Tag Archives: victoria

The castle of memory, the present of learning

This past week I slept two floors above where I used to work. It was odd. As I walked past my old office I had a flood of memories and mixed emotions. Stranger still was being there at night. Hearing the sounds of the deep forest behind me and the going’s on of the university campus at night. The clear sound of songbirds in the early morning with no urban soundscape to muffle the lovely notes of a forest waking to the day. The greys and greens and mossy damp of the castle quietly slumbering before its inhabitants arrive for work and beyond, the ocean lapping in on the edge of this university that has been in my life for over half a decade.

As I walked to my classroom in the morning, I thought how different my experience was an an employee versus now. I feel the lightness of freedom, and while it does come at a price (no government benefits, no days, as in ever, where you can coast through, or attend a two-hour meeting that goes nowhere, or go to a potluck party for a colleague), I realize with every step that my freedom is, above all, the most important thing to me because it allows me to teach in a way that was not possible before as an ’employee’.

In the classroom there are moments when I look into the students eyes and see the connection between what I am saying and their understanding of it. This makes it all worth it, the moment of interaction around an idea, where we journey from the beginning of the day to somewhere else by the end. I’m never really sure if we’ll make it. I’m never really sure if the students will come with me. I’m never sure if what I’ll say will have any meaning for them. All I can be sure of, as I walk into the classroom, is that I will give my entire being to it as long as they entrust me to be their guide for the time we are together.

It’s a truly beautiful campus when the lens you look through is the one you were meant to see with. If you ever have a chance to visit, be sure to wander the gardens. They are extraordinary and I guarantee you will find inspiration there. Hatley Park is a National Heritage site in Canada which is often overlooked when folks come to visit Victoria. If you are able, visit in late May when the Forsythia is in bloom and walk the walled Rose Garden.  The scent will linger in your imagination long after you are gone.




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March 16, 2013 · 5:12 pm

Secret love letters, notes on a pillow, roller coasters and dance cards

I’m writing a fictional love letter for a wedding show today. It’s a fun little job for a dear friend (Christine Smart of Smart Events) who is the mastermind behind a brilliant destination collective, called appropriately, the Victoria Wedding Collective. I am smiling to myself because I am writing as a man to a woman. I go into my own archives for inspiration to sift through the best love letters (yes, I keep them, and you should keep yours too). What made them great? What made them bypass judgement, doubt, insecurities, fear  or obstacles and zip straight into my heart like a well-sharpened arrow?

Timing is a big part of it. Too soon and you aren’t ready for the weighty words, too late and well, it’s too late and no one is bothering to read your pithy letter. Sincerity of voice–very important quality. Too saccharine and I don’t believe you, too reserved and I’m not emotionally invested. Language. The ultimate measure of a good love letter is the language. Now, I’m not referring to grammar but rather the secret language between you and your loved one. That is what makes love so special after all , that certain little bubble you both inhabit where you have your secret language only you know. When you can speak to one another in this way then that is when great love letters are written. They could be a small note on a pillow. In a pocket. Or tweet even but it has to be in your secret language that is spoken to no other.

I have an old scrapbook of my mother’s and in it are her dance-cards from the 40’s. There’s one with a little note on it that says, ‘Until the next dance my dear, J. xo‘. My mother once admitted to me, not long before she died, that she had desperately loved a man named Jack before she met my father. She went on in a sort of reverie, describing a time they rode a rollercoaster and how it felt at the top, laughing and holding his hand and I was taken aback as I watched her eyes that had wandered far back in time to a love that meant so much to her. I was shocked because my mother was such a stalwart supporter of my father all my life. It was like a door had opened to a storyworld of a different woman in a different life. Sadly, Jack died in the war and I think my mother likely never entirely repaired from it. This small note was all that was left of their love story and I treasure it. Of course I’m thankful she met my father, but this small secret world of hers and Jack’s is inspiring me to as I write this letter for my friend’s show. I think it could blossom into a longer narrative.

Love letters contain our hearts, with small, hopeful sails on them, sent off to sea with our deepest desire that they reach the shore. Sometimes they do. In my letters, I think they will.


Filed under Non-fiction, Relationships

Honey, I’ll miss you, but I’ve got to wear these new shoes

It’s lucky I’m too busy to think about leaving Victoria. I’m flying at a thousand miles an hour just trying to get everything done before movers show up at my door. I’m not in fact sure I can.

Wherever you are, it is the people that make the place a memory and not just a geographical location you plonked your couch down in. And it isn’t just your friends or your co-workers but rather the people you see in your everyday life that thread together the micro-stories of your day. For me, my time in Victoria was, if I were honest, one of tremendous solitude. I worked, worked, worked in the glow of my computer screen to transition my life into where I am now. It never allowed for a lot of socializing. I was often lonely, and hunkered down on a dream that I nurtured like a small flame in a wet forest.

Sometimes it wasn’t the close friend on the phone that saved me but the ladies at the cash register at the Esquimalt mall who called me ‘sweetie’, ‘honey’, ‘darlin’; I’ll miss their familiarity when I stood, slump-shouldered, and exhausted after working all day, then home to my second job, holding a carton of milk in my hand at 10 pm because I’d forgotten to shop for my family. Their old-school approach was comforting on nights I would have liked a mother to call and I didn’t begrudge their smoke breaks as the waft of pungent nicotine blew around me on my way to my car.

I’ll miss my little Saxe Point, where I escaped all year round to write, and in the summer, fell asleep in the little wedding area much to many a bride’s chagrin over the years. I’ll miss the parking guy at the Bay, who must be at least 95 years old, and his familiar smile. One time he handed me a bunch of free parking passes to some other parking lots in town. He didn’t have to. Was just that kind of guy. I will miss that damned blue bridge in all of its rusty glory.

I’ll miss all my hotel friends. Especially my other family at the Empress. I feel like it’s my second home when I am there and I know I will always come back to stay. I’m the third generation Empress gal in my family so will certainly keep up the tradition when coming back to Victoria. Besides, the Bengal Room would miss me. I know it.

I will miss the gardens at Royal Roads, where so many of my life’s ups and downs were discussed, torn apart, and examined with girlfriends, more often than not, in the pouring rain, walking shoulder to shoulder below dripping Fir trees through some of the most beautiful heritage gardens in the world. I am very grateful for my time at RRU because I found my passion for teaching and had the privilege of meeting so many amazing students. I’m thrilled to continue teaching digital literacy there and having an excuse to walk those gardens, and hopefully, inspire a few students along the way.

I will miss the sound of my son’s close friends calling up at him outside his window to come out into the sunshine. I am putting faith in the universe that he’ll make friends that love him half as much as these kids do when we move to Vancouver.

I’ll miss popping out for a quick martini with friends here. I know I’ll be seeing them but it’s different with that ocean between you. I know, because I”ve missed old friends in Vancouver for a long time now and that ocean makes a big difference in how close you can get to someone when you need them.

It has been a good story. Its had a lot of downs, it’s had some of my greatest ups, but most of all, it has forged me into someone I had only a glimpse of when I came to this island. I am leaving feeling like I grew into her shoes, and they look pretty damn fabulous if I do say so myself.


Filed under Memoir

Naked, Vulnerability, Genes: Meow

Recently, I was posing for a photographer with my long-time friend Sarah Petrescu who was producing her last Fashion column for her newspaper before a year-long sabbatical. (I have a special place in my heart for Sarah as she knew me when I had a baby in my arms reading poetry on the Sunshine Coast many, many years ago and we bonded as writers then).  I was flattered she asked but more so touched that I would be in her last fashion piece for a long while. When I arrived at Bernstein and Gold, likely my favourite store in Victoria, I of course fell instantly in love with their entire fall collection. But I was working, not shopping and had a few dresses to try on for the shoot; one was a gorgeous silk light-as-air dress in white with a little geometric pattern and two sexy little bows on the hip and shoulder and the other was a clingy, hip-hugging, very flattering Diane Von Furstenburg in deep burgundy. The women collectively decided that was ‘the one’. It felt fan-effing fabulous on and I desperately lusted after it as soon I wriggled into it’s tight little contours. Diane Von Furstenburg is a woman who designs for real women–professional women–and this dress would go the mile and a half on any business meeting followed by dinner and even a midnight tryst in a martini bar. It had legs.

When we arrived for the shoot, to my surprise, the other models looked like they had not yet graduated high school. A sort of panic started when I imagined our pictures side by side in the newspaper but then I looked down at the dress and went fuck it and played that Bif Naked song in my head, ‘I love myself today!’. While a few of the models were being shot, I stood and chatted with a young male model who my first words to were: ‘You need to go model for Abercrombie and Fitch‘. He said he doesn’t like to be photographed. I said, ‘Get over it’.

I seriously don’t understand when people are genetically given a lottery that they don’t see it. I don’t think I’ve seen such an attractive man in years. I counseled him on other brands he could easily work for with his particular looks, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan. He had that all-American east coast look and in his fall sweater, with a high-collar, he looked like he should be heading to the Kennedy compound for the weekend.

It was a hot day and I was in a hot dress so I suggested to him we go do shooters of Tequila next door at the Mexican restaurant and then maybe some Corona’s? I was completely kidding, just horsing around, but, to my surprise he was game. (We did not drink on set, just for the record, though he was game for post-shoot cocktails). Now, here’s the thing all men above 30 that I can share with you: the reason there are ‘Cougars’ is, in a large part, because of our hormones, but more so it is because as a woman gets older, she gets more….to the point. She wants what she wants and doesn’t like to negotiate about it and younger men are, well, more game for the most part. I could be wrong–I’m open to anyone who wants to argue this point, because I have enough stories to fill a library on this subject.

This morning I was reading The Daily Love’s post by Mastin Kipp (who is a sexy enlightened beast), Vulnerability is Strength, and I was struck by this quote, because it describes what I am getting at much better than I am attempting to do:

“Instead of trying to change yourself to please others and then taking rejection as a sign that something is wrong with you, let’s step into our authentic power and allow ourselves to be ourselves with no apologies.”

Yes. Bravo. As I walked down Pandora towards the lens going click, click, click, with lines of cars idling beside me, windows open, I had a moment of oh god, this is really kind of embarassing, then my friend Sarah told me to wiggle my hips more and look to my right. I smiled, and as I did I met the eyes of  more than a few drivers who smiled right back at me. In that moment, letting my hips do their thing, I guess I had stepped into my ‘authentic power…with no apologies’.

Post shoot note: Thanks Sarah for the experience. We’ll miss your daily writing for us here in YYJ, but I cannot wait to see what you’ll write from your journeys this year.


Filed under Dating, Humour

A few of my favourite places and things…

This week I have a big project to work on for my course in digital media so my fiction, poetry, and blogging is on ‘lite’. Hence, a few fun things that feed me body and soul in Victoria.

Cobs Bread 

Located near my family doctor, it’s always a pit stop on the way home. I throw all my carb fears out the window when I enter this shop because the smell just envelops you. The staff have it figured out–they’re cool, laid back with pitch-perfect service style and somehow you find yourself ordering things that will undo all the thigh-squeezing, squatting, lunging work you did at the gym. I just try to think like the French and enjoy every last lick of my freshly baked Cinnamon bun, ignoring my North American need to count the caloric damage of the insanely pleasurable taste of their thick, gooey icing. I always bring home some garlic cheese bread for my son who promptly sits down with sandwich ingredients and devours the whole thing while still retaining his six-pack, God love him.

The Bengal Room

Last I checked, I am the Mayor on Foursquare of the Bengal Room at the Empress (it says lounge on their website but I prefer room). Why am I the virtual mayor? Because I go there way too often. The Bengal reminds me a little of one of my favourite places in Vancouver which is the 900 West lounge at the Hotel Van (for non-native Vancouverites I am referring to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) where I spent many a happy, formative, rainy afternoon. So I always feel a little sense of home at the Bengal every time I visit and likely also because the staff know me. (Thank you for great service Paul each and every time). The best time to go, in my opinion, is mid-week, towards the end of the day, in low season. There’s something about the stilled fans on the ceiling while curling up in the warm buttery leather chairs, and the always present scent of the delectable curry buffet (which just got more interesting I would imagine with Chef Kamal on board) that is enchanting. For summer, I would recommend the Verandah where you can enjoy people watching behind your sunglasses with a few pomegranate mojitos.


If you haven’t been on this website, just bookmark it now. I am really so impressed by the volume of info Anita puts out on her blog and of course the incredible value of it all! The other reason I love this blog is that it gives me the news about my business community–I adore hearing how small business’ are marketing their products or what deals people are putting together for tourists’, or what free stuff is out there to do on any given day in Victoria. Anita is also a talented editor who used to edit the famous British Columbia magazine and is a writer I really enjoy reading every day as well. The best part about Anita’s digital deals, in my humble opinion, is that she deftly couples community news with real value, something that this single parent family certainly needs to survive in this town, though I think there should be a weekly column dedicated to hot shoe deals. Just saying Anita.

OKV Gewurztraminer

This is a terrible looking bottle of wine. You’ll snootily pass right by her in favour of a dependable Châteauneuf-du-Pape but if you are on a budget and want a decent tasting bottle of wine, try this one. It’s 9.99, yes, under ten bucks, and is mass-produced but this is a perfect bottle for a summer white sangria or with a picnic at the beach–just ensure it stays cold or she will taste a little cheap. For dinner, I would recommend trying any of the many small estate wines from the Okanagan, and I will be sure to post a whole blog on those soon as I go for my annual wine tour at the end of July. I simply cannot wait to stand in the blistering heat, looking down rows of lovingly cared for grapes, with estate wineries and orchards for as far as the eye can see, and nothing to do but sip, smile, and tuck bottles into the trunk as we lazily meander through our afternoon towards deliciously cooked dinners and conversations outdoors past midnight. No sweater required thank you.

Saxe Point

This often overlooked little park is really a magical place to escape to. In the summer, it is lovely to take a blanket down and read and watch weddings all afternoon in the adorable little wedding area enclosed by gardens and a low stone wall where sometimes 3 or 4 nuptials happen on the same day. The gardens here are really amazing but what is magical are the little paths through the woods surrounding the shore, with little secret benches here and there that open up to a vista of the ocean–perfect for watching the sunset, listening to music, and being mindful. On very hot evenings, okay, maybe the one hot evening in YYJ, you’ll find lots of older folks with incredible feasts laid out, bottles of wine open, playing cards or bbq-ing. (One year, a man of at least 85 shouted out to everyone: COPS! and we all rushed to put away our booze. It was one of the funniest moments of my life). This is a place I go to often in the summer but don’t make the mistake of falling asleep as I did in the little grassy wedding area, waking up to a disconcerted bride staring down at my disheveled guise, about to put her stiletto through my larynx.

Sexy Mouth Wash

I promised my dental hygenist Mary I would one day give her a shout out so here it is. Mary did research on essential oils and their remarkable ability to cleanse and soothe the mouth and leave it sweet-smelling and kissable. She smartly set to work using them in her work with patients at Dr. King-Brown’s practice and now she is manufacturing this organic mouthwash! Bravo for entrepreneurism with a healthy bite! Okay, sorry for the bad joke but her mouthwash really is amazing. She has two kinds, Fresh and Sexy and her company is Synergy Organics. Support this local entrepreneur who really knows her stuff and ensure you have a sweet-smelling kisser year-round! See what people have to say on their Facebook page where you can link out to all the info you need including their url and what local stores carry this awesome kiss-inducing product.

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Filed under Humour

A trip to the dessert aisle

Last weekend I went to DC for a little Christmas visit. It was quite cold but not the dank, wrap around your bones and inhale your marrow kind of way that it is here in Victoria. The city was decked out for Christmas like any good American city would be at this time of year and it made me think back to my years in San Diego when I was simply awestruck at the level to which Americans will go to celebrate Christmas. I find it one of the charming qualities of Americans, this unadulterated exuberance for holidays.

On the Saturday we decided to take our cheap rental car (Mr. W. confirmed it was the same model as an old school cop car) and meander into Virginia. It was sunny and crisp and beautiful and we stopped in at  Great Falls National Park. Now, I am a huge fan of national parks because of the rich storytelling that goes on and this particular park was situated beside the historic Potomac river which falls dramatically over a series of  jutting rocks with an intense velocity.

The Patowmack Canal was a project that George Washington managed with true business acumen; he saw how Virginia and Maryland and Ohio could collectively benefit from trade on the river and the somewhat daunting obstacle of the Falls was overcome by building a canal with a series of locks alongside the river whereby trade and travellers could navigate this part of the turbulent waterway quite safely. It took 17 years to build, and was mostly done on the back of indentured servants and local slaves.

Washington, a true entrepreneur, asserted that “The way is easy and dictated by our clearest interest. It is to open a wide door, and make a smooth way for the produce of that Country to pass to our Markets ….” (Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/grfa/historyculture/canal.htm, Dec 2010) I love the American pioneer spirit! There was a few historic houses we visited as well, which just looked so picturesque with their wreath and simple shutters. I’m really mad for the shutters on the east coast I have to say.

After getting a bit chilled, we headed back onto the highway (where people know how to merge at high speeds by the way), and made our way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (when you give gobs of dough you get to add your crazy name onto whatever you like) near Washington Dulles International Airport. This place just made your jaw drop when you walked in. The hangar is 2 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories high! With planes, rockets, and missiles of all shapes and sizes hanging mid-flight like airborne ballerinas delicately frozen in time.

We spoke with an aviation historian about the infamous Enola Gay aircraft that dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. I love talking to men of this generation, in no small part because my own father was a World War II pilot, but also because there’s something of the old school about them in their manners and way of storytelling I adore. It was an honour to hear him tell us about the history of the aircraft.

The next day we did not rush about on a plane, a train or automobile as is our habit when together it would seem, but rather took it easy and wandered out late in the afternoon to Georgetown. Georgetown predates Washington or the District of Columbia and when you walk through the streets there you are enveloped in history. Situated along the Potomac, it was bustling with Christmas shoppers, choraliers, and Christmas concerts, horses with bells, and all things seasonal. Even the horses had sparkles on their hooves!

We thought to stay home on Sunday night and went shopping at a Safeway to have dinner in. When you live 3,000 miles apart, an ordinary thing like shopping has its strange charms. After my last visit, I asserted that heaven was a room at the Plaza. I would argue (with myself apparently) that heaven can also be found in the frozen dessert aisle, deciding what kind of deliciousness to share.

Going home via a subway, an amtrak, and four airports was something akin to time travel, whereupon one is yanked from a bucolic field of meadows to a squat Milwaukee bar where an amaranthine ticker tape of flight numbers, delays, and passenger names, is being announced into your brain while you must nurse a warm Guinness to please make the shock of this more bearable. But really, a small price to pay for buying a slice of heaven in the dessert aisle.

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Filed under Memoir

Getting social at #yyjWordcamp

I wasn’t sure what to expect at WordCamp, afterall, I’d done Capulet Communications Social Media Bootcamp and was thinking that it was going to be pretty hard to top that experience and given the fact I am also slightly wary of too many social media newbies in small spaces, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned today and how much fun it was to hang out with over 100 social medialites.

I was pretty thrilled to be able to go to two sessions with Rebecca Bollwit from the infamous Vancouver focused blog, http://www.miss604.com/. As she rattled off WordPress plugins like a social media auctioneer, I felt like a groupie. What a nerd. No matter, I was learning about some damn cool plugins! I also got to attend a session about community management with Lorraine Murphy of the famed Raincoaster blog who just sat me on my ass with her refreshing in-your-face honesty and, sorry, I have to use the most overused word on the net right now–authenticity. She seriously sets the bar way up there for engagement. I was inspired and it wasn’t even lunch yet.

At lunch, (which was provided and was tasty), I attended a panel with Raul Pacheco-Vega, an UBC academic who also happens to have a wicked blog, Hummingbird604.com. You can read a really great interview with Raul from the Georgia Straight from July 2009 to delve more into what he does as a professor of policy and politics researcher.  Very cool dichotomy and one that speaks to me as I work at a university but also am very active in social media. I’d be curious to find out more about how he balances the two worlds.

Lastly, I attended a great session with Cathie Walker, a true pro who has been looking at how words are read, communicated, and sometimes horribly disfigured on the internet since the early nineties. As a writer, I was laughing out loud many times, especially because Cathie is working on the UVic website and again, since I work at a university, I could really relate to the push and pull between ‘academic’ writing and writing for the web in order to communicate to your audience in order to get results. Just to be clear however, Cathie is far more than just a good writer or coach, check out her website for her complete (and impressive) portfolio of website design.

I could write way more, but apparently, according to Mike Vardy, a writer, comedian, and author of many successful blogs including Eventualism, says to keep your posts to 600 words or less. Not sure where I’m at, but I’m going to wrap it up. My brain is kind of fried from plugins, posterous, SEO, pingbacks, trackbacks, stats, tags, and all the other terminology that made me feel like I was back in Math 10. Here’s to getting more community, more education, more great speakers on the island in the future!

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Filed under Writing for Social Media