The Proposal

In the heart of the city
amidst the lights and sparkle and magic of Christmas,
Adam holds my hand and skates beside me
drops on one knee, pulls out a ring
and asks, “Charlene Kwiatkowski, will you marry me?”
I give him my “Yes!” embrace him, fall on my knees
mitts off, he slips the most beautiful ring onto my finger
and holds my hands again.

The world is blurring by us
yet our worlds have stopped—
lost in utter delight
oh, the way his eyes shine when they’re looking at mine!
We stand back up on wobbly legs
and I am still wobbling with joy,
(4 days later),
for what was, what is, and what is to come
with the man my heart so loves.

-written in the wee hours of the morning after my engagement on Dec 13, 2014. What a beautiful, surprising, and altogether perfect night!

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The Rosie Project

I finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion the other week. The main character, Don Tillman, is similar to Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory (a brilliant yet socially inept scientist). Don inadvertently finds love through a woman he considers “highly unsuitable” for his Wife Project (he labels all his undertakings “projects.”) And yes, he’s 39 and on a quest for a wife, so he created an elaborate questionnaire to filter all women through, because you know, she can’t smoke, can’t be vegetarian, can’t drink (too much), can’t be too late or too early for appointments, can’t be picky about ice cream flavours because apparently they all taste the same, and on and on and on.

therosieprojectSo along comes Rosie with her thick-soled black boots, spiky hair, cigarettes & penchant for alcohol (she works part-time as a bartender while doing her PhD in psychology at the same school where Don teaches), and she is nothing like his perfect woman. We all know how that story goes . . .

Anyway, Don & Rosie are in contact with each other because he’s helping her with her “Father Project”(identifying her biological father via various DNA experiments) through his expertise as a genetics professor. Ensue adventures of cup-swabbing, napkin-procuring, jersey-bleeding gestures in order to get samples from the men on Rosie’s list of potential fathers.

The novel was surprisingly quite a page-turner as I was curious what Don would do next—how he’d process new experiences outside the range of his vary limited social skills. I would have liked to learn Don’s backstory earlier than 2/3 into the novel, but despite this late start, I still found myself cheering for him. Regarding Rosie, it would have been refreshing if the impulsive, free-spirited woman who awakens Don’s heart to new emotions wasn’t so conventionally unconventional. Surely there are other, less physical ways to portray assumed unsuitability for Don than through her obviously punk appearance. I would have liked to see Simision tease this out a bit more. That being said, it is his first novel, and a pretty good one at that—filled with quirky, humorous, and tender moments. I recommend it if you’re looking for something light and endearing to read over the holidays.

Speaking of holidays, I wanted to follow-up from my last post with a shot of my Douglas fir tree, complete with the Christmas star ornament hanging near the top right. Ah, the smell of fresh pine to greet me each morning!

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A Starry Night

We’re less than a month away, folks! And nothing helps you get more in the Christmas spirit than doing some Christmas-y crafts (and baking, which is on the agenda for tomorrow!)

Like last year, I’m going to get a real tree for my apartment again. As I anxiously wait for Saturday to come which is when H&M Christmas Tree Farm opens for the season, I thought I would make a new ornament to add to my collection. Hence a trip to my favourite Vancouver art store I’ve mentioned before, Urban Source on Main Street.

I bought this wooden star for a few bucks and let my imagination take over.

IMG_0705I knew I wanted to decorate it with sheet music, so I traced the star on some old piano music of my mom’s that I’m not skilled enough to play, and cut out 2 pieces for 2 points of the star. I’m all about assymetry.

I definitely wanted to keep that red pencil crayon where a teacher had marked the decrescendo. It adds that much more character, don’t you think?

IMG_0707Before gluing the pieces down, I made the star pop with bright red paint.

IMG_0715Then I glued the pieces down and added a button in the middle, referencing my old-school hobby of sewing.

IMG_0720But I wasn’t completely satisfied. My star was missing something. Something to give it that extra sparkle. It needed some gold. So I asked the Artist, of course. He suggested using something called gold leaf instead of gold paint, which he just happened to have in his repertoire of art supplies. And so we had a Christmas crafting date.

IMG_0730If you’re wondering what gold leaf is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I learned that it’s very thin paper that sticks like paint, but it’s not paint. You apply the glue (see photo above) with a paintbrush to the areas you want the gold leaf to stick, and then you let it dry for 10-15 minutes because you want it to be just sticky-enough for the paper to stick, but not overly wet that the paper gets soggy.

Here’s the best part: taking the tissue paper-thin leaf sheets out of the package, being careful not to blow, breathe, sneeze, or do anything that would risk creasing, tearing, or destroying it (and it doesn’t take much!) This is the most fragile material I’ve ever worked with. We placed the paper on top of the glue and used a paintbrush to seal it along the ridge.

IMG_0733Once the glue was all covered, we peeled away the excess paper, again using a paintbrush to sweep the remaining flecks & fragments away.

IMG_0738IMG_0735And voilà! It’s sealed on there like paint. The beauty (and frustration) with gold leaf is that it’s not neat & precise. It has that frayed-edge look, but I actually quite like it. And I think the gold gives it that extra something, wouldn’t you agree?

Now it just needs to a tree to hang from!

IMG_0749IMG_0746What are your favourite DIY Christmas crafts, ones you’ve done or ones you’d like to try?

The Giver

Tonight I finished reading The Giver by Lois Lowry for the first time. I know this book was on school reading lists when I was in elementary school, but I never remember reading it. Given the recent movie that’s come out about it, I thought it would be a good time to give it a go.

the-giver-movie-trailerIt’s a brilliant concept, especially when you remember Lowry wrote it in 1993, before the new millennium even. The premise is that life in Jonas’s community is perfect. (read: controlled). Rules govern everything. There is a Council of Elders who decide on the rules & make decisions for the whole community. Who your match will be. Who your children will be, and you only get 1 boy and 1 girl. What you do with your time. How often, how much, and when you eat. A society where everyone blends in. A community made up of Nurturers and Labourers and Birthmothers and Doctors and Engineers and Instructors and so on.

And one Receiver.

The Receiver is the only person in the community who knows of life before and beyond Jonas’s community. This person is the only person is a Receiver of Memories, who has memories of something outside their community of Sameness. The Receiver is given the “honour” of holding all the memories for the entire community—joyful ones and tragic ones; beautiful ones and brutal ones. Memories of colour, family, love, sunshine, snow, broken bones, hunger, poverty, loss, neglect, warfare. The community doesn’t want to feel real feelings. Because they don’t want to feel pain, they also protect themselves from feeling love & joy & delight. But they know someone has to remember what this is like, to ask for his counsel from time to time. Hence the Receiver. The lonely Receiver.

The event that launches the book’s plot is the Ceremony of Twelves in December where Jonas, along with all the other Elevens-turning-Twelves, receives his Assignment about his job in the community. His was a rare appointment.

Jonas is selected as the next Receiver. The current Receiver (called The Giver) transfers his memories to Jonas, and now Jonas carries them. What does he do with them, with his newfound knowledge? That’s why you have to read the book!

It’s a beautiful story, so poignant with similarities to our world. And written so simply and accessibly. It was definitely a page-turner, and even at the very end, I was wanting more. I was wanting to find out what happens to the community. That’s where I wish we could have a third-person omniscient narrator. But I also like that we’re left to imagine it. The worst are books that give too much away in their conclusions.

I’ve watched the trailer for the film but don’t know if I’ll see the movie. Now after reading it, I can already tell the movie veers quite substantially from the original. Jonas & Fiona are seen kissing & having a much more intimate relationship than they do in the book. The daily injections come in the form of pills, and Jonas never counsels Fiona to skip one. And Jonas doesn’t tell anyone about his training as the Receiver, or what he’s learned of life beyond.

I wonder if the screenwriter added these scenes to make it more exciting, more plot-driven, more filmable? It’s interesting to consider Lowry’s words in the prologue, reflecting on 20 years since its publication:

If I had written The Giver this year, there would have been no gulp. Maybe a yawn, at most. Ho-hum. In so many recent dystopian novels (and there are exactly that: so many), societies battle and characters die hideously and whole civilizations crumble. None of that in The Giver. It was introspective. Quiet. Short on Action.

“Introspective, quiet, and short on action” translates to “tough to film.” Katniss Everdeen gets to kill off countless adolescent competitors in various ways during The Hunger Games; that’s exciting movie fare. It sells popcorn. Jonas, riding a bike and musing about his future? Not so much. Although the film rights to The Giver were snapped up early on, it moved forward in spurts and stops for years, as screenplay after screenplay–none of them by me–was commissioned, written, and discarded.

Despite the all-star cast including Jeff Bridges & Meryl Streep, the movie didn’t do well at the box office. Maybe if it had stuck closer to the original script, more The Giver fans would have given it a shot? What are your thoughts?

 

A Walk in the Gardens

I work in Surrey now, and when the weather’s cooperating (which hasn’t been too often), I like to eat lunch outside and explore my new surroundings.

Here’s what I encountered when I walked through Bear Creek Gardens the other day, on the afternoon of the Bear Creek Park Garden Light Festival.

I spied with my little eye a chapel in the woods.

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I went closer to see if it was really what I thought it was. Indeed.

IMG_0631I would love to go to church in the woods!

IMG_0635 - Version 2My walking then led me to this labyrinth of paper cups filled with dirt (I’m guessing so they wouldn’t blow away). I wonder what they were used for.

IMG_0637IMG_0638IMG_0640A lot of the tree decorations were shielded from the elements.

IMG_0641The colour of these autumn trees, combined with the Japanese ornaments, was absolutely stunning.

IMG_0645IMG_0647IMG_0654IMG_0657IMG_0658IMG_0655So many hidden treasures in these gardens, including this pink bicycle.IMG_0663It would have been beautiful to see these decorations all lit up at night. Perhaps it looked something like this:

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The Results Are In!

Well, readers . . . we did it!

Tonight, the news landed in my inbox that my story, “Living Bigger, Looking Closer” won 2nd place and $500 in a local Vancouver writing contest! I am thrilled and so thankful for all your help in voting for my story over these past 2 months. It’s been quite the wait to see how it would all turn out, and this is a terrific ending to the story.

Thank you for being a BIG part of this process. It’s been really wonderful to share it with you.

And while I’m giving you an update about the contest, I’ll also mention that for those of you wondering if the We Make Stuff book my boyfriend is featured in will be going to press, YES! The final dollars came in at the eleventh hour. Thanks to all of you who contributed to that as well. You can check out a behind-the-scenes video of the book being printed at the printers from their website (and order your copy if you haven’t yet!)

So as you can probably imagine, it’s been a great couple weeks for the two of us with our creative pursuits.

Now I find myself asking, “What will I write next?”

My Vancouver

Vancouver, my muse