WHY THIS BLOG?

I AM PARCA'S CHOSEN:
Parca is the Roman Goddess of Childbirth and Destiny and after you get to know me, you will see why I believe she has, without doubt, made me her Poster Child. I deal with the odd serious issue but for the most part, my posts are just some cheeky fun, reviews of favorite shows, and true stories that will make you laugh out loud (or run screaming...I don't know you well enough to predict your behavior). You'll find satire with the odd parody tossed in....and most definitely a generous helping of hyperbole, with a dollop of facetiousness.

I am Canadian so expect a bit of politeness too. Sorry.

_________________________________________
1) MY eBOOKS CAN BE FOUND ON AMAZON HERE:
DENISE ON AMAZON
2) MY eBook Trailers are on YOUTUBE
3) My website:denisesevierfries.com
4) My Photo-Art Youtube Trailer is here too.

5) My old monthly column: The Lighter Side of Self Publishing
6) Outlander Series Facebook forum: the popular book/tv series group I am admin on, is The BEST and BIGGEST with over 80,000+ members! Come join us! *click on bold red words

Sunday, October 23, 2011

THE SI EXCAVATION

You may not know it, but I am a LTTE-ic. It is like an alcoholic, but instead of being addicted to the hard stuff, I am addicted to the newspaper stuff: writing Letters To The Editor. I would have weened myself of this need to write my opinions or stories to everyone and anyone who owns a pair of eyes, but they keep publishing me! For a starving writer who dreams of seeing their name on the front cover a book someday, seeing it printed anywhere is exciting. Sad but true.

Here is my latest effort, sent to my hometown paper after my sister told me some startling news...


Dear Editor,


I come from a hockey family; my brothers Bobby and Kenny played for the Kings (as Captains at various periods as well) and, like most Canadians, the game was a big part of my childhood and life. You can imagine my surprise then, when just today, I learned about an article about hockey in Dauphin (which mentions my brother Bobby and his teammate and buddy Ron Low) that was written in the illustrious sports magazine Sports Illustrated! It is the February 16 1970 edition and after a little sleuthing, I actually dug it up online. (Not knowing the issue nor the exact date or year, I tried every imaginable combo of keywords in the SI Vault of back-issues but couldn't get a hit on it until I typed in 'Bobby Buchy'. I know this made him smile).


It turned out to be a well-written exposé on small town hockey-mania titled 'The Only Game In Town' by William Johnson, who describes life in Dauphin the way I remembered it as a 9 year old girl who worshiped her big hockey-hero brothers. It transported me home in the blink of an eye, and I could feel the ice cold wooden bleachers and frosted walls of the arena and see the Queen reigning regally above the nose-bleed seats; I could smell the fries that I saved all week to buy and the stifling smoke of the girls bathroom where we all took our first hacking puffs and caught up on the gossip between periods. I'd never confess to ever writing on the stall walls, but I admit to learning about the birds and the bees and other essential life's lessons from them. Our first true-loves wore blades.


And I can't count the number of games that were stopped so the zamboni crew could bring their shovels on the ice to find a needle in a haystack (one of my brothers was forever losing a contact lens) and it was always found! It seemed like my life centered around the arena, but my death almost did as well: I was 11 years old and had scooted down to the players box to be near my brother, when, as I sat down and turned my head to watch the game, I felt a soft whiz past my temple, followed by a deafening crash! A frozen, rock-hard black missile had just missed my head and the crowd gasped. I smiled shakily, not used to having 2500 pairs of eyes glued on me, but the voice of my brother Kenny booming from the ice, screaming "DENISE! MOVE! RIGHT NOW!" shook me out of it and I slunk off to the top row, fingering the place near my hairline where Death had kissed me goodbye. I could see that my brother was furious and probably a little scared. After all, he was the one who'd shot the puck.


The names and opinions of the old-timers I knew mostly by name and reputation as a child, like Coots Riehl, Bernie Basaraba and Steve Hawrysh (wasn't he called Boomer?) all are mentioned in the SI write-up, as well as a host of other long-forgotten local hockey makers and shakers. It did me ol' heart good to think about those days and relive my rink-rat lifestyle and the innocence of that era: I was allowed to walk, by myself, the eight or so blocks to and from the games which often ended quite late at night (10 or 11), and being the tough prairie kid I was, I usually only wore my runners...unless it hit -20, then I dug out my boots. These days, I won't let my daughter walk a block to the corner store alone. Yes, Dauphin was a good place to grow up in.


I was going to send the entire SI article to you but it is far too long, so I have added a link where you can find it yourself online. Perhaps you could write for permission to reprint it in your paper for those who are not online. It is well worth the effort for, as I understand from my brother Bobby and sister Rhonda who still live in Dauphin, it is still a big hockey town and the whole community still takes great pride in cheering on their boys.


I am very relieved about that: Where else would the local girls learn about the facts of life?

Here is the link...I hope you enjoy it!




Sincerely,
Denise Sevier-Fries (nee Buchy)

Friday, September 23, 2011

A GIANT, RUSTY INFLUENCE (re-posted by ROGER EBERT on his FB page: see bottom of post!)

e·piph·a·ny

[ih-pif-uh-nee] A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

I’ve just had an epiphany. A retro-revelation, as it were. Something I think might be happening more often as my 51st year reaches for the baton from my 50th year and I seriously start to reflect upon what invisible hands, besides the obvious ones, shaped the lump of me that became me.

If I were to get one of those personal, wanna-get-to-know-you-better questionnaire e-mails that say ‘TELL ME 5  FACTS ABOUT YOURSELF’, I would reply like this:

1)      I am a huge Harry Potter fan, largely in part because of the Camelot-ish atmosphere and castles. (Hagrid is a clear favorite character of mine, and second only to Snape, who I would have sex with on my mothers dining room table during Thanksgiving supper if he asked.)
2)      I collect roosters (but call them the more giggle-inducing ‘chickens’ *said with a silly grin and Red Skelton accent)
3)      I love miniatures. Miniature anything, but furniture especially.
4)      I enjoy classical music and medieval types of folk songs (e.g. Loreena McKennitt)
5)      I am a romantic and was a far-too-clingy girlfriend in my day…but I was usually the ‘dumper’ and rarely the ‘dumpee’.

This random list has always been simply ‘me’, unexplored, constant and just the way I roll. But fast forward to 10 minutes ago when, suffering another 3:00 a.m. bout of Sleepless in Courtenay, I spontaneously decided to go on YouTube and seek out an old clip of Mr. Dress Up and drift back into my childhood and hopefully remember how it felt as a kid to go to bed and actually sleep.

But instead of clicking on Mr. D, I noticed a clip in the YouTube sidebar of an old children’s show that I grew up with…a show I hadn’t thought of in over 40 years but had watched vigilantly and daily in my formative years in the 60's: The Friendly Giant. I loved that show and its theme song was the first music I remember…and the first song I learned the lyrics to (save the usual church and holiday tunes every kid memorizes through osmosis more than desire). For those of you who don’t know the show, here is a quick preview of how many of us Canadian Baby Boomers spent our extremely limited and tightly controlled TV watching hours: *watch closely, there will be a pseudo-quiz afterwards…

 Did you notice the following?
1)      A castle. Medieval, complete with moat and drawbridge.
2)      A giant who is gentle and loves animals.
3)      A rooster named ‘Rusty’.
4)      A miniature cozy living room with a miniature fireplace, furniture, etc…
5)      The opening and closing theme music is classical/folk mix with a decidedly haunting melody.
6)      Said theme song is oft times called ‘Early One Morning’ but is actually called "The Forsaken Lover". The lyrics begin…

“Early one morning,
Just as the sun was rising,
I heard a young maid sing,
In the valley below.

CHORUS:
Oh, don't deceive me,
Oh, never leave me,
How could you use
A poor maiden so?”

I admit that this is as far as I ever sang it, but I knew the words verbatim at age 4 regardless of what the hell they meant.


Are we seeing a pattern here? I sure did. The second I heard that tune playing and saw the castle drawbridge open, it was like my entire world made more sense. So THAT is where I formed this love of such odd things! It brought me to tears. Not the ear-shattering, heart-rending cry and complete agony one felt when Donny Osmond got married, but the light eye dampening of yesteryear reminiscences. A wistful whimper.

And WOW!, the 'love'm and leave'm before they leave you' routine I subconsciously followed during my dating years seems like it was taken from the chorus of 'The Forsaken Lover'. What would Freud say about all this I wonder?

As I shook my head and smiled inwardly, I wiped my eyes and wondered, in enlightened awe, at the serious influence a children’s show can employ. Then two powerful ideas broke through my mist of nostalgia:

1)      Thank God we only had 2 channels and the only other show I watched faithfully was The Bugs Bunny Show! **which explains my fondness for black and white, Sylvester-like cats (see our Jasmine below):

                                                     
               

; my partiality to bald men like Elmer Fudd (you’d have to meet my hubby to see what I mean) and my continued rooster fascination, personified in the infamous Foghorn Leghorn! PLUS, my first taste of opera, which changed my life forever, was slipped into my psyche with the following Bugs Bunny episode:

 How was I to know my heart had just been prepped for my future happiness?
2)      My kids and their buddies grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonball Z, Transformer: Beast Wars and Pokemon. All aggressive, violent (in a GOOD vs EVIL kinda way) competitive, winner-takes-all kids shows that all had tiny slivers of high morality embedded here and there between blood-spitting, head-exploding, save-the-world fights.

Conclusion? I think we’re all in grave danger. The upcoming generation is a highly desensitized army of warped war-mongers who have no problem with talking turtles, misogynistic, sexless aliens that  give birth by barfing up their eggs and androids that can shoot fireballs from their hands to chop up bodies or explode planets. And they are locked and loaded, ready to rumble. 

I should know; apparently I helped warp them.

*INTERESTING NOTE: The novel I recently wrote is called Parca’s Forsaken (click for link). Remember the name of The Friendly Giant's theme song? ‘The Forsaken Lover’. How’s that for an eerie coincidence. Oh my…a Sign?

ROGER EBERT RE-POSTED THIS BLOG ON HIS OWN FB PAGE! MANY MOONS AGO BUT STILL A THRILL. *click to enlarge



Thursday, May 19, 2011

WHAT?

My amazingly sweet mother passed away on February 23, 2011 and grief has so clouded the joy I usually find in life that I haven’t been able to even think of Blogging…but the giggles are slowly coming back. And it seems fitting that my Mom is the reason for this. How can I think of her without remembering one particular conversation we had just a short while ago…


 Mom turned 85 years old in 2010 and although it was progressively difficult to speak to her on the phone (she 'lost' her dreaded hearing-aid fairly often), I phoned her about three times a week anyways. She was in Manitoba and I was on the coast of British Columbia and it was a 60+ hour drive there and back… a torturous journey I couldn’t manage too often. There were too many years in-between visits and I missed her a lot.

Once I called her after having already spoken to her the previous day, and this was how our conversation (and I use the term loosely here) went:

MOM: Hello?

DENISE: Hi Mom! It’s Denise. (*she had 6 children and we all sound similar, so introducing ourselves from the get-go was always advisable)

MOM: Who?

DENISE (louder): Denise! Your favorite daughter! (*my standard line that she always scoffed at; I knew she would recognize that, if not actually me.)

MOM (laughing): Deneezy? You again? You’re just like a little mouse peeking around the corner all the time! I can’t get rid of you!

DENISE (being silly): I’m just here for the cheese!

PREGNANT PAUSE

MOM: What cheese?

DENISE (louder): You said I was a little mouse and I said I was just there for the cheese!

MOM: What mouse?

DENISE (much louder): You called me a little mouse…

MOM (indignantly): A mouse? We don’t have a mouse in the house? Who told you that?

DENISE (feeling like she’s in a ‘Who’s On First?’ comedy sketch): I didn’t say you had a mouse, I said you called me a mouse, and I said I only wanted the cheese…

PREGNANT PAUSE #2

MOM (exasperated): I don’t understand what you mean.

DENISE (very loud): Mom...never mind, I was just joking. There is no mouse.

PREGNANT PAUSE #3

MOM (putting the phone down and calling out to my brother who was in the next room): Ken! Come find out what the hell Deneezy is talking about. I don’t know why, but she thinks we have mice…

KEN: What's going on?

DENISE (explains the entire scenario and they howl with laughter): Okay…now can you please explain to Mom what I said?

KEN (shouting): Mom! You didn’t tell me you had a mouse in the house! I’m leaving!


It was always a crap-shoot to whether or not Mom was wearing her hearing-aid when I called, and we had many a classic conversation like the one above. Frustrating? You bet. Maddening? Sometimes. But I tell you, I would give anything to hear her not-hearing me just one more time…

Monday, February 14, 2011

HEADLINE HUNTER

We don’t have TV.

We have TV’s...but we don’t watch TV. Subtle but important difference. We got rid of all cable, satellite and local television 2 years ago in an attempt to see if we could survive without them.

We can.

Commercial infested television that grates your teeth after replaying the same LSD-inspired commercial ten times in an hour, and paying for 300 channels we didn’t want, need or use, finally drove us over the edge and we decided to experiment with quitting TV cold turkey. 

Easy Weezy Lemon Squeezy.

Between our 700+ books and 1500+ movies, we are not want for entertainment, but I still need a daily fix of CNN News, CBC News and The Daily Show, with a smattering of Hot in Cleveland. This, and a lot more, I easily find on-line. All COMMERCIAL FREE!

Another bonus to keeping in touch with the world on my computer is that I save a ton of cash denying Shaw and Bell from entering our living room. And I get a hell of a lot more info reading my ‘web-newspaper’ with my morning coffee than I ever did watching long, drawn out broadcasts on television. At the click of a key, I get a wide variety of news from around the world with my Froot Loops, customized to my interests. (Peter gets his news from Germany with his Schnitzel und Bratwurst)

One channel cannot possibly cover the diverse news coverage I get in one morning, and never as fast. For example, here is one morning of REAL headlines (honest!)... and believe me, Froot Loops was a most appropriate cereal that day:

Man has ‘mini’ tattooed on penis to win car
Andreas Muller, 39, decided to have the rather painful tattoo applied after a radio station ran a competition to win a £20,000 Mini Cooper. Radio listeners were then treated to Muller’s cries of agony while the unique piece of branding was created.



A villager in Malaysia has his wife to thank after she charged a tiger that had pounced on him in the forest. Han Besou, 55, who was several feet away, heard the screams of her husband and charged the tiger with a large soup spoon, bopping it on the head, a local paper reported. The animal fled.

A 44-year-old man smashed the emergency glass on a fire alarm at Kaiserslautern train station when after stepping off, he realized his beloved beer was still on-board and leaving without him. As well as the shame of realizing his stupidity, the unnamed man was also left with an injured hand where he smashed the glass. 

Ingesting Poo Be Good for You?
Recently, the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology published research suggesting that, in certain cases, patients suffering from the nasty ‘clostridium difficile’ bug may need fecal transplants or "transpoosions." Although antibiotics are now the first mode of attack, a growing number of doctors believe that, in some cases, injecting excrement either by enema or through a gastric tube inserted in the nose is more effective.

Witches to face prison for false predictions
Romanian witches and fortunetellers are cursing a new bill that threatens fines or even prison time if their predictions don't come true. Superstition is a serious matter in the land of Dracula, and officials have turned to witches to help the recession-hit country collect more money and crack down on tax evasion. Witches argue they shouldn't be blamed for the failure of their tools.

Russia's parasailing donkey dies
Anapka, the Russian donkey whose brays of terror while parasailing won her worldwide sympathy has died. She had been sent up into the sky over a southern Russian beach in a promotional stunt, and the YouTube video of her trip made headlines around the world.

Notorious 84-year-old Hungarian cat burglar 'Flying Gizi' caught again by police
The 84-year-old woman, known as "Flying Gizi," whose criminal record goes back to the 1950s, is again in custody for suspected theft, police said Tuesday. Gizella Bodnar, who has been convicted of over 20 crimes and has spent nearly 18 years in prison, got her nickname because she enjoyed taking domestic commercial flights after successful break-ins. She also published an autobiography in 2007 claiming that she became a kleptomaniac as the result of a youthful bout with meningitis.


Confession app blessed by Catholic bishop
An iPhone and iPad app that helps Roman Catholics seek forgiveness for their sins has been sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The app walks people through confession step by step and it reminds us when their last confessions were and keeps track of sins they have previously confessed. However, absolution or release from the sin can still only come from a priest.


Granny Fights Off 6 Robbers With Her Purse
Ann Timson, a 75-year-old woman, armed with only her handbag, ran across the street to attempt stopping a daylight robbery. Six robbers, armed with sledgehammers, were smashing a jewelry store window in Northampton, England when Ann started hitting them with her purse, breaking up the robbery and making them run away without any jewels. Only after they were running away, did bystanders come to help.
 
So you see, in one day, I garnered a wealth of knowledge that can only aid me in living a richer, better life. I learned...

1) The next time somebody tells you to “Go eat a shit sandwich!” they may only be concerned for your health.

2) Meningitis can fry the section of ones brain that holds ones moral values, and old women can grow balls that clang.

3) Your private, innermost personal gut-wrenching sins that are a soul-searching plea to God and His Eternal Mercy, can now be hacked.

4) Donkeys can fly, but shouldn’t. And advertisers can be real asses.

5) Germans like their beer. A lot.

6)  Instead of burning them at the stake, witches can now be sued. (Voodoo dolls with suits and briefcases are flying off the Wal-Mart shelves in Romania as are pins, needles and matchsticks.)

7)  Anyone tattooing the word mini on their penis must be either very secure in their masculinity or hung like a horse.

8) All one really needs while on safari is a large soup spoon for wild carnivores and perhaps a feather-duster for rampaging elephants.

But there was one main lesson I learned that day:  Flying Gizi got published; now I know what to do.

I can hardly wait till tomorrow...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ALI AND JIAN: AN IDENTITY CRISIS (mine. not theirs)

There is nothing as pathetic as a struggling writer who has been tossed a crumb of recognition from a celebrity.

Point in case: me.

Yesterday, following the excellent Canada Reads 10th Anniversary ‘Essential Book of the Decade’ Contest on CBC Radio (http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/), the listeners/viewers were asked to pose questions to any panel member where it might be chosen to be used live, on-air. I posted my question using my CBC username ‘souls5’ and popped out to take our 11 year old to school. I knew I could watch the rest of the show on-line later, after I’d rid myself of all hangers-on and riff raff.

Imagine my heart-skipping thrill when Jian Ghomeshi, brilliant CBC radio personality and host, chose MY question to be posed to newly minted winner Ali Velshi (equally brilliant CNN journalist and broadcaster), who championed the winning book The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. The book I really wanted to win and LOVED. (I have talked to Terry on the phone, actually...LONG story, great guy!)

This was my Pulitzer Prize winning question:
Because The Best Laid Plans is an entertaining cross between 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington' and 'Seabiscuit', this apolitical 50 year old Canadian inadvertently learned more about the inner-workings of government than I learned from anywhere else. Do you agree that this should be required reading for all Gr. 12 students?

The Seabicuit line made them laugh. I knew it would, given half the chance. Ali laughed, Jian laughed and the studio audience laughed...and I even heard Lorne Cardinal chuckle. Comedy Gold for a lightweight author like me. These were the bigwigs being entertained by ME! On air and LIVE! Thousands of people in Canada and hundreds from around the world were listening to my words! All 52 of them. They were my captive audience, if only for a millisecond.

It was like being published, in a surreal, paperless, inkless kind of way.

How excited was I? Well, I replayed the sequence dealing with my question/answer (at the 25:00 minute mark on the Finale Q&A, should you be so inclined to view it on the clearer, original version) around 100 times...completely unable to go on with the show. I was mesmerized. Bewitched. Entranced. I was toking on a celebrity roach and higher than a kite. I video taped the segment and posted in my Face Book and tagged half of Canada. It is barely audible but did I care? Of course not. It was tangible! Sort of.

video


Replay, Replay. Replay.

I watched it small screen, full screen, with glasses on, glasses off, with my hubby, with my daughter, lights on, lights off, sitting close to the screen, standing a few feet back and with Harvey The Imaginary Rabbit (on loan from Jimmy Stewart) and I know every second of it by heart. Every movement made by every person and every sound. It took me a full 20 minutes to finally watch the rest of the show. But I came back to it again and again once it was over until I eventually got a headache and crawled into bed, only to have a fitful sleep plagued with giant winged-books being flown by bald-headed librarians all screaming for my autograph.

Repercussions? Well, my eyes are permanently crossed and my replay finger is blood-crusted, in a splint and needs surgery.

AND...consider this atrocity:  They all knew it was a ‘great on-line question’ (quote Jian!) coming from...who? souls5. My big moment, my 1.15 minutes of fame and they didn’t even know my real name. Didn’t even know I was female. Or human. Just souls5. Yep...make sure nobody knows who you are Denise. Hide your identity. Live in a cloak of secrecy and anonymity. THAT is the way to get noticed and published! Well done!

Did you notice when Jian said my username, there was an audible giggle from the audience? I think they assumed it was hastily crafted in reference to the 5 panelists (each with their favorite book) who had been vying for the win. They didn’t know the name honored my five children and was created years ago. *sigh*

Alas! So is the fleeting, flickering, fickle, flame of fame oft times dashed in infancy.

But I wasn’t dead in the water yet. In a manic attempt to stretch the high just a bit longer, I hurriedly went on Face Book and commented on Ali, Jian and Terry’s sites (and made sure to change my profile pic to one that was flattering, conspicuous and 20 years younger) and introduced myself. I wasn’t going down without a fight for at least a smidgen of true recognition. And you know what? Ali sent me a Face Book 'friend' request. Yea...that's right...uh huh. Just me a 20 thousand others. I can see you are impressed.

And that, my friends, is the all-time winner for the most pitiable foray into the world of celebrity and literature, one is ever likely to witness. If I ever start a rock band, I'll call it 'Seeking Validation'.

But don’t worry. If I ever get my book published, I think I’ll handle it just fine...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

THE ART OF FART

It was inevitable. One cannot have a BLOG and children and not cover the topic of flatulence...more commonly know as the fart.

Such a silly word really. And if you look it up on dictionary.com you can hear how to pronounce it properly!
Admittedly, I found it hilarious, in a very juvenile sort of way, to look up words like fart, shit, fuck and asshole (and even the C word!) and hear a woman’s voice say them out loud in such a dignified, librarian-ish tone. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself and only mention it so you can try it yourself and feel the same staggering shame. giggle

Not to beleaguer the point, but the word itself has been around for a long time and has been used by highly respected authors for centuries. For example, here is an excerpt from a well-known tome of English literature, The Canterbury Tales by famous British poet Geoffrey Chaucer (1340–1400). Taken from The Miller’s Tale:

This Nicholas anoon leet flee a fart
As greet as it hadde been a thonder-dent

Is that not brilliant? Nicholas let out a fart as great as a crack of thunder. Yes, it sounds better his way, but please, isn't it a hoot that they spoke about toots in such a fashion? Hoot and toot...maybe I should try poetry too? giggle2

In my family, as in most I would hazard to guess, farting was tolerated as a natural body function and ignored if possible between family members. For adults, it was chiefly a source of embarrassment, especially in mixed or new company. However, for children (and some eternally infantile grown-ups) farting is an endless source of entertainment.

I once had a boyfriend who used to lift his leg up like a dog about to water a hydrant, every time he farted. Charming as this was, I dumped him. I figured if he did this while dating, what would he do once married? Another boyfriend I had never allowed a LAP (Loud and Proud) one rip, but specialized in SAD (Silent and Deadly) ones that snuck up on you like an invisible hand and choked you until your eyes watered. Innocently, he would never say a word or make eye contact, like I would think a waft of putrescence blew in from some mysterious source and he was free and clear! He put the gust in the word disgusting. It was a short romance.

But the piece de resistance was a serious relationship I once had with a man who used to let go a violent, window-rattling mass of gas so big that his ass could have been marketed as a natural resource. Worse still, it only occurred immediately after sex. Needless to say, it was a inclination that suddenly started well into the relationship, not at the beginning of it. But perhaps I was being ungrateful. Maybe it was his way of paying me a compliment, like burping is considered a compliment to a Chef in some countries. The louder the burp, the bigger the compliment. If so, then all I can say is “DAMN I’m good in bed!”

When my children reached a certain age, they knew it was uncouth to fart indiscriminately around the house without consideration of others, but let’s just say that I was outnumbered and gave up making it a big issue. 

But when I re-married, and Peter moved into the house, things changed. A decent, gentlemanly-like man with class and style, he set out very few rules for the kids to follow under his roof, but there was one in particular he was adamant about: no passing gas within range of others and especially not at the table during meals. One could easily go to the bathroom or leave the room for this necessity and save everyone some unpleasantness. It was a matter of basic manners that Peter grew up with in Germany and with 8 children in his family, it was a politeness that was strictly and dutifully obeyed. I heartily agreed with this rule and we set out to teach the children proper etiquette.

It wasn’t long before the kids were put to the test. One night during supper, I looked across the table to see my son’s face look up with a start, like a deer caught in the headlights, and jumping up quickly, he began to run to the bathroom. But before he took two steps, he lost control and a blast of pent up gas exploded and rattled on like a machine-gun until he shut the bathroom door down the hallway. We killed ourselves laughing. Even Peter, who had his elbows on the table, head in hands, had to smile. Then we heard a meek ‘Sorry Papa!” from the bathroom and we broke out in fits of laughter. giggle3

This, of course, happened again a few days later with our other son and it became clear that only the young males in our clan needed time to hone the skills necessary to keep from befouling our air.

On one solemn occasion, however, the boy’s inability to master the Art of Fart paid off. And considering the circumstances, I didn’t even chastise them, save for a look of feigned disappointment. We were flying to Germany and with four young kids in tow (including our one year old), the 9 hour flight was an exhausting endeavor. Peter went through German Customs quickly with baby Katharina (who is a German citizen as well as Canadian) but we foreigners had to wait in an endless line. When we finally had our turn at Customs, we gathered around the partially enclosed booth that held the stern looking agent and began answering a bunch of questions about our intended visit. Maddeningly, he seemed bent on giving us the long, methodical, drawn-out version of entry protocol until one of the boys (who has never fessed up to this day) let loose a SAD fart and it slowly made its way up into the booth.

Needless to say, with a look of total revulsion, our passports were stamped and returned faster than you can say ‘sauerkraut und schnitzel’. giggle4

Our girls seemed to catch on to this rule quicker and even our youngest knew the lay of the land. Once, when she was about 5 years old, we went out with good friends, a Chinese couple, to an authentic Chinese restaurant where they said they would have to order for us. When the servers came to our table, Katharina asked in a loud, clear voice, “Excuse me...could you tell me where the Farting Room is?”. Luckily, they didn’t know any English (so I choose to believe) and just smiled quizzically. She’d never used this term before and we were just as dumbfounded as our friends, who thought it prudent to suddenly not understand English as well.

We made it clear that she need only ask for the bathroom in the future, but I confess that I was tempted to train her in Selective SAD Wind Breaking, so we could pass through Customs quickly on our next trip.

But then again, she might not be allowed on-board like all other restricted combustibles...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

MARS TREK

Who, in their right mind books a 3 a.m. flight? On Halloween?

Those flying from Vancouver to Australia wanting to pay the least amount of money, that’s who.

We hadn’t seen our daughter Chantal or hubby Duncan since their wedding 3 years prior, and having never met our 14 month old granddaughter Alexandra, (and planning to be there for the birth of her new baby sister or brother) we hoped our 6 and a half weeks in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia would be an unforgettable adventure.

I learned that Unforgettable is a double-edged (s)word.

Only birthdays and directions should never be forgotten. Childbirth and our journey to The Land Down Under, both, which oddly enough, left me exhausted and unable to go to the bathroom myself, should be buried so deep into the psyche that only Dr. Phil could dig it out.

As a white–knuckle flier, my doctor prescribed for me a tiny white pill that packed a big wallop. Only half the size of a Tic-Tac, I was assured that it would relax me and perhaps even make me fall asleep. One whole pill was good for 8 hours, half a pill 4 hours (and if you just wanted a catnap, give it a lick). Our flights were approximately 22 hours ONE WAY, including a stopover in Hong Kong, so I asked if it came in a maxi-dosage suppository form, but, alas! it's doesn't. Therefore, I brought enough medication for ‘total airborne time’, not calculating that we might be get stuck in, let’s say, somewhere like Seoul, South Korea while they scoured the city for a more qualified pilot!

 I know, I know...how could I be so stupid not to calculate that into our schedule?

It was on our way to the ferry in Nanaimo that our daughter Katharina, aged 10, started feeling sick. She was choked already with having to miss Trick or Treating, and now her throat was a bit sore and she felt warm to the touch (it ended up causing inner–ear pain that made take-offs and landings hellish for her, and therefore us!). It was an omen and as you might recall, I am BIG on Signs and Omens.

I briefly thought of canceling the trip but knew a slight cold wasn’t excuse enough cancel the rare chance to see the Australian branch of our family tree and flush all those non-refundable deposits down the toilet. And even more importantly, I’d be accused of looking for an out. You see, I have an obsessive, near debilitating fear of flying. I cried nightly for a week before the departure date and I seriously considered tripping myself down the stairs in hopes of breaking only one leg as a reason not to go.

Other than that, I am perfectly normal. Really.

The hour and a half ride on the eerily barren ferry to Horseshoe Bay felt endless and we gratefully stepped into the cold October air and hailed a taxi. At least, that is what we thought we’d hailed. The bumper sticker that read ‘BEWARE ALL YE WHO ENTER’ must have fallen off.

I, like all chatty extroverts, sat up front with the driver and took stock of our chauffer du jour. I would have been concerned at the way he bolted out of the parking lot as if he were the driving the purple triple-decker bus in Harry Potter, but I was too distracted and startled by his loud, raspy breathing, each exhale an embattled struggle for air. He was like a cross between Darth Vader and Burgess Meredith.

A slight, wiry man, his brown leather bomber jacket looked borrowed and battered. Silver wisps of hair peeked out here and there from under his black wool toque and a grizzled 5 o’clock shadow bristled his pointy chin and sunken cheeks. Rheumy eyes, magnified to Betty Boop size behind his thick, coke-bottle lenses darted back and forth across the road and I got the distinct impression that he was trying to focus. Unfortunately, I was right.

The hour-long drive to the airport felt like a TRON arcade game. From my front row roller-coaster seat, listening to his obscene-phone-call breathing, we hurtled through the pitch-dark night, the bright neon city lights flying past me in a stringy, fluorescent blur. I braced my feet against he floorboards and tried to remember the old ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...’ psalm that all people who are scared shitless recite. Then suddenly, steering with his wrists, he began to switch his glasses on and off with another pair, squinting around questioningly. All this while maneuvering through tunnels, crossing bridges and jumping intersections at approximately 320 miles an hour.

I tried to close my eyes but they were stuck on high beam.

We made it to the airport and my husband Peter and Katharina, both half-asleep in the backseat stretched and yawned as I paid off Burgess Vader and kissed the curb.

Peter: (carrying our luggage inside the terminal) I didn’t hear you talking to the driver. That’s a first.

Denise: I didn’t want to surprise him. I don’t think he saw me sitting there.

We arrived 3 hours early as advised and spent the time wearily playing cards in the empty food court and sucking back dishwater thin coffee and greasy Burger King fries. At the half-hour-to-boarding mark, Peter, bleary eyed and numb with fatigue, held Katja’s hand as she slept on the bench, and I dragged myself to the bathroom to take my magic pill as directed.

The second I walked back out, wiping the water from my mouth, they announced that the flight would be delayed and possibly canceled due to the fact that the pilot, who lived on Vancouver Island (probably right next door to my house) forgot he was working this morning and missed the last ferry. They were trying to find someone willing to pilot the flight.

As you can imagine, the thought of a grumpy, tired pilot with rumpled clothes and bed-hair getting behind the wheel of my Boeing 747 was hard to swallow. Unfortunately, the pill I just took was easy to swallow and it was on its way to work. I began to panic...how could I function drugged up or worse, zonked out under the bench?

Turns out they did find a pilot and we began to board at 4:00.a.m. At least that’s what they tell me. I have no recollection of getting to my seat, except a vague moment where I dreamed of putting on a sleeping mask and a blanket, but for the next 8 hours I was out like a light. Peter had a fitful nap now and then, but he spent most of his time watching over Katja and planning how he could dump my body out of the plane without being seen.

I woke up groggy in Seoul, Korea.

Peter: Wake up...we’re in Korea and you should go to the bathroom.

Denise: (fuzzy headed) Korea? We aren’t allowed to pee in Hong Kong?

Peter helped me to the bathroom, thinking I probably shouldn’t hold it in for the full 22 hours, and explained to me that the pilot they had finally found didn’t have a license to fly into Hong Kong. I heard they need special training to avoid the giant gorillas and papier-mâché monsters that frequently wreak havoc on their skyscrapers, but that could have been the drugs talking. 4 more hours? I popped half a pill.

After an hour on the tarmac, we flew off to Hong Kong where the scheduled 9 hour stopover was lessened because of all the mix-ups, and the 8 hour flight to Perth was but a small white pill of blessed nothingness.

We arrived in Perth at midnight (their airport could fit into my living room) only to get the wrong room at the hotel we booked. In an Inspector Clouseau-like scene, I tried to ask for a bigger room and could barely understand the thick Aussie accent from behind the counter, but my world renowned expertise at Charades came in handy and we were eventually given a better room, even if it slept 6. Brandishing my plastic Courtesy of Cathay Pacific knife at him might have helped a bit too.

We flaked out until the next morning where got were ripped off by cabbie who took us the long way round to the station and then we took a 7 hour ride on The Prospector, Australia's fasted train, to Kalgoorlie. And I was wide awake while everyone else slept like babies. It was like riding a ghost train and the red, Mars-like earth of The Outback made me feel like our plane had taken a wrong turn at Neptune.




Our grandson Maximillian was born on November 17 2009 and every minute of our god-awful trip (in total: about 43 hours in the air, 27 hours waiting in airports, 14 hours on trains, 10 hours on buses and various TRON taxis) was worth being able to hold him just an hour after his birth, and being able to cuddle and kiss our beautiful, sweet granddaughter (well, not 'we' exactly...she clutched onto Grandpa for 6 weeks and allowed me close enough to shake hands with her while boarding The Prospector to leave).

And I admit, had I been mugged at any point during our stay in Oz, I would have handed over all my jewelry, cash, clothes and all my gold fillings before I would have given them my stash of return-flight, little white pills.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

THE CHESTER AND SPIKE SHOW

2011 Canada Reads 'Stranger Than Fiction'Contest': real life childhood memories. 250 word maximun.
My entry...


The Chester and Spike Show 

Maybe it was a test of love.

But that would be ridiculous because he knew I adored him. He was my big brother and I was like that little terrier dog Chester in the Bugs Bunny cartoons, always bouncing around his idol Spike, the bulldog in the bowler hat. Complete hero worship.

Maybe it was a test of trust.

But that would be unrealistic because he knew that he was my Father Confessor. If my mother knew half the things I told my brother and asked advice about, I would be writing this from my room somewhere in a foreign convent.

I think it was a test of courage.

Bravery is a man’s most cherished virtue so I believe my brother wanted to make me fearless, or at least prove I was, and I couldn’t disappoint him. I don’t know when it all began, but by age 8 or 9 I was regularly having knives thrown at my feet.

I would stand on the lawn and from a respectable distance, he’d whip hunting knives on the ground, always near my toes but never hitting them. We were a private Barnum and Bailey circus act without the paying audience...or the insurance. My brother would inevitably chuckle with pride and marvel at my pluckiness. To be honest, my apparent nerve wasn’t anything but a childish sense of immortality.

I wonder if I can use this as blackmail? At 85 years old, our mother is still a force to be reckoned with!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A DEFINING MOMENT

A DEFINING MOMENT

I have invented a new word: EMFLABBERFIED {em-fla-ber-fahyd}; adjective

It is a mixture of the words embarrassed, flabbergasted and horrified and the people at Merriam Webster have my permission to put my picture next to it. What does it mean exactly? Let me tell you how it originated and its definition will become clear.

I was born and raised in the smallish sort of town typical of the Canadian prairies. The WELCOME sign on the road heading in boasted a population of 9,000 souls, and that was counting farm animals. Not much for a girl to do except pump gas at her daddy’s Esso Station and go for coffee with friends a dozen times a day. It’s not that the coffee was all that good, but it was a place to smoke. My mother didn’t approve of her fourteen year old smoking, but she compromised by making me promise that I’d never walk down the streets with a cigarette in my hand. That was a trampy thing to do. But apparently it was okay to puff my lungs out in any restaurant or the hockey arena. Even the Bingo Hall was fair game.

Therein began my seemingly perpetual coffee/cigarette/cafe ritual. For my best friend Marianne and I, the hangout of choice was the PP, the Pizza Place, and we often met other friends there as well. It was on one such occasion that the word 'emflabberfied' was born.

It was an excruciatingly painful birth despite the short labor.

Before I go on, you have to understand the time we were living in. It was 1974 and innocent bigotry was rampant. We used words and phrases like nigger-toes (Brazil nuts); nigger-babies (small licorice penny candy); Chinks (Chinese people) and bucks/squaws (Native Indian boys and girls). The latter two were the only visible minorities in town: we had two Chinese families and the Native kids were bussed in from the Reservations during the school year. I got along well with everyone. My girlfriend Janie dated one of the Reserve boys who looked like a cinnamon Donny Osmond and I was privileged to be invited yearly to my school-chum's birthday party which was held at his parents Chinese restaurant.

‘Innocent bigotry’ sounds like an oxymoron, but it was innocent back then because we weren’t malicious people, just apathetic kids, who tossed the words around like one would use the word 'idiot' today. Rude but not hateful; at least not in my circle of friends. It was just the way we grew up talking and I never once felt animosity or malice towards anyone just because of their skin color. They were only words and nobody thought about it twice, especially a caffeine/nicotine addicted Junior High School cheerleader whose only concern was whether she was holding her cigarette in the most sophisticated angle and if she was wearing enough blue eyeshadow.

Yes, that would be me.

We all had nicknames and although some were derogatory, they were always made and taken in the spirit of goodhearted fun; it bonded us. There was Iggie, Sticky (I won’t tell you how that was earned), Puddy, Greaser, Chester (yes, her name was appropriate)...you get the idea. One of our most popular pals was a boy who we called Black Ernie. He was dark (a swarthy, Italian complexion), a good-looking jokester and a shameless flirt. We also called Ernie ‘Spook’. We had a vague understanding, that we promptly dismissed, that this was an insulting term used for black people way off in the United States somewhere, but since it was a secondary nickname, its usage was random and rare.

One day at the PP while chatting through a smoky haze, waiting for someone to join our table in the crowded cafe, I heard the door open behind me and Marianne (who faced the door) leaned over and whispered the word ‘spook’. The door closed and a shadow fell across me and I knew Black Ernie was joining us, so I went for the easy laugh:

Denise: (in haughty, mock ridicule) I smell someone Black!

The sight of Marianne's jaw hitting the table caused me a moment of concern so I looked up to see why Ernie wasn’t trying to give me a head rub... and my heart went into defib.

There, to my complete and utter surprise, was the first black man I had ever seen.

He was dressed in a grey suit and he held an overcoat and a brown leather briefcase. He walked slowly past me and quietly sat down at a table across the room and picked up a menu. He never looked at me once.

I felt my face flush alternately Burn-In-Hell Red and KKK White. I must have looked like an ambulance stuck in a ditch, flashing in distress and going nowhere. Marianne finally found her voice.

Marianne: (looking aghast) Oh my God. Do you think he, ummm...are you okay?

Denise: (wide-eyed and whispering hoarsely) You said Spook! I thought you meant Ernie! Why did you say that? Shit! Did he hear me? Is he looking at me? Shit!

Marianne: Give me your smoke. You look like you’re going to puke.

I took a deep breath and started to get up to go over and apologize, but as I looked at him furtively from the corner of my eye, he signaled to the waitress and I hesitated. He looked completely at ease.

I sat back quietly and tried to calm myself down and decide what to do. I decided that I had three choices:
1) Walk over and explain the whole thing and apologize sincerely.
2) Pretend it never happened and leave very quickly.
3) Stab my eyes with my lit cigarette and gouge out my tongue with my coffee spoon.

I decided on #1, but only if he gave a sign that he had heard me. It would have been even more awkward if I went to apologize and then had to explain what the insult was if he didn’t know what I was talking about. It was loud in the cafe and there was a chance he hadn’t heard me. So I hoped.

Eyeballing him on the sly for thirty more minutes convinced me he hadn’t heard a thing, or if he had, he was above it all and I was not worth his anger, disdain or time. He read over some papers, ate his meal and never looked my way. I was determined to not run away from what I had done, so we sat there and waited until he had finished his dessert and left. I hoped that if he had heard me, he might say something on the way out and I could say sorry then, but nothing came of it. Nothing but a hard lesson about the power of words.

And I also learned something very important about myself. I had a deep and true empathy for others, and I could face my worst mistakes and not let them ruin me.

I also learned that smoking 25 cigarettes in half an hour makes suicide a suitable Choice #4.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

THE SCAPEGOAT cheese

Children make holidays memorable. And sometimes those memories haunt you.

When I was still married to my ex-husband Mark, we once flew down to Vancouver around Christmastime to visit a friend who he had chummed with in dental school. I was pregnant with twins (although I didn't know they were twins until my 7th month! Another story.) and our son Steven was just past his first birthday so it was an exhausting but much needed escape out of the frozen North. This would be the first time in years that this class of professionals would reunite for a posh soirée and a chance to brag about their successes and feigned, über-happy lives.

None of them had children, except us. It was a chance to one-up this tanned, ritzy DINK crowd and show them what they were missing. Yes, they were a DINK gathering (Double Income No Kids), a full level up from the common YUPPIE set (Young Urban Professionals). There were so many white teeth and diamonds in the room I thought I’d been time-warped into the Osmond’s living room. (*For those who don’t know the Osmond’s, they were the original form of aspartame and a family who became rich and famous for their goody-two-shoes persona, saccharine music, mile-wide smiles and surreptitious plans to take over the world by perpetual breeding).

After a round of Hello’s and SoGoodToSeeYouAgain’s, we sat down to nibble on Sterlet Caviar, Curried Squid, Grilled Baby Octopus and other tidbits that looked like they were scraped off of the bottom of a fish tank. An expensive fish tank. I sat Steven down on the floor in front of the fireplace, next to my chair, with a toy to keep him occupied.

Host DINK: Steven is just adorable!

Guest DINK #1: He sure looks like a content baby!

Denise: (beaming with pride) He is. And he’s really smart for his age...he has a bit of a cold and I have this thing about dirty noses, so I taught him how to blow!

Steven: (hearing the key word ‘blow’, which had been drummed into his head like a command for circus seal, he forgets that a Kleenex is part of the act and dutifully blows his nose into his hand which launches his tiny, wobbly body backwards, banging his head on the brick hearth) WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

After a quick clean up and a chance for horrified guests to forget that the mess in Steven’s hand looked a lot like the French foie gras on their Sesame Water Crackers, I brought our sniffling son back into the room and Mark took him to proudly display on his lap. But something had changed. There was a tangible shift in the air and where there was once a covetous ‘I want a brand new baby too!’ atmosphere, I felt a distinct ‘Thank God I don’t have kids!’ vibe.

Guest DINK #2: I don’t think we’re ready for children. Too high-maintenance.

Guest DINK #3: I agree. We do like our Mayan Riviera retreats and children can be quite a hindrance...

Denise: (interrupting defensively) Not really. As you can see, we can go wherever we want. They don’t have to cramp your lifestyle if you just...OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!

Steven had become very quiet and my astute, motherly instincts and keen, bloodhound-like sense of smell had set off an internal alarm. As Mark had been talking shop and absentmindedly bouncing our son on his knee, a sickly, oatmeal-thick stream of baby poop had begun leaking over the back of Steven’s diaper and was now oozing down onto his daddy’s best dress pants.

Like a fat Speedy Gonzales on steroids, I blasted from the room with Steven under my arm and had him washed and changed before the first guest could gag. For want of anything that fit, a pair of ratty old sweatpants were dug up for Mark to change into, which blended nicely with the splendid heirloom, circa 1850, William IV Antique Library Chair he was still sitting in. After a few awkward moments, with everyone looking at me like Gremlins were about to burst from my rounded belly and start swinging from the chandelier, I tried to salvage the night. 


Denise: (flushed, flustered and slash-my-wrists embarrassed) I am so sorry...this has never happened before...I...he...you see...

Host DINK: (smiling stiffly, serving a garlic-heavy Duck Liver Pâté that doubled as an air freshener) Never mind. These things happen. Does anyone want another drink?

Denise: He has a cold remember...and his medicine must have loosened things up...

Host DINK: (interrupting loudly) I have more champagne in the kitchen! I’ll be right ba... (looking down) Oh! What’s that on your chair?

Denise: (looking aghast at a gooey clump clinging coyly to the ornate mahogany leg of Mark’s chair) Must have fallen off Mark’s pants...I’ll get a rag...

Host DINK: (ashen faced, in high-pitched denial) It’s just my Molten Goat Cheese Dip! It is a bit too runny, isn’t it...where is that champagne?

Every Guest DINK: (slowly lowering their half-eaten appetizers back to the table) Just goat cheese...too runny. (pregnant pause) How about those Canucks, eh?

Planned Parenthood should have me on their payroll.