Category Archives: Life advice

SD73 YAC Conference May 5th!

I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.

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Preparing for Summer Road Trips

This past weekend I decided to take a trip south to Washington. I went to Lynden, which is a favourite place of mine to visit when I need to think. There’s lots going on in my life these days, and sometimes being on the road hearing only the quiet of my own thoughts is the best medicine.

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I have a couple of big road trips coming up in the next few months. Plus, with the impending nicer weather approaching (at least this is what I hope is happening) I’ll soon be able to stay places overnight for weekend trips. It’s a bittersweet thought that I am no longer unable to stay away from home for more than a few hours.

I’ve been considering tenting as a means of travel. I could keep one in the back of my Jeep and just take it out whenever needed. But then I came across this on Pinterest:

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From Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

The hammock is kind of an ingenious idea, and after doing some research I discovered that quite a few people do this with their Jeeps. It would save a lot of room not having to have a tent, plus a hammock would be much easier to care for. (Especially if it is raining. No need to have a wet tent rolled up that could possibly still be wet the next night on longer road trips.)

I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but before investing in a hammock I may try stringing  a bed sheet of the same size across my rollbar to get a better idea of just how cramped this is. My head would be pretty close to the roof, but would that really matter? If it looks feasible, I’ll give it a try on a couple shorter road trips before my longer ones.

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Jeep Tents at Quadratec
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Jeep Tent

There are also these cool Jeep tents that I think I’d go for if I had a hard top. The first one, from what I’ve read, requires a few installations for the frame you see surrounding the body of the Jeep. That might make taking the soft top off a little difficult.

The bottom one is more feasible, but looks like it would take up a lot of space once put away. Plus, as I have a soft top, my lock box takes up the trunk and so I can’t imagine needing (or wanting) access to my Jeep once the tent is up. These are great ideas if I had the Jeeps pictured. But I don’t.

Do you have any ideas? Suggestions? Do you own a 2-door soft top and have tried the hammock? Let me know. This weekend when I experiment I’ll let you know what I think.

Western Canada Road Trip – 1997

In 1997 I was 25 and living in Vancouver for the first time. Unsure with the direction of my life, I decided to spend a few weeks on the road to clear my head and plan. This was the first big road trip I had ever taken on my own.

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I owned a 68 VW Beetle, and drove it from Vancouver to Kelowna; to Banff, Alberta to Jasper to somewhere near Edmonton (don’t remember where) to Drumheller; to Battleford, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg (and then back again).

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In Kelowna, Westbank to be more specific, I visited my grandparents’ old home that they had sold almost a decade earlier. It wasn’t yellow anymore and the woods behind it had been cleared, but it brought back many memories of my grandfather taking my sister and I fishing on the Okanagan Lake.

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That trip I visited the Westbank museum, where I met a friend whose name I no longer remember. She introduced me to iced coffee, and we were friends for a few years. Wonder what ever happened to her.

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After that, I headed over to Lake Louise and then Banff. This was me somewhere in that area. That jean jacket was way too baggy on me.

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The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper is a gorgeous one with bodies of water that are icy blue or very green. This was one of the many moose I saw along the way.

My most memorable time in Jasper was in the campground after it had rained pretty heavily. I arrived and set up my tent —  absolutely famished. Unfortunately, my stove had stopped working, I had lost my can opener (and only had canned food), plus the firewood was soaking wet. It was going to be a long night with no food and no camp fire.

Suddenly, a guy from the campsite next to me walked over and threw down several cut pieces of dry wood. He then placed a can opener on my picnic table, and muttered, “We have a generator if you want to plug in.” Then he walked away back to his wife and kids.

Because of that act of kindness, I had warmth and food that night. Plus, I always remember that moment as one of the fondest of my trip.

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I spent a couple days in Drumheller, exploring the museum and the valley. Two days was not enough and I have always wanted to go back. If you love dinosaurs, this is the best place to visit.

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I’m pretty sure this photo was taken in Drumheller. I lived in this tent for almost four weeks and loved every moment.

That trip was the first I ever took on my own, and it was amazing. People would drive off the highway and follow me when I pulled over for gas or to rest at road stops. They’d tell me stories of when they were my age (and it was actually 1968) and they drove their Beetles on road trips. I wish I had known how amazing those stories were and had taken the time to write them down. But I thought I would just remember them forever and ever.

To help spark memories, I leave you with the theme song of one of my favourite TV series from 1990-2000.

Road Tripping, Valentine’s Day, and Snow

The time is nigh. The sun has been out all day today, and the snow is now a faint memory of yesteryear (or yesterweek?). That leaves my mind thinking about the places I may want to point my Jeep this year as I again attempt a road trip every weekend.

Last year out of 26 weekends between March and August I believe I had made 16 road trips. You can see my summary of those trips here. This year, I have a few destinations in mind. More on that in another post.

I started thinking about road trips on of all days, Valentine’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny day and I headed to Grouse Mountain for the evening. (Was this the first road trip of the season?)

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The gondola ride up the mountain was quick and not too scary–if you’re like me and a little terrified-in-the-extreme of heights. I went at sunset, which made it a really gorgeous time of day to see the mountain. There was lots of snow, and I had a touch of a cold, so I was worried about it being freezing up at the top. But it was ten degrees and quite nice.

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There’s lots to do on Grouse Mountain, even if you don’t go to skate, ski, snowboard or snowshoe. What I do recommend, is to not forget your winter boots in your vehicle like I did, which made going for a walk on the path absolutely impossible. I tried, but it was clear after a few feet that I was probably going to slip and kill myself. Since that would put a damper on my day, I opted for something a little less dangerous than a walk.

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The sleigh ride is pretty fun, even if it is pulled by a snowplough and not a horse. I suggest sitting in the back, so you are well away from any fumes. Below you can see the photos I took from the sleigh.

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Next trip to Grouse Mountain, I would definitely prepare for a snowshoe walk through the paths. Dress a little better for it, and maybe get there earlier in the afternoon. However, since I had booked a table at the Observatory Restaurant I was dressed for dinner out.

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The meal was fantastic, and the cost of the gondola is put towards the purchase of your meal. So, if you are going up the mountain for the day (and don’t have a ski pass) it’s worth it to get yourself a really decent meal at the restaurant. I had the tenderloin, and my date had the pork. After tasting the pork, I have to say that I think her meal was better than mine (which is not to say the tenderloin wasn’t good. It was amazing!). For dessert, on recommendation, we shared the carrot cake which was unbelievably good. (It didn’t last long enough for a photo.)

All in all, this place is highly recommended.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dreams

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Conan at four months old

It’s been a month and a half since I lost Conan. For awhile, I thought things were getting easier and I started perusing dogs on shelter sites because I miss having a dog around. Then the dreams came.

The first one I was at a party. A friend arrived (I don’t know who), and they brought Conan. In the dream, it turned out that I had given him up to a friend and they were allowing me a visit. I couldn’t stop apologizing to Conan.

The second one I was at a shelter. I was looking at dogs, when I found Conan. In this dream it turned out he wasn’t gone, I’d just accidentally left him at a shelter. I was so happy to find him again.

What these dreams taught me is that I am not really wanting a dog again (yet), I’m wanting Conan again. My searching through adoptable dogs was me looking for one that might be Conan. None of them are.

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The above photo is my party of adventurers (I’m the monk on the far right) with a spiritual guardian represented by the four-sided die. I’m not sure what connection this has to my dreams about Conan, except that Dungeons and Dragons is a place I go to once a week where I am surrounded by friends who make me smile and help me forget for a bit the world that weighs on me.

I once claimed that Dungeons and Dragons had saved my life when my appendix became infected during a game. Now, dealing with life without Conan, Dungeons and Dragons continues to save me. It allows me to be creative, to escape, and to spend time with a group of friends who make me laugh and smile.

People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and I say, “Fine.” It’s true, I am, because when grief hits again it will do so in a wave when I’m not expecting it. Such as on my way home from work, when I suddenly feel happy about walking Conan when I get home. Or first thing in the morning when I expect to see Conan at the foot of my bed. Or when I vacuum my suite and there are no dog dishes to move out of the way. Ask me then, and I am not fine. For those tiny, fleeting moments, grief takes over.

Grief isn’t always about being sad or depressed. Sometimes, grief is about appreciating the moments that made you happy when the one you lost was still with you. So, when I’m asked, I will say, “I’m fine” and that will be an honest answer. But if you do catch me when I am not fine, just remember that it is a fleeting moment. An important moment. A moment I need.

If you want to help me, grab a set of polyhedron dice, and let’s play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Conan, 2000-2016

I haven’t posted in a long while since there haven’t been any great days for road trips. In other words, I haven’t had much to say, and I don’t like posting just for the sake of posting.

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A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my pet and friend, Conan the shih tzu. I’ve been debating if I wanted to post about this, or if I wanted to keep the blog light and fluffy. It was during Christmas festivities, when a friend started asking questions about my decisions because he will one day soon also have to make the same decisions, and then when other friends who lost pets recently messaged me telling me about the comfort they took in my openness, that I knew I needed to make this post.

For months while I was trying to make that final decision, I googled for advice and found help online. So, for all those who have pets, I will pass on what I have learned.

1) The Natural Death

475When we think of this concept, we imagine our pets passing painlessly in their sleep into the next realm. That’s what I was hoping for since the day that Conan was diagnosed with liver disease in 2014. The truth is, this concept just doesn’t exist. Conan’s liver disease was probably cutting the air off to his brain, and it was starting to cause his lungs to fill with fluid. If he was going to pass naturally, he would have died in pain, probably when I wasn’t home, and filled with fear. Don’t consider the “natural” option. Natural sucks.

2) Where You Say Goodbye

I considered saying goodbye in our home. It seemed like a place where he’d be most comfortable, and perhaps that would have made it easier. However, that would have meant finding a vet I didn’t know, and there was always a tiny part of me clinging to the notion that someone was going to say to me, “Are you sure about this? He’s fine. Look at him!”

I chose the vet we’d been going to for the last seven years. In the end this was the healthy decision, because the vet had a chance to say goodbye, to tell me that he was going to miss the two of us, and to remind me that I had done more than most would have done. He was amazed that Conan had stayed healthy for so long.”He’s a fighter, that one. You should have no regrets,” is what he told me.

As for Conan’s comfort, his place of solitude was anywhere I was–just as it had always been. Cradled in my arms, his gaze staring up at me, his tiny body completely relaxed.

3) After

I spent so much time preparing for the event, that I didn’t think much about what I was going to do after. I chose to be in the room with him alone, which was a mistake. Take someone with you. I had plenty of people offer, but for some reason I thought it needed to be a moment for me and him. And maybe that moment did–but the moments after was when I knew I needed someone for me the same way Conan always needed me there for him.

When asked if I wanted the ashes, I initially thought no. But thankfully I understood how final that decision was, and decided to say yes in case I changed my mind and wanted them. I did change my mind, and am now very glad I have them.

img_0139-1Grief will come in waves. I can’t tell you what to expect or how to prepare as it comes to everyone differently. I cleaned up and put away his things immediately as having them out just made me sad. However, I keep going on our walks and I say goodbye to him each day when I leave for work as I always did. Sometimes I cry when  memory hits, and sometimes I just smile and remember him.

4) Memories

What I came to understand is that although I loved him no matter what, I was missing him long before he died. I was missing that happy puppy that wagged his tail at the sight of other dogs, who chased my feet when we walked, who jumped onto the couch to sit on my lap, who sniffed out the crumbs when I dropped food, who ran to the door to greet me every day when I came home. That’s the Conan I miss, even if it wasn’t the Conan I loved and said goodbye to.

511I take comfort in remembering the many good times we had together. I may blog about that for a while, because Conan was a part of my life for a very long time–from when I was 28 until 16 and a half years later. We had a lot of really great times. And that is my last piece of advice: don’t fear the memories. Sometimes they may make you sad, but mostly they will bring you comfort.

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Godspeed, little buddy.

NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for, “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is 50,000 words in the month of November, and you can track your stats by signing up on their website.

So far, I’m not doing so well, at least in regards to hitting the target of 1700 words a day that I would need in order to meet that goal. The first few days I fought a cold and a few school assignments (and yes, I would use the term “fought” in regards to those assignments). However, today I have written a solid 1,000 words and am enjoying this story that I’m creating for the project. (At this point, I would have to write 6,800 words today to get caught up to my goal.)

So why continue if I’m that far behind? This is the first time I’ve done NaNoWriMo, but since friends have raved about it I decided to give it a shot. I’ll be honest–I went into it not expecting to succeed. In fact, I expected to fail miserably of the 50,000 word goal. So, again, why do it? Because it’s not just about hitting the goal. It’s about writers encouraging writers, experimenting with crazy ideas, and mostly about creating good writing habits. That last one I have lacked since my life turned to other pursuits.

I’m feeling as though school is well in hand, as there is less time to look forward to than there is to look back on. I have my dream job–and it’s going swimmingly. And, it’s winter so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for road trips. I’m ready to start writing again and putting some of these ideas in my head down on paper. (Or on the computer, if I’m more accurate.)

NaNoWriMo is all about that. It’s about my own goal, and ending the month with a writing schedule that gets my books written. And so far, that’s going well. And if you’re on NaNoWriMo, connect with me there! I’m under the name jmez.

What is it that I’m writing for NaNoWriMo? My concept is basically Dungeons and Dragons meets Escape from New York:

Tharbadon, an elfin bounty hunter, has been taken hostage by Med Corp. They have tasked him with finding an escaped doctor who has a cure for a plague that is spreading throughout the world. Tharbadon would not normally take on such a mission, except that Med Corp has implanted in him a capsule with the virus–set to go off in 14 days. They will only remove it in exchange for the doctor.

And here are a couple mock covers for the project. Just to keep me inspired:

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And what music is on this idea’s soundtrack? A little Scorpions, for one:

Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird Booklaunch

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing long-time friend Jeremy Tankard launch his newest creation, Hungry Bird, at Vancouver Kidsbooks. As a library tech who does storytimes with preschoolers, I’m familiar with his other books. A favourite with the kids is Grumpy Bird, as you can read the book as an interactive with the kids acting out the animals plus you can discuss how you know when someone is angry and what we can do when we’re angry.

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Along comes Hungry Bird, also a familiar feeling for the young and old. “Who brought me something to eat?” is the theme of this book, and again this will be an amazing picturebook for storytimes and early education. You can buy a copy from any retailer.

Congratulation, Jeremy, on an amazing book!

 

 

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Radio Interview, Culture Days, and a Free Book!

At noon today I’m doing a reading on a pop-up radio station called Leave Your Mark FM outside the Richmond Cultural Centre. In honour of the event, you can get the Kindle version of Rise of the One-Eyed King FREE.

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For more information on the pop up radio station, follow this link!

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Muddled Brain

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I’ve been doing a lot of homework lately. As most people who know me know, in September of 2014 I went back to school part time at Langara College to take the Library Technician course. This was a HUGE decision for me that took about five years to fully commit to doing, but once I did my life changed in ways that I have never regretted. However, being that I am nearly done I am now ready for that chapter to be over.

Today I was all set to work on reading a couple of chapters so that I could take my quiz tomorrow and be set and prepared. Instead, I woke with what I call the “muddled brain,” that is a feeling in your head as though you are stuck in a fog of smoke from which you cannot find your way out. Two things occurred to me: (1) I would retain nothing that I read today, and (2) I can do my homework anywhere.

I left my home just after noon, and headed south towards Bellingham to have lunch at one of my favourite spots: the Colophon Cafe. I’ve blogged about them before. My hope was that a drive and change of scenery would refresh my brain and un-muddle my Muddled Brain.

My meal was what will become my usual since I am a creature of habit. A half sandwich, the Turkey Village Club, and a small bowl of clam chowder. That’s a latte just above it. It was delicious and worth the drive.

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The day was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies and all sorts of pleasant scents along the drive. Leaving when I did, being that it’s the autumn season, gave me a different perspective of this drive that I take quite often. The sun shone differently, shadows cast in new ways, and the trees had all begun to change colour.

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A short walk through Bellingham after getting my chapters read at the Colophon Cafe was just what my muddled brain needed. The colours were vibrant, and there was a freshness in the cool breeze that made the warm rays of sunlight seem out of place.

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It was clear that autumn had just begun, and there would be more changes in the green trees as the weeks go by. This will be a trip worth taking several more times to witness these changes.

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As I wandered the streets, I checked the time and decided I needed more of a drive. I wanted to see where else autumn was blooming.

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I headed towards the Chuckanut Drive, which I absolutely love to travel. I had set up my camera to video the drive, but unfortunately the camera stopped recording after only a minute and I didn’t get any of the gorgeous bright-coloured trees. I did take a few photos, which you’ll see below.

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At the end of the Chuckanut Drive, I turned right into Edison and was surprised at how busy it was. I didn’t stop there, though, and kept driving towards La Conner. I decided I wanted some dessert from the Calico Cafe, and then I would return home after that.

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When I arrived in La Conner, it was late in the afternoon and the quiet town was closing up shop. The Calico had just closed, and even the chocolate shop wasn’t open. I did find the Waterfront Cafe, which was open until the evening. So I stopped there.

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The mud pie was the “chocolate special of the week,” so I had that and a cup of coffee. This was a nice spot right on the water, and by now the afternoon had reached 18C which felt quite warm. The waitress was friendly and told me stories of how the water below us was once used for smuggling, and I asked her if she had ever heard of Fish Town. She said no, and we exchanged tales of the area that each of us had learned. I relaxed for a spell here until my brain was able to enjoy the moment rather than that muddled fog it had found itself in earlier in the day.

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Below are some of the photos I took before heading back for home.

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The drive home was fast, and since it was just after rush hour there were no delays on the highway. When I got home I felt ready for my quiz tomorrow, with a brain that was relaxed and able to retain what it had read earlier in the day.

Not sure what song to offer as the theme, so I’m just going to add one of my favourites. Enjoy!