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Closed Doors, a novel.

Doors are made to be opened.

At thirty-four, single mom Larissa Malone still feels guilty over her teenage pregnancy. Raising her twins alone, she’s strived for an orderly and stable family life. As a result, men have been few and far between.

But Michael Healy knows exactly what Lari needs and how far she’ll go to get it. Easily persuaded, she agrees to a series of sexual encounters with this near stranger who lives life in the fast lane, and whose passion in and out of the bedroom keeps her coming back for more.

Everything seems perfect in this erotic liaison where fantasy becomes reality, until Larissa finds herself thrust into the middle of a grisly police investigation Read More

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Eggslut service.

I was in Vegas three weeks ago, at the Cosmopolitan. We had breakfast at Eggslut, located inside the hotel. Side note: if you are in Las Vegas, eat breakfast there. I’m not kidding. I had the Fairfax, with avocado, should you be curious.

Now, I’m not a customer service specialist but while waiting for my order I watched the crew at work. I counted nine employees behind a counter approximately thirty five feet long. One person on cash, one calling out names for pick up. The rest on preparation and cooking. And I couldn’t help thinking that if this were back home, there would be two maybe three employees; not keeping up and exasperating customers (through no fault of their own). They’d rush, leading to order errors and more customer dissatisfaction. The owner would lose patronage and eventually close. Here the clincher: it would be someone/something else’s fault. Suppliers’ costs, customer fickleness, no tax breaks. Whatever, whatever.

It’s not. It’s cutting service at one end and the overpriced attempt to gouge customers at the other. It’s not giving the product and service your price demands. It’s acting like you have the monopoly on something when you don’t and even if you did I’d forgo it, if only to spite you. I’d find someone else, somewhere. And believe me there is always someone, somewhere who has better understood the balance between price and quality.

Eggslut cost $46.68 for 3 people. It took fifteen minutes at most from getting in queue to starting to eat. The food was excellent, the service amazing and lady on pickup apologized for the wait. As if, they were serving people non stop. If you were to ask me if I’d fork out this kind of cash back home my answer would be: Can you give me what Eggslut did?

I’m not a marketer, but I am a customer. We know what we like.

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All of it.

The day before yesterday, the train I take to work struck a man. I’ll be brief with the details: early morning darkness, deserted part of the track, he did not survive his injuries, it was ruled a suicide.

As we waited to transfer to buses, people were on their phones, reading, or talking and laughing amongst themselves. Meanwhile, first responders worked to get the victim out from under the train.

And for a brief moment, perspective shifted and I was afforded that glimpse of life as a whole; when you see everyone as making up one single entity. Humans going about their lives. Some happy, some sad, most in between. People coming into this world, people going out, wanting to stay, wanting to leave. Each of us on different paths, all headed to  that same inevitable destination. It makes existence terribly insignificant and terribly important at the same time.  Life is short, live well.

 

 

 

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Never look back

In my novel, Michael is a character who firmly believes in leaving the past behind. So much, he’s christened his boat Never Look Back. He’d tell you it’s pointless. You can’t change any of it. And we have the nasty habit of wearing those rose-colored glasses that make all the other outcomes seem wonderful, had we made any of the other choices. Learn the lesson and move on, he’d say. If there is no lesson, if fate has conspired against you, move on faster. And fuck her.

I should have guessed by her name, though. She’d been christened Never Look Back. Closed Doors

It’s a rush to write characters like that, who uncompromisingly go forward, no regrets, no what-ifs, no beating yourself up. Oh, to be of this ilk.

Several years ago, in preparation for a job promotion, a mock review board was set up to help us practice. I pulled a fail of epic proportions. The kind it takes more effort to accomplish than succeeding. I missed cues, overlooked urgent matters, got priorities wrong. If it had been real-life someone would have died. Of course this was in front of everyone else so ‘we could all learn from watching each other’. I remember sitting in my car after trying to regroup, fighting that dreadful mix of shame and humiliation (no, they’re not the same, which is cool because you get to experience both…).

The memory didn’t go away overnight. It would come back unexpectedly, mixing up a cocktail of those awful feelings that poured into my heart like black ink. But I’ve become more resilient over the years. I move on faster, integrating learn it, know it, live it.

You can, literally, stop thinking about a mistake you’ve made. You can replace that memory with another thought. It can be a mantra, a prayer, an affirmation or naming all fifty-two states. This ability can be strengthened like a muscle. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing characters who inspire me and keep looking ahead.

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Filled and fulfilled.

I woke up last January first with the word “fulfilled” in mind, but couldn’t remember the message, if there was one. So it sat there, on the back burner.

Now, with summer holidays over and we return to work and school, and I listen to accounts of summer weeks filled to the brim with activities and outings and trips, the meaning of fulfilled comes to mind again.

I think a lot of us confuse fulfilled with plain old filled. Filling your schedule, filling your days, filling your time is not fulfillment. Busy is not fulfilled. Busy is keeping yourself occupied.

If quantity trumps quality, if your motto is something like “As long as I keep moving I’ll be OK”, if sitting still makes you twitch, perhaps this is you. And then there’s the need to share it; telling everyone everything you’re doing. There’s a validation component here that’s important. Where does the need to validate comes from? Doubt. The suspicion that running flat out all the time isn’t how is was meant to be.

Perpetual movement belies questing. And a quest is a search. No sooner is one thing done the next must be started. The search continues. Satisfaction is short-lived. Eventually it disappears.

Life shouldn’t be a constant uphill climb. It should have plateaus. You reach one, stand there, look at how far you’ve come, feel proud, maybe have a nap and then clamber onto the next one.

 

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I am perfect.

If any living creature can claim perfection, it’s a baby. Of any species. They’re brand new and in their eyes the world is too. Babies don’t dislike or judge; they aren’t cynical or jaded. They don’t have the experience that makes them suspicious of people or situations. Even when they get scared or cranky, it’s just newness overload.

When he lands in my lap I hug him close. “Babies are so perfect, aren’t they?”
“He’s quite a charmer, but headstrong. Takes after his godfather, wouldn’t you say?” She looks at me expecting a response. “Michael’s his godfather. We had the baptism in December, a week before Christmas. He didn’t tell you?”
“Um…I guess I forgot.” The little one settles against me, a warm compact weight that fills me with gladness. I give him a crayon.
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t eat it,” says Marie gravely. (Closed Doors, chapter 24)

They’re kind and trusting in a way only the truly innocent are. They aren’t worried about what others think or how they look. Or how you look. As long as you’re not too far off the norm. Babies, human and animal, have a not so subtle way of pointing out someone who is not of, shall we say, average appearance. But unlike the rest of us, they adapt pretty quickly.

In fact, I don’t think they have that constant babbling voice we develop somewhere along the line. The one that, on a good day, sounds like an overprotective mother who had children later in life or, on a bad day, a meth-smoking conspiracy theorist.

The curious gal in the photo is always happy to see anyone who stops by. I suspect she’s hoping for a treat. But if not she’ll settle for giving you a chomp just to see how you taste.

If you’re curious: Closed Doors (read more here)

Photo credit: the author

 

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Learn it, know it, live it.

When I was a kid, it was uber-cool to be able to do something other kids couldn’t because you’d get to say “Learn it, know it, live it”, meaning you’d put in the work and now that’s what you were all about. Usually it had to do with the perfect lay-up or free throw.

Those words came to mind again when I thought What if changing the way you saw things followed the same simple pattern we set forth as kids playing basketball? What if the idea, for example, that happiness is your birthright became a maxim you lived by? Most of us were taught happiness is aleatory, temporary and merited. And what about letting go? Who hasn’t said that at least once but wound up dwelling (usually at 4 a.m.), mentally reviewing (a subset of dwelling) and covertly trying to coax fate into following our plan?

Discovering an idea or concept is the learn it. And it can end there, settling at the back of your brain without making an impact. To hear is one thing, to adhere is another.

Then getting to know it. Putting it into practice, trying it out for size. At first you have to remind yourself. Sometimes you forget, mess up and go back to the old pattern. You don’t notice you’ve strayed right away. After a while you correct course faster.

When that idea is ingrained it is your new mind-set. It’s the way you are now. You live it.

Photo: Pixabay.

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The Grey Nuns

Canada turns 150 this year but Montreal was founded in 1642, long before Confederation of 1867. The French were the first Europeans to arrive to this land they named Nouvelle-France. Along with explorers were religious clergy. Congregations sent members to begin new chapters and as the numbers of settlers grew and the population swelled, so did the novices joining their ranks.

Eventually Montreal produced its own religious congregations. In 1737 a small Catholic association formed to help the poor. It grew into the order of the Sisters of Charity of the General Hospital, or the Grey Nuns as they came to be called. How the nuns came by their unofficial, and originally derogatory epithet, is a story so interesting Read More

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The best thing ever

One of the best things I’ve done in the last while was starting to meditate. No, seriously. After reading the umpteenth study lauding the benefits I figured “Let me try”.  I mean if it fixes so many things surely I’ll benefit from a few.

I’m pretty calm to begin with, I don’t stress out easily. There’s no trauma or addiction issues in my life. Things are pretty OK.  So what would meditating really change? Holy crapolini…let me tell you.

Meditation increases equanimity. That feeling of evenness where you don’t get really angry, or really sad or anxious. Food cravings disappear. People grate on your nerves less. At first it felt like I didn’t care anymore. Things weren’t getting to me, driving me insane. No more ups and downs. It took a more experienced meditator to name it. That’s how alien evenness of mind was to me.

Because when you remove the extremes you make room for the contentment that comes through equanimity. You are not getting over, or calming down or rising up. You just are and it feels the way life is supposed to feel. Easy.

It is any wonder the word mediation, meaning intervening in a conflict to bring about reconciliation, and meditation are nearly identical?