Category Archives: Author

The ups and downs of it all

The most common response to roller coaster, my word(s) for 2023, is . . . horror. Eyes widen and lips fall open. A person might event take a step away from me.

I read the thoughts: Why would she choose something so . . . erratic? Why would she invite that kind of energy into her life?

So far this year I have spent a lot of time going up and down, up and down, up and down. We skied for a week in fabulous Revelstoke, British Columbia, where the gondolas and ski lifts pulled me up, up, up, and gravitational potential energy converted to kinetic energy carried my down, down, down.

It was FUN!

One of the things I appreciate about the ups and downs of it all is that up is both a grand thing entirely and a tough old slog or a concern.

Things are looking up.
She's so upbeat.
It's an uphill climb out of debt.
The grocery store prices are up.
Something's up over there.

And down is both a breezy joyride and a depressing turn of events or a concern.

The hard parts over, so it's all downhill from here!
I'm down with that.
The best is over, it's all downhill from here. 
She's looking down in the mouth.
Something's going down over there.  

I enjoyed the up rides on the ski gondolas and chairs. I put forth no effort. I chatted with strangers. I warmed up and rested a little. A grand thing entirely.

Arlene Somerton Smith inside a gondola on its way up Reverstoke.
Riding the gondola. A grand thing entirely.

At the mountain peak, I looked down at the spectacular view and the ski trails. “It’s all downhill from here!” Whoosh! whee! A breeze.

View from the peak of Revelstoke Ski Resort. The sun breaking through clouds and illuminating a distant mountain peak.
I had to go up in order to see this spectacular view.

But if I were standing beside a bicycle at the bottom of a mountain looking up at an arduous climb, I would see it as a tough old slog. ( My daughter’s boyfriend LOVES to climb hills on bicycle. See? We all can’t seem to agree.)

Or if I missed my bus on the way to work, arrived late to an important meeting and spilled coffee on my boss, the rest of my day might go downhill from there.

Up, down, up, down, up, down.

On my 2023 roller coaster I might be riding, climbing or slogging up, or I might be whooshing, slumping or tumbling down, but the one thing I will not be doing is standing still. It’ll be fun!

What’s up with you? I hope you have everything down pat in your life.

ROLLER COASTER: My word(s) for 2023

“Roller coasters are driven almost entirely by basic inertial, gravitational and centripetal forces=, all manipulated in the service of a great ride.”

https://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/roller-coaster.htm

Hang on! It’s going to be a great ride!

My family helped me to choose this year’s word(s) over New Year’s Day dinner. I liked the idea of surrendering to the ups and downs of what life brings to me. (For the record the other words chosen by my family were: ADVENTURE, PROACTIVE, CALM, AND INTEGRITY.)

We spent some time discussing whether ROLLER COASTER should be disqualified because it’s two words instead of one, but I’m rolling with it because it’s a single concept, so I think it counts.

I’m on the 2023 roller coaster. Wheels clank against the rails as we climb up, up up. I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side of the crest of the track.

I’ll do my best to throw up my arms, shriek, and enjoy the ride.

Roller coaster cars cling to the edge of a curver.
Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

Merry Christmas, Happy Christmas

King Charles III and the Queen Consort, Camilla, released their first Christmas card since Charles became king. The message reads: Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Upon seeing this, my husband noted that in Canada we tend to wish people a Merry Christmas, whereas residents of the UK wish people a happy one.

Having mulled it over, in future I will wish people a Happy Christmas, because that is my truer wish. A person can be merry without being happy at all.

Merriment is surface stuff. To be merry, a person needs only to smile, laugh, and overindulge in shortbread and eggnog.

Happiness runs deeper than that. A happy person doesn’t need to be merry at all. Happiness is sitting at peace in the moment and being grateful for what is. The merriment, the gifts, the gingerbread, and the spiked hot chocolate are mere bonuses.

No matter what or how you celebrate, may you sit at peace in the moment, grateful for what is.

Happy Christmas.

A lit Christmas ball hangs from the branch of a tree laden with snow.

3 things to hate and love for fun and gratitude

During a writing workshop led by the fabulous Melissa Yi (emergency room doctor and writer, because both are so easy), she proposed finding humour by turning hate into love.

Here’s how it works: Think of a situation, and name three things you hate about it. Perhaps a ride on a municipal bus, for example.

  • I hate when a bus is late, so I have to stand outside and wait.
  • I hate when people hold long, loud telephone conversations on a bus. I especially hate when they use speakerphone.
  • I hate when someone falls asleep and snores.

You’re with me? All those things are contemptible. But Melissa suggested I should flip that into love.

  • I love when the bus is late, because it gives me time to have a conversation with a neighbour and hear all about his prostate operation.
  • I love when people hold loud, long telephone conversations, because it gives me good dialogue tips for the annoying characters in my stories. And speakerphone gives me both sides of the conversation. Two annoying characters at once!
  • I love when someone falls asleep and snores. It keeps me awake so I don’t miss my stop.

Here’s your challenge for the day. Turn some hate into love. You might laugh, and you’ll for sure find some gratitude.

A stop sign is posted on a gate, Below the words STOP are the words HATE. STOP HATE.

Whilst the wee lass gets herself sorted

Ah Scotland, the land with language as lyrical and rolling as the Highlands themselves.

My son is studying in Edinburgh, you see, so we paid him and the country a visit. Whilst there, I enjoyed the many beautiful turns of phrase. Whilst tops the list. So much more beautiful than our hard North American while. You must say whilst softly, gently, like a calming suggestion.

Wee makes an appearance in spoken and written language more in Scotland than any other country, I’d wager. People of all ages, sizes and demographics use the word. A massive man working on a construction site might inform his co-worker that he plans to take a wee break, for example.

And in the UK, everyone strives for the state of sortedness. Hotel reservations? “Well, that’s that sorted then,” the desk clerk might say. Whilst travelling on a train or subway, one hears security announcements about unattended luggage or packages. The speaker encourages passengers who notice something amiss to “See it, say it, sort it.”

We travelled to the UK in September—a marvellous, terrible time to travel. We enjoyed prime autumn weather in the Scottish Highlands with fewer tourists than during the peak season. But then we returned to whooomp —the late-September and early-October start-up of projects and activities. So many things to do! This wee lass required some time to get herself sorted.

One by one I have checked items off the to-do list, announcing to myself, “Well, that’s that sorted then.” I’m here, somewhat more sorted, missing my son and Scotland, a place I wish to “return back with speed,” as they would say.

The peak of The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye
The mystical peak of The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

Total amazement

In the movie Joe Versus the Volcano, a man (played by Tom Hanks) believes he is dying of an incurable disease. He agrees to travel to a South Pacific island to throw himself into a volcano to satisfy the beliefs of the superstitious island residents.

But as he travels there, he . . . wakes up.

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to . . . only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” 

—from Joe Versus the Volcano by John Patrick Shanley

Total amazement happens often enough. But, constant total amazement? Much more challenging.

Usually, we need jarring events to awaken us. Power outages jolt us into amazement electric lights—the ones we flick on without a thought.

A broken leg—or even a cut on a finger—painfully reminds us of the wonder of a healthy body.

How about the device you’re reading this on? Isn’t the technology totally amazing?

We need to fall asleep to the amazement sometimes, just so we can function. After all, somebody has to do the dishes. If we lived in constant total amazement, we might get no farther than our bedroom doors every morning, or the park bench on a sunny afternoon. Because constant total amazement stops us in our tracks.

Perhaps John Patrick Shanley was right when he wrote those words for Joe Versus the Volcano. Maybe almost the whole world is asleep, just so we can get the dishes done and the lawn mowed.

But maybe, if we think about that, it will prompt us to wake up at least some of the time, maybe a little more often than we usually do. It’s a start.

What is totally amazing around you right now?

In the photo below you can see that my son is doing is best to live in constant total amazement.

Man sitting on a cliff edge in the south of France.
Yeah, mothers don’t worry at all when they see photos like this.