Boundbytheword Blog

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From my holiday home to yours… December 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:13 AM


The elves are off and running. We are in high drive now with the family visiting portion of this holiday event set to begin in less than four hours. Presents are wrapped, food is prepared, cookies are slightly overbaked but still delicious. I haven’t had to prepare alone – check out my family of helpers:

Click to see The Family Elves

Thank you dear blog readers, for a great year. I couldn’t have done it without you. I thought I’d send that little chuckle your way, and hope you have a wonderful holiday season – regardless of when you celebrate and how you celebrate – I hope you have some great whos to celebrate with. Be merry, be  bright.



Alter Ego Getting Me Into Trouble December 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:45 AM
Tags: , , ,

So in case you didn’t know – I have two blogs. One is here – you found it. Many of you are my loyal readers and I adore and appreciate you all for hanging in there with me. But as some of you know I have a second blog too. Sounds excessive, but there is a logical explanation. I really do blog for a purpose.


This blog started out being a platform to talk about my writing journey. I had chapter samples online and posted about all the highs and lows and middle grounds about the business of books and being a writer. When I ran out of things to talk about though (aka – the process is much harder and longer than I ever anticipated, and there is a lot of wait-and-see time involved), then I would write a bit about life in the boonies. Thing is – my readers liked that better. I had more hits on the site and more comments left. So my Bound by the Word blog morphed into a “Life as Me” type of blog. Which is all fine and good, except when I wrote my second novel – which turned out to be more of a Mature Young Adult (16-30) book, my blog wasn’t the best way to introduce new people to my book, regardless of whether that was readers, agents, or potential publishers.


My novel, Life as a Teenage Mutant, delivers a gritty coming of age story, and follows the protagonist (main character who you cheer for) Abby Brooks from age 12-19. Abby’s voice is distinct and engaging and so in order to showcase her and her life, I created a new blog – On that site you’ll find chapter sample from that novel, as well as blog posts written in the voice of Abby. It’s a way for blog readers to get to know this character and get to want to know her more. (ie – read the book when it comes out).


The blog is narrated by Abby in her 20’s, and reflecting back a bit about life growing up, and also living as a grown up, trying to make it through life happy and whole. I thought it was a pretty brilliant plan. I can write anything – using some of my own experiences, emotions, opinions to express thoughts about all kinds of topics I don’t really cover here. It’s a bit more racy, and a lot more saucy, and maybe a little more dysfunctional too. That being said – it is Abby talking, not me…but because Abby is really me in my head writing down on the page, it can get a little confusing. I’m writing in someone else’s voice who isn’t me, but who on occasion sounds an awful lot like me, which makes sence, because I do have a hand in it after all. Sounds confusing? I know.

It was a little confusing for some family and friends too – who didn’t really understand what I was doing and why I was writing about being single, being lonely, or having a teenage boy ejaculate all over my jeans. Needless to say – it was good for a chuckle and oops!, but certainly at the expense of giving people who loved me extra grey hairs! Don’t worry Mom and Dad – I’m not moving back home with two kids, a dog, a cat, and new teenage boyfriend – trust me!  I’m still here in the boonies – happy with my husband, my children, my animals, my home, my life, my open spaces, and my neighbouring cows. Fear not, family and friends…all is good.


I’m having a blast writing in Abby’s voice though. She doesn’t hold back, and she’d love to hear from you too – so if you haven’t checked it out – click on the book cover on the right and please go visit my other blog. It would be good tidings to me if you subscribed  to either or both sites which just means you put your email on the “let me know when I send new posts” button on the right hand side of the page. It helps with my site stats on my end, and for your end, a notification comes when I’ve sent a new post. It goes to your email and you can click the link and have it right there to read! Let me know what you think of Abby…and no – I won’t tell you which parts are true, and which parts are fiction!




Lessons for the Seasons… December 19, 2011

I write post after post saying many things, but avoiding one thing. A big thing. A big, ignore-it-but-it-won’t-go-away kind of thing. I haven’t written a word about my mother having cancer. She was diagnosed this fall with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), and has been getting chemo treatments every other week. I haven’t written about it and I don’t talk about it much either. I’ve taken a head-in-the-sand approach as much as I can, because it simply feels too big to handle.

But after several months of treatment, my mom in her fight against this cancer has taught me some new lessons, and ones that I think are timely for the season. I’m sharing them with all of you in hopes that they can be gifts to you as well. My mother (Norma) reads this blog faithfully, and is always happy for the laugh – so my mission has been to give her a smile with each read. I figure it’s the least I can do. So this is also my love letter to her – a thank you for continuing to teach this old dog new tricks, and making me a better person for it. A mother’s work is never done it seems.

#1 “Stay Positive”

Right from the moment the doctor gave her the word, my mother has been a trooper through it all. She pushes herself every day to stay positive and look at the bright side of things. Every day, even when faced with people giving odd advice or asinine words of encouragement like “Out of all the cancers, that’s the one you want to have.”

And to that I say, REALLY? I’m pretty sure nobody actually wants any kind of cancer, but if it makes you feel better to negate it and make it the “lesser” of cancers so the conversation isn’t too awkward for you…I guess have at it. At least you feel better.

But see – that’s me talking. My mom on the other hand somehow stays positive.  She just gets that some people don’t really know what to say. She figures they say things to make it better – and are trying to help the best way they can. Even in their stupidity, she sees the best in their attempt. See? Pollyanna. It’s quite amazing to witness, and I think has a lot to do with the treatments working. The best thing she can ever hear from people is – I’m thinking of you, I’ll send you good vibes, I’ll pray for you. Positive thoughts. Positive, positive, positive.

#2 “Count Your Blessings”

My mother’s always was grateful for what life brings, but becoming ill has amplified this greatly. She’ll tell you with great conviction that she’s receiving the best care anyone could ask for at the Lakeridge Cancer Centre. That – she is very grateful for. She has a husband who loves and cares for her (even if that means her dinners are a little less Martha Stewart than that house normally sees), and a family that wants to help however they can, whenever they can. We aren’t doing enough – both my sister and I talk about it. I’m not there nearly enough, my sister feels like she should do more drop in’s, but my mother doesn’t guilt, she doesn’t expect more than what we are giving. She is just so grateful for everything we are doing. She is grateful for amazing friends who have given her insurmountable strength, and for neighbours, coworkers and even some pleasant surprises who have been a foundation in her happiness. She is grateful for things that one can’t imagine, too. When she lost her hair, she was grateful that she had the means to go out and buy nice head wraps and a human hair wig instead of the plastic hair kind that makes your head sweat and looks like a Halloween coif. I keep that in mind when I want to mope about having a bad hair day, or finding a stray gray.

#3 “Shelf The Red Cape…”

A long time superwoman, my mother is a planner and a do-er, and a little type A (sorry Mom, but I had to get it from somewhere). To have everything pulled out of her control, put on hold, and just be rendered physically unable to do what you normally do – well, that wouldn’t be fun for anyone, but for a superwoman – it’s a long fall from the justice league headquarters.

My mom does it all – it’s sort of her thing. And I know I do it in my home, and my sister does it in hers, and my grown daughter does it in hers as well. Not to be martyrs – no, we actually like to do it all – it gets done just right that way. Our kind of superwoman breed actually has a satisfaction that comes with doing it all (until we lose it and go apeshit mad because we are doing it all).

To depend on others has to be humbling. To ask for help – even more so. But my mom has handled it with the same grace that she handles everything and is asking for help, accepting offers of help, and just letting others do things for her. I know she’s secretly ironing that red cape and has it ready to wear, but for now she accepts help graciously, and reverts to lesson #2.

#4 “Go With the Flow”

Anyone who knows the women in our family will tell you – we may say we go with the flow, we may act like we go with the flow, we may even be going with the flow – but in the end – the flow don’t go. Re-read lesson #3. Do superwomen go with the flow? No, we don’t. But cancer has this amazing ability to assure you that you have no control over your body, which in turn teaches you to go with the flow. There is no managing, manipulating, or ignoring cancer. The best you can hope for is exceptional treatment with an outstanding outcome. Beyond that, life is way easier when you go with the flow. In turn, my mom is oddly less stressed, and so are we. If the person with cancer is willing to go with the flow, you have to really look at your own motivation to keep a firm grip on the reigns. Let it go.

#5 “Keep Laughing”

Throughout my entire life, I’ve never had a better audience than my mother. She finds almost everything I say witty, clever, honest, wise, or downright hilarious. Can I just say – I find that so refreshing. 🙂  It’s great not to have to repeat the joke or go for the cheap laugh – my mother finds it all amusing. So my jester skills have been honing. I want to make my mom laugh. I want to infuse jolly into her veins so that she laughs and feels better, and keeps laughing and keeps feeling better. No matter what I do though, she has to be willing to laugh, and I am just in awe of how she has kept herself open to joy and laughter throughout this whole mess of a thing.

Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass… It’s about learning how to dance in the rain. – Vivian Greene

I don’t know that you ever stop learning from your mother…at least I haven’t. I hope this season, you learn a little from Norma too. xo


Is this rural ridiculousness? December 16, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:06 PM
Tags: , , , ,

So my last post was all about the beauty of small town living. It was a heartwarming experience and I wanted to share it with all of you. It made me feel happy about living among the cows and the small town folk, it really did.

I had another medical experience this week when I took my son in for his appointment with the pediatrician to follow-up on the chest x-ray. Considering all other medical experiences I’ve had have been in cities (or at least suburbs) I can’t help but think that this might be about living in a small town too. I don’t know that I understood this scenario any better than the first that happened this week except this time it was the pediatric senior intern rather than a young broken snowboarder.

So I have to begin by saying – again – the parking was great, the wait was short, and we were given double the doctor face time than I’ve ever gotten in urban medical facilitates. All was good. The attentive, young, (and incidentally, gorgeous) intern went over our files and said she needed to go through some routine information. No problem. We answered questions about birth order, genetic diseases, past medical history, and the basic rundown. Then she asked the question.

“Do you and your husband or any other married couples in either of your families share the same blood?”

I was sure I heard wrong. She made the snowboarder’s manners look like Martha Stewart. “I’m sorry?” I asked.

“Are any family members married, but share the same blood?” Her eyes didn’t leave the clipboard.

“Like, incestuous relationships – siblings or cousins or something?”


“No…no way. Well, not that I know of anyway.” (I didn’t want to get too cocky – closet skeletons have a way of making the self-righteous eat crow!)

“It seems like an odd question, but you’d be surprised how many people answer that with a yes.”


Okay – is this just me? What the heck is going on? Have any of you been asked that question in a medical exam, or is it my three eyes and my son’s extra toes that made her ask? It’s been a weird week for conversation…


How inappropriate! December 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:49 PM

I had an odd experience today. I took my son over to the local hospital for his follow-up chest x-ray. It’s been just over a month since he was discharged from the hospital, and you’d never know he was even sick, let alone hospitalized for pneumonia. Kids bounce back. Their insides are all rubber ball and elastic bands it seems.

Anyway, I took him to our small town hospital. No appointment necessary – our doctor referral in hand was all we needed. By the time we parked, walked in, waited, got the x-ray and got back to our car, it was a total of twenty-five minutes. Who says rural perks stop at the scenery and free corn?

The bit I want to talk about though is the ten-minute wait we had. Something quite alarming happened. Sam and I walked in, took a number (isn’t that funny?) and went to sit down. Before our butts hit the chair though, the young man across from us – who looked about twenty years old – piped up.

“What are you getting x-rayed?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” I asked, sure I’d heard wrong.

“What are you here for?” he asked.

I was taken aback, but so startled by both the inappropriateness and naivety of this young guy who did not look at all like he was playing with less than a full deck, that I answered. “Chest x-ray.”

“You or him?” he points to Sam.


“What happened?”

This time Sam piped up. “Pneumonia.”

“Oh. That’s too bad. I broke my finger snowboarding,” the guy held up his bandaged pinky finger. “My doctor wants me to get it checked out again.”

“Snowboarding, eh?”

“Yup. I love it. Haven’t stopped even with this,” and up the finger goes again.

I found this odd, especially because there was three other people waiting. Within our conversation two of them had been called into the other room and a new set of patients was coming in. It happened to be two grown men pushing a very fragile looking older woman (presumably mom) in a wheelchair. She had a scarf covering a her head – no hair, no eyebrows. She looked very sick, the men looked very tired. They wheeled her towards the back of the wait room and almost had butt-in-chair when the broken snowboarder piped up.

“What are you here for?”

Both men and the elderly women looked over at him, surprised, but stayed silent.

“Are you getting x-rayed?” He seemed to not notice the snub, and just waited patiently for them to answer.

“No – my mother is.”

“Oh. What happened to your leg?”

I (along the with rest of the room) looked over to the man and the leg in question. He had a prosthetic – which wasn’t all that apparent until you saw his ankle leading into his shoe. I cringed. The room cringed. Had this kid no shame?

“I was born this way.”

“Oh. I think I’ve seen you running downtown. Do you run downtown?”

“Yes, I do.”

“That’s pretty good. Even I don’t run. I don’t like it much. I like to snowboard.”

Then something surreal happened. In this moment where the room was tensed with the blatant inappropriateness of this man’s questioning, things shifted. The man with the prosthetic started talking about how he learned to run when he was a kid because he was always tormenting his brother, who would fly into a rage and beat him amongst the head. He was laughing, the older brother was laughing, the mother was laughing, the snowboarder was laughing, and the rest of the waiting patients – myself included – were laughing as he talked about the “crazy eyes” his brother would get before chasing him around like a maniac.

The snowboarder’s number got called, and everyone wished him good luck. Someone told him to be safe on the slopes. Off he went, this instigator of inappropriate conversation, who somehow got a room of strangers laughing and sharing stories. Ten minutes later when our number was called, the room was still a buzz with conversation between strangers. Long after the random snowboarder left the building, he left an energy that warmed the room.

How odd. How interestingly, amusingly, wonderfully odd. There’s a lesson to be learned in this, though I’m not sure I’ve processed it enough yet to know what the lesson is. Thoughts? Give me your best shot at what today should teach me, and by the recounting – my readers too. What is the lesson?


Ho ho hold it… December 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:25 PM

Festive pause – that’s what it felt like today. Christmas carols a-playing, gingerbread a-baking, christmas tree a-lighting. Nope – that’s what threw a wrench into to the flow. We have a pre-lit tree. Massive, with many many lights. We splurged a few years ago and spent more than we ever thought we would on an artificial tree – even during the half price sell-off sale. But considering I had always spent upwards of two hours stringing the lights on the tree, a pre-lit one sounded like heaven.

I know some of you have done a re-read of that last bit. What? More than two hours stringing lights? How is that possible? That’s what my husband said, and maybe some of you are saying it too. But I know there are just as many of you out there agreeing with me. The difference between those who string lights for two hours, and those who take 5-minutes is all in the placement. I could have done a job parallel to my hubby and just ran around the tree stringing the lights like a ribbon on a maypole, but that’s not the right way. Or at least that’s not my way. It’s not my mother’s or sister’s way either, and anyone who knows any of us can attest – our trees look like something out of a magazine, and it all starts with the lights. You have to wind them, place some deep in the branches, some on the end. That gives the tree depth. You have to make them even top to bottom, and plentiful – no skimping. It’s a thank-less job, because everyone notices the decorations, but few will say – the lights look fantastic!

Decorations do make a difference – I have no two alike on my tree. It helps that my parents have been giving me a decoration every year since the time I was ten – yes – they still do. I have kept up the tradition with my own three children, and my oldest Heather, decorated her own tree in her own home this year with her collection we have been building for her from the year she was born. It tickled my heartstrings. Giving the yearly decorations is one of my favourite family traditions and one my kids all love too. Our tree is a history of hobbies, favourites, and personal styles. My son loves nutcrackers and frogs – so he has lots of those, thrown in with some snowboards, Star Wars and Scooby Doo ones. All of the ones my youngest daughter has are either frilly, fuzzy, sparkly, pink, or with some kind of animal doing something festive and adorable. I always buy one for myself (usually something that looks like it’s sugar-coated) and my hubby too. Merry Christmas to me.

But I digress – back to the Christmas lights. A few hours after the tree went up, the tree was still only half lit. I assumed it would be no biggy for my husband – after all, his previous career was an electrician, so how could tree lights be a challenge. Because he was working on a heat pump downstairs he wasn’t thrilled to be rerouted to tree duty – but hey, we were on a decorating mission. He told me before he could start, I had to count how many lights were on one strand so he could tell which volt it was. It was a daunting task, and I had a sneaky suspicion it was one of his tactics to get out of work. After all – if I didn’t complete my task, how could even start his? Sometimes he can be a sneaky bastard that way. So I counted the damn lights on one of the lit strings – but of course the answer didn’t make sence to him (which I found out later was because the 22 per/string I counted was off by 13 – it was actually 35 lights per string). I guess I can be a sneaky bastard that way too.

“I’ll do dinner while you go to Canadian Tire.” (Will work for food. That is a language he does understand.)

So supper waited for the reluctant handy man to come home and light our tree so our holiday season could begin. Because who can be jolly without a giant faux-fir dazzling  in the centre of your home?


Ready or not… December 2, 2011

The trademark signs of the holiday season are here – festive multicolored lights, crowded malls, smearings of Santa, and Salvation Army donation buckets. I’m not as ready as I’d like to be, and I’ve decided that’s because we missed the Christmas Parade. That particular weekend starts the ball rolling for our family it seems – the tree comes out, decorations come up, the shopping ensues, and I’m normally on the ball enough to have something new for the gang to wear to our festive outings. You know the look – patent shoes and sparkles, holly-jolly sweaters, or at the very least a healthy dose of red and green.

Nooooo, we are NOT related!

We missed the parade this year, so now I’m all ass-backwards.


My home is decoration-less, short of the four Christmas ornaments I bought last week that were left sitting out on the table. They aren’t decorating the place as much as they’re reminding me I’m not on the 8-ball. I have my in-laws coming for dinner Sunday and you’d think that would be motivation enough to cheer the place up holiday style, but I’m finding all kinds of other things to do instead. I’d like to say it was essential tasks keeping me from getting it done. I have been, in fact, scrambling to get an Arts Grant submitted – which really was a lot work – but I can’t really use that as an excuse anymore, since I signed, sealed and delivered the package yesterday afternoon.


I’ve moved on to smaller and way less important distractions – like darning socks. I did four last night. Can’t toss perfectly good socks away…nope. It’s not like we don’t have a million other socks, or a Wal-Mart within driving distance. But faced with doing a major clean and then decoration renovation of the house – I chose darning.


I need to get good tidings and cheer infused into my veins somehow, so decided the next best thing to the Santa Claus parade for a seasonal boost was the children’s Christmas party at my husband’s work. There is no way we could walk away from that event without a little elf-spring in our step. I haven’t bought that festive wear for me or the kids yet, so I figured I better give my hubby a call and get the date so I can shop next week for something that works. I placed the call to Will this morning and sent him on a quest to find out when Santa comes to the station.


Tomorrow. He comes tomorrow, and the pre-paid party fee was due November 10th. Suddenly I don’t feel like such a clod for not erecting the faux- fir tree yet. So he had to grovel to the administration staff to let our kids come. Having been part of the holiday party committee in the past, I know how much they hate him right now  – with two kids potentially without presents at the party. That kind of shit drives organizers nuts – holiday cheer or not.


Now I have to go buy the presents for the party so my kids don’t think they got the snub from the man in red. I have to wrap them, deliver them to the station and hope that tomorrow the kids don’t notice they are getting a gift different than standard “12-year boy” and “8 -year girl” packages. I also get the task of carefully selecting something as good as what the rest of them get (so my kids don’t feel ripped off), but not too good (so all the rest of the kids don’t feel like Santa plays favourites – which is why I am doing the shopping instead of my husband, who would A: really only thinks of his own kids’ happiness – both a gift and a curse; and B: get something ridiculously inappropriate because he now feels guilt for being a holiday clod.) Ah yes – the rush of Christmas.


We’ve strayed from the path of holiday traditions, and I think it all started by missing that damn parade. We’ve gone off the rails, and it’s only December 2nd. Note to self: Tis’ the season to be jolly.