Two nights ago, I took a tea leaf reading class as research for a Victorian murder mystery I’m planning. Sarah, the instructor, was a warm, open woman who relaxed our small group of three students with her “there is no wrong way to do this” philosophy. She was serious though when she warned us of the responsibility inherent in the job, saying that every reading should leave the people involved feeling hopeful and empowered.

You begin each reading by sipping your loose tea (between your teeth, hopefully leaving most of the leaves in the cup!) until there is only about one teaspoon of liquid left. We used beautiful floral china cups. (The cup pictured is my only teacup not from a set, but it is a beauty.) Then you turn the cup upside down into the saucer, not worrying about if you spill a bit. As Sarah says, whatever happens was meant to happen. At this point, some people turn the cup three times in the saucer, (I don’t know clockwise from counterclockwise so that part passed me by) or hold it with their hands to further imprint their intention on it, ask a question, or just turn the cup over and jump right in.

The actual reading seems to be any combination of seeing animals or objects in the leaves in the cup, or in the saucer, or spilled across the tablecloth if that’s how it landed, and using them as a springboard to your intuition. There are traditional symbols to look for but in this new-age age, it seems the sky is the limit. Mine, done with chunky herbal tea, looked like a totem pole in the bottom of the cup, all of the tea fragments lined up, and even looking like animals. A bear on top, a goose in flight below, etc. Someone suggested I check out First Nations iconography. Good idea. (I live in a town where totem poles line the streets.)

I’d had my tea leaves read before, and was – resistant. I’m not sure why, it wasn’t skepticism exactly, perhaps just, as Sarah suggested, resistance to the intrusion. I don’t feel psychic, not in any woo-woo way, just a little too open, too vulnerable to have just anyone poking around in my world.

So anyway, I was sitting beside the reader and was the first to be read at our table. I didn’t know what to expect, and I balked. I resisted. The reader spun her wheels, getting nowhere, but I couldn’t let her in. When she moved on to another person down the table, I relaxed, and at one point I thought she was giving the other woman my reading! That she was picking up my questions because of our proximity. Not fair to any of us really. At that point the other woman looked slightly confused. What the reader was saying to her were things that I knew she had no connection to but were high in my mental to-do list and list of concerns. The reader was really quite good, and after this class I’m more sure than ever that she knows how to channel – something.

I’ll be going back for another reading. I’m not done my “research” yet.


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We don’t get much snow on Vancouver Island. It’s one of the reasons I moved here from Ontario so many years ago. (I seem to remember one winter day in the Ottawa Valley, sick with a fever and shoveling snow off the woodshed roof so that it wouldn’t cave in. I suddenly thought, enough is enough, and I haven’t looked back.)
But we do get a few snow days every year, and a few years, especially when I lived at the slightly higher elevation of Cowichan Lake, we had snow for more than a month at a time. But for the most part we embrace the novelty, or put up with it, depending on the busyness of your schedule.
It has been snowing now for three days straight, night and day. Somehow, this time, perhaps because my head cold struck at the same time, it has had a much more nostalgic effect on me than normal. Between feeling feverish and having the power go off, we have had a fire going in the living room fireplace most of the time for the last three days. We often have fires in the evenings, but it’s different when you count on it for heat. It took me back to the ten years I lived at the lake at Honeymoon Bay, when, with the snow swirling outside, the power would go off for days at a time and we would have to cook our meals on the woodstove too.
Then I noticed the bird feeders were empty and the hummingbird feeder portals were covered with snow. I pulled my rubber boots and warm jacket on over my PJ’s (the worst day of my cold, but the outside temperature never went below freezing) and went out fill the feeders. As I brushed the snow off the red flowers on the hummer feeder I could hear the little Anna’s that stay all winter chittering in the snow covered camellia beside me. Then as I poured the birdseed into the tall squirrel proof feeder I suddenly remembered a book I read as a city child, where the little girl in the book came out of the log cabin into the snow and fed the birds.
And now I’m living the life.

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Russell Books in Victoria BC held the first annual Romance Writer’s evening last week – just before Valentine’s day and I went down with friend and fellow writer Jo-Anne Carson to check it out.

As a child, one of my favourite Sunday afternoon activities was to go to a secondhand bookstore with my father – also a writer – and poke around. I remember it as being dingy and dusty and I particularly remember the basement where the best treasures were always found. Old comic books or fairy tales, and later the Alexandre Dumas books I devoured. This all came back to me as I perused the shelves in Russell’s basement. The bright new facility where the talk was to take place wasn’t dark at all, but the variety of used books, classics with woodblock print illustrations cheek by jowl with modern classics, brought that childhood memory back nonetheless. Maybe it’s the heady smell of old books. I don’t know.

Once everyone had a complimentary glass of wine and a few chocolates, the speakers started. The moderator was multi-published author Kathleen Lawless, who kept the evening light and lively. The speakers were all published, award winning romance writers, so appropriate for the holiday weekend coming up, all members of the Vancouver Island chapter of the Romance Writers of America: author Lee McKenzie, Sharon Ashwood, , who also writes as Emma Jane Holloway, and Jacqui Nelson.

!images/33.jpg!The audience was composed of readers and a good sprinkling of writers from all genres, there to hear about their process. They let us into the reasons they started writing and why they wrote what they did. Everyone seemed to have a different process, and you could almost say every book had a different process.

The audience took the opportunity at the end to ask questions of the four authors, and more wine and chocolate of course. I“ll definitely be going back next year. Do try to make it if you are in the neighborhood.

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I sat at the ferry terminal in Nanaimo the other night awaiting my daughter’s return to Vancouver Island for the holidays, and I couldn’t help but think about how many times I had picked her up here in the past. Thoughts of family battling the storms in Ontario brought back memories of one year in particular when BC was caught in an unusually intense winter storm, right before Christmas and how it was BC Ferries to the rescue.

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and I waited with an expectant crowd in front of the Nanaimo ferry terminal building. There was a festive spirit in the air, and one entire family arrived in Santa hats to greet loved ones arriving on the ferry.

Lights spilled out the open terminal doorways highlighting the snow that had started to fall – yet again. We weren’t used to this much snow on Vancouver Island, but in this particular Christmas season we, like most of Canada, had been battered by wave after wave of snowstorms.

Taking ferries to the mainland is a fact of life for islanders everywhere. As I waited in the dark parking lot for my daughter, my thought drifted back to the first time I spotted her, through tears in my eyes, among the hundreds of students pouring out into the parking lot on her first Thanksgiving weekend home from university. Now, years later, she lives in Vancouver and once again the ferry was bringing her home.

But what about my husband? I’d taken him to the Nanaimo Airport two weeks before in the middle of the first, blinding snowstorm to catch his flight back east for a family emergency. When we got there, we discovered he wouldn’t be flying out that day – but if he got the ferry to Vancouver he might still catch his connecting flight. In almost white-out conditions, we made a run for the ferry and he did just make his flight that day.

Two weeks later, he found himself trying to get back home for Christmas in another snowstorm. My daughter made it on the ferry that stormy night, and we stopped at the airport on our drive home to see what the chances were of my husband’s flight getting in the next night, Christmas Eve. Apparently zero to none.

In the empty airport, we heard an attendant tell a traveler that the bags he had lost two days before might be in the truck of lost luggage that had just rolled off the ferry. Hundreds of people who were trying to make it home for the holidays had been stuck in the storm at the Vancouver airport, and in desperation, the airlines had put the stranded travelers bound for the Island on busses to the ferries, with trucks of luggage to follow.

Although we, here on the coast, love to complain about holiday sailing waits, the fact remains that barring gale force winds the ferries will make it through. They’re our stalwart link to the mainland, and for me, on this unusually snowy Christmas, the ghostly white ship would be the envoy responsible for pulling our family together.

It kept right on snowing through Christmas Eve, but finally, at noon on Christmas day, my husband made it home, with his bags, on the ferry.

It’s the same story for families up and down the coast, from Saltspring to the Queen Charlotte Islands. In good times and bad, and when all else fails, we count on the ferries to keep our families together.

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What does JFK have to do with using macros on MSWORD? Nothing really. But I read recently that to make your blog posts fun and interesting you need pictures, if not infographics or videos. Well short of shooting a video of myself making a macro ( Hey, there’s an idea!) I thought I’d put up these photos I found recently in my deceased father’s slides that he took the day John Kennedy died. They also provide a bit of foreshadowing of my next post, possibly called, What I found in My Father’s Slides.

But for now, about macros. Yes I looked at the Macros button in the View menu for years, telling myself I had no use for it, and no idea what it did. It sounded hard. Out of my league. Too hard for me.

I don’t remember what finally demystified Macros for me, but I’m here to do the same for you.

You know that list of “bad” words writers keep. All of the “to be” verbs: are, is, were, etc. All of the words that take you out of a deep point of view: thought, wondered, knew etc. And then there are your own private problem words. (A couple of my worst are “really” and “just”.)

Yes you could enter them each separately in Find and Replace, (which I will go into in a moment) and highlight each one separately every time you reach that stage of editing, or you could take the same amount of time as doing it once, and make a macro. Think of a macro as a short cut – two or three keystrokes that do the work of countless. Sound good? Let’s do it then. Just follow along.

Making Editing Macros in MSWORD
1/ Have your list of words to find ready and your manuscript open at the beginning. I put different kinds of problem words in different macros.
2/ Make sure your highlighting function is on in the colour you want. (Alt h, i, then pick a colour) You could pick a different colour for each macro if you want to get fancy. I just pick yellow.
3/ Go to View, click on Macros, then Record Macro.
4/ Name the macro. I use Edit 1, Edit2, etc. You don’t need to assign a button or key for something you only do once per ms. In the description box you can put the words in your first list if you wish.
5/ When you click ok, you are recording your macro, so go through the steps of whatever you want the macro to do when activated. In this case: (Here is the Find and Replace function.)
Control f to open Find. Type in your word, say there
Alt p to open Replace function
• In the Replace line type in the same word, because you only want to find it, not really replace it. Be careful not to add extra spaces before or after or you will get extra spaces you don’t want in your ms.
• With the cursor on the Replace line, click on More, then Format, then Highlight, then I also click on bold.
• Then click Alt a, for Replace All, and it will run through your manuscript and replace “there” with “there” bold and highlighted in yellow in every case. (If it turns out wrong, turn off the Macro, use Ctrl z to undo the whole thing, and start again typing in the right word this time. I’ve done it myself.)
• Now you can replace the word in your Find line with the next word in your list, it is. Put it is (no italics) in the Replace line, push Alt a, and they will all be highlighted and bold.
• Repeat with each of your other words.
• When you are finished your list, click Macro, then Stop Macro. Now your first macro is ready.
To use it,
• Open a document you want to edit
• Go to View, Macros, View macros, click on your macro (Edit1) and Run. It should run through your manuscript highlighting and bolding your whole list of words in just a few seconds.
• All of the Find rules apply. For example, to find ‘in’ as a single word, not every time the two letters appear inside another word, type space in space, in the Find and Replace lines.

Try it. It’s easy and will save you time with every MS.
If you think of other ways to use macros, please let me know.
Until next time.

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