Saturday, January 21, 2017

This is The Story You've Been Waiting For

For the past few months, people have asked me what is new in my life, and every time they do, I squirm a little. Big things have been going on in my life and they know it, but I can’t talk about it. Everyone can see what’s going on when they see me holding hands with my sweetheart, when they nod as I oh so casually mention that I spent Christmas with my boyfriend’s family instead of my own, yet they know they can’t ask, and so we all smile and nod as I mention that work is busy and the weather is cold. Well, now I can finally talk about it.

On Saturday, January 14, 2017 (our five monthiversary) my Scott asked me to marry him. I immediately said yes and now we are engaged! Hooray!!!!!!!! There are not enough exclamation marks or memes in the world to convey my joy.

Since then Facebook has exploded, and through all the messages and video chats, the phone calls and memes, people keep asking for the same story. I think I told it close to ten times on Saturday alone. I"m getting really good at it, but for the sake of everyone else who's still asking for it, here is the story of our engagement:

Let me just start by introducing my Scott to the blogosphere. Scott, blogosphere, blogosphere, this is Scott.

My Future Husband As Described By Fun Facts:
-he has three older sisters and no brothers, a family dynamic I am fairly familiar with!
-his favourite animal is a raptor riding a dragon.
-he dances like a maniac, to the point he has had to turn on the air conditioning in his car in the winter sometimes.
-he loves me more than dubstep, but that is saying something.
-he finds physics and math to be really fun.
-he is really good at accents and had me in stitches with his Italian mobster impression this week.
-he has introduced me to the joys of Dungeons and Dragons,EDM and Pokemon Go.
-he loves live mixing or DJing and he's very talented.

That's a glimpse of my Scott. And now for the story you've all been waiting for.

It begins with a lot of fake lead ins. I knew Scott was going to propose sometime in January and he knew I knew that, so for the first half of the month he kept getting down on one knee to  tie his shoe lace, or fish something out of his pocket only to come up with nothing. Think Jim from The Office. I couldn't stop laughing, and I promise he only really fooled me once. Maybe twice.

Last Saturday morning Scott and I got up to clean the church. He had told me the night before that he and his friends were going to play basketball afterwards. I was invited, but had every intention of going home to do laundry instead. As we finished cleaning the church, Scott asked me if I had eaten breakfast, and seeing as it was closer to lunchtime suggested that as we were both hungry we go to Chianti's. He then started walking to his car saying he would meet me there, to which I pointed out that Chianti's was about a block and a half away and we wouldn't find parking much closer. I was surprised he'd forgotten this. On our second date we had gone to Chianti's but parked at the church and walked. Despite this, Scott insisted he wanted to park closer and told me specifically: you should take your own car.

My first thought: someone did something to my car.

No one had, but I drove that block and a half anyways. When I arrived (and parked) I saw Scott's best friend Mitch outside.

My thought: Oh Mitch and Joe are here, I guess he's not proposing after all.

I am about to walk into the restaurant when Mitch hands me box of chocolates (Purdy's hedgehogs) and a card. In the card Scott had written some very romantic things which no one else gets to hear and the following: you are in the wrong place. Go to our favourite spot for curry.

Now I knew why he had insisted I drive!

Our favourite spot for curry is an Indian buffet called Daawat. Amazing food and exceptional service if you're looking for a good Indian place. It also happens to be where we went on our second monthiversary and my birthday. A lot of beautiful memories in our relationship have happened at Daawat, and at Chianti's.

Slightly onto Scott's game I jumped into my car and drove to Daawat, the whole time grinning to myself and saying out loud: this is really happening! I raced across the street to Daawat but checked the street first for familiar faces. Sure enough, Scott's other best friend Joe was standing outside with another gift and another card.

The gift this time was a new notebook to write more of our love story in. The card, among other things, said "please go to the park where we had our very very first date."

For our very, very first date Scott took me on a picnic. This was about two and a half years ago, but I still remembered where it was, we'd walked through End of Steel Park countless times while playing Pokemon Go! It was near enough I decided to walk.

Of course I got turned around on the way there. I was walking/running up an alleyway thinking: I am pretty sure I should see the park by now. Where is it? Turns our End of Steel Park was partially closed to set up for the ice sculpture festival they host each winter, but my Scott was still waiting as close to the spot as he could get.

When I caught up to him he gave me a big kiss, right there on the sidewalk. At that precise moment our friends Janine and Lizzie happened to be driving by. They honked and shouted: we saw that! I thought to myself: five minutes later and you would have seen something much more interesting.

Sure enough, five minutes later Scott got down on one knee in the snow. Mitch and Joe had shown up because they wanted a video of the event, and then Scott started to sing. He'd rewritten the lyrics of a Lonely Island song to his own song "I Have a Ring in a Box"! Then he pulled out a ring (in a box) and said:

"Elena (he used my full name but I don't use full names here), will you make me the happiest man in the world and marry me?"

I SAID YES!!! I didn't even really leave a moment's pause after he finished asking, I was so excited.

Afterwards, Scott let me choose: Chianti's or Daawat for lunch!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Homage to HQ

I take a look around the room. It's empty, and looks a lot smaller without my stuff. The wall where my couch used to sit doesn't look long enough. The dining nook could never have held a table and chairs. There is absolutely no way all the shoes and coats and laundry baskets could have ever been in the same hallway. This apartment is no where near big enough to have held the last five and a half years of my life.

Over the Christmas break, in between turkey, chocolate and presents, I moved. This is interesting not only because it adds a new kind of stress to the holidays, but it was the end of an era. With the handing over of keys on January 31st, I effectively ended another chapter in my life. I'm feeling nostalgic still, and now that I'm over the post-cleaning exhaustion, I'm letting my nostalgia run free over the page.

The old apartment, or HQ, as my friends used to call it, was the home I came to as an early twenty-something fresh out of school and ready to start my career. I was brand new to Edmonton and together with a recently discovered friend we went apartment hunting. We chose HQ because of the hardwood floors and in suite laundry. I stayed despite the fact it backs onto a noisy alleyway and it turns into a sauna in summertime.  Through a revolving door of roommates and dramatic changes in my own life, HQ was home.

I look around the empty apartment and memories come flooding back, good and bad. I came into this room carrying a box of personal effects and sat down to cry the day I got laid off of work. This is where I grieved my grandmother's death, a dozen broken hearts, and even more petty frustrations. Those are the tougher memories, the ones I'd rather forget, though they have made me who I am.

It was also here that I invited a girl named Brooke over for a sleepover. We'd gradually been becoming friends and that night instead of watching movies or playing games we stayed up until 3 talking about everything (except boys, surprisingly). That was four years ago. Since then Brooke and I have discovered we are the same person, should be best friends, became roommates/adopted sisters, and I'll soon be the maid of honour at her wedding. It's strange to think that before I lived here she wasn't in my life.

Brooke wasn't even the only friend I made in my years at HQ. This place has been the birthplace of many bosom friendships: Kyla - my Diana friend (yes that is an Anne of Green Gables reference), Bean - who lived at the Northern Division (her apartment was a few blocks north of HQ), Meggy - who along with my cousin/roommate Mika was a founding member of my writing group, and several others. Because of them life in my HQ years became so rich.

The shenanigans that ensued. The beginning of Cafe Chi; my writing group, which is still going strong four years later. The group Halloween costumes starting with Clue, carrying on to the awesome Disney villain collaborative, X-Men and steampunking. The murder mystery parties; usually written by Mika with themes like Greek gods, fairytale characters, and Batman villains/sidekicks. Packing up my dress up trunk in this move was an involved process, and I loved it.

The Pi(e) Day parties, the tea parties (in period costume, obviously), the writing parties with or without a lot of writing accomplished, the dates and date rehashings; both the good, the bad and the hilarious. The impromptu sleepovers with countless friends. On move out day, we had four spare keys to collect from various friends. This wasn't just the end of an era for me or my long line of roommates. When Bean came to return her key she took a look around the place to say good bye. She also brought pie, so I think you can all tell at least one reason why we're so close!

I sit and look around this empty room, trying to take it all in before this place becomes no more than a memory to me. There's an extra reason I am feeling so nostalgic, and he's sitting right next to me. He holds my hand and patiently waits for the landlord to show up so we can finish the inspection and go for lunch, and he's feeling nearly as nostalgic as I am.

Two years ago, Brooke and I invited a bunch of friends over one summer evening, including a boy named Scott, whom we had just met. A month or so after that, in this very room, he asked me out for the first time.

He sits with me and we point out places in the spotless room. Sitting on the couch was where we first agreed we were dating. Down the hallway is where we had our first kiss. That same couch was where we both said I love you for the first time, and countless other precious moments, maybe for another story, another time. This little place, with its narrow hallway, south facing windows and crazy neighbours was the setting where my love story unfolded.

I entered this place as a scared little graduate, desperately excited to see what life in Edmonton would hold for her. I leave it as late twenties professional, hand in hand with my Scott and still desperately excited. I cannot wait to see what memories my next home will see.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Might Fortress, Complete with Secret Entrance

Wednesdays are filing day at work. I have to have an assigned day because I truly despise filing. It’s like a treasure hunt with really hard to find caches and really boring treasure. The weeks around month end or closings when I don’t have time for filing do not break my heart.

Sadly, this week is a slow week, and I have plenty of time to catch up on the filing I skipped last week, so this morning I collected a stack of files to return and marched into my cabinet cubby hole. In order to save space, the firm where I work has shelves on wheels that can compress together. I have to spin a dial to access my little alcove. Most filing days I make myself comfortable on the floor and sprawl out all the documents and files I am going through around me. For reasons I do not fully understand my coworkers find the sight of me sitting cross legged on the floor of a filing cabinet simply hilarious. I can never go in there without someone making a quip about how cozy I look or suggesting that all I need is a campfire and some marshmallows. Today though, when I rolled open my little hideaway, this greeted me.

I was instantly delighted. I went straight to the office of Jenn from Marketing and knocked on the door. Jenn’s office is right outside my fortress and she is the most frequent commenter on my campout habits, so I was absolutely certain she was behind this brilliant sign. Jenn had no idea what I was talking about, though she agreed it was awesome. Maybe Heather My Desk Neighbour did it?

Heather not only didn’t do it, she had no idea I even sit on the floor in there. Another round of quips ensued before Heather said that surely Keith did it.

Keith is one of my bosses. He creates 99% of the filing that goes into that fortress, although he never ventures there himself. Still, we all agreed the Keith was exactly the sort of person to create a funny sign. When he next came by we asked him, and he agreed, he is the sort of person to do that, but he did not, in fact create this sign. 

I was getting more and more intrigued by this point, and so was Heather. Who could have created this sign? It had to be someone on our side of the office, someone who sees me in there often enough to think to make a sign.

I went to the person with the next closest desk to the hideout, even though I know Heather the Wills Paralegal is not the sort of person to make goofy signs. I was right on that front. Maybe it was Viv the EA? She’s nearby and our work overlaps a lot, but no, Viv also was not responsible for the sign.

Everyone who I had spoken to agreed; the sign was hilarious. None of them even knew what I was talking about when I asked “did you put up a sign in my filing cabinet”, so I knew no one was lying just to troll me. Why was no one fessing up? I only wanted to tell them how awesome they were!

Heather My Neighbour thought maybe Amanda the Event Coordinator did it. I was Amanda’s mentor when she was a new employee and we’re pretty chummy, plus she also sits nearby, but we couldn’t ask her right away. I resolved to ask her after lunch, and Heather said that if Amanda wasn’t the one behind it, this officially became weird. This only made sense of someone in my department did it, because who else would know about my fort? If Heather hadn’t even been aware, and someone from another floor or department randomly deciding to make a sign, putingt a picture on it, and taping it to the back wall of my cabinet went to cool to just odd.

Straight after lunch, before I even put down my bag, I went to Amanda’s desk and asked her. She too had no idea what I was talking about, but laughed when she saw the sign. Maybe Keith was the one to do it?

I returned to my desk not sure what to think next. Regardless of if it had been put up by some crazy person who wasn’t even aware as to why this was so fitting, I still thought it was cool, but I wanted to know who did it.

“Hey, did you put a sign in my filing cabinet?” I asked to first person to pass my desk. This person turned.

“Yeah, I did.”

What?! I sat up straight. Who was I even talking to?

It was Diana. The assistant who shares the compressed filing space with me. Diana, the matriarch of the tax assistants. She sits down the hall and I never even considered she would be the one to post it, but apparently two weeks ago she stopped by and saw me on the floor, and when she commented I said, “yes, this is my fort” without even looking up. She thought this was so funny she made a sign, and now she’s absolutely tickled pink that she’s created such a mystery in the office.

I sent the picture of the sign to my family this morning while the mystery was still unfolding. My mother replied to the post with a trip down memory lane, reminding me of when I was a teenager and I spent all my free time curled up on this little ledge built into my closet. It made the best reading nook, and despite how weird my friends thought it was, I loved curling up in there. Even now, when the world gets to be too much, I kick out my shoes and take up residence in my closet until the world starts to make sense again.

It appears I have always looked for hideouts in cramped spaces. Thank you Diana, for making my work one official.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hi There. Here, Please Have a Small Piece of My Soul

Someone told me once that only 50% of the people who ever get a novel idea actually sit down to write it, and of those, 50% actually finish. The numbers of finishers who actually complete an edited draft is also half of those who start.

Do I have any evidence to back up these statistics? No. They are probably exaggerated, but they get the right idea. A lot more people start writing books than finish them, and a lot less than that actually edit them. This is why I have always been rather proud of my four completed first drafts, and part of the reason I push myself so hard on revisions. I want to take myself seriously as a writer, I would one day like someone to pay me for what is currently an obsessive hobby. I was very, very proud of myself when, over Christmas break, I finally finished the second draft I had been working on throughout 2015. I was proud of my work. I was proud of my accomplishment, and proud of my book. It had a real story arc that made sense, good characters and best of all it was finally the story I wanted to tell. I was eager to move onto the next step: finding beta readers.

All the writing books and blogs I have ever read talk about how important it is to choose people to review your work who will be honest and analytical. People who won’t be afraid to tell you when you suck and save you from sending thoroughly mediocre work into the publishing world. My first ever complete first draft I naively showed to all my friends to draw out their praise, but since then, no one has read my novels (save for my brother, he loves me so much he still maintains that my feverishly written, typo-riddled first drafts are brilliant). I keep these so private because I don’t need editing in my creation process. Shutting up my own inner editor is hard enough, so this group of beta readers were going to be the first people to read this novel. More importantly, they would be the people telling me if my refined work of art would make a marketable product and could be pitched to actual publishers.

I chose my betas carefully; friends from my writing group, a friend who runs a bookstore, a sprinkling of siblings and my self-published sister, the brilliant Jaima Fixsen. I have beta read and copy edited her three books so she owes me, and I knew I could count on her to rip my book apart if necessary. I went into this process coolly, having chosen a healthy mixture of those that would be analytical and honest and those who would tell me I’m fabulous to build me up after. I converted my novel to an epub file, and sent it off.

Here is the funny thing about sending your work to beta readers. As soon as you hit send, your loving and supportive friends, your darling siblings, even your adorable 14 year old niece and doting father turn into this in your mind's eye:

A little piece of you that you have held dear for so long is now out in the world, waiting in other peoples’ inboxes to be scrutinized. It’s like taking a newborn baby and handing it naked to a group of critics who are about to tell you that this beautiful child whom you have lovingly brought into existence actually is entirely defective. Maybe you should just cast it aside.

To make matters worse, my writing time, which previously had been dedicated solely to this project was now wide open. What should I work on? I couldn’t pick up another revision, that seemed too weird. Instead, I spent weeks picking away at forgotten fanfictions while thinking every time I opened my laptop; “someone could be reading my novel right now. RIGHT NOW they could be reading it and either laughing or wondering what the heck is Elena trying to say?”

After a few weeks I calmed down a bit, remembering some people would take a while to get started, and then my first review came in. Kate, who wrote it, sent me a text to say she’d sent it. I got said text while getting into the elevator at work to go for lunch. Never had I been more excited and scared to get back into a wifi zone.

My first review was the best possible kind of review; positive, with a few ideas of how to improve that didn’t dramatically alter my story.

Are there any words more sweet than “I liked your story”? I don’t think so.

I am thinking beta readers serve two purposes; to critique, and to test your nerves. How in the world do published writers feel when their books hit the shelves?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Echte Erwachsene . . . Irgendwie

Christmas comes but once a year, and it's so frenzied one forgets to actually write that actual thing one wants to tell the blogosphere. So here we are creeping up on February, but I still have something to say about  the long past (or so it seems) holiday season.

Of the years I have spent living away from the nest, I have had three Christmases where I have "lived away from home", and by that I mean three Christmases where I pack a suitcase and go to my family for Christmas rather than already living where everyone gathers. The first one I had just moved out a month ago and only lived five minutes away. The second was after I came up north, and I reasoned that as a working adult, I should get a Christmas tree of my very own, even if I was going south for all my time off. Naturally I procrastinated the idea until my then roommate unpacked her fake tree.

This year was going to be different. Not only did no one at my house have an easy to assemble tree sitting in a box somewhere, but I was determined. Christmas could not be Christmas without a tree to welcome me home each evening and curl up to with my oatmeal and stare at the lights each morning, and why have a manmade tree when you can have the real thing in your living room? In November I announced to my roommates (and everyone else) that I wanted a tree for the holidays. I even had a tree stand and a box of shatterproof ornaments ready to go.

I was met with small enthusiasm and plenty of questions. Weren't trees awfully expensive? Why did I want a real tree? Wasn't that a lot more work? Who would take care of the tree? Wasn't I planning to go to Fairmont for a week at Christmas anyways? What was the point of having a tree if none of us would be in town for Christmas anyway?

Well, because Christmas is more than one day of course!

Nevertheless, the constant comments from nearly everyone I mentioned it to began to wear me down. Why did I need a tree for Christmas? It certainly wasn't practical. Utterly despondent, I got on the phone to my sister, Neen. She is practical to a fault, and decorated a potted plant to put her presents under, so while she may not appear to be the best person to discuss such a concern with, she knows me well enough her response was that I should be my wonderfully impractical, romantic self and go get myself a fabulous tree because I want it.

I drive to the tree lot with a sense of empowerment and find a beautiful six foot Douglas fir for twenty-five dollars. As I carry it to my car, I giggle to myself. I bought my own Christmas tree! Look at me!

I sing "O Tannenbaum" the whole way home.

I decorate my tree with balls, curled ribbon, and dollar store lights. I improvise a tree skirt with a spare sheet and golden scarf. My roommates join and we all have a terrific time.

The morning after it's first decorated, I wake up and spend the early morning doing my writing my the light of my tree, my very first tree. This prickly, cumbersome, shedding ornament continues to make my little apartment and magical Christmas land until the end of December.

To some people, it still appears an unnecessary expense. Why do I need a Christmas tree? There's no practical reason for them. Because they make me happy, and what is Christmas if not a season of joy?

That seems practical enough.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Crazy? I Was Crazy Once . . .

It was called the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

A few months ago, Mik and I discovered that our mutual friend Meghan discovered we all had something in common; we all loved to write. So we did the most natural thing for a group of would-be-novelists; we formed a writer's support group.

Our credo was simple, we would get together to write, we would set up goals to help each other write, we would feed each other and play writing games. Pretty soon it became our weekly ritual. In October we added two new members, Alex and Adopted Roommate.

As a group of young professionals/students who love to write fiction, it also made sense for us to attempt to do the National Novel Writing Challenge. For those of you who don't know what that is, click here or here's the short version - write 50,000 words of a new novel draft in 30 days. As members of Cafe Chi (the name we gave our group) we decided to accept this challenge because, well we're crazy. Of course.

Trying to write the majority of a first draft was an incredible experience, I learned so much about myself as a writer and a person. Some of the favourite things I learned include:

-when you are doing such an all encompassing goal, good friends going through the same thing are a wonderful asset. We had many boot camps where we all sit in my living room and just focus on our writing together.

-sleep is something we should always be grateful for.

-eating vegetables is something not to forget.

-I read a quote once for which I can not remember the author, but he said being a writer was like having homework every night for the rest of your life. That is pretty accurate. I found that if I didn't apply myself everyday, catching up the next day was too much and I then I got exasperated.

-the best thing to know; stop giving yourself excuses, shut up and just write.

By some miracle, I actually ended up taking my own advice for once, and completed my goal in 28 days instead of 30! Isn't getting what you wanted the best feeling there is?

Whether we hit the 50,000 word mark or a revised goal, our whole group went out to celebrate on December 1. We all grew as writers, grew closer as friends, and then followed my favourite writing advice:

"Shut up, and keep writing!"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let Us Give You a Clue

I have two roommates, one part-time roommate, and one adopted roommate. Part-Time Roommate lives around the corner and has our spare key. Adopted Roommate lives a ten minute walk away. Mik took in Part-Time Roommate when they realized they are basically the same person (and we needed a new spare key person) and I declared we were adopting our other extra when I decided that if I could have a little sister, I would choose Adopted Roommate.

As a result, both these girls have become part of our away-from-home family. They show up spontaneously, stay up all night talking with us, and are involved in some of our greatest adventures.

In August (before we adopted Adopted Roommate) Mik and Part-Time Roommate had the idea that they wanted to do a group costume for Halloween. We were discussing this on an IKEA trip with the our other roommate (the one who actually lives at our house for real) whom we will call the Serenader (more on that story later).

Part-Time Roommate and Mik discussed possibilities of what we should do as we stepped into the elevator. I thought of my favourite group costume, which my sister and her family did a number of years ago, and suggested we do the same thing. Everyone instantly liked the idea, and after recruiting the necessary guy friends and a few trips to Value Village, we arrived at the church Halloween dance like this:

Still no guesses? Let me give you a Clue; it was Miss Scarlett, in the church gym with the wrench. From left to right we have Mrs Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, Mr Green Mrs White and in front, Serenader came as our murder victim, Mrs Body.

We ran around the whole night accusing each other of murder, it was great fun. Yet another reason to love Halloween!