My daughter has a new rat, Mo…

We are in mourning for our dear friends: Freckles, Rascal and Poppy who have all passed on to a better place (although I don’t know where that would be as they had it pretty good on earth…).

Freckles remains reside in a beautiful black urn, Rascal in Blue, and Poppy in Pink. They all sit next to my champagne glasses on display  in the buffet.

By the way, did you know that it costs the same to cremate a rodent as a cat? That would be $180 a shot … dear in every sense of the word until the very end.

I’ve put my food down. NO MORE rodents. I’ve given away the cages.

Juliette has fallen in love with a German Sheppard stray who she says Molly has become best friends with.

I don’t care if they are soul mates : no, no, and  NO, I say…

If you click on the photos you’ll get close ups.

Yesterday was another one of those days. I planned on spending the morning and most of the afternoon with a great bunch of people on a canal in France (latest book – Three’s A Crowd). But this is what happened…

Juliette looks too closely at her rats before school and notices that all is not well in their little rat world.  Rascal has a red nose.  (I later found out that it is red pigmentation and not blood but impressive none the less). She’s been sneezing for a couple of days but she is eating well and I’m hoping it’s going to go away. I’ve been keeping them clean and dry but obviously this isn’t enough.Rascal being cute with Poppy

Juliette leaves to get the school bus and I settle down with my tea and leave for France. About a half an hour later Juliette comes rushing through the door in tears. She’d got off the school bus and got a friend’s parent to drive her home. So there are major dramatics and we are at the vets within the hour. Another two hundred dollars later, Rascal has a sprained knee (no idea how it happened – surfing?) and both Rascal and Poppy have upper respiratory infections.

So we bring the rats home and drop them off. Juliette has been complaining of a sore hip (I have never seen a kid have so many things wrong with her – I can’t imagine what she’ll be like at 70!). So I take advantage of her being out of school to drop into the walk-in clinic. Juliette explains in detail the excruciating pain she is in. I give the doctor my expert diagnosis: I believe that my daughter has what I like to refer to as “computer hip”,  a close cousin to “tennis elbow”.  She spends hours on end on her bed on the same side with her laptop next to her watching tv, messaging, face booking, and generally surfing (all at the same time). What does she expect? That her body is just going to let her get away with it?

The doctor examines her  and sends us for an x-ray just to make sure everything is okay.  (I’m going to feel really bad about my rant if it turns out to be anything dire).  We spend the next three hours in a medical centre waiting to get her hip x-rayed. Fortunately they had a t.v. in the waiting room and I got to see The View and Dr. Oz (and learned all you ever wanted to know, or not, as the case may be, about the vagina.)

We’re late leaving the clinic and it is pouring rain. I call Alexander’s school and ask if one of the mothers can take him to our place as he has a key (I had a huge Garfield one made for him at the beginning of the year and it is on a big chain but I’m sure he will eventually lose it.). So we get home and within minutes Juliette is telling me that the son of the parent who drove her home that morning is locked out in the rain and is messaging her from his Ipod.  What did we do before all this technology? So I get back into the car to go pick him up and as I get there his parents are on the door step calling me to tell me not to bother to drive over. So I take the kid back home with me anyway so he can kill zombies with Alexander on the PS3. What ever happened to the cute little Pacmen who ate squares? No wonder my son has to sleep with the light on!

The phone rings in the early evening and it is my sister-in-law calling from France to find out why Juliette was at the hospital and what had happened to her hip. Damn Facebook and Juliette’s limited vocabulary. It is a medical clinic, Juliette, not a hospital. So I calm my sister-in-law  down and thank God she hasn’t called my parents-in-law with the news. After getting off the phone I take the zombie-killing  boy back home, make supper, make Alexander take a shower (WITH soap), crawl into bed with my laptop to watch an episode of Medium (I want her husband and her family life). I was so tired that even Allison’s dreams can’t keep me awake (maybe because my day has been such a nightmare). I give  in and turn off the light.

Despite the exhaustion, I keep waking up all night because every muscle in my body, including my fingers, is aching because of the power yoga class I’d done the day before. What was I thinking? What were they thinking? I always thought yoga was supposed to be zen. I can see why Jennifer Anniston loses weight if she does it like these insane people do. I actually did one move that flipped me from my front to my back while balancing on one leg and one arm.  Even now as I type I feel as if I’ve been in a car accident. I swear I will stick to old lady zen yoga from now on!

Until the next time…

Thanks for visiting me.

got the medal !  Book Award Medal


Juliette and I love NYC. Juliette wants to move there. I want to move there, but only if we can live on Fifth Avenue.

We arrived early afternoon  the last Friday in May. I swear I saw Dog the Bounty Hunter going through security. Juliette said it wasn’t, but we rarely agree on anything.

A word of caution: although very convenient, DO NOT stay at The Paramount Hotel on 46th. They shouldn’t have been open as the whole place was under construction.  Rooms are tiny. Just saying…

 After we checked into the Construction Site we wandered the theatre district on Broadway. I stopped in front of every theatre and soaked up the drama of it all. Juliette, on the other hand, was on a quest for Abercrombie and Fitch New York  (which she found two hours before we left on Sunday evening. She got two pairs of jeans and a top because I felt so guilty dragging her to the awards, book signing, and two plays. )

DSCN3063 Late Friday afternoon, we went to Sephora and got our make up done for “free” (I bought the shadow, cover and bronzer she used on us).  Juliette looked like she was nineteen instead of thirteen. V. scary!

We went back to the Construction Site and got ready for the Gala Award Event then took a taxi to a place called Providence.  Juliette loved the glamour of hailing a cab. She could lift that finger into the steady stream of traffic with the best of them by the time we left.  Like her, I love the big-city-cab-hailing vibe too, although one day I’d like to be in one of the limos…

Providence is packed with warm lights, glowing wood and charm. There are conversation couch-filled areas, a dance floor,  a bar on the main level and one on a mezzanine over looking the dance floor – or in our case the awards area.providence2x3_25 After Juliette and I found our name badges we went into the main room. A photographer grabbed us and threw  us in a group for a photo op. I almost felt famous. I even had on the Ted Bakers so I towered over everyone in my six-inch heels. Don’t ask how I stood around and  mingled in them…

I found the bar (went a long way to anesthetizing my tootsies)  and Juliette found the buffet table. We wandered around and waited for Jason and Pam from Comfort Publishing  to find us as they  knew what I look like from my  book and I had no idea what they looked like. I fell in love with them immediately when they eventually found us.  They are just lucky that I don’t live in North Carolina or we’d be doing lunch every second day.

After we got the award, we all left. Pam and Jason were exhausted from the Expo and Juliette wanted to go back to the “hotel”. We picked up some pasta from the place next door and watched  The Dog Whisperer for the rest of the evening.                

Up bright and early Saturday for Book Expo America. It was totally overwhelming. We were surrounded by every major known publisher in existence. We were looking for the Comfort Publishing booth when someone shoved a book (for free and hard cover) at us and asked if we wanted it signed by the author. I was holding the latest copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Juliette stood in line to get Jeff Kinney to sign it forBook Expo Alexander and I continued the Comfort quest  until another book was waved under my nose. This time it was Candace Bushnell’s  One Fifth Avenue. I was actually in the same room as the woman who created Sex In The City and Lipstick Jungle! Not only was I in the same room, I stood in front of her and said, “I like your work.”  We’re practically best friends…

After collecting several more books and drooling over Harper Collins and Penguin, I  found Comfort Publishing.  Juliette was amazing during my signing. She got out there and pushed the book and we had them all signed, sealed and delivered in about 20 minutes. The girl is a natural.

We dragged twenty pounds of books back to the Construction Site and then met with an old friend from Paris and her daughter who is the same age as Juliette. Toni and I were pregnant at the same time in Paris in a writing group together. Toni has the most amazing life, or in her case, lives. She is a defence attorney, Flamenco dancer/instructor,  piano player in a salsa band with her journalist husband, and mother of three. She wrote an incredible mystery that was shortlisted in a NYC writing competition and is currently writing a commissioned autobiography. We see each other about once a year and have a couple of hours to catch up as we never write long e-mails to each other. We have a great William Hurt in Paris story in common. I’ll post it here one day.

After shopping in Soho with Toni and Nancy we went to see Blithe Spiriton Broadway. What a brilliant play. Angela Lansbury was fantastic, really funny and light on her feet. Poor Blithe SpiritJuliette had a sore throat and was at the end of her rope. We didn’t get back to the room until close to midnight. She fell into bed exhausted and I watched more of the Dog Whisperer until I came down from my Broadway high long enough to fall asleep.

The next day we slept in and got up in time to check out at  eleven. We decided to walk to Fifth Avenue to see designer stores. Most of it was closed because there was a very loud parade going on.  Parts of  Madison Ave were closed too as Obama was shopping. He followed us back to Broadway and saw a play four theatres away from ours. We saw Accent On Youth with David Hyde Pierce and it was amazing. He is one of my favourite all time actors even if he does look like a turtle.accent-real[1]

Two old women from Jersey at the theatre told me that Abercrombie and Fitch was in the South Seaport. After the show, we hailed a cab and Juliette finally did something she wanted to do.  

It would have been nice to wander around and actually see the Statue of Liberty but we had to get back to the Construction Site, get our bags and go to the airport bus.  Our flight was delayed and we didn’t get home until after one in the morning.

I woke up late Monday morning feeling kind of deflated, almost hungover from the weekend high.  New York… does it get any better?   What next?  Is it all down hill from here?

Stay tuned…

Not me, but I got a bronze .

I’m happy just to be nominated…

Will fill you all in on adventures in NYC when we get back.

For those of you who don’t know about the boots – they are blue Karen Millen boots I bought in London two years ago who’ve have been looking for a place to strut ever since.  So far they have only been  Elton John Concert worthy.

Look out New York here we come…

Upon further research I now know what this award means…

It means a weekend in New York and complicated cocktails all around!

No seriously, this is what I found out…

The Independent Publisher Book Awards, launched in 1996, were designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers. Established as the first awards program open exclusively to independents, the “IPPYs” recognize hundreds of the year’s best books, bringing them to the attention of booksellers, buyers, librarians, and book lovers around the world.   

Each year we see continued emergence of quality publishing from independents around the world. Over 1,500 publishers participated in the 2007 Awards, from all 50 United States, eight Canadian provinces, and 18 other countries around the world. We define “independent” as 1) independently owned and operated; 2) operated by a foundation or university; or 3) long-time independents that became incorporated but operate autonomously and publish fewer than 50 titles a year.

Awards Results Announcement and Ceremony:  three to seven semifinalists per category will be named on about May 1st; final results to be announced May 29th during a gala awards ceremony at BookExpo America in New York. 

All announced finalists in the National categories, Regional categories, and Ten Outstanding Books of the Year will receive medals and personalized certificates. A gold medal will be awarded to the winner of each category; runners-up receive silver medals, and remaining finalists in each category will receive bronze medals. Gold, silver and bronze seals will be available to all medalists in their appropriate award levels. Awards packets are presented at the BookExpo America ceremony or mailed to those unable to attend. Publicity includes the awards event, a media blitz, and year-long exposure at IndependentPublisher.com and various publishing and bookselling websites.

So there we have it. I’m thinking maybe I should  go to the Book Expo in NY at the end of the month. If nothing else, I can finally wear the boots!

cover-for-bookFor those of you who don’t know, the “yay me” comes from London Tipton on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody  –  I spend way too much time with my kids!

ANYWAY…    Guess what?

Breaking news from Comfort Publishing…

“We are excited to announce that Star Crossed by Margaret Hastings-James has been chosen as a semifinalist in the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

Results will be announced in New York on May 29th at a special event. We will keep you posted on the final outcome.”

Kristy from Comfort Publishing says, “Each year the Independent Book Publishers Association has what they call the IPBA. This is a contest among Independent Book Publishers nationally. From what I can tell they had over 175 entries for Margaret’s category alone!!!! So we know she has got either gold, silver or bronze!!! ”

You can view the listing by clicking on the link to the Independant Publishers Association on the blogroll at the right of this page or by going to: http://www.independentpublisher.com/article.php?page=1294   Scroll down to category 17…  Romance!

It’s a dream come true…  It’s an honour just to be nominated… I want the gold…

Thank God this isn’t the Academy Awards with my waiting face plastered on a ten-foot screen!

Keep your fingers crossed and I’ll keep you updated.


Indigo Spirit Book Store

Sunnyside Mall


Saturday February 28, 2009

12:00 to 2:00 p.m.-ish (I may stay longer)

Hope to see you there!

There will be another

Complicated Cocktail Extravaganza


Usually Wednesdays are pretty good days. Chauna and I spend the morning at Frenchy’s (a second hand clothing store where you can occasionally strike mint-condition designer gold; this has become our weekly quest). Another highlight of our morning is eating at  Mic Mac Bar and Grill.  This is all I want out of life: a quiet, easy me-morning once a week. Is this too much to ask? Some shopping? Some eating?  Apparently so…

The day starts off with Juliette announcing (much more calmly this time) that Rascal’s innards are hanging out again. The good news is it  isn’t  Saturday night and peak emergency fee time. I put the sandwich making on hold and call the local rat specialist who just happens to be in for his surgery day.  Late for school as usual I throw the kids in the car and as I pull out of the driveway wave to my neighbour who is just returning from walking her kids to school.  We are obviously not morning people. I console myself with the fact that she’s a high ranking officer in the Forces and she’s been trained to organize troops, which is why she has  no problem getting her two kids to school on time and walking.

I get back from the school and bundle Rascal in a travel cage. Chauna arrives (Riley does not pee on Molly this time)

Molly and Riley

Molly and Riley

and we take the rat to the vets. We get to the office and there is a sign on the door saying they’ve moved ( I of course receive the moving notice in the mail that afternoon). We find the new offices and I kiss Rascal goodbye (as well as 46 times her worth in fees).

I feel  better when I score a pristine pair of lime green Converse sneakers for four dollars at Frenchy’s. (I get them for Juliette, being the first to admit that I can no longer carry off lime green sneakers). I leave Chauna staggering around with a basket full of clothes and  go to the hearing clinic to pick up my hearing aids (so yes, I am hard of hearing and no, I’m not ignoring you…).  To adjust the volume the audiologist stands facing away from me and asks me to repeat a sentence. I repeat,  “Six lasses makes the small prince sleazier.” She adjusts the volume and I hear, “Thick glasses makes the small print easier.” Needless to say I rarely wear the hearing aids. The world is so much more interesting when you don’t hear half of what’s going on and when you interpret the rest to suit yourself.

I find Chauna at the Salvation Army. By this time we are starving and go to Mic Mac Bar and Grill. It’s not even officially lunch time (it’s eleven forty-five) and the place is packed. As usual high energy, friendly waiters are running around serving a very large cross-section of humanity. We go as much for the atmosphere as for the great bar food. We get the usual:  loaded potato skins and root beer (me) and poutine and water (Chauna). We waddle out and convince each other we  have enough time for a quick stop at Global Pets for me to pick up eighty dollars worth of pet food before we go to Halifax to get Chauna’s glasses adjusted.

Gaudet Optical has every type of frame you can imagine. Doug (Gaudet) is wearing a funky blue pair today with paper clips imbeded in each corner of the frame. He adjusts Chauna’s frames and then I show him my Chanels that my daughter’s friend sat on – whole other story. I ask if he can save them. He takes them into the back to assess the situation. Chauna and I try on every frame in the place. When he comes back he tells me my Chanels are in critical condition and will definitely need surgery. Their fate hangs in the balance…

We are late picking up the kids from school (this should not come as a surprise at this point in the day). My guys finish at the ungodly hour of two-ten which makes for a short day, mommy-time-wise. I call  my friend Marianne who is working at the school and ask her to keep the  kids until I get there. When I go into the office to get them (only ten minutes late which is not much later than I usually am),  Alexander meets me with the news that his teacher wants to see me and she’ll be right back. I’m thinking, now what new hell …

I tell the kids to go to the car and tell Chauna I’ll be a minute. So I’m waiting in the office and the principal, Kevin, comes in and asks if Mme Shirley found me. Now I’m really freaking out – the principal knows about it. Finally, I can’t take the suspense any longer and get Marianne to call Mme Shriley in her classroom and tell her I’m there. Mme Shirley asks if I can go back to her classroom. I tell Marianne to tell her I have to get Chauna home but can come right back. She tells Mme Shirley. Mme  Shirley tells her to give me the phone. As I take it I’m trying to decide whether to have a heart attack or an aneurysm. She says, “Alexander needs a binder, he can’t handle duo-tangs. I should have thought of it earlier, sorry.”  That’s it? I go out to the car and tell Alexander and he says, “I already know but I wanted it to be a surprise for you.”   Jesus H. Christ…

After school, I take the kids to their swimming lesson (yes, my kids do exercise) and then we go to the library to drop off books. I decide to take them in because I’m sure we are missing a few (in the black hole under Alexander’s bed). Turns out we have eighty-nine dollars in overdue library fees. Who the hell has eighty-nine dollars in overdue library fees? We might have well bought the books and DVDs. We are obviously not library people.

Rush home and throw chicken on George Foreman’s Lean Mean Fat Reducing Machine, throw on my yoga clothes, and then throw some vegetables in the microwave. I have to pick up Rascal, who has come through the operation, at six and be at yoga by seven.  I get to the vets and Rascal has had a hysterectomy and has a body bandage on. She is staggering around the cage high on pain killers.I consider asking technician if I can get some of  what Rascal had.  We discuss the sanity of the rat world: me paying for a rat hysterectomy, rats being used in labs, rats as snake food.  It’s all beyond me.



I throw Rascal in the car, rush home, drop her off and tear off to yoga. I hop on my mat and the instructor says relax. I take a deep breath and search for some part of my mind that isn’t already doing something for someone else. Despite the inner and outer turmoil of my life I don’t think of anything for the next hour and a half because I’m too busy concentrating on not falling over. I feel good, peaceful when I leave yoga . Then I go home…

I open the door and Juliette is screaming because Alexander won’t go to bed, I’m asking why all the supper dishes are still all over the place when I asked them to clean up, and Rascal has her feet caught in her body bandage.  My yoga high is a thing of the past. Juliette tells me  she couldn’t clean up because the dishwasher was already on and then she makes a B-line for the shower. (I checked the dishwasher later and it was only half-full. This kid is scarily devious.)  An hour later, after I get Juliette out of the bathroom so I can get the nail scissors, Rascal is free of  bondage. We have to figure out a way to cover up her stitches so she won’t pick them out.  After much swearing Rascal has a smaller bandage around her stomach – I was swearing, not Rascal. My daughter heard me use the F word for the first time (this is how frustrated I am – I can usually keep it to an occasional frig.)

So by ten thirty I finally have Rascal settled, Juliette in bed, and Alexander in my bed, having fallen asleep waiting to read me a story. I hear Molly and Merry (the cat) downstairs in the kitchen fighting over who is going to get the good bed. 

Merry not giving up his bed

Merry not giving up his bed

I put on headphones and watch an episode from 30 Rock on the portable DVD player. I wake up about one and take off headphones, move Shadow (the other cat) off my head and fall into a troubled, dream-filled sleep. As my mother always said, there is no rest for the wicked…

So that’s the rat update.  I’m meeting my friend Linda for lunch today. There is a winter storm watch going on so I’m pretty sure I’ll just get my meal when the school will call and I’ll have to leave and fight the bitter wind and snow to pick the kids up early…