Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, the Pressue! Part 3



(Cue dramatic organ music and announcer’s deep voice)
ANNOUNCER: Thank you for that word from our sponsor, Presto Pressure Cookers. And now, for another exciting episode in the ongoing saga of the Femfest eight-hour playwriting competition. When we last left our heroine, she was heard to say:

TERRIE:  Will the audience like my little play? Or will they boo it right out of the theatre? The pressure may kill me!

ANNOUNCER: Let’s tune in as Terrie is escorted by her longsuffering husband, her cheerleader mother, four supportive friends, her artsy son, and his beautiful girlfriend to the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film to see all five mini-plays presented on September 15.

TERRIE: Actually, let’s just fast-forward and forget the radio drama. (organ music out)

We did indeed enjoy all five short pieces. Mine was entitled Irony. It fell third in the line-up and I’ll admit that, judging from the laughter and applause, hope began to grow in my heart that the audience might actually pick mine. I mentally prepared an acceptance speech just in case.

But then the last piece stole the show and won the most votes. 

The winner, Frances Koncan, was presented with flowers by last year’s winner. Frances will now develop her piece, “The Dance-Off of Conscious Uncoupling,” into a one-hour play to be presented at the 2015 festival next September. 

Page 95 of this book...
Thank heavens I’m far too mature to go eat worms just because nobody loves me, everybody hates me, and I didn’t win some dumb contest. Instead, I decided to go ahead and pre-arrange the headstone for my grave. Under my name, it will say, “Also ran,” since that appears to be the theme of my contest-entering history. Plus, it’s an appropriately depressing idea to embrace while throwing one’s self a pity party.

God and I discussed it. Well, okay. I did all the talking, reminding him he was the one who got me into this contest. Therefore, he surely didn’t mean for it to end here, did he? And surely he had heard my family and friends and even some of the actors say mine was their favourite, hadn’t he? And surely he realizes I’m not getting any younger, while the winning playwright is in her twenties, doesn’t he? Tick tock, God.

...and page 75 of this book. Too uncanny for coincidence.
Though I’ve been trying his patience since 1959, he hasn’t lost it yet. So the next morning, he used two completely unrelated authors in two completely unrelated books in two completely unrelated rooms of my house (yet only moments apart) to penetrate my thick skull and help me understand the difference between “invitation” and “expectation.” He had opened the door for me to participate in that event and I had accepted his invitation. But instead of relaxing and loving the journey for what it was, I set myself up for emotional sabotage by adding my own expectations. 

Do you do this, too? It was a good lesson and I wish I could say with confidence I won’t do it again. I’m not the speediest of learners.

Then I got a surprise. An email arrived from the artistic director of the festival. She told me the vote had been “very, very close” and that she liked my piece a lot. She encouraged me to finish it and submit it for possible production in next year’s festival! Apparently, the fat lady has not yet sung.

So if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an invitation to say yes to.

(cue organ music)
ANNOUNCER:  Will Terrie learn her lesson? Which of her readers will apply it to their own situation? Will her play be selected for Femfest 2015? For answers to these and other monumental questions, tune in same time next year, when we’ll bring you another exciting episode of Oh the Pressure. And now, a word from our sponsor, Fresher Pressure Washers—say that five times fast. (organ music out)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How My Daughter-in-Law Drove Me to Drink



When our son married the love of his life in 2005, we knew we would love her, too. We just didn’t realize how much. As time marches on, we are discovering Dara to be an interesting blend of Annie Oakley, Martha Stewart, Lynn Jennings, and Granny Clampett.

I had little respect for her pantry full of weird hippy food the first few times I snooped. “There’s nothing to eat in this house,” I’d grumble. What were they feeding my grandson? What was with the bags of black beans? What was quinoa and how was it pronounced? What kind of animal did hemp hearts come from? What did one do with couscous? 

But that was back when I took my health for granted. Funny how things start to look different when you stop doing that. My newfound interest in nutrition soon had me cooking differently and noticing the benefits, too. I’m thankful Dara feeds my grandkids more nutritiously than I fed her husband.

When she tried to introduce us to her home-brewed kombucha, however, I felt skeptical. I’d never heard of it, for one thing. It smelled suspiciously like wine, for another. And the deal-breaker was the floating blob of slime in every bottle. Seriously? People drink this stuff? 

It was apparently loaded with probiotics, which I understood. But knowing it was made from either tea or berries, that it was fermented, and that it contained something called Hyaluronic acid all made it sound like a perfect storm for me and my Interstitial Cystitis. 

Then I went on a two-week stint of antibiotics for a lung infection. I hate taking antibiotics, but if I must, I make sure I take probiotics at the same time. Why do so few doctors tell you that antibiotics kill your good bacteria along with the bad? Sure, the pharmacist hands you a list of possible side effects, but provides little if any explanation for why the side effects occur or what you can do to prevent them. 

Good probiotics cost a fortune at the health food store, though, so I decided to take advantage of the free, homemade kombucha Dara offered. I drink an ounce with each antibiotic tablet and it seems to be succeeding at keeping typical antibiotic side effects at bay. And it even tastes good.

Turns out kombucha has been around a little longer than I have, at least 2000 years. It boasts a rich anecdotal history of health benefits like preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. Its beneficial claims include detoxification, joint care, digestive health, and immunity boosting. It helps provide your body what it needs to heal itself by aiding your liver in removing harmful substances, promoting balance in your digestive system, and being rich in health-promoting vitamins, enzymes, and acids.

While Russia and Germany have conducted extensive studies on the benefits of kombucha, no major medical studies are being done in the west. Could the reason be that no one in the drug industry stands to profit from researching a beverage the average consumer can make for as little as 12 cents a liter?

Although there’s a lot of information available online, including how to make kombucha, I wanted to share a little about it here for those who, like me, hadn’t heard of it. You can do your own research, but the general consensus seems to be that with regular, daily consumption, you can notice improvement in immune system functioning and energy levels within about a week, the healing of more minor ailments within a month, and the healing of more radical illnesses within a year.

So you could say my daughter-in-law made a believer (and a drinker) out of me. But I draw the line at swallowing the slimy floating blob. I don’t care how healthy she tells me it is.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oh, the Pressure! Part Two



To my readers who have asked how the Femfest “Bake-Off” playwriting competition went, thank you for your interest and thank God for second chances! 

 Me and the other four playwrights. This is supposed to be our panic look. At this point, I'm hoping height is worth points.
As promised, they gave the five of us the “recipe” (no more than five characters, no longer than ten minutes) and the three “ingredients” we must incorporate into our scripts. Having participated in this kind of contest before, I expected three random items like zombies, zambonis, and zebras or something equally unrelated. But we lucked out. Because this year’s Bake-Off is in honour of Janet Taylor who served on Sarasv├áti’s Board of Directors until her passing earlier this year, they chose three items relevant to Janet’s life. The triplet they arrived at seemed a little too easy: dressing up, ballroom dancing, and teaching someone something.

Following the meeting, hubby chauffeured me back to Portage so I could get started on my laptop in the car. I hammered out a couple of pages of monologue, then quickly scrapped it all when I arrived home and buckled down for real. The organizers encouraged us to send in progress reports and photos throughout the day. You can find those posted on their blog, here.

The account of Frances’ journey (the girl in the hat) sure made me laugh, especially the description of her imaginary boyfriend, Albert, a lawyer and football enthusiast who doesn’t mind watching romantic comedies on Netflix on Friday nights.

My own log went something like this:
10:57 a.m. Trying to write on the way out of the city in the rain.
12:10 p.m. At home at my desk. Now to really get to work.
2:07 p.m. Paused for a bowl of beet borscht, hummus on rice crackers, a pear, and tea with honey. Now back to it. Thinking of hanging a sign on my door: “Playwright at Work. Anyone who interrupts will be subjected to a grisly and unnatural stage death and then reincarnated as a stage manager.”
5:00 p.m. I have a script. I don’t much like it. I’m going for a nap. Hopefully I’ll dream something splendid with which to fix it.
6:06 p.m. I’m up. I didn’t dream up any brilliant solutions for the script, but I did finally recall the last name of the young lady I saw on my way out of the theatre this morning who went to high school with my son.
Tick Tock.
6:45 p.m. Hit “send.” Not thrilled with it.

The beauty of this competition was the second-chance feature. After receiving all five scripts by the 7:00 p.m. Friday deadline, the dramaturge, Cairn, read them over and provided feedback on Saturday evening. The final version was then due by 8:00 p.m. Sunday.

In my case, Cairn challenged me to raise the stakes with questions so basic I felt like an idiot. Every writer should know their characters must want something—what did mine want? What obstacles stand in the way? I hated to admit even to myself that I didn’t know. Duh. But I slept on it, and by morning the answers began seeping through my thick skull. I improved my little story and, if not exactly enamoured with it, I at least feel better about its potential.

Now five actors are rehearsing all five plays under Cairn’s direction. At 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 15 at Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, actors will present the mini plays before a live audience who will vote for the script they most want to see developed into a one-act play. The winning writer will then have a few months to turn her piece into a full-length script to be presented at FemFest 2015. 

If you’d love to see what all five of us came up with, consider this your invitation. Tickets sell for an unbeatable “name your price” deal, but must be purchased in advance, online, and they apparently sell out fast. Go here to buy yours.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You say Tomato, I say Boo-Hoo



My mother tells me she craved and ate a toasted tomato sandwich while she was in labour with me. Which explains a lot.

I never could convince my husband that a tomato sandwich qualifies as a meal. Or even as a sandwich, for that matter. He figures tomato slices are merely a nice bonus to the required meat, cheese, pickle, and perhaps lettuce.

But this time of year, I could live on toasted tomato sandwiches…if only I could. If only I hadn’t developed what we believe is Interstitial Cystitis (a hard-to-diagnose chronic condition I wrote about last winter) which causes serious pain if I eat tomatoes (and a long list of other things containing acid or potassium or caffeine or alcohol or hot spices or too much salt).

In May, I enjoyed an exceptionally good month with no pain and lots of energy. I believed God had healed me. I even planted tomatoes, certain I’d be enjoying them in August. Alas, the pain returned in June (and yes, this is challenging my faith but I’ll write about that another time) and now I must be more hyper-vigilant than ever about what goes into this body. Tomatoes trigger far more grief than all their deliciousness is worth.

It kinda breaks my heart. If I could remove one food from my long verboten list, I’d pick tomatoes. (Even before chocolate, which is saying a lot!) It’s just that eliminating tomatoes eliminates so many of our all-time favorite meals: spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, chili, tacos, and most of the soups I used to make. I hardly know how to cook without tomatoes!

But thanks to my optimistic planting spree last spring, I’m now picking gorgeous red tomatoes, slicing them for hubby, and giving them away daily. It might seem stupid to line them up on my windowsill where I can only lust for them while I wash dishes, but it’s a short season and I’ll survive it. Doesn’t mean I can’t throw a little pity party now and then, though. Is once a day too often?

I’m not sure what’s more difficult: the sadness of not being able to eat what others around me can eat, or the guilt induced by feeling sorry for myself. The dialogue between my whiney self and my conscience sounds like this:

Conscience: The nerve! How dare you feel sorry for yourself when there is such an abundance of food you can eat? When food is so readily available? When you have a job to pay for that food? When you own a car to bring it home in, a fridge to store it in, and a stove to cook it on? 

Whiney: I know, I know. But—

Conscience: You should be thankful, thankful, thankful. 

Whiney: I am! But still. It sucks. 

Conscience: Zip it, ya big baby. 

Whiney: You’re right. I’m scum. Scummier than scum.

Can you relate? Are there good, healthy things you can’t enjoy that make life seem stinking unfair? And when you allow it to bum you out, does your conscience scold you? Have you come to terms with it? How do you live with it, or should I say, without it? I’d love to hear from you.