Breaking up

You know when a friend tells you that you have to read a particular book?

So you pick up the book and you start to read and it’s horrible, but your friend recommended it so it must get better, and you keep reading and reading and waiting and reading? And it never gets better?

And then you start to think that if your friend thought you would love this book, maybe your friend doesn’t understand you at all?

And then you think it’s possible that you can’t be friends anymore with someone who would think you could love this book?

Reading is dangerous like that.

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There was a wind storm in the middle of the night. Our windows were open, so I woke at 2 a.m. to the sound of our bedroom door going

BANG! Swing. BANG! Swing.

I got up and shut the windows. My husband didn’t stir.

I went back to bed.

I started thinking about the kids’ windows, so I got up to shut those. From my son’s room, I could hear the awning on the back patio flapping in the gusts as if it were about to lift off the roof and fly away. (Which did actually happen once before.)

I went back to my room. I shut off the alarm.


My husband didn’t stir.

I went downstairs, into the backyard, and wound in the awning, which sounded like


This woke up my son.


Once he was settled, I turned the alarm back on.


After that, I lay in bed for a while, waiting for all the beeping in my brain to stop.

In the morning, my husband said, “I didn’t hear anything. Are you sure you didn’t dream the wind storm?”

And then I had to kill him.

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Camp dreams

I bought a cherry-pitter last year, a fancy little machine involving springs and various compartments. I promptly put it in the cupboard and lost the instruction sheet. But THIS year, with a little help from youtube, I figured out how to use it. I am now a cherry-pitting genius. Dessert for everyone!


In other news, my daughter is safely home from her first sleep-away camp. She loved it. They probably had to tie her up and haul her onto the bus to get her home.

All of her sentences now begin with:

“When I was at camp…”


“My counsellor said…”


“The ice cream cones/breakfasts/skits/costumes at camp were…”

She has learned movie-star poses, crazy dances, many songs (one of which is now permanently stuck in MY head), pranks, swimming tricks, nail-painting techniques, and riddles.

When I was eleven, you would have had to pay me (millions) to spend time with a large group of other tweens. But now it sounds pretty fun. I think if I could disguise myself and attend for a week, I’d come home with enough material for an entire middle-grade series.

But then my daughter would never speak to me again.


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Death defying feats

My daughter’s away at camp for the first time this week. We’re all missing her around here, but we’re also doing as many fun things as possible without her. Because, you know, people should be punished for wanting to leave us.

One of our excursions was the canopy walk at UBC Botanical Gardens. It sounds so serene, doesn’t it? As if it might be suitable for seniors in safari hats?


I’ve actually been avoiding this particular canopy walk for years because I used to play ultimate with one of the guys who built it and, well… let’s just say he had too many substances in his bloodstream to be trusted with life-saving cables.

It was just as crazy as I feared. Look at this thing:


And when you’re miles above the ground, dangling from a tree, what do you not want to see? Duct tape.


We made it, though. And we found this lovely barred owl waiting to celebrate our safe descent. Or maybe waiting to laugh if we fell to our deaths.


I don’t personally trust the look in his eyes.

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To the lake and back

We spent last week in the Kootenays and the Okanagan, getting our lake time for the summer. There’s something about extreme heat that’s so much better when all you have to do is alternate between pool, water park, and lake.

Now I’m back to work. But my return was made a little smoother by this lovely piece of fan mail waiting in my mailbox when I got home:


Thank you, Senadee!

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Life with a children’s writer

My poor husband. These are the types of conversations he has on a daily basis.

Me: We need a new mop.

Min: There’s a Canadian Tire right here. I’ll pull in.

Me: NO! I hate Canadian Tire. I can never find anything. And there are self-checkouts.

Min: Where else are we going to get a mop? Oh, I’ll stop at London Drugs.

Me: I don’t want to go to London Drugs.

Min: Okay, but I don’t understand where you’re going to get a mop. Are you hoping one will appear by the counter in KidsBooks?

Me: Ooooh… do you think that’s a possibility?


Without Min, I would probably have spent several more months visualizing a mop, and mulling about the need for a mop, before proceeding to plan the buying of a mop.

You will be happy to hear that after this conversation, I did (begrugingly) agree to enter Canadian Tire. Hopefully we will have no further household needs in 2015, because I’m not going back.

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The countdown

Three more days.

The school is doing everything in its power to suck me in. There’s an athletics banquet today, and emails desperate for volunteer ice-cream scoopers have been arriving in my in-box. I have ignored them.

There are two scheduled beach trips. More grown-ups are always helpful when adding a hundred kids to an ocean. But I haven’t volunteered.

Instead, I have revised two chapters. I’ve churned partway through a scene list. After two false starts, I’ve managed to properly outline a non-fiction chapter.

My kids have created a list of things they’d like to do this summer. It includes waterslides, berry picking, aquarium visits, movies, beach barbecues, pools, suspension bridges, and waterfalls. Nowhere does it say: “give Mommy writing time.” Somehow, they left that off the list.

But there’s nothing like a deadline to get me working. And I still have three more days to go…

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Personal professional

I had dinner with my friend Mark recently, who teaches grade five. He mentioned that when teaching a unit about blogs, he used me as an example of someone who blends personal and professional stories.

“Do I?” I said.

And of course I do, but I’ve never thought much about it because the line between personal and professional in my life is rather blurry. The things I’m musing about in my non-writing time end up in my written work, and the social events I attend are often writing-related. All very confusing.

Yesterday, I went to Granville Island for the Vancouver Writers Fest preview. There, Artistic Director Hal Wake announced the line-up of writers coming to town in October. It was a room filled (packed!) with book lovers, half of them marking and circling on their advance reading lists. You could tell they were waiting for the introductions to end so they could start page-turning.

I also got a little hint about my own role in October’s festival, which gives me four months to get nervous. To prepare, that is. In a personal/professional way.

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Melanin moments

Race is in the news again this week. An American story, of course. Occasionally we hear of a problem in Toronto. Those of us in the rest of Canada sit back, fold our self-righteous hands, and shake our heads at all the elsewhere issues.

But we are fooling ourselves.

My husband Min was staying at an Edmonton hotel this spring, where he was a keynote speaker at a conference. The evening before his first presentation, he popped downstairs to check out the room.

Next door was another conference. And as Min left his presentation room, a woman emerged from next door and said, “Oh, thank goodness! There you are. We need to move the tables…”

Min was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. But for some reason (??) the woman assumed he was hotel staff.

Now, Min is a friendly, funny guy and he grew up as one of the only two Burmese kids in all of Surrey. So when stuff like this happens to him (once a month or so), he tends to say things like: “Are you assuming I work here because I’m brown? You know all brown guys don’t work at hotels, right?” And he somehow says all that in a friendly, funny way.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

It’s a low-level, background racism, like the buzz of fluorescent lights — so subtle, we forget to think about it. We neglect to talk about it. Which means that my daughter is only confused when someone says to her: “When we travel, people know we’re Canadians. I wonder what they think you are?” She has no idea what they’re talking about.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

On the streets of Vancouver, we may not be assuming that Asian men in hoodies are criminals. But maybe we are assuming they’re custodians, or conservative parents, or Buddhist sex experts (that’s a whole other Min story), or bad drivers. I think we need to have a long, hard look at the assumptions we make in daily life, north of the border as well as south.

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