Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Strike

Okay, I'm going to own up to this, even if it might alienate a few people. I know it's alienated my kids when I've said it before:

I freaking hate Halloween.

Stupidest holiday EVER.

I don't like to be scared. I don't like spiders. I don't like having to stockpile candy that tempts me, hubby or my kids if I buy it too early or that stresses me out by buying it too late so I have to pay exhorbitant amounts of money when it's going to be half price the next day. I don't like fake cobwebby things on my bushes (I like to make my house look nice not run down!) I don't like carving pumpkins (messy, yucky inside stuff!). I don't like teenagers who are way too old to be asking for candy standing on my front porch with a stupid hat or old mask on as their limited attempt at costuming grunting out: Trick or treat. I find that threatening. Not cute. Most of all, I don't like feeling like a Halloween scrooge if I say I don't like Halloween.

What DO I like about it?

Well, I am a fan of zombie movies and there's tons of them to be seen at this time of year (zombies aren't scary - just gory). I do appreciate the art that goes into carving pumpkins. How do they DO those designs? Mine always look like a squirrel has gnawed on the outside shell and I've just forgotten that there's a half-chewed squash sitting on my front step. But I especially like that it's usually my husband who has taken the kids out over the years and I've stayed at home giving out the candy to cute little ones in costume while sipping a glass of wine in between door bell rings.

So this year whenThe Boy asked me: When are we putting up the halloween decorations? I thought: No. I'm on strike this year. It's one more thing I don't want to do and I don't even LIKE doing it. I grumbled and said, "Meh. We're still at the rental. I don't want to haul out the box. Can't we just have a pumpkin? I got that today! And I got the candy too!"

But not even the thrill of having several boxes of candy available made the disappointment of not having Halloween decorations more palatable. He looked at me with those big, brown eyes and said: "Can't we at least put the shaking skull outside? It scares EVERYBODY, Mom."

Sigh. "Okay. We can put up the shaking skull. But that's it!"

A little smile. "Isn't the shaking skull inside the box with all the other Halloween stuff?"

Sigh again. "Yes. Yes, it is."

A shrug. "So maybe we can put up the witch, and the skull with the flashing lights for eyes, and the scarecrow and the…"

I need a union.

And just to prove I'm not all that grumpy, here are a few pictures of amazing Halloween pumpkins my friend emailed me. These I DO like. What about you? What do you hate/love about Halloween?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

That 'In Between' Time

There comes a time in every writer's life when they are 'in between' projects. Okay, not if you're Nora Roberts who's like a writing machine but I'm talking about regular Joe Blow writers like, well, moi. It's the time where one project is done and out the door but the next project is not quite coalesced in your head so it is a time for peering up from the paper/computer and blinking in fascinating wonder at the world around you and saying: Whoa. It's Fall?? When did my kids get bigger than me? Yikes. Look at that laundry. I think a new life form is growing under those towels there.

Used to be I'd finish that one project and almost immediately start another one. But whether it's a result of less pure in-between time (working on edits or various other things for the book that's coming or already out there, blogging, facebook, twitter, etc makes for less empty time) or maybe it's because I'm getting really picky about what ideas I'll develop (damn that 'marketability is important' voice in my head!) or maybe it's just knowing how much time writing a book takes and I'm putting it off, whatever it is, now I really treasure the in between time. It's a time to recharge and do something with my time besides writing. Oh wow, did I start that cross-stitch Santa stocking for The Boy ten years ago?? Um, maybe I should work on that a little. Whoa, when's the last time I shopped for clothes? Oh, dear, winter is coming and I need boots!!! And there is that little thing called the reno. Hmm, eventually the house will be done and it will need furniture. Need to start looking now...

So my in between time is already filling up. But notice that it has nothing to do with words. Doing all that other 'stuff' that's not writing really makes me appreciate the time when I dive back into the words. I will have missed them terribly by then and, like coming home after a long vacation, I sigh with pleasure as I sink back into my familiar, comfortable, always untidy, house.

How about you? Do you take that in between time to do different things and what are they? Or are you a back to back writer who can't let the words alone for too long else you go crazy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Photographs and Memories

Something awful happened yesterday. Not awful in the sense of life threatening or earth-shattering but awful in my son's world. He accidentally deleted a few years worth of images and videos from our digital camera.

He was devastated.

No matter how much I assured him that we had other videos, other pictures I couldn't really reassure him that all the events captured within this one camera were captured by others. He felt like a part of his past had been deleted as well and he could never retrieve it again.

My son's generation has had almost every moment of their entire lives captured on camera You'd think with so much footage this deletion wouldn't have been a big deal. But for The Boy, having his personal history and memories there in a physical form - in some way - is reassuring. It made me wonder: has our reliance on pictures and videos become more important than the family history we share verbally?

I have some photos of my childhood. An average number I guess. Not so many when I was first born and those photos are certainly precious to me. But it is the stories told to me by my parents that are more important. Luckily those can't be erased so easily (let's hope my brain keeps them for as long as possible anyway!)But the incident yesterday made me think hard about the role pictures have in our lives. In fact, one of the themes in THE BREAK has to do with how photos can help release memory and connect people. But by themselves, without memory to help tell the story, the photographs eventually mean nothing. Here's an example.

My husband inherited a very old family photo album from his father who had it handed down from some cousin or another and none of those pictures or the people in them mean anything to us. Even if those photos had captions saying who they were it wouldn't mean much to me because there wasn't a story - a memory behind the photo - that had been told to or written down for us.

So, I understand The Boy's sadness at the loss of all those pictures and the stories behind them. But, as I told him last night, what's more important are the memories you keep inside you - not on some digital camera. Still, it never hurts to download a camera a little more often. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We interrupt this regularly scheduled writers blog to make a public service announcement. On top of all the things I love about October (Fall! Wedding Anniversary! No Humidity! Leather Boots!) I also add Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honour of this most important month, I have changed my background blog post colour from green to pink and I'm posting some stats on breast cancer we all should be aware of (courtesy of the metro "think pink" columns appearing in the Toronto metro news this month):

An estimated 23,200 women in Canada were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 (an increase of 500 from 2009) and 5,300 died from the disease.

On average, 445 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every week.
One in nine (or 11 per cent) Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime (by age 90).

Personal note: my mom was 73 when she was diagnosed in 2010 through a routine mammography. She is currently breast cancer free. My mother-in-law was 49 when she was diagnosed in the spring of 1975. She passed away in November of the same year leaving behind a devastated husband, 12 year old son and 16 year old daughter.)

At present, the five-year survival rate for female breast cancer in Canada is 87 per cent (84 per cent for men) which means women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 87 per cent likelihood of living for five years after their diagnosis.

Breast cancer death rates have declined in every age group since the mid-1990's.
Of the women who undergo mammography screening, about five per cent are invited for a return visit; of these, 90 per cent are given a clean bill of health and 10 per cent undergo further investigation.

An average of one in 2,500 women investigated will undergo surgery for breast cancer.
About 88 per cent of possible cases are detected by mammography.

Think about how far we have come. Think about how far we have to go. Think about your mom, sister, wife, daughter, granddaughter, son, husband, grandmother, grandfather, grandson, and friends who are touched or might be touched by cancer. Do everyone a favour: Get tested. Survive. For all of us.