A Horse That Taught Me a Riding Lesson

It had been a few years since I sat on a horse, but I did recall that a trusting relationship between animal and rider made for a pleasurable ride. Fly had decided that today he didn’t feel like having someone on his back. When I pulled on the reins and called: ‘whoa,’ Fly walked backwards instead of stopping – my trust factor fell to zero.

Fly waiting for a ride (me!)

My motto for riding: go with my intuition. I didn’t, and had a frustrating experience.

A horse stable, located on Camp River Road in Chilliwack, BC, where Lizzie, Fly and Blue waited for us. The rain had finally stopped, but the ground was too soggy to attempt a trail ride, so we stuck to the barn. Our spontaneous March getaway needed better weather.

Taking in the smell of hay and horse poop, I felt like a cowgirl. The specialty of the stable was ‘reining’ (Western dressage) – where Arabian horses move in prescribed ways similar to a choreographed dance. The stable crew, led by Jim, intended to take ten horses to Las Vegas for a ‘reining competition.’ (hope they do well!)

My daughter (in red) handles her horse with ease

After composing myself, I kicked harder. We moved forward a few steps, then Fly stopped. Slightly more perturbed, I gave him another chance.

Being a well-fed horse, we lumbered around the barn. I kicked him with as much power as I could muster, but his bulky body strained my leg muscles.

I pulled the rein in my right hand and pushed with my left leg to turn right. He made a reluctant turn and paused. I kicked. The instructor, Jim could be heard saying: “keep pedaling” (like riding a bike) – meaning, keep kicking.

I felt I was exerting way more effort than Fly.

Finally feeling more relaxed, I unintentionally made a ‘kissing’ sound, which I found out meant: ‘go fast.’ Fortunately, Fly wasn’t listening to me or else I would have ended up on the dirt floor of the barn!

Blue being more cooperative

I ended up switching horses to Blue. She was much easier to handle. We made a few rounds of the barn, but at that point my concentration had waned: I had exerted too much energy trying to get Fly to like me.

Lesson learned: if the first command doesn’t work, get another horse!


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No Pink Pussy Hats for Me!

It’s been a week since publishing my Women’s March in Vancouver blog, and I’ve realized that I didn’t elaborate on the concept of the ‘pink pussy hats.’

Why pink?

The ‘pink’ of the hats bothered me, but I didn’t know how to express my disdain for them without putting down the many enthusiastic women.

I felt embarrassed by the pink pussy hats, OK? There, I said it!

Are they an ironic statement? I don’t get it.

They should have been black pussy hats, just as Madonna wore, projecting a state of mourning for our collective dignity. I know all the pink-pussy-hat-wearing women were proud of themselves, but the statement didn’t hold enough gravitas, toughness – pink as the colour of resistance was disappointing!

Black Pussy Hat – could link to the significance of a black cat (yes, I know pussy does not refer to a cat, but…):

  • Cat goddess, Bast from Ancient Egypt known as a protector;
  • Bad luck if its path is crossed. Women need to say: “cross my path and you may regret it;” and
  • A witch’s clever companion who has special powers, instilling fear at Halloween.

Black hats make the message bolder!

Let’s promote women as holders of power, not mild-mannered-smile-through-the-shame women. Again, it is impressive that many came together to create a movement, but as the situation worsens, the hat colour must change in order to get rid of the vermin!

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Women’s March in Vancouver, BC: A Disgruntled Group of People

The city seemed quiet, a few women with signs walked along Cordova Street – an indicator that we were close to the gathering place for the Woman’s March at the Olympic Cauldron.

As we loaded up the parking meter, an Asian woman in a red Cooper parked behind us. She saw our signs and asked, in accented English:

“Where do we go?”

We pointed towards the water, down Bute Street while she explained that she couldn’t just stay home, she needed to do something – and it was her first time expressing her personal views in a public way.

Tears came to my eyes.

We set off for the plaza together, but became separated as the crowd grew. Getting closer to the action, we heard singing – The Heels (a North Vancouver group) – serenaded us as we weaved our way through the throng of bodies to get a better view of the singers.


Pink Pussy Hatted Women – hats should have been black instead of pink (like Madonna’s)

Becoming a part of the massive rally at Jack Poole Plaza, we realized the number of people participating had surpassed the 2,000 expected. Girls, teens, women, seniors (grey-haired-hearing-aided- women), millennials (one on stilts), boys, tall men (claustrophobic when standing behind) – all gathered to voice their concerns, opinions, discontent, and agitation.


Stilt Walker

Me, my partner and daughter blended into the crowd, carrying our hastily made signs, which read: The best protection a woman can have is courage (Stanton quote), #Sad (T****’s favourite Twitter sentiment); Girls are strong, girls are great, Girls have the power to take away hate!!! (modified Ivy and Bean chant) – (me, my partner, and my daughter’s slogans, respectively).

A mist shrouded the snowy mountains behind the women speakers who were invisible to most of the crowd – voices drifting in the air.

The indigenous speakers made us consider the land we stood on – Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories – and the tragic fate of many indigenous women (Highway of Tears – Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert) and the lack of respect for people as minorities (Mexican-Canadian woman spoke of many injustices against immigrants) – sad that our country wasn’t as respectful as everyone made it out to be. And the 8 men who have more wealth than half the poorest people of the world – it got heavy, but more importantly it made me think.


Make America Think Again – brilliant sign!

After over an hour standing and listening, my daughter needed a snack and said: “my legs hurt.” I thought it would be a small gathering and we would be marching by now. We finally started walking after a few fist bumps and rally cries – we were moving – turning like a large ship – towards Burrard Street. It took us fifteen minutes to move half a block – we had to leave before there were more tears. We added our presence to the voices of discontent. It felt right.

The speakers asked: “what are you going to do to continue this momentum?”

I wasn’t sure.

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Deadline Missed, World Didn’t End…‘Budding Iris’ Awaits Completion

‘The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.’

Philip Roth

Yes, my second book ‘Budding Iris’ is still a work-in-progress, but not abandoned! I blame my resolve – it stumbles over my blurred premise, which lost focus at the 53,462-word count. Developing an idea generates excitement and energy. Following through, however, generates indifference and angst. But I expected that since my motto for writing: persevere when things get difficult, and finish what I start.

Being a realistic person, I saw a doable goal: get my new book Budding Iris to the proof stage by the end of 2016. Since completing the first draft during NanoWrimo 2015, I had been editing the second draft for about 8 months.

Logic told me that if I announced in a blog that I intended to complete a proof by December 31, 2016 – I would shame myself into doing it – and it almost succeeded. At first, I was disheartened by my setback, then relieved after the deadline had passed and the pressure eased.

Why is it so difficult to extract words from thoughts? Thoughts in my head are pertinent… germane… significant, yet when shaping them into words on the page, they become embarrassing.

When my momentum is lost, I tend to shutdown and feel hopeless, but my stamina has been boosted (by writing this) and I will push on till the end. The burden, or more like the challenge of finishing is budding (clever reference to Budding Iris).

How does one improve except by doing? I keep writing to advance my level of artistry, craftsmanship. I feel stiff and stilted writing this – I can’t quite reveal my truth – I exasperate myself at times. Cultivating a smooth, stimulating writing style – not sure what I mean by that, but I’ll know it when I achieve it.

Also, I want to prove to myself that I can complete my book in less time than my first (2 ½ years) – I have lived long enough with my characters – I am ready to move on!


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Fresh, Freezing, Slippery Run


Snowy North Shore Mountains

Should I go out or not? It’s 1 degree celsius – snow fell the day before, and partially melted, leaving a mess of slippery-slush this morning – that meant a cautious run.

I go for it! The cold jolts me awake – I do the ‘shuffle-slide-run’ until I get my footing. Dirt part of path – fine, make it past tennis courts – tarmac path looks shiny – avoid – run on crunchy grass. Parks Board worker throws salt as I  go by – ‘thank you,’ I say. Continue on crunchy grass – till I make it to the seawall.

Before reaching Second Beach Pool – I hear the honk of Canada Geese – and then a beating of wings – one group of 12 geese leaves the pool, followed by two more groups – each waiting for the next to depart as if they had clearance from the tower. The backdrop of a red tinted sky and white mountains – I braved the cold.

Continue along the wall running on snowy-kelp – crunch, crunch – tossed up on the seawall by huge waves two days before. Shimmy along a mini-ice rink and reach my destination without falling – yay!

The way back is easier since I know where the danger lies. Only encountered three other people on wall – best time to run.

But passing the Ceperley playground, I see the ‘guy-in-the-grey-sleeping bag’ on the picnic table in the covered eating area. I had called the City twice, but here he was again sleeping in freezing temps – I don’t want to read the news about a homeless man freezing to death in his sleeping bag.

“Hey, hello,” I yell at the park ranger scraping the ice off his windshield, “there’s a guy sleeping on the table.”


“Under the shelter in a grey sleeping bag.”

He turned toward the direction I pointed to, hopefully he will help.

I head home – fresh, invigorated and aware of the world around me. That’s why I keep running.


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Writing Alone… November 2016

As days in October dwindled, I became anxious knowing I wasn’t doing the NanoWrimo challenge for the first time in four years. It was a sad realization, but I had a good reason for not doing it – I was working on the third draft of my latest novel ‘Budding Iris’ (first draft completed NanoWrimo 2015).

alone_writingBut I needed a shove to finish.

Instead of writing 1,667 new words a day, I set a time goal (2-3 hours/day) – revising, rewriting, rethinking – ending up with 25 ‘clean-ish’ chapters. As I polished my draft, I adopted a resolve along with a goal: produce a proof of my book by the end of 2016 (less than 30 days to go!)

I now understand how to have a ‘deadline mindset’ without getting overwhelmed – the sentiment “I’ll get it done, eventually” or “It’s not quite ready” doesn’t work for me anymore. No longer allowing the work to stew for an indeterminate amount of time – I drove myself as if I were trying to complete the 50,000 word goal (sometimes it’s important to trick yourself into finishing what you start.)

Inspiring emails from the Office of Letters and Light never arrived, and the vicarious bond with other writers (knowing that thousands of people were going through the same semi-torturous task) never happened.

Working alone wasn’t as fun, but I will maintain the ‘2-3 hours/day’ approach as I move forward with my writing. Since I can only encourage myself to a limited level, I will most likely participate in NanoWrimo next year.


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A Kaleidoscope of Nice, France

A quick train ride from Villenueve-Loubet into Nice for a walking exploration of the city.


An Elegant Yellow Building

Nice, where the natural beauty of the distant mountains hug the soft yellow buildings accented by green shutters, red-tiled roofs – a warmer version of Paris.

Sitting for a cafe noisette (espresso with a touch of milk) at an outdoor table, when a jarring boom interrupted our conversation. I looked wide-eyed at my partner: an uneasiness overcame me. Thoughts of recent events in France flashed through my mind, but my fears were assuaged when I noticed a man sitting in a truck. I made a hand gesture attempting to describe the sound. He nodded and pointed to his wrist indicating something about time. Realizing it was noon, I nodded and smiled: the boom announced lunch.

A touch of paranoia is reasonable.


Miroir d’Eau – Promenade de Pauillon

The majestic presence of the Hotel La Scala overlooks the Miroir d’Eau (the water mirror), an interactive fountain that erupts in stages. Starting at one end of the plaza, the water spouts incrementally – low bursts to high – a varying sequence of heights, staggered timing – as if a symphony conductor controlled the rhythm of the fountain.

Young and old are inspired to express themselves by skipping, walking, running through the bursts of water with huge smiles on their faces. A plump woman in a wet, black and white dress holds a dramatic ballet pose in front of the spurting water while her friend takes a picture. A small boy pauses on a spout of water, fills up his bathing suit, then pretends to pee for an audience of parents sitting on benches and passersby who laugh at his silly showmanship.

A cacophony of action makes the fountain a performance space.


Wooden Whale Climbing Structure

On Rue Jean Baptiste… children are welcome. A playground with a wooden whale lures its prey to have fun.

The MOMAC – Modern Contemporary Art Museum – two new artists I have absorbed for the first time: Niki de Saint Phalle (colorful, cartoon-like paintings with personal anecdotes plus large paper mache figures) and Yves Klein (torso prints smudged in thick blue paint).

A surreal feeling coats the Promenade d’Anglais as a group of four soldiers in green fatigues pass by with machine guns held in a ready position. Without planning, we come upon the memorial – heads low – look at the notes, candles and stuffies… nothing more to say.


Antique Merry-Go-Round Waiting for Riders

A carousel waits for a few children to vie for a spot on the white horses or the Cinderella pumpkin while my daughter spots the pink pig on the second floor. The music starts and the lovely creatures float obliviously in an endless loop.

Travel is full of contrasts. By acknowledging the ugliness, the beauty overrides the sadness that makes me want to stay home and hide in fear.

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