Boundbytheword Blog

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Ah, Spring April 24, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:06 AM
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The time of new beginnings. Time for regrowth and renewal, when we clean out closets and rid the clutter in our homes and yards. During that first outdoor assessment after the snow melts, you can expect damage done by Father Winter and plan for an afternoon or weekend of yard cleanup.

When we lived south in the suburbs, this meant a general sweep of the 75’ lot, to pick up wayward sticks and rubbish that may have found its way into the yard. Now that we live down the country lane in Boontown,  it means hours of chainsaw fun to clear fallen trees, then gather, load, stack, or burn the wreckage.

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It didn’t help that we had an ice storm in April that brought down massive branches around the property – we especially love the ones that play chicken with our vehicles.

Though wacky nature makes for a lovely photo or two, the labour it creates is more of an ongoing seasonal activity than a few hours of casual afternoon tidy up.
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For county living folk, spring cleanup also lends to finding all kinds of hidden treasures on your land. Usually the dog is a big help finding all the things you wish you never saw. I’m truly grateful for having a passive dog that lives to please, and who most often stops the minute I give a squeal, shout or scream of horror. My sweet Maalik usually stops short of picking up his finds – which is a relief – because I admit I’m one of those dog owners who gives my pooch the odd face smooch. It’s not like I kiss him square on the lips or anything, but a muzzle nuzzle wouldn’t be happening anytime soon if he had in fact retrieved the foot he excitedly found laid out like a movie prop on our back acreage.
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Yes, some great finds this year besides the poor dismembered beast – including half eaten tomatoes (?!?) and a dead porcupine. On the upside, I guess we won’t have to worry about the porcupine damage to our trees that has been a problem in the past. (see my past post about our pesky porcupine)

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Ah yes, a fresh breath of air and tranquil country living. Spring is all about the new beginnings.

 

A rose by any other name… April 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 1:07 AM

Choose your battles. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is what it is.

I believe in those mantras wholeheartedly. But there’s always that one thing that just needles you and the worm of  irritation gets set in your skull. At that point the ability to listen to level-headed, logical advice seems to evade you. That’s where I’m at.

My daughter no longer wants to go by her lovely given name of Lainey, and now prefers (or rather demands) to be called Shadow. This has been going on for the last year, but it’s becoming more of an issue in the last few months. We got a note home from the teacher saying she refused to sign her given name and was handing in everything signed Shadow. She alshadow 1so battles it out with peers who won’t relent to the name preference, and corrects anyone who calls her what she was born with that her name that is actually Shadow, not Lainey. Sometimes she has success with it – like with our amazing Naturopath who made up her tincture with Shadow on the label (which scored big points), or with her Taekwondo coaches and teammates as they cheer her on. Her best friend has been calling her that since last summer and now asks to speak to Shadow when he calls to talk to her on the phone. She’s thrilled when someone does oblige with the name change, is miserable when someone resists, and has informed us on many occasions that she will be changing it the very day of her 16th birthday. Oy.

shadow 3Overall, I’m not sure if it is a menacing Shadow,  a mysterious Shadow, or a bright sunny day kind of Shadow – though that one  might be wishful thinking. Regardless, Shadow is what she likes to be called.

But, here’s the thing – I can’t really do it. I feel like an idiot calling her Shadow. Not only do I like her name (as most mothers who pick names for their children do), but it just irks me every time I say her name and she corrects me. I’m a-0k with her friends calling her that, or her bribing her brother to use it, as in when he asks for a favour she says, “Call me Shadow for a whole week or no deal”. But for me to call out across the grocery aisle, “Shadow, grab a carton of yogurt, will you?” I just feel like a dolt. I tell myself to choose my battles, I tell myself this is a phase. I tell myself to lighten up.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for children expressing themselves. I don’t insist on certain kinds of clothes, or haircuts. I believe everyone is unique and special and should do what they need to do to shine and feel good about themselves.  I want them to be happy – that’s it. The rest is gravy. But Shadow? Seriously? I just choke on it every time. Truth be told, I try not to call her any name these days, and if I need her attention, I call her hun or sweetie, or even dolly. But now that I’ve written it out, I guess those aren’t any less ridiculous than what she wants to be called.

When I was growing up, my childhood neighbour (who, like my daughter, is also an artistic soul – maybe that’s what’s going on here) went through a long phase where she wanted to be called Angel Rosebud. She used to give herself body tattoos with pen, and went an entire summer inking her bellybutton up to look like a giant sunburst. She also went about two full years without smiling in a single photograph. She turned out okay in the end, and we call her by her given name now. No Angel Rosebud required.

I may just have to toss in the towel on this one. Or maybe I’ll strike her a deal that I’ll call her Shadow if she calls me Ms. Marvelous. Remind me again – when does this get easier?

 

Dusting off the blogwebs… April 12, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:08 AM

It’s been awhile and oh – how I have missed you all!

I know I wetake me backnt MIA. Went into the bloggers black hole and left my readers for a good long while without so much as a “stay tuned” or even a BRB. My bad. I won’t make grand or lame excuses, I’ll just say – honey, I’m home – will you please take me back?

So if you’re still reading, consider us blog buddies once again, and I’ll catch you up on what’s been happening down this snowy country lane the last little while.

2012 was a certain rollercoaster ride of a year for me, but when I start to get bogged down about how pissy the entire thing was, the angel on my shoulder says “Hey now, don’t forget about the good stuff!” And so, I’ll just say, 2012 was full of high highs and low lows. It was a year of wonderful beginnings and sorrowful endings, and a year of change for certain. Let’s just say, I welcomed 2013 with open arms.

On the high side, my mother is cancer free and healthy, my family is happy, and I am getting paid for doing work I love. Yup, 2013 has brought health, happiness and prosperity, so who can complain?

Speaking to my job, I started with Canadian Authors last May and am loving my role as Program Director. Big changes are staring to happen – we have just launched an e-zine (an online magazine); in a few weeks we’ll launch a new website, new logo, and new member newsletter; and in a few short months we’ll be hosting an amazing writers’ conference, our 2013 literary awards, and a bunch of new and exciting programming including Young Authors of Canada for teens! (I wasn’t great at balancing work, family, writing, and blogging – something had to give, dear friends, but again – no excuses for blog abandonment!)

CanadianAuthorCoverYou can check out how darn pretty (and informative) the e-zine turned out by clicking the cover to the right or you can  link to the Canadian Author e-zine here.

I’ll also let you know when the new website is up and running, so we can all ooooooh and ahhhhhh together.

As for writing life, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t penned daily (as every good writer should!) for the last few months. In fact, I just got back on the writing wagon and can’t believe how much I’ve missed the characters in my new book. Interesting how starting back to writing the new novel brought me back to the blog. Every successful writer I’ve ever known has said the trick is writing something every day – it’s a “rule” I’ve heard about for many years. But I think the trick of it is writing something you love, or that you are driven to write every day is the key. Working for a long-standing writers’ organization in an everyday working capacity does keep me writing, but I forgot about the passion part. The creative process is much like a jealous lover – ignored too long, and it will make you beg for mercy or worse yet – leave you.

So I am back at writing my daily doses, and will be sure to send my weekly blog posts to let you know what’s up, and how it’s hangin’.

But the posts won’t be explicitly sexual in nature, no matter how suggestive that last line came out in the end.

Or that one.

Cheers – it’s good to be blogging again!

Noelle

 

Riding a bus on the highway to Hell June 14, 2012

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:48 PM
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It could have been a glorious morning. Birds chirping, a warm breeze rustling the leaves on this bright, sunny day. It could have been one of those lovely, easy mornings – but we slept late. We just stepped foot onto the porch when we heard the sound of the school bus barreling down our country line. My kids picked up the pace into full run when they didn’t hear her slowing. I hadn’t ventured off the porch – I was still braless in a t-shirt and my husband’s boxers with rat nest hair and unbrushed teeth.  I only had time to hastily pack lunches, and be sure my kids had a flash breakfast of champions consisting of a yogurt drink with a side of peanut butter right off the spoon.

I figured the morning was getting better – my kids would make it – even though the driver whizzed past the driveway, half the bus hollered a late-running-kid alert and she screeched to a stop. The whole bus cheered and I caught a glimpse of my kids running the 30 feet down the road past our place to catch their ride. I was relieved – they made it, and I could expect to spend my day writing without interruption. That’s when I heard her – the driver – screeching voice wafting out the bus windows like a fast-moving river above the trees and across more than the acre of lawn between her and my front porch.

“WHO’S EATING ON THE BUS?!?”

The whoops and hollers of joyful June children greeting my kids’ late arrival simmered down to a dull murmur.

“I MEAN IT! WHO IS EATING?”

The murmur settled into complete silence, short of the rattle of the idling bus. Nobody was giving up anything. These country kids don’t sing like a canary, they stick together like peanut butter on a stainless steel spoon. Just like the one my daughter had run down the driveway carrying as her second helping of breakfast. I could only hope she remembered to pitch the empty (or not) spoon on the pine garbage box at the end of our drive before jumping onto the food Nazi’s bus.

“THERE IS NO EATING ON THE BUS, AND IF I FIND OUT WHO IT WAS, YOU ARE KICKED OFF THE BUS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!”

The bus jerked and jolted into drive, and off they went on their merry way to school. I stood there on the porch, dumbfounded, my golden at my feet looking up at me with perked ears and worried eyes. He was not impressed either. And I comforted his concern with the first words that came to mind.

“What a bitch, eh Maalik?” He agreed.

The question I have, is this. Why – oh mighty lord of the bus routes – why would anyone choose to drive a bus full of kids if they don’t have the patience of a Saint, two hearing aids, or a great sense of humour? I’d never be a bus driver – you couldn’t pay me enough. And frankly – they probably aren’t paid enough for the job that they do – but either are teachers or police officers or nursing home workers – but it doesn’t mean just anyone should do those jobs. If you don’t love the job, why the hell would you submit yourself to daily doses of rambunctious kids?  I understand the need to make a buck – I really get it – we all have to eat, even if it’s just spoonfuls of peanut butter. We aren’t all scholars with tenure, our butts eased into a cushy leather chair in our office. But, you can expect loud, bratty kids on a bus (even seated with nothing in their mouths), so if that isn’t your idea of a good gig,  go get a job at Wal-Mart or Tim Horton’s or a recycling centre. Don’t take an “easy” job because you don’t have the time, training, determination or the good fortune of having your first choice career in an air-conditioned office or in a kid-free zone. If you lose your cool easily, or would rather be anywhere than at the wheel of a big yellow hell-mobile, I’d prefer you didn’t take my kids along for one of your road rages.

Needless to say, I’ve already made my voice heard with the bus-powers that be, because she wasn’t the only bitch with a bone to pick on our country line this morning.

 

A little cooperation, please? May 31, 2012

An interesting thing happened this week. My youngest daughter’s teacher called and asked us to attend the monthly assembly at the school because Lainey was getting the “character trait” award. I’ve mentioned this before, I’m sure, but to refresh your memory – in order to teach good values (that kids may not be getting at home) the school board has character trait posters and reminders plastered all over the school to teach kids about integrity, honesty, courage, etc. They then reward a chosen kid or kids from each class that have displayed the current character trait throughout the month. The chosen kid gets a ribbon (the ones you used to get in track and field) and certificate, and get to parade across the stage to accept the honour with a round of applause. I don’t know if it changes a rotten kid into a great one, but my kids have come home each year with a ribbon sooner or later, and they’ve been pretty impressed about it. If for no other reason than they get to walk around all day wearing a ribbon to signify that they are more “Inclusive”, “Empathetic”, “Optimistic” or “Caring” than everybody without the ribbon. Are we teaching kids that they need to be rewarded and applauded for showing normal and socially acceptable behavior, and teaching them to gloat about achieving it? As sad as that sounds, I would say that is what we are doing – keeping that bar low. You aren’t expected to do those things, but if you manage it – you get rewarded! I don’t know if we’re doing them any favours, but since this month it was my kid getting the award – hey, it’s a pretty good system.

Anyway, when my husband and I showed up at the assembly, I couldn’t find my son in the crowd. Turns out, he was also waiting backstage for a ribbon. Well, we plumped our pride and got our camera ready. Two great kids? Wow. Imagine our pride (and frankly, surprise) when both of our kids walked across the stage with ribbons for this month’s character trait: Cooperation.

Huh?

For those of you not familiar with my children, let me clear up the confusion. My kids don’t cooperate. Ever. They fight about who has to go first at music lessons, who last filled the dog’s water bowl, who brushes their teeth first, who is faster, smarter, sweeter, or the family favourite. They battle over whether music should be on or off for the car ride, whose dish was left on the kitchen table, and who got to pick the last movie on family night. At any given time, either one of them will be hollering “UNFAIR” for any number of stupid reasons – that one of them got to pick first, go last, ride in front or have the bigger piece. There is little to no cooperation going on in this house – which is why I had to contain myself from jumping up and yelling “Fixed, fixed!” from the crowd of proud parents.

Those sneaky little jerks. You mean they actually know how to cooperate? Not only do they know how, but they stand apart from the rest of the class and excel with this particular character trait? Unbelievable. Never have I been so perturbed at my kids for coming home with an achievement ribbon. I wanted to ground them both for the rest of the week and confiscate those damn certificates. My husband and I went home wearing the “in yo’ face” and “gotcha, sucka” ribbons, wondering how we managed to do something so right and so wrong at the same time. I guess different rules apply when they’re out of the house.

Cooperation? Well, I’ll pull those ribbons out during the next round of “he’s looking at me/she’s so annoying/he won’t turn that down/she won’t stop bugging me”. At least we looked like stellar parents to the teachers and other adults at the assembly. We smiled, nodded our heads knowingly, and took all the credit we could – isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

 

Green around the gills… May 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 5:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Jealousy. It ain’t pretty.
 
But lately I’ve been various shades of green from moss to emerald and everything in between. Before I have you on the edge of your seat for scandalous divorce news, let me assure you – the beast is far bigger than that. It’s other writers I’ve turned Hulk over, and it seems to have a grip on me in all the delicate places.
 
Part of becoming a better writer is to always be a voracious reader and word lover. Always a book in my hand or a song to my ear, I am forever listening to other writers stories, and I long to move readers and listeners like they have moved me. The latest case of this comes from brilliantly disturbed songwriter Damien Rice, whose haunting song was recently covered on the TV show American Idol by (my from-the-start-favourite) Phillip Phillips. If you can get past the redundancy of his name, you will be mesmerized by his talent as a musician. Beyond the fact that Phillip’s voice seems to do things to woman of all ages, but most inappropriately to women over 40 – he is an amazing musician. That being said – I read the lyrics of the song Volcano and was equally moved (if not stirred in questionable places). It should be a theme song given to every girl at her high school graduation. Why does it take a man younger than my eldest daughter (oh lordy, that makes me feel quite despicable!) to give me a worm ear that works its way into my brain and makes sense of past issues?
 
I’m pretending Damien Rice with his wise words is a good generation or two older than Phillip Phillips at the tender age of 21. I don’t want to be corrected by anyone. Though perhaps I just should take comfort in the fact that young men somehow got wise in terms of relationship smarts? Why didn’t I date writers in my youth?
 
So enjoy – let Phillip Phillips rock your world with his version of Volcano. Brilliant lyrics are posted below. Ahhhh…green, green, green.
And tell me…am I alone in loving everything about him?

 

 

“Volcano” by Damien Rice

Don’t hold yourself like that
You’ll hurt your knees
I kissed your mouth and back
But that’s all I need
Don’t build your world around volcanoes melt you down
What I am to you is not real
What I am to you you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
 And I’ll ask for the sea

 

Don’t throw yourself like that In front of me
I kissed your mouth your back Is that all you need?
Don’t drag my love around volcanoes melt me down
What I am to you is not real
What I am to you you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
And I’ll ask what I give to you

 

Is just what I’m going through This is nothing new
No no just another phase of finding what I really need
Is what makes me bleed
And like a new disease she’s still too young to treat
Like a distant tree
Volcanoes melt me down
She’s still too young I kissed your mouth
You do not need me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Square Peg, Round Hole May 15, 2012

I attended another writing conference this weekend in Toronto – this one devoted to supporting the teaching of creative writing – and I felt a bit out of my element. A conference dedicated to the study of creative writing pedagogy (teaching – I had to look it up) and the promotion of creative writing standards and practices that would include academic papers and keynote talks by national and international writers and creative writing teachers and researchers? I was intrigued and terrified that I’d be sent to the corner in a dunce cap.

Truth be told, I came away with much more than I expected, which always means success in my eyes. Gold nuggets of information and a desire to write more often and with more skill – if a conference can do that, then I leave satisfied. But of course, there was much more to be learned – lessons about my faltering ego, and being kind to one’s self (or myself in this case), and giving other people a break too – we are only human after all. The lessons I learned came in messy little packages – as my bits of learning always do.

Lesson #1: Reversion to one’s teenage self when you are feeling immature and stupid makes you look immature and stupid.

I discovered recently (after some self-reflection aided by a therapist who calls bullshit when required) that it hits a nerve when I feel someone thinks they are smarter than me. Scratch that. When they think I’m a dummy. Scratch that too. When I assume that they think I am in fact, a dummy. Make no mistake; I realize I’m surrounded all the time by people who are more intellectually gifted than I am. It’s when I get the message that they perceive me as some kind of a clunk that seems to set me off. Of course – I can’t quite nail what it is that they’ve done. It isn’t as blatant as them saying, “What a clod!” They don’t roll their eyes or shake their head when I talk. Except for the odd pompous brainer, it’s normally nothing they’ve done at all. It’s my perception of their perception of me. So, it really isn’t anything about them, it is in fact all about me and my own perceptions of myself and of others. Doh! Darn it.

After sitting through a few discussions on theory that was over my head, along with a dinner conversation that made me feel like I was Peppermint Patty trying to make it through English class, I started to feel the abrasion of mhoa-wa-wa in my head and reverted back to my fifteen year old self.

.

“Whatever. Like I’m even listening. You’re so boooooring, my ears feel like they’re bleeding. Who are you anyway? I’m outta here.” Okay, so that was my inner voice, not anything I actually said, but I was zoning out and shutting down, and decided I didn’t care about PhD papers or the research and practice of creative writing in the 21st Century.

Of course, I do care. I want to learn and grown as a writer and a teacher, and some (inner) pouting and debriefing with some wise and wonderful friends and fellow conference goers was enough to set me straight and get me grounded. Meanwhile though, I missed out on having some interactions with some brilliantly creative minds, because I didn’t want to ask questions and look like a giant dolt. So instead I shut out what they were saying, and in turn missed out on what likely could have been potentially enlightening conversations with wonderful people who came with thier own status crap to deal with.

My inner time machine took me back to 1984 and I wasn’t budging. At least not until the next morning when I took on the day with a new approach. More like a 43-year-old approach. One that set up day 2 with a mission to get one gold nugget out of every workshop. Lo and behold, I did.

I listened to PhD types read papers that didn’t really speak to me, but waited for the moment when they looked up from the pages of dry-as-bone notes and went off on a tangent about something that struck them – a point they were passionate enough about that they simply couldn’t stick to the presentation at hand. That is where the treasure was. The moment they looked out and engaged with the crowd, they had my attention and gave me my gold nuggets. Ahoy matey.

Lesson #2. Every person who walks the earth or attends a conference comes with their own set of baggage – and I don’t mean Louis Vuitton.

Presenting a theory in front of a crowd of literary minds could cause one a little stress, which would be a great explanation for why some of them needed to keep their nose on the page. And if at times they lifted it only to hold it high in the air – well – that made more sense too, once I thought about it. Every person is looking to be respected and to be heard. If that comes from having a brilliant creative mind, or a strictly theoretical and scholarly mind – well – so be it, we all have our strengths. I guess it’s as hard to be brilliant and humble as an adult as it is for a high school student to be both cool and kind. Not impossible, not unheard of, not even unusual – but it takes confidence and faith in yourself to pull it off. Being the whole package is one tough gig.

On occasion, the theory, the craft, the talent, energy and the engagement came together and we were given a brilliant artist, whose numerous strengths were rolled into a giant presenting machine. I was witness to a few of those as well – and of course, those are who I learned the most from.

In my opinion, power in creative writing is more important than perfection. But I would be foolish to think I’m above trying for both. Foolish of me though, to think that graduation meant my education was over.

Lastly, I learned that some things never change.

Lesson #3: In social settings, if all else fails, have a good story up your sleeve and a kick-ass pair of shoes on your feet.

Being part of any gathering – social, professional, academic or otherwise – you can’t go wrong with a good story or two to bridge the gap and make highbrow scholars just people. Same goes for those who are famous, in a different class, or just plain ignorant or indifferent. Storytellers bring a people back to earth, or at the very least, entertain.

The kick-ass shoes? What can I say? I ‘m always looking for an excuse.

 

 
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