The Devil’s left Georgia, and has gone up to West Vancouver

Where she’s living in my house.

Yep, last September I sent my daughter, the Weird One, off to university in the UK , but the Demon Child returned home in April 2014.

courtesy iclip.art

courtesy iclip.art

How do I know?

She begged and begged and begged me to get her a summer job at the cafe down the hill, even though she had never worked in a restaurant or coffee shop before. And this was my absolute favourite cafe that I frequent a couple times a week.

Chat

courtesy iclipart.com

Somehow the universe and the stars all aligned and I came through for her; the manager of the coffee shop was an old friend and was looking to hire for the summer. And it’s a 15 minute walk down the hill – I didn’t have to drive her. But the manager soon found a new job and moved on. Meanwhile absolutely everything changed at the cafe and the working environment went totally downhill. For example, the new manager:

forced my daughter to work shifts with people she didn’t like or know

and 

scheduled her for three 8 hour shifts in 3 days thus interfering with her extremely busy social life

plus

she wasn’t allowed to wear Lululemon pants or Uggs!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

But this The Terrible Awful Mother told her to suck it up; I shared with her all the lousy summer jobs I’d had over the years and how I frequently worked two or more jobs at the same time so I’d have enough money for university. When those comments didn’t gain any traction, I told her I would cut off her credit card if she quit her job before finding a new one.

In the meantime my sister and I took our parents on a week long cruise to Alaska to celebrate their both turning 80.embarkation
Yes it was fantastic, but that’s the subject of another blog. Halfway through the cruise, in a very weak moment, I sent my daughter a text message inquiring how she was.

I should’ve known better.

She texted me back that she had quit her job, and predictably I SAW RED.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

When I asked what had happened, she told me that she had a panic attack at work because the environment was toxic and she wasn’t going to let me push her around. She called me names (really, really bad ones) and demanded my support (mentally and financially);  I told her to get a grip and figure out a plan to get another job. A few more choice words flew back and forth, culminating in a 1:00 am screaming match on the cell phone. In the middle of the Alaskan Inside Passage. She threatened to leave home and live with friends and I… I said that was fine. She could either stay, apologize and be respectful or go and live elsewhere.

Such a lovely spot of entertainment in the middle of a cruise far from home IMG_2759Although clearly not far enough!

Her parting words to me:

Honestly if something happens to me it’s all on you. And also after this I want NOTHING to do with you. 

But the very next text said: Can you please put the money on my credit card. I have no money to eat!!!  (despite the fact that I did a humongous food shopping trip just before I left)

And: I found a place on Commercial to stay for the month of August for $300. Can you please chip in.

cinnamonroll11-300x236

the Demon Child’s latest obsession which the coffee shop doesn’t sell

In the mean time The Demon Child revoked my friend status on Facebook.  But hey, it’s important to have your priorities right!

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who ya gonna ask…?

Who are you going to ask for directions, for recommendations, for tips when you’re travelling far far from home and you don’t speak the language?

Back in the day when my children actually kind of liked each other and kind of got along, we took them on a number of summer vacations overseas to Europe. In the months leading up to such trips I would overdose on travel books - Fodor’s, Frommer’s and especially DK Eyewitness Travel were my kind of porn, not to mention Conde Nast Traveler magazines and the TV show Rick Steeves’ Europe.

We generally rented apartments in the big cities for a few days, then drove our rental car (minus the dog) to the

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

agritourismo in Tuscany,Top-3 cottage near the sea in Dorset,103_0315_resizedgite in Provence,IMG_0210_resized
barge in Burgundy,
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gulet off the Turkish coastIMG_1537
where we lived just like the locals for a week or so.

Due to my incredibly thorough and never-ending research, we  I knew the recommended sites (the castles, cathedrals, museums)  to see and the top restaurants to savour meals (the local pubs, the tucked away bistros, the hidden tavernas.)

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Of course, this was before there was an app for all that.

However I have found out the hard way that the views expressed on Trip Advisor don’t always match my own, like the place in Miami Beach that came highly rated. Yes the location was amazing, but the service was virtually non-existent and majorly disappointing given our midnight arrival after 12 hours of travel time. Also the carpet sagged in many spots over strange protrusions, the bed was hard and lumpy and the pool staff &/or drink staff never materialized.

Now my daughter, the Weird One is absolutely, positively, totally the opposite of me – yes,  she does take after my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, although she’s more a seat-of-the-pants kind of gal, a go-with-the-flow bohemian babe with chutzpah.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

No planning or preparation ahead of time, no way!

For example when visiting Paris with classmates, in order to fully experience the city in all its glory, she went to confession at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Yeah, that one – the religious centre of France constructed 850 years ago. The thing is, we’re not Catholic – my kids were baptized in the Presbyterian Church but it’s been many years since we graced its doors.

But she didn’t go to Notre Dame to confess her sins…oh no, that would be too pedestrian, too…normal. No, the Weird One went to confession at one of the largest and most historically significant cathedrals in all of Europe, heck in all the world, so she could have a life chat with the priest.

And ask him exactly where to go and what to see in Paris.

Really! 

Can’t say I’d recommend this as a shining example of how to how to procure travel advice in a foreign country, but when you’re the Weird One, anything goes!

 

It happened

It happened and it’s kept me really busy.

  • my son, the Obnoxious One, survived third year university more or less in one piece, turned 21 and arrived home two weeks ago; one internship fell through but another better opportunity may just work out this summer…we hope397566_10201028718439486_4699414364402152008_n
  • my daughter, the Weird One, returned home in early April from her first year of university abroad, with a nose ring, numerous other new piercings ( 7 in one ear and 5 in the other), ombre hair, and a dread lock; amazingly enough she landed a job at a local coffee shop with a little help and turned 19 a few days ago1622392_10153969194690204_2067224220_o
  • My husband, the Original Obnoxious One, and I flitted down to Laguna Beach for several days, made a quick trip to New York and then visited Vegas for the first time  – this little tree-loving hermit is still reeling from the overwhelming sights and sounds of Vegas, and yes, the Original Obnoxious One is an amazing photographerIMG_0352
  • our cabin is for sale again
  • we took our house off the market for a month, then re-listed it last week with a different agent
  • we’ve had 6 showings plus an open house and unfortunately the 3 houses we really liked are all sold, but we’re still hopeful there’s something out there for us1
  • my parents turned 80 and I planned a cruise to Alaska next month for them, myself, and my sister – I can hardly wait!

    courtesy celebritycruises.com

    courtesy celebritycruises.com

  • I took on the role of Treasurer for a very interesting and creative charity and for the first time in decades found myself mired in journal entries, adjusting journal entries, year end procedures and an Annual General Meeting

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

  • I polished off the second season of House of Cards in short order – gotta love Kevin Spacey!10306475_708054889217280_2568578375498721271_n
  • I finally joined the ranks of thousands and became enthralled with Downton Abbey, I consumed all 4 seasons in short order,and yes, I do have a love/hate relationship with Netflxacfc64e0226d90026cc0d53d5067d11b

Of course life goes on whether I blog about it or not. And one day, one day soon, an agent or publisher will call me and  The Trouble With Queenie will be published. It will happen.

But in the meantime my dear darling children are behaving more like they’re 4 and 6,Top-15rather than 19 and 21, with lots of screaming, slamming doors and unflushed toilets.

Never mind. Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and the mountains and Franklinstein are calling my name. With any luck, the Obnoxious One and the Weird One will either kill each other or learn to get along. Frankly right now I don’t care which option they pick, as long as there’s progress.

Really!

So if I’m a writer, what do I write?

Here’s a sneak peek at the first page of my middle grade novel – please note that it’s draft # 341 and is likely to change at any moment. Really!

cartoon courtesy iclipart.com

cartoon courtesy iclipart.com

THE TROUBLE WITH QUEENIE

Chapter One – My First Day as Popular

So what if things didn’t turn out quite as I’d imagined on my first-ever day of school at Western Canada Prep. I could still rule W.C.P.S..  I really could!

This morning I’d been so excited to get started. The fancy school, perched high above the highway that snakes across West Vancouver, was much newer and nicer than my crummy old one, and I was 110% positive it was going to be amazing and the kids were going to love me. Yep, this year I was going to be super popular for sure!

Proudly sporting my brand-new blue SpongeBob backpack, I dodged the big shiny cars dropping off kids, zigzagged up the steep street, raced through the chatting and laughing people, and smashed into Mrs. Hope, the Headmistress. Why did she have to stand right in my way, guarding the doors of W.C.P.S.?

“Queenie!” said Mrs. Hope in her posh British accent with her hands on her hips. Her  big bug eyes behind ginormous gold-rimmed glasses, grey helmet-hair and giraffe-long legs, would scare most kids, but not me.  Not today. Last week Mom and I had met her and my teacher, Miss Parfait, when we had our tour of the school.

Mrs. Hope spoke slowly and carefully like I was in kindergarten instead of Grade 5. “Number one: no child shall cross the road by him or herself. Number two: no child shall walk up the driveway by him or herself. Number three: no child shall leave their car until the car reaches the yellow line in front of the main set of doors.”

What the heck?

I bit my lip to keep from arguing with her, and shifted from one foot to the other. My feet were really uncomfortable in these brand-new, black-leather shoes, and my uniform was so so so itchy and scratchy. I peered way way up at her face, which was totally serious. And even kind of mad. I gulped, blinked and loudly promised never to break those very important rules ever again. A couple of little kids giggled, pointed at me and walked way far around us. This was not supposed to be happening to me today.

“Don’t forget, Queenie. These rules are for the benefit of you and every other girl and boy at Western Canada Prep School here in West Vancouver. Please try to remember this is a fresh beginning for you.” Mrs. Hope must’ve talked to Mrs. Franklin, the evil principal of the public school I’d gone to in Ontario for the past five years. I’m sure she made up lots of nasty stuff about me.

Really.

Probably.

Okay, maybe some of it was true.

“Sure thing, Mrs. H.!” I said as I turned and zipped down the hall. Over the yelling and screaming kids, I heard her call out, “It’s Mrs. Hope, Queenie, and no running in the halls!”

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

Do you love it? Do you hate it? Let me know…really!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

 

Repeat after me: I am a writer, I am a writer…

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the business of writing, or rather the business of attempting to get published.

  • fine-tuning the manuscript for the umpteenth time
  • polishing and repolishing again the first three chapters
  • perfecting the cover letter

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

  • tweeking the synopsis
  • researching which agents and publishers in Canada, the US and the UK are looking for contemporary, humorous middle grade novels
  • reviewing submission guidelines
  • personalizing queries for said agents &/or publishers
  • following up with queried agents &/or publishers after 2 or 3 or 4 months
  • and drinking lots and lots and LOTS of lattes while performing all of the above

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

Lately I feel like research has taken over my life. It’s so so SO easy to lose  days hours Googling this that and the other thing, examining and liking new Facebook pages, searching sites about the publishing industry such as Quill & Quire, and reviewing various writing blogs.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

It’s essential to be aware of  what kind of middle grade books are selling, what kind are in demand, what kind are requested, so my analytical left brain takes over and asserts itself. After all, this is the side of the brain I have relied on for years in my finance and accounting career, as well as for my not-for-profit Board work. It’s also the side of the brain I’ve utilized for more than twenty years managing my creative and often hilarious, distracted and extremely unorganized family.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Somebody has to be in charge.

Somebody has to know what’s going on.

To date that somebody has always been me.

My kids say I’m nosy and bossy; they accuse my of creeping them and their friends on Facebook. Nonsense! I am simply curious and I seek knowledge about the world around me. Really! I’ve always been this way. When I was young, I used to ride my bike for hours all around my neighbourhood and beyond, examining the homes in our middle class suburb and imaging what kind of people lived there. I used to love canoeing around the lake where my parents’ cabin was, so I could check out the cottages and the shacks. (this was before the mansions arrived in Muskoka and beyond) Now in the summers I kayak up Indian Arm, close to shore, where the water is not so rough and of course, the cabins are easy to spy on observe.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

And I have a healthy imagination. When my kids accuse me of misrepresenting their actions, of distorting the truth in my blog, I point out the obvious – this is MY blog. If they want to tell their story, they need to write their own blog. Besides, far too often the truth really is stranger than fiction. I mean, what child of mine would express his/her loud preference for a basic youth hostel over a luxury hotel, and for public transit (buses, subways) rather than drive his/her own car?! While all the Sexy Moms of West Vancouverwell the ones who talk to me that isbrag babble about their nightly Skype sessions with their precious daughters, I smile and say nothing. After all, my daughter has been too busy to skype with her Terrible Awful Mother since the beginning of January, but somehow she has found the time to demand  repeatedly ask for money and help with essays. So I have to envision her and what she’s up to based on my knowledge of her personality – her nicknames The Demon Child and The Weird One say it all – and the photos she and her friends post on Facebook. 1900116_10153777830790290_647385992_nIf I exaggerate a teeny tiny bit when blogging, well that’s my prerogative. Besides who needs to stretch the truth when there is such wonderful material at my fingertips!

When I sit back and take stock of my abilities and proclivities, I think it’s obvious that I was totally meant to be a writer. After all, writers should be meddlesome curious in their daily lives – curiosity may have killed the cat, but certainly not the author. Writers must be stubbornly inflexible determined in their efforts to dream up create the perfect world for their story. The ability to spy on friends and family carefully observe and listen to everyone all the time is a vital aspect of the writer’s process, as is the act of daydreaming carrying out relevant research.

Please excuse me as I send this blog to each and every member of my family in order to educate them about the noble sacrifices I make on a daily basis to hone my craft, and how suited I am to my chosen pastime career. Now if only a publisher would agree with me. Really!

Dear Sexy Moms of West Van

Do I have your attention now?!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

This morning I ran into my favourite local coffee shop and grabbed a grande cafe latte, my little reward after a gruelling fitness class.

Yoga

courtesy iclipart.com

A group of you, whom I’ve known for years and years, were sitting and chatting at a table near the counter. One of you glanced up, smiled and said hi. Your friends ignored me, but hey, one out of three is actually pretty good.

You see, yesterday I met two long-time friends, also moms of classmates of my kids, for coffee. Yes, we drink a lot of coffee and lattes in West Van,  at least I certainly do!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 You were sitting at small tables on either side of us, and our children – yours and mine –  also went to school together. But this time not one of you looked at me. Not one of you said hello. And I was hard to miss ’cause I was wearing a bright yellow top and even brighter yellow running shoes.

Now we all live in the same small community of West Vancouver, which has a population of roughly 42,000. Yeah, it;s a pretty tiny town. West-VancouverFor ten years our kids went to the same small private school, where there were at most 80 kids per grade. Over the years, you and I sat across from each other during tons of parent/teacher meetings and numerous class mom meetings, attended seasonal school plays and concerts together, and ran into each other at the local shopping mall, grocery store, and 7-eleven.  Our kids played soccer and tennis  and softball together, and learned to swim at the same pool. Our families still frequent the same sports facilities in West Van and ski at the same mountains.

So why can’t you just say hello?

Is something wrong with your eyesight?
Do you lack peripheral vision?
Is there a recent medical abnormality that prevents you from smiling?
Has your long-term memory been dramatically affected lately?

Look, you don’t need to worry about me – I don’t want to be your BFF. I don’t want to be invited to your parties. I don’t want to go on vacation with you to Whistler or Maui. I especially don’t want to steal your husband. Absolutely not! And  I don’t even want my children to date your children.

But I would kinda like to feel like I exist, like I am visible.

So would it kill you to meet my eye occasionally, and smile or say hi, especially when I’ve said hi to you so, so so many times in the past before?

Really?!

You did what??

Usually this is something I say to my kids and occasionally my husband, but not this time.

It was the third day of the cruise my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, and I took after New Years to recuperate from our traumatic holiday experience with our kids.  (see Happy Belated New Year.) The trip began in South Beach in the pouring rain – warm rain, but nevertheless, rain. The sky cleared somewhat for the first evening of the cruise, but then clouded over and the deluge commenced in earnest.  This time the rain was not warm, but frigid and the wind was blowing furiously. We had purposely chosen a minuscule smaller, less expensive room as we assumed the weather would be wonderfully sunny and warm, no hot, the entire ten days.

Bad call.

Our first port of call was La Romana, Dominican Republic and my husband and I were desperate to get some real exercise – not in the gym, but out walking in the real world, like we do at home in West Vancouver. So we stepped off the ship, into the 85 degree heat and humidity. By the way, anything above 75 degrees is considered a heatwave in Vancouver, and humidity in the summer is non-existent.

We walked  through the town

courtesy Latin America News dispatch

courtesy Latin America News dispatch

to the colourful market.IMG_2630Next we marched single file along the highway and railway tracks to the high-end, ultra-exclusive sporting resort of Casa de Campo.IMG_2623 I’d read about this place in several magazines and was rather intrigued – I knew there were a couple of golf courses, some very high-end villas, and that Oscar de la Renta had done the interior design.

We very politely yet confidently made our way to the Owner’s Entrance to enquire about a resort day pass, since we wanted our presence to be totally official and legitimate.

IMG_3272

Inside the very tastefully done, air-conditioned Owners Office we approached the extremely attractive, perfectly coiffed and beautifully made-up local receptionist. She glanced  up from her computer and saw a rather dusty, dirty, sweaty couple – water was actually flowing in rivers off the Original Obnoxious One’s big bald head, and I was way, way beyond the glowing stage. When we asked how much a day pass was, she glared at us and said $30 US each. We requested a map of the resort and asked her to recommend a route we could walk.

“Walk? Walk? You can’t walk here – Casa de Campo is 7,000 acres and contains over 1,700 private villas. Where’s your car?”

“We didn’t bring one.”

“Well, where’s your taxi?”

“We don’t have one.”

“How on earth did you get here?”

“We walked from the cruise ship, after going downtown.”

You did what??? But that just isn’t done?! You must drive around the resort as security will not allow you to walk. No one walks!”

So we hired a taxi for $35 to drive us around Casa de Campo and its three golf courses, 3 practice golf ranges, 3 polo fields, various horse trails and jumping rings, 13 tennis courts all with a spectacular view of the sea, shooting center on 245 acres with over 200 stations for trap, skeet and sporting clays, not to mention 3 beaches lw1930_46741576_790x490and water sports such as kayaking, fishing, sailing and snorkeling. Let’s also not forget the Marina which is modelled after Portofino and accommodates boats up to 250 feet,IMG_2634Altos de Chavon  the fake 16th century Meditteranean village, as well as more than a dozen bars & restaurants, and the 5 star hotel and spa.

After more than an hour driving through some of those 7,000 acres, we decided we’d had enough. Was Casa de Campo the preferred Caribbean jet set getaway as promised on the Leading Hotels of the World website? Maybe, even probably. Will we be staying there anytime soon? Never say never, but…we really like to walk, hike or run when on vacation. Just call us those crazy Canuks.

Really!