Monday, 10 August 2015

Lessons Learned From My First Ever Writing Conference

1. Words like prosity, braided essay and anal bleaching are easier to use in a sentence than you would think.
2. Do not expect diversity. Expect cat owners.
3. Creative Non Fiction is actually a code word for deep dark and depressing memoirs, hopefully featuring drug abuse divorce and broken limbs but leaving out cancer because there are way too many cancer submissions right now.
4. If you tweet pictures of your $5 shoes you will meet lots of lovely people many of whom are also wearing fabulous shoes.
5. Writers are so notoriously unhelpful toward each other that we need a panel about being nice, called Literary Citizenship, which featured tips such as when someone does you a favour, bake them cookies.

And the most important thing I learned at the writing conference:

6. Turns out I'm a writer.

Saturday, 6 June 2015


Hi, I would like to deposit this $20 check please.

It's a US check.

(Yes.  That's why we are spelling it check. If it were Canadian it would be a cheque.)

Yes. That's why I am giving it to you, the teller, instead of depositing it in the Instabank.

(Again, Canadian. In the US we could deposit it at the ATM).

You don't have a US account.

Right. That's why I am giving it to you. Please see above.

I will have to charge you $5.

$5? On a $20 cheque check?

You're right. That seems silly. Ok I will waive the fee.

Check deposited, fee waived, am back in car writing blog post in my head.

Did you deposit the US check to my account?

Yup. Just like you asked me to.

Did you not realize it was a US check?

No, I knew. That's why I've been saying check instead of cheque.

So why didn't you deposit it to the US account?

We have a US account?

Complaining Lessons Learned:
1. You can politely ask people at the bank to waive fees and most of the time they will.
2. If you use the Instabank and you get unreasonable fees you can call after and ask to have them waived. This sometimes works.
3. You may complain about your husband not listening when you talk to him, but maybe sometimes you're the one not listening.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Reprinted With Permission Of The Author, B., My 16 Year Old Son

2015 McEntyre Contest Grade 10 Winning Essay

George, The Shark Who Wanted To Be A Whale.

A while back, my buddy George wanted to be a whale. See, the whales were the fly party mammals in our school of fish. They would get drunk every weekend, they got all the girls, they made the rules, and people really looked up to them. And although George longed to be like them, he was born with an unfair disadvantage… George was a hammerhead shark.
George was getting sick of being considered weak and small, when he pitched the idea to me: we would help each other become whales; WE would be the cool kids in the ocean.
“George, listen. As great of an idea as that is… it sucks.”
“What are you talking about, Paul? We have a responsibility as sharks to become whales.”
“What would your mother say about this?”
“She doesn't have to know! She’ll think I ran away or something, she’d never recognize us in our new form.”
As you can see, I was hesitant, for many reasons. Reason Number One is that I had been going to the gym recently, getting in shape. To be a whale, I would have to screw all of that and become obese. Reason Number Two is that I kind of like living the ‘shark life.’ There are many perks, like being starred in Shark Week, on the Discovery Channel - I was an extra last season.
I lost the battle with George, as always, and ended up on a journey to whale-dom. First, we made a list of all of the qualities a whale must have:
-dark blue
-their eyes are like on either side of their heads
-small fins
Next, we tried to emulate these qualities. To get fat, we headed over to the Krusty Krab and ate burger after burger after burger. By the end of the night, we were each 300 pounds larger (sharks have slow metabolisms.) The following quality was their colour, dark blue, which required a lot of spray paint and took like six hours. But what came after were the most crucial qualities.
“Bro, I’m not gonna let you perform surgery on me. This is getting ridiculous.”
“Listen, how ‘bout you do it to me first, and if it doesn't work, you can go home and tell everyone that I’m insane,” suggested George, holding duct tape, a scalpel and a power drill. I agreed, reluctantly.

Step One: pull his eyes toward his temples, and hold them in place with the duct tape.
“Oh, God, do you want me to stop?!!”
Step Two: use the scalpel to slice off half of his left and right fins.
Step Three (The Final Step): make a deep hole in the top of his head, using the power drill.
There was no response.
“George? Come on, buddy, we’re leaving. Hello? George? NO! George, don’t leave us! You’re not ready to go! Please? Hello?”

George was dead. He died chasing the one dream that he thought he could achieve. He died trying to gain respect, for once in his life. He tried to stand up for himself. Anyways, now I’m being convicted for second degree murder. My lawyer says that I’m looking at 20 years… Don’t follow your friend’s dreams. Just, work on your own.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Now Available in Leopard Print

One of my friends well not really my friend but sort of a friend of mine ok fine a guy I know was caught shoplifting, says G, 14 year old son.

Guess What He Was Stealing.

Gum? Money? Food for his starving family?

Yeah, right.

Nail polish? Water bottle? A Car?

Mom come on. This Is Serious.

A gerbil? 

He was stealing shoes.

Like left his shoes in the store and tried to walk out with new shoes?

No. He put the new shoes into his backpack. Got picked up by the police. 

Oh My G-d. That must've been so embarrassing. Can you imagine how he felt having to call his parents with that one? Oy.

Oh yeah Mom. His parents were really pissed.  He's grounded for six months. But you know what Mom if he was my kid I wouldn't've grounded him.


I would've had a much better punishment.


I would've taken away ALL his shoes.

And he would've had to go around barefoot?

No. Worse than that. 


I would have left him with only one pair of shoes.  

I don't think that's much of a punishment G.

Oh yeah it is. I would've left him with Crocs.

Complaint Tie-In:

Kids who shoplift shoes and get grounded have absolutely nothing to complain about because had G. been asked for advice they would have a way worse punishment.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

In The Immortal Words of The Clash

Thursday Lunchtime
Much instability at work over past few weeks has led to fork in the road.

Can remain clinging to last roof shingle as water floods the bayou, or can leap off burning building and land in temporary safety net that has a couple of holes.

Neither option perfect.

Give self 48 hours to make a decision.

Friday Night
10 year old daughter T. comes home from evening out with BFF, BFF’s mother, grandmother, grandfather and two sisters.

How was your evening?

It was fun Mom except for the part when we forgot little sister E in the car.

FORGOT E IN THE CAR? What do you mean?

Well we all got out, and we were focusing so much on the grandpa and the grandma and making sure they were ok by the time we walked to the restaurant we realized that E was still in the car.

Isn’t E five years old?

Yeah. So anyway we all walked back to the car to get her and she was sitting there crying hysterically.


Yeah. And Mom what I don’t get is why wouldn’t she just get out of the car? If you forgot me, Mom, I would just undo my seat belt, open the door and yell HELLLO YOU FORGOT ABOUT ME. Or I would just run down the sidewalk to get you. Or, if it was a really sketchy neighborhood and I was scared I would honk the horn so you would come back. You had to see it Mom she was just sitting there crying.

(Beaming proudly): You are so right, T. Because that’s how I raised you. We are not the types to sit around and wait for someone to rescue us. We take action. We make things happen.

Lesson 1: If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out. We do not wait for someone to come and rescue us.

Saturday Morning
Beautiful Bar Mitzvah with the worst acoustics in the city. People talking during services, microphones not used, much background noise.

Rabbi opens his mouth to speak, complete silence blankets pews.

Rabbi just returned from mission to Poland and Israel.

Rabbi recalls the horrors of the concentration camps, the trains that brought Jews to their death, the showers that killed the Jews, the mass graves where they buried the Jews and the acres and acres of Jewish shoes and hair that are still on display to commemorate aforementioned atrocities.

Trip then went to Israel where Rabbi says the most inspirational sites were the shopping malls. The vineyards, the grocery stores and Aroma coffee fill the Rabbi with joy.

Not what we were expecting. 

He explains:

That a community can withstand a trauma like the Holocaust and go on to build such coffee stores that give you a free piece of chocolate such beauty is inspiring beyond any pile of rocks with someone’s name on it any memorial.

It is the drama – he says – of leaving a gut wrenching site of destruction and landing where Jews are selling t-shirts to other Jews that makes us buoy with hope.

Lessons 2, 3, 4:
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.

Sunday, Late Afternoon
Invited out for I’s birthday to restaurant that is completely pitch black.

It will be fun, she says. We will eat in dark, drink in dark and apparently it’s so dark that your eyes don’t adjust.

Sounds fabulous. I hope they have fondue.

Last time this couple picked the restaurant it was All-You-Can-Eat fish cheeks and braised offal. Blindness re-enactment has to be a step up.

Get to restaurant in pouring rain with rock bottom expectations and even less make up (no way am I putting face on to sit in the dark).

Turns out that you walk into brightly lit bar area where you can order drinks, put your phone and valuables in a locker (oh, that’s true, pickpockets probably love it here) and gawk at people who mistakenly thought it was all going to be dark and they didn’t need to wear lipstick.

You also look at menu and order before you go in.

Beet salad.

Stuffed shells. Steak sliced and drizzled. Roast chicken. Fall off the bone ribs.

And oh look How Perfect Is This.

Surprise option.

So you are eating in the dark and you will not know what you are eating.

You can order surprise app, main, and dessert. 

That’s for me.

Are you kidding? Husband asks. You said this was the worst idea anyone ever had  you weren’t excited about coming here and now you are ordering the Surprise option.

I don’t know if I will ever come back to this restaurant, I say. So I want to make sure that I get the full experience while I’m here. I’m not usually afraid to try new things except fish cheeks and braised offal. So why should this be any different. You know me, when I’m in, I’m all in.

Lesson 5: When I’m in, I’m all in.

Monday morning
Review lessons learned this weekend (including lesson 2a, not sure if you noticed, I threw it in as a freebie):

1. If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out.
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.
5. When I’m in, I’m all in.

Ladies and Gentlemen, looks like the decision is clear.

Let go of roof shingle.

Close my eyes.

And Jump.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Same or Different

Story A.

Guy I know looks at money and makes more money with it.

Drives multiple luxury cars one of which breaks down.

Fancy car company has it's own roadside assistance.

Fancy roadside assistance says We Can Meet You and take the car Sir but it will cost you $350 and we will need to take the car for three nights. We will give you a complimentary courtesy car.

There is no way you can fix my car tonight?

No sir.

There is no way you can fix my car tomorrow?

No Sir.

However, because we are Fancy roadside assistance we will bring the complimentary courtesy car right to you.

Grey Poupon? Sounds Great, says Guy. Why don't we meet at my brewery. You can give me the courtesy car and I will give you my broken luxury car.

Fancy shows up and Guy buys him a beer (yes only one and I'm sure it was small) (I'm not a narc)

Relax and chat about rich people things that you and I probably wouldn't understand.

Guy reaches into ermine lined pocket and hands Fancy his car keys. 

Fancy puts down his pint minuscule glass of beer and says On The Other Hand maybe we can fix your car right now.

Story B.

Leaving town for wedding and want to make sure my kids have their suits. 

Bring suits to dry cleaner on Tuesday. 

First words out of my mouth: I Need A Favour.

Leaving Thursday, must have suits, especially this one.

No problem. Thursday after 3pm.

Are you sure? Do you promise? We are leaving Friday morning at 7am. 

Yes of course Ma'am. No problem.

Thursday 3:20pm.
Everything hanging at dry cleaners except suit. Oh wait, suit jacket there. Pants missing.
 Kids have been known to go pantless before but at a wedding? Even we have our standards.

Clerk says Oh I'm Sorry. Pants Not Here.

What time are you open till tonight?

I don't think you understand Ma'am. Pants haven't been cleaned yet. No one here to clean them. They will not be ready today.

Well then I need you to find them for me. I need the pants for tomorrow at 7am. I will take them with me throw them in the washing machine, light a candle to Saint Veronica, patron saint of laundry and hope for the best.

Looks everywhere for pants. Can't find them.  

Thank you so much for trying to help me. I know it's not your fault. You weren't the one who promised me the pants. 

Well, Clerk says. There is one more thing I could do.

Picks up phone.

Calls owner.

Where? Seriously? Oh You're Right. Here They Are. Clean but not pressed. Hanging in the boiler room.

No she can't. She's leaving to a wedding tomorrow morning. 7am. 

I'll ask her.

Turns to me.

Can you stop here on your way to the airport tomorrow? We will have your pants ready at 6am.

Same or Different - Choose One:

A.  Different.  Guy you know owns a brewery and a Fancy car and your kids only have one pair of pants.

B.  Same. They probably drink too much beer at the Dry Cleaner and that's how your pants ended up in the Boiler room.

C. Different. Guy had to ply Fancy with free drinks offer Fancy a cool beverage while all you did was look kind of desperate express appreciation for the clerk.

D. Same. In both cases the company looked like they didn’t really care but in the end provided excellent customer service. Complaining effectively doesn’t always require an actual complaint.