism. I work in the Linguistics department at a university here in Canada, and most of the people in my department speak at least two languages. Some speak four or five, and one professor far more than that! Three of our faculty members and others are working diligently to teach and record Indigenous languages, and to instruct other students on how to teach those languages before they are lost. It’s quite remarkable.

So, hats off to literacy and multilingualism, learning and communicating. No matter how technologically advanced we become, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t express and share your ideas with words.

5 Things I Learned From the Great Telus Email Crash of 2019

email-me-clipart[1]As I write this, Telus has still not resolved its email issues after one entire week of trouble. Thankfully, I don’t depend on it for much of my writing business. Every once in a while, I’ll receive notification that money’s been paid by Amazon or D2D, but otherwise most of my emails are blogs and newsletters. A small percentage of emails are from family, though they can text or phone anytime. The rest are review requests or writing event notifications. Of course, another small percentage is spam.

So, I’m looking on the positive side of the great Telus crash, and have learned a few things:

  1. Patience really is a virtue. I can’t control anyone’s inability to fix technical problems, so I’m not losing sleep over it, although I feel terrible for those whose businesses depend on it Telus’s email.
  1. I’m not nearly as dependent on emails as I thought I was. I’m far more dependent on the net in general, and my phone, or even my car. Thankfully, they’re working just fine.
  1. I have a gmail account, which I’ll start using more often. This one sends emails to my phone, so I’ll get them quicker. Not that I want to read blogs and newsletters on a tiny screen, but if someone’s trying to get hold of me, I’ll respond faster through gmail.
  1. Telus’s mess allowed me to catch up on all the blogs and newsletters that regularly fill my inbox.
  1. I’m getting more editing and organizing done.

Because I follow a lot of blogs, it usually takes me a whole week to read them all, and even then I skim quickly or skip the topics that don’t resonate. This week, I took the time to read each one carefully, and even commented on several.

Since I’m spending less time reading newsletters, I’m spending more time editing and organizing files and articles into binders that I’ve been talking about doing. Yay! So, it’s not all bad. Crap happens, but I’m finding ways to make the best of it.

Returning to a Favorite Pastime

ink_flower_by_denadavis[1]Creative people fascinate me, and they have long before I became a writer. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned (aside from the fact that most of us have sleep issues) is how frequently writers delve into other art forms to express themselves, especially through painting. I’ve met several terrific artists who also write fiction and nonfiction. Multi-faceted creative folks isn’t a surprise, though. If you allow yourself to open your mind to possibilities and take the time to explore, it’s amazing what will come.

This weekend, while working out at the gym, I started thinking about writing and painting. I also thought about how I would spend more of my free time once I retire from the day job in a few months. Sure, I might write a little more, but given that long periods at a keyboard aren’t healthy (after four decades of typing my posture’s not great and eye strain’s a problem) I’ve decided that extra physical fitness is a good idea, and one that I happen to welcome.

But another idea has come to mind, and it’s based on something that very few people know about me. A little over three decades ago, when I was working on my first novel and pregnant with my first child, I was working on pen-and-ink drawings. (The drawing above isn’t mine, but I think it’s beautiful).

I don’t remember how many pictures I drew, but I still have my sketch book buried beneath stacks of paper in my office closet. I used to draw graveyards and stark, leafless trees, which I suppose isn’t a psychological stretch from the mystery thrillers that I write today. But you know, I’m now thinking about pulling out that sketch at some point to explore the possibility of going back to drawing.

Several months ago my hubby the accountant returned (after a long absence) to painting watercolor landscapes. He too, has trouble staying asleep, so each morning he awakes very early, goes downstairs, and experiments with color and design and ideas before he leaves for work. He loves it. It feels like it sets a positive tone to his day. It’s also given him a new appreciation for the nearly forty years I’ve devoted to my passion for writing. We talked about goals and satisfaction and pushing through tough times until perseverance slowly turns to habit.

I’m not worried about not finding enough to do when I retire. I worry more about having time to do everything I want to. There will be more goals—brand new ones—and although I’m not ready to remove the sketch book out from under all that paper today, it’s now on my radar. We’ll see what happens.

Well, It Was Almost a Balanced Week

It’s always a struggle for writers to juggle family life and day jobs with their creative lives. In fact, most of us don’t spend nearly as much writing/editing time as we’d like for numerous reasons, although this past week I came close.

I’m one of those weird folks who actually likes Mondays because that’s when I’m at my most energetic. Mondays means that I can get a fair bit of writing and editing done before and after the day job. On a really good day, I’ll then put in a half hour on the treadmill while catching up on reading. Yeah, I’ve been a multi-tasker for years.

By Wednesday afternoon, my energy level seriously fades. Thursday’s often a struggle to write, and Friday’s almost a complete write-off when it comes to stamina and concentration. Usually I can squeeze a little more writing time in on the weekends, but this past weekend was different.

Shower prep-2A few weeks ago, I volunteered our house for my daughter’s bridal shower. Given that this is summer, I figured we’d have a dozen guests at most. My task was to clean the house and provide platters for the food that the bridesmaids were bringing. I spent most of Saturday and early Sunday, cleaning the two bathrooms, tidying, dusting, etc. while my hubby and son swept the patio, cleaned the outdoor table, moved the BBQs out of the way and arranged furniture.

Bridal shower, group photoOnce the bridesmaids arrived, I watched in awe as they brewed jugs of different flavored teas, laid out food, decorated, and arranged flowers with an efficiency that had me in awe. As you’ll see from the photo, my twelve guest estimate pretty much doubled in size. (I’m in the blue dress in the front row, my daughter to the left, and my sister on the right.)

The shower was great fun and the bridesmaids were just as efficient with the cleanup and take-down as they were in setting things up. By the time every had left by 4:30, though, I was exhausted. My plans to do a little more editing that evening fizzled away.

Still, a good week of editing, followed by awesome family time, could be considered a balanced week. The only problem was that none of us felt rested by Monday morning. That’s okay, I have major rest and relaxation planned for this upcoming long weekend.

CakeBy the way, the delicious lemon cake in the photo was hand made by one of the bridesmaids. She brought fresh flowers to decorate the cake with! She also made a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and earl grey cookies, which were amazing. As her wedding gift, she’s making the wedding cake, along with cupcakes. Now that I’m totally in wedding mode, I can’t wait for the big event in September.