Friday, September 30, 2011

Cup of Joe

I was asked today by a friend what happened to a coffee mug that I used to bring to a class we took together.

I still have it. And I still use it.

Because she misses it so much, I thought it would be nice to take a video (it sings) and post it for her, so she can listen to it whenever the mood strikes.

I think it makes her happy, lol.

Here you are, Katie:


9 Simple Solutions for Procrastinators

This email arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago. I didn't read it until this morning (procrastinator) and thought: Wow! I need to share this...  So here it is, for everyone out there who puts things off (like I do ;)

(This was written by Christine Kane - there is a blurb about her at the bottom, for anyone looking for more information.)


Irony: As I started to write this article, I thought, "I'll just go play one Sudoku game first." I caught myself in the act and marched to my laptop.  People who say that procrastination is about laziness are probably the same people who think that anorexia is about not eating enough.  Procrastination isn't about laziness. It's about fear. It's about perfectionism. It's about overwhelm. We all experience it, and there are some tricks to help you get moving again.
Here are 9 ways to break the procrastination habit:

1 -  When you get an idea, do some little thing to begin.
When I read Stephen King's book On Writing, I noticed something.  I noticed that when Stephen King gets an idea, he writes it.  Immediately and imperfectly.
Most people get an idea.  Then they sit there.  They wonder if it's a good idea.  Then, they wonder if it's a good idea some more.
Got an idea? Begin it now!

2 -  All hail small chunks of time!
Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have lots of time. It just doesn't happen to be all at once.
Are you waiting for many hours of spare time to begin your idea, your project, or your taxes?   Stop waiting!  Learn to use the spare half hour that comes up here and there. (I gave myself 45 minutes to write this article just to take my own advice.)

3 -  Agree to do it badly.
Set a goal to do it badly. Set a goal to show up.  Let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL.
Some of my coaching clients' biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear, than they do about getting it all done perfectly.

4 -  Commit aloud.
Call a friend and say something like this: "I'm going to spend the next half hour working on creating my new product." Then go do it.
Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Repeat daily.

5 -  Define quantities.
Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. "I'm gonna get my office organized" is a lot like saying, "We oughtta do something about Global Warming."
Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done NOW.
When are you going to do it? For how long? Which part of your office? The file cabinet? Or your desk?
Define the goal and acknowledge its completion.

6 -  Install this System Upgrade into your Mental Hard Drive: Less is More.
Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week.
Because you're not lazy. You're just trying to do too much.
Find out what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything.  Wow - what a difference this makes!

7 -  Do it first.
My first coach made me write songs first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour chunk as my first activity upon waking.
"Because you're telling the universe that this is your priority. And then the universe lines up everything to align with your priority."
Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you're not wasting energy thinking about this thing you're supposed to be doing.

8 -  Avoid nose-bleed activities.
Email, voicemail, web stats - any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity.  It becomes a nose-bleed.
When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you.  Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.

9 -  Don't ask how you "feel" about doing the activity.
Have you ever committed to getting fit? And then when the alarm goes off, you lie in bed thinking, "Do I really feel like going to the gym?" (Like you even have to ask!)
Change this pattern. Make your decision the night before. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don't have coffee and sigh and think, "I'll probably feel more like it at lunch time." You won't!
If it's a priority, don't waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.
There. I did it. I wrote this article. And now, I don't even want to play Sudoku! How about that?

Christine Kane is the Mentor to Women Who are Changing the World.  She helps women uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success.  Her weekly LiveCreative eZine goes out to over 20,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at

                      See Christine's blog  at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Minnie Dean

Also known as Williamina Dean and "The Winton Baby-Farmer".

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847, Minnie Dean moved to Southland, New Zealand, in 1868.


In 1872 she married Charles Dean. Fourteen years later, in 1886, they moved to a twenty-two acre ranch called "The Larches".

Shortly after the estate was destroyed by fire. A small house (22 by 12) was built. Minnie opened up a baby farm, a place where mothers could drop off their illegitimate children, no questions asked. The babies were cared for until an adoptive family could be found.

That was the pretense, at least.

In October of 1889 Minnie Dean was brought to the attention of the police after a six month old died in her care. In May of 1891a six week old girl also died. The causes of both were found to be natural; one of convulsions after taking ill, the second of inflammation of the heart valves and lung congestion. Infant mortality rates were high all around, and children often died of natural causes.

The investigation also found that she had tried, without success, to take out life insurance policies on several of the children.

In 1892 Dean was again under suspicion. Police in Christchurch apprehended a three week old that Dean had acquired from the mother for twenty-five pounds. They found her in a ramshackle boarding house feeding the infant curdled milk from a bottle.

In May of 1895 she was again brought under scrutiny -- this time for boarding a train with an infant and detraining without one.

Police searched her property and found the remains of two infants buried in the flower garden. They were both identified as babies two grandmothers had relinquished into Deans custody. Findings showed that one had died from an overdose of the opiate laudanum.

The skeletal remains of an older boy were later found.

The theory was that she had killed one infant on the train and placed her body into a hatbox. She then went and received the second infant, killed her, and wrapped her into a parcel. She left the train carrying both concealed bodies.

Minnie Deans trial began on the 18th of June, 1895. She was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 12th of August, 1895, Minnie Dean was brought to the gallows. She maintained her innocence.


She also became the only woman to ever be legally hanged in the country.

The story of Minnie Dean has since become somewhat legendary, with mothers threatening their poorly behaved children that if they didn't stop she would send them to Minnie Dean's house where they would never be heard from again.

For more information:
Crime New Zealand
New Zealand History

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Things I learned Today

This afternoon I had the pleasure of chatting with a very interesting individual I met at school last year. (A friend introduced us. Sorta. He is as bad with names as I am with social skills, I think.)

We have spent quite a bit of time talking about future plans, annoying subjects (and people), and - of course, because we are both female - our track record with men. (I won't go into that topic here, it is best saved for a night at the bar with some ice cold beer...)

Janice (she said I could call her anything, as long as it wasn't "HeyYouWithTheFace") taught me a lot about myself in the half hour or so that we were riding in the germ factory on tracks.

Lessons I Learned Today:

1. I am wonderful - in small doses. And only if you know me. Otherwise I seem like a cold-hearted and callous something or other.

2. Janice really hates graphic descriptions/depictions of bodily torment - or really, anything to do with the body period - and I am absolutely fascinated by them to the point I think I could have made her faint when demonstrating how valves in your wrist open and close.

3. Item number 2 will not prevent me from trying to show her again. (This is really not something that I learned today, per say, but it was something I had forgotten about until I tried it again...)

4. The idea of eyeball harvesting (a very integral part of my book) does not gross me out nearly as much now as it did when I first wrote about it.

5. Sometimes (more often than not), I don't think through what I am trying to say before I blurt it out stupidly in front of a table full of my peers. Very uncomfortable lesson here: shut up and learn to articulate your point. Duh.

6. (This is the bonus because 3 doesn't *really* count) I have learned that no matter what I have been through, I am not alone. I am not the first person to have been there. I will not be the last. Someone is always in more pain - which doesn't make mine invalid.  Today I learned that no matter where I am in the grieving process, there are always friends available to talk it out with me.

All that now filed away in my memory stores, I am hoping to learn from these lessons (or at the very least, make it seem like I have).

Question: Do you feel that it is important to discover at least one new thing about yourself daily, or are you satisfied with who you are?

**Update: Forgot to mention: Janice is in the health care field... Nope, I don't get it either, lol.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leonarda Cianciulli

Also known as the "Soap Maker of Correggio"

Italy --  1893 - October 15th 1970

Leonarda Cianciulli - From the Italy Wiki

Leonarda married Raffaele Pansardi in 1914. She had 17 pregnancies; 3 miscarried, 10 of the children died at young ages and the remaining 4 she was compelled to protect, since she had had her fortune told by a gypsy who warned her that all her children would die.

In 1939 her oldest son, Giuseppe, joined the army. In order to keep him alive, Leonarda started doing what she thought best: making human sacrifices.

The woman had three female friends, all lonely and who had asked her at some point or another to help them. They wished to escape from the grinding life that Correggio offered.

The oldest woman was Faustina Setti. She was promised a husband in Pola and told to keep it a secret. Leonarda had her write postcards and letters before she left telling friends and family that all was well. She was instructed to mail them on arrival in Pola. And then, before even getting a chance to leave, Leonarda killed her with an axe, cut her body into nine pieces, and gathered her blood into a basin.

Her body was dissolved in caustic soda and dumped into a septic tank. Her blood was used to make tea cakes, which Leonarda served visitors, as well as fed to Giuseppe.

Francesca Soavi was promised a job at an all girls school in Piacenza in the same way that Faustini had been. She was to keep it under wraps, write the postcards, mail them when she arrived. On September 5th 1939 she went to bid her friend and rescuer farewell. Leonarda killed her and sacrificed her.

Virginia Cacioppo had been an opera singer in her past. At 53, she was reduced to living an impoverished life in Correggio. Leonarda promised her a job in Florence and the woman accepted, under the terms that she could not tell a soul. On 30th September 1939, she too, ended up a sacrifice.

Leonarda turned her body into bar soap, which she gifted to neighbors and acquaintances. She also said, after her capture, that her friend had been much sweeter in the cakes than the others.

Virginia had a sister-in-law, who became suspicious of her disappearance. She had last been seen going into Leonarda's house. The sister-in-law went to the police with this information.

The murderess, when questioned, immediately admitted to the murders. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 3 years in a criminal asylum. She died in Puzzuoli, in the women's asylum, in 1970, struck down by cerebal apoplexy.

For more information:

Criminology Museum
The Italy Wiki

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I was sitting on the floor in the hallway a few hours ago, discussing a series of very random topics (math, 'Skinny Bastard' - the book by the authors of 'Skinny Bitches', vegan-isms, to name a few), when the weirdest thing I have seen in quite some time happened:

The fellow next to me reached into the pocket of his cargo pants, pulled out a blueberry waffle, said: "Yes! Breakfast! I forgot that was in there", and proceeded to eat it; lint and all.

There was no Ziploc bag, no Rubbermaid container, no paper towel protecting this poor lonely waffle from the unknown depths of said pocket. Just a hand reaching in, snatching it from the dark recesses, and then biting into it, sending it to a second dark and scary recess, where it would be reunited, eventually. In pieces. With teeth marks.

Waffle abuse, at it's most nefarious.

I am appalled. I need to go drown my sorrows in some waffles. Not from a pocket.

On the Bus

715 Monday morning and it was a cool 17 Celsius. I got on the bus. The probability that cramming so many people into one tin can on wheels could ever be safe is remotely slim. I should have waited, but I had left later than usual and needed to be places. On time. And looking half decent.

The bus could fit three more people before we all were standing on top of one another. So we took on another dozen.

Granted -- so early in the morning most people (myself included) seem to have a gap between their brain and spine. The buses in Toronto are one and a half levels. For whatever reason, no one wants to sit in the back upper half of the bus.

The driver kept telling us to move back. I can't. My bag is already on my feet, which are on someone else's feet.

The bus is  a lot hotter than it needs to be. There's fifty more people than seats -- can we not open the windows?

Apparently not. I wipe the sweat off my face, which only clears the area for more sweat. I can feel it trickle down my back. Really? I think. My clothes are going to be stank by the time I get off the bus.

I am neither a claustrophobe nor a germaphobe. But I think back to SARS (for which I was in beautiful, germ-free Nova Scotia). I think back to H1N1 (for which I was in lovely Canton, Ohio). Toronto has some four-ish million people. All of whom are on the bus with me. No wonder the outbreaks hit the city.

And of course, I am considering what all these microscopic germs look like, being sucked into my lungs. Floating into my bloodstream as though invited. Latching on to -- and attacking -- all of my defective cells (of which there are plenty; I do, after all, talk to people I claim live in my head).

So my mind is going like an out of control train barreling towards the end of the tracks.

And then I hear it.



Someone, big or small, had just signed my death warrant, voices and all. 


By now I am positive that I should be doing one of 4 things:

1. Stealing the face mask from the paranoid guy in his thirties a few seats down,

b. Looking around for the culprit to join in on the lynch,

3. Hyperventilating (which will only serve to speed the process of invasion along, so that gets ruled out), or

d. REMAIN CALM and wait for my stop. Then go home and bleach my entire person, inside and out.

I begrudgingly choose the first half of option d.

Begrudgingly. Because obviously I want to participate in face mask stealery. And I want to experience being in a lynch mob. (Hands on history, anyone?)

Needless to say, I get off at the subway station and continue with my day. No criminal activities to report, thanks ;)

ENDNOTE: I have since realized I look just as paranoid as Mr. Face-Mask since I posted about going to the doctors Monday night. I am not. It was a scheduled thing that had nothing whatsoever to do with viral outbreaks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Excuse me, Sir, But...

You're coughing in my face...

The idea of going into a germ infested office and then waiting with at least a dozen sick people for two hours so I can see the doctor about something that isn't contagious makes me break into a cold sweat.

The evening was spent doing just that. Sitting in the waiting room while the guy across from me hacked his lungs out without covering his mouth. The aisle is narrow. Coughing without a cover means he is coughing all over my healthy person.

My person now needs to be dunked into a vat of sanitizer. Or Clorox. First one and then the other?

So not cool, dude. We are living in the age of SARS, H1N1 and other stuff. Did the cold latch onto your brain cells and suck the common sense out of them? I for one do NOT want that to happen to me. Keep your germs to yourself!

Anyway... My rant for the day is done, mainly because I am exhausted and need to take my dog for a good walk.

What is your pet peeve?

Live with joy  ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Countess Erzsebet Bathory

Also known as Elizabeth Bathory and "The Blood Countess"

Hungary - 1560 - 1614

Elizabeth was born into a wealthy family from Transylvania in 1560.  Her uncle was Istvan (Stephen) -- the king of Poland.  Another uncle, Andras -- a Catholic cardinal.  A cousin, Thurzo -- Prime Minister.

She received a full education and in modern society would have been considered a tom-boy.

She was raised a Calvinist, despite her extended family's religious affiliations.

The Countess. Photo from

It was not uncommon for royalty to breed amongst themselves. As such, mental instability may have run in the family. As a child, it is known that she suffered from seizures and fits of rage. In later years she described eye and head pain that caused problems. It is thought that her father also suffered from similar symptoms.

In 1671, at the age of 11, young Elizabeth was already engaged to 16 year old Count Ferenc Nadasdy de Nadasd et Fogarasfold.  He would eventually become known as Hungary's "Black Hero" for his participation in battle. They had five children together -- the oldest 3 female, the youngest 2 male. The first son, Andras,died young (1596 to 1603).

In 1604 the Count died, leaving his wife to her own devices.

In between 1604 and 1610, Elizabeth committed such atrocities that to this day she is still considered to be one of the cruelest monsters in history.

With a small and close-knit entourage -- which included 4 women and 1 male -- the Countess wreaked havoc on the small surrounding towns and villages.  She was bloodthirsty, it was later said.  Her small contingent of friends collectively tortured and killed dozens of girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

The law caught up with her on December 29th 1610, in her castle.

The eye witness accounts suggest that the castle was littered with dead and dying girls -- most, if not all, of whom had been tortured in ways that even had the courts appalled, when it was recounted during the trial. (This is significant, since it was common practice for royalty to torture their servants.)

Her friends - the five who had participated in such heinous crimes alongside their mistress - were sentenced to death and faced the same torturous treatment that they had inflicted upon the girls: Their fingers were torn off; they were burned, stabbed, bitten, forced to tear off strips of their own flesh. Testimony at the trial indicated that even when the Countess was bedridden, she still managed to inflict pain ad suffering onto her victims with her fists and teeth. In some accounts it is said that she bit at least one girl to death.

In order to prosecute the Countess, a special statute was needed to strip her of her royal immunity. A second would be needed to execute her -- as king Mathias wanted. Her uncle, the Prime Minister, stepped in on her behalf, suggesting that she was insane and simply did not realize what she was doing.

Elizabeth was convicted of 80 counts of murder. In the second part of the trial a small journal was submitted as evidence. The journal was in the Countess's handwriting, and gave names and small details for more than 650 females. It could not be proven whether or not she had killed that many.

She was imprisoned for life in a tower in her castle. The entrances and windows were sealed with the exception of small slots to allow food and air. Parliament ordered  that her name was never to be spoken again in polite society.

The Countess died in her tower in the early hours between Sunday August 21st and Monday August 22nd 1614, after only 3.5 years imprisonment.

As far as the Countess lore goes -- it is said that she began her spree over blood. One day she struck a servant. The servant began to bleed. When the Countess -- a very beautiful woman -- washed it off her face, she noticed that the spots where the blood had been looked so much more youthful than elsewhere. That she bathed in the blood of virgins to protect her vitality is unsubstantitated.  Her files were sealed for more than one hundred years before anyone could access them. After that, the person who pieced the story together was a priest.

For more:

Countess Elizabeth Bathory - TruTV
Elizabeth Bathory  (There is a disclaimer on this site about the factual errors it contains.)
Infamous Lady

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jack the Ripper

I did not get my word count done yesterday.

Instead, I struggled through a math session that had me thinking that my brain has turned into primordial ooze over the summer. Add to that the enormous gap between my brain and my spine. Now we're talking.

The intention was there, really.

What I did instead was probably more painful. I stood in line ups for an hour and a half. Not for something interesting like concert tickets, either. Nay, I stood in the formidable lines so I could sit in class rooms and learn about grammar and quadratic equations. Who is super cool now?

In an odd twist of fate I also communicated with real people who were still breathing. Bet you didn't see that coming. Me either.

But enough about that...

I came across an article on Jack the Ripper yesterday, that I found interesting. And by "I found", what I ultimately mean is that Kathy Reichs posted it on Twitter and I happened to click it and find it interesting. I love reading about Jack. Morbid fascination, I suppose.

It has now been over 123 years since Jack hunted (and haunted). New evidence is suggesting that the Ripper may not have actually killed all five of those women.

The identity of Jack has always eluded law enforcement, specialists and Ripperologists alike. Now, modern technology is allowing us to get closer and closer to putting a face on the killer and putting the case to rest for good.

Once that happens, my curiosity may finally be satiated.

And now... Back to quadratics...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bribery. It Gets You Everywhere.

Years ago, when my son hadn't figured out the finer nuances of the English language (Read: still too small to talk), I had a marathon writing session for "Unclean". Start to finish - three weeks.

Towards the end of the manuscript, I was honestly bored with being in a closet and doing nothing but drinking coffee and writing, so I bribed myself.

I had really wanted to see "Mona Lisa Smile" and said to myself: "Self, how about we strike a deal? We finish the manuscript, and then we watch the movie." Thankfully I agreed with myself, and so it was settled.

Tossing the pen down at the end of the story left me with a great feeling of accomplishment, and I scurried out to the real world (AKA the living room) to treat myself to the movie that I had been waiting to see.

While good, it was NOT all that I expected.

Myself said, and I agreed, that we would never speak of the experience again.

So here we are, several years later, embarking on Book Two, in much the same fashion. This time we are using another Julia Roberts film as bribery (Eat Pray Love), but instead of traipsing blindly where neither of us have ever been, self and I watched most of it before we made our decision.

Unfortunately, there won't be a three week marathon session as there are too many other things I have to do -- like play video games and/or discuss them with my son, who is now eight and old enough to tell me that he thinks the dog is a pain in the rear, or that blah blah blah (insert something about Pokemon here).

Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself to know that I write best in the middle of the night when the house is creepily quiet, so I can see a lot of coffee being consumed over the next little while.

Now, time for a refill.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

There's Something in the Wall...

Last night I had a delightful encounter with my bed, pillow and blanket. The window was open, which, after a summer of heat advisories, no air conditioning and a fan with a mind of it's own, was so relaxing.

And then I heard the scratching on the wall.

At first I tried to ignore it. I was tired and comfortable. I wanted to sleep, not to go hunt for whatever was annoying me.

I thought it could have been something on my desk too close to the wall. It was a little windy. Maybe it was papers brushing and the sound was just magnified times a million. 

So of course, getting irritated, I hopped up, moved the items in question, and went back to bed.

You know that state of rest when you are half asleep yest still awake enough to process ANNOYING NOISES THAT KEEP YOU UP? Yeah, I'm familiar with that too.

I have a habit of freaking myself out over things that go bump in the night when I am in that state. And I have been writing Book Two. People drop dead. I had left my characters in the morgue doing their thing when I went to bed. Such a bad idea. I keep telling myself I'm going to stop doing that. I tell myself that I am going to read a book for the hour leading up to bedtime and leave someone elses characters in the morgue doing their thing.

That is yet to happen.

Anyway, the scratching continued and my mind was in over drive. Mice? We have a cat who keeps those out. Giant spiders? I think the dog would take an issue. A banshee? We're so not in Ireland. Probably a killer outside scratching at the window, trying to draw me outside. I'm on the third floor. In daylight that seems highly unlikely. In semi-sleep mode, however...

So what do I do? I get up, change so I look presentable when I meet my untimely demise, and go to investigate. (Yup - I am one of the idiots in a horror flick that I yell at for doing something just as stupid.)

I wonder if I should get a flashlight and if my teeth are clean enough. Should I stop and brush them on the way?

All this and I never made it outside. The dog was on my sons bed in the room right next to mine and in her sleep she was running. Her nails were scraping along the walls.

I moved her over and rubbed her head, then went back to bed, stopping to brush my teeth again.

Let's never speak of this again.

Catoblepas and Other Myths

No, that wasn't a sneeze :)

I ended up being at a loss for a solid mythical creature that causes blindness when you make eye contact. Apparently finding something was a must before I could continue with Book Two. At the time, I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what the snake was in Harry Potter (a basilisk, big fat duh).

While scanning massive amounts of content on mythical creatures I had never even heard of, I learned several things:

1.  A banshee does not actually shriek, she laments. And there are multiple types of banshee, the most common being the "friendly" and the "hateful".

This knowledge is forcing me to reconsider the statement that I use to describe female temper tantrums: "She screams like the loudest banshee in Ireland..."

2.  Even though I already knew this, a basilisk does NOT cause blindness. It causes death. (Except in Harry Potter, when it only puts you in a stone state if you see it's reflection.)

3.  Lilith was actually considered to be a goddess of fertility in certain mythological circles. Way weird - I don't recall ever coming across that in my research for Unclean.

4.  The Death's-Head Hawkmoth (I believe best known for its appearance in Silence of the Lambs) is still just as creepy looking as always. And also, as one legend has it, in France, it was believed that this harbinger of all things evil (war, death, etc) could cause blindness if the dust from the wing made it into the eye.

5.  Catoblepas ("The down looking") -- one of many new finds for me. A cross between a buffalo and a hog with a scaly back, the head of this beast always looked down; a good thing, since it was said that both the eyes and the breath would cause death. Or turn you to stone. (Like that is any better?)

I am not sure what is going to fit in best to the single sentence I need it for, but I sure am having fun reading the thousands of legends.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News Footage

From the age of 14 or so, I have been reading Kathy Reichs books featuring Temperance Brennan. More than a few years ago, the TV show "Bones" was aired and I have also become an avid fan of that.
Part of my morning ritual is to read the online news while drinking coffee on the back deck. (This will change when the weather starts to suck.) The other morning I happened across this article about feet washing up on shore in Vancouver. And so I thought... "That sounds strangely familiar..."

No doubt there have been news reports of this eerie event before. But I am more referring to the episode of Bones that I caught a few months ago, where Bones was forced to work with a Canadian foot specialist that she had shredded in the past over the feet that were washing up on shore...
Very weird...

Also weird:

We stopped at Ragged Falls on the way to Huntsville and saw this picture:

Seriously? I am amazed that there needs to be a sign for that. (Obviously they are preventing lawsuits, etc, but really...)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Epic Failure...

My niece got up this morning at the crack of dawn, got ready for school, and then went outside to stand in the nice crisp weather (it was 10 C) to wait patiently for her bus - all this without so much as a single whine.

This is progress. For the entire summer she has stressed herself out about starting in a new school, being the only girl in class (with 8 boys - but the saving grace here is that she has met the teacher in the transitional meetings and the teacher is also female and is excited to have a girl in her class), and wondering what the bus driver was going to be like (we had quite a few 'incidents' with the ones last year). She caught a cold over the weekend which normally makes any person pretty miserable.

She is starting the sixth grade in a passive behavioral classroom a few miles from home. She was placed there after the IPRC committee deemed this appropriate. (Passive bahvioral means that she has behavioral problems without the tendancy to be violent.)

After thirty minutes of standing out in the damp and chilly September air she finally came back inside. We called the bus company. Apparently the bus refused to start this morning and nobody thought it necessary to call to let us know. They said they would call back and let us know when they had sent a new bus for her. Score 1.

Two hours later we still hadn't heard anything, so we called the bus company back. They had no idea that she hadn't been picked up. Score 2. Is there any reason why we can't take her to school, they want to know. (Like, hello?) They will call us back when someone is coming to pick her up.

By this time she is getting a little grumpy - as is everyone else in the house. She normally can't remember what she was doing last week, but she remembers that on the first day of grade five, she was also late for school, because of the bus company. Score 3.

An hour after that, now resigned to her fate as being dubbed "the late girl" for the rest of her life (at least within the home -- because she lives with me), we call the company, for the third time. They still have no idea that she wasn't picked up. They have no idea that the bus is broken. And they will call us when someone is on the way.

I don't think so.

It was, at this point, after 1030 in the morning. She is getting irate. I am always irate, so really my mood is a moot point.

We take her to school to drop her off, but only after confirming that SOMEONE from the bus company will pick her up when school is finished. They don't see a problem with this arrangement.

How very nice of them.

Already forcing herself to remain calm and cheerful, she FINALLY gets to class only to find out that the teacher she met last year isn't actually the teacher this year. Score 4.

On top of all that (as if we needed to add insult to this injury), the school had no idea who she was and hadn't recieved a copy of her OSR (Ontario Student Record) from her previous school (the Epilepsy Classroom at the Hospital for Sick Children).  Check and mate.

I am chuckling to myself -- not at her misery, this time -- but at the total ineptitude and lack of organizational skills demonstrated here.

Home Alone.

It is Tuesday morning and I am at home. Alone. All by myself. (Yes, I have parts of that blasted Greenday song racing through my head...)

For the next few days (until Friday, to be specific), I will be surrounded by this glorious silence. The only nattering voices I will hear will be the ones in my head, while Andie and James hash out their differences.

I am (almost) in my own personal heaven.

Almost -- because heaven was the atmosphere on Hogan Lake when I started penning Book Two. M was taking an afternoon siesta, leaving me with the sound of the waves hitting the shore, the birds, the heckling chipmunks, and the bullfrogs in the swamp adjacent to our site. There was no reception (and I had left my phone in the car anyway). We obviously didn't have internet. I wasn't even wearing a watch. No time constraints, no distractions, nothing left to entertain myself. Just a pen and some blank paper... It was my personal writing heaven.

Today, in sub-heaven, I still have internet, still have a cell phone, and I also have a very annoying clock ticking over my head that I am about three tocks away from tossing out the window. I also have my dog who, while pretty mellow, demands some of my attention several times a day. (Not complaining, she keeps me grounded and makes sure I get some exercise.)

Enough distracting myself though, I am off to get some writing done.

Enjoy your first day with the kids back to school! (Unless back to school started earlier - as is the case in a lot of places... In which case, enjoy your kid-free day!)

The dog is happy - she gets the bed to herself ALL day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

How the System has Failed

Since 1989 I have had the privilege of getting to know someone with Asperger's. And to be honest, there are a lot of ups and downs. (And no, I'm not sugar coating this just because I know she will read it...)

When my sister was diagnosed with AS at about 8 years old, she was the only female in the Durham Region school board with it. Also, there weren't a lot of cases of AS in the area at all. Still doesn't really excuse how she was treated - 8 schools from JK to 12, simply because the administrators didn't want to handle her.

I recall one incident, when she was in SK. I was walking out of the school to catch the bus home and she came running up to me, crying. She wasn't allowed to leave until she could tie her shoelaces, I was told. All the other kids could tie theirs, why couldn't she tie hers? I took her little 6 year old hand and walked her out of the school. At 16, she finally learned to tie her shoes, but only after many more comments from people who make it a habit of passing judgement on others without fact finding first. (Such as the woman at the store who called her a "spoiled princess" when my mom stooped to tie her boot laces when she was 12.)

Fast forward over the years... She learned that if she didn't want to go to school, she could kick up a stink at school and wouldn't have to go. When she did want to go to school, the adults learned that they could push her buttons and she wouldn't want to go for very long.

These are the adults that kids are told to trust. If you cannot trust them, who else is there?

I have learned over the last two decades that the old cliched saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is one hundred percent true when paired with school board bureaucracy. The more kids are diagnosed with what are considered "invisible disabilities", the more training administrators and their staff can receive, the more we watch in the news about how blatantly ignorant they all still are. The only thing that has changed is that the media makes sure that what happens isn't hidden from the rest of the public.

The other day when I read this article, I was disturbed by the situation. What I can't understand is why the daycare let the situation escalate so far out of control that the police were actually needed.

Click here to go the article.

There are so many resources that can be made available to people who truly WANT to help children. Instead we medicate the child so they behave. We tell them to sit down, sit still, stop talking so much. Behave like everyone else.

How can a child like this grow into an individual and discover themselves when they are told to be like everyone else?

Do we not owe our children more?

Click here to learn more about Asperger's from the Aspergers Society of Ontario

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to School.

Life gets hectic here over the next few days. School starts for the kids, so it will be crazy busy and unreasonable the first week. By the second they will have eased into their routines and the house will be quiet for the first time since the fall.

I would love to use the silence as an opportunity to connect with my plotline. Alas, I will not be in the house to enjoy it.


What are you looking forward to when Tuesday rolls around?

I would love to hear from you!

Random photo to share:

The Boatmen warm up. Argos vs Rough Riders - August 18th at the Rogers Center.

M and I went to the Rogers Center to see "Grid iron" live while he was here. Bautiful day for it - they even opened the dome - and the Argos won! A great night to be in the city.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I love storms.

Last week we had a ridiculously long lasting storm that lit up the sky over and over again for hours. I had hoped that M would still be here to see a proper storm, but he had left to go to Calgary, Alberta, two days before. So I stood on the deck and filmed it for him.

The result:


Friday, September 2, 2011

Bad Day to be a Crab o.O

In July I mentioned that we had crabs - hermit crabs - that I had gotten my son as a last minute Christmas gift. (See:

I also discussed the untimely demise of one, CocaCola, my niece's very own crab.

Regrettably, last night my son's crab, StayPuff, also perished, alone in his crabitat, after a long and heroic battle with loneliness.

Rest in peace, StayPuff. You will be missed - if the kids even realize that you are gone.

Museums, Kiwi Drivers, and Bears, Oh My!

We spent a final night at the Holiday Inn Express in Huntsville, Ontario, on a pull-out couch. Really, it wouldn't have mattered if we had spent the night hanging upside in the bat cave. We were both just glad to be across the road from a Kelsey's where there was beer and steak (since the local Beer Store closed 2 minutes before we arrived).

After barely making the breakfast bar, we headed back to Algonquin Park to go the logging museum, the visitors center and the beaver pond trail.

Donald Lloyd's book ("Canoeing Algonquin Park" had given us both much historical information about logging in Algonquin and we wanted to check out what the park had to offer. The museum is history rich and a must stop if you want to see how the park was shaped into the beauty that it is today.

Camboose Shanty



Replica of a grave site - the fellow is actually buried somewhere else in the park.

We had read about the remains of an alligator on one of the lakes, about men dying in the frigid spring thaws. It was interesting to see the replicas that the Friends of Algonquin had put on display.

Last time I went to the visitor center I was a kid. I remember thinking it was so enormous that it took me hours to look at all the displays. So not the case. M and I watched the movie, looked off the observation deck, and spent 15 minutes checking out the displays. (It could have taken us longer, I think M just rushed through it because he was going to have the chance to drive my dad's van afterwards...)

View from the observation deck.

This is as close as we came to a deer or a golden eagle. We did see plenty of ravens and crows, though.

We went to the beaver pond on the way out of the park in a last ditch effort to see some beaver - no go, but we did get to see lodges, dams and meadows. It was a great day to walk the trail (probably because we weren't in the middle of nowhere so the weather decided to hold...)

Beaver dam.

We went to a garbage disposal area on the way home (by Kennisis Lake) and saw some black bear.

Closer to home we stopped at the Kirkfield Lift Locks (part of the Trent-Severn Canal System: Unfortunate that it was too dark for M to get many pictures, but he got the basic idea of how it works.

View from the top of the liftlock.

We arrived in Toronto after 10, exhausted, but stayed up until 6 in the morning recapping over beer. What a day! ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 10

Lake Opeongo - 4km paddle

Slept in because, frankly, we had nothing better to do. Got moving early enough and hit the Opeongo docks well before noon.

The waves were a little freaky. M - a dive master - is a lot more confident on the water than myself.

Lake Opeongo from our campsite right before we left.
Our ride picked us up just before 8pm and brought us to the Holiday Inn Express in Huntsville.

The greatest news - we survived. Both of us. And we are much better people for it.

Live with joy, and live fearlessly.