A Birthday, a Book, and Camino or Bust

Today marks what would have been the 80th birthday of my mother, Davida Cecilia (nee Creamer) Craig. Everyone called her Dee. She liked milestone birthdays and she would have loved this one. 80. I always thought there was something magical about her birth year because it was 1939. The same year as The Wizard of Oz. I always remembered that odd fact, for some reason.

A couple of weeks ago, I took out the recipe box my mother used to keep. To be honest, there was a time when we kept it together. We once began a project together of organizing that box and re-writing all the recipes on index cards. We bought the alphabetical dividers and everything. It was going to be a perfectly appointed collection to pass down. As I scrolled through the chaos of cards, pamphlets, magazines, magazine clippings and scrap pieces of paper with faded recipes scrawled on them, it became obvious that the project was a complete failure. We hadn’t even made it halfway through the reorganization process, and it seems to have declined back to chaos in the ensuing years. This recipe box is the Miss Havisham of recipe boxes. Hope lost.

But perhaps this is the way recipe collections should be, no? Fully loved and used and faded and worn and torn and in shambles. Maybe that’s the sign of a good recipe collection. Maybe our little project was where we went wrong. It was, come to think of it, my idea. Sure, Mom always said, “One day I should sit down and sort this mess out.” But I wonder now if everyone who loves to bake and cook says that occasionally when they open up their fragile elastic-reinforced recipe collections to get to work.

What I also realized as I flipped through all the beloved baking recipes from my childhood is that we must have began that project when I was no more than 10 years old. All the rewritten recipes on index cards were in my childhood eerily perfect and meticulous left-handed scrawl. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her and going through the recipes and being cautious to the point of insanity while I carefully wrote them out. All the 1/2s and 1/4s and 1/3s had to be 100% correct. Not a single word could be omitted. Baking is, after all, an exact science.

Our most baked recipe had to be peanut butter cookies (molasses cookies would take a quick second place…but they were harder to make and took more time). That’s the recipe I looked for while I took my nostalgic dip back into the recipe box. It was only after 3 thorough trips down memory lane that I finally found the recipe in a spiral notebook. I never did find the index card. And almost nothing was filed in alphabetical order in the filing system.

The peanut butter cookie recipe that I did finally find, after much panic, was in my mother’s gorgeous swirling curlicue handwriting. I always thought she had the most magical handwriting of them all. I remember watching her make words come to life on the page, knowing I’d never be able to come close to that kind of fancy. But I followed each and every swirl when I made my first post-Mom batch of peanut butter cookies.

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What I realized when I made a batch of these cookies was that my mother was always baking for an army. The batch was ENDLESS. But, as memory serves, a batch would last no more than a day in my childhood home. Her cookies often served the purpose of pied piper in our neighbourhood.

In retrospect, maybe the bomb that went off inside the recipe box that we never quite got a handle on is an allegory for the bomb that went off between us. No matter. Things happened. They won’t take away the time we spent together, though. We had a few things together. One was definitely baking. One was photo albums. The two of us were the official curators of our family photo albums. A third was puzzles. I can’t even begin to count the hours we spent together working on puzzles at the dining room table. One picture appeared after the other, seemingly out of nowhere. We never seemed to tire of that one.

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Mom, Manny, Me, Dave, Dad. Not in this pic is baby brother George. He wasn’t quite here yet. This was early 1971…George arrived in 1972.

Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad that all the good memories eventually came bubbling back up to the surface. They never go away, do they? Not really. I just have to close my eyes and I remember being elbows deep in batter, helping you make your own birthday cake and trying DESPERATELY not to ask you for any help…because nobody should have to make their own birthday cake. Not now, not ever. Happy Birthday.

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This pic has nothing to do with anything I’m writing today. I’m using it only as a subject divider, because I’m all over the place today. As usual. This is me following Michael on foot for the last mile or so into Nepal, from India. It was really the only way for us to cross from one country to the other in any reasonable amount of time last September.

I have a book out on submission right now and I’d probably trade all my other publications combined to see it to market. I just finished a reread. This is something I sometimes do when a book is out in the hands of publishers. It’s on my list of thing I do to second guess myself and question my abilities as a writer. I still love this book, though. I still hope it finds a home. It’s not often that I feel this good about something I wrote. So, fingers crossed. I’m kind of at a standstill at the moment, because I’m thinking so much about this novel finding a home that it stops me from diving into the next and the next. I’m sure it won’t be an excuse forever. It will either happen or it won’t.

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This subject divider makes a little more sense. This is one of soooo many shrouds to shoes one finds on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. Shoes literally play out their entire lives on this path. I’ll be returning there in September, but I hope to leave my shoes at home.

The countdown to the beginning of Our Camino Adventure is now 181 days. As much as I love spring and summer, I have never wished them to speed by as much as I am wishing them to do so now. On September 10th we are boarding a plane that will take us to Madrid, by way of Lisbon, and I cannot wait. The Camino de Santiago is constantly percolating in the back of my mind. I daydream about the day my feet will once again touchdown on its sacred path. Like Frank N. Furter realizing he’s about to get the opportunity to return to his home planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, I am beside myself with excitement.

On the day I went away, goodbye
Was all I had to say, now I
I want to come again and stay, oh my my
Smile, and that will mean I may

Cause I’ve seen oh, blue skies through the tears
In my eyes
And I realize, I’m going home

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This is the face of someone who knows they’re going home. This will be my face at the airport on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019. I may go slightly less dramatic with the eye shadow, but we shall see. I’m not promising anything.

Unlike Frank N. Furter, I’m not going to find out at the last second that I’ll be lasered to death just before take-off. At least I hope that’s not in the cards for me.

We now have our entire itinerary mapped out. We managed, through trial and error, to come up with it all by ourselves. We’re hoping we aced the journey and gave ourselves enough but not too much time for each day’s trek. It’s such a fine balance when figuring out in advance how far you’re going to walk each day. And with the throngs growing each and every year on the Camino**, we didn’t want to take our chances with not booking our nightly stays in advance. So, it’s all locked and loaded…even though we still have 181 days to go.

**In 2017 the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela received 301,006 pilgrims, up from 237,882 in 2014…which is the year I first walked the Camino. Last year, there was an even greater amount of pilgrims. More are expected to walk in 2019.

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Not only was my first Camino experience a mostly WET AND RAINY one, but the cathedral was also undergoing a massive exterior refurbishing. The front was covered in scaffolding. I’m told that the scaffolding is now gone. I’m excited to see the polished new exterior. Unfortunately, this means the interior is now under restoration. I’m told the Botafumeiro will not swing.

I will be attempting a BAREFOOT walk this coming Camino. I went barefoot for a few portions of my last Camino. Hopefully, I can do it all the way…only slipping into footwear to enter places that won’t allow bare feet. That’s the goal, anyway. We shall see.

THE SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FOR THE TOPICS OF THIS POST

Not really six degrees.

Mom’s Birthday – The Book I have on Submission Takes Place on the Camino de Santiago – I’m walking the Camino. I’m dedicating this pilgrimage to the memory of my mother. Full circle.

Anyway…a lot on my mind today. I find getting it out helps. Happy Birthday, Mom…wherever you happen to be in the universe. Imagine me baking you a cake and I’ll imagine you being impressed by my cake decorating abilities.

 

Keep This Love in a Photograph…

 

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

~ ED SHEERAN (Photograph)

Love is such a powerful yet fragile thing… a conundrum, really. It’s a bullet with butterfly wings. In Photograph, Ed Sheeran sings about the perfection of the photograph—the happy moments caught forever in a snapshot—and he kind of implies that we never see the other parts of love in that photo, the parts that hurt and scar and tear you to ribbons. The ugly parts.

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

~ ED SHEERAN (Photograph)

Our hearts are never broken in the photographs we take, because photographs are for the happy times… the minutiae moments in between the hard and trying bits. We will never hear someone say, “Hold those tears! This is a Kodak moment.”

The photograph memory is a bit like the Facebook phenomenon wherein you display your happy self to the world and keep the shit to yourself. Everyone then sees one side of you and thinks, ‘Damn…he/she/they is/are so lucky!’ Only they don’t see the fractures that are slowly pulling you apart. Because Facebook = Happy Moments. It creates a vicious cycle of envy, jealousy, and falsehoods. It’s not real life. Real life isn’t only the photographs and it isn’t only the happy Facebook status updates. It’s also comprised of those unsnapped moments, the ones we don’t keep for posterity.

I began writing this blog post some two weeks ago, but I had no idea where I was going with it. So, I kept it in my Draft folder. Now I can use it.

Sometimes–without the photographs to remind us–we only remember the bad parts. We keep this love in a photograph. There’s a reason why the good stages of love can be found in that instantaneous snapshot. It’s there to jar your memory when you’re living in the dark stages of love. If you don’t pull out those photographs to remind you…you may think that all is lost. But sometimes, it isn’t.

I said goodbye to my mother last Tuesday (April 26th, 2016). Before seeing the photographs kept, I believed fully that all was lost. For good.

I sense that Ed Sheeran’s song is about lovers, but I think with just the odd tweak it can definitely apply to anyone. Love is, after all, universal.

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

In the end, my mother did wait for me to come home. She waited for me and my baby brother to come home to her. We made the 14 hour trip in 12 hours. She woke up and had one last lucid period. In it, she said, “I did it” (meaning she made it…she waited for us just as she said she would two days earlier). She had her husband and her four boys at her side…exactly how she would have wanted it. I can’t and won’t sugar-coat things. I didn’t know that was how she would have wanted it until the time had come and I was actually there. I had always imagined that she’d be happier if I wasn’t there…if she had only her three boys and her husband with her.

I had forgotten to look at the photographs. We keep this love in a photographWhere our eyes are never closing, Hearts are never broken—Times forever frozen still. I focused only on the bad parts of love, the ones we don’t photograph. The ones we ALL have. I imagined my wounds to be terminal. And in my imagining, I had lost so much.

But there is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…a time to tear and a time to mend…a time to be silent and a time to speak

Hearts are never broken.

 

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My Mom, Manny (1970), Me (1966), David (1965), and my Dad… (This is circa early 1971. My baby brother, George, came along in 1972.) I would give anything for those pants! We keep this love in a photograph…
US
US – At Geordy’s wedding… WAIT FOR ME TO COME HOME…

One Step Closer to the Death I Will Become – My Autumn is Upon Me

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Simple Beauty – A boy and his menagerie

As summer turns to fall, I enter a period of deep reflection. It has always been this way. Even before I discovered Robert Frost’s NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY, I had a deep appreciation for the importance of the time between summer and fall. It is that drop in the life-cycle of a calendar square…when dawn goes down to day…that pulls at my heartstrings. And as day seeps away into the gloaming…that is the time when I want to scream, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Look at me. Most people mix metaphors. Me? I mix poets and their poems. I’m just feeling so verklempt of late. I smell the changing seasons. I see these brushstrokes of hot orange and burnt sienna and mustard yellow in the trees about me and I ache inside. Now, more than ever. Because I know now that somewhere inside of me I am slowly turning to these colours myself. I have entered my own gloaming. And, yet, what have I done. I also continually imagine Jim Morrison screaming at me, “Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?”

Probably, Jim. Maybe. I don’t know, Jim. Maybe not. Leave me alone, Jim.

The gloaming...as beautiful as it is heartrending. The end of the day...
The gloaming…as beautiful as it is heartrending. The end of the day…

And then, don’t even get me started, I think of that song from Rent. Oh, you know the one…don’t pretend you don’t. Seasons of Love. Because…

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee…in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure, a year in the life?

The mornings are a bit crisper, a bit more dewy. The sun often feels brighter this time of year…more piercing, just as it feels less heat-filled. Its glare seems more honest in September and October than it did in July. The year is winding down, and it is fighting against the inevitable…because the year is happy to be alive. And it gets happier the closer it gets to its own demise. As though it can feel the forever nap it is about to embark upon…and it rebels in the only way it knows how. It blows up into a miracle of colour and light.

Just to float on the sea, find myself on a page of history...
Just to float on the sea,
find myself on a page of history…

“I am here! This is me! I AM.”

Don’t you…forget about me.

60366d7b4efa8da92aa3eb136d89e14cAnd the year, it is so desperate not to die. It holds a ghetto-blaster up in the air and it says, “Take me as I am…do not forsake me. I will love you, if only you will let me stay here…in your life…in your love.”

And the year that is slowly dying…it plays for us a song to keep our attention. To justify its staying when it knows it cannot. It tries to tempt and trick the heart. “I can stay,” the year says, “if you love me enough.”

Love I get so lost, sometimes…days pass and this emptiness fills my heart…when I want to run away…I drive off in my car…but whichever way I go…I come back to the place you are.

cusakHow do we authenticate our lives? As the leaves burst into colour–and then later dry out and abandon all hope and wither to the ground–we too are changing. We may not know when, or why, or how, or where we die. But we all walk that Eventual Eventual. If we don’t contemplate our journey while taking it, what’s the point?
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make…
There is only one thing that matters. LOVE. The rest fades to black, as we ourselves do. The history of us eventually fades…but the love? Imagine love as a virus. It carries from one person to another and another and another. It is the one thing that doesn’t truly die with us.
Look for miracles...they are everywhere...
Look for miracles…they are everywhere…
As leaves gather around your feet this autumn, remember that you will not be spared this great equalizing season. You are witness to the autumn around you just as autumn begins inside you. And when winter comes, be ready…at least in your heart. Let the things that do not matter fall away. It’s the only way you’ll gain ground for more love to enter.
Love - It's guilt edged Glamorous and sleek by design...
Love – It’s guilt edged
Glamorous and sleek by design…
As the last leaves fall, you will scream NOT YET, NOT YET, NOT YET! But you know…as sure as you live and breathe, you know!
To everything…turn, turn, turn…there is a season…turn, turn, turn…and a time for every purpose under Heaven…a time to be born, a time to die…

Ponder your life. Forgive. Let go. Heal. And when you’re ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, remember one thing, my lovelies…DO IT TO THE BEAT OF LOVE and DO IT IN DANCE…

Do not go gentle into that good night – Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Robert Frost, 18741963

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

This time of year. It always makes me a little bit more insane. And sad. And happy…gloriously happy. I will not go gently into this coming autumn.

A Year in the Life – Things to Come and This Too Shall Pass…

“Another year older, and a new one just begun…” ~ So sang John Lennon in Happy Christmas (War is Over)

2015 hasn’t begun yet, but it’s just a sneeze away. With another year under our belts, we sometimes can’t help but reflect. All the New Year cliches come out of the woodwork. We either stay away from, or join, the nearest gym. We think about all the things we accomplished in the year that is ending, and all the things we failed to do. We think about all the things we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year, all the things we know we will miss out on.

It’s just that time of year.

2014 was my year of travel. I will probably never travel as much in one year as I did in 2014. I did British Columbia, Spain, Paris, New York, Quebec City and Orlando, Florida. Capped it all off with a swing-by of Stratford, Ontario this past weekend. (-:

The Vast Camino is filled with Places of Wonder!
The Vast Camino is filled with Places of Wonder!

I made many new friends and experienced too many phenomenal things to list here. I grew through walking across Spain on the trail to Camino De Santiago. I walked up mountains and down mountains and through mountains.

"Captain, My Captain!" ~ Sue Kenney, Pilgrim Guide to The Camino
“Captain, My Captain!” ~ Sue Kenney, Pilgrim Guide to The Camino

I stopped to smell the flowers, to laugh, to cry, to make amends. I stumbled barefoot through mud and rocks and grass. I had a picnic like never a picnic was ever had before, or ever will be had again…at the apex of a beautiful hill, in tall grass with friends–fellow peregrinos.

To the Top of the World! Somewhere in Spain, on the Camino...
To the Top of the World! Somewhere in Spain, on the Camino…
A Picnic in Paradise - May, 2014. Spain
A Picnic in Paradise – May, 2014. Spain

I met a man I hardly shared words with, but who made me weep like a baby, a pilgrim from France who had found more than he had ever bargained for on the Camino…the love of a million pilgrims and one. He was that special.

A Peregrino from France Who Changed the Lives of All He Touched on The Camino...
A Peregrino from France Who Changed the Lives of All He Touched on The Camino…

I shouted into the rain and walked through snow. And at the end of the long journey, I walked into a city more beautiful than any emerald one could ever be. And, by some stroke of magic, I saw all those I had met along the way. I stood on the roof of THE Cathedral and viewed that beautiful city in 360 degree splendor from that holiest of lofty places.

The View NOT of the Cathedral of Camino de Santiago, but FROM Atop it!
The View NOT of the Cathedral of Camino de Santiago, but FROM Atop it!

I walked the quiet morning back-roads of Galiano Island with the wild wind at my back and the Pacific Ocean at my side.

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Morning Stroll on Galiano…
In British Columbia, the Sun Explodes Both IN and OUT of the Day...
In British Columbia, the Sun Explodes Both IN and OUT of the Day…

I saw Canadian flags wave greetings from boats in a tiny harbour there, while the Canadian Rockies in the background swallowed up anything else in my view.

The Galiano Inn - Home to the Annual Galiano Literary Festival
The Galiano Inn – Home to the Annual Galiano Literary Festival

I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and scanned a city heretofore a mere dream to me…a fantasyland where Fitzgerald and Hemingway wined and dined and wrote and sang and lived. Never did Paris mean more to me than that, until I was there. It opens anew to each visitor, presents a unique place in the heart of each guest. I stomped up the Champs-Élysées with my new friend, Nina, and together we took on the endless spiral staircase inside the Arc de Triomphe and we stood at the top exhausted and filled with light and love and we smiled on the fair city that stretched out in fingers away from the tower.

Me and my new friend NINA, fellow LBWR registrant, atop the Arc de Triomphe!
Me and my new friend NINA, fellow LBWR registrant, atop the Arc de Triomphe!

Together we walked the Tuileries, and sat for mayhaps a little too long sipping red wine while the sun went down and the rats in the bushes beside us scurried.

20140620_225917-MOTIONWe drank absinthe at a lovely little outdoor cafe, where we admired shoes and broke glasses and laughed until we were sore…nay, until we soared! With our group, THE LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT, we wandered museums, we took the Metro, we walked Montmartre, we wrote in Le Jardin de Luxembourg, we entered the great WORD CATHEDRAL—SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY. We entered Shakespeare & Company! After decades of imagining it.

Shakespeare & Company - Where words breathe
Shakespeare & Company – Where words breathe

I don’t care that I am running on and on, for with each word comes another remembrance. My year. My year!

CHARLIE. And CHARLIE. AND CHARLIE. CHARLIE! In the midst of it all was born a beautiful boy. Little Charlie Bucket, who will one day know what that means.

I leave you with this year's most precious new arrival...
CHARLIE THOMAS – Boy Wonder! Little Brother to EDWARD JACOB, the Wonder who came before him!

What it’s like to step inside Notre Dame Cathedral when it’s empty at eight in the morning (mark that down! At ten, the lines are so long you could die before entering!) is something that will stay with me for ever. It is a simultaneous feeling of being infinite and of being nothing at all. And to think, I stayed only a couple of minutes up the road from that most famous of cathedrals…the centre point of the old universe itself.

Notre Dame Cathedral in the Morning!
Notre Dame Cathedral in the Morning!

Later, I stood atop Rockefeller and looked down at the most famous park in the world and wondered at its vastness and its nothingness. A green thick and wild and in the centre of one of the world’s most thriving and populated meccas.

I recall Central Park in fall...How you tore your dress, what a mess...
I recall Central Park in fall…How you tore your dress, what a mess…

And the lady of the harbour, I saw her too.

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And to walk the streets of Old Quebec City after wandering the streets of Paris is to know the connection. plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Quebec City Streets - A Whisper of Paris
Quebec City Streets – A Whisper of Paris

An ocean between the two places, and a hint of the struggle that came with building the second in the shadow of the first.

New and Old meet - Quebec City...the Wall
New and Old meet – Quebec City…the Wall

Each beautiful, each unique. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Everyone is a Child in the Magic Kingdom! DISNEY ORLANDO...a MUST!
Everyone is a Child in the Magic Kingdom! DISNEY ORLANDO…a MUST!

OOH! Disney and Universal in Orlando. Something MAGIC this way comes!

Old Friends from Long Ago...
Old Friends from Long Ago…
Dr. Seuss is the reason I write. I had to meet The Cat in the Hat while at Universal in Orlando! (-:
Dr. Seuss is the reason I write. I had to meet The Cat in the Hat while at Universal in Orlando! (-:

I’m another year older, yes. But I’m also so much younger. I have learned a great deal in 2014. I am grateful for every new soul in my life. Each and every one of you!

I thought I would write a few words about my year and move on to Things to Come. Sorry…that just came out of its own accord.

So on with THINGS TO COME. What will 2015 have in store for me.

On January 19th, my 5th novel will be released! HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN won the Muskoka Novel Marathon‘s BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD! Now, it’s going to be available to all to read. It’s actually already available for pre-order at Amazon:

51OeS9ITAHL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_And don’t look for me come mid-March, for I will be in CHINA & HONG KONG…until April. (-:

What of THIS TOO SHALL PASS, you ask? This was something I always promised myself of all the bad things. And now it is something I realize happens also with all the good. So—grab onto every single moment you have. Every single one. Hold on for dear life and enjoy the ride. Whether it is good or bad, it is fleeting. This too shall pass…

Leftbank Writers Retreat – THE Perfect Christmas Gift for the Writer on Your List! Or Treat YOURSELF!

It’s DECEMBER. Some of us are finished our Christmas shopping. Others will start it on the 24th. I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to Christmas gift shopping. I have begun.

Have I got a gift idea for the writer on your list! 🙂

As some of you may know, I went to Paris in June of this year. It wasn’t an ordinary Paris trip, though. I went for a writing workshop. As a HUGE fan of Ernest Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST, I always had the desire not only to see Paris…but to see it in the footsteps of Hemingway. I Googled Hemingway’s Paris writing retreat about a year ago. As is often the case, Google struck gold. On the first page of my search, LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT IN PARIS came up. I knew within a minute of clicking on the website that I had found what I was looking for.

The Beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, where writers on the retreat spend their mornings writing and listening and breathing in the beauty that is Paris...
The Beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, where writers on the retreat spend their mornings writing and listening and breathing in the beauty that is Paris…

I saw Hemingway’s Paris, I wrote in the Tuileries and in the Luxembourg Gardens, I saw the city from atop the Eiffel Tower, I wandered museums, I strolled down the Champs-Élysées, and I climbed the great spiral staircase to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I did it all.

In this unique writing retreat, writers have the opportunity to explore Paris on their own during the evening. There is nothing more beautiful than walking the streets of Paris while the sun is setting! Doing so after a full day of living the writing life is even more extraordinary!
In this unique writing retreat, writers have the opportunity to explore Paris on their own during the evening. There is nothing more beautiful than walking the streets of Paris while the sun is setting! Doing so after a full day of living the writing life is even more extraordinary!

The retreat is perfect for first time visitors to Paris, as well as those returning to the city of love and light. For first timers, not only will you be taken through Hemingway’s Paris in the embrace of tour organizer Darla Worden and her amazing faculty Sarah Sazur and Travis Cebula during the day, but you will also have the nights to explore Paris on your own. And all three faculty members are amazingly knowledgeable on all things Paris…and extremely helpful at making suggestions and offering directions, etc. I never once felt abandoned during my stay. It was wonderful to have the evenings to ourselves after our days of writing and museum hoping and neighbourhood visiting. And there was always someone from the group to share the evening experiences with.

paris2
Left Bank Writers Retreat Founder Darla Worden, Faculty Member Travis Cebula, and 2014 Alum Nina Welsh. Writing and Learning in the Luxembourg Gardens!

If you are a writer, now is the time to spoil yourself for Christmas! The Left Bank Writers Retreat is currently offering a discount! So treat yourself while the deal is on. You will NOT regret it. I loved it so much, I plan to attend this retreat again in the future.

The Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty take writers to these magical steps, where Gil was whisked off into the 1920s in the movie Midnight In Paris!
The Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty take writers to these magical steps, where Gil was whisked off into the 1920s in the movie Midnight In Paris!

If you have a loved one who is a writer, this is the perfect Christmas gift for them. I promise you, they will love this enriching experience in the city of love and light. Paris changes you. Paris through the wonder of the Left Bank Writers Retreat, done in the shadow of Ernest Hemingway, changes you on an even deeper level. Give the gift that will give back to the writer in your life for years to come.

As writers on the loose in the evenings of Paris, you could visit the Louvre! If you walk straight from the pyramid, through the Tuileries beyond, you will find yourself strolling on the Champs-Elysees. This will eventually take you to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can walk to the top and view the city in all its splendour!
As writers on the loose in the evenings of Paris, you could visit the Louvre! If you walk straight from the pyramid, through the Tuileries beyond, you will find yourself strolling on the Champs-Elysees. This will eventually take you to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can walk to the top and view the city in all its splendour!

Here’s a media release from the retreat:

Forget the fancy pens and notebooks. This year’s best holiday gift for writers is six days at the Left Bank Writers Retreat, a small-group summer writing workshop held in Paris each summer. A $200 discount on registration for this year’s retreat, to be held June 14-19, 2015 – on any registration made by January 1, 2015 – makes the deal sweeter for gift givers.

The discounted price of the six-day Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris is $1,799 (regularly $1,999) and includes morning writing sessions, coaching and one-on-one time with the instructor for a maximum of eight writers, as well as lunch each day, admission to museums and area sights, an excursion to Montmartre, a picnic on the banks of the Seine and a literary tour visiting many of the sites featured in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.”

“I’ve heard many stories at the retreat from women and men who received the retreat as a gift,” says retreat founder and CAL member Darla Worden. “It is definitely a gift that keeps on giving – writers leave the retreat with newfound inspiration found in Paris.”

The retreat welcomes fiction and memoir writers, poets and playwrights. A place in the 2015 retreat can be held with a $500 deposit.

What trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Left Bank Writers Retreat included a boat ride down the Seine where we viewed the Tower from the river. Later, on our own, a fellow alum and myself made our way to the tower for our own personal exploration up close and atop!
What trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Left Bank Writers Retreat included a boat ride down the Seine where we viewed the Tower from the river. Later, on our own, a fellow alum and myself made our way to the tower for our own personal exploration up close and atop!

Put yourself, or your loved one, in the hands of the best Paris tour guides you will ever meet. Darla, Sarah and Travis are AMAZING! They gave me a gift I will never forget. Ernest Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I have changed this slightly after being fortunate enough to have experienced the Left Bank Writers Retreat. “If you are lucky enough to have experienced the Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for the Left Bank Writers Retreat is a moveable feast.”

Give the writer on your list a gift that will last forever. Give them Darla. And Sarah. And Travis. Give them Hemingway’s Paris!

Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor, and Travis Cebula --- collectively, the magic behind the Left Bank Writers Retreat!
Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor, and Travis Cebula — collectively, the magic behind the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

I’m No Superman

You know what’s hard? Realizing that the things you thought no longer bother or control you still bother or control you. When you think you’re stronger than you actually are.

Sometimes our weaknesses prevent us from being whole. But we can’t allow them to define who we are. We are not our weaknesses.

 

Sometimes we have bad days. Just allow them to be what they are. The bad days help us to recognize the good ones. Tomorrow is an amazing gift. Stick around…

 

 

Sing Me To Sleep…

I used to think the eternal sleep would be a welcome reprieve. Honestly, I did. Even in the height of any happiness, I was suspicious. In fact, the state of happiness itself was enough to send me into a tailspin. My wires had become so crossed that I didn’t know how to react to good things happening.

I used to think Asleep by The Smiths was a happy song. I still love it, but now I see that it’s a song about giving up…about forgoing the light in favour of darkness. It’s a song about taking the safe route, the well worn road of comfort and emotional deadness. STATIC.

If I were to create a graph of what used to happen whenever happiness hit, it would look a bit like this:

happy

This was never an intentional path. I believe it was one that simply manifested itself in order to protect me from feeling. It was a path that essentially kept me in a perpetual state of sleep. In recent years I had a LOT of incredible things happen in my life. And I would attempt to show the proper reaction every time. And on the inside I just kept wondering why the event didn’t make me feel anything particularly pleasant. One would think that after working hard on a novel and finding a publisher and eventually holding said novel in your hands would give one some form of enjoyment. I imagined what that enjoyment would feel like and then I attempted to fake it. All along waiting for the jig to be up…for someone to say, “We were only kidding. We’re not publishing YOUR book. Are you nuts?!”

It wasn’t just my writing life that was effected by this eternal state of ennui. It was present in every corner of my life.

I still love this song immensely. But it’s no longer me. I don’t want to sleep. I have so much to catch up on. I feel like a Grimm fairy tale character who wakes up in a gloomy dark forest in the middle of nowhere, after a thousand years of sleep. The canvas was once water-washed with a thin film of black…making all the other colours muted and ghastly.

“Deep in the cell of my heart, I will feel so glad to go…”

“Deep in the cell of my heart, I really want to go…”

Those lines in particular always made me sad…but in a semi-happy way. Because I understood them to my core. I believed the lie. I was lulled into thinking I honestly did want to go.

If you find yourself in darkness, I have one simple piece of advice for you. Turn on the light. You’re probably the only one who can do so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you not to seek help. There is nothing weak about seeking help and I encourage anyone suffering from depression to do so. But you can reach out a thousand times for help…if you’re not willing to accept it fully, though, you’re only paying lip service. When you’re ready to receive happiness, it’s up to you to turn on the light. When it’s off you think turning it on is the most impossibly difficult thing in the universe to do. But the sick and terrible secret is just how easy it is to turn on the light. It’s a slight shift. That’s all. Perception is both a friend and an enemy. We must use it wisely.

I’ve been living in happiness for some time now. It’s true, for quite a while I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for something to happen that would switch the light back off. But it’s not happening. I’m ready to accept that the light can stay on. There’s no reason to swivel back and forth…to run from feelings of happiness. Not when there is so much to be happy about. Not when there’s so much to be grateful for.

I used to think R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People was this mystical unattainable thing. The song always hit me. I knew it was an elixir…I just didn’t know how to drink it.

I think I get it.

“There’s no time to cry, happy, happy
Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines”

Happiness is un-diminishable. It can only multiply. All you have to do is share it…

 

 

(I will soon have a book cover to share with you. I’ve seen the first draft of the cover for my upcoming release HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN and I’m ecstatic about it! I can’t wait to share it with you. Stay tuned!)

Visit my author page on Amazon for currently available novels!

 

Back From the Camino – Ready to Write!

You know when you know? Yes you do. You know what I’m talking about. We’re writers. We percolate. A writer can sit still for a week and be working as hard as anyone out there. Because we write from that vast landscape of the mind. We see moving pictures float past us at a hundred thousand miles a minute. We are always working. Like sloths, though, you sometimes can’t see the progress right away. But we move.

I know it’s time to write. The kettle is about to whistle. The pressure is building to a crescendo and the release valve needs to be…well, released.

I just got back from walking the Camino de Santiago (THE WAY OF ST. JAMES) in Spain. With a small leap of faith, I walked out onto the vast rooftop of the cathedral and and I sighed. I’m not sure, but the sigh may have been heard around the world. Like a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan to create a tsunami in Mexico, my sigh gently pushed its way out to the ocean and carried itself on a wave to lap against the shore on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Yeah. I’m a romantic. It’s true.

As I stood up on the rooftop of that cathedral, I was certain that I was at the top of the world. And I was also certain that the top of the world was wherever you wanted it to be. It’s not a place on the map that needs to live by the laws of physics and altitudes and logic. The top of the world is a feeling. And I found it on my journey.

I walked through villages, cities, forests, fields, vineyards, mountains, rain and snow. I jumped barefoot into mud puddles and streams. I balanced, like a child, on ancient walls and sidewalk curbs. I walked with strangers and people who would become anything but strangers. I walked with Germans and Asians and French and Dutch and Americans and Canadians and Hungarians and Africans and Mexicans and Colombians and Irishmen and Peruvians and Scotsmen and Englishmen. I walked with the world. And I walked with no one. And I walked with ghosts and goats and cows and bulls and dogs and horses.

At the end of my journey–like Dorothy–I woke up. And in the magical city of Oz…er…Santiago, I found all the people I had shared my dream with. In a city I had never been in, I walked around and saw a thousand faces I already knew. Jean-Claude from France–the man I couldn’t look at without bursting into tears. He was there, too. Smiling and embracing every pilgrim he met along his own journey. And Jean-Claude held court with many people of many nations. He will be carried to many corners of our globe. Jean-Claude will never be forgotten. And he is just one of the peregrinos I encountered.

I discovered that the top of the world–like Kansas–was there all along. Perception is the only thing that needs to change in order for one to be there. You can walk hundreds of kilometers to get to a sacred land of emeralds and gold and gild-edged beauty. Sure…you can do that. And you can have the time of your life doing it, too. But in order to get home…in order to get to your bliss…you need only click your heels together. You need only open your eyes to it.

I have a story in my belly. Like the magical mystical ladies of Casa Verde, who could pour shots like nobody’s business, I am ready to shout. I will write about the Camino. I know I will. One can’t not.

 

AS USUAL, YOU CAN FIND MY BOOKS ON AMAZON. (-:  Just click this link to get there.

 

I Know I Know for Sure That Life is Beautiful Around the World…

I have done so many things lately. Writing isn’t really one of them. But that’s okay. One doesn’t have to be writing to be writing. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean.

I do have to mention one exception, however…as I wrote the beginning of my 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon in Wayson Choy’s Friday Afternoon Masterclass at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. The novel will be a Young Adult novel and it will be titled JUMP. I have the first three or four paragraphs on paper…and the rest is percolating.

I thought I would do this in pictures today, as I’ve been a bit camera happy lately.

As mentioned above, I went to the 2014 Ontario Writers’ Conference. This was an exquisite opportunity to grow as a writer. And it was also an excellent opportunity to see writer friends I only see once or twice a year at the OWC and events like it. This year I had the extreme pleasure of being a Manuscript Mentor at the conference, as well. I read some great work in my role as mentor. And I’m wise enough to know that everything is a learning opportunity. I learned so much from the writers I met with. All in all, the conference was spectacular…as per usual. Every single year, the organizing committee outdoes themselves.

For a full rundown on the conference, I’m going to send you over to my friend LORI TWINING’s website. Her recap is one of the most fabulous recaps of an event I have ever had the pleasure of reading. (-: AND she gives me a nod at the end, so…there’s that. (-;

On to the pictures:

Caroline Wissing - The OWC would NOT be the same without her! Read her YA novel VOICELESS. It's wonderful!
Caroline Wissing – The OWC would NOT be the same without her! Read her YA novel VOICELESS. It’s wonderful!

CAROLINE WISSING – VOICELESS, a Young Adult Novel

Mel, Naomi & Lori...three awesome women! Future Canadian Literati. I love photobombing. (-:
Mel, Naomi & Lori…three awesome women! Future Canadian Literati. I love photobombing. (-:

I’m fortunate enough to share a music blog with Naomi. She’s a musical twin of sorts. (-: You can read her latest musical escape to Kaskade at our SKY CHURCH MUSIC. Lori and I have done the Muskoka Novel Marathon together a few times. She’s a crazed-maniacal twin of sorts. She has a lot of fun with capes. Mel…what can I say about Mel? I love her…she’s awesome and she doesn’t hate us for picking on her. We have not done any heavy writing together as of yet, but I’m looking forward to discovering her words. She’s my orange twin. Together, the four of us ran amok at the Ontario Writers’ Conference…and we didn’t even get asked to leave.

Merriam-Webster defines amok as: “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Indonesian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures”

Yep. That’s what happened…only it was en masse.

The Incomparable Wayson Choy!
The Incomparable Wayson Choy!

I could talk all day about Wayson. It’s been an absolute pleasure spending time with him every year at the conference. Having been on the Board of Directors for approximately 8-ish years, I was able to get to know Wayson a bit. He’s the most generous person I’ve ever met. I say that as an absolute. In his presence, one gets to feel the true meaning of Namaste. He is someone who is THERE. ALWAYS. He is All That Matters.

The conference was wonderful. I highly recommend it to writers everywhere. Check it out: ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE

Barbara Kyle - May, 2014
Barbara Kyle – May, 2014

Now, for another writing event. Every month but one the Writers’ Community of Durham Region puts on their RoundTable Meeting. If you have not yet been, you should seriously consider it! For May, they had the incomparable BARBARA KYLE. She gave a charged inspirational talk on writing. She offered 10 TIPS TO SURVIVING FIRST DRAFT. Her first was Get Dressed: “When I sit down to write, I don’t do it in a ratty old dressing gown and slippers. I get dressed as if I’m going into the world to work.”

GO TO THE WCDR WEBSITE TO READ THE FULL ROUNDTABLE MEETING RECAP

Barbara Kyle, addressing a captive audience of writers at the May 10/14 WCDR Roundtable Meeting
Barbara Kyle, addressing a captivated audience of writers at the May 10/14 WCDR Roundtable Meeting

Barbara has done a few things right. To date she has sold over 425,000 books! She is always gracious and inspirational to other writers, wherever they may be on their path.

Barbara Kyle
Barbara Kyle

I have been immersing myself in writing without writing. It CAN be done. When writing isn’t happening, one is always collecting grist for the mill.

Colleen Knight - Fellow WCDR Writer
Colleen Knight – Fellow WCDR Writer

I had to share that last photo. Someone saw me taking shots at the RoundTable Meeting and wanted a piece of the action. I MUST spend more time with Colleen Knight. I have a feeling she’s my kind of people. (-:

My dear friend Karen Cole
My dear friend Karen Cole

Karen Cole was a member of my longtime writing circle WIP. She now runs the circle herself. She is also an ex-nun who lifted her veil. (-: You can check her out at her BLOG. Lifting the Veil is her memoir of her life as a Benedictine nun.

My BOY - Edward!
My BOY – Edward!

The dude of dudes. Ladies and gentlemen, Edward Jacob Anthony! My grandson. He’s about to have a brother… CHARLIE THOMAS ANTHONY. Another Thomas! I’m a Thomas and my son is a Thomas…the name comes from my Nana’s Daddy…which makes me very happy. Edward and I chilled at Starbucks recently with his ‘rents. 1/2 price Frapps. We couldn’t resist. Edward likes the Strawberries and Cream. And I like Edward!

Tobin Elliott - Fellow MNM marathoner!
Tobin Elliott – Fellow MNM marathoner!

I thought I would photobomb my own blog-post with a shot of Tobin Elliott’s back. He definitely would have photobombed it if he could…

My Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery Rock
My Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery Rock

Now for a bit of seriousness. I spoke previously about attending Male Survivor Weekends of Recovery for men who were sexually abused either as children or as adults. At the end of the weekend, survivors do a small rock ceremony. I went home from each of my weekend retreats with a rock or two. The one above…I will be taking with me to Spain. I fly there tomorrow… I will be walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. So my blog will be very quiet for the rest of May. I will be taking a spiritual journey across Spain. And I will be leaving my rock there, somewhere along the way. Here’s a link to MALE SURVIVOR –If you or someone you know needs it…there’s no time like the present. Freedom is just a click away. They will help you reclaim your life.

I think that’s all I have to share today.

Oh wait. The title. Remember one thing above all others…life is beautiful.

See you in June!

Life is Good! Another Kick at the Can! Muskoka Novel Marathon…

I am becoming a glass-is-half-full kind of person. I know…I can’t even believe it myself. I’m realizing how much I have to be thankful for. I have AMAZING kids. I mean, they rock. I’m having amazing luck with my mid-life writing career. Two books releasing in the same year! I mean, that’s golden. Such a huge blessing. I can’t look that gift horse in the mouth. I just can’t!

I’m also about to set out on a journey… a pilgrimage. Spring arrives tomorrow and with it the promise of the Camino. I know it’s still about 58 days away…but now I can actually feel it. SPRING. SPAIN. WALKING. INNER JOURNEY. It’s all good. I’m ready to let the healing begin…through my soon-to-be long suffering feet. They will take me across Spain to the mecca of my pilgrimage, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I will be leaving baggage there…of this you can be certain.

Spain_Santiago_de_Compostela_-_Cathedral

There is no room for my sad little half-empty to nearly-empty cup. Life is giving me…well, what’s the opposite of lemons? Oranges?! Life is giving me oranges. I’m going to make orange juice. (-:

As the year progresses, I will also have the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. This, in case you haven’t kept up with my stream of consciousness way of thinking, is my ANOTHER KICK AT THE CAN. This July will be my 7th Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m still crazy proud of the 4 Best Novel Awards that have come out of my MNM writing. Three of the Best Novel award novels are either published or soon to be published. And another novel I wrote there, which didn’t actually win the award, will also be published. My cup runneth over with goodness.

Herein comes the pitch.

Every year the writers who take part in the MNM raise funds for YMCA Simcoe Muskoka and the good people at the YMCA put 100% of those funds to use in their literacy programs. We the writers–40 of us this year!–are helping readers. We are giving the gift of words to those who have previously not had them. But we can only do this with YOUR help. Our job is to each write a novel over a 72hr period. That’s the easy part. It’s the job of all those who support us that is a bit more difficult. But I will always ask…because there will always be those in need of literacy programs. Please find it in your hearts to give a little to this most worthy of causes. Please click on the link below to go to my CANADA HELPS GIVING PAGE:

CANADA HELPS GIVING – 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon – K. T. Craig

Making a donation on the above page will be sponsoring me for the marathon. Any amount would be most excellent. We have raised $85,000.00 to date with this marathon. That money has changed a LOT OF LIVES. We did this $5, $10, $15, $50 dollars at a time. So never think that a small donation is not big enough. Everything counts.

If you would rather donate to your own local literacy programs, by all means do so. I hope that this pitch inspires you to help…in whatever way you see fit. (-:

That’s my plea for today. Thank you for listening. And if you choose to give, thank you!

If you ever hear me bemoaning, complaining, or otherwise appearing unhappy…you have my permission to set me right. With a slap, if necessary. I have so much to be happy for. (-:

To learn ALL about the Muskoka Novel Marathon, please visit their website below. Just click on the Muskoka chair:

1261366

So, since happiness is infectious…how about I infect some of my readers this morning. This song is just making its way into my obsession books now. I mean, I’ve heard it before…but I guess I just wasn’t open to it…I give you HAPPY