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Caution: Swearing Ahead

18 Apr

In my  literary brain the title of this post would be something touching, poignant, reflective. But nope, in the real world, that’s not going to happen, because I really just want to say: WTF?

Hands up if you have SKYPE? And hands up if you think that when that blue circle posts a red number above it it means someone  tried to call you? Given that my whole family lives in Israel and that the Jewish sabbath (Shabbat) begins tonight, I figured maybe one of my family members Skyped me to wish me Shabbat Shalom or to rub in the fact that outside of Israel Passover is 8 days (as opposed to 7 there), I clicked on the Skype button wondering how I’d not heard the Skype phone ring.

But it wasn’t a call at all. It was a birthday reminder notification (I forgot that Skype does that). This is what popped up on my Skype screen:


FUCK!! That was my first response. Followed by FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! And then I looked at the little green squiggly circle on the left that told me that Randall Taylor was “offline.” Of course he’s fucking offline! Because he’s dead! Died by his own hand (with a handgun to the head to be precise) – exactly 6 months, one week and one day ago (but who is counting, right?).

And I’m sitting here thinking, how the fuck does his Skype account still exist? Did his family not switch it off? Are they unaware he had one? And even if they were aware, wouldn’t you need a password to know how to delete the damn account?

Now, it’s not like Randall and I ever really Skyped. He was my best friend, and my next door neighbour, so no need to Skype, right? He set it up years ago for when I was overseas and he was taking care of my dog – so we could chat and discuss important things like: How did Bronte enjoy her walk? How much cottage cheese did you include in her food today? You know, important stuff.

This is why I never even thought to delete his Skype profile from my list because it was so rarely used. But today (and it’s not like I forgot today would have been his birthday), I was completely winded when this reminder popped up. It was like being kicked in the solar plexus. The Internet age is bad enough in life – but it’s terrifying the web it weaves even in death. The body is gone, the soul – who knows where? – but you’re online life is there: taunting, teasing, those left behind. There’s a brief moment where you think “I can click on that ‘send a gift’ button, and somehow the present will magically wend its way to wherever they now reside in cyberspace, and hey, I might even get an automatically generated ‘thank you’ note in return.”

The memories in my heart, in my soul, and the reminders around my home – even the space between my grief – still cradle Randall. He’s everywhere and he’s nowhere. He’s in the lump in my throat, the pain that sometimes threaten to stop my heart and he bloody well sits  on my therapist’s bookcase every time I walk into his office. And these things make me cry and yearn and ache.

But this? This assault from cyberspace? From Skype? All it does is make me livid and inarticulate and broken and beaten down. As if every tiny step I’ve taken over the last six months to heal, to move on, to figure out a life without my best friend and neighbour, is some big, cosmic, joke.

And all that I can think, all that I can say is FUCK! Because there are no other words. No other thoughts.

And no, it does not escape me that I’m writing this post on the Internet.

But I’m still going to say it.

Fuck the Internet.

That is all.


Hug a writer today

5 Apr


I absolutely adore my RWA writer’s group. I don’t think there’s a better bunch out there than the LARA gals and guys. (Well, actually I fell in love with the Austin chapter people in Atlanta at the National convention last year… so I’m sure there are other great chapters too, but today it’s all about LARA love).

Firstly, and I know I’m a little late in announcing this, but I’m SOOO excited for LARA’s wonderful Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck  – both of whom have been nominated for RITA Awards for their debut novels. For those that don’t know, the RITA’s are the romance writing equivalent of the Oscars, so at this year’s National convention in San Antonio in July, they’ll be dressed in their posh frocks waiting nervously to see if they won. They’ll probably be slinging back more alcohol than those of us cheering them on. LARA-ITE Jennifer Haymore has also been nominated for her editing of a novella. Such exciting news. Do click on their names and check out their websites. They are all amazing women that deserve to be celebrated.

LARA-ites are such huge supporters of each other. I confess my inbox is inundated with emails from members at all hours of the day and night and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also really, really, excited that as part of the LARA mentor programme where seasoned vets share their knowledge and expertise, they take on grateful little people like me. And so, I was delighted to discover that the brilliant Maggie Marr has been designated as my mentor. I did indeed hit the “send” button today and my first 50 pages are wending their way to her where I hope she will forcefully (but kindly) rip my pages to pieces so I can build them back up and make a dent in making my novel worthy of publication. Do please check out her website too, so you can learn about all things Maggie. 

I’m also excitedly awaiting a rerouted USPS screw up, from the wonderful Barbara Claypole White, who is sending me one of her novels from North Carolina. Barbara and I touched base over at the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, where I read an excerpt of her work in progress and left a comment noting how I picked up on a major character trait of one of her characters (due to my personal experience with said trait). She was thrilled that I cottoned on to it and called me to pick my brain about my knowledge on the issue to help her flesh out her character. What a great conversation. Can’t wait for her book to arrive. 

I love that writers (at least the ones I associate with) are such a supportive, collaborative bunch – it can get lonely behind your computer screen churning out thousands of words a day (or avoiding churning them out). Cheerleaders, nurses, doctors, best friends – these are all the roles (and more) that we take on to support our fellow scribblers. And we tweet their book releases, and promote their Facebook pages. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy inside thanks to the world of writing interwebs. So do yourself a favour: hug a writer today. 


Of holidays, hot springs and cold shoulders

3 Apr

They say a change is as good as a rest… or something like that. Well, I decided that a rest would be a good change. It was definitely time for a road trip  – even if it was just an overnight one, so we headed off to the hot springs in Palm Desert/Palm Springs. The reason for this was threefold:

1. We needed a holiday!

2. Excellent for cobweb clearing the mind and rebooting my editing stint (it worked, I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle scenes that I’ve been avoiding – and I even wrote an entire new chapter because I realised the book needed it).

3. We went to  the hot springs because I have a FROZEN SHOULDER. It’s been going on two months now and despite physical therapy and drugs (not necessarily in that order), does not appear to be getting any better. Last week I headed off to an orthopedist who recommended a cortisone shot right in the shoulder. Hands up if you’ve had one of those? NOT fun. Almost passed out. The shot worked for about 3 hours and then – nada. I’m back to the ortho in a week so who knows what he will recommend next? I’m thinking amputation at the neck.

Anyway, the hot springs, we thought, might help the shoulder. I can safely vouch that it didn’t hurt it. Not sure if it helped. But it was lovely to get away and see some sunshine (er and then a whole lot of rain), lots of wind, and soak in hot springs. Our room overlooked one of the eight “miracle healing” pools and we could just pop  out of our little patio straight into the pool. Here’s our room with a view.




It was also great to wander around town in the sunshine and have brunch in this sweet little garden area where the tea is served in an elephant teapot! (okay, so I brought my own tea bag (PG Tips) and they provided the hot water) but it was still lovely.


And if it were not for Palm Springs how could I have ever known that Sancho Panza retired here?




And then the sun disappeared, the heavens opened up and it poured with rain… But then there was a rainbow. Look closely and you’ll see it. (sorry about the car blocking the pic).


Back in the real world again, writing again and shoulder is actually feeling a bit better this morning. No shooting pain up and down my arm, but still not able to wash my hair by myself yet. One day at a time. Back to the keyboard.


I’m A Morning Person

20 Feb


She says… writing this at night.

Not that this is any great revelation to me. I’m quite certain I’ve always been a morning person. Even my mum says as an 18-month-old, I”d get up at 6 a.m. and go and bang on the neighbour’s door and want them to come out and play; even in school, I’d rather study till 9 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. and start studying again rather than stay up all night; even in drama school and the theatre where morning people are looked at askance. Yep, even when I was performing and directing and not finishing shows till 2 a.m. I’d still be up bright and early the next day.

So, it’s not as though I’m coming up with any earth shattering news here tonight, it’s just that I’m finally admitting it. Because, let’s face it. Most people HATE morning people. There’s nothing designed to put you off your day than some Pollyanna-ish goon leaping out of bed and greeting the day with vim and vigour. Ugh. I know people hate it. But there you have it, I’m one of them.

I write this because now that I’m “gainfully unemployed” – albeit temporarily methinks – as promised I’m working on doing edits on my book. So I was up bright and early (even though I’m still not sleeping well), ran errands, took the dog to the park, ran more errands, sorted out washing, sorted out emails and bills, went to the doctor and then crashed. That’s right by 3 p.m. when I resolved to start my edits I collapsed in a heap – and I’ve pretty much been doing the heap collapsing every day for the last several weeks (months) by 2 or 3 p.m.

So THAT is why I have resolved that “working on my book” time will now be mornings, starting tomorrow morning, when my brain isn’t woolly and I’m not trying to pry my eyes open with toothpicks.

There is something to be said to finally confessing to being a morning person. Hands up if you’re also a morning person. And if you’re not, please don’t hate me.

Change of Status: No, this is not a Facebook update

19 Feb



So I’m changing my status. Yes, indeed. Despite what you may think, this does NOT involve telling everyone on Facebook what I ate for breakfast this morning. In fact, it has nothing to do with Facebook at all. But you knew that, right? Because you read the headline.

No. I’m referring to U.S. immigration status. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services), well, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then G-d bless you for being born an American.

Between attorneys fees and the mounds of trees they destroy to file your paperwork, it’s enough to make a grown person weep. But that’s just the way it goes. And despite all the tension and nail biting that goes with making sure everything is done correctly (hence the attorney and said fees), I’m trying to look at the upside of the downside.

The downside is that while my paperwork is being evaluated by immigration officials, I cannot legally work. And if all goes well, paperwork will be approved in the next 30-60 days. So here I am playing “hurry up and wait.” What’s bizarre about this is I’ve never ever been told I am not ALLOWED to work. This is an anathema to me. Aside from having to live off savings at this point, I don’t know how NOT to work. It’s what keeps us feeling like we’re productive members of society, no? And keeps us away from the idiot box (although it is Olympics time so I guess that’s some consolation).

However, the plus side is that while I cannot be gainfully employed and earn a salary, I finally have all this time to actually finish editing my novel and send it out to agents. I have ZERO excuses (except the Olympics) to procrastinate any further. So, hold my feet to the fire for me. Demand that I check in with updates on a regular basis starting tomorrow. Feel free to kick my arse.

Thank you.

Feeling Vindicated

9 Jan

I was so excited to read in the Los Angeles Times (you can read the full article here) the other day that one of my favourite things is back in fashion! What is it you ask? It’s (drumroll please)…. butter!


Yep. Butter. I (think) I eat well. I’ve been a vegetarian forever. I try to eat enough leafy green vegetables and good sources of (non animal) protein. I don’t use sugar and I don’t use salt (due to a kidney condition), so my butter is naturally unsalted. 

No matter how many years have gone by, I’ve refused to give up butter. I like it on my toast. I cannot stand margarine or any derivatives that pretend to emulate butter and those things are full of synthetic products anyway. So I’ve always put butter on my toast (or crumpets or muffins) in the morning and while I usually cook with olive oil, sometimes I use butter for certain things, especially if I’m making mushrooms on toast with HP Sauce. it’s a British thing. Delicious. Try it. 




So imagine my delight when the LA Times had the following headline and subhead on its front page (it was a slow news day obviously). 

Trans fats backlash pushes U.S. butter consumption to a 40-year-high

Butter’s growing popularity — consumption has risen 25% in the last decade — coincides with more understanding about the health hazards of its processed counterparts.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could have told you this YEARS ago. 

Other gems in the article include: 

Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been blended with hydrogen to boost shelf life and reproduce the qualities of butter or lard. But research shows the ingredient raises levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol. Trans fats consumption impairs levels of the better HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease.

Yes, the article goes on to say that butter is still a saturated fat and it’s still not a “health food.” But as A. A. Milne would rightly state is his delicious poem The King’s Breakfast: All I want is a bit of butter on my bread!

That’s all I usually use it for anyway. And it’s much better than margarine. So yay! Butter is back in fashion. Luckily I’m not a trend following person and have kept butter as a part of my life and have yet to fall down a “foodie” rabbit hole. Food trends – like all trends – come and go. But butter will stay. Which reminds me of that great British butter commercial  I loved as a kid in the late 1970s. It went something like this: 

What’s the natural food you spread on bread and scones and toast?

B-U-Double T-E-R

What’s the natural food that makes your veggies taste the most?
B-U-Double T-E-R

And when it comes to cooking

The other stuff doesn’t get a look in

Because of 

B-U-Double T-E-R

And that spells butter

B-U-Double T-E-R

A natural food!

Anyone else remember that commercial? 



The ‘S’ Word, The ‘F’ Word and the ‘W’ Word

8 Jan

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions per se. Jan.1  is just an arbitrary date and most resolutions are set up to fail. But this year I kind of, sort of, had a resolution socked away in the far recesses of my mind. That resolution was (and still is) to find a way to live my life surrounded by the ‘S’ word.

The ‘S’ word in question is suicide. My blog (and my life until now) have remained largely frozen in a time warp that began on October 9, 2013, when my best friend and next door neighbour, whom I saw every day for the past seven years, who was my darling dog’s surrogate “dad” chose without warning or pomp or ceremony to pick up a gun and blow his brains out.

I thought about writing the act more eloquently, more delicately, but he didn’t simply “take his own life,” he did so violently, brutally, and not only knowing that I would find him, but just to make sure I got the message, left me a hand written note. Only me. Not his mother or his brother or his two sisters or his boss or his bank manager. Me. A note addressed to me. A note seared into my brain for the rest of my life. A note that was alarmingly devoid of emotion. Short, sharp, direct with a one sentence explanation that later proved to be unfounded. Even in his final farewell he lied about the true reason behind this senseless, horrific act. Meaning, despite bits and pieces filtering through about possible motives, I’ll never REALLY know what drove him to this. Maybe he didn’t either? But I can speculate till the cows come home. Mostly, these past three months I’ve had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other; how to get through an hour – let alone an entire day; how to live a life that was turned upside down in an instant.

I couldn’t even post on this blog that my novel had placed second in another writing contest – The Catherine. I received the news just days after my neighbour’s death. But it really was impossible to rejoice in the news at the time.

Thank goodness for all who surrounded me with love and support;  my family, friends, and synagogue community who came to visit, talk, hold my hand, bring food (naturally) and listen to me keen and wail and rant and grieve and sometimes remain catatonic.

I’m looking forward to finally starting back at work next week. But the legacy and the pain and the loss remain. They will linger. I know that. I’m not someone who has been coddled from loss. I’ve had a lot of it in my life – including losing my dad as a teenager. But suicide – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. It’s hard to come to terms with a person who chose to take their own life – especially when you know others who have fought tooth and nail to stay alive while battling cancer. Grief, anger, and a million questions that can never be answered have gone to the grave with my neighbour and best friend. For everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I know you know what I’m saying and what I’m feeling and justice cannot be done to those feelings in a brief blog post. But we go on. Like baby foals, we stand on wobbly legs; we fall down, we think we can’t take on the world on our spindly legs, but somehow we find a way. Because we lean on others – we do the one thing the person who decided he or she could no longer live in this world didn’t do – we reach out: to friends, to family, to loved ones, to therapists and our communities. They hold us up until we can walk again and we know they will be there to catch us when we fall – as we inevitably will. Which leads me to the “F” word.

The “F” word reminds me why I don’t believe in Jan 1. resolutions. I had wished with a fervour so strong that it shook my being, that 2013 was behind me. That we could close the door on that chapter. As if a New Year means a new start. I knew it didn’t really. I knew it was just an arbitrary date, but I wished it nonetheless. And Jan. 1 came, as promised. But on Jan. 5 we learned that a dear friend of our synagogue community was killed in a car accident on Jan. 4 and my world came crashing down again. How much grief can one person bear?

And so, today, in just a few hours I will go to a funeral. The “F” word. The funeral of a man with so much love and goodness in the world, cut down in an instant. A place where there will be so much grief and pain, but there will be support and an outpouring of love for him and his family. Unlike my neighbour – whose family chose not to have a funeral for him – I will at least be able to stand with my community and show everyone how much this dear man, killed at the beginning of this “New Year” was loved and how deeply he will be missed.

And so we come to the “W” word, which is, of course, writing. Something I was unable to do for months. But yet, here I am now writing about death and loss and grief.

Before Sunday’s tragic news of my friend’s death, I had been galvanised once more by the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association to get back to editing my novel, thanks to the Write-a-Thin (see the badge?)


that was launched Jan. 1. For the first time I could concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time and was working hard. Sunday’s news threw me off my game (naturally) and I was back in a well of grief. Everything seemed compounded.

But I do know that I am returning to my version of “normal.” I’m looking forward to returning to work, returning to writing. I’m learning to accept the obvious: that the world is not an easy or a safe place to live in; that there will always be tragedy and grief and challenges around the corner. Learning to keep going is what it is all about. And we do that by making sure we surround ourselves with people who can hold us up when we fall down. And knowing that we will do the same for them. So thank you to everyone who loves me, supports me, and is there for me no matter what. I am here for you, too.

Z is for Zed

30 Apr

a-to-z-letters-zNow before you think I’ve taken the easy road on the final letter of this challenge, bear with me for a minute.

Remember, I live in America now, where Z = Zee. But for me Z will always = Zed.

I write about this because expats here tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who have embraced the U.S. of A and who say that you must adapt to their customs and those who cannot relinquish “how to speak proper like.” Guess which category I fall into?

I’m sorry can you imagine asking someone to pick a copy of the London A to Zee, or watching Zee Cars or heading to the Magic Roundabout and hearing Zeebedee instead of Zebedee being told it’s time for bed. Of course, if you’re American none of these will make sense to you.

Zebedee - Magic Roundabout

Zebedee – Magic Roundabout

And it’s not that I’m being deliberately annoying, it’s just very difficult for me to overcome a lifetime of doing things one way and then trying to do them another. Why does America have to be SOOO different? Why is it the ONLY country that writes its dates backwards – month, day, year instead of day, month, year. I’ve finally adapted I think but I cannot tell you how many cheques (they’re called checks here  – as are ticks – it gets confusing) I bounced in my time here trying to wrap my head round that.

Why is America the ONLY country that recorded its videotapes on NTSC when the rest of the world used PAL? This means I can’t play ANY of my videos collected over the years. Although, videos are becoming obsolete. And yes, I know I can convert them to CD, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I’ll also never be able to call a tomato a tomayto (I asked for tomato on my sandwich once and the guy thought I said broccoli!)or basil baysil or herb ‘erb, because as that brilliant British comedian Eddie Izzard (who I’m sure spells his name with a double zed not a double zee) points out quite clearly it’s pronounced Herb because “there’s a f***ing ‘H’ in it!”

And don’t get me started on dinner. Well, apparently an entree is a main dish. What? So what’s an entree? An “appetizer”. Oy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I love being here. And while I will continue to put petrol in my car, I know Americans call it gas; that they have no idea what a fortnight is; that a pair of scissors is called a scissor; that they think a boot is a trunk and that “will call” is a noun.  I have learned these the hard way. I understand we are two people divided by a common language and I have adapted accordingly. But I will never call Zed “Zee” because I love Zebedee far too much. Actually I’m more of a Dougal fan – but that’s another story.

Y is for Yellow Blanket

29 Apr

a-to-z-letters-yI know my Mum reads my blog posts (hey, we all have to have a fan club and Mums make the best ones). And she’s probably the only one who knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about by this headline.

Major confession coming up. I was a security blanket baby (and toddler and small child). Yes. Just like Linus (but I did not suck my thumb). I vaguely remember a pink blanket with a bunny on it that I used to drag around everywhere, but I think that one disintegrated before I could walk. I think my Mum said she cut it up into small pieces at one point. I’m not sure. So my “yellow blanket” was really my second blanket but I still had it when I was very, very, young.

I would go NOWHERE without this blanket. Not to bed, not out the door, not in my pram, not ANYWHERE. And of course there were the horror stories where my parents would somehow wrest the thing away from me so it could be washed once in a blue moon; and of course they’d do it when they were going out one night and the babysitter had a mental breakdown because I WOULD NOT GO TO SLEEP without it. And the poor babysitter had to call my parents hysterical about the fact that I was hysterical. We may have traumatised a teenager for life.




I remember that blanket well. It was soft, and yellow, with a cream picture in the middle (can’t remember what it was). The blanket with satin edges. Now the satin is what I really wanted. I used to rub my face against it to fall asleep. Go figure. I loved the sensation of the satin on my face and lips as a small child and I found it soothing.

I don’t remember when I outgrew the blanket. But thankfully I did.  But because it was part of my childhood I held on to it. And yes, I still have it. It sits in a bag wrapped up in my linen closet. The satin edges have long since frayed away from the edges and it’s more a dirty mustard colour now than any shade of yellow. I haven’t looked at it in ages until now, when I pulled it out to take a picture of it and post it here. So here it is… my trusted yellow blanket!

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

Did you have a security blanket? A teddy bear? Something?

X is for Xerxes

27 Apr

a-to-z-letters-xThat’s Xerxes I to you. NOT Xerxes II.

Golly, I feel like I’m being a complete snob just mentioning him. But  come on, you come up with a letter X to write about?

So, no, I’m not some mad academic historian (with apologies to mad academic historians, some of whom are very good friends). I just happened to study Ancient History for my final exams in High School and let me just say as an aside to everyone who ever took an Ancient History class with Mr. Peter Crilley at Moriah College, aren’t you glad you did? Truthfully, he treated us like adults (even though we were in fact teenagers). He believed the best studying was done listening to opera, drinking red wine and eating excellent cheese. And he is the one who introduced me to Xerxes and the battle of Salamis et al. And he’s the one who taught me the meaning of hubris (courtesy of Xerxes’ colossal arrogance).

Xerxes of course, spectacularly lost the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE (Sorry. I went to a Jewish Day School, which is why we say BCE and NOT BC. But I digress). And, tying Persian/Greek wars into my Greek Tragedy drama school training (who knew at the time the paths would cross?), we learned that dear old Xerxes’ defeat was at the hands of his own hubris – very Greek tragedy. So much so, Aeschylus wrote a play entitled The Persians about the Persian attempt to invade Greece, which, as fate (very Greek) would have it, we did indeed study in drama school. What goes around, comes around, I guess.


Just think where Greece and/or Persia (Iran now) would be today if Xerxes didn’t have such a huge ego and could have won the battle of Salamis? And with a link back to my Ophelia theme, may explain why I’ve also never met anyone who named their kid Xerxes.