Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the annual Cornwall Girls Hockey Association Fall Tournament – as we have done the first weekend of every November for the past nine years. It’s become another hallowed hockey tradition in our family and I’m not allowed to mess with it.
Only ‘mess with it’ I did.
This was our first tournament after my book, “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” was published. Now that I am a famous author and all, I get to go on a luxurious book tour and jet set to exquisite book signings all over the world, and be interviewed by incredibly famous people. Except in my case, I jet set to cold hockey arenas all over eastern Ontario and get asked riveting author questions like, “Do you know where the washroom is?” That’s fame, people.
So Saturday morning, I left my daughter1 sleeping soundly at the hotel the morning after her first round robin game, and headed back to the arena to set up my book signing table amid all the hockey bags, coffee-sipping parents, and the typical hockey tournament vendors (hockey hoodies, sports equipment, sports photography, etc.) selling their wares. Since I wasn’t selling – or wearing – hockey hoodies emblazoned with “I’m a Cougar Mom” or “I’m a Wildcat!” it took a little while for people to wander over, and ask me about the book.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just my potential book buyers that were asking questions. I was asking a lot of questions. I met people from all walks of hockey life. I met people who had just as busy a hockey life as I have (ok, some even busier) and many more offering a completely different hockey perspective on which I had zero experience.
Have you heard about the one where a dad takes his son to hockey for the first time, then somehow becomes the volunteer hockey coach? Sure, you have. We all have that ‘dad’ either living in our house or right next door. Well, I met such a hockey dad who went on the coach at a pretty senior level and then ultimately became a hockey scout for the CHL. He opened my eyes to a fascinating side of hockey that I will never know anything about, but for the stories he told me last Saturday.
What about the one whose kids were going to the NHL? Have you heard that one? We all have. And then reality sets in and we realize our kids have a much more likely chance of dying while taking a selfie than playing in the NHL, so we refocus our efforts! I met a very interesting man who talked about his kids’ experiences with athletic scholarships to US schools. Good, bad and ugly … mostly ugly.
Have you ever bought an action photo of your child at a sports tournament? I made eye contact and small talk with the photographer traipsing back and forth between ice pads taking photos and he finally came over and talked to me for a bit. Seems his business got started when he was taking photos of his grandkids playing hockey. He quickly realized he was shooting more than just memories – he had a great business opportunity in his hands. He shared his woes of weekends spent in cold arenas at just a time when he should be finally warm. He too shared a perspective of hockey that I never knew about (and that all photographers focus on the younger age groups when parents are still innocent and beholden!)
I met a fascinating dairy farmer who, when he wasn’t in the barn or on the tractor, was in a hockey arena (or some other sport venue) with his four kids. He was sad that none of his kids was going to the NHL, but sadder still that none of his kids were going to be a farmer. I’ll say this about farmers: the most sincere handshake I’ve ever received.
Then, I ran into one of my daughter’s teachers at the tournament with her two young daughters. I was able to bring the usual parent-teacher awkwardness to a new level when I warned her to please not take the chapter about me being a prostitute and Hookin’ for Hockey too seriously.
And finally, as I expressed my gratitude for my little corner of the arena foyer to the tournament organizer, I discovered he doesn’t even have kids in hockey anymore. All day long, I had been telling people that I got to finally finish my book when my two boys retired from hockey and that, with only one child left in hockey, I can see the light at the end of my hockey tunnel. Yet, here was this hockey dad who continued his relationship with his kids’ hockey association, long after his kids did. I told him to go buy a condo in Florida already! For some, like him, there’s more to hockey than skates and sticks.
I told each and every one of them, “Hey! You too should write a book!” and they all laughed. I guess we each recap our hockey memories a different way.
My daughter has no more hockey tournaments planned until after Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t plan another hockey tournament for myself … and my book. Because …
It’s the people that you meet.
1 And just so you don’t go calling Children’s Aid on me and all that, she’s fifteen years old and her teammate mom’s and my friend were on it, ok?!
Reminder: Taking place TONIGHT
The Mill Tavern
5544 Main Street, Manotick
Books will be on sale for $15 each
I was tagged by Lesley Donaldson in the 7-7-7 Challenge in which writers are invited to share seven lines from the seventh page of their work in progress, starting from the seventh line. Lesley’s urban fiction book “The Queen’s Viper” is due out in the spring of 2015 and her non-fiction book, “Growing A Rainbow: The Premature Journey of a Two Pound Hero” will be on sale imminently.
The seventh page of my manuscript happens to be a blank page (chapter separator) so already this challenge did not bode well for my marketing. So I cheated a little. The number “7” is a lucky number, after all, right? Well, not for me as this story unfolds …
Below are seven lines from the eighth page of my manuscript “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom”.
My husband, Peter, turned from packing balaclavas, thermo ski mitts, and HotShots hand warmers into the ski bag and said, “He’s going to find out, you know.”
“Find out what?” I asked innocently, though I knew only too well what he was referring to.
“Right . . . ,” he answered, rolling his eyes heavenward.
“Well, I’m not taking full blame for this one, buddy!” I snapped back as he continued shoving ski helmets into the bag. “I learned to ski for you! Our kids learned to ski for us! We’re a skiing family, and that’s final!” I bellowed, and hammered my fist onto the kitchen counter.
I knew he was right, though. Connor was going to find out sooner or later that we’d lied, that first-year hockey starts at age four, and that even though this had been a mutual decision between my husband and me, odds were good Connor was going to blame me. That’s motherhood for you.
These lines set the stage for a fourteen-year odyssey which continues to this day: my après-ski life as a hockey mom. I am hopeful that my book, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” will soon be published. Stay tuned!
I am supposed to now play this forward to a few authors that I know. These incredibly talented women are very busy, so I am putting NO pressure on them to participate but I know they have a few great projects in their quills and inkwells!
Last week, I was invited to participate in a “Blog Hop” where people share three bloggers they love and then those bloggers do the same. I was “tagged” by the spirited and hysterically funny Amy Sherman, whose laughter is as infectious as her writing is witfaced. She and the others I’ve met through various writing circles, are an inspiration to me. In this blog hop, I am asked to share my writing process. Since my blog is called The Dustbunny Chronicles, naturally I have nicknamed my writing process is The Dustbunny Way.
- Why do I write what I do?I write mostly out of a sense of obligation. I have a failing memory and am trying to capture the snippets of glory my generally mundane life. Kinda like Luminosity for the Soul. I write to remember. I write so I don’t forget. I write … wait. What was the question?
- How does my writing differ from others in its genre?I write mostly humour through occasionally I veer off-genre. I write primarily in English, as do many in my genre but I am also fluent in Sarcastic and Cynicism. Also I tend to mock myself in my writing mostly because I have so much material but I occasional move on to mocking others (particularly my husband and my teenagers – and other people though very rarely (like the high school principal in my most recent post).
- How does my writing process work?My writing process begins when I have a brilliant, totally captivating and hilarious idea for a writing piece, which I then promptly forget. That’s about it. Honestly though, I work full time as a Human Resource professional and am mother of three teenagers so my writing tends to get done on a very haphazard and occasional basis, limited to evenings and weekends and when I can’t sleep.
- What am I working on/writing?I recently finished writing my humour memoir, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom. Someone should commission a scientific research study on the effects of Zamboni fumes on one’s memory (that’s not what the book is about but certainly how it starts!). My book has been professionally edited but I have recently sent it to three Beta readers for a little more dicing and slicing. I’ve begun dangling query letters in front of agents but so far I am scoreless. This memoir has been a true labour of love, so one way or another it will be published, of that I am certain. I also maintain this blog as best I can to hone my writing skills for project #2 which is about … hmmm …. (see answer to question number 3).
Now for paying it forward: There are so many amazing humour writers out there whose work makes me and the rest of the world laugh and smile. I have a very hard time picking out three. I never miss a post by Amy and she linked up to two of my favourites as well with Sarah Hunt and Michelle Lamarca.
You will enjoy these funny women – but also maybe take a look and laugh at these three:
Cece Harbor, is the Knowledge Maven. She provides just the right amount of inspiration and motivation just when I need it!
Terri Spilman is The Laughing Mom whom I had occasion to meet at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. She understands the power of humour (all mothers should!)!
Blunt Moms is a website for women and for moms and for those that are both! As their byline suggests, the writing (from a series of contributors) is honest, direct and surprisingly hilarious. Sometimes I cringe; sometimes I laugh out loud. That’s what being blunt is all about!
“Anything to declare?” asked the Canada customs official.
Such a loaded question! They should really consider rephrasing that standard question asked by border services agents of all international travelers. You’re asking a woman if she has anything to declare?!
Oh, do I ever! Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about it! Indeed, I have something to declare!
I’ve taken a few days to reflect upon my experience and learning at a humour writers’ conference I recently attended. I now declare that I was deluged with new inspiration while at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held bi-annually at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. By the way, you may not know this but the word deluge is a French term for being word-swarmed. But you know, there are advantages to being deluged, or word-swarmed – in addition to all the mind-blowing quotes I garnered from the speakers, I was able to pick up a few gems from the attendees too. For example:
Boom Boom Boys:
File this under “It’s Not What You Think …”. Please just know that I will be petitioning Drum Corps International to reschedule their 2016 competition not to coincide with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.
This is not the video player predecessor to VHS, but instead an indispensable trusted confidant who will read your work and provide you with much needed feedback before publishing (but not a professional editor, qually indispensable).
I-am-so-done-tormenting-myself-over– useless -crap…
The Dayton Dribbler :
Not to be confused with the University of Dayton basketball team’s March Madness success, but rather the highly over-rated Marriott shower pressure.
The Quiet Zone :
Can we not all just agree that sleep is for sissies, retirees, and that man in 14C on UA4461? Also, is probably not the best gathering place for the Boom Boom Boys.
Ermatologist, Bombeckian, Bombie, Ermite, Bombette :
One of a massive throng of several hundred women (and eighteen men) ravishingly beautiful, startling witty and extraordinarily talented writers.
“Ma’am, anything to declare?” the customs official repeated.
I have words to declare, sir. Enough words to sustain me through many writing projects.
And with that, my passport is stamped – a most noteworthy and emphatic endorsement of my efforts – and I am on my way.
This post was brought to you by a deluge of words and inspired by an amazing coffee cup.
* Okay, look. I know I don’t usually swear on my blog, and actually rarely swear at all, but when I heard this phrase, I fell in love with it and can’t seem to stop thinking about it. And since I am now over the age of fifty, I can put ‘restraint’ in my FuckItBucket.
Very soon, I’ll be boarding a plane for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton Ohio. My first experience with this workshop (and any writers workshop, really) was two years ago. I would guess that eighty percent of the 350 attendees were woman like me, of a certain age like me. Throw in a few punchlines and a little wine and you have a fermenting cocktail (which I will affectionately refer to as the Dayton Dazzler)! While in the company of so much comedic virtuosos (both the faculty and the attendees), not to mention the neighbouring drum corps competition, I was able to come away profoundly inspired but also a little intimated (and moderately deaf). I wrote about this anxiety in a post-workshop post about The Burdon of Bombeck (as in, “Hi my name is Astra and it’s been sixteen days since I last wrote something funny”).
There have been so many questions posted on the attendees’ Facebook site by newbies! I feel I’d be doing my part as a veteran Ermatolgist (as coined by the ever wit-faced Amy Sherman) to address them so the freshman Ermatologists have as much fun as us upperclassmen!
Do people have wine in their hotel room?
You don’t get out much do you? People have wine in the hallways, in the bathrooms and occasionally even in the bar. Bring it.
Do I really need to bring business cards?
You must have some other mechanism by which to make yourself truly unforgettable. Bring it on.
Is it okay to wear bathrobes and fuzzy slippers to the sessions?
Not many people can rock that look but if you can … I say bring it!.
Carry-on or checking a suitcase?
You can’t take liquids in a carry-on (unless three ounces is what you call a drink, in which case we likely won’t meet this weekend), so I say bring it (the suitcase that is)!
Will there be t-shirts?
There will be t-shirts, glowsticks and glow necklaces, Hang Ten foam fingers, sun-visors, ball caps, slotted sunglasses, and over-sized multi-coloured beach balls.
I’m actually not 100% sure about any of that but it will be an event worthy of such rockin’ stuff!
Do people change for dinner?
Absolutely; I’m a totally different person at dinner. Who isn’t?
What goes on Saturday night?
What happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton (that’s all I’m gonna say)!
What a difference two years makes!
Can’t wait to be Dayton Dazzled and Bombecked!
You can tell an awful lot about a woman by the contents of her freezer.
I have a friend who, despite having three kids, has a truly immaculate home, unlike my own home with three kids which seems to be rife with kid clutter and dog dirt. Whenever I come home from her place, I am inspired to tidy up just a little. If nothing else, to at least wipe the dogs’ drool off the patio door. Well, this time I went for broke: I cleaned out my bottom-drawer kitchen freezer!
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about my kitchen freezer. In fact, a freezerful of je ne sais quoi. As I was cleaning it out, I was not at all surprised by the number of containers with unidentifiable contents, or the amount of food with freezer burn beyond rehabilitation. I was, however, a little grossed out with the amount of dog hair I cleaned out of my freezer – which seems to be immune from freezer burn. Pretty sure this explains the string of declines for any dinner invites I extend.
Delighted with my Saturday morning’s accomplishment, I gathered the family (except the dogs) around the kitchen frig and presented them with my handiwork. “Ta da!” I announced, to a primarily indifferent audience.
“What’s that?” asked my husband, pointing to a little square Tupperware container amongst the ice cube trays and frozen treats. “It’s Fishy” I whispered. “It’s fishy?” he asked. “Why does fish get its own corner of your freezer?” which would be a very good question in a normal household. “Shhh! Not fish,” I corrected, “Fishy.”
“Fishy’s alive?!” screamed my daughter jumping up and down. Sigh.
“No honey, Fishy is not alive. He is still very much dead. He just happens to be still very dead in our freezer.” A now thoroughly confused husband then said, “I’m going to regret asking this, but what is a dead Fishy doing in our freezy?”
“Well, when he died, we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to give him a proper funeral.”
“Sooo, when exactly did Fishy die?” asked my husband, glancing over at the fish bowl on the kitchen counter that contained a very much alive Beta fish.
“Three years ago.” I answered “Give or take …”
Needless to say, after having her dead fish replaced with a new alive one, the urgency surrounding a proper pet burial had diminished, and we all sort of forgot about the whole thing – until today.
Despite the wasted food and a long-overdue funeral, I truly feel like I accomplished something that morning.
The patio door, however, is still covered with dog drool.
This essay was written for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. It didn’t win but was great fun to write. I put on my best “Erma”. As many of you know, I learned so much from the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, its faculty and most importantly its attendees. You can read the winning entries here.
Another book in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series was launched on November 5, 2013. It’s called O Canada The Wonders of Winter with 101 stories about bad weather, good times, and great sports. A very typically Canadian book, it is filled with iconic Canadiana, community spirit, the great outdoors Great White North-style, hockey stories, snow stories, ski stories and stories about our internationally famous politeness and kindness and of typical Canadian holidays and traditions.
On page 178 of this book, you will find the forty-seventh story called The Angels of Hockey and it was written by me. The challenge for me was not in writing this 1,200-word piece, as the words and emotions flowed freely considering the subject matter which some of you might recall reading about in my post last year called, A Zamboni of My Own. That would be the one in which my husband decided that the best time to go golfing would be during hockey season on a weekend where all three of our hockey playing-kids were in three different hockey tournaments. I know. I know. I’m trying to forget it too.
No, the ultimate challenge for me turned out to be committing to the book launch party in Toronto and in publicly reading my story to about 100 people who had gathered to celebrate its launch. I realized, though, if I could marshal the resources required of a weekend with ten hockey games in forty-eight hours and not kill anyone – and write a story about it which would ultimately end up getting published in a Chicken Soup for the Soup book – surely I could get myself to Toronto to celebrate this personal achievement.
So, I took the afternoon off work and drove four hours to Toronto from my home in Ottawa and arrived at the Keating Channel Pub and Grill at Lakeshore Blvd and Cherry Street, with my sister in tow. After all, you never know if this is your ‘fifteen minutes’ or not! I was soon directed to a group of thirty or so other contributing authors and we sat and signed one or two or 300 copies of the book for the publisher. Just the day before, I had received an email from the publisher asking me if I would be interested in reading my story to the crowd. Of course my inclination was to say, “No way” but once again, you never know if this is your ‘fifteen minutes’ or not! I was one of four people chosen to read and, while I realize the crowd was a gracious gathering of almost entirely family and friends, my mouth felt stuffed with cotton the whole evening. So with a little liquid courage in hand, I stood and read my story, which took probably no more than four minutes and concluded with an appropriate amount of laughter and polite applause -mostly from my wonderful family, my cousins, their spouses, and my friends!
I can take forward the experience of ‘contributing author’ and ‘public reading’ to my repertoire and still have ‘eleven minutes’ of fame remaining!
Oh yes, and my husband wished for me to add this disclaimer: no husbands were harmed in the writing of this story. Not this time anyway.
This past weekend I attended BlissDom Canada 2013’s conference in Mississauga. I know what you’re thinking – what an awesome name for a sexapalooza show – but it’s not what you’re thinking. For those not in Bliss-know, BlissDom’s aim is to gather together Canadian bloggers and social media experts to celebrate a community through creativity, change and business development.
Oh yeah, and there was lots of socializing with some pretty kickass loot bags too.
As a newcomer, I went there not knowing what to expect but with an open mind and came away with a whole lot more to think about than my aging brain could process in two days. I was serious about exploring what to do with my humour memoir-in-progress and I think the sum of all the advice and collective wisdom from everyone at the conference boiled down to this: just write the damn book already!
Okay, I get it.
Luckily, in addition to those loot bags, I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of commitment to my project. What’s to be done about my book can truly wait until the book is actually finished being written.
Now, in addition to the extraordinary sense of community, phenomenal encouragement and inspiring speakers, it was also just kind of fun to be away from the normal routine of kids, jobs, school, hockey and housework for the weekend and meet new people. Seriously, there’s nothing that can ignite your passion and spirit more than 400 people telling you that you have passion and spirit.
So why am talking about twerking? Funny you should ask…
“What are you doing?!” asked my 13-year old daughter as I showed her a picture of me dancing at the final party at BlissDom 2013. I told her I was ‘twerking’. She begged me to tell her I was just kidding. Begged me. Truth is, if I was twerking, I probably would be in traction right now, but I’m going to let her think I was twerking. It’s fun to be away from the kids for a weekend.
I think I’m pretty inspired 🙂