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Taylor Keating

Breaking these resolutions will take some work

It’s that time of year again.

Resolutions.  Yes, I’m going there.

But I thought I’d break from tradition and make a list of all the things I don’t intend to do in 2013. And there are a lot. The purpose is to clear out the head clutter and make room for more important things. Was it Einstein who didn’t bother remembering his home address?

I’m not always clear on my phone number, so already, I’m off to a good start. If my family finds me wandering the neighbourhood, please remind them it’s not Alzheimer’s. I’m decluttering my brain.

Obsessions are number one on my list. Most women obsess. We can’t seem to help it. I will obsess over the dirt in the grooves around my window for three days before I realize that, if I don’t care enough to physically clean out the crap, I shouldn’t expend any more mental effort on it either. Or I could simply clean it and then forget about it.

No obsessing in 2013. Either fix the problem or forget about it. Easy, right?

Diets are next. (I’m thinking I could simply say I’m not going to obsess about anything and it would cover this too, but my list should be both specific and measurable.)

No diets in 2013.

I’m not going to stop drinking in 2013. This is a huge waste of time and energy. It’s like the seasons. Inevitable. And I’m rolling with it. The more I think about it, the more I want it. In 2013, I’m not going to think about not drinking. What will be, will be. Excuse me for a moment while I grab a glass of wine. Things may go downhill from here.

No giving up chocolate. I caved on the salt issue. Chocolate stays.

I’m not staying home all the time. This will be a hardship. I have to confess, I love working from home. Writers are introverts. We’re fairly anti-social. I always thought personal hygiene would be the first thing to go, but turns out, it’s social skills. I’ve got to get out. Right now, if I didn’t have to buy groceries I’d never leave the house.

I’m not working 24-7 either. This is another side effect of working from home and relates to my issues with obsessive behaviour. There are two types of people—those who can’t seem to stay in their home office during working hours, and those who can’t walk away from it at the end of the day. I fall into the second category. When I was working a day job, writing was my escape. Now writing’s my day job and I need to find a new hobby.  Do you think brain surgery’s a stretch?

I’m not going to hate Twitter and Pinterest.  Because right now I hate them. A lot. My Twitter aversion goes back to that whole anti-social issue. It requires interaction. People liken it to a cocktail party and I hate cocktail parties too. (Except for the drinking. That part’s okay.) With Pinterest, the issue is that I’m just not a visual person. There’s not much I can do about that except try to convince my sister to assume my identity and take over my account for me. 

I love you, Kathryn.

So there you have it, a few of the things I’m not going to do in 2013. This will so be my year.

Anyone else have any resolutions they don’t plan to keep?



My First Brush with Santa

I was four or five years old, so my memory may be somewhat influenced by time. And possibly television.

We were living in an old farmhouse, and the building creaked at night. A lot. I have a feeling mice weren’t the only things stirring in those walls, either. I remember my uncle, who was twenty or twenty-one at the time, used to catch bats that lived in the attic.

This was an awesome house for kids to grow up in, with lots of dark corners and rickety grates. There was even a cistern in the cellar for catching rainwater.

My sister and I shared the “hired man’s room” above the kitchen, which had its own back stairwell. This particular December 24th, she and I decided we were old enough to wait up for Santa. Our window overlooked the dooryard between the kitchen and the barn, so we figured we had a pretty good vantage point to spot his arrival. 

“Santa won’t come if you’re awake,” our mother warned us.

Not a problem.  If we could fake sleep well enough to fool her, Santa didn’t stand a chance.

So there we were, alone in our creaky bedroom above the old kitchen, with everyone else in the house sound asleep, when we heard it.

Reindeer hooves on the rooftop.  

There’s no mistaking that sound, and frankly, I have no idea how Santa managed to pull off special ops for so many centuries. “Twas the Night before Christmas” had the story right. He certainly did raise quite the clatter. And my parents must have slept like the dead because the chimney went right past their bedroom. We could hear him wedging his way into it all the way from ours.

My sister and I sprang into action. We’d planned this for a few weeks. As we rolled out of bed, she hiked up her pajamas and adjusted her pull-ups.  I passed her the baseball bat and took Dad’s hunting rifle for myself. Her arm wasn’t long enough for her finger to reach the trigger. The rifle had a kick to it, so you had to prop it on top of your shoulder when you were our size or get knocked flat on your backside when it fired.

Like I said. We’d planned this.

We crept down the back stairwell to the kitchen. The living room, where the Christmas tree was, could be accessed from two different directions.  Three, if you counted the chimney. I motioned for her to fan out. She’d go in from the front entry and creep up on him from behind. I’d go around through the dining room and confront him head on.

It was supposed to be a snatch and grab. She wasn’t tall enough to do more than cap his knees.

I hadn’t counted on him being bent over.

“Freeze, Santa,” I said, and cocked the trigger.

He looked up, surprised, his hand tangled in the bag of gifts on the floor in front of the fireplace.

That was when my sister struck. Hard. (She’s grown up to be quite the softball player, I might add.) She caught him in the side of the head with the bat. Santa went down like a sack of potatoes.

We both stared at him for a long time.

“Well, now we have a problem,” I finally said.

My sister rested the baseball bat on her shoulder and stuck her thumb in her mouth. Her pajama bottoms had sagged again. Since both her hands were busy I hauled them up for her, not wanting her to trip.

“We can still salvage this,” I said to her. “You grab one foot. I’ll take the other.”

After about an hour we finally managed to drag him onto the front porch and dump him in the snow. We locked the door behind him. When he finally came to, he saw us staring at him through the window beside the door. I held up the rifle and patted it. He said a few un-Santa-like words, but decided it best to cut his losses. He summoned the reindeer, and a few minutes later, he was gone.

My sister and I piled the booty under the tree. I could spell, so I labeled the gifts. Then we went back to bed. A few high fives may have been exchanged.

And the next morning, as we tore off the wrapping, my mother held up one present with a puzzled look on her face.  “Why do you suppose Santa left me a snorkel and fins?”

Happy holidays, everyone!

What I’m Reading … The Affair by Lee Child



All writers are readers.

 Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for everyone with that broad, all-encompassing statement, but it seems a logical enough conclusion. The writers I know all read.

I definitely love to read. It’s a lot more fun than writing sometimes. It’s often better than watching a movie, too.

And I’ll tell you why.

I was recently introduced to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. This week, The Affair is one of the books I’ve been reading and I’m forming an image of the main character in my head. I’m also beginning to understand what all the hoopla around the casting of Tom Cruise as Reacher is about. Tom doesn’t fit the physical description Child has presented for Reacher. Not by a long shot. And I really don’t care. The image of the character I have in my head doesn’t fit Child’s description either.

I’ve heard other writers talk about how they deliberately paint their main characters with very little physical detail so the reader can create their own image of them, although it doesn’t matter to me if they provide physical description or not. When I read, in my head I create my own story world. It’s based on my personal experiences and observations. If the story characters remind me of someone I’ve seen in real life—or of a character in a movie—then they’ll take on at least a few elements of that image in my mind’s eye.

Sometimes we get lucky and our expectations match up. Katniss in the movie The Hunger Games is exactly how I’d envisioned her from the book, yet I’ve heard others complain that she’s not what they expected at all. I’m not sure it’s possible to pick an actor for a movie and have the choice please everyone who’s read the story it’s based on. How many incarnations of Batman and James Bond have we seen?

So what happens if we see the movie before reading the book?

Because sometimes, I’ll see a movie and it will motivate me to read the story that inspired it. And sometimes, I’ll watch the movie to avoid reading the book. I mean, how many of you have really read Lord of the Rings? If I’m going to put that much effort into something I’m reading, I want a possible A+ as a payoff at the end.

But I really like the Jack Reacher book I’m reading, and I’m sure I’ll read more by Lee Child. The books are in first person, so you really don’t get much of a sense of the character’s appearance. I suspect Mr. Child has made him a large man on paper to lend him some credibility because of the work Reacher does. Apparently, killing people’s hard work and takes a great deal of strength. Since most of the killing in my books lately has been done by demons, I can’t say I’ve had to think about it too much. I don’t think the size of my demons is what stretches any credibility there.

Lee Child gets two thumbs up for his Jack Reacher books.

And if Tom Cruise can pull off killing bad guys like he knows what he’s doing, the movie will undoubtedly get two thumbs up from me too.

Know any other seemingly mismatched characters from movies based on popular books?

A Little Reality Check

I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to my sister for getting me hooked on The Voice. The three weeks I spent with her in November have ruined me.

I’d successfully avoided reality TV shows for years. I couldn’t tell you who got voted off any islands. Ever. I “get” the reference, but that’s about it. My husband took our sons to visit his family one year at Christmas. They were gone for ten days and when they came back, no one could find the TV remote. I never touched it the entire time they were gone.

That’s because years ago, when my first son was born, I swore to myself I wasn’t going to turn into a Stephen King stay-at-home mom cliché who sits around all day watching soap operas and talk shows while eating chocolate-covered cherries.  When I neglected my children, I sacrificed them for reading time. Hence the Stephen King reference. (Salem’s Lot, anyone?) Although come to think of it, I put them in front of the TV so they wouldn’t bother me. That could explain their addiction.

I also spent a few days with my mother not long ago and discovered she’s totally into reality TV.  

This otherwise very intelligent woman had me watching some sort of dance show with her, and I confess I was fascinated enough by Sister Wives to sit through three solid hours of it, but I had to draw the line at The Bachelorette.  I swear brain cells were dying by that point. She’s retired and not a big reader, so I’ll concede that at her age it’s acceptable entertainment.  As a former teacher librarian with a background in implementing computer systems, I’m not sure she fits the Stephen King mold anyway. She’s not a big chocolate consumer either.

I went home with no serious side effects and remained largely indifferent to TV, reality or otherwise.

Or so I thought.

First, a little more background. I have a feeling my mother greased the wheels for what was about to happen at my sister’s—in more ways than one.  My siblings and I all grew up listening to Mom play the guitar and trying to teach us to sing. People came to our house for impromptu kitchen parties. Her whole side of the family loves music. The Von Trapps would have felt right at home in that bunch. Yet, although my brother landed feet first in the Canadian music industry as a sound engineer, to my mother’s great disappointment, none of us ever displayed any real musical abilities.

But boy, do we know and appreciate talent in others when we see and hear it.

I would never have sat down in front of The Voice on my own. My sister provided me with a convenient excuse to check it out. Since it was her house and her TV, and she knew right where her remote control was at all times, I was powerless to stop her.

My biggest issue with reality TV – and remember, this is uninformed because I didn’t watch it – is that people put themselves out there and don’t seem to mind looking stupid or mean. And worse, talentless.

So when my sister turned on The Voice, I was prepared to spend my time on *ahem* Facebook. (Hangs head in shame.) And then I realized someone on this show had TALENT. So did the next person. And the one after that. They were down to eight finalists by this time.

I waited for the judges to annihilate the contestants. Because that’s what they do, right?

No. The judges were awesome, too.  Blake Shelton has to be the nicest man alive. (Although I do have a few issues with Christina Aguilera’s backhanded compliments for Melanie. The girl is seventeen years old and amazing.)

I’m never going to be the person who rushes home to watch a favourite TV show. But now I do have to see who wins on The Voice.

FYI, after hearing Over the Rainbow I’m rooting for Nicholas.

Who’s your reality TV show hero?