Sunday, 2 July 2017

Getting Out, Gazebos, Gardens and Great Groo Bargains

The word of the week is mitigation.

June 26 – Wonderful Writers!

I truly enjoy being a writer, especially when I'm helping other writers. Tonight was an excellent example of that, and at a new venue too!

My writing group( going strong for almost 5 years now in Victoria! )hosted Bennett Coles, a local author and now a publisher, to discuss the oft-mysterious world of publishing in no-nonsense terms.

That window to the right was like a sun-searchlight... wowsers!

We hosted him at a new venue, a James Bay( near downtown )restaurant called The Bent Mast, which has a convenient pair of large rooms upstairs capable of holding 12 and 40 people, respectively. We used the larger room( for free!!! )to host the 38 people who showed up, all to listen to Ben lay out how publishing actually works.

Now, this was much of the same information I'd heard him deliver earlier in the year when attending his 3-session seminar series in Sidney( at $20/session )with more detail and Q&A, so getting the same info for free was a big score for everyone. Ben's candid experiences in publishing his own scifi series( Virtues Of War )these last 5 years, as well as those of starting his own publishing company locally( Promontory Press )were illuminating, and the audience was rapt for the nearly two hours we spent in his company.

Evenings like this are when I feel most like a 'real' writer: when I'm helping other writers to puzzle out their own paths towards success, including publication. Discovering things on my own while helping others to learn along the way are fulfilling for me, and I'm so grateful that I've managed to land as one of the two leaders of the VCWG. We've grown to nearly 1,000 members here on Vancouver Island, all without charging membership fees, and the feedback we've received for the work we've done has been overwhelmingly positive.

Meaning there's more nights like tonight to come, you can bet!

June 27 – Twins?

Have you ever wondered if you have a twin?

I think it's something that many people wonder, and I know I've been asked dozens of times, usually by strangers, if they know me... as they've met someone who looks like me at some point, but can't quite place who it is.

Now, there's technology that can find those twins of yours! is a site that purports to use specialized algorithms to match your image and description against a database of other people who have done the same. Obviously, the more people who use the website, the more likely you are to find a match!

I'm curious, and I'll probably sign up in the next few months to give it a go. Since I've gone from having  a dark goatee to a full-on silver beard though, I've received way fewer 'Hey, do I know you...?' comments from people, but I still think I'll give it a try with a variety of photos( clean-shaven, goatee, etc )to see if there's another Me out there.

I love modern technology...

June 28 – More of the same

Tonight was the sixth Land Mark session, the one I've been looking forward to attending for the last month and a half, all because of the promising title:

'Getting Out Of the Money Trap' -  sounds promising, right?

Two hours in, we arrived at the big reveal, after the usual story-sharing, preparatory talks and me getting up to stretch every 30 minutes( I'm doing better these days, but I'm not taking chances )so I was all ready as the moment arrived: how to Get Out of the Money Trap?

The big secret? Go fully into the trap, because you can't get out.

*long mental pause on my part, then a longer mental sigh*

Right. The same 'big secret' as the Weekend Forum I attended 3 months ago: essentially that life is meaningless and you can't do anything about your situation except step back from it and hope things will get better - thanks. I kept listening in case there were contextual cues I'd missed, and reviewed what we'd been presented with up to this point for the same reason. I like to be thorough before I made a decision.

Conclusion? No information that could help me in my own financial situation.

Now, going into this seminar series, I knew that it wasn't a 'traditional finance' course with budgets, terminology, practical tests and/or advice, etc... but it was free because I'd done the Forum, so that said a lot, and I'm always open to learning new ideas. I'm also open to the fact that my focus may have been too narrow over the years I've been wrestling with my finances and that I might have totally missed something vital.

After tonight, I'm pretty sure of what my current financial options are, and totally certain that this evening was my last session with Land Mark - they have nothing more to teach that I care to learn, ironic since nothing is at the core of what they're proselytizing.

Disappointing, to say the least. But I've still learned a fair bit from my experiences with them, discovering that I'm angry deep-down( and how to channel that creatively )as well as that I'm down to the financial options I've known for a year: spend less and/or earn more.

Plus, I'll be getting back 8 more evenings this July for editing!

June 29 – Stomaching

One thing I'll be doing less of from this point on is stressing.

Much like earlier this year, when I was stressed out about the Land Mark Forum weekend, my stomach tensed up daily, causing me significant pain and discomfort.

Lately, this has been manifesting itself every few days, usually on the weekend before the Monday group chat, and for the next few days before the seminar. It's usually compounded by how I sit at work, upright at my desk, though I take pains to get up and walk around every 20 minutes to keep my core muscles moving. While it's not as bad as it was three months ago, where I had to sleep in an elevated position, it's still been quite painful if I move the wrong way or too quickly, feeling like I've been doing situps for an hour straight.

I've also been re-reading Deskbound, focusing on the problems I'm having with these specific core muscle groups and looking at the recommendations therein. So far, I haven't come up with much beyond what I'm already doing: paying close attention to how I sit, ensuring my work ergonomics are sound and not 'clenching' my abdominals while focusing on regular full-diaphragm breathing.

Next week will be informative, as I don't have a group chat on Monday( holiday! )and I won't be attending the seminar on Wednesday. So if my stomach / abdominals settle down to a nice, relaxed state, then I'll know for sure that it's been the stress from Land Mark that's been the cause behind the daily pain.

I'm looking forward to being free of that distraction, I'll tell you!

June 30 – Decision Inspiration

It's funny how making a decision helps settle things in one's life.

Wondering, waiting, planning, thinking: the problem is that none of these are actually doing, but usually just prevarications to avoid making decisions.

My decision to stop the Land Mark series this week is good, in my eyes, because it means I can move firmly on to doing other things that I haven't been able to devote my full attention to... and also get rid of the stress that accompanies such.

A particular quote resonates with me, when it comes to decisions:

Nothing falls into line when you're hovering at the decision door: you have to walk through to discover what's waiting on the other side, and hope that what you find will aid you further, now that you've made a decision.

In the past, I've been known to be wishy-washy about decisions, as many people are. I held out for various reasons: hope that things will change, agonizing that the decision I was pondering might lead to a wrong choice( oh no, a mistake! )or that what I was doing was ill-informed, so I had to keep pondering on it.

Not so much any more.

I've come to trust my instincts, which have been honed by experience and knowledge both. In coming to decisions now, I'm far better able to 'go with my gut feeling' first, and then take a little time to back up that decision with some thought and research.

Right now, my guts are( literally )screaming at me to finish editing my latest draft, so I can get on to planning my home business and getting a better job. Nothing more - there's no room for anything more in my life right now, apart from my( admittedly amazing )girlfriend and my family.

The kicker? There doesn't need to be anything else: I'm good.

July 1st – Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

Wow, what a busy day, but it was so great!

Yet I woke up today with a headache, which transitioned into a full-on migraine-pending on the way to my parent's place today, brought on by the combination of a massively-bassy truck following us and the strobe-like flashing of the brilliant low-angle morning sun through the trees as we drove. I had to lie down for a while with a few Tylenol when I arrived instead of visiting, and felt woozy until well after lunch, when my head finally straightened out. It's the first time in many years that's happened, and I'll have to watch out for the strobe effect if I'm feeling an incoming headache from now on - plus big nasty garbage trucks, too!

While I was at my parent's, I managed to locate the comic copies of the Groo The Wanderer I'd been trying to track down for years: I'm missing a few dozen issues, and early this week I came across a HUGE pile of them at a local bookstore for a pittance! Unfortunately, I'd misplaced the 'missing issue' list I'd made years ago, but today I copied out what was missing, then picked up over 30 comics from this 'backlist' on the way home - excellent! I'll find time to read them this fall... and I also found something else at my parent's place I've been looking for for a decade today too - more next week on that!

In the Russell Books bag: 32 missing issues, dirt cheap and in good shape!

In the afternoon, my lady and I drove out to Sooke( an hour's trip )to attend the annual Canada Day BBQ at our friend Deborah's new place. She and her husband Josh found a truly stunning and unique home, which sits on a hillside with a fantastic view... and includes a full-size concert hall! Just look at these pictures:

Breathtaking: the view, and the sheer ROOM inside this house - plus a hilltop gazebo!

We spent a splendid few hours there at dinnertime, chatting with folks about writing and just admiring the house... I would never have thought such a property was affordable to anyone outside of a millionaire's club. The house was sprawling, quirky, outdoors-focused and even had secret rooms! It was a fun and relaxing evening, one I always look forward to every year, and moreso now than ever - they could host hundreds of people at their new pad, though parking and the steep walk uphill might be issues. Still: wow!

We left Sooke as the sun started to wane, arriving back in Victoria a little after 8:30pm to make our reservations at Vista18, which was really busy for Canada Day, but far less crazy than being among the 50,000 people packing the downtown core tonight. My lady and I were seated facing south as the sun set, highlighting the lone Canadian flag atop Beacon Hill against the magnificent view of the Olympus Mountains( see below ) - truly a stunning picture to take in on our country's birthday. The live jazz band that was playing was the perfect accompaniment to the evening, and we enjoyed each's others company among many smiling faces for hours until it was time for the sky-dance of lights to cap off the night.

Magnificence on the left, and a view of the crowd on the right

We didn't see the fireworks full-on due to the blocking-placement of another building to the west, but their reflections were easy enough to watch in the windows of ours and other buildings. The fireworks crawled like brilliant snakes across the glass as they burst, an effect as enchanting as it sounds... and what a wonderful way to end an amazing day!

July 2 – The Mystic Vale!

Today was less packed with things to do, but still a fantastic Sunday!

After a late breakfast, my girlfriend suggested that we go and visit the gardens near Uvic, which I've not yet seen in all my time here - great idea!

We arrived shortly after noon, and after parking the car in some shade, we descended into... The Mystic Vale! I had no idea the place existed, to be honest: it's a small hidden-away ravine located on the UVic campus, but in the summer sunshine it was... magical. It reminded me greatly of the simple suburban ravine that I grew up next to in Ontario, and the pictures speak for themselves:

The Vale is... deceptively cool and green!

I loved that it was a cool, quiet green space in the middle of a busy city, where you could barely hear the occasional large truck in the distance. The insects that were around didn't bother us at all, and we only ran into two people the whole time we were walking the well-kept trails, out of the burning-bright sunshine.

Across the Uvic entry boulevard, we then visited Finnerty Gardens, which are gorgeous and feature only plants native to Vancouver Island. The many wending paths mostly offered shade from the sun, with ample numbers of benches to sit and admire the botanical delights. I was soon grinning from the magnificent display of well-tended plants, and I think we'll go back again soon for a picnic!

After a few more hours out for milkshakes( white chocolate and hazelnut for me! )at the Interactivity Games Cafe, we called it a day so I could get home and work on my blog. I wasn't tired, per se, but I felt it's been a weekend well-spent.

And I still have tomorrow off, which I plan to use to write all day long... glorious!

This week's blog took longer to write, as my Dragon Dictate software decided that THIS Sunday evening was the perfect time for it to 'optimize' its databases... and shut me out from using it to write my blog - thanks. Good thing my manual typing skills haven't atrophied much, doing all the editing I have for the last year, but it's still frustrating to have a useful tool make itself unavailable.