Category: Things That Are Awesome Page 1 of 4

Chapter 34

This morning I awoke to a city covered with a fine layer of glistening frost, like the clouds had dusted my surroundings with icing sugar. It was a beautiful way to open my 35th year, with everything looking sparkling and crisp.

I’m now, as a friend pointed out, halfway to 70.

Thirty-four was, for me, a year of extreme ups and downs. Maybe the most extreme year of my life.

When I was 34, I visited six countries on three continents over multiple trips. I traveled with friends, alone with my children, alone with my husband and with my husband and kids. Before 34, the thought of getting on a plane left me fraught with terror, often paralyzed and numb. Before 34, leaving my children behind so I could see the world with my beloved made me so sick and anxious I couldn’t enjoy the places I was visiting. When I was 34, I boarded a four-seater single-prop airplane without so much as a tremor. 34 was the year I conquered a fear that has dogged me since early adulthood.

When I was 34, depression kicked my ass. It left me lower than I’ve ever been, so low that I stopped caring about climbing my way out of the pit I’d sunk into. And then, while I was still 34, I kicked depression’s ass right back. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was force myself to slog through those days instead of just giving up. When I was 34, I battled my own brain for the will to live, to accept help. That help came in many forms – family, friends, love, support, pharmaceuticals and counselling. I’m grateful for every one of them.

When I was 34, I started my own business, something I had always sworn I was never interested in doing, until I found something I realized I couldn’t not do. It started out as a very part-time hobby, but the more I worked at it, the more it’s become something I want to grow and nurture. 34 saw me try on a new hat – that of entrepreneur. And I think that hat fits me pretty well.

When I was 34, I sent my youngest child off to school for the first time. He ran from me toward his classroom with unreserved joy – and then ran back to give me a hug, maybe understanding the way only kids can that it was harder for me than him. It will be at least another ten years before I have a child out of school again. I miss their company during the day.

When I was 34, I became truly comfortable with who I am, and stopped seeking approval from others for my life and my choices. I stopped feeling guilty for doing things that made me happy, and I stopped putting my own needs last, realizing that sometimes the best way to help others to be their best is to make sure I’m at my best first. I will never apologize for doing that. I wore bikinis. I got another tattoo. I built a shed/office/clubhouse that’s just for me to read in or write in or drink cheap coolers in or just stare up through the sunroof at the stars in.

When I was 34, I changed. The high points brought me joy. The low points taught me about my limits and about who’s got my back. I am grateful for every moment of 34, because it’s what’s made me into the person who’s ready to tackle 35 with a joie de vivre that I haven’t felt in a long time.

The Art of Words

As a person who finds herself inspired by words, I surround myself with wordy things. Books by the hundreds, typewriters of all shapes and sizes, even a writing-inspired tattoo (and another to come soon).

And then there’s artwork. My favourite pieces I own (apart from this painting by Brandon Bird which is the first thing you see when you walk into my house) all have to do with books and writing. There’s the large-scale print of a couple embracing under a tree that’s actually made using the entire text of Wuthering Heights, and the vintage typewriter ads, including this one which is pretty much exactly what I look like when I get on a real tear.

This is what I hung in my dreamy little writer’s shed tonight:

Tragedy #388 by Benjamin Dewey

Tragedy #388 by Benjamin Dewey

It makes me chuckle every time I see it. The poor wolfman! No one will ever read his comedic space opera.

I love the Tragedy series, btw. We have a bunch of them and I’ve gifted several more, but this one has been stored away until my retreat was complete. You can see them all, and buy your own prints, from the Tragedy Series Tumblr, which I strongly encourage you to do.

“Nothing I like doing more than spanking rocks with my baby.”

And so began construction of my little office, with the shoveling and pounding of two yards of gravel.

"Yeah baby, spank those rocks. Spank 'em good."

“Yeah baby, spank those rocks. Spank ’em good.”

August 2013. The back story: For the past two years if I wanted to work from home I had little in the way of options: the couch, my bed or the kitchen table. None of those are spaces that are conducive to focus and concentration. We live in a 1,000-square-foot house, so space is at a premium. My old office got turned into a bedroom when Kid 2 was born, and my husband’s office is eligible for an episode of Hoarders.

We looked at converting our spare bedroom in the basement, but we do have company from time to time, and frankly, that room is grim. Dark, cold and devoid of sunlight. Then I went a bit crazy and started thinking about building an addition on the house, but spending $100k is a little outside our budget. Then I thought, why not insulate the space above the garage? But as it turned out, building a habitable space up in the rafters would require raising the roof by several feet.

So obviously the only logical solution is an outbuilding.

I don’t want to call it a shed, but it’s a shed. A cozy, furnished, heated and powered shed, but a shed nonetheless. We bought a prefab kit that looked like it would suit the job. The reviews online said two people could put it together in about eight hours. Neither of us are particularly handy people, so we figured a weekend of hard work could get it done.

This is what we accomplished the first day.

This is what we accomplished the first day.

I’m not sure even Mike Holmes (sorry, Americans and overseas readers – I don’t know who the US equivalent would be. Pick the star of your favourite home reno show) could put this together in eight hours. Maybe day two would see more progress?

End of Day 2. I have a floor and one corner.

End of Day 2. I have a floor and one corner.

Screw this noise. We are working until we drop. Long past sundown, into the wee hours of the morning, we had something that was starting to look like a small shed.

And then I dropped.

And then I dropped.

So my husband and I are lying there on the floor, looking up at the stars, when the same thought crosses our minds:

"I wonder how high those power lines are?"

“I wonder how high those power lines are?”

It’s funny because we genuinely have no idea and will find out when we attempt to put the roof on.

Monday saw us both back at work so we only had a couple hours in the evening. We put part of the roof together and installed the skylights. Skylights! We had to stop when I started wearing one of the gable pieces like a hat and the husband told me I should wear it to bed because it made me look like a sexy roofing nun.

Tuesday I tried to assemble a door (yes a door) by myself and it brought me to tears.

Wednesday. Installed two doors and a gable all by myself. Used pieces of furniture in place of helping hands to hold things steady. Broke my middle finger hitting it with a hammer. Total drag. I use that one a lot.

Saturday. We call in reinforcements. In other words, my father-in-law. It’s together… sort of. The doors don’t close. We have to re-level it and shim it and possibly sacrifice a small animal to the ancient ones.

Some weeks later, after multiple calls to the manufacturer, the doors close tolerably. Only it’s the end of fall. There’s frost on the ground in the morning. Winter is around the corner. Winter in Canada. No point in working on it now…

Spring 2014. We have had a hellish winter. I’ve been writing in coffee shops and my bedroom and airport departure gates and everywhere but my little shed. So I’m like, let’s get this shit done. We start cleaning out the winter debris and moving furniture in as time permits.

Today: the husband takes Kid 1 and Kid 2 camping for the weekend and I am free to move things into my shed uninterrupted. I’ve been collecting various things for the past year, and they finally have a home.

A wordsmithette's home.

A wordsmithette’s home.

My desk.

My desk.

A few typewriter friends... from left to right: Ivy, Casper the Haunted Typewriter and The First.

A few typewriter friends… from left to right: Ivy, Casper the Haunted Typewriter and The First.

Awesome, right? It still needs to be wired for electricity – currently I’m making do with an extension cord – and I have a couple more pictures to frame and hang, but for all intents and purposes, it’s finished.

I love it. It’s my own place. Everyone knows the famous quote from Virginia Woolf: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” This is my room of my own. I will do great things here. 

(with inspiration from My Cool Shed.)


Do you celebrate when you finish a novel? Treat yourself in some way? Maybe a bottle of champagne, some decadent chocolate or a fancy spa massage?

I haven’t up until this point, beyond a self-congratulatory blog or facebook post and the basking in the positive comments that follows. But I’m thinking that once I finish the last book in this series, The Unknowing – and I mean finished, edited, proofed and put to bed – I’m going to give myself something really special. Partly to commemorate what’s been a fantastic experience for me, and partly as a reward for a whole lot of hard work, learning and growth.

And I know just the thing. In the series, the main character, Callie, receives a very special bracelet which figures into the story arc several times. It’s a fine silver-coloured bracelet with eight stones – seven clear quartz and one rose quartz. And I’m going to have one made just like it.

Rose quartz crystal. Isn’t it pretty?

I like the idea of not only a reward, but one that’s directly related to the accomplishment. I’m probably a good year away from reaching my goal so this won’t be adorning my wrist anytime soon, but I’m on my way. And won’t it make for a great story when someone comments on it!?

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Kid 1 has decided she’s going to write a book, “just like you, mom.”

Not sure if this is a genetic disposition or if I’m just a positive influence. If the former, I don’t know where I got mine from – my own mom worked in poli sci and later, accounting, and my dad was a computer software consultant – not much of the creative in either of those fields.

Thing is, for a six year old, her story’s actually pretty solid. It has two likeable protagonists – talking trees!, funny dialogue, a conflict and an antagonist. She’s only got the first act finished, and I’m genuinely looking forward to reading the next installment. I can tell that all the reading she does is paying off when it comes to story structure. She instinctively knew what elements a good story needed and made sure they were all present from the start. And she ended it on a cliffhanger! I’ve read a lot worse from people five times her age.

When she’s finished it, I plan on tucking the manuscript away so she can see her first effort when she’s an adult, like my mom did with the newspaper I self-published and some of my other masterpieces. I’m a proud mama.

Purple Haze

It came today. It came today!

Giddy. I'm giddy.

Giddy. I’m giddy.

That. That, my friends, is a Remington Portable No. 3. IN TWO-TONE PURPLE.

You can’t see the purpleyness of it in that pic so here’s a better one.

This one is from 1930. The colour scheme is officially called Orchid.

This one is from 1930. The colour scheme is officially called Orchid.

And from the side, so you can see the lighter lavender:

Lovely and worn in exactly the right way. This machine has been used and loved.

Lovely and worn in exactly the right way. This machine has been used and loved.

The first time I ever saw the purple Remington Portable, I knew it would be on my must-have list. Purple is my very favourite colour. But they seem to be astonishingly hard to find – not surprising, since they’re 80+ years old, and not many were made with these colours. I thought I’d never find one for myself, to the point where I was considering powder coating another typewriter of mine purple instead. But it would never be a Remington. It’s very simply a thing of beauty.

Then this one came along. Like so many of my favourites, I found it by chance on eBay. I wasn’t even seriously looking at listings; we had just gotten home from a long weekend of camping and I was browsing, seeing which auctions were ending soonest. And this came up – 40 minutes to go, still priced at what I thought was a steal. I’d never seen one for sale before. My heart was actually pounding, but I had to act all casual and off-handedly mention to my very understanding, if possibly typewriter-weary husband that there was something I might bid on, if the price stayed reasonable. I think he was going to start to say maybe not, but when he saw the pic I clearly saw the resignation in his eyes. There was no question this one was going to be mine. And after an agonizing 40 minutes, when I placed my sneaky last-second bid with moments to go, I was the proud owner of this lovely machine.

The two weeks it took to arrive from Michigan felt like months. And then when I got home from work today, there was a large package propped up on my front step. “Is it the purple typewriter?” Kid 2 shouted. Both of them clamoured all over me while I opened the box, then the travel case. And seriously, we all gasped in unison. For the next 45 minutes, during which I was supposed to be making supper, we instead fiddled with it, got the carriage unlocked, moved the margin settings, and typed out a short note.

It works perfectly. It’s 83 years old and every single key strikes smoothly and without hesitation. It might be my best-working machine of them all (and this makes ten). I’m not sure if I’m ready to say I love it the very best – Pinkie Pie, my Royal Quiet De Luxe, my two cursives (Ivy the Olympia SM4, still a work in progress, and a Royal Aristocrat, which will get its own post soon) and another you-won’t-believe-it machine are all near and dear to my heart, but it’s a strong contender.

It’s the only one I’ve taken into my bed, though. I’m writing this blog post right before I turn in and it’s laying beside me in the spot where my husband should be. Not joking.

I feel like the only thing it’s missing is a purple ribbon to complete the colour scheme. So that’ll be my next eBay purchase, and then I really need to put my account to bed for awhile.

Unless an Olivetti Valentine comes up at a good price…

Want to learn more about my typewriters: Check them out here.

My Stargate Typewriter

I got a lovely new machine today, an  Olympia SG-1 (now you know why I’m calling it my Stargate typewriter!) It’s a real beast:

Olympia SG-1, 1959

Olympia SG-1, 1959

These were premier typewriters back in the day, and the woman who sold it to me said she brought it over from England decades ago and it’s been sitting at the bottom of a trunk, unused. Other than some cosmetic flaws, it’s in excellent condition, doesn’t even need oiling.

When I saw the pictures in the ad, I thought it was a steely blue colour and fell in love with it, but it’s actually a gunmetal grey, so I may consider refinishing it to something more interesting. You know, with all that free time I have. *eyeroll* Still, I like it quite a lot, especially given the fact that it’s in usable condition. It’ll make a nice addition to my collection!

I’m just putting this out to the universe now: for my next one, I’d really love to find a Royal portable, something bright and awesome. Do you hear that, typewriter Fates? A red one would be fantastic.

Olympia SG-1 logo closeup

Logo close-up. She’s a pretty one.

Want to learn more about my typewriters? Check them out here.

Happy Birthday, Blog!

It was one year ago today that I started this blog. I’ve connected with lots of great people who have offered sage advice – thank you! – and have found an outlet for all the writing-related miscellany teeming in my head.

I’ve had visitors from 35 different countries. Wow!

Some strange search terms have brought people my way. Few have to do with writing though – most refer to either my tattoo or my typewriters. A few of my favourites:

  • Nicole Bross – guys? it’s Who keeps searching this over and over?
  • make sure your worst enemy is not living between your own two ears – Sage advice…
  • do not give up tattoo – close, I suppose.
  • actors who played werewolves – Michael J. Fox? I’ve never discussed this before.
  • can i call myself award winning – Now that you’ve reached this blog, yes you can!
  • bathroom mirror pictures facebook – OMG I hate it when people do this. Why why why?
  • you are not ordinary for me – Thanks, love. You’re a peach.
  • you rise and shine and i’ll – Yes that was the complete search term. I don’t even know.
  • longest thing ever written – Not this blog, that’s for sure.
  • introduction to my mind – Pie’s always a good start with me.
  • been procrastinating for days now, it’s not even funny anymore. – TELL ME ABOUT IT.
  • it feels like my mind is unraveling – TELL ME ABOUT IT.

Anyway, happy anniversary to me. When I look back at where I was a year ago, I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished. I hope the next year brings much more of the same.

Recipe for Success

Today I woke up early and sat around and daydreamed then went for a hot stone massage then got day drunk and now I’m getting ready to write.

What could possibly be bad about this plan?

She says as she rums spell check for the third time.

My Newest Beauty

A 1943 Underwood Noiseless

A 1943 Underwood Noiseless

Isn’t it lovely? I got it today. A friend sent me a link to a kijiji ad where it was listed for $50. $50! I could not email about it fast enough. That was yesterday, I went to see it today and the woman who owned it was so nice. This machine used to belong to her mother, who bought it used in the 50s, but it’s been sitting in a box for about 50 years, untouched. It’s quite dusty, and she thought some of the keys might not work. I told her I wanted to clean it up and fix it, and she said I could have it for free if I did!

With a bit of research I was able to date it to 1943 and also found out that it’s the same model John F. Kennedy used when he was in office. How cool is that?

I’ve been playing around with it and it actually seems like it’s in excellent condition. All the keys work after all and there’s lots of ribbon left. Inexplicably, although it was made in Canada, it has the £ symbol instead of the $ symbol, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Canada didn’t use the pound sterling as its currency in the 40s. I’m going to give it a good cleaning and since it works better than my Smith-Corona, I may try my hand at writing on it a bit.

I can’t express how thrilled I am to own this machine. My kids love it too – they both want typing lessons now! This one feels like karma brought it to me, since I wasn’t even looking for it, it just fell into my lap.

Today is Tuesday which means it’s time for another round of queries to go out. Last week I sent seven so I’ll aim to do the same tonight. Hopefully I’ll have better results this week than I did the last!

Want to learn more about my typewriters? Check them out here.

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