Prov 17:22

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Baking Off a Storm, Part 1

It's here! Femfest Bake-Off Day has arrived!

10:00 am
Met with Cairn, Hope, and the other playwrights (two of them by Skype from Calgary and Vancouver) to get our three required ingredients. They are:

  • Yellow Submarine
  • Hysteria 
  • Red line

11:48 am
Home from Winnipeg and seated at my writing desk. Super thankful for the smooth journey, handy parking, no extra miles due to getting lost or confused or detoured. Great weather. I had my laptop along in case I decided to go to a coffee shop somewhere to write, but that would probably just be too distracting. Besides, there are more thunder storms in the forecast and I’d just as soon not be on the road when they come. Now to start writing. I’m tired and feeling the need for sleep, but I need to get at least something hammered out first.
12:02 pm
My “V” key is sticking on my keyboard. Oh no. Can’t have that! I take out a can of air and spray down the whole laptop. It helps, somewhat. I change the name of my main character from “Vicki” to “Doris” just in case.

1:05 pm
I have my characters established and 2.5 pages of dialogue written. Stopping for a toasted tomato sandwich and a bowl of sweet potato soup I whipped up yesterday so I wouldn’t have to cook today.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Oh, the Pressure! Part 4

If you’re wondering what happened to Parts 1, 2, and 3, they appeared on this blog a year ago when I subjected myself to the pressure of an eight-hour playwriting competition at Femfest in Winnipeg. The event turned into a continuing saga when my resulting script, although not chosen as the winner, was eventually selected to be expanded to an hour and granted a public reading with professional cast and director at this year’s Femfest. With the assistance of dramaturge Ellen Peterson, I finished the final script in July and am pleased to announce that Irony: A Tragic Comedy about Life and Death will be performed at the Asper Centre for Theatre, 400 Colony Street, at 9:00 pm on Monday, September 14. You can find more details about the festival and how to get tickets at  

Here’s the premise of the play: when Judy develops a lung condition, she becomes convinced she has cancer and proceeds to make everyone else’s life as miserable as humanly possible. An ironic twist brings her and those she loves to a new appreciation of the meaning of irony.

Meanwhile, I applied to the Bake-Off play-writing competition again this year and was very surprised to win one of the five spots, especially since they’ve added a cash prize to the event! Five hundred bucks sure would help this grandma buy a plane ticket for Calgary to snuggle my new grandson when he arrives next month!

Here’s how this “Bake-Off” contest works. I show up, along with the four other contestants, at the theatre by 10:00 a.m. this Friday. We’ll be told what three random ingredients our script must include, then we’ll have until 7:00 p.m. to email our completed ten-minute script. We’re allowed to be thinking about possible scenarios ahead of time (how could they stop us?), but the actual writing must be “from scratch.”

So. I’m asking you, my readers, to help me out here. I’ve thought of a couple of scenarios that might make an entertaining story. Which do you like? 

First idea: four generations of women are in the car riding to an event together: two bickering sisters in their 50’s, their nearly deaf 80-year old mother, and one nervous daughter with a newborn in a car seat. Maybe they get a flat tire or some other kind of car trouble. 

Second idea: the scene opens with two couples crawling onto the stage. Their cruise ship has capsized and they’ve washed up on an uncharted island. As the play unfolds, we learn that the wife from one couple and the husband from the other were planning an affair before tragedy struck.

Of course, it’s possible that the required “ingredients” will not lend themselves to either of these scenarios and I’ll need to dream up something else. Do you have a better idea? Comment by Friday morning and your idea just might end up on stage! 

You can see the finished product (along with the other four plays) the same night as “Irony” is presented, and at the same place. The Bake-Off starts at 7:00, and tickets for that event sell out quickly. You can get yours at a name-your-own-price deal on the aforementioned website. The audience votes on the winner so, in theory, filling the theatre with one’s own friends should improve one’s chances. 

What sort of pressure are you choosing to subject yourself to this week? Remember: no pressure, no diamonds.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Three Things I Know for Sure

This morning I survived another bronchoscopy. That’s the one where they stick a garden hose down your throat into your bronchial tubes and take a look around with a teensy-weensy camera. While they’re in the neighbourhood, they flush sterile water around and suck it back up so they can figure out what kind of bugs might be lurking. I figure it’s not unlike our city’s watermain flushing program— just good maintenance. It’s every bit as fun as it sounds, too. You even get to watch the live video on the computer monitor in living colour—provided you’re not too looped on the lovely dope they give you.

Recently, someone asked if my health issues are behind me now so I figured it was time I wrote about it again. It’s complicated.

I could reply “yes,” because I feel better and cough less than I did when my lung problems first surfaced in 2011.

Or I could say “no,” because the Bronchiectasis is considered a permanent condition, barring a supernatural miracle (which I’ll never rule out). 

Or I could say, “yes” because the Micobacterium Avium Complex is now being treated with  three heavy-duty drugs I tried hard to avoid but agreed to try because the infection remained in spite of all my efforts with more natural means. We hope this week’s bronchoscopy will tell us whether the drugs are working…in another month, after the bugs have had enough time to culture. 

Or, I could reply “no” because I still cough too much and require too much sleep.

Then again, I could say “yes” because the suspected Interstitial Cystitis that was never conclusively diagnosed settled down after 18 months of pain and I feel relieved beyond words to say I am now free of that! 

So, the short answer is: overall, much better. Our bodies are far more complex than any of us can grasp. I can function, enjoy life, and contribute a little to the world around me—which is a lot more than some can say. And for that, I feel truly grateful.

Here are three things I believe with all my heart:

First, the power that made the body heals the body. There will almost always be myriads of contributing factors like doctors, prayer, drugs, food, love, fresh air, exercise, change of attitude or altitude, vocation or location. But it boils down to one thing: all healing, when it comes, originates with God.

Second, God uses people. Over the last four years, I have been x-rayed, C-scanned, ultrasounded, acupunctured, catheterized, and prayed over. I’ve had enough blood drawn from my arm to make another person. I’ve made multiple visits to my family doctor, two lung specialists, an allergy specialist, a naturopath, two chiropractors, a gynecologist, two oncologists, a physical therapist, a urologist, a masseuse, and an ophthalmologist. While not one of these good people possesses the power to heal me, all contributed what they could.

Third, the day is coming when none of it will matter. Even Job, with all his troubles, figured that out. He said, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And I know that after this body has decayed, this body shall see God! Then he will be on my side! Yes, I shall see him, not as a stranger, but as a friend! What a glorious hope!” (Job 19:25-27, The Living Bible)

Glorious indeed. Appreciate your health, whatever state it’s in!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Happiest, Appliest Day

Only one tree grows on our property, not counting the city’s tree on the boulevard which casts lovely shade to the south side of our house. Our own backyard tree is a Pembina Plum that has blessed us with luscious fruit each year until this one. We think this year’s late frosts finished them off at the blossoming stage, and so the tree stands decked out in green simplicity.

But that’s okay. The tree probably needed a year off. And, as yummy as those plums taste, it can be a pain to try to pick or catch them before they litter the ground. In fact, I took advantage of this year’s lull to pick up a couple of pails full of old pits from the crushed rock below.

Judging by my neighbour’s apple tree, though, it’s going to be an abundant year for apples. During our time at Skerwood Mobile Home Park, we were fortunate to have an apple tree growing on our lot. For six seasons, we picked as many off the ground as we did from the tree. I felt a little disappointed last time I drove by to see the apple tree is now gone. 

My best memory of those apples happened in 2005, before I started eating more healthfully. Nowadays, I would turn them into unsweetened applesauce to use in my homemade granola, fruit salad, and oat bars. Then, though, making pies seemed like a sensible thing to do.

But not all by myself. Having filled five or six large boxes with apples, I invited my friend Gayle and her two lovely daughters for a pie-making fest. I would provide the fruit and the air-conditioned kitchen. They would supply the other ingredients. We’d all chip in on the labour and split the pies for our respective freezers.
The day turned out to be so much fun, I wrote a poem and have resurrected it for its tenth birthday, to share with you here. Happy fruit season!
The Happiest, Appliest Day

The apple tree bowed to the ground with its load.
I picked and I plucked ‘til I thought I’d explode!

How would I grapple with all of this fruit?
I needed some help to transmute all the loot.

I promised adventure and thrills beyond measure
For all who’d assist with no show of displeasure.

Then three favorite redheads showed up at my door
To tackle the apples arranged on the floor.

Two sisters, their mother, the apples, and me
A warm autumn day, what fun this could be!

We cleared off the counters, the table, the sink
And cranked up the music too loudly to think.

I was the pastry chef, ready and willing.
Gayle was peeling, and Alison filling.

Veronica fluttered from station to station
Now peeling, now tasting in anticipation.

The flour was flying, the rolling pin rolled.
The peelings were reeling, the cinnamon gold.

Like a well-oiled skillful precision machine
We worked till we reached pie number thirteen.

We stopped for some lunch in the mess, what a scene!
Then onward and upward, to pie seventeen.

Now nineteen, now twenty, we kept on a-going
The sugar was shaking, the apple juice flowing.

What would we run out of first, time or flour?
Apples or pie plates or shortening or power?

With Pie thirty-five we declared the job done
Cleaned up the kitchen and called it all fun.

Then Veronica, Alison, Gayle and I
Treated ourselves to—what else? Apple Pie!