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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

A new year is dawning. An old year is setting. We're in the twilight of 2013 and 2014 and at a moment when we wonder what the new year has in store for us. It's when we reflect on what has been, we reminisce about the good times and try to forget the bad times. Father Time moves in one direction and one direction only. He is forever moving forward and taking us with him. No matter how hard we try, we cannot turn around and go back. We cannot change the things we did, the things we said, or the things we didn't say and do. Father Time simply does not let us. He continuously closes the door behind us and doesn't give us the key to get back in. However, he is always standing by ready to open the door to the future. He closes the door to the past and opens the door to the future. He reminds us to look ahead.

While we're looking ahead, we think of ways to make the future brighter. We make resolutions. Well, I gave up on making resolutions a long time ago. Instead, I give myself a list of things I want to do or make happen. I list them as wants; that way I don't feel as bad for not fulfilling them. After all, they were things I wanted to do than commitments.

My first want, is actually a goal. As many of you know, my passion is writing. Well, I have set myself a goal of writing 100,000 words by this time 2014. It seems like a lot, but if it's broken down, it's only about 274 words per day. Plus, doing NaNo in November and Camp NaNo in April and July will eat up a good 50,000 of those words (if I stay on par). So, 100,000 words is quite doable. And if I meet that goal before 2014 is over, I may raise it.

My second want is in the same vein as my first one. I want to devote as much time as I can working on my Pangaea Trilogy. Over the last few weeks, I've, sadly, neglected it. I am hoping to give it the attention it deserves in the coming year.

My third want is something I plan to put into action as soon as I can. Well, technically, this is a need rather than a want, but since this needs to be done soon, I'm including it here. I need to find myself a second part-time job; the one I have now isn't enough. But, there is a bigger reason...

For a long time, I have had a dream to live abroad for at least a year. Well, a few weeks ago, I made a decision to make that dream a reality. Before I am thirty, I want to live in Ireland for a year. My family, on both my maternal and paternal side, originated in Ireland, and I've always wanted to visit my ancestral home. Now, I'd like to live and work there for a year. My plan is to go some time in 2015, but first I need to save up as much of my money as I possibly can.

As 2013 draws to a close, remember that this year will soon be last year and in the past. It is time to let go of any ills, regrets and missed opportunities from 2013, and prepare to hold on tight to what will come in 2014. May your 2014 be all it can be.

There are some of my wants for 2014.

What are your wants and desires for the coming year?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love Winter. I love all the seasons, and while the transitional periods between Spring and Summer, and Summer and Fall are my favourite times, Winter has a special place in my heart. Maybe it's because I can see my breath, or because I love winter fashion. Maybe it's the memories of playing on snowbanks in the school yard in elementary school, and building a snowman with my dad at my grandmother's house. Maybe it's because I love hearing Christmas music being played in the malls... Maybe it's simply because I love snow.
A mid-December snowfall.

Snow on a tree at night. (This one refuses to shed its leaves.)
The day after the snowfall.

Snow on a pine.

There is something peaceful about freshly fallen snow. Snow seems to make everything, even a big city like Toronto, look pretty and tranquil. I love seeing snow sitting atop trees of pine and spruce, and blanketing window sills and roofs. I love walking by houses at night and seeing the snow sitting on top of Christmas lights. I love passing the properties of people who really get into the Christmas spirit and decorate their lawns to the nines. There is a house not very far from where I live who does his house up every year, and the street is always lined with cars and people who come by to take a look. There is this street near Bownmanville where homeowners have their houses decorated professionally. My family takes a drive by it every Christmas Eve and we're always awestruck at the works of art that are on display during this time of year.

Christmas is a very special time for me. It's the time when I gather with family and catch up on time lost over lunch and gifts. It's a time for reflection and hope for the future. It's when we remember those who are no longer able to physically celebrate with us, and give our thanks for those we are able to celebrate with.

With the busyness of the season, I may not get in another post before the new year, so, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the Spirit of Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/Kwanza/whatever you celebrate this time of year be with you and may the new year bring you happiness and all you wish for.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The End of a Chapter

Well, as of a few hours ago, NaNoWriMo officially came to a close. Before you ask,No, I did not make my 50,000 word goal, but I did make 28,000, which is 10,000 more than what I finished with last year. As the year prior, this year's adventure was full of happiness and frustration, laughter and terror. The first few seconds of NaNo are always daunting because that blank page (or the beginning of that new chapter of your work in progress) seems to sneer and jeer at you; it believes you cannot do this mission you have commited yourself to. But, you get over this hurdle the only way you know how: you write the first word, and then the next, and the next... until you have a whole 300 word scene written. You've just proven that blank page wrong. You have just written 300 words it told you you couldn't. But now, you have to keep writing.

If you're anything like me, you had days when you were lucky if you wrote maybe 400 words. It may not seem like a lot, but you were awesome because that's 400 more words than you had the day before. You are allowed to celebrate these victories, regardless of how small they are.

If you're anything like me, you relied on the support of others to spur you on to write the next 100, 500, 1,000 words. And because you relied (perhaps heavily) on that support, you tried to give it back in spades. To all of you; my fellow WriMos, as well as anyone who asked me how my writing was going, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those who said I was crazy, I thank you, too because you are part of the reason I partook. I may not have hit my 50,000 word goal, but I have 28,000 more words (spread out over 3 stories; my Trilogy and two fanfics) than I did on October 31st.

If you're anything like me, you went to a few events over the course of the month. I went to 8 write-ins (including one final one on the last day), the Kick-off party and the Overnighter. I will be going to the Thank God It's Over (TGIO) for one last shindig with the awesome like-minded people I have come to know over the last two years of NaNo. Many of these people I continue to talk with and occasionally meet with when the shenanigans of November are no longer going.

And, if you are anything like me, you are both grateful and sad to see NaNo end. I am happy because there is no longer the pressure there was to write (though, I will never stop writing). But, I am sad because NaNo is such an awesome experience, one that, I think, every writer should go through at least once. It is daunting, exhillerating, constricting and liberating all at the same time.

To those who made their 50,000 mark, congratulations!

To those who wrote more than the 50,000 mark, congratulations.

To those who fell short, congratulations!

Whatever you finished with is more words than you had when you started this thing a month ago.


You have all done something amazing. You have written something. It may need some heavy editing later, but you have written something, and that is an amazing feat in itself. For me, just writing is an amazing feeling in itself. I get to say what I need to say, I get to tell the story I need to tell. That is the most important part about all of it. I am doing what all of my favourite authors are doing. I am telling a story. Nothing more, nothing less. No one can ask any more or less of me. Or of you.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Everybody Needs an Anthem

Music is a universal language. It is timeless, it is thought provoking, it is passion personified. Music provides us with an escape, it can strengthen bonds between people, and it lets us know that we are not alone. That being said, everyone has their favourite genres and their favourite artists. Every night I get to spend to physically spend with my favourite bands is a special night.

Saturday night, I got to spend my evening with my all-time favourite band, Hanson. I can't begin to explain why they are my favourite band; they just are. The musician in me loves the fact that they write their own songs and play their own instruments (and play more than one), and the humanitarian in me loves their charity work. And the insane fan in me is willing to wait 24+ hours at the venue with my ticket to get the best spot I can for the show. I arrived at The Danforth Music Hall at around 7pm Friday evening. There were already 7 people in line, and two of them let me sit in their car until security let us line up camp out at 1:30am. The security guard, who was there for the previous night's shindig, was awesome. He gave us hand-warmers and two pillows. The pillows were old and stained, but they were a godsend. I spent the night in a folding chair with a fleece blanket around me and my comforter over my head. It was -2 degrees, but with my 7 layers of clothing, plus my blankets and hand warmer, I was quite toasty.

I slept from about 3am ‘til 4:30am, and my friend, Holly, arrived around 5:30am with more blankets and two chairs. Two more friends, Sharon and Shannon, arrived at 6:30 and 9:30 respectively. And there we waited, on Danforth Avenue waiting for the band that introduced us to each other. I met Shannon in May 2004 at MuchMusic waiting for Hanson to come out a driveway. We were talking about The Moffatts. We then went our separate ways never dreaming we'd see each other again. Flash forward to August 17th, 2004. We met again in line for what was my first Hanson concert at The Docks (now Sound Academy). I met Holly and Sharon on July 31st, 2007 in line for an acoustic concert at the Guvernment. We have all been good friends ever since. Hanson brought us together.

Thank you, Hanson, for bringing us together.

Three PM marked the start of the walk, a campaign of sorts Hanson has been doing since 2007 and the release of their album, The Walk. With the exception of their 2010 Shout It Out tour, they have done one mile barefoot walks (weather permitting) in every city they've come to. I have partaken in six walks, and they have all been special for different reasons. On my first walk, which was not barefoot because it was after an early December snowstorm, I met Isaac and the words he said to me in conversation ended up helping me get through my grandmother's passing three weeks later. It is one of the few times in life that I have felt fate intervened. That walk was also snowy and wet. Subsequent walks have been cold, rough and sandy - and all have brought home the importance of a pair of shoes. Many of us would never think of wandering around town barefoot, because it seems like a very disgusting thing to do. Actually, no, it’s because we don’t know what it’s like to not own a pair of shoes. Have you ever taken a step outside in your bare feet? I have done four of my six walks barefoot, and after the walk in Sayreville over crumbling pavement and gravel, I was thankful to be able to afford a $20 pair of shoes every time I need one. There are children around the world who do not own a pair of shoes, and because of this they cannot go to school or are forced to walk miles over dirt and stones without a pair of shoes. To us, a pair of shoes is a standard, meaningless thing, but to a child in a third world country, a pair of shoes means the world. Not only that, but for every person who walks, Hanson donates one dollar to one of five areas of their campaign that help provide for those in need – providing clean drinking water; giving a child a pair of shoes; making health care available to everyone know needs it; AIDS care and research; and Free The Children, which helps build schools around the world (and is building one in my hometown). Every walk I have done, I have put my dollar to something different. This time, my dollar went to healthcare.

Walking along Danforth Avenue at the beginning of the walk.

A mid-walk chat with Hanson.

Seven PM finally rolled around and the doors opened. We were let in and found our way to the stage. I ended up separated from my friends by one person who refused to switch spots so I could enjoy the show with the people I was there with instead of by myself. But aside from that, and the woman behind me who had no respect for the opening act, the concert was awesome. The opening act was a man named David Ryan Harris. I enjoyed him and his music. He had a jazzy blues feel and while his songs told stories, he also used his music to tell a story. During one of them, he included bits from other songs – Your Body is a Wonderland by John Mayer, Slow Hand by Conway Twitty, and even his own version of Adele’s Somebody Like You. As a musician, I enjoy listening to the artists and bands Hanson chooses to showcase at their concerts, regardless of whether or not I like I end up buying a CD or even liking them. Each artist on the stage in front of me is talented and deserves to be shown respect by the audience. They are putting their hard work out there for you to see, and that is not an easy thing to do. I once performed a song I had written during an open mic night at The Free Times cafĂ© on College Street. I was scared as hell and hoped to God that everyone listening would like the lyrics I had written and the music I, and a friend of mine, had put together. I know what it’s like to put something like that out there; I know what those nerves feel like. It is for that reason that I give my full attention to the artist playing in front of me. They deserve it.

David Ryan Harris entertaining us.

Hanson took the stage around 9:30 and opened up with Fired Up, the leading track off of their latest album, and tour namesake, Anthem. They followed it with I’ve Got Soul and then took us back to 1997 with Where’s The Love. We were brought back to the present with Scream and Be Free and then taken back to 2000 with This Time Around. Another trip to the present was brought to us by Already Home before they left the stage for a quick change over. When they came back, they all picked up acoustic guitars (save Isaac to picked up his mandolin) and started their acoustic section with a song from the 2013 Membership CD, On and On. Then came the song I dread hearing the most. With You in Your Dreams. Now, when I say I ‘dread’ hearing it, it’s not because I don’t like it. No, it’s one of my favourite songs of theirs. I dread hearing it because of how well I relate to it. I have lost several loved ones over the years, but my first experience of that was being told, upon waking up, that my uncle had passed away overnight. The opening lyrics to the song are, “If I’m gone when you wake up”. I have, literally, been told a loved one has passed away upon waking up. The more I’ve experienced death, those lyrics have changed meaning slightly, in that, no longer seeing a physical body is when I truly realize that person is gone and is never coming back. Another lyric, “And though my flesh is gone” also hits close to home, especially in the four years since my father passed away. He was cremated and no longer has a physical body. I swear, I could put together a soundtrack of my life using only their songs.

After With You in Your Dreams, Ike gave us a challenge. That challenge was to see just how quiet we could be. Well, being quiet is not something us Hanson fans do well. But, it was an accepted challenge nonetheless. The three of them gathered around one mic and sang one of my favourite Bee Gees songs, Too Much Heaven. A cappella. I love it when Hanson sings a cappella, because it really showcases their harmonies and how well their voices fit together. Not to mention, this song has two key changes. Their key changes were flawless.

Covering "Too Much Heaven".

After their Bee Gees cover, Taylor and Zac left the stage for Isaac to do his solo. His solo was my favourite track on Anthem, For Your Love. He dedicated it to fans who had asked him why he didn’t get a solo track on Shout It Out, as well as the couples and hopeless romantics in the audience. I took the ‘hopeless romantic’ to heart, because, well, I am one. But, there was something else he said that resonated with me. “Every girl deserves a man who will fight for her.” Thank you, Isaac. This was also one of those moments when I wondered why he was married and not to me. Upon the end of For Your Love, Zac took the stage and performed a past membership CD song, Need You Now. It was the second time I’d heard him perform that song, and it was awesome. Taylor was last out for his solo. He sat down at the piano and performed “another sad love song”; Save Me, much to the audience’s happiness.

The band returned after Taylor’s solo to do, Juliet, and Taylor and Zac swapped instruments. Taylor sat behind the drums, and Zac sat at the piano. Remember when I said that these guys can play more than one instrument? Well, Taylor is very proficient on the drums, and Zac is excellent on the piano. They are also good at playing many, many, other instruments; I will not list them here now. Upon the end of Juliet, Zac and Taylor returned to their original instruments, and the show continued on with the leading track off of Shout It Out, Waiting For This. Then came my all-time favourite song to hear live. A Minute Without You. Isaac has this habit of giving this song a verbal intro, and it usually goes something along the lines of this: “Have you ever loved someone so much that when you’re apart, everything feels long; the minutes… the hours…” By the time he starts listing them, I’m already screaming whether I have a voice by this time, or not. The energy that this song releases is amazing. Everyone sings along, I go crazy; it’s awesome. And I’m pretty sure my friends heard me scream when that song started. After Minute, they took a moment to introduce the two backup musicians. Andrew, their bassist, was awesome and has an amazing afro. He’s also the newest member of the Hanson concert team. Dmitri, their keyboardist and backup guitarist, has been with them for six years and can pick out a mean lick on the guitar. After the introductions, the band brought us back to their latest album with, You Can’t Stop Us, a big rhythm driven tune that makes me think of scenes in my Trilogy that have yet to be written. Two of my favourite songs followed, Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’, and Give a Little. They are just awesome tunes to dance to. The song that made them a household name, MMMBop followed, and created another surge in awesome energy. Get The Girl Back brought us back to their latest album until they performed a 1966 Temptations tune, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg. Watching Isaac’s inner Temptation come out was absolutely awesome and a joy to watch. That man has got some sass! Lost Without Each Other closed out their main set and they disappeared. For about two minutes. They returned and closed out the show itself with two songs. The first encore song was off of their 2013 membership CD, Sound of Light, and the song that officially closed off the evening was In The City. Isaac and Taylor thanked us for walking (and camping out), and then Isaac made us a promise. “If you come back, so will we.” Don’t worry, Isaac; I plan on coming back. I always come back.

I met up with my friends after the show, and we had our traditional after-the-show photograph taken. But, Shannon and I couldn’t stay; my mom was sitting in a parking lot across the street ready to drive Shannon home. Once she was home and safe, my mom and I went home, and I went straight to bed. I needed sleep.

As I had stated at the beginning of this, every evening I get to spend with Hanson is a special evening because it means I get to listen to a band whose music has helped me get through many tough issues, whose music has always been there for me and given me something to relate to. Their music has always reminded me that I am not alone. Plus, when they come to town, I get to spend the day with friends I have met through their concerts. Friends who have endured the heat and the cold with me, friends who understand when a song makes me cry, friends I can laugh and have fun with… Friends who I can be myself with, with no need to apologize for being who I am. Thank you does not even begin to sum up what I want to say, but thank you, Hanson, for all you have given me and continue to give me. Your music and your work means more to me than anyone could ever know. As Isaac said to us, “If you come back, so will I.”

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Thoroes of Writing

Well, it's November 2nd. That means NaNoWriMo is two days old. This is part where I'm supposed to tell you how well my start has been. --Insert ridiculous laugh track here-- It's actually not going as well as I had hoped. I'm sitting around _600_ words at the moment. I should be sitting around 3,340. Should is the operative word there. I am hoping to get caught up this weekend.

Last night I attended my first write-in session of the NaNo season. It was great to see writers I haven't seen in a year and to get back into the groove of writing amongst likeminded people. Unfortunately, due to prior engagements, I had to leave just as the groove was getting to where I needed it to be, but there will be many more write-ins in the future. I am excited for each and every one of them. And to each writing session I will bring a couple of things:

Sodalite - it is said to help writers with inspiration

Perry. My NaNoWriMowl.

This year, I have a mentor. NaNo has a mentor/mentee system where NaNo veterans who have made 50,000 mentor new NaNoWriMos or those who have not made the 50,000 word goal. I am one of the latter; this is my second year doing NaNo, but I failed my first year by 32,000. I am hoping having a mentor to guide me and keep me grounded is going to help.

NaNo is 30 days of intense writing madness, but it's a thrilling experience. I never regret joining it, despite how insane it gets or how exhausted it feels at times. I've met so many great people.

To those of you writing: Good luck and keep writing!

Monday, 28 October 2013

It's Only Words

One of the first things I did when I got my Blackberry Q10 in September, was download a couple of apps and a couple of games. I downloaded a Tim Horton's app, a TTC app, and a Cineplex Odeon app, as well as games of Chess, and Angry Birds. But, my favourite of the games I downloaded is called, Anagramy. As the name suggests, it's a word game. You have to find words in the seven letters you are given, including the word all seven letters make up. Oh, and the words can't be any shorter than three letters long. It's rare that I ever get all of the words in each game, and many times there are words that I would never have caught. Words like 'aphasia' and 'caducei'. 'Aphasia' is a fancy word for 'speech impediment' and a 'Caducei' is the medical staff that has those two snakes entwined around it.

Well, over the last month, my vocabulary has grown tremendously because of this little game I downloaded on a whim. I have a list of words that, prior to playing this free game, I'd never heard of. And, being a writer, words are important to me. Words are important to everyone; they are how we communicate in spoken and written formats.

The fact that this word game has given me words to broaden my vocabulary is awesome. Not only is it a great way to pass the time on a long subway ride or while waiting for the bus, it's a great learning tool. Who'd have thought?

Have you downloaded any apps or games that have been surprisingly helpful? What are your favourites?

Friday, 25 October 2013

It’s Fun Being a Guest

Last week, I mentioned that I was writing a guest post for a friend’s blog. Well, here it is! The Dabbler: Thoughts on Preparing for NaNoWriMo from Participant LadyofPangaea

Dianna is a fellow National Novel Writing Month participant. I have enjoyed some great laughs with her at write-in sessions around Toronto. Her blog is primarily on writing, and she’s got some great posts with some awesome tips. Check her out and subscribe to her newsletter.

And with NaNoWriMo only 6 days away, check out my preparation tips at her blog, as well as a post written by another fellow NaNoWriMo participant, and friend of mine, Bethlyn.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, why, and what is your story idea? If not, why? (But just know that you’re missing out on some awesome madness.)

Link to The Dabbler: The Dabbler

Friday, 18 October 2013

I'm Guest-Starring!

I was recently asked by a friend to write a guest blog. I’ve never been asked to do one of these before, so I’m pretty excited. The post itself has been written and sent to my friend, but is not yet up on her blog. When it is, I will link it here.

As a participant, and one year veteran, of National Novel Writing Month, I was asked to write a post on preparing for the amazing madness that happens every November worldwide. I am excited to be partaking in it again this year with my Toronto NaNo community (as well as some new writers) and I can’t wait for the insanity to begin.