Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
|Lawrie and I|
It's been two years, six months and fifteen days since Lawrie passed away, and I honestly thought I had come to the end of the stressful paperwork associated with losing my partner, my best friend.
But no, it continues.
Today's frustration isn't one of the difficult things like seeing 'cancelled' stamped across the face of his new passport, or straightening out our joint bank accounts, or advising the government that he won't be filing income tax, ever again, it's about access to over 4000 titles of e-books that Lawrie and I have purchased via Amazon Kindle e-books since 2008.
When Lawrie passed away in September 2018, I continued to buy e-books on the account because it was easier than trying to sort out yet another problem. I read on average three or four books a week; it's a method to fill the hours and keep from thinking about him.
I recently purchased another Kindle to replace my aging and finicky reader. As I have done many times before, I logged in to connect my new reader to the account. I haven't logged in for quite awhile and the site wanted me to input a code that had been sent to his cellphone. That cellphone doesn't exist anymore.
So, I called the Amazon help line for assistance - big mistake!
Now that they know he has passed away, they have locked his account and I have lost access to all of the books including the one that I am half-way through reading. It's Amazon's policy that the e-books are not transferable - even to the surviving spouse.
I'm frustrated and angry. I'm the only person who has been ordering and paying for the e-books since Lawrie passed away, but I am not allowed to access them or any of the previous titles.
I asked for a supervisor's contact information and was told, "We don't have supervisors. We are the last line."
Great, just great.
This is another emotional kick in the teeth for surviving spouses.
UPDATE: three full days of chatting on the help line with a variety of agents, two phone calls, and several emails later, it looks like I have a solution to the problem. Fingers-crossed.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Friday was research and development day for my newest novel, Corked.
It's a murder-mystery set in a local, but fictitious, winery.
With over three hundred wineries in British Columbia Canada, it was a challenge to pick a name for my winery, that wasn't already in use. I decided to use one of Lawrie's favourite expressions, and called it the No Regrets Winery. It is supposedly located in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley.
For authenticity in the story I picked the brains of my winey-friends Prudence Mayer owner of Ruby Blues on the Naramata Bench, in Penticton, Sharon Hickey who works at Ruby Blues, plus wine consultant and long-time friend, Eric von Krosigk at Frind Estate in West Kelowna.
|Sharon Hickey and Kerry Younie - let's go!|
This past week was bottling time at Ruby Blues for their whites, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier, Riesling, and White Stiletto. Sparky and I received an invite to pop out and watch the action, so we did. Early Friday morning I drove to the property just in time to see the crew start the process. What an amazing operation.
Rudy tipped the clean bottles onto the line, to be whisked away and cleaned, then filled, capped and capsuled. The bottles automatically made their way along the line until they arrived at the boxing station where Sharon Hickey and Kerry Younie checked each one for correct placement of the labels, and that it had been filled to the proper level, then added six each to the case before it passed under the taping device and slid down the line to be stacked on the wooden pallet. Wine-maker, Blair Gillingham took turns with Melanie, Spencer, Paul, and Prudence lifting and stacking the boxes.The hard-working crew were flying to keep up with the speeding bottles. At the end of the day they had bottled eighteen pallets of wine.
That equals 18 pallets x 56 boxes on each pallet x 12 bottles in each box or 12096 bottles of yummy Ruby Blues wine. So, 12096 times in one day someone picked up a bottle, examined the label and the fill line, then placed it in the box. That's a shoulder-killing repetitive movement all for our sakes, so that we can enjoy the delicious product.
When you read Corked, keep them in mind.
The automated line is the brain-child of Norman Cole, founder and owner of Artus Bottling Ltd. Started in 2005 the company provides a much-needed, mobile beverage bottling for the small to medium-sized wineries and cideries in the Okanagan Valley. Without this service many of the smaller companies struggled with maintaining their own equipment for use two a year; once in the spring to bottle the whites, and again in the fall to package up the reds.
In a few days, I will pop back out to Ruby Blues Winery to purchase a few bottles of their newest releases.
Lynda and The Sparkinator
Want more info? Check the webpage for Ruby Blues https://www.rubyblueswinery.ca/
Frind Estate in West Kelowna webpage https://www.frindwinery.com/
Thursday, December 24, 2020
|My sisters and I, about 1954.|
I know, it's not politically correct to say that anymore, but I was brought up celebrating Christmas.
Our family always went to church - two days a year - Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. How many of you did that? Come on now, hands up.
Dad's parents were a strict Baptist mother, and a father that was probably agnostic if not atheist. Mom was adopted when she was seven by couple who had recently moved from Iceland to Canada, so her religious upbringing centred around the Lutheran doctrine. My parents compromised. Any time we did go to church it was at the United Church.
Most years Mom pressured us into observing her favourite Icelandic custom, opening our presents on Christmas Eve after the midnight service. Every year she had great hopes that we would sleep in and not be excitedly rampaging around the house at four in the morning. For us, it was a thrill to stay up and rip into pretty packages, but then in the morning we had nothing more to unwrap, so it was a bit of a let-down.
Kids! Always wanting more.
|Bralorne BC United Church|
Our presents were warm clothes and skis. Books and hobby items, like a wood burning set for my second oldest sister Joann. Stuffed animals and dolls when we were younger. A wooden bed for a new doll. It was handmade and painted bright blue by Dad. A big candy cane, nuts in their shells, and a juicy Japanese orange stuffed into one of Dad's woolen work socks; the same woolen socks that were pressed into service when we had a cold. Our necks and chests would be smeared with stinky Vicks Vaporub and Dad's sock wrapped around our throats then pinned in place with a huge safety pin.
One year when I was about four, Mom and Dad ordered a red tricycle through the Sears Christmas catalogue. Our parents were out at an adult Christmas party and our two teenage sisters were either working or visiting their friends. My third sister, Judith who was about ten at the time, and I were home alone. It was the early 1950's and it wasn't a big deal to leave your elementary-aged kid in charge of a preschooler.
Judith found the shipping box and insisted on assembling the trike. We played with it for an hour or two, then she took it apart and put it back in the box. Judith swore me to secrecy. "I'll pound you if you blab," she threatened as older siblings tend to do. On Christmas morning our unsuspecting dad spent a bit of time putting my new tricycle together - again.
Christmas morning, before being sent to play outside we had a big breakfast, hearty enough to keep us away from the kitchen until later in the day. Mom wasn't an enthusiastic cook most days, but she really put her heart into the special family dinners. Christmas dinner was centred around the biggest damn turkey she could find, and served with baked sweet potatoes, mashed white potatoes, cauliflower with cheese sauce, Brussels sprouts, peas, gravy, cranberry sauce, olives, celery pieces filled with Cheese-Whiz, and pickles. Everyone, kids included, was served a tiny glass of Sandeman's Port in celebration of the holiday.
Mom may not have liked cooking, but she loved to bake. She typically started the Christmas baking in mid-October. Her Christmas cakes were weighty, twenty-five pounds of dried fruit for eight cakes, and took up to ten hours to bake in a slow oven. I remember her staying up all night, checking the oven every hour and pulling out the smallest cakes in the middle of the night; the bigger ones weren't ready until breakfast-time the next morning. In later years as her four daughters married, her Christmas cake recipe was used for our wedding cakes.
|Mom making a Christmas cake for a wedding|
Her other speciality was the traditional Icelandic vinartera a seven-layer torte, always seven layers, not more not less. Each layer was slathered with a concoction of cooked dates, butter, and vanilla. Mom preferred to use the more expensive dates instead of stewed prunes, and round pans instead of square. She would wrap the layered cakes in tin-foil and hide them in a dark, cool place, until Christmas Eve, then she would carefully unwrap one cake and generously ice the top and sides and liberally sprinkle it with cinnamon. Vinartera is a rich, filling dessert that will keep for many months. It was a family source of amusement that Mom would make enough vinartera to last into spring, plus shortbread, sugar cookies, snowballs, and squares but we weren't allowed to touch any of it until Christmas Eve.
Does that sound familiar? Did your Mom or Grandmother do the same? Hoard the goodies then put the entire family into a near-diabetic coma with a holiday overload of sugar and calories?
Merry Christmas everyone, and here's to a happier and healthy 2021!
Lynda and The Sparkinator
Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance,
Isla Mujeres Mysteries
featuring Sparky the pure-bred, Mexican-low-rider-beach-mutt.
Click on the link below to grab your copy today!
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Sunday, October 25, 2020
In the quiet of my Canadian apartment I often find myself wondering how my husband, Lawrie, would have reacted to the COVID pandemic that has forever changed our world. As many of you know, he passed away in 2018 and didn't have to cope with the draconian restrictions of this new era of little or no social contact. I think Lawrie would have found the changes frustrating.
Lawrie - forever 18
Lawrie was so sociable he was affectionately nick-named the social butterfly. The family joked that like his mom, he could have a conversation with anyone including dead ants (that's ants not aunts!). He loved hugging and dancing and being around people. These are now forbidden activities or, at the very least, frowned upon in our new world.
We retired in 2008 to live full-time on Isla Mujeres mainly because we enjoyed the warm, friendly and very welcoming Mexican culture. As retirees in a foreign country we didn't have a lot of responsibilities other than a little house maintenance and a few chores, so we hung out with friends and family. Island life, or more specifically tropical island life suited him perfectly! Sun, sand, shorts, and happy people.
|At the Soggy Peso making new friends|
Me, on the other hand, I can be a bit of a hermit at times. And I rarely make phone calls, partly due to the echo of my father's voice nagging at his four daughters and Mom for being on the phone too much. Dad passed away in 1968, but I still can't tune him out. Weird, I know, but every time I think about phoning someone Dad's voice starts nattering in the background about the cost of long distance calls. Thanks Dad, for that little anti-social oddity in my character.
|Mature-teenagers at the Soggy Peso on Isla|
Then, with the COVID pandemic, there is the mask issue. Lawrie had a beard, well-groomed, but a beard. Wearing a mask in a hot and humid climate would have been a nightmare for him. I can hear him grousing now. I'm sure I would have had to invest in earplugs for me and perhaps for Sparky. But, Lawrie being Lawrie, would have found an upbeat way to manage the situation. He didn't have many unhappy days in his life.
In March of 2020, I returned to Canada because I wanted to be in a country where I spoke the language, knew how to get medical assistance, and would be closer to my family. Due to the COVID safety protocols I typically only see my friends about once every two weeks. Sometimes it is for dinner out, or a cup of coffee, or a visit to one of the local wineries.
Writing my new mystery novel, sorting my collection of digital photos, or promoting my mystery novels on social media keeps me busy and feeling productive. Most days I walk Sparky four times a day, except for the two days recently when he had intestinal troubles and need to go out - now - every 90 minutes. It was a sleepless two nights but I finally got his digestive system settled down again and we are back on our regular schedule.
It's interesting the different ways people cope with isolation and seclusion. Some of my friends have become super productive creating a pile of artistic work to combat the boredom. One of my writer friends has produced three or perhaps four novels since March 2020. He's a writing machine. Other friends keep busy with handcrafts, or learn new skills. Some create food masterpieces and share them with neighbours, like me. I happily oblige and eat their delicious offerings. Some have lost weight, others have found the lost weight. We all know fat cells have GPS, returning time and again to the same owner. The balance of weight lost and weight gained helps maintain earth's place in the solar system. It must be true. I read it on FaceBook.Living in a country with a decent road system and being the happy owner of a proper car instead of a funky little golf cart, Sparky and I have been taking road trips to visit old friends, my step-son and his family, and my sister and her family. However, since the weather has changed and winter has arrived - a month early - my road trips will be curtailed for a few months. Planning short road trips for 2021 will give me something to look forward to. In the meantime Sparky has discovered snow! He thinks it is very entertaining.
For some the isolation is tedious. For others it's manageable. How about you? What do you do to cope with the boredom, and seclusion?
Lynda and The Sparkinator
Grab your copy today!
Monday, September 14, 2020
I grew up with an abundance of reading material .... what about you?
My best memories of reading goes back to when my three sisters and I were still all living at home, so probably late 1950's. Comic books like Archie, Blonde and Dagwood, Little Lulu, Richie Rich, Superman, and Uncle Scrooge, were hot commodities to be traded between friends in our tiny townsite of Bradian.
After finishing our chores, Saturday afternoons were free and clear to visit friends, trade comic books (some that were more prized than others and commanded a two for one price) and return home to devour our new reading material. However, our dad happened to be a big fan of comic books as well. We had to share with him, sometimes giving up the best ones for him to read first!
But the real fun happened on Sundays. The Vancouver Sun always arrived in our town a day late. The travel time between Vancouver and Bralorne was about twelve hours of hard driving, so getting the news, pre-television, pre-internet, was a really big deal.
The thick weekend paper would hit the front step, and the chase would be on with my long-legged father running up and down the streets holding the Saturday 'funnies' hostage while his four daughters pelted after him. We hollered and laughed and yelled like banshees.Some of the neighbours would cheer on dad, others would be rooting for one of his daughters to snatch the prized weekend funnies out of his hand.
Being the youngest and the shortest, I never had a chance so I resorted to subterfuge. I would hide in the one and only bathroom in our company-owned home. Dad would return triumphant and dash into the bathroom, the only room in the house with a locking door, and ta-da, there I was ready to claim my share of Donald Duck, Little Abner, Henry, Jiggs or Nancy.
Sometime in the mid-1950's when I was four or maybe five, my parents purchased an extensive collection of sixteen encyclopedia-sized books from a traveling salesman.
The books started with nursery rhymes and progressed to more complex stories that were intended for readers at a grade twelve level.
I don't remember what the series was called, but I do remember the spines of the books ranged from light blue to deep blue and on to dark green as you progressed through the stories, gradually reading more and more difficult material.
Then when I was nine, my dad gave me his copy of the Springhill Nova Scotia mining disaster. On October 23, 1958 there was a 'bump,' a shift in the earth that resembled an underground earthquake.
It killed 75 men, and trapped 99 more. By November 1st 1958 the last of the survivors was found. After that, the search only recovered bodies.
So, yeah, a little light reading recommended to me by my dad.My next conquest was all of the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Beldon, novels ever written plus Little Women and Little Men. By the time that we moved from that tiny mining town in 1961, I had blown through all of the reading material in our house.
When we moved to a larger city, Chilliwack BC, Dad introduced me to the concept of a library, and being able to choose whatever I wanted to read. My favourites included the entire Zane Grey collection of western novels and anything written by Farley Mowat.
My voracious reading habit has followed me throughout my life.
Fortunately, both Lawrie and I shared a passion for reading, and for the most part read the same authors. Occasionally I veer into historic novels, and he would find a thriller series that interested him.
When Lawrie and I moved to Mexico in 2008, we made the switch to electronic readers. Books in English were difficult to find, and books in English that we hadn't already read were a rare find.
Our reading habit became quite costly. We typically ordered an e-book a day from Amazon and devoured it before bedtime.
Now, I live across the street from a fabulous public library. I can indulge my passion freely.
What are you reading today?
A whole bunch of entertaining mysteries.
Murder and mayhem, revenge and romance on a tiny island off the coast of Mexico!
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Thursday, September 3, 2020
Over the past two years I have made some progress in managing my grief, although the special occasions continue to be a problem. Halloween was our favourite fun celebration, and Christmas. Other dates such as the anniversary of when we moved in together, our wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Lawrie's birthday continue to haunt me.
I also made some life-changing decisions this past year. First, I sold our home on Isla Mujeres to a very nice couple from Wisconsin. Then, Sparky and I moved to San Miguel de Allende in December 2019. San Miguel is a beautiful colonial city in the mountains north of Mexico City. It is a paradise for writers, artists, and historians. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring my new surroundings, camera in hand, for hours at a time. It seemed to be the perfect place for me to heal.
But the world had other plans. COVID19 arrived in North America, creating economic and emotional hardship for millions. I realized that as a new arrival to San Miguel de Allende and without a strong support base like I had on Isla Mujeres, things could get a bit tough. So, I packed up my few belongings and returned to Canada on March 20th.
For five weeks, my best-friends since elementary school days, let Sparky and me live at their house in the Vancouver area. Their two doggies played with Sparky, while the three humans tried to remain sane during the lock-down. We entertained ourselves with good food, and wine, and numerous 'remember when' stories from our high school days.
Fortunately, son John and his family live nearby, and I was able to sneak in a few visits during the lock-down, and more regularly since the rules have loosened up a little. It's fun to spend a bit of time with an adult granddaughter and two grandsons. Where have the years gone?In late April I decided to move to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, where we had lived for many years before moving to Isla Mujeres. It's peaceful and beautiful here. Vineyards. Orchards. Lakes. Rivers. And people that remember both Lawrie and me. The transition was easier and my heart has been slowly mending. I am finally able to savour a cup of coffee on my own, and listen to music without turning into a mess.
In the meantime, I kept writing and self-published three more novels; Temptation Isla, Terror Isla, and Twisted Isla. I am now working on the next idea. Writing keeps me from endlessly obsessing over my loss.
But, then something happens and my emotions run amok again.
A very nice man, whom I only knew tangentially, recently died from a rare bone cancer. He and his wife were happy together for twenty-one years, and now she is a widow. Her grief has sharpened my grief.
And, more recently young woman that Lawrie worked with years ago at Magnum's Restaurant in Penticton wrote to tell me of her chance encounter with him in April 2018 at the Penticton Regional Hospital.
We had returned to Canada to double-check the medical diagnosis, and the specialist had just informed Lawrie that he had only a few months to live. The young woman was on her way to visit a family member in the hospital and accidentally got off on the wrong floor. She didn't know we were in Canada, or that Lawrie was sick. When she saw him, she stopped to chat and he told her why he was there, sitting in the hallway of the hospital, contemplating life.
This is part of her email to me, "When we were finishing up the conversation I asked the woman at the desk where the room I was looking for was, she told me I was on the wrong floor. Lawrie and I just looked at each other. I said, "well, I guess that it was meant to be," and he said, "life's funny like that, isn't it?" Had I not followed another nurse off the elevator that day, I would've never seen him or known he was ill. I was so unbelievably grateful for that serendipitous moment."
The young woman went on to tell me of the good memories she had of Lawrie as her boss, and her friend. How he had been a strong and positive influence on her life. Lawrie told her that he had had a very full life and had no regrets, and of how much he loved me. Stories like this are treasures.
My Widowhood 101 posts have connected me with others who are also suffering and just want to chat. I think it's good to talk and not keep the pain bottled up inside.
The downside is, my frankness rips open the partially healed wounds of others that love Lawrie, and miss him.
Monday, August 17, 2020
"The dirty laundry," became the whispered subject of ridicule among the local businessmen and their wives in the late 1800's.
The Dirty Laundry Vineyards is a short drive from the original laundry business which was located near the steamship wharf in Summerland, but the back-story is so intriguing that no one cares that wine and wine touring was not a 'thing' a hundred or more years ago.
Brought with thousands of his countrymen from China to Canada to do the back-breaking labour of laying the CPR railroad tracks, one man soon realized the work was akin to forced labour. He left to start his own business - a laundry service for the multitude of single men working in the area.
Some would agree he catered to a niche market.
The upstairs waiting room at the laundry in Summerland BC, was a place where the working men could get their clothes cleaned and enjoy an illicit drink, play a game of cards, or spend time in the company of a woman.
The consumption of alcohol was frowned upon by the upstanding citizens of the day and had to be purchased from the Hudson's Bay Company in Vernon then shipped 60 miles south to Summerland on the lake steamers. The trade supplied the local men, plus the furtraders, cattlemen, goldminers, and railway labourers. The Sunday-school children of the time were taught to recite this odd little ditty;
"We don't like tobacco, and surely we think that all that use it are more apt to drink."
My friend Sharon Hickey and I popped up to the Dirty Laundry Vineyards on a warm Friday afternoon for pizza and wine on their outdoor patio. With the COVID19 protocols enforcing social-distancing between tables, the restaurant was busy and had a waitlist of guests. But, we didn't have to wait too long, just enough time to check out the fun merchandise in the company store.
The restaurant concept is self-serve with one kiosk to order freshly made pizza, another for beer, and a third of course for ordering their own wines to enjoy with your food. The view from the patio overlooks the vineyards, the remnants of the Kettle Valley Railway, and Okanagan Lake. The food was great, the atmosphere relaxing, and the wine good.
The only downside was my semi-famous pooch, Sparky, had to stay home and sulk in the cool comfort of our air-conditioned apartment.
The YouTube video posted on the The Dirty Laundry Vineyards' webpage has a fun mention of the morals of the late 1800's.
Have a look! https://www.dirtylaundry.ca/our-story
An afternoon at the Dirty Laundry is a pleasant way to spend a few hours chatting and sipping wine. We didn't see any women of ill-repute, but we did notice a suspicious amount of lacy lingerie hung out to dry.
Lynda & The Sparkinator
Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance.
Grab your copy from Amazon!
Monday, July 13, 2020
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