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Monday, June 29, 2015

I'm Late - I'm Late By Alison Bruce

John Tenniel Illustration
Or, What I Learned From Alice

It was an hour to tea time and I just realized that I hadn't written my Monday post.

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"
- White Rabbit

How many times have I fallen down the rabbit hole because  I was running late. And here I am again, because honestly... and why would I lie to YOU... so much of what I've learned in life, I learned first between the pages of Lewis Carroll's classic book.

My father used to read me Alice in Wonderland at about the age most children are being read picture books. It's a wonder I understood any of it but, when the Disney animated movie came out, my first reaction was, "That's not how the story goes."

Arthur Rackham Illustration
“I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

Heraclitis said it much earlier: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” But I heard it from Alice first.

There's no point beating myself up about past mistakes because I'm not that person anymore. There should be a Statute of Limitations for personal (and non-criminal) blunders depending on the severity.

For instance, there are some decisions I'll have to live with, no matter how long ago they were made. Like murder, I can't go back and undo motherhood. Unlike murder, I have no desire to. On the other hand, me bribing my child to behave when I got too tired to do otherwise, shouldn't be held over my head forever... as long as I'm not a habitual offender.

Fan Art
“If you don't know where you are going any road can take you there”
- The Cheshire Cat

Much to my family's chagrin, I am a big fan of the scenic route. I blame the Cheshire Cat and my father... and possibly Robert Frost (notorious for taking the Road Less Traveled). After all, what better reason to be late than getting lost on the way?

If I hadn't got fed up with the traffic on the freeway, we might never have discovered the world's largest toonie in Campbellford, Ontario. If I hadn't transposed the numbers on a requisite course for my Classic minor, I wouldn't have taken Ethics and switched to a Philosophy double major (with History). As my Grade 13 history teacher once pointed out, I didn't really have the mindset for a historian. (Of course, I didn't really appreciate the comment at the time.

Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts
“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
The King of Hearts

I bet there are more than a few of my high school teachers who wish I had absorbed this lesson earlier in life. I didn't really get it until I was at university. It was the stopping part I had trouble with. I just went on and on and on...

This is a good lesson for any writer.

David Levine Illustration of Lewis Carroll
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
Lewis Carroll

This last quote is a bit of a cheat because the author said it, not one of his characters. However, as an author I entirely sympathize with this sentiment.

Authors and comics have this in common: we both learn to deal with the slings and arrows of reality by coming at it from another direction. Whether we use comedy, fiction or all of the above, imagination is the key. We ask ourselves what if I took this further or escaped it completely? What if? Then we jump down the rabbit hole and the game is on.

MacMillan's early editions

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Vacations

Are You Planning a Summer Vacation? 
by Christine Mazurk

Some of my fondest memories are of the trips my husband and I took on bicycles. That's right, viewing the country-side from the saddle of a bike.

We rode across IRELAND!! It was the year the Tour de France started in Ireland, and we were fortunate enough to ride some of the course, including two very tough mountain climbs - The V and Wicklow Gap. We rode with SEAN KELLY - winner of 9 monument classics and 193 pro races in total. He was also a four time GREEN JERSEY winner in the Tour de France. We rode through his home town, Carrick-on-suir, and the entire town stood on the sidewalks, clapping and screaming out his name!

Not only is Sean an incredible cyclist, he's an amazing person with a great sense of humor. One day, he rode up behind the sag vehicle and opened the hatch, leaning over his bike, he stuck his head inside the car just to say HELLO to the sag team. And when I got a flat, guess who changed it? Yup, Sean Kelly!!!

On one of our rides, we stopped to watch the Tour teams practicing the climbs. I spoke to JAN ULRICH in French, wishing him luck for another win. He was the YELLOW JERSEY WINNER the prior year.

We watched the Prologue, Stage 1, and Stage 2, before the race moved on to France.

It was magical to see the beauty of Ireland from a bike. How green the land is, that sheep stop you as they cross the road. The mountains, the water, and how friendly the people are. The food was phenomenal, the sites were glorious, and the group we rode with hilarious. It's been over 15 years and we still laugh about some of the group's antics.

The trip was hosted by VELO ECHAPPE, which is French for Bicycle Escape. Check out the trips they offer at: www.veloechappe.com !!! If you book a trip, tell Brian Rounds, John and Christine sent you!

Several years after the Ireland trip, we took a TREK TRAVEL trip and rode across SOUTHERN UTAH. We rode through a blizzard as we left BRYCE CANYON, and did several steep climbs in ZION NATIONAL PARK. We even took a day off the bikes to hike THE NARROWS in Zion.

Red rocks surrounded us on each of the rides, the scenery spectacular. If you've never been to Southern Utah, you're missing some amazing land. Trek Travel offers a variety of trips, check them out at: www.trektravel.com - They offer rides for all levels of experience!

Writing about these memorable trips makes me want to take the bike out for a few loops in the park!!
It is time for a break - so I'm off. Until next week. Hugs <3




Monday, June 22, 2015

What I learned from Harry Potter by Alison Bruce

Harry Potter came into my life at an interesting juncture. My mother had died of aggressive small cell lung cancer a year and a half ago. My sister Joanne had just been released from hospital after almost dying. And I was coming to terms with the fact that my postpartum depression wasn’t going away any time soon.

In order to be allowed to come home, Joanne needed constant care. That meant I had to move in with my toddler son and preschooler daughter. My nieces also came home. They had been staying with their father while Joanne was in hospital.

The living room transformed with the addition of a hospital bed, oxygen machine, commode, and lift chair. There were a lot of changes and huge helpings of stress. The Harry Potter books eased the tension and helped us turn on the light.

“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other.” (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

Finnish Edition
This was our “best of times and worst of times.” When my sister first came home, we weren’t sure whether she would get any better. In addition to twice daily visits from a nurse, she had Hospice Wellington volunteers helping out.

At the same time, my sister and I connected at a level deeper than I could imagine… and we were always close. She encouraged me to start writing again and, a bigger step, submitting my work for publication. My nieces became my other children, my daughter their little sister. My son forged an alliance with the dog… but that’s another story.

"We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on." (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

My niece Sophie had just discovered Harry Potter and Joanne wanted to find out what all the excitement was about. We worked our way through the series from The Philosopher’s Stone to The Goblet of Fire. Then we had to take a break to read The Lord of the Rings while we waited for The Order of the Phoenix to be released.

We didn’t get through all of that while living with Joanne. She got well enough to take care of things on her own and we moved out of her bedroom. We didn’t go far, though. Me, the kids and my dad moved into the same townhouse complex. When things got bad, as they did, on and off, I could take care of my sister and still go home to my own bed.

German Edition
“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

There came a time when I was carting a Harry Potter tome (the books were getting weighty now) between hospitals. I’d been taking books to read to all my sister’s treatments and post-op visits. When my dad had a major stroke, I was going back and forth between two hospitals to read to both of them. In our family, it was a series for all ages.

You can probably see where this is going. My sister never got to read… or hear the end of the series. My father read or heard all but the last book. We stopped reading the books aloud. Sophie preferred reading and her sister Claire wasn’t as interested in the magic world. She had twinkling vampires on the brain.

It doesn’t matter. Harry Potter was there for us. The books carried the kind of messages we needed to hear at the time, messages that still resonate.

Swedish Edition
“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Writer's Office

The Right Space by Christine Mazurk 

Do you want to know a secret?

I'm addicted to HGTV! My favorite shows include but are not limited to: Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, Rehab Addict, Income Property, Color Splash, Brother vs. Brother, and House Hunters. (I said I was addicted, didn't I?)

I love to see what they do to transform the space, whether it's keeping the old charm and adding new elements or a complete gut job. The designers always have a vision and darn if they don't get close to that exact image. I also love to see how the new owners in House Hunters infuse their unique style into their new home. It's always interesting to see what people choose as their signature pieces to fit into their lifestyles.

One thing that puzzles me quite often, I guess because I'm a writer, is the home office. I can't imagine putting my desk up against a wall. Even in my business life, if I had a window, I turned my desk to watch the world. If there wasn't a window, I turned my desk to face the door, so I could greet anyone coming in to see me.

                                                                                Whether I work from my home office or a temporary space while traveling, I find it vital to have a view. Watching people go by, looking at the ocean, the mountains, anything in nature that will keep my muse on her toes helps me write compelling scenes and natural settings.

What's more inspiring than watching the wind bend the tree branches, the rain spattering the sidewalks, or on a sunny day, people walking their dogs, who trot happily along side, tails wagging as they head to the park for an hour of fun?

Do you have a home office? I'd love to hear about it. When sitting at your desk, what do you see?

Until next week, I'm going to enjoy watching the world go by.





Monday, June 15, 2015

Say it with Flowers - by Alison Bruce

"To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat." 
Beverly Nichols

In the social circles where marriages were arranged to further the power, position and fortunes of the family, love was not the leading cause of weddings. Since flowers were an innocent gift, as likely to be given as a gesture of thanks, they made discrete messengers between star-crossed, or more likely parent-crossed lovers.

Flowers were the 
emoticons of the past. Each had a meaning which ranged from "affection" to "you may hope". And like emoticons, they could be misinterpreted.

A Floral Love Story

He sent her a posy of red daisy, red carnation, cedar, and nutmeg geranium.

"You are more beautiful than you know. My heart aches for you. Think of me. I expect a meeting."

The next day, she picked a striped carnation and dropped it near him when she was out walking with her sisters.

"I can't."

Undeterred, the next day he sent a pure white gardenia with white daisies and maidenhair fern.

"Ours is a secret love. I will be discrete. I'll never tell."

Since daisies also mean innocence and gardenias can mean beauty, her mother never suspected her daughter's admirer of unbridled lust.

She dropped a solid colored carnation.


Secret meetings followed, with each falling hopelessly in love with the other. However, she was a slave to family duty. As her arranged marriage neared, she vowed never to meet him again. She tried to find trumpet flowers, but they weren't in season.

However, roses are always in season as long as one has access to a hot house. He sent her a dozen coral roses, a sign of his ardor and deep pockets.

"I desire you."

Overcome, she tried talking to her parents. Her lover had wealth, but no position. They wanted both. In fact they had a wealthy lord lined up to marry her. He sent her white carnations for the innocence and purity she didn't quite possess.

All the flowers her lover sent were, from then on, discarded before she saw them.
At this point, life threw the couple a twist. 

She put a vase of pussy-willows in the front window.

"I'm with child."

"What child?" he thought. Then he went pale.

The next day he wore huge spider chrysanthemum on his lapel. He waited outside her house until she answered his question.

"Will you elope with me?"

She nodded, yes.

Flower meanings from www.victorianbazaar.com/meanings.html