The Words Whispered By The Fairy

“I wish I could.”

“I can’t.”

“I shouldn’t.”

These are the slithering, hissing sounds of absolute words that protect me—from me.

Conformity is a harness that holds me up, preventing me from falling off roofs, off buildings, or down cliffs and is my life preserver that keeps me alive.  But a harness is weighty: my feet drag along the roof as I fumble to manipulate the line while scouring for the tools I need to place the next shingle down. After some time, physical fatigue sets in and I misjudge where I’m placing my feet and hands; I slip and start sliding down off the roof only to brace myself lace minute before going over the edge. The harness provides protection, but is not absolute. I’ve heard stories of people who’ve died while wearing such a device.

When I finally unstrap the harness from my waist it’s a release and I glide down sidewalks as if Tinker Bell has given me fairy dust to move.  Once my body is able to move freely, the fairy leans in and sings-whispers Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet into my ear to unclog the gutters of my mind:

 

“To Thine Own Self Be True.”

When I Was A Little Girl…

My playground was one hundred acres of overgrown fields that consisted of dandelions and various other types of weeds. I don’t know the names of them and would be remiss if I tried to name them in this blog post because at the time, I had no idea what they were called. But they were a splendid array of colours and many of them were long enough that when I wore shorts, the long yellow weeds scratched at my legs. Another issue is that I would clumsily trip over them.  With these impediments in mind, I would most of the time, slowly move across the fields. On the outskirts of the property line, green forests could be seen.

If the fields were not bad enough, on occasion, I would attempt to enter the forest. Very few memories are of the woods because the rare times I did try, I would be blooded from thorns that tore at my bare legs and arms. The woods were gated by hand-holding trees, vines, and shrubs that conspired together and were so tightly intertwined it was difficult to see where one plant ended and another began.  I was forbidden from entering by nature. Trespassers would be punished. If there was a secret code or pathway, that would grant me access to enter the hidden realm, no one ever told me.

I daydreamed a lot as a child, and as a writer now, I guess I still do. I would daydream that I was the third person on my favorite show, Voyagers, and would help with the task of setting time right with Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones. (Full disclosure: I had to Google the show for the names of the characters.) I was smart too, just like Jeffrey, and the three of us worked as a team to correct historical timelines.

Penny! Get me a spoon! Grandma said from the garage where she cooked.

I craned my neck and turned to the sound. My finger reached over and flipped the switch of the vacuum cleaner and it hummed to quietness as the motor turned off.

I walked to the drawer that contained over a dozen glistening spoons. I grabbed one. Then I placed it back in the drawer. I doubted myself. Did she want a normal spoon? Or maybe it was a ladle? 

Something grandma said to me when I was in the middle of washing her stairs one day, early on in my life, stayed with me forever. The words she said were these: You have to keep a clean house and cook, in order to keep a husband. 

I tried to argue and retorted: If I get married, he’ll love me anyways.  

I remember her lips turned downwards. She grunted and dismissed my argument.

Penny! Grandma’s impatient voice came again from the kitchen.

I reached into several drawers and scooped up different types of spoons in the hopes that one of them was the right one. I ran in the direction of the garage and Grandma’s impatient voice.

Post-tip from Grandma of: “Keep a clean house and keep a husband”, I decided early on that I would work for myself. I would work hard at school and have a career. If I was able to support myself, there would be no need for a husband.

I disagreed with Grandma on her viewpoint regarding women, and the main role females should play in the world.  But my Grandma was born around 1920 (she never knew with absolute certainty her date of birth) lost her mother at two-years-old to tuberculosis, and her father left her with an aunt to be raised. She never saw her father again. At seven years old, my grandmother told me she started to do chores. (It was around seven years old, that I also started to help my grandmother clean her house.) Grandma had old world ideas from, well, the old world.

But she taught me this: WORK HARD.

As for the husband thing, I am married AND I am a VERY delinquent meal-maker. Yet for some reason, my husband sticks around. Grandma and I are different people. While the lesson she hoped to teach me fell on deaf ears, she played a different role in shaping me to become the person I am today.

Kelli’s Diary

Dear Diary,                                                                                                November 8th, 2013

FAT.

STUPID.

Combined, he’s used seven letters from a twenty-six letter alphabet.  If we were playing scrabble, I’m sure he would lose. You would think that someone as intelligent as him (Mr. IQ, I’ve nicknamed him) would be able to choose better words.  But no, the man with the B.A. in English Literature, and a Master’s Degree in the same name, descends into common words used by “uneducated riff-raff” as he likes to call construction workers.

I told him my father was a Construction Worker. He bites his lip while smiling smugly at me. He doesn’t say anything. He knows better than to say anything else about the dead—and more importantly—about my dad.

And, I’m not fat. I’m rotund, portly, or big-boned. Seriously buddy, you can google synonyms.

Stupid? I hold a B.A. Honours in Sociology and Criminology.

So, there.

Never mind, that I barely squeaked by in finishing it. (Perhaps, I had one too many nights at D’Arcy McGee’s eating French fries while also pounding back Guinness with my two besties, Jan and Lois.) But I have the degree in a black frame, on a wall in my office, that’s above my desk.

I spent five years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars to complete it.  (Okay, it was a four year degree that took me five years. What can I say? I take my time with things.) But I don’t regret one moment or dollar of my investment. The experience taught me to work hard, see things through, and to scale insurmountable obstacles.  I’m proud of it.

Although, I’m not using my degree on the job now…But, that doesn’t matter…. For me, at least it sends a message that I’m willing to work hard to achieve my goals.

What’s the other advantage of having a degree? It allows me to point in the direction of my framed degree with a look of: TAKE THAT!

The name of a particular person comes to mind: Brent. He is the other person who inhabits this dwelling. Brent is the Loud-Food-Chewer, Remote-Control-Hogger, and Sheet-Stealer. I know, those aren’t horrible things. After all, I’ve heard no one is perfect.  But when you add in: Domestic-Chore-Dodger, Manipulator, Cheater, Liar, and Verbal-Abuser—it paints a different picture of my live-in boyfriend. I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t hit me.

Oh shit! And…he’s home! Just drove up the driveway.

I suppose he’s going to want dinner? Maybe my resemblance to the Pillsbury Dough Girl would be less, if I didn’t have to make two meals a day? (Yes, I’m on the hook for breakfast and dinner. I cave in to Brent because he will start squawking about how lazy I am and he can do better than me. I’ve tried to tell him, “Go then!” and yet, he doesn’t. He just rambles endlessly as he lists all the things I haven’t done: the pasta pot from two nights ago in the sink that I didn’t wash; the dirty curtains; the three weeks that have passed since I last tackled the bathrooms; and how I broke his favourite beer glass.)

I hate cooking. I miss the days when I could have cereal for dinner and I would have the rest of the evening to do whatever I want. No peeling and chopping vegetables, frying or baking meat, and then wiping the counters, and doing the dishes. AGAIN.

Oh god. He’s calling me. I’ve got to go.

Kelli

Elephant Lake

Gabriel said it was like this: it was cold and dark and you would feel as if you had nowhere left to go.  Then something would happen – you would be pushed by a sudden burst of warm air and you would find yourself tumbling backwards.  Then without warning, when you least expected it, you would stop.

Air bubbles would pop and burst around you. This would be followed by a quietness that descended on you as if you had gazed up to a calm black sky in the early morning and were transfixed by a thousand stars that pulsed at you. In that space, you wouldn’t hear buses that squealed to a sudden stop; or notice early-morning-risers that slammed their doors and clicked the locks behind them as they trudged off to commuter stops that would carry them to their jobs.

Charity told Gab he was a liar.

Charity had thought about Gabriel more than once and what had happened to her, and more importantly, to him. But she hadn’t gone there for some time and preferred the version of “truth” her brother told others as if he were handing out licorice or smarties to friends at a party.

You were pulled from Elephant Lake, Dexter said over and over again. How could you forget that? he asked Charity as he shook his head. But it wasn’t only his head that wobbled to the right and left; his hands and legs shook with something between pity and rage. Charity couldn’t tell which emotion was more dominant as his eyebrows drooped, and long lines crisscrossed his face that occasionally caused his forehead to twitch. Sometimes his eye would also involuntarily bounce as if it were a wayward basketball after a player lost control of it on the court.

You drank too much that night, Dexter told the party-goers.

Gabriel is missing.

When you see Elephant Lake from a plane in the sky, it resembles the African and Asian mammal that has always been known for their physical attributes of flapping ears, long trunks, and to their detriment – tusks, that will sometimes result in their slaughter by poachers.  Charity considers the more recent characteristics that science has proven exist in these massive creatures: they are social in nature, self-aware, and have long memories.

A few years ago sandbags were littered around the homes that border Elephant Lake. The area had never flooded before in the close to 175 years since their town was settled. But that year it changed. Forty-five homes were gobbled up by the Elephant and in the aftermath a birth happened: a baby elephant was born.

In an ironic twist of fate, where the baby elephant was born, there were no homes. When the water finally receded, the calf remained. And now when you fly above, you see not only the outline of the mother, but also of her baby.

Charity was pulled from the part of the lake where the calf exists.

Dexter’s right. She drank too much that night. That’s why she never argues with him. But he also said that Gabriel did too, and she doesn’t remember that part of it. Then again, she was in the habit of mixing beer and vodka. Sometimes to shake things up, she would throw in a cosmopolitan. But in the five years she’d known Gabriel he’d have one Stella. After last call, he would pack her into his car, drive her home, help her in, and if he was worried by the amount of booze she had consumed – Gabriel would sleep on her couch in case she needed him.

Charity is there again.

This night it’s just her and the calf. Charity stares down at her right hand and then flips it over to reveal her wrist. In daylight you can’t see them. It’s only in darkness that they are revealed. It’s something she received when she lost Gabriel that night: the outline of two sparkling doves drift across the veins of her wrist as if they are in flight.

The winged birds etched on top of Charity’s skin that hide her veins look as if they are a diamond tattoo: a message from the new born elephant of life and peace.

Book Trailers?

I scrunched my face at the screen. Movie trailers, yes, of course. But – Book Trailers? I’d never heard of such a thing before. When I purchased Sophie Kinsella’s, Twenties Girl, I didn’t see a Book Trailer when I bought it.  And when I stumbled my way into Chapters and bought Neil Pasricha’s, The Book of Awesome, there was no five minute YouTube video where snippets from the book were flashed across my computer screen of the wonderful day-to-day moments that the book would highlight.

No. For me, I made my decisions by thumbing through the pages and thought: Hmmm, this looks interesting?  Shortly thereafter: ***Giggles***

That’s how I choose my books 9 times out of 10.

“I won’t do it.” I announced to my monitor screen as my top molars bit down on my back molars and worked to reduce the height of them a little more.  My jaw locked. I scowled.

Then the insecure side of my brain, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me, asked: Why, not?

Why, not? You’ve got to be kidding me?”  I retorted. “How would that happen? Oh my god, who would do the acting? The filming? How would I even put the thing together?”

You, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me announced.

“Me? I don’t know how to do it!”

Of course, you do, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me answered. You’ve done all those videos of picture collages that are put to music for birthday videos and for your other blog, Pushing Boundaries. You can do it. 

Arrogant-Me stood strong. You need to make her go away, she stated matter-of-factly.  You have other writing things to focus on. Don’t waste your time with a Book Trailer.

So, we did what we do best. We closed the browser and walked away because Arrogant-Me was on my side, and I knew it. If people are going to buy my book, they’ll buy it based on what’s written. I held my head up as I walked down the stairs proudly and said, “I won’t do it. What a waste of time that will be.”

***

Over the next days and weeks, my fingers clicked on the Google search button and I typed, “Book Trailers” and I  saw some videos put together beautifully with acting, music, and words that were meant to intrigue a potential reader into buying the book.

It’s marketing, Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me said.

“I know,” I said as I slumped down at my desk.

You don’t tend to do a lot of marketing. How will people know about the book if they don’t see it?

“How am I going to do that? I can’t act. I’m not multi-talented. I can’t do everything!” I exclaimed to Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me. My eyebrows scrunched together as my heart played that game it does of jump rope causing me to break into a sweat.

Oh, Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me said. Any chance you’re afraid of marketing your work? Maybe, you feel you’re not good enough?

***

Arrogant-Me: You can’t hire a well-known actor to play Wyndham for the book trailer.  They’ll never come to Ottawa in December because there’s too much snow and it’s FREEZING here.  Also, you have two more problems:

1) You don’t know any well-known actors.  

2) You can’t pay them.   

“Arrogant-Me, I thought you were on my side? You’re the part of me that should convince me I can do anything.”

Pause.

“Aren’t you?”

***

Music, words, and the cover of the book…and I’ve loaded it on Goodreads and YouTube.

I’ve decided I can’t be only ¼ brave anymore with my writing. Both of my feet need to be in this game and I need to jump, and no matter what happens – I know I’ve done everything I can to fly.

Zigzag

I hate winter. Why won’t it go away? Can we get any more snow this year? Oh goody! That’s a good two inches of marshmallow snow on my car. Excellent! Where’s my brush for the car? Oh there it is! Backseat! Why is this snow so heavy? Good enough. Must get to grocery store.

Keys in the ignition and let’s, let the car warm up a bit. Apparently wise men say it’s good for the engine – or something like that.

What was I getting again? Milk, eggs….there was something else? What was it? There were three things that we needed. Bread? Was it bread? No, I just bought a whole loaf a couple of days ago. It was only three things. Come on brain! I should have written a list.

Zzzzz…

“Arggh. Who’s that now?”

Text from Denise: Can we meet on Saturday at 2 PM? I need to discuss the renovations for your bathroom with you and Greg. There’s a problem with the electrical.

Electrical? Shit. What does that mean? Is that a hint that it’s going to cost us thousands of dollars to bring the electrical up to code so we can finish the bathroom? Why would Denise send me a text message about that? Betchya she’s seeing dollar signs.

Me: Hey Denise. 2 PM is fine. Any chance….

This might be more of a phone call thing. I’ll call her later.

Me: Hey Denise. 2 PM is fine. Any chance….

Off to the store!

***

Did I signal when I turned right? Ugh. Can’t remember. I hate that. I’m going to be one of those old people that will leave my signal light on for 2 KM after I already turned; or worse yet, one of those people who incorrectly signals the wrong direction they’re going.

Wait. I didn’t do that, did I? Shit. Why is my left signal light on?  Oh no, I am one of those people already!

I have to remember to put a load of laundry on tonight. I’m almost out of pants.

Seriously, what was the third thing I needed from the grocery store?

Renovations. Why did we even start?

Work. Right. Must remember to get in early tomorrow morning. Meeting with the boss to discuss that proposal. Am I ready? I think so. Mostly.

Now what? I don’t have time to be stuck in traffic?

Police. Firefighters.  Ambulance. Oh my god. There’s nothing left of that car. I hope those people are alright.

Zzzzz……

That can wait.

And never mind about the third thing. If I can’t remember, I’ll get it tomorrow. And there’s no point panicking about the renovations until we talk to Denise.

Big breath in.

I hope those people are alright.

 

What I’ve learned from this guy…

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Listen, you…
  1. The best accompaniment with wine is cheese. ALWAYS. More importantly, double cream Brie is a winner on two fronts: because it’s extra fat and it smells like dirty socks. (The stinkier the cheese, the tastier.) When we don’t have cheese? The only acceptable substitute is homemade bread that’s still steaming from the oven.
  2. Bounce towards people with the same energy as Tigger whenever you greet them. One of two things will happen: a) They’ll laugh when you knock them over. b) You’ll laugh when you knock them over. Quietly of course, because puppies can’t laugh. But they can smile.
  3. Go for walks either on city sidewalks or on snow-covered nature trails. Breathe. Stare at the cascading waterfall or dribbling stream. Stick your face in the snow.   Feel, smell, and touch everything. I promise you—you’ll love it.
  4. Don’t swear. It upsets everyone, even when you mutter it under your breath. It doesn’t take long for everyone to know that you’re having a bad day. And it doesn’t matter how you say the word because just by saying the word, we know you’re upset.
  5. Smell the snow bank. Or the flowers. Or the puddle. Whatever. Inhale.
  6. Sit around and look cute. Smile at people and make eye contact. People will come over and talk to you. Of course, it helps to have soft fur and be handsome. But what it really comes down to is the smile.
  7. Sleep. SLEEP MOMMY.
  8. Take time to notice if someone is sad or having a bad day.
  9. Be compassionate when people are in pain whether that is physical pain or emotional pain. Offer them your hand. Or your paw. Everyone needs to feel connected and know that they matter.
  10. No matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, when you lose someone or something, you must always open your front door and take a step forward. You never know if you’ll bump into an old friend, or meet a new friend. Or, what great things will happen to you next. Adventure awaits you—even when it hurts to move.

When Grief Strikes

I’m waiting. Patiently.

Then again, perhaps not so patiently because if I were, that would mean my shoulders would be rolled back and I would be happily staring at a wall.

But I can’t seem to do that. Ever. While seated in the waiting room area of the doctor’s office I’ve already read about shootings, stabbings and earthquakes. I click on another article about an elderly couple who were victims of fraud and lost over $100,000 of their retirement savings. My mood begins to trudge dangerously close to despair. I realize I need to change gears. I rummage through my purse and pull out my paperback book and a few moments later, I giggle a little.

Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, is a good distraction from the world’s misery but it still can’t hold my attention completely. When the door chimes, my eyes bounce up to see a woman who’s pulled the front door open and carries an infant slung to one side of her hip. Behind her, two small hand-holding girls follow them. One of the girls is probably five or six-years-old and she continues to hold her sister’s hand. The little one wobbles in her boots: obviously, new to the walking thing.

The six-year-old is Deputy Mom.  I smile.

Mom switches sides with the infant while she simultaneously fumbles to get her wallet out in search of her Health Card.  The woman glances over at the older child, wearily sighs, and says, “Mandy, can you take Julie and sit down over there?” Her head bobs in the direction of the clustered chairs.

I glance up briefly to see the older sister slowly guide her unsteady little sister to a chair. A second later, I notice the older girl unzips her sister’s coat, tugs her hat off, and places them on the chair next to her now seated sibling.

I stare down at my book. Deputy Mom clearly takes her roll very seriously. I continue to smile at the beauty of it all. Big Sister takes care of Little Sister. After all, Mom’s hands are full.  Big Sis is ever watchful, always guiding – forever there.

I continue to force a smile. It’s hard though. Something is tugging at me and is bubbling its way to the surface. I push the emotion back down by taking big breaths in and try my best to focus on Bossypants. I can’t sob in the middle of the doctor’s office. There’s no clear reason. People will wonder about me.

I miss him, a voice quietly whispers in my head.

Falling Down

“It hurts,” Kara says while tightening and releasing her hand. A few moments later, she stares down at her bleeding elbow.

“Suck it up, Buttercup,” her mother responds while washing the pots from last night’s dinner. She reaches for a towel and moves on to drying as the dishwasher hums in the background.

“Where did that saying come from? The Princess Bride?”

“Don’t know. But it seems appropriate given the level of whining you’re doing about it. Everyone falls. Get over it. Brush yourself off and move on. That’s what everyone else does.”

“Do they Mom? Does everyone? Because it seems like if the fall is too hard, and you hit your head or something, sometimes people don’t get up.”

Her mother blinks wildly as her hand stops wiping the speckles of water off the pot. “Are we still talking about the fall?”

Kara takes a deep breath in. Should she go down this road with Optimistic Momma to Buttercup? Sighing she says, “Sort of.”

“Listen Kara, everyone falls. Whether that’s literally, or figuratively. Just get back on the horse, or the bike. Or whatever, they say nowadays.”

“Really, Mom,” Kara responds. “What happens if I don’t want to? What happens if I’m tired of constantly falling down by tripping on a curb, slipping on ice, or someone, or something knocking me over.”

Her mother throws her towel in the dish drainer and places her hand on her hip. Lips twitching she says, “Lots of people have it worse than you, Kara. And everyone has their problems. They don’t act like you do.”

“How do you know? Did you ask them? Maybe they do complain, but no one’s listening!” Kara exclaims in a fit of exasperation. Her neck is stiff. Head throbs.  Muscles all over her body ache from the jarring that she felt when she slipped on the icy driveway.

Quietness settles between them. “I think it’s ridiculous, Mom. There are all these books and movies out now that celebrate people being different. But what we still say is each person’s experience is the same. So, we say everyone has the same life. They don’t. They simply don’t. Some people live on the streets. Yeah, I know there are people that have it worse than me.” She stares at her mother for a few seconds, pauses and says, “But some people live in wealth their whole lives, stay married to the same person for fifty years, and die two days apart, as well! Everyone has different lives. And how they translate those life experiences are different too.”

“Well,” mom says with a huff.  “What do you want me to say, Kara? That it’s terrible that you had a miscarriage, your husband left you shortly after, you lost your job because you had too many doctor’s appointments after, and your friend died at the same time?”

Kara blinks back the tears. Her mouth trembles.

Quietly, her mother says, “Boxers get back up whenever they get knocked down.”

“Not always. Too many hits can be fatal. They hit the right part of the body, and their life is over.” It’s a statement of fact. But there’s honesty there too.

Mom shifts uncomfortably. Eyes well up with water. She hesitates and nods at her only daughter saying, “I don’t want that to happen to you, Kara.”

Through tears, Kara says, “Me, neither Mom. I just need some time to heal.” There’s a pause and then she says, “And yes, it does help when you acknowledge I’ve had a shit time of it,” she says giggling.

Mom smiles through the tears, nods, and stretches out her hands while saying, “We didn’t do that in my day. I’m sorry. Come, here,” she says as she hugs her daughter.

Dear Mr. Winterman

Dear Mr. Winterman,

We’ve had a blast when you dusted my world with white fluffy snowballs and drenched the trees with snow capes. You’ve brightened a dark world in the longest and coldest days of the year.  During this time, I’ve considered engaging in winter time festivities such as skating on the canal or snowshoeing. I did not do that. Instead, I chose to sit by the fireplace with a post-activity drink to those considered fun events that consisted of hot chocolate laced with booze.

But now at last, I am done with you.

It may seem an abrupt departure from what was a fairly cordial friendship up till now. But I am tired of your ways: you offer truckloads of snow (I’m not joking, there have been tons of trucks moving snow! But you knew that.) and when you are done, I must shovel my driveway  for a minimum of one hour. Post removal of snow from my laneway, I then work to clear the car off. And then, I must shovel again.

Your cold ways give me nose bleeds, burn my lungs, chafe my legs, and I frequently lose the feeling in my face, fingers and toes. I do not want to go outside. I am trapped in my house dreaming of the days when -10 degrees Celsius will be a reprieve when I can walk around outdoors and it will take 30 minutes before I get cold.

You are cruel, Mr. Winterman, because we both know that when the temperature goes up you’ll hurtle icy spears at us causing hour-long congestion on roads and leaving me trapped again: but this time in my car because of ice-caked roads. When I’m finally given the chance to exit the car, I’ll slip and smack my head on my vehicle because roads and sidewalks have become skating rinks.

You think you are funny. But you are not. I am done with you. Leave now, or we will be forever done.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s probably true. So if you leave now, I’m sure I’ll welcome you with open arms again on December 24th, 2019.

Your friend (but soon to be enemy),

P.S.