Here at the front lines

Didn’t sleep well last night. Kept tossing, turning and waking up with this image  of me huddled under a thin blanket staring up at a bare light bulb dangling over a little cot in an empty room with old-fashioned venetian blinds. Okay, so I’m embarrassed to admit it but really, some of the nursing homes I’ve visited in the past did not seem such a far cry from that scenario. So I get here and O…M…G!!! This place looks like a 5-star hotel! Okay, so I probably have never even stayed in a 5-star hotel but if I could afford to, this is what it would look like. My suite…get it…is beautifully furnished with two, count ’em, two flat screen televisions and a kitchenette that even I (the non-cook) could whip up a gourmet meal in and talk about fully equipped! A fireplace, washer/dryer, coffeemaker, coffee and TAZO–how d’ya like that! Took some pics with my phone (LMHO — yes me! with my phone!) but don’t know how to upload them yet. Only one thing wrong — WIFI not good. Even with a password I can’t seem to get on-line with my laptop so right now I am using the lobby keyboard and the screen is set up weird. Can’t really see what I’m typing. Anyway, all good. The meals are great, the service is first class–waiters togged up in black & white and serve as though we’re in a fine dining establishment. Very VERY impressive. Getting old might not be so bad if I can hang out in a place like this…don’t know how much $$$ though.  Must write more books. Must sell more books.

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And now all I need is the scooter–for real!!

Update — they now have room at the inn–the elders’ inn, that is. (And we all know how that happens!) So I really am moving in. I’m thinking t.v. comedy/drama/horror ala Stephen King–middle-aged writer agrees to assist with autobiography for elderly famous writer and has to move in to THE HOME to write it. Elderly writer lives to 110. Middle-aged writer never emerges.

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Everything but the electric scooter (well, almost)

In two days time I will become a guest resident of a senior care facility. . .taking planning ahead a few decades too far, perhaps? 

Not quite. 

I will actually be finishing the first draft of an autobiography I have been editing for several years for a wonderful client of mine. She has recently become a resident of the home where I will be staying.  As a writer herself she preferred the longhand route to taped interviews, except that it has taken quite a bit longer than she anticipated. Now she says she “just wants to get it done!” She asked if I would move in to the residence so we could blitz through the rest of it over a few days and hopefully wrap it up.

The residence doesn’t have any vacancies to accommodate me at the moment so I will stay overnight in a hotel next to the residence, but will have all my meals and spend most of my waking hours at the residence, starting from Tuesday around noon through Thursday late afternoon.

As I approach my close-up encounter with the senior lifestyle, I admit I feel a little like I’m about to enter deep space. It’s kinda, well, scary. I’ve decided it might be cool (and help me feel less cut off from the “outside” world)  to report back from the front lines on what it’s really like to live in one of these residences. Okay, so I won’t be embracing the whole deal–no zipping around in an electric scooter (well, unless there’s one sitting idle) and no sleepovers but it’ll be as close as I can get without checking in as a resident.

So stay posted.

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Failure is our friend (or, Success can be a scoundrel)

Back in the office after a brief holiday, I am drowning in unfiled stuff to read, scraps of things I’ve written, unidentified pages, lists, newspaper articles, photocopies of…yeah, more stuff, and, of course, the ever-present bills – paid and unpaid. After an hour of sifting I reward myself with permission to adopt some creative avoidance behaviour. I check in on my favourite bloggers. After getting caught up on the local news/politics (yes, yogurt really does make more cultural effort than, say…but never mind) I visit with writer Catherine Gildiner at http://www.gildinersgospel.blogspot.com/ and scroll down to this entry http://gildinersgospel.blogspot.com/2010/09/managing-creative-expectations.html.

Catherine shares a terrific talk by Elizabeth Gilbert , the author of Eat,Pray,Love, http://vodpod.com/watch/1348787-elizabeth-gilbert-a-new-way-to-think-about-creativity and it gets me thinking, again, about all this effort that authors must put out to market our books. Self-published or traditionally published, it comes to just about the same effort these days—unless you really are a huge success already and what is the ratio of hugely successful authors to still unknowns? Marketing is, of course, the engine behind successful books and I could go on ad infinitum about self-publishing vs traditional publishing (let’s call it SP and TP because I’m a lazy typist) but I’ll save that diatribe for another day. The call of the filing will get louder.

In the video clip Gilbert talks about the artist/creator’s success and inspiration and how it can lead to fear of failure and I realize that failure, or well, let’s politely call it my “deferred success” is, at the moment, my greatest friend. This takes me back to Gildiner’s Gospel and why I saved it in my favourites. Aside from the fact that Gildiner is a brilliant wordsmith and enormously entertaining, I have followed her career with some interest because her first book Too Close to the Falls came out right about the same time as my first, Test of Faith. Gildiner’s was a huge success and mine was…well…not. We seemed to follow each other on Toronto’s promotional talk show circuit in 2000 (I bet Catherine wasn’t even aware of that!) and yet my autobiographical book didn’t see a fraction of the sales – or garner the attention that Gildiner’s memoir did. Sure, she is a magnificent writer, but it really is more than that. Her book struck a chord and it was the right one. She is also a very hardworking author, taking her personal marketing efforts very seriously indeed, as you will read about in her blog. And she is a writer who HAS had success. What about the rest of us?

How, as SP writers (my first was a TP; very nice people but very small marketing budget) do we find that chord and work it ’til it sings? What is the real ratio between luck and hard work? Does it matter? The hard work is a given and so that’s really the only place to start. We must simply do everything that the big houses do but not be discouraged by the fact that they have huge budgets, staff, grants (hard to believe that the big houses qualify for government funding while the little guys—less than 15 books annually—or SPers don’t) because SPers have what the big guys don’t have—we can concentrate on ONE author, ONE book at a time—our own. Plus, along with all that staff and office space they also have huge carrying costs—while, Misu, my muse, lap-warmer, and the best admin assistant ever is content with some wet food, unlimited kibble and a bit of fresh cat grass now and then.

Getting back to Gilbert’s message about success and the fear that often comes with it—fear of never being able to duplicate the magic of a hugely successful book, fear that one’s best work is behind one, etc. I ponder this and realize that the creative self-doubt Gilbert describes attacks the right side of the brain where the alchemical creative process occurs. If the scoundrel (fear of failure/fear of success) gets access to that part of the brain where the seeds are planted before the work even begins to take root, how is the magic of creative process and therefore success possible? Self-doubt, fear of failure/fear of success (the two-headed beast) is the real enemy to creativity. Aha!

So that’s the key—keep feeding the right side of the brain with positive, nurturing messages for those new creative ideas while the left side of the brain works feverishly on marketing plans, making connections, uncovering successful methods employed by other SPers and navigating a way through the maze of self-marketing, all the while ignoring the nay-sayers. Invite Failure to the table and feed him well for he is really your friend, pushing you toward his alter ego Success (however you define it). Closed doors can be a blessing, forcing the route to veer toward unseen avenues and better outcomes.

The positive message for me today is to feel hopeful, cheered that I am unhampered by fear born of success. My success is still ahead, or at least I can hope that it is, elusive perhaps, but at least possible. But like they say, be careful what you wish for.

And maybe, like all the most important things in life, the journey IS the prize.

 

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My guilty little secret

OK–time to let loose on a guilty little secret. When I first moved full-time to Collingwood in 2002 (after 44 years of cottaging in Meaford & Thornbury) I looked out at the Collingwood Terminals (aka the grain elevator) building at the foot of Maple St. and said, “What is that monstrosity?” I couldn’t understand what it was doing there still, marring that magnificent view of Georgian Bay.

 Well, a few years later when I was researching my book Butchers, Bakers & Building the Lakers: Voices of Collingwood I learned just how significant that “monstrosity” was to local and national history and my nay-saying was spun on its head. Today, I see the grain elevator as a splendid and significant reminder of a past that we should remember, must remember if we are to honour those first courageous immigrants and the generations of Canadians that gave birth to this country and helped it through its first baby steps.

On Monday, April 4, 2011, at the invitation of the Collingwood & District Historical Society, I will be sharing for the first time some of my research on the history of the Collingwood grain elevators (note the plural). For local history buffs, or anyone interested in Ontario or Canadian history, if you are able to come out to the Leisure Time Club on Minnesota Street, Collingwood on Monday night at 7 p.m. you may discover or rediscover some interesting facts. You might also feel compelled to change or perhaps be reaffirmed in your opinion of the Collingwood Terminals building and its future.

I won’t spoil Monday night by sharing any of the history in this blog post, but if you are interested in knowing more about this historic Great Lakes icon, watch this space. I’ll be sharing a few historical notes as I continue to what I hope is completion of this book sometime this year.  Some very cool pics to come, several from my view from the top (I mean reallly up there, at the base of the radio tower–eek! stomach somersaults!) and cool shots from the rarely seen inner depths of that gorgeous beast.

The Collingwood Terminals, June 1929

I am also tweeting on the subject of the Collingwood Elevators to find out just how people feel about its future. If I collect sufficient data before Monday, I will share the result at the CDHS presentation. I am intrigued to hear what people have to say! Please check out my twitter posts at #collingwoodterminals and PLEASE share your thoughts.

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Bullies Win

No matter what is said about bullies, and how they will get their come-uppance some day, how Karma will wreak havoc in their lives eventually, how they are really just pushovers when it comes down to it–sorry, but it ain’t true.

Bullies win. All the time.

Whether you meet them in the schoolyard, the workplace, at the family dinner table or just waiting at a stoplight, make no mistake–if you challenge a bully, if you stand up to him/her, if you stand firm on your principles then be fully prepared for the punch in the nose (or your wallet, or your emotional core) that will almost certainly follow. The proverbial bully who runs away isn’t really a bully at all; he’s a fraidy-cat wearing a bully mask. The real trick is to know when you are dealing with the real thing.

Lesson #1: Don’t EVER mistake a real bully for a fraidy-cat. All you are likely to achieve is to confirm what they already suspect–that you’re scared of what they might do.

Many years ago I worked for a man (but it could have been a woman, too) who was a quintessential bully–and he was enormously successful. Why? Because he had it all figured out. He routinely hired small to mid-sized contractors, beat them down on price and when the work was done (with their materials & labour) he just waited…and waited…and waited. Invoices passed the 30-day mark, the 60-day mark and the 90-day mark. If polite enquiries became more demanding (or desperate) the file was sent to the lawyer who was on retainer to deal with these folks “before legal costs” were incurred (by the guy trying to collect). And it worked. The retainer he paid the lawyer was far less than the 50% or more “we’re not paying” discount that the lawyer “negotiated” on my boss’s behalf. Of course, there were always the courageous ones who stood up for their principles and fought for their money. Some of THOSE files (with the same lawyer) were several years old by the time I saw them. And none of them were resolved within the 6 months that I worked for the bully.

Yup, 6 months. You guessed it. I stood up to him. Told him I was not going to follow his instructions to send a contractor to a site to do work that I KNEW the boss was not going to pay for. I insisted that we pay him 50% up front, as per his contract (obviously, this guy had run into bullies before). Voice shaking, hands sweaty, I quietly refused. He fired me on the spot.

The cherry on top was that he refused to pay me the $4,000 he owed me (unpaid overtime, unpaid holiday time, auto expenses, travel expenses, etc.); yup, I was on contract too, that’s how well he played the game. Hiring people outright meant benefits, OHIP, CPP, etc. In the end I had to eat the worst-tasting crow of my life when I dragged myself back to his office, stood there while he utterly humiliated me, and I literally begged for the money he owed me. I was a single Mom and I knew his foolproof system would crush me–and I needed the money more than my pride. I crawled away with a cheque for 1/3 of the amount he owed me but at least it covered my out-of-pocket expenses. I had worked for him for a month for a big fat zero. His accountant nearly had tears in his eyes when he walked into the boss’s office with the cheque in his hand. He and the rest of the staff knew I had stood up to the bully (as they wished they could do) and lost. And. . . I had to say thank-you before the bully handed me the cheque.

Bullies win. Forget about Karma. Forget about “deep down they are marshmallows and they will back down.” The genuine bullies win. It’s that simple.

A few more lessons I’d like to share about dealing with bullies:

If it’s too late for lesson #1:

Lesson #2: Avoid the inevitable moment of confrontation by getting as far away from anyone you even suspect is a bully. In a word . . . RUN!!

If you missed (or ignored) the lessons in #1 and #2, then

Lesson #3: Don’t EVER stand up to a bully. Take your lumps. Crawl away and find peace in survival. Whatever the bully took from you (or out of your hide) is far less than if you had stood there and duked it out. Remember, they do this because they are good at it. And they really, really enjoy winning.

Lesson #4: Forget about principles. Bullies have had their moral compasses surgically removed very early in life. And anyway, what do principles have to do with winning?

Lesson #5: Don’t try to teach a bully right from wrong. He/she already knows the difference. To repeat the lesson of #4: What’s that got to do with winning?

Lesson #6: Don’t jump on your white charger and fight the good fight for all the victims before and after you. It’s already too late for the folks who went before you–hopefully they’ve learned the lesson and moved on. For the hapless victims to come…you’ll do more for them by walking away (while you still can) and balancing all that negative energy by adopting a positive, compassionate, wholesome outlook and practicing honesty in all that you do.

Lesson #7: Fighting bullies can rob you of your inspiration, compassion and positive outlook. Save your energy for the good stuff. Remember, you attract what you focus on. Focus on love, compassion, caring, openness and well, yes, forgiveness (even for the bully…if you can).

Lesson #8: Spread the word: bullies win.

Here’s the P.S. Remember my bullying boss? Are you thinking, hey, you don’t know what might have happened since. He may have got his just desserts in the end. But, er….nope. The last I heard (a few months ago) he had turned his fortune into a VAST fortune. He owns some of the flagship real estate in the city (we won’t name which one). When I watched him interviewed on television for the re-opening of a fabulously renovated downtown building I was nearly speechless at how effortlessly he played the down-to-earth nice guy. Gad, he’s good, I thought. And how many contractors got sc*#wed?

Bullies. They win.

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Memorable Sunsets

The summer of 2010 was probably my best year for sunsets.

Here are a few shots of just one of the spectacular sunsets that comforts me in the cold dark days of our Canadian winter. The digital shots here are a shadow of the actual experience but they sure take me back to that exhilarating hour.

We were in Parry Sound, Ontario for the Festival of the Sound, an inspiring, wonderful annual festival that runs through July and August. I will say that Parry Sound, as a tourist destination, offers slim pickins as far as restaurants, shops and things to do (sorry, Parry Sounders!) but the Festival itself is worth whatever it takes to get there and stay a week or longer. It is very well-organized and though there was nowhere in town to have a drink after a spectacular evening, the Log Cabin Inn was a nice stop for dinner and drinks before the concert. If you stay overnight you can have your post-sunset drinks on the patio.

You absolutely DO NOT want to miss the Sunset Cruise.                                                    The musical soundtrack for the incredible sunset shown here was performed by Afiara String Quartet–an incredibly talented group of young musicians; and Suzanne Shulman on flute with Erica Goodman on harp.

Unfortunately, these images from my digital camera can’t do the moment justice, but you get the idea. 

               

 Being a technotard, these photos are, of course, untouched. What the heck is photoshop?

 I only wish I could paint!

And who better to share this sunset with!

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