Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Little Perspective

Rainbow Over Beaverton Public School
by James Effer

I was all set to post about March Break - how great the weather was, how my sinuses are still inflamed and making me headachy, and how many things I have to do once I get back to school.

And then I got a phonecall saying that one of my colleagues has died.

James (Jim) Effer worked with me for eight years. He took the author portrait on my website, and here, on this blog. And he did it for free, because that's just the kind of guy he was. He actually LIKED helping people, and the pleasure he got from that showed on his face when you thanked him.

Jim had just returned from a week in the Dominican Republic when he collapsed. I hope it was a good holiday for him, and for his family. I hope they won't be traumatized by having been there, and not being able to help.

I was only fifteen when my own dad died. And while I would never wish cancer on anyone, I am grateful that I had time to prepare myself, and say good-bye. When the time came, as bad as it was to lose him, I was actually relieved to see his suffering end. I live with the sadness of not having him in my life, but I don't have any regrets about things that were unsaid, and in that, I am lucky.

Just last night - perhaps while Jim was passing on - my husband and I were talking about events that happened ten years ago. "We're getting old fast!" he said. And, as is my habit, I reminded him that "the alternative is worse", using the examples of his brother-in-law, who died at 34, and my dad, who didn't make it out of his forties, where I am now.

I meant it when I said it, but I mean it more today, because Jim's last gift to me was a fresh perspective on making the most of the time you've got.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why I Read "Why Cats Paint"

Wow - I'm turning into a devotee of Travis Jonker's "100 Scope Notes" blog!

His latest post included a number of links which he admitted might have been crazy to amass...but when I saw the picture of - Why Cats Paint, as a link to "Literary Oddities", I began to wonder if maybe I'm the oddity,because I own - and adore - it.

The general hypothesis of the book is that cats sometimes deliberately create art. So when my kitten, Nutmeg, tipped over the coffee cup of red Georgia sand that I kept on my bookshelf when I was a child, and then swept it back up into a perfectly neat pile, maybe it was art, and the sweeping didn't actually have anything to do with the fact that he peed in it first. That dead mouse I once found on the couch just before the company arrived? An installation by Sacha Cat. The scratch marks on a sofa? "Upholstery Art" that "represents the first stage of their artistic growth" as they explore non-traditional mediums.

Yeah, my husband never bought that one, either.

But honestly, books, cats and art all together? Anyone who knows me knows it's perfect. And when I pulled the book out to photograph it for this post, Majik/The Great Catsby seemed to agree.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrations and Book Spine Poetry - My Entry

First, a celebration - Maybe Never, Maybe Now, (which was starting to feel like a really ironic title) WENT TO PRODUCTION TODAY!!! Hooray! This means I can't tinker with it anymore, and (drumroll please) it WILL be out as scheduled this fall, with its companion novel, Definitely Not Camelot [huge sigh of relief growing into giggles of excitement].

I'm feeling very Zen tonight, as I spent the day on the slopes in the sunshine. Most of the day, anyway. Part of it I spent alone in the car, singing along with my Glee CD, with the sunroof open. And just after lunch, I found a lovely Muskoka chair beside the chalet, and I settled in comfortably in the sunshine with my MP3 player, my sunglasses, and a big smile on my face. The rest of the time, I soared down slopes of slushy snow. So I returned from my Wednesday night yoga class completely ready to "write" book spine poetry.

Here's my first poem:

Just in case you can't make some of it out, it says:

Your Many Faces
The Language of Goldfish
Awake and Dreaming
Negotiating with the Dead
In Summer Light
As I Lay Dying
Somewhere off the Coast of Maine

What does it mean? It means that tonight, I'm Zen.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Spine Poetry

Okay - a two for one posting tonight, since this stupid flu, the report cards and my edits have kept me away so much in recent weeks. Also because I just found this awesome fun Book Spine Poetyry challenge at 100 Scope Notes and entries have to be submitted by Thursday!

Beginnings, Middles, and Endings

- March Break (in two days!)
- ski season! (hear me out). Despite my ski pass at Snow Valley, I've only made it out ONCE all season. Lack of snow, lack of time. But tomorrow is ski day at school, so I'm headed out to Horseshoe Valley for the day. In 10 degree Celsius weather - which is, like, ridiculously warm, and will make the snow mushy, but whatever. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the beginning of the season for me, and I can make up for lost time during March Break. I only learned to ski five years ago, so I feel like I need to make up for lost time!
- Term 3 at school - busy with extracurriculars, but usually easier than second term because the days are long and the end is in sight
- serious book promotions on my end, in anticipation of my *TWO* new releases for fall.

- the week (tomorrow is Wednesday)

- (I hope) the flu virus that has been hanging on inside my bocy for almost three weeks. Sinus involvement. Chest congestion. Body aches. Fatigue. Loss of appetite. Not the H1N1, because I got vaccinated for that. Stubborn, though.
- Term 2 at school - report cards go home on Thursday.
- Book edits (for now). I thought they were done in December, but then they came back at me, hard and furious, in February. Simultaneously with the flu and the report cards (see above). But tomorrow, I believe, all will go to production, and I can sit back, and think about the next books.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let me tell you about today's specials...

Oops - sorry. I'm not sure there are any. I've been noticing it for awhile now - especially at school - and it makes me sad.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "special" in the following way:

Special (adjective)
1. distinguised by some unusual quality; especially; being in some way superior
2. held in particular esteem
3. a) readily distinguishable from others in the same category
b) of, relating to, or constituting a species
4. being other than the usual
5. designed for a particular purpose or occasion

So what's the problem? Here, in North America, in 2010, people have so many things and experiences available to them that nothing seems "special" to them anymore.

A few examples:
1. When I was a child, pop and chips were special, because we only ever had them when a babysitter came over, or at a birthday party. Now, most of my students bring them in their lunch on a daily basis. Eating in restaurants was another treat for my childhood self, because we rarely did it. But I have nieces and nephews and students and even adult friends who do it all the time - restaurants have become the norm for them
2. Movies! Without VCRs or DVDs, we used to wait all year for the Christmas season, when classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would come on T.V. And then we'd watch them. Carefully. Because they were special, and we didn't know when we'd get to see them again. Now, (I've noticed) even when someone says they LOVE a movie, they talk all the way through it. They get up. They wander around. And I think it's because they've seen it before, and will again, what?
3. Even favourite songs used to be something we waited for the on radio...then bought the 45 or LP, which we carefully transferred onto a cassette tape with other favourite songs. Now, at the push of a few buttons, you can have any song you want, at any time. Even without buying it.

The thing is, I LOVE pop and chips, and restaurants and movies and MP3's. I'm not criticizing them AT ALL. But I wonder if part of my love of them is that they are still, in some ways, novel to me. And I worry about the kids who are growing up without novelty, because what do they have to look forward to?

Then again, maybe novelty is subjective, and homecooked meals and playing outside will be "special" for this generation.