Boundbytheword Blog

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Never Say Never February 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 3:53 PM
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Well, I may be a 42 year-old married gal, but somehow, I caught it.

Bieber Fever.

And I’m not even ashamed to admit it, because if you’d just give this cutie-patootie a chance, you’d catch it too.

My daughter got a call this weekend from her friend wanting us to go the recently released movie Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. My daughter, only eight, isn’t a big Bieber fan. But she is a fan of movie popcorn and spending time with her buddy, so she said yes. I tagged along because I really wasn’t sure she would make it through a documentary style movie, and I figured I should be there in case an early exit was required.

Before I entered the theatre, the only thing I knew about the young Mr. Bieber was that he was from somewhere in Ontario, and had hair that seemed to make headlines. Other than that he was just a kid in skinny jeans who could croon a love song.

By time I left the theatre I was blown away. This kid did it all himself. His drive, charisma, talent, his belief in himself – all so impressive. It was completely inspiring for anyone who has a dream sidled with the fear of not making it.

So maybe you don’t know the Biebster. The Coles Notes version is this: he’s a 16-year-old kid from Stratford, Ontario, raised by a teenage mother. She put a video of him singing on YouTube, and it went viral. People from all over the world clicking on his video, leaving comments, requesting new postings. A record producer sees it by sheer luck and decides he has to find this kid. Then he gets as famous as the Beatles.

The key part to his success story though, is that he got rejection after rejection after rejection.

Music Studios didn’t know where he fit. “Take him to the Machine” (studio talk for the Disney or Nickelodeon channel). But they didn’t want to go that route. They opted instead for getting him out there, in social media land. They used Facebook and twitter to generate a buzz and a thriving fan base letting them know where he was going to be to perform. He travelled to radio stations who weren’t playing his songs and performed live for them, charming them into becoming fans. And those teen fans from YouTube kept turning out in larger numbers to support and swoon over him. And in a less than two years he was known around the world and selling out Madison Square Gardens.

Did you hear that my fellow writers? What about you other readers who have dreams who seem unreachable? Social media + pounding the pavement. A combustible combination it seems.

Did luck play a part? Well, it couldn’t have hurt, but after watching this kid, it was happening one way or the other. He has so much drive and determination. He believed in himself, even when he was told no. He is his own biggest fan, and yet he’s confident without being conceited. He’s talented, but worked hard and didn’t give up.

Am I a die-hard fan now? How can I not be? This little sweetheart is the real deal. It helps that in this age of arrogance and self-centeredness, he is humble and kind. (go Canadian boy, go!) He has this lovely quality that encourages others to shine, which makes him all the more admirable.

So although we left the movie with my daughter stating “That was the worst movie of my whole life,” he certainly has made a fan out of me. Though you won’t likely find his face on my bed sheets (something I find creepy if you’re 13 or 42) you will find me cheering him on from the sidelines.

The bottom line is that hard work and talent seem to be the least of what is missing with people these days. It’s about the belief in we have in ourselves, and the resolve to, as Bieber himself says, “Never Say Never”.

Cameo by another teeny bopper, cutie Jaden Smith. (Big cutie Will Smith is his dad). All I had to dream about at 12 was Leif Garrett and Shawn Cassidy… and neither of them did Kung Fu.


Way to blow my mind… February 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:58 AM
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I’d set aside the afternoon for writing yesterday, but I got side-tracked. Detoured by an absolute, mind-blowing, blissful afternoon delight.

Shopping for deals.

Okay, I’ll be the first to confess, I like to shop. I try to stay clear of certain stores so I’m not tempted to blow money on things I don’t really need. Winners namely, and Home Sense, are the most offensive to my willpower. The problem is, I love a deal, and walking into either of those stores is going to cost me money simply because I really get off on saving money.

Addiction or not, I had cause to walk into our local Winners yesterday. Both my sister and daughter have birthdays around now, and I love to get a good deal, even if it is for a gift. They get way more stuff for the same buck I would normally spend. Two things for the price of one. Can’t beat that right?

Oh, yes. Yes, you can beat that. You can beat it by a long shot.

Blowout! Blowout sale! Better than any sale, anywhere! The end of season sale is on all this week at Winnners, and the savings are ridiculous. Wading through the racks of rock bottom markdowns was euphoric. It was intoxicating, and I had moments where I lost my breath.

Before you judge me, I just need to clarify – I got a gorgeous Calvin Klein sweater for $3. Regular price? $90. I got a Roxy jacket for my youngest (sorry Heather) for $8, regular price? $129. I got six different Star Wars t-shirts for my son (yes…D-O-R-K-Y) that he was thrilled about, for $1 each. That’s less than a chocolate bar these days! Seriously? Just a buck for t-shirt that is regularly priced at $24?

By the end of the day, or more accurately, the end of two hours, I had spent just under $200 and came out with four giant Winners bags full of clothes, games, and toiletries. I admit, when I came home I was shocked to find that the Trivial Pursuit game I got for $3 was in French, and that my son’s belt had no pin-thing to latch into the holes, so maybe I was a bit deal-frenzied. But every other item I bought was stellar. This might have been the single most fabulous shopping spree I’ve ever been on in my life.

My favourite part of shopping for deals, and a big part of my sickness, is coming home and adding up the regular retail price and seeing how much I actually saved. The great thing about this store, is they have regular retail price listed (most times with the priced designer tag still on it), and then they have the Winners price. So I get double the fun on my happy shopper game of seeing how much I saved.

The regular retail price of my four bags of loot? $1,979.89

The Winners price of my four bags of loot? $1,206.78

What I actually paid for my four bags of loot? $198.56

Can I hear you say Woot-Woot?!

So what? I get a little high on sale-fumes while I hunt for deals. And I did blow off my allotted writing time yesterday in exchange for a few hours at the store licking the little red sale tags with pleasure. After hearing the facts, do you still think I have a problem with shopping? Or do you think I am the ultimate shopper now? Do you think I could be the Canadian Olympic champion if they declared shopping a sport?

I vote B. I’m a master shopper. I am the Yoda of Shop Wars.

Shop or shop not, there is no try.


Eat Me February 23, 2011

Most writers I know have a penchant for delicious food. An actual weakness of sorts. Not eating it, but describing it in sensuous detail. All the particulars are included: the taste melting in your mouth, the smell as it hits the senses and makes your mouth water, the firmness of it as you hold it in your fingers or slide it onto your fork, and how simply beautiful it looks on the plate. Every detail is important because you want the reader to want it. Need it. Almost taste the food you are describing, as if it’s on their very tongue as they take in the words.

For me, that same passion for food flooding the senses has crossed over into other areas. I’ve spent the last several months looking for a perfume to replace the one that’s getting down to the very last drops of the bottle. The Jaqua scent is my favourite because it smells just like buttercream icing. There’s just something wonderful about having people sniff you and want to sniff you more. I get a lot of “You smell so good, I could eat you.” And somehow, this makes me incredibly happy.

It makes sense then, that the panic would start to set in every time I give myself a spray and feel the bottle getting lighter. I can’t just go buy a bottle; it was a gift that a friend got down in the States. But in the day of online shopping, I put my anxiety to rest, assured that I would just order online. Needless to say, I was disappointed to see the “online shopping coming soon” tag on the Jaqua website.

I was thrilled when we planned our vacation last month, figuring in Florida I’d hit a few drug stores or a department store and stock up for the next five years of smelling delicious. But apparently it only sells in small specialty salons. Damn, my trip to Target was in vain.

So if I can’t buy it online or in a store, I figured there were likely many sweet-smelling perfumes to choose from, so the hunt was on. And hunt I did.

I sniffed everything from high-end designer fragrances to cheap sparkle bottles made for little girls. Nothing. They were all too flowery, or musky, or spicy, or fresh. I wanted sweet. I kept telling the women behind the counter, “Sweeter! I want to smell like food.” After several hours and several saleswomen, I decided maybe I was the only one in the market who wanted to smell like I had baked myself in sugar. Maybe I’d have to hang up my sniffer, and be happy to smell like normal women, rather than baked confections.

My last attempt was at a local drug store. After consulting with the cosmetician and sniffing Paris, Britney, Playboy and Hello Kitty, I decided to call it a day, grab my shampoo and toilet paper, and go home. Low and behold, down the shampoo aisle, a beam of light seemed to shine down on a bottle adorned with little marshmallows. The bottle beside it had cubes of brown sugar, and the one beside that – a glorious fluff of pink candy floss. I stopped dead in my tracks, could it be my search was misdirected all along, and all I ever needed to do was call out – “Calgon, take me away?”

Sure enough, I sprayed the three bottles into the air and got whiffs of marshmallow, brown sugar, and candy floss. Perfect, I’d be edible in no time.

I brought the windfall home and lined the three bottles of Calgon body sprays up on the counter. I had momentary buyer’s remorse, thinking that in my frantic hunt I may have been overenthusiastic about my find. After all, the only women I knew that actually wore Calgon scents were over 85. No matter, I called in my family for an official smell test. I sprayed the first scent.

My husband guessed lavender. My son guessed paint.

“It’s a food!” I prompted, “Think food, and smell again!”

My daughter guessed chicken nuggets.

Calgon take me away, indeed.


Am I raising a dork? February 15, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:18 PM
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An interesting situation presented itself yesterday. My son came home from school and informed me that he was only one of five kids in his grade six class that gave out valentines. He was one of only seven who brought in treats for the class. The others who did bring something in, be it valentines or treats, were all female.

Yikes, is this a bad thing?

He wasn’t at odds about it, actually, was quite impressed with himself. In his words “he ruled”. But I have to admit, I wondered, did the other kids think the same, or did they ruminate that guys in grade six don’t give out treats and valentines?

I’ll admit I was the one who came home with the box of cards for him, in early January no less. They were, after all, what I considered awesome valentines – national geographic with weird animal facts on the back and a big sucker attached to it. Come one, who wouldn’t want one of those?

I’m also the one who bought the bags of candy and wooden skewers and spent Sunday night making candy kabobs with the kids for their class treats. Though again – I ask, who can turn down one of those babies?

I reasoned that everybody wants free candy, and that if my kid didn’t feel like a dweeb for handing out the valentine’s day loot his mother bought for him, then it was probably okay. But as I lay in bed last night, knowing how the day turned out, I wondered would I be buying a box of cards for him next year?

I’ve never had dork issues growing up. I was lucky enough to stay at the same school, with essentially the same classmates from kindergarten throughout high school. I don’t remember feeling left out, and I always tried to make other people feel included. I just sort of did my own thing, often blended with occasional spurts of feeling special or different, but never really dorky.

I raised my kids much the same way – include others, talk to everyone, do what feels right to you, and don’t worry about being in the ring of the “it” crowd. After all, one true friend is more valuable than fifty false ones.

It worked for me; it worked for my oldest (and now adult) daughter, Heather, and I assumed it would work for my other children as well. And I do believe in doing what works for you. I do believe in resisting the bow to peer-pressure as long and as hard as possible. A good sense of self is the very best gift you can give a child, right?

My almost twelve-year-old son is a lunchtime helper in the kindergarten class. He’s part of the chess club, and on the green (recycling) team. He still kisses me when I drop him off, and is oddly proud of the fact that I’m the volunteer hot dog lady at school. He’s a Star Wars junkie and a self-admitted computer geek in terms of online gaming.

I guess if I stand back and look at the facts, he may well be sitting on the dork side of the fence. Unlike other boys his age, he doesn’t like bravado, has no interest in hockey, and just doesn’t get how snowploughing peers makes you look cool. Frankly, neither do I.

As a mom, I never want my son to feel different. But as a woman, I want to raise a man who will stand up for what he believes in, follow his heart, and not be afraid to do what he wants to do, rather than what “cool” dictates. I guess I should be happy that in today’s society geeks are becoming their own sort of cool, with tv shows like Glee, and the Big Bang Theory ruling the airwaves.

And although I’d never wish a Sheldon, Howard or Raj on anyone, is growing up to be a Leonard so bad?


Exercise for the brain February 11, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 11:31 AM
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My dear hubby took me to urgent care yesterday because the vertigo hasn’t let up, and frankly, he’s probably sick of looking at me in my pajamas with a dazed and confused look on my face. That, and the family living off cereal, soup and grilled cheese – that’s probably getting old after almost a week too.

Interesting thing about the drive there – it was the first time in a week that I wasn’t spinning. As long as I watched out the front window, I was vertigo-less. The minute we stopped, and as I sat waiting in the clinic, the spins were back. I can’t read or be on the computer for more than 15 minutes, and for that matter, sitting around watching TV has the same effect. But while I was coasting along the highway, my view of the world became balanced again. Very odd. Forward motion seems to work in my favour. Anyone have an explanation for this?

On a similar note, in my quest to do nothing, yet not go crazy, somebody sent me a link today about exercising your brain, and I thought I’d give it a try. You sign up for a free membership and it takes you through a series of questions, then gives you games to play to increase the speed, flexibility and attention span of the brain.

The site claims that “New scientific research shows that we can improve the health and function of our brains with the right mental workouts”, so I gave it a try. And guess what? I “played” for almost 30 minutes, and no spins! Once I stopped, took a break and a drink of water, then I had to sit back and deal with the vertigo again. Is this just me or is that weird?

Maybe being on holidays turned my brain to mush or something, and I just need to get to the brain gym in order to rid myself of this torturous spin cycle I’m living in. Who knows, but I’ll take 30 minutes of calm waters over 15 minutes any day.

If you want to improve your brain health, kill time, or to stop your world from spinning under your feet, give it a try. Learning can be fun, kids!

PS – it’s a great warmup for writers…I’m ready to let my fingers dance across the keyboard!

click this to check out Luminosity…the metal heads of the brain gym


You spin me right round, baby, right round… February 10, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:50 PM
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The vertigo has got to go.

I thought my land legs were holding out on me, since I’ve been feeling like a drunken sailor all week. I can’t seem to keep steady on my feet. When the room started spinning like I’d spent all day drinking oversized cosmos, I decided I won’t be cruising again anytime soon.

But then the familiar feeling of numbness in my face, and the headband of pain I seem to be wearing tuned me in to my old nemesis, the sinus infection. Sphenoid sinusitis, I hate you so.

This is a busy week to be under the weather. I’m completing a grant application for a writing scholarship, and have a waiting list of queries to put out to agents. My plan was also to write two chapters for my second novel, Life as a Teenage Mutant. Not the best time to be limited to 15 minutes at the screen before the room starts to swirl. I’m getting it done, but it’s slow going.

The Pollyanna in me assures this is one more reason to be grateful for good health, and for finding what makes me happy, even if it is in 15 minute intervals.

Although short and sweet, or at least short, my time here is up, because as the world turns has started playing in my head again. See you on the flip side.


Anchors Away… February 7, 2011

Well my fingers are resting nicely back on the keyboard. Ahhhhh, yes, that feels wonderful. There was no internet connection on the Disney Ship (or rather, it was outrageously priced packages that I choose not to invest in while on vacation), so I wasn’t able to check in at all and I’ve missed you!

Though I am eager to be back at it, the vacation did not lend to rejuvenation from R&R. Taking a cruise, I’ve learned, is much like being at an amusement park everyday of your holiday. And being on a Disney cruise meant on top of it all, our favourite Disney characters could be lurking around at any time, so we needed to be camera ready at all times.

Don’t get me wrong, the vacation was quite spectacular. The Disney Magic cruise ship itself boasted two theatres, three pools, separate age specific kids clubs, five restaurants, three take-out stands, several stores, and countless activities areas including an outdoor basketball court and a water slide.

We did not want for food. It was endless (even 24-hour room service), delicious, and offered with such variety that the five pounds I gained was a welcome surprise based on the fact that I was sure it would be closer to ten. No complaints with the food, not a one.

The days on land were fantastic – the beach at St. Maarten was lovely, St. Thomas and snorkelling with turtles, parrot fish and an octopus was lovelier, and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) was a kid’s paradise. The day spent there was exceptional, with white sand beaches and water slides into the ocean, Captain Jack Sparrow walking about, and all you can eat ice cream. The kids were never bored, not for one second, but that was essentially the problem.

It was all systems go, all the time.

Great for people who don’t like to stop, like, ever. Our family is much like our golden retriever, we like to have fun, play, eat, run around, but then we like to rest, then rest some more.

I probably would have preferred more days on the beach, dividing time to snorkel, lay in the sun, dig in the sand, and rest in a hammock as the standard of my vacation. I like down-time, and by that I mean I want to lie down. I want to feel like I don’t have to rush off to the next adventure until my body yells out – get up, lazy bones!

In keeping with the commotion, as a writer, I count on people-watching to inspire me. There’s no need to fabricate a character, the world is filled with them. But on a trip that is so non-stop crazy busy, I don’t get the required stop-and-gawk time required to absorb the characters around me. I don’t have the space in my head to formulate plot lines or plan out scenes. I need quiet for that process.

I work with so many talented writers within the Writers Community of Durham Region (WCDR), who unlike me, can write under loud, crowded or chaotic circumstances. James grew up in a house full of kids (six or eight if I recall) so he prefers noise over quiet, he just blocks it out and writes away. Dale always has music playing in the background; something he feels inspires his creativity. But me, I write best sitting in my pajamas in an empty house with no white noise. Maybe it comes from years of only writing late at night, and into the wee hours long after everyone went to bed. Maybe it’s because the noise in my head can’t compete with outside voices. Who knows?

I do know that this vacation was a complete break from writing. No typing, no plotting, no outlining, not even any thinking when it came to my writing world. So, vacation behind me, I am bursting at the starting gate and ready to fly. As exciting and luxurious as it was, it’s good to be home. Now back to business!