Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- 5 on Friday -- Set 219 -- P is for P!nk

Welcome to Day 16 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.

Fridays at A Piece of My Mind are all about music.

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

For today's challenge -- 

P is for P!nk

This is a shot of me opening a pink birthday present, fourteen years ago. There were beautiful ballerina Christmas ornaments in there, which makes me smile just thinking about them.

I'm not an overly girly girl. In fact, I generally nudge people to refer to grown women as women and not girls. I don't get excitable about hair and make-up, and the domestic goddess thing escapes me entirely.

However, I do have a strange love of pink-and-gold combinations, especially when they come in the form of Victorian-era decorative arts (like china, wallpaper, fabric.)

This is me from Christmas 2013 with a vintage dinner plate -- pink roses and gold edging. Bliss!

This shot from Phantom of the Opera makes my heart sigh with happiness every time I see it, even though I write about Dark Ages vampires and cruel, Borgia-style nobles.

So my love of P!nk is me in a nutshell. I love her persona, I love the fact that someone so non-girly-girl has named herself P!nk and I love her no-holds-barred songs about relationships, as well as the gutsy exuberance of her dance sound.

1 - Trouble

2 - So What

3 - Please Don't Leave Me

4 - Funhouse

5 - Are We All We Are

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

Join me at The Popculturedivas for O is for Oscar Night Party.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- N is for my dad, Norman

Welcome to Day 14 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.
When I was a kid in the 60s, it was still common for fathers to be remote figures to their children. They worked long hours, were still expected to be somewhat scary authority figures and good for providing financial stability to the family.

Yet, were dads thought of as friends back when I was growing up?

For Day 14 --
N is for my dad, Norman

In the 60s, my dad was already settling into the role that modern dads wear easily.

He shared housework with my mom, our family made democratic decisions, and he forged a true friendship with both of his daughters as well as being a father we could count upon.

He was not a dad who missed our school concerts and plays, even though he had his own scuba diving shop and later sold cars. I always remember him prowling quietly along the edges of auditoriums with his camera, taking lots of pictures -- rather like I do, now.

He stood in the damp cold during my final year film shoot for Ryerson, pitching in as both a boom operator and an extra.

But the thing that stays with me as a part of me, deep and solid, is the way he held my hand as he walked me down the aisle.

Here's a poem I wrote for my dad which he kept with him since he first read it. He passed away the same year I started this blog -- in fact his passing was the launch pad for both my blog and my eventual publication.

Even as a girl I knew my friendship with my dad wasn't that common. Not when I heard my childhood friends describing their home life, and later when I encountered examples of typical father-daughter relationships in books, TV shows and films.

It makes me happy that societal shifts have moved more father-daughter relationships into the kind of friendship my dad and I treasured. For those who insist that parents shouldn't be friends to their children, as a former day care worker and nanny, I too understand the need for clear boundaries for kids, for parents to provide authority along with basic safety, shelter and security.

However, my dad was my first male friend, which led to a lifetime of having many male friendships that had nothing to do with romance -- only enjoying the commaraderie of men.

He could not have given me a more important gift.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- M is for Mary

Welcome to Day 13 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.
It's not often that a person can say they've been lucky enough to have a lifelong friend who isn't also a sibling or a cousin. Yet it happens sometimes, and today I'd like to introduce you to mine.

For Day 13 --
M is for Mary

I remember the moment we met. I was three years old. It was summer, so Mary was already four.

She and our little neighbor Johnny Michael were on the sidewalk at the bottom of our driveway. I ran down the double cement paver tracks with grass in between, and we stood gazing at one another for a few moments.

Then I said, "I'm Julia. Want to play?"

 Ha Ha Ha! And the rest is history.

That's Mary in her purple dress at the center of the photo, with me in green as the little birthday girl later that year. That's Johnny Michael sitting to my right.

When I stood in line outside of my kindergarten class for my first day of school, Mary was there beside me. Both of us styling in plaid skirts, might I add.

Mary came with us when my family visited the Detroit Zoo in the late 60s (we lived in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit.)

I went places with Mary's family. We ate meals at one another's houses, swam in each other's backyard pools, even had sleepovers sometimes.

In the early 70s, when my family moved from Michigan to Nova Scotia (where my ancestors had lived for three centuries -- a homecoming for my mom, a new adventure for my dad, my sister and me) Mary and I began writing to one another in the days before social media.

Our little girlish letters crossed the border with all of our news and dreams and longing for one another. Luckily for us, my family travelled back to Michigan often to visit family and friends. Every time we were in Michigan, the little friends had their delighted reunion. Hugs, laughter and the feeling that no time had passed since the last time we sat and talked together.

Eventually, Mary made a few trips to the east coast to visit us in Nova Scotia. The photo above is from her first trip here in the late 70s. That's Peggy's Cove in the background, one of my favorite spots on earth.

This photo was taken on a trip my sister and I made to Michigan on our own in 1985. Michelle and I went with Mary to Bob-Lo Island for a great day of going on rides, strolling, talking and just being together.

The very next year I moved to Toronto, which meant I was only a few hours away by train from my Mary! She came to see me in my new city, but most of the time I went to Michigan because I could also see my aunts, uncles, cousins and one set of grandparents.

This is one of those visits, when Mary was making preparations for her wedding to Chris, with the adorable Sampson on her lap. I have a whole album of Mary's wedding photos but they must be in one of those 'safe' spots that are so safe you can't find them.

My dad, my sister and my fiance Brad all joined me to celebrate the beginning of Mary's life with Chris.

Before too long, Mary switched roles and stood with me at my wedding to Brad. We actually got married in Michigan, since it was wasn't too far for the Toronto people to travel, while my Nova Scotia family and friends all bunked in together at a motel and had a great time. 

By then I was doing my film degree at Ryerson in Toronto, while Mary had started her family. Our visits became less frequent, but the letter writing and phone calls continued.

After I finished university and moved back to Nova Scotia, Mary began the great adventure of homeschooling her three boys.

But when Mom and I took the train from Halifax to Toronto for Mom's art show at the Hummingbird Centre Gallery in support of the National Ballet of Canada in 2000, Mary and Chris were there (at center below) along with our Toronto friends and family, and of course my Michigan aunt and uncle.

That's the thing about a lifelong friend. She is always there. Whether or not I can reach out and touch her, she touches me from that space she always inhabits inside my heart.

This was taken at the party my sister and her roommate-and-friend threw for Mom after the art show opening night. Back row, L to R: my husband's 'attendant of honor' and acting school friend Andrea, me, Mary and my sister Michelle / Front row, L to R: Mom; yesterday's Day 12 Blog Challenge post subject Lisa; and my usher staff friend from my decade at the Hummingbird Centre, Jacquie.

Mary called me on the phone a few weeks ago.

As soon as I heard her voice, any time that had passed since I last heard it instantly melted away and we were laughing and talking and once again delighting in each other's company.

That's the way it is with lifelong friends. She inhabits all the moments we've shared together, all the moments we've thought about one another, all the moments -- whether we're in the same space or whether we simply carry one another in our smiles. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- L is for Lisa

Welcome to Day 12 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.
For both my husband and me --
L is for Lisa

Brad and I are both blessed with longtime friends named Lisa.

The wonderful thing about married life is that we both gained a second friend named Lisa.

Here is Brad's friend Lisa.

They met in the early 80s when they both worked at the Imperial Six cinemas in Toronto. We meet up whenever Brad and I are back in his hometown, like this Christmas trip in 2010.

Or on this trip in August of 2012 when I had an author table at Fan Expo. We're joined here by Ted, who also worked at the theatre with them, and Lisa's sister Cherry.

Just posting this is bringing on a serious dose of Toronto homesickness! Although Toronto is Brad's home, after I moved there in my twenties it became the home of my heart. Brad's Lisa -- hopefully it won't be too long until we're meeting up again somewhere along the Danforth or downtown. Until then -- thank heavens for Facebook!

Here is my Lisa.

We met in the late 80s, after I'd moved to Toronto and had worked as a nanny for a family I consider as part of my own. My next job was in the children's shoe department at the Queen Street flagship Simpson's store (now The Bay.)

We were kindred spirits from the very first moment we were introduced as co-workers.

We both started going out with our future husbands while working together, so the thrills-chills-and-spills of meeting Mr. Right were part of our in-between-customers conversation through the metal shelves of the shoe stockroom.

Very quickly our friendship grew past work hours, and before too long Brad and I were attending Lisa's wedding to Bill.

That's Brad and me with Bill and his sister.

Lisa relocated to Belleville and later to Cobourg, where she and Bill are from, originally. We travelled to see each other often, like this visit she made to our place in Toronto with their son Brandon.

Soon Lisa and Bill were attending our wedding.

If we're in Toronto for Christmas, Lisa makes the trip into the city so we can meet up.

Or I jump on the train and head for Cobourg. If anyone remembers this profile pic from Facebook, this is from one of my trips to see Lisa. This is us shopping. #thatshowwedo

Somehow, the universe has aligned several times to make sure we were with one another at birthday time. This was taken on one of my birthdays during a Cobourg trip. Look at that Brandon.

Here's Lisa celebrating her birthday here in Nova Scotia during one of her trips here.

And here's Lisa and Brandon meeting up with Brad and me in Toronto during her 50th birthday week. (Brandon -- what the heck...?!?)

The best way to let you know about my Lisa is to leave you with a poem I wrote for her birthday six years ago.

The Meaning

Cheers to the two Lisa's in my life.

Can't wait till we can *clink* glasses again in person.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- K is for Kelly Boyce

Welcome to Day 11 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.
My life-is-good moments usually contain a combination of feelings. There is the excitement of reaching a moment in time that I've been dreaming about, running parallel to the feeling of returning to a happiness I've cherished before.

A perfect example of this is The Pinot Grigio Moment, repeated most often with today's challenge feature --
K is for historical romance author Kelly Boyce

Kelly Boyce and I both joined our writers' group Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada within a few months of each other in 2003.

For many years, we have enjoyed a pinot grigio toast of one kind or another, most traditionally at the yearly writing retreat.

Here's a toast to Kelly with a look back at some of those life-is-good moments. Here's to many future *clinks* together.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- 5 on Friday -- Set 218 -- J is For Julianne MacLean

Welcome to Day 10 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.

Fridays at A Piece of My Mind are all about music. For today's challenge, I'm matching music to the periods when five historical romance audiobooks are set. Because today...

J is for romance author Julianne MacLean

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.


Julianne MacLean is a romance author who began with historical romance and has twenty-seven titles to her credit, some set in the American West, some during the Victorian London seasons, some during the 18th century unrest in Scotland.

Currently, Julianne is releasing a contemporary series known as her Color series -- The Color of Heaven, The Color of Destiny, The Color of Hope and The Color of a Dream.

Not only is Julianne a fellow member of my writers' group, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada...

....Julianne is my cherished cousin and lifelong friend.

Since I'm all about everything historical, here are five of my favorites from her books which have been made into audiobooks. I've paired the stories with musical pieces which debuted in the same year as each story takes place.

You can hear an audio sample from each book by clicking on the titles below.

1 - Three Scottish Airs from "A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick" (Auld Bob Morrice, Lady Ann Bothwell's Lament, Sleepy Body) -- Francesco Geminiani -- 1716 -- Captured by the Highlander

~ ~ ~

2 - Adagio for Piano and Strings -- John Field -- 1814 -- Be My Prince

~ ~ ~

3 - Waltz of the Hours from the Coppelia ballet -- Leo Delibes -- 1870 -- In My Wildest Fantasies

~ ~ ~

4 - String Quartet No 5 in F minor, Op 9 -- Antonin Dvorak -- 1873 -- The Mistress Diaries

~ ~ ~

5 - Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition -- Modest Mussorgsky -- 1874 -- Married By Midnight