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.

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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 96,000+ members! Come join us! *click on bold red words

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.