Growing Up Alzheimer’s Post 3: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.


Oops! As a writing teacher, I can frequently forget my own words of wisdom when trying to get my own writing done. In the case of this blog, I said that transforming a blog into a book was terrific because blogs usually dealt with what was happening immediately and therefore the information was fresh with plenty of details. Then I promptly forgot that, and started writing about the past, the deep past. Today, I intend to correct that with this next post which will be about my older sister who has been going down the path a short term memory loss, the first step in the disease of Alzheimer’s. To catch up…


At this point, it has been happening for the past six years. That would have made my sister J, 62 at the time we started noticing. It was probably happening before that, but no one noticed. That’s the way it goes with Alzheimer’s and those that are lucky enough to have genes that tend toward earlier onset.

We figured it out only when she started getting into big financial trouble. She had successfully ran her own business for decades, but now she was suddenly relying on airbnb management? Which didn’t seem like you could make a lot. She had told me she had stashed away money, but then she also admitted she was juggling credit cards by switching to the lowest introductory interest rate for balance transfers. Something I would later call credit card kiting. I remember trying to tell her at the time it doesn’t matter how low the interest rate you get because you are still accumulating debt and it compiles, and she’d be wise to pay off her debt. She didn’t seem to understand. She had no money stashed.

This would later lead to her landlords taking her to court for unpaid rent and us guiding her into bankruptcy. She just couldn’t manage things anymore. She couldn’t grasp what she was doing that might get her in trouble, she ignored things. She just didn’t have the hustle I remember her having. However, we didn’t really notice because there were a few things that she’d always done in her life. One, is being careless and devil may care including with money, two is, not wanting to learn anything new, and three, though not a symptom, was struggling with bad eating habits, much like my own, but worse. Any research on Alzheimer’s and dementia you will see that these things are a triple threat combination. In order for your brain to develop new synapses, new nueral pathways, it must be constantly learning and focusing. Learning is the muscle that keeps the brain in shape. Having a diligent attitude toward learning and also health, including exercise and diet, is crucial. Sugar junkies like my sister and I, do not have great chances.

I had a long term care nurse tell me if you see dints and dings on all four sides of the car, then it is time to think about taking her car/license away. But, I explained, that I couldn’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t have dings on all sides of her car. She has always been a kind of bad driver. This became a big issue as my other sister, T, took over J’s finances (with power of attorney) and kept her bankruptcy on track. No mean feat to do with someone who can’t remember to keep her receipts.

T had been trying to get her to give up her car, because of the drain on her finances more than whether we were sure she (had ever) been competent to drive. Finally it came to a natural head because the car died and it wasn’t worth fixing. But we had to persuade her to sell it which was a problem because a “friend,” a street person who mooches off her, had convinced her that the engine was worth a lot of money and he knew someone who would be interested in buying it. This went on for months with her insisting this was going to happen. It never did. Meanwhile we explained that the insurance was costing her money every month, but she just couldn’t fathom that. T finally got the insurance changed to storage which saved her a bit, and then I managed to get somebody who was willing to haul the car away and give a bit of money for it. Given it was in a very difficult spot in the underground, we were grateful. J was somewhat pissed at us but it solved two problems with one stone; no monthly debit on her finances and no temptation to drive again.

It was after she wasn’t driving that I spotted a Alzheimer’s clinical trial ad for those that had Alzheimer’s run in their family. I arranged for appointments for both of us back to back. It was a half day of testing. As expected, I aced the tests and she did not. The year before, I had already administered to her a MOCA test (made famous after they gave one to Trump, which does not test for narcissism or lack of education), and knew that she was five points under with no short term memory left. But that had been the year before and the tests at this clinical trial offices was much more advanced.

There was a large contract she took home and we discussed it. Eventually, they would say that particular trial was not appropriate for her, but they found another one, more on that later.

Because I moved after that and am now in a city that she used to live in, hours away, we decided maybe she could make her way there by public transit. So, last year, she came to visit me with a team effort of her roommate dropping her off at the train, but she had to transfer onto the buses and one ferry herself and I was to meet her at the exit stop. She had her phone with her so she could call us at any time. That part seemed to go without a hitch. But she was freezing when she arrived since she hadn’t reall dressed properly for October.

This would be the first time I had spent an extended amount of time with her in a long time. This visit would tell me a lot.


This is a good first draft that catches me up to the almost present, but you can see how there are many places where I could have expanded a lot more. In fact, I couldn’t decide whether to talk about her visit with me after I’d moved, or more about the clinical trial. One is still ongoing, where the visit is in the recent past. These are the kinds of things in Memoir writing that you may have to juggle around and put in the right places later. No one, but no one, keeps their first draft as it is. Myself included.

Next post, I will jump forward to more recent events, because if you think you must write chronologically you are dead wrong.

How to be Annoying for a Good Reason (or My Climate Strike Day VIDEO)

This was my Climate Crisis Action day. I participated in two back-to-back demonstrations. One is ongoing. By the way, I no longer ever say climate change, I say what it is, climate crisis. It should be even stronger as in life or death crisis. This is my video explanation:

(By the way, when I went out of the house, knowing I would be gone for a few hours I shut everything off but my fridge and lights so I wasn’t doing any energy drain while no one was home and this has become routine for me. )

Here is the denier guy and my sign to hold when I stand next to him.








Other snaps:

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Demands that the EARTH JUSTICE and YOUTH ASKED FOR AND WE SUPPORT, they are not small but essential:

  1. Reject offsets and stop the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism into the guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement in the guise of the Sustainable Development Mechanism.
  2. Honor the international Moratorium on geoengineering established by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  3. Reject Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) projects, and other technofixes.
  4. Stop the conversion of local agricultural lands to non-food production purposes.
  5. Reject reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, Internationally-Traded Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs), and all forms of carbon trading schemes that undermine human rights, including indigenous cultures, territorial sovereignty, and integrity.
  6. Stop supporting and promoting burning biomass as renewable energy and reject the substitution of biofuels and bioenergy as an alternative to fossil fuels.
  7. Reject corporate-fronted schemes promoting so-called “Climate Smart Agriculture”.
  8. Find alternative energy jobs for those that will be losing their fossil fuels jobs. Create a transitional plans.
  9. Reduce CO2 emissions to under 1.5 and maintain them.
  10. Allow native people’s to have positions of stewardship over the land where ever possible
  11. Plan to maintain the above as proper stewardship of the earth.

Important books from Authors I have worked with that inspire Companies and Organizations to do better by the planet! Please give as gifts:

My Secrets to Saving the Planet (Again)

Can Knowing Your Electrical Panel Save the World?

I am probably naive, but I am going to try to save the planet (again). Yes, I already did save the planet a long time ago, but after that I got lazy and distracted. I was looking in the wrong place and something far worse than nuclear stock piling was building. Back then, I followed the inspiration of the wonderful Dr. Helen Caldicott, to lead us in the crusade for ending the arms race. But, we still have a problem with nuclear power and after the tsunami in Japan in 2011 caused a huge nuclear catastrophe, the Japanese just released a statement that they are going to start releasing radioactive water they have been collecting from 2011 into the ocean because they don’t know what else to do with it. Meanwhile, another nuclear power plant melt down happened recently. A Nuclear reactor melted down in Russia that the Russians tried to cover up but they can see it in the atmosphere. This, as Russia tows a portable off shore drilling rig out to the arctic. These are ghastly irresponsible people and Dr. Helen Caldicott is 83 now. But that’s not the big problem. It’s all related but that’s not the reason I have to save the world (again).

Now we look to Greta Thunberg to help us from a real life (not in the comics or cartoons) threat to the planet. This is the one. The problem. Us. Corporations, yes, but primarily, us. We keep buying what they are selling and, let’s face it, we are pretty pampered. People say to me, how are we going to survive without plastics!!! Anyone born before the date of 1970 probably spent ten years with maybe 10% of the plastics in our first years of life than we do now. Guess what? It was fine. In 1878 in Paris, Augustin Mouchot at the Universal Exposition demonstrated a refrigerator powered by a steam engine that had been solely powered by the sun. Mouchot won an award. We have always been able to do this, but at the time the “less costly” coal and later cheaper oil companies wouldn’t let it happen, and they still don’t want to give up. But, they will if you will. They understand consumer protests, but mostly they are good at noticing losing money.  So, I have developed my own secrets for being a resistance fighter and winning this war that already has taken unbelievable casualties.

SECRET 1 – The LPU Day

Try once a month designating a Low Power Usage Day. Get the family, spouse and roommates involved. If you live alone, no excuses.

8 RULES to LPU Day:
1) Share this on FB (or your fave social media) so it’s not just you trying this.
2) Except for Fridge, Stove and those Large appliances and your phone, unplug or switch power bars off, AND  don’t use electronics or any plug-ins unless truly essential (or see electric panel better alternative below).
3) Leave phone plugged in but leave it behind, don’t initiate its use. Talk to people face to face. Don’t use it for email or as your computer, and…
4) Don’t use your computer for one day. If working consider planning a paper reading and in person meeting day if possible.
5) Don’t watch TV… Yes, no screen time. Consider a book day.
6) Designate only two lights you are allowed to turn on and off all day and night, and turn them off after using. Make sure you get more natural light in your rooms by opening curtains and blinds all the way.
7) Don’t use your car or a car. Stay home, walk or ride a bike, car pool or bus. In that order of priority.
8) The day before you do this tell people so they know you are offline and can support you and be inspired by you.

What I learned when I did my first LPU day lead to…


Can Knowing Your Electrical Panel Save the World?

I have known for years that cutting out extra power by unplugging electricals (yes, everything has a low level drain when plugged in), especially all those f**ing extra electric clocks no one asked for on their appliances, can reduce global energy consumption quickly by 10%.  That is a lot of energy for stuff we are not even using. My problem? A lot of my plugs are behind furniture, on the ground and I don’t even know how to get to them. Frankly, I hate unplugging, enter the electrical panel.

If you are living in an apartment and during your work week you are not in your apartment a lot, this is the SECRET for you. But even if you are not this is a big wake up. Most people’s electric box, or fuse box, is within a few paces of when they enter their suite. If you get to know it you can conveniently save power you are not using everyday. I figured out that I only need THREE of the 17 switches on when I am out of the house. The refrigerator (for obvious reasons) and the lights that I need to get to the electrical panel. On my panel they are at the top of the panel and I have marked them with Xs ( see photo). Out for the day, I snap all but those three switches off. Yes, my modem and WiFi go off and it never has had trouble rebooting. it is like a voluntary power outage.

Even if you do as I do, and work at home during the day, I still have errands when I go out for an hour or more when I can shut it off easily. And, I still do my LPU day. And, don’t all of us go on vacation? THIS, LIKE EVERYTHING, IS A MATTER OF DEVELOPING A NEW HABIT.


I am putting solar panels on my second residence in Mexico so I am entirely off the grid there. I am already using solar water heaters and other solar out door lighting.  I am putting a proposal in front of my strata in Canada to put solar panels up on the roof of our apartment building. It is estimated that it can pay for 20% or more of the buildings common area power. And up to 100%  if they implement a hall lighting system that is motion activated. Why do we have our hall lights on day and night for virtually no one? Motion sensors that make lights go on as soon as it sees the elevator or apartment doors open, or any motion in the halls, work. Europeans have been doing this for decades. We do have the technology, we are just exceptionally unmotivated. Time to do these things. Try this government link or just Google it for your area. Write a letter to your strata, or look at improving your own residence. The costs of solar are going down in price like crazy.


It is no secret that corporation, whose interests are often short term and greedy, are often strongly influencing government politics and keeping us in a do nothing significant pattern. If you are not aware of who is taking money from whom and how it is destroying our planet in the name of greed, you first need to become aware. I refer to this article from The Walrus that tackles this problem in Canada (but refers to the US too) as the beginning of your awareness, and why you have to look at both individuals ethical records, as well as their parties. The Green Party is an obvious choice for this war, but I never stop there. I support charities and causes that I have researched for the best reputations. Here  are some of my non-political party choices for saving the planet and I have starred the ones I give to, because they are not in order of best and some are not so internationally friendly for donations to Canadians as well as US citizens:

1.  Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions
2.   US
3.   Fighting Trump govt and Corporations that threaten the planet legally
4.  Environmental Defence Fund
6.  Union of Concerned Scientists.
*8.  Also fighting on legal grounds on all health issues
*9. Planned Parenthood International – Less people, less footprint
*10. For making people aware of all kinds of devastation and fighting with petitions and legal organizing
*11.  Rainforest Alliance, saves the Amazon and other forests because our biggest hedge against Carbon is trees.


This is a personal one that I don’t expect most people to follow, but I did describe myself as a resistance fighter, and if that title appeals to you and you are inspired by my pluck, go for it.

I think it has gotten to the stage where we need to shame the climate crisis deniers. The ones who have been keeping us in the do nothing holding pattern while they see category 5 hurricanes and out of control wild fires and unheard of floods into Manhattan and other areas there have never been floods for several centuries or ever, ice caps melting,  etc, etc. Let them know they are a denier and 99% of scientists agree that we are in a serious climate crisis that we have caused and make worse every day. The deniers have only 1% psuedo scientists or sell-outs on their side and whosoever’s BS they are quoting is BS.  I often say, “Follow the money.” You will find that these people are backed by other corporations with interests to harm not help, and the corps are getting rich as well as the people these deniers have bought as “experts.”

There it is, my five secrets (for now) for saving the planet ( again).  I would love it if you would join my quiet army, quietly. It’s important for you, your children and your grand children and all the beautiful creatures of the world. And you get to call yourself a bad ass resistance fighter.

Important books from Authors I have worked with that inspire Companies and Organizations to do better by the planet! Please give as gifts:

Growing Up Alzheimer’s 2: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.
For my second post, what do I do? What do I do!? DON’T PANIC. Like the big, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy say. And I don’t have to panic, and you won’t have to either. If you look at my previous post about writing Memoirs and family Alzheimer’s the answer is right there. Step three of my process is write a list. I may or may not use chronology of history as my guide. Mostly I review the list and see what scene or story or remembered dialogue or image is begging to be written. Then I go with it. Just go with it. It was on the list so it must be done. God, I love lists.

Writing lists is my #3 step in my memoir writing process:
3.) Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
For this step I am going to focus only on brainstorming for my Mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s:
  • How she was a hermit and possibly Asperger’s and our Google before Google 
  • The stories she told me about post part-em before they knew it was post part-em
  • Her walking that everyone noticed
  • The first signs we knew: Story about giant raccoons and laser beams
  • The coins she compulsively stacked up
  • The car accident
  • The first time she got lost
  • Getting POA and a will
  • The struggle between the sisters and the aunts
  • The 600 nuns study
  • The sushi picnic and the wasabi (see Mystery of Mom blog post)
  • Taking her to Madame Butterfly
  • The research we did of support and how that support has changed
  • The change of her personality to sweet and compliant
  • The garage sale and the lie from the difficult sister
  • The uninvolved brother who missed telling me about the NM book
  • The first home she lived in “this is a really great person”
  • The second home, “stealing” and tripping out on the flowered shirt
  • The man who wanted to escape together
  • The years and sister tension
  • The decline
  • Dentistry, bladder infections, operation
  • The decision at the end
  • The end scene , cold hands, staring, my sister’s cold comment and my aunt did not want to see her body
  • The wake, the dream the amazing night before

I can see from this that this is a lot of material. In fact, I suspect that 1-3 of those bullet points could constitute one blog post of probably 1000 words each.  Just to make it easier on myself and to give you and actual story to read I will reprint a portion of a previous post where the story of the sushi picnic was told.  Here it is from the Mystery of Mom post:

She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be: “I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

And so part of my journey of my book of Growing Up Alzheimer’s is already on the way. But, on the journey of writing any one of these posts from the list above, I know I will undoubtedly remember more.

Next post step #4 and #5 in the writing process for a memoir… the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.

Should Writers Always Try to Entertain?

Origins and definitions of the word…ENTERTAIN (v.)

late 15c., “to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,” from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir“hold together, stick together, support” (12c.), from entre-“among” (from Latin inter; see inter-) + tenir “to hold” (from Latin tenere, from PIE root *ten- “to stretch”). – from the Online Etymology Dictionary
Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience, or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an audience’s attention.  –

Recently, I have been returning to my theatre roots a little more.  And, even more recently, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy again. And just when the world has gotten pretty seriously towards monumental problems, concerns and complete division this sense of humour thing is getting pretty interesting.

With the unusual Presidency of Donald Trump, when it is easy to say things have gone bat-shit crazy, I started noticing that I was getting some of my news from the comics of late night TV.

Most of the time they were just taking his tweets and analyzing them from a Say-What? sense of humour that underlines the ridiculousness of what was being said. Not to mention, the blatant lies. In short, they are having the easiest comedy writing times in recent history. But, they were also making quotes from other  sources, dare I say, more reliable sources and from reports and documents that the average person may never be aware of, let alone read (think Mueller Report, etc.)

Serious Comedy

So, the question I started to ponder is how important are these entertainers to focus on all of this serious stuff? And, what can we learn from making the serious entertaining? Should we always be gong for the laughs or entertainment as writers? Is there any sacred ground or not? What is the history of writing things for entertainment?

Whenever I do some serious pondering I go back to my word origins and definitions to see if I can glean any clues that are not always obvious (see above).

Aha! To entertain is to hold one’s attention. It also is to hold together. Given the world is being described as very divided these days, and also, lacking an attention span, to entertain may be a way to pull people together and at the very least keep their attention. But, no one is laughing if they (or their people) are the butt of a joke, they are, in fact, being shamed, but in politics that can be a positive too.  Lots of historical / political strides were made via political cartoons, humorist writings and humourous speeches. In Canada, suffragette Nelly McClung gave her famous speech, Why Men Should Not Be Allowed to Vote, to hilariously underline how ignorant arguments can easily be twisted both ways.

What I am saying is, you can use entertainment for writing about the serious as well as not so serious, and if you can do it well you can make your point better and more viral.  Or, if you can at least make half the room laugh,  you can make your point of view the fun side. James Comey said of Trump that he never saw the man laugh. He saw him smile, take delight, but never actually laugh and take pleasure in something he could see as humourous.  Perhaps the ability to laugh ( and laugh at yourself)may be the way to pick our leaders. And to entertain may be the best way to find happy followers who want to share the joy. But, should you be cautious in writing humour or forge ahead? It turns out humour can often reveal truth better and faster than any argument.

Can an off color joke be good?

Here is an actual example of two jokes in rapid succession. Please, please, remind yourself that these jokes are in poor taste on both sides and one is only in defense of the attack of  the other.  A group of four men are telling jokes with two women present. One says, “Do you know why men beat women? … Because they are so fucking stupid.” (Yes, this was considered funny and the men laughed, the women did not). The one woman asks the man who told the joke, “Do you know why women have two nostrils? … Because if she had only one, men would try to fuck that too.” The women laugh, the men are silent.

That was an example of fighting fire with fire that we might call the quick come back, or, playing offense versus defense.  I think the second joke just reveals how bad the first joke is by saying, you would say that, and find it funny, because you are people who are completely insensitive and being labeled is not much fun, is it? But did these jokes bring people together? Perhaps not. The women defended themselves and shamed the boorish men. The men may not have learned, but they got a mirror held up that was unflattering at just the right moment. The women were held together. Was either joke funny? No. They had underlying anger that is impossible to miss, but it was a case of a bully beating up the bully who picked on the little guy. It was just necessary.

Humour can be a powerful teacher and binder. Not everyone will get your idea of entertainment but  universality is not the big lesson here.

If you use humour to entertain it will be the quickest way to find your audience, your readers, and can be a powerful way to keep the attention on the truth of what is right. So, if it is your gift to have a sense of humor, keep working it and do like the comics do, hone it by sharing it. That is the only way to know for certain if it is resonating in that magical way that comedy can, laughter.


One ‘truth’ about our humanity may be how we feel rewarded by believing in the value of something – culture, knowledge, love of beauty – even if the Universe seems beautifully indifferent to us. I saw an old BBC ‘Face to Face’ interview from the 1950s I think, where Carl Jung in his old age was himself asked personal questions. At one point, the interviewer asked “Do you believe in life after death?”, and Jung replied something like: “The unconscious believes in life after death, so anyone who does not will become ill.”

The RhymeCatch Art Installation

This art installation was one I created in the early 1990s at Simon Fraser University where I studied second year visual arts. The location of it was in the campus area called the quadrangle.

In this installation, named “RhymeCatch,” I created three figures made from the plastic coated green wire, the kind they use in chain link fencing. Each figure has another element or two added to it.

Figure 1) Baby in the treetops, is a baby, with a soother in its mouth, laying in a see-through plastic cradle hung in a tree. This was referencing the nursery rhyme/lullaby:

“Rock a bye baby, on the treetops, when the wind blows the cradle will rock, when the wind blows the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all.”

I always thought, as a child and even now, that this was a strange lullaby which puts a baby in harm’s way and lets it fall. Rather than thinking of it as the metaphor for falling asleep, instead, it haunts me as something I interpret as both frightening and prophetic, falling from innocence perhaps?

Figure 2) Little girl hiding, is identified by me as a girl, but in fact, the figure is androgynous and could be a little boy or little girl. In retrospect, I am probably identifying it as me. She is hiding behind a tree in her rubber boots, a child’s game and yet  a game with primordial roots. What do we do to survive? We hide and we seek. Yet, in our modern society, I would argue, to survive we also hide “ourselves” and then become seekers of our true selves.


Figure 3) Young girl reading, is a young adult (again, androgynous), reading a book for young adults from the 1950s that I found and covered in clear plastic glue so it would survive the weather and viewers could read over the shoulder of this figure the text. The day I took the photos of the installation some unknown person had left a plate with cookie crumbs by it as if the figure had just finished eating a cookie. I was thrilled at this interaction and addition!

The passage that the book starts with that the viewers could read starts with a dialogue between two young adult characters:
“Aren’t the Russians terrible?”
“They certainly seem to be making things as difficult as possible.”
“Sometimes I think that we should just drop the atomic bomb and have it over with.”
“Maybe they have an atomic bomb too.”
It goes on to wonder if Stalin is as bad as Hitler, etc. and is a capsule of the cold war era.

Like the baby in the treetop I was surprised to see a book for young adults with such frightening ideas in it but was also glad there was an open dialogue, whether you wanted to agree with the points of view in the book or not. I essentially included this book as I had been very active in the peace movement for the disarmament of nukes, but also, at the time of this installation, we were heading towards the first Gulf War (Canada did participate in this) and I would eventually create a collaborative theatre piece/video about that, and would decide I did not want to bring children into this world.

The installation as a whole really is about the threat to innocence. The loss of innocence and how human beings try to protect (their people) like crazy and in the process often bring about more harm. This is really a piece about our own craziness. Can it be solved by dialogue? We will find out, because we seem to be at that crossroads yet again.

I also want to say that I loved the aesthetics of this piece. Both the medium and the chosen site have a harmony that people responded to. Note that in the photos, when the sun came out, the shadows of the winter trees mimic the wire of the figures. Likewise, on the cloudy day, photos of the branches of the trees against a white sky mimic the wire of the baby figure that you can see through the plastic.

I was very satisfied with this piece and when I found these photos of it I realized I wanted to show people. I did not want this for my own ego as you might think, but because I could see that the ideas were timely in this Trump world which is now on the brink of more global disasters, this time climate change as well as nuclear war and distrusting our old cold war enemy, Russia. And, I realized that this theme of protecting innocence is still one I am working with to this day and may very well be important to reflect further on. So, I am adding it to my blog, which goes out to some via email and also will go out on social media. Maybe someone will get something out of it?

I am a writer and I don’t consider myself an artist, but I have long since loved to use visuals to help and inspire me to write. Whether it is to add photos and graphics to a blog post or to add elements in my book, like the Loteria cards depicted and created at the beginning of chapters in my book, The Happy Hammock.

I found the art installation photos because I am currently moving, and so scanning a lot of my older works, but I realized the subject is timely to not only what is going on in the world, now,  but thoughts and themes that I am now writing about.  There are coincidences that seem very serendipitous. Remembering this piece not only allowed me to see it with fresh eyes, but reminded me of the importance of innocence as a theme.

Blog to Memoir: Growing Up Alzheimer’s

Many people ask me if they can turn their blog posts into a book. Yes! I say, great idea.  Ultimately the book won’t and shouldn’t look like the blog post, but by God it can give you several chapters of raw to polished materials depending on how you like to write your blog posts. The great thing about blogs is you are often writing what is happening in the moment, so it is fresher, filled with details, feelings and passion that you may not get if you left it until later.  Certain parts of The Happy Hammock can be seen in past blog posts.

This blog post is going to be the first of a series that could be called learning by doing.  Ever since writing The Happy Hammockback which is really a memoir (although we called it a based on true story for a number of reasons), I have been helping others complete their memoirs more. Don’t think I don’t read other people’s teachings on how to write memoirs or go to their courses, I do. I am always researching. But, there is nothing like doing, as well as teaching, to make you feel like you can call yourself an expert.

While I am writing the second book of The Happy Hammock memoir, there is another aspect of my life that only those close to me know about. I want to write about it, and even need to write about it in the hopes it will help others. This is my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women, as I have experienced it and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself, yet, but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder.  So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, or blog to memoir process.memoir-writing-process-steps-1-638

I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part. So, I am going to share my process, as far as I know it. This is how I often start, and how I started this time:

  1. I had an idea of writing about all three generations of women, my grandmother, mother and now, my eldest sister. This is painful because she is the sibling I am closest to and I am currently seeing her gradual sinking into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s as if it is the slowest of quick sand.
  2. I come up with a working title. Often I keep it but not always, but it does help keep me on track. The title for this: Growing Up Alzheimer’s.
  3. Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
  4. I try to order the above in chronological order not because that is necessarily the way it will end up in a book form, but I need to know what order things come in. A memoir writer needs to pay attention to transitions for different periods in this the family history, and different stages of the writer’ awareness, and not confuse the reader.  Most people don’t realize that for books, or long-form anything (I started as a playwright), the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.
  5. I start a scene that may or may not be the beginning of the book but is the beginning of a blog post. And so it begins…

Growing Up Alzheimer’s –  Post 1



“Granny Horner is having a bird again.”

My eldest sister, age 14, almost a decade older than I, announces to us. My brother, second oldest, two years behind her, and my other sister, five years after him, and me, the baby, the unexpected love child, two years later, all rapidly exit the small lakeside house on Osoyoos Lake to stay out of the line of fire.  We love coming up to visit the lake, but Granny Horner, Marjorie, my mother’s mother, is sometimes hard to take, and Ralph, my grandfather, mostly blends into the background.

“Having a bird” as my siblings called it meant she was on a bitching rampage of unhappiness and blame. She can be loud and to me, at five years old, scary as hell. She’s skinny and doesn’t smile a lot. She is the opposite of “Nice Granny,” my father’s mother who we adore. Nice Granny is chubby-curvy, loving, generous, creative and everything you could want in a grandmother. Marjorie is not. And, I didn’t know her well. I remember in her lake house I found a beautiful colored tin, empty, probably once held fancy cookies. It had bright blues, reds and gold geometric and decorative designs like an Easter egg. And, it was a cylindrical tin with a dome top. Beautiful. My five year old self was attracted enough to pick it up and she caught me with my hands on it.

I was terrified that I was in trouble when she caught me handling the tin, afraid she was going to “have a bird,” but that didn’t happen. Instead she saw I was enamored with it and offered it to me. I took it home and for years kept all my tiny, shiny treasures in it, from thimbles to plastic animals to rhinestones that Nice Granny gave me. That was one of the few moments I remember Granny Horner distinctly, and thankfully it was a nice moment. She was then on the verge of Alzheimer’s, though we didn’t know it. 

husky gas osoyoosIt started when Ralph was moved, at the recommendation of his doctor, to a full care home. Ralph complained of pain in his legs and he had trouble walking.  After his death I would find several medals he had won for his long distance running.  I didn’t know, no one had told me he had once been an accomplished runner. Marjorie went to visit him every day. The problem was she would get lost driving there pretty much every time. My parents found this out later because the man at the gas station had to give her directions to the care home every day. Often, he had to do it more than once on the same day. My dad liked to tell the story how the gas station guy would send her off having showed her on the map and told her the turns only to see her minutes later driving back to the station in her old Ford still confounded.

Back then, they simply said, “She is losing her memory.” And so she was. I never heard anyone say the word Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a common parlance then and this loss of memory wasn’t intensely studied. They just tried things out. When it was clear Marjorie also needed full time care they “tried things” on her too, namely electric shock treatment. Yes. Horrors. They did this to my Granny and my mother knew. They told her that after shock treatment she seemed to get better for a time and then reverted back.  How long she “got better” was not really discussed. This “treatment” was eventually abandoned. 

electroshockThe lake house had been long since sold, Ralph had passed away, and Granny was located in another town, at another long term care home closer to my aunt’s summer home.  It was many years before me and my second oldest sister T and I saw her at that summer cottage. She was in a wheelchair, having been taken from her home for the day by my aunts. Her hair was completely white, she had glasses and I wouldn’t have recognized her. At the adults coaxing, T and I went up and greeted her. We said, “Hello Granny,” as the adults told her, “These are your grandchildren.” To which she answered, “I remember you, you were all against me! You plotted against me!” We were quite mortified. Even when she was having a bird, she had never been paranoid or crazy sounding. We stayed away until they took her back to the home. She had clearly entered the dementia delusional phase, beyond memory loss which I would later find out can manifest as ugly or sweet, angry or docile, funny or tragic. 

This is my post for today. Any thoughts, comments, personal stories or questions, please speak up, I’d love to hear.

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt helps with Writing Procrastination, sort of.

Some people ask me, do you procrastinate on your writing?  The answer, sure all the time. I wrote a book, Writing with Cold Feet, on this and related subjects. But, I go through the procrastination phase quickly. One of the ways I procrastinate on my writing is doing other writing (than the stuff I’m supposed to be doing). I always get back to the stuff I’m supposed to be doing but sometimes I seem to need a break. Yesterday the other writing was my first forrage into Flash Fiction (how’s that for alliteration). I accepted the below Indies Unlimited challenge. Read below and if you have an interest, enter, soon (Tuesday April 10, 2018 deadline) or just go and see what I wrote and what others wrote… Then get back to your writing.

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Little Dog – Big City

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no…

via Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Little Dog – Big City — Indies Unlimited

Ten Ways to Grow Your Writing

Someone told me to check out this blog from a painter stating ways to grow yourself as an artist.  (https// I decided much of this applied to writers as well but I added a few of my own thoughts and came up with ten ways to grow your writing, remembering that there is no way to separate the writer from the writing. If the writer grows, the writing can also grow.

1. Write Crap

Yes, give yourself permission to write crap. There is a reverse psychology in effect here. The freedom to not write well tends to give you permission to try things, to go on creative impulse versus trying for perfection. And as Annie Lamott observed everyone writes shitty first drafts. It is natural for any artist in any field to produce a body of work. Some or even a lot of it will be crap so that some or even a lot if it will be good and some may even be great, but keep writing. Also, I make my students do an exercise to consciously try to write badly.  Three things usually happen when they do this. They use clichés and repetition, and go so far over the top with it that it becomes good. They notice that it is not easy for them to write poorly and thus, prove to themselves that they are better than they thought at writing well. They produce a great piece of comedy.

2. Get in Over Your Head

If you feel you are over your head and in a mess with your writing project, you might be exactly where you need to be. Taking risks is brave and will make you grow. You do want to challenge yourself. You can’t do that without feeling over your head. You need to go through it. 99% of what you do as a writer is process not product. It is a messy process and often an overwhelming process if you are truly challenging yourself. It is also a temporal art. Unlike the painter we cannot see the current whole in one view, we have to read and reread, write and rewrite. Wholeness is difficult to grasp, so being over your head is allowing the process to be what it is, a process before it is “declared” a product.

3. Read Bad Writing as well as Good

Reading bad writing reminds you what makes writing good. You will notice more about things to both avoid and include in your own work when you read bad writing, more so than when you are perhaps overawed by good writers. A good writer can freeze you into feeling too small and imperfect. This is ego and in your head. But also, when you are judging bad writing as bad, test how much is your judgement, notice where there is craft even in what you considered bad writing. Notice that you may have the notes to make something better. If it is really bad, give yourself permission to not finish it but be forever grateful of the experience, and then used that saved time to work on your own writing, gratefully.1medium_writingadvice_writerswrite

4. Get Lazy

Writing can be work, hard work, but it needs to be half play too.  If it isn’t we burn out.  The muse likes your effort but if it is all effort and no play then the muse can get turned off too. Sometimes you need to walk away and get lazy.  Don’t, for god’s sake, tell yourself you are having writer’s block. If you have been trying and it is not coming together that’s not writer’s block that’s pushing too hard. Take a walk. Consider those wonderful “Ah ha” moments, they happen at some other moment when you are laughing with friends, or generally goofing off.

5. Rearrange Your Writing Space

Have you put any effort into your private writing space?  We cook in the kitchen. We sleep in the bedroom. We take care of our bathing and toiletries in that room. Do you have a writing space? Do you like it? Do you give yourself nice things to look at? Does it have light and a window? Writers need light as much as painters. Do you have some words that inspire posted in your writing place? Words that remind you of who you are? For years I had a question, “Do words change reality?” and a cartoon with a character that said, “If you want to say something smart, think of something really dumb and write the opposite.”  I hope one day in the future to have the courage to take my desk and plunk it down in the best spot in the apartment or house and I won’t care if it is the living room or dining room or in an alcove at the top of the stairs.

6. Write in Other Places

After number five, this may seem like a contradiction, but you sometimes need to write away from your special designated spot and sometimes you have to. Writing in other places can mean other cities, other situations, maybe with someone else sitting writing across from you. Or, yes, it can mean in your local cafe or the cafe across town, or the cafe you always dreamed of writing at in Paris. Does it change your writing? Are you more inspired or less? I like writing retreats. I have been trying to figure out why I like writing in Mexico for years and I have lots of answers and none of them need to be real, I just need to know that it is a good place for me, but not the only place either. You should be able to write everywhere, so prove it already.

7. Go to Beginner Writing Classes

There is a famous, talented actor I know that went repeatedly to beginning acting classes long after his success, because the basics of any craft need to be renewed. Once they are ingrained it gives you a lot more freedom and ability to write without fretting. But, believe it or not, we forget things. So, don’t take the attitude of thinking there is nothing more you can learn or relearn. It is okay to learn again, and for some of us it is fun to share in a group. We are so often distant in time from our readers, that it is nice to share immediately, hot off the press in a writing class.

8. Don’t Write Everyday

1_500I know lots of people say, write everyday. But, I bet even those people don’t. What they mean is have a writing discipline. Plan your writing days and your days off. When a project is getting to the wire, the deadline is nigh, or just when you are on a hot streak, you may well find yourself writing everyday to get it done. But not everyday, all the time. Know that this is true so that you don’t feel obsessively stupid, or not a writer when you are not writing. Remember you will have a process and a writing discipline. You can churn it out when you want to and need to.

9. List All Your Own Deepest, Darkest Fears

Especially when you are uninspired, go to your most vulnerable place. The places you don’t want to show the world. Peter Shaffer did not write Amadeus from the point of view of Mozart himself, but from his contemporary Salieri who was a mediocre composer. Shaffer said he did this because that was his deepest, darkest fear that he would just be a mediocre writer. Make a list of your own deepest darkest fears, about your writing, about your life, about anything and everything that makes you feel naked and vulnerable. Have you written anything about these yet?

10. Write Faster

I myself have come full circle, from writing fast so it was both practical and not fully finished, to slowing down and getting hung up on the details, to realizing that career writers need to write fast and edit (with help) later. Learning to write fast can be your best friend and it means you are not letting the perfectionist in you take the wheel but some other right brain gremlin that knows how to fly.  You can learn how to write fast and well, but only if you let yourself write fast.

My final note is from the original blog post that I referenced: “Quit killing yourself trying to become a great painter and work relentlessly on becoming a badass editor” After you have written fast, you and your editor can have fun polishing BUT I think what Chris Gallego means is that you learn, to begin with, not to put everything and the kitchen sink in your work, you will streamline and that should be the goal to make your writing process efficient.  If you focus on that, good will come, but you also need to focus on continually growing.

Let me know which ones serve you and how it goes.


Happy Hammock – Book Launch Partay!

Really looking forward to launching my book, The Happy Hammock very soon and you are invited! Can’t come? You can find the paper book online at Amazon now (not the ebook yet).

If you like parties, come – it’s in Burnaby, BC, and some prizes involving Mexico for sure! Dec 3rd, 4:30, 1899 Rosser Ave in the cafe:


 That’s right join us in Mexico for the Writing Retreat, &/or the launch there. More info here! Or contact me using the contact page or vswwriting at gmail dot com.