My Secret Passion is …the Movies

I have some good news to crow about that goes along with my secret passion. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret but it is real. It’s the Movies.

If you are one of those people who have been practicing their Oscar award-winning speech for years (secretly of course), you will relate to this dream.

Many of you don’t know that my degree is in Film and then later, Theatre. I love the Theatre; it’s where I really learned about dialogue and character development, and improved my writing in leaps and bounds. But, as with most people, I haven’t seen near as many plays as I have movies.

My Dad gave me a super 8 film camera when I was about 14.  At that time, my less than secret passion was still horses. Yes, it had not switched to boys completely, and it was fueled by my best friend, Tracy, who had a horse. A black horse. Her friend, had a white horse, or mostly white. And thus, my first short film was born. A Western, entitled, “Good Guy, Bad Guy”

shootoutIt had a less than subtle moral theme, and used the iconic music from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns.  The story line is two gunslingers (played by Tracy and her friend, with their horses), who meet for a shoot out.  The gunslinger all in white on the white horse rides down into the valley. Then the gunslinger all in black rides down the opposite side of the valley at high noon. They meet and dismount for the classic shootout quick draw. They fire! For several seconds you don’t know who has been killed until the gunslinger in black falls over. Now, the moral resolution to the film: the gunslinger in white, having killed, goes over to the dead gunslinger in black, takes his black hat and gets on the black horse and rides off.

Well maybe a filmmaker was not born but I did get two films out of it. It seems when you put a camera in front of experienced horsewomen, suddenly they don’t know how to get on and off their horses. The horses themselves also added some clever and hysterical moves and we had enough out-takes to have a second film that got much more interest than the first.  Since then, it seems all my plays, screenplays and films were imbued with a sense of humor.

I did have some humble successes in plays, small screen, large screen attempts, including co-writing with others, but I had to pay the bills too, so I put a hold to that pursuit to do the happy day job while on the side, I wrote articles, edited and contributed to newspapers, and taught writing in night schools. Eventually, I left the day job to write non-fiction books, give writing coaching and workshops, and run the Vancouver School of Writing (VSW). But, those plots for movies kept running in my head and so earlier this year I wrote a screenplay for the first time in many years and started to immerse myself in that craft, and find the online communities for screenwriters.  My friend and author, Eileen Cook, who read it, suggested Praxis and I remembered that several years ago me and my writing partner at the time, the very funny, late, great Irwin Barker ( who passed away 3 years ago RIP Irwin), had been shortlisted in the annual Praxis competition. I looked online and realized the deadline for this year’s competition was a week away. Eileen gave me some fast notes, but there was no time to get beta readers and, as the screenwriters call it, “coverage” (notes from readers), so I registered it with the WGA and tossed it in on the last day of the deadline.

Recently it was announced that my screenplay, The Princess and the Thief, was a semi-finalist and ranked in the top 8% of entrants.

aPrincessBride

Some feedback was:

“Witty dialogue, charming story, classic fairy tale characters. A script that leaves you

feeling like you’ve just been read a beautiful bedtime story. Magical realism raises it to
the level of The Princess Bride. Caveats: Feels a bit long at times.

 “Completely charming and whimsical. Fun set ups, good interweaving of stories.
Clever problems and solutions along the journey.”

Gee, what if I had had more time before putting it in?!  Although I missed the big prizes, one of the anonymous judges asked if they could contact me. That judge was very complimentary and may be helpful for the next steps, a redraft and on to selling, and I may have a great new relationship or even a collaborator, so I am thrilled. It seems I am back into my passion again and coming out of the closet.  I have since gotten a great deal of constructive feedback from some excellent readers to whom I am most thankful, so I have to schedule some writing redraft time, and start making some serious Hollywood connections. The truth is, I am already working on another screenplay that I like a lot, but as usual, will probably not get to it in any depth until the Writing Retreat in Mexico in January (where do you think I did the bulk of my writing on the Princess screenplay?)

PS – When I started this post, I noticed this WP report that I had been hanging onto since New Year’s that WordPress.com gives you about your blog in the past year, and thought, Wow, that’s an awesome and prophetic parallel! Was this an omen that I missed? Or perhaps it is still an omen of things to come? My advice, as always, is… just keep writing.

Here’s an excerpt from the WordPress report:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 21,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see and read a sample of Kathrin’s newest book Writing with Cold Feet or click on the cover below. Read Kathrin’s writing blog here. Or the Blog for VSW here.

WWCFkindlecopycover

My Husband Jim Gets Romantic on National TV

huffpostlive

PLAY TO GET TO HUFFPOSTLIVE RECORDED TV BROADCAST:

Mid-Life Marriage

NOTE: Turn off the volume on the live feed and then play the video or you will get both audios simultaneously.

A spin off of my blog post and wedding speech video, Why I got Married at 50, was that Huffington Post Live wanted to interview my husband, Jim, in a panel about Mid-Life Marriage.  I was poised to jump in but, alas, unwanted. They already had too many women on the panel. So they quickly phoned him in. He had an hour’s notice.  I think he is the most romantic one of the bunch and was all too flattering to me. Kudos and kisses, to Jim.

Why I Got Married at 50

If you want some fun, laughs and new thoughts on marriage you will love this. After this introduction you should watch this video of the speech I gave at my own wedding on September 8, 2012. It is a humourous and personal account, but I glossed over some important points in this speech in making the decision to get married (at 50), so if you want even more insight on Why I Got Married at 50, you can read below and see the other photos as well, but speech first; if nothing else it gives you a little sample of personal speech writing by moi. Let me know your own thoughts. Enjoy!

Why I Got Married at 50

So, I read about it, thought about it, and in my personal journals wrote about it. I’ll start with the reading. Articles of all kinds, too numerous to mention, were perused but one of my favourites was in the NY Times and about a couple whose families were living in India, though they settled in the USA, who had an arranged marriage. Looking at their North American counterparts struggling with marriages and relationships, they came to the conclusion that our expectations of marriage were very romantic and unreal. Having started with very little getting-to-know-each-other time themselves, they felt it kept their expectations realistic and had taught this couple that they just had to work things out, there was no magic formula, they were already committed to highs and lows, committed to finding some differences, but they felt that they, and their family, had already chosen a partner with basic common grounds: religion, proximity of families, education, similar upbringing. It is enough. All that was required was willingness and committment.  The article struck a chord with me as I too was feeling like the expectations of people for relationships were often out of whack and just as likely, if not more likely to throw the relationship off as any character flaws each individual had. So that was where I had evolved to regarding monogamy and long-term relationships, but why marriage?

I once read an astrological chart that said my sign was never quite comfortable until in a marriage. I remember having an immediate gut response to this that I would never admit to my cool feminist friends. The response was yes, this was true of me. Underneath I like traditions, I like structure, I believe in spelling things out. I believe in community recognition. So, again I went looking for more in-depth reading and found it in Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Committed.

You could not get a more reluctant bride than Gilbert who was forced to wed, or her life partner, Felipe, would never be allowed into her country (U.S.). I

 
Yes the cake went down the aisle too… the top anyway.

could also not ask for a person more articulate, intelligent and relatable for me than Gilbert. Though I had never had a “failed” marriage before, unlike herself and Felipe, who both suffered from traumatic divorces, I did listen to Gilbert’s struggle in interviews, articles and finally her book and it was a fascinating journey. It also gave me the new take on the often quoted over 50% divorce rate statistic. The real evidence is that those that get married at 45 or older have an extremely low rate of divorce. Logical. But there were many other things in Gilbert’s book that made me think a great deal. I usually think by writing in my journal. Figuring things out on paper has always worked for me. That’s when I really made the decision that I did in fact want to be married, and I now knew who I wanted to be married to. That took a long time to happen as you heard in my speech about unconditional and conditional love.

After trying to get on the same expectations page with my intended groom, I really appreciated more and more the person who was so willing to go through that process with me, my now husband, Jim (aside–my first book, From Survival to Thrival, was dedicated to Jim as my dancing partner and my life partner).  Now we only had to decide together, after much talk, how we wanted to be married, and find our own way with our own reasons.  In my next blog post I may reveal, if they let me, either Jim’s speech, and no it is not traditional for the Bride or Groom to give speeches to one another, or my best friend and maid of honor, Elektra’s speech.  This wedding put a twist on old traditions all over the place, and we can truly say we did this wedding our way, with our communities.

SHOULD PEOPLE STILL GET MARRIED?

What do you think? How do we thrive in love? I’d love to hear your feedback, so…

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!

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Kathrin is looking forward to her retreat in Mexico in February (every February 15),  where she will be guiding others in their writing. Please contact her for more information about the retreat and other programs through the Vancouver School of Writing.

Granny Yoga Heals Frozen Shoulder…

A year and a half ago I was afflicted with the mysterious condition known as frozen shoulder.  It does exactly what it sounds like. It freezes a shoulder to the degree you can’t raise your arm over your head. It is painful.  This condition is commonly (but not always), found in women who are entering menopause, however replacing their hormonal loss doesn’t seem to help. Once it’s got you, it’s got you.

My doctor sadly shakes her head and says to me, “I know this is hard to take, but its going to take two years to recover.”

What! I don’t believe her. I go online and see some places where it takes three years. I also meet someone who had it for three years. Some others were quicker, a few had it in one shoulder and then once they finished that shoulder it went to the other, another common occurrence. The whole time I am thinking, wait a second here, I am no wimp, I dance swing and tango every week. This isn’t going to be me.

Then I start the process. The process that becomes familiar to every person who gets this. You start the therapies, one by one, with hope, and optimism, slowly melting to absolute pessimism. I go through physiotherapists, acupunturists, massage therapists, Bowen Therapy experts, naturopathics, craniosacral people, ostepathy, infra red therapy, on and on. I thank the lord that Jim has a great benefits plan, but nothing is working and I have spent $1000 dollars of my own money beyond the benefits plan. And these therapies cost me more than money, they take a great deal of time. Time I don’t want to give up.

I interject all these therapies with both prescribed exercises at home and with my own exercises. Some days I think it’s working and other days nada. I am thankful it is my left shoulder and not my right, being right-handed. I know I am completely at risk with my profession as a writer by being on the confounding computer so much. I have to slow down and take long rests from the computer. I get some help from volunteers I can delegate to, and I waste more time and money trying both voice-to-text software and handwriting recognition software. Nothing suffices. I have to slow down and listen to the body. It wants a break. It wants gentle unrepetitive, un computer-like movement.

Some people start to say swimming works, others say yoga. Of course, the health plan doesn’t cover these (which I have always thought of as very short-sighted towards health). Though I love swimming, I can no longer stand getting into cold pools, especially in a cold climate (they say they are heated but it’s never enough). The only swimming I ever do now is in Mexico.  Having done yoga on and off for years I know that there is a variety to choose from but with the shoulder, my downward facing dog is going to look like a downward falling three-legged dog.

I try a course given by Kyra, a woman who teaches what she calls Yoga Therapy. The participants in this class have their own afflictions which make my frozen shoulder look like Tai Chi in the park.  Comparatively speaking, I can consider myself lucky.  There are many people struggling through many kinds of physical challenges and recoveries and my heart goes out to them. I am tickled with Yoga Therapy but after the four sessions I get in on, Kyra is going away for several months. Now what?

With little progress, less money, and less energy, I feel like a shut in and get into a mental funk that yo-yos until I spot an ad in the Spring Guide for our local rec centre. Yoga Over 50. It promises gentle yoga two days a week in the a.m. and the drop-in cost is $1… wait, am I seeing that right. One dollar!  As it turns out, it is $1 for over 60 and $2.50 for over 50. Didn’t I just turn 50?  Well then I guess I can just squeak in. I try it.

Thus starts my dedication to a very unexpected and amazing group that I have come to call Granny Yoga.  I call it this because the women (although a few men come and go), are twenty years my senior.  The one who leads the exercises is Nan. She is 86. We can’t properly call her a leader since she is not trained in Yoga, she just took over for Lilo, the original teacher, who is now well into her 90’s and no longer able to come to class, though a number of the grannies still visit her at home. I get the idea it is her mind more than her body that took Lilo out of the picture. However, you perhaps get what I’m thinking here. Is this a fountain of youth class or what. Well, perhaps, though true Yoga aficionados have been saying this for years haven’t they.

Nan, who has a wonderfully loud Scottish brogue, is also a little deaf and that’s why she talks loudly and everyone can hear her directions clearly. And I’m thinking how wonderful a world is it when you can take Yoga instructions in a Scottish accent from a feisty octogenarian.

The Yoga is perfectly gentle for my injured shoulder. Enough to stretch it but not too much, meanwhile the rest of the body is really enjoying getting its fair share of movement, and I realize that I used to do this a lot, and got out of it somehow. My favourite exercises are for the areas we forget, like the eyes (I later find out Paul McCartney is all over Yoga eye exercises See here). Your whole body needs movement and benefits from a regime. After all, all of it is going to have to get you through this life. All around the room I have a testament to this. But these grannies dish up Yoga class their style. There is a walk and sing segment and they stop in the middle for “comments” better known as yack.

During the comment time, we hear from Rebel Granny who is making us aware of the evils of the new proposal to let more oil tankers into our harbour that destroy the Indian Arm and the bay area (see petition here).  There is Canucks Granny who reminds us to cheer on our boys on the ice trying fo the Stanley Cup (sorry boys). There is the Singing Grannies who lead us in a chorus of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There is Nature Granny who tells us about the birds and flowers to watch for, “Doesn’t our parks board do a great job!”

There is also Eastern European Granny who talks about her grandkids and all the Easter eggs they painted, over 100. And of course there was the Easter egg hunt itself. “They found one from last year,” she tells us.  She is always the one to know the holidays and bring in treats. To instill on me the importance of coming regularly to Yoga she tells me, “If I miss one day, I am stiff.”

Then a familiar male face comes in, a man I know. It is Micheal who I met years ago at Toastmasters and we had bonded as fellow writers.  Michael had written a fabulous memoir of his time in India he spent working with Mother Theresa.

“Did you practice Yoga in India?” I ask him.

“Heavens, no,” he says, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if that was because they were too good or it was too authentic, but I do know that Michael likes to come to yoga to socialize with the gals.

I am starting to become self-conscious in this class. They start to call me the purple lady because I continually come in my favourite purple exercise suit, but that’s not why.  I know they are all wondering why “the kid” (I’m only 50), is coming to this class during the day.  So I take a chance and on the next comment time and decide to pipe up. I try to explain that I am in menopause and experiencing the phenomenon of a frozen shoulder and ask if any of them have had it. I get interrupted early with, “Speak up dear, we can’t hear you.”

“What’s she saying?”

“She says she’s going through menopause!” Nan’s buddy yells loudly into her ear and across the room and down the hall. “She says she has a frozen shoulder!”

“Oooh.”

During this comment session none of them seem familiar with my condition, but afterward a few of them, including Nan, comes up to me with stories of others and what they did.

Four weeks after I have told them why I am there, my arm starts to unlock by itself, so after a year and a half I can raise my arm over my head. You can’t imagine how nice that feels.  It’s not perfectly okay yet, but it is really a relief to see great progress

I start to believe that I owe a lot of it to Granny Yoga, and perhaps some diet shifts I made as well, but mostly Yoga. I am now a Yoga believer in a way I never have been before. Yoga will keep me young.  I decide to drop into another yoga class on the weekend where I can actually practice a downward facing dog. So I do and it’s nice and certainly more challenging, but they don’t give me eye exercises. And, even if they did, there ain’t no way I am giving up my Granny Yoga classes.

For more writing and teaching by Kathrin Lake go to kathrinlake.com or Vancouver School of Writing.com

Try this Video for further Yoga inspiration.  Thanks to Matt:

YOGA HELPS 47  YEAR OLD MAN WALK UNASSISTED AGAIN – CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO LINK

 

FINALLY, FINALLY I have the VIDEO of Lilo Pederman – the original instructor –  showing her Yoga routine!

(Sorry for the poor quality)

avideoofliloperderman

Dining in the Dark

How was your Halloween? Scary, frightening or fun? Most of us are going to say fun, including myself, but it was also an adventure because I dined in the dark. No, that doesn’t mean that there was a power outage, or a forgotten electric bill, this was a very constructed experience lead by a good friend of mine, Kerry Ward, who is an adventure trainer.  This was not a “eating Big Macs with the lights out” kind of experience, but a posh, gourmet dining experience that was preceded by other “adventures.”

I love learning in two ways. The obvious one for me is by being told a story. The next way I like to learn is by doing it myself. Then it becomes my story. This is experiential learning, and whenever I can, I try to use this to teach others.  It might even be fun. But, sometimes you do things to expand your horizons and perceptions and get yourself out of your humdrumness. This is essential for writers and artists so they can tap that creative side that likes playfulness, where all rules go out the window.

The first part of our Halloween evening was a masked storytelling.  We were instructed to wear masks and dress in black. I preferred to remain anonymous and give myself a mask name, but most people gave their real name and told a personal story of something that frightened them and could be described as an adventure.

In the past, I have hosted ghost story sessions on Halloween, where we told our scary stories with nothing but Jack O’ lanterns lighting the room.  The stories were so spooky that they sometimes really freaked people out, but this night’s  storytelling was with the lights on and more about our experiences with adrenaline rushes, from near-drownings to being held up at gunpoint, from wild animals to black ice car slides. The scares of our lives. We were then asked to think about our future adventure.

So, that was all very nice and safe.  Myself and my 30 masked companions were now ready to sit down and have a gourmet meal brought to us, even if it was in the dark. That’s what we expected.  But like our real-life stories that is not exactly what we had signed up for. The plot thickens.

We were sent out on a bogus scavenger hunt to a hotel two blocks away. The package we received at the concierge was a bag of blindfolds. Oh! I thought to myself, I guess our dining is going to happen at this hotel. Wrong-o. We were taken back outside and blindfolded and put in a conga-line formation, with only our leader at the head of the line being fully sighted.

The adventure began as the blind lead the blind through our downtown waterfront spaces, across crosswalks, into car parks, up stairs and through lobbies.

“Slow down!” “Stairs!”Door” “Incline, going down.”

This was an exercise in communication, trust, teamwork and using your other senses that we would need later for the main event. But for now, we shuffled along, and by the honks we received from traffic, our human chain-gang of blindfolded diners made quite an unusual sight. But, hey, it’s Halloween. (Never mind that Kerry does this all year round). In any case, we arrived at our destination completely disoriented. Still blindfolded and now in a blacker darkness than outside. We were lead to our chairs to sit down at round banquet tables. Long before we got there, the smell of food was all around us and we had now built an appetite.

Unlike my expectations, where I thought that each course would be delivered as it was ready, as in traditional dining, here we were told that a three course meal with all utensils and accoutrements had already been laid out in front of us. We were allowed to eat it anyway we wanted to.

Once again, communication and teamwork was essential.

“Found a scallop at ten o’clock!”

“Beware the shot glass on the left.”

“Hurray, we’ve got ribs!” “Yippee, we’ve got chicken to the left!” “Oh joy, we’ve found chocolate on the right!” “Oh, oh, we’ve got liver.”

“I’ve got the butter, who’s found the bread?”

“I’ve got the bread and I’ll pass it clockwise, and you can follow it clockwise with the butter.”

Then there was the guess work, as in “what was that creamy stuff, next to the crunchy stuff?” It was both a collective detective experience and a primitive fumbling, yet sensual exploration. Some people admitted that they went to fingers pretty early, but I tried to stick to the knife and fork as much as I could, but the way I ate would have made my mother turn over in her grave. Thank God no one could see us in the dark.

For once the talk was completely about our experience in the moment, no polite dinner conversations. But, there was plenty of laughter and funny comments. It was to the point that I didn’t want to take the blindfold off when asked to at the end of the meal and they gradually brought the lights up.

Now this is where the dead chicken meets the road. What were we actually eating?  The chef and sous chef came out to show us the absolutely elegantly plated dishes that we had demolished like a bunch of vikings. The visual was totally lost on us, obviously, but did we guess our flavours right…

At first, I knew it was a taste I hated, and I had to go way back in my memory banks for the last time I ate it, because I have been studiously avoiding it for decades. Liver. Other than that, I actually knew surprisingly little for sure. I had no idea I had downed a quail egg with my fingers, for example, and that thing we thought was chicken… sweetbreads.  What are sweetbreads? Someone told me it was calf gonads! OMG! But I Googled it later and it is the thymus gland or pancreas of a young calf or lamb. As my vegan friends retch, I am only glad it wasn’t what my dining companion originally suggested. But there were also wonderful things like muscles in gaspacho, olive brioche, a yummy ravioli, bacon and scallops, chocolate mousse, orange ganache, as well as standards like lovely mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls with butter (served clockwise).

I think the chef really enjoyed challenging us and seeing our reactions at his reveal. Partly sadistic perhaps, but more out of curiosity I think. He really thought about textures as well as taste for us. Personally, I was amazed at how my sense of taste was not what I thought it was. We marvelled at how pretty the meal was that we had destroyed so unconsciously. We applauded him and his sous chef for the wonderful job.

So we sat with our dining table and dissected the adventure of the meal all over again, and all our crazy manoeuvers. Like when I took a scallop from a woman who was not able to eat shellfish (she had been pre-warned), and then later I thought how weird it was to negotiate that in the dark having never even seen her face, and having a scallop passed to me by hand. Rules out the window. And that was the true adventure of the evening, not how we interact with food, but how we interact with people. Isn’t that most of our adventure in life, in fact?

I love my ghost stories, but I would not have missed this scary Halloween adventure for all the scallops in the world. If you get a chance, try it!

The CLC

Other than a mutual hatred of the cold that takes us to Mexico every winter, what Jim and I share is a love of having dinner parties. Jim denies it, but he first fell in love with me at his own dinner party.  How did I get there?  Well he was dating my best friend, Elektra, or trying to, as we were all part of a Sunday night dance crowd at The Yale, infamous Blues Bar in Vancouver. I even told him, they made a cute couple on the dance floor, but I didn’t know him well.  One night, after sharing a laugh together he asked Elektra  if she knew me well, and she said I had been her best friend for 18 years. “Invite her to my dinner party,” he said.  

At the party, there was increasingly noticeable  attention paid to me, and less to Elektra. Not that it worried me a lot as Elektra had already told me that there was no sparks there for her, but it was a little embarrassing.  I was not looking for something, I was just enjoying being at a dinner party that wasn’t my own for a change.  But when I made a comment that indicated that I not only knew the artist Jim had on the stereo, B.B. King, but I knew the name of B.B. King’s guitar, Lucille, he started to fall heavy for me, and asked me out right then and there in front of all his friends. His friends, by the way, I had liked so much I had already invited them to dinner at my house in three weeks time, so it was kind of hard to say an outright no.  The whole story of the final pairing of us is longer, but here it can be said that a mutual love of dinner parties was a launch pad, and continues to be a main stay in our life together.

Fast forward seven years and we are in our beloved town in Mexico for another winter and we want to have a dinner party. We want to introduce two American couples together that we know and love but they don’t know each other…yet. Huff and Eileen, former Californians, and Jimmy and Juanita, living between Texas and Mexico are all great people, but I am curious to see if they are going to hit it off, because you never know. In particular, I am concerned because Jimmy is a expert level surfer but, Huff is a jet ski expert.  I don’t know enough about the battle over the surf, but I believe surfers and jetskiers are not always compatible. Am I setting up two species that don’t belong together?  Like the faux pas of asking a very right-wing Republican to dine with very left-wing Democrat, but instead of political differences, am I setting up a surf turf war at the dinner table?  I know that these are things Jim never considers or stresses over, so I take a page from his book and leave it alone.

The party starts with some beverages at the pool and gets lively quickly.  Not only do these two couples get along but the stories and laughs are flying.  Jim and I are not introverts at all, yet for the first time I felt like we were being polite Canadians and could barely get a word in edgewise to these gregarious Americans. Then the subjects of jet skiing comes ont he table, I look carefully at Jimmy, who I’ve known a little longer to see if he is trying to mask any disgust… Texans do play poker right?

Well, did I call that concern wrong, pretty soon it is out in the open that we have a jet skier with a surfer and they start to talk about the love of the waves that they have in common.  Now, in addition to being a surfer Jimmy is a business owner in Texas and Mexico, and suddenly I see a side of this man who is in great shape in his 50s partly due to his avid surfing, in a whole new light.  I had never heard him talk surfer dude talk before, suddenly if I had a dollar for every time he said “gnarly” and “bitchin” that night I would have made a tidy profit.  But I don’t recall ever having heard him say these kind of words before.

Huff and Jimmy start to launch on their tales, tragedies and triumphs of the tides, and I am reminded of the scene in Jaws where they are comparing shark encounter stories (coincidentally, I just heard that 75% of shark attacks are on surfers, and I am sure jet skiers aren’t far behind). I bone up on all kinds of surf talk like Pointbreak and a Barrel and in the process learn that jet skiers often tow surfers out to their favourite surf spots. “Less paddling, dude!” The long and the short of it is, I did not need to worry about these two not getting along.

Well, so starts our friendship of couples… or maybe it can best be called dating.  As Nora Ephron said, “couples date each other.”  Well, if that was true we seemed to be having a threesome dating experience.  Even when we were alone over at Eileen and Huff’s, inevitably Juanita & Jimmy would bang on the door and we’d all be together again.  It was Juanita who noted that all of us owned corner lots within two blocks of one another. And while we have yet to build on our lot, Juanita said “Let’s form The Corner Lot Club.”  Thus The CLC was born. Just for fun. I was so hoity toity and contradictory to the people there, that we just had to do it.

Out to the coolest, cheapest or best places to eat, sometimes all three in one, in our town or the four or five surrounding towns in the area, was part of our new group social adventure. Or having dinner parties and feeding each other, or one evening we fed the crocodiles together (see photos). The CLC is now our little institution.  I Skyped with Jimmy the other day and they just went to a Chinese restaurant run out of someone’s house, someone who was actually Chinese which is a little more rare in our small Mexican town then say…Vancouver.  See there are good things about Vancouver.

I guess the reflection today is how people’s lives change when you invite them over to dinner. Breaking bread with others will always be on of the great rewards of anyone’s life, from the poor to the mega-wealthy, aren’t we lucky.

The Mexican Chistmas Burro Boogie

Do you ever wonder what your Christmas would be like if you weren’t doing any of the traditional things you usually do, perhaps in a far away land… perhaps in Mexico for example?

I did not have to wonder this year. This Christmas eve, I spent trying to speak in three different languages: English, French and Spanish.  We were surrounded by our Québécois Mexico friends, Guy, Ramona, Alice, Luc and Joanne. Each person had different levels of fluency in different languages but we muddled through, and of course alcohol tends to help.

They took us to a restaurant in the neighboring town famous for its service where they make quite a show of it.  For example, we had seven people at dinner, so, when our orders are ready, seven waiters come to the table. They synchronize it perfectly and put each order in front of each of the guests simultaneously.

We laughed, told stories, in multiple languages, and then we walked through town where all the families were having their parties; lights, fireworks and firecrackers galore.  All night long, music, fire crackers, and party, party, party.  Everyone.  All ages. This makes for a pretty quiet Christmas morning, since everyone is sleeping in, or at least until we heard something we had never heard before.

This was the moment that I really knew I wasn’t having Christmas at home. We both heard what we thought at first was a very strange horn. Jim poked his head out the window and said, “Get a look at this, you won’t believe it.”  I did, and if I hadn’t seen it myself I might not have. To the entertainment of the neighborhood a donkey, really a burro, had gotten lose and was galloping down the middle of the street braying at the top of his lungs.  I had never heard an animal, relatively small, make such a big sound.  It was like a call to Christmas morning. With all the parades and re-creations of the nativity we had witnessed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with a donkey always carrying a Mary and a baby Jesus, it was like the donkey was yelling its freedom from all this Christmas stuff at the top of his lungs. Everyone in the neighborhood was laughing.

After our novel alarm clock, we decided to go to brunch at my favourite breakfast place, La Casa de Mi Abuela, The House of My Grandmother.  I rode my little vintage folding bike that makes me feel like I am twelve again while Jim walked.  Despite the recession making a noticeable drop in tourism this year, the street side Abuela cafe is packed. Good food and service always attract.  There is always a range of 7 to 10 different kinds of fruits on their fruit plate and I always have to have the pancakes.  By accident, Jim and I discovered a new taste sensation.  Since the Mexicans put lime on everything, one day I tried it on my pancakes with maple syrup.  Damn if that wasn’t the best taste combo discovery I have ever made in my life. The sour lime and the sweet maple syrup compliment each other perfectly, and with Abuela’s fluffy pancakes, it is “to die for,” as my sister would say. Well I could go on about their spiced potatoes and their excellent complimentary condiments like granola, yogurt. jams and marmalades, and cookies with your coffee, but I think you get the idea.

We were also sitting beside Bonny and her partner, also here from Vancouver. She is a Jazz singer who comes here every season and will be making appearances in some of the nicer restaurants.  We make small talk and the usual gratitudes of how lucky we are to be here.  She admires my bike.  Again, I feel as proud as a preteen.  We talk about the Vancouver music scene and I mention to her that I noticed that in the women’s washroom  in the restaurant, on the back of the stall door is a fan club bumper sticker for a local Vancouver band, Brickhouse, from The Yale.  We both think this is pretty funny that it wound up here, but given how many Canadians are here maybe not so strange.

We return home to encounter the donkey across the street eating garbage at the empty lot.  I am worried for the donkey.  They will eat anything and we hatch a rapid plan to catch it.  Fortunately, we document the whole event with video and photos, and I add some music and commentary and post it on YouTube, calling it the Christmas Burro Boogie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MszDtbqE_L4 , it has a moral to the story which I will let you discover on the video rather than repeating it here.

The big revelation is that this was definitely not a “normal” Christmas, and while I love traditions, I am very happy forging new ones and discovering Christmas Mexico style.  Feliz Navidad and Feliz Ano!

Kathrin Lake, Story Coach, helping others discover themselves through stories and to write amazing books and speeches.  See our online group coaching for a low rate and our February writing retreats in Mexico: www.survivaltothrival.com

Letting Go of a Baby Tortoise

Well we are back in our beloved Winter home in Mexico. For a full week now we are perpetually meeting and greeting all our friends and fellow snowbirds, and do the usual settling in and putting things in order.  The gringos here help each other out, and Guy lends us his van to collect supplies in Manzanillo and coincidentally also allows us to pick up our friend Danielle who is travelling through Mexico.  Like us, Danielle cannot tolerate the lack of sunshine and warmth that a Canadian winter forces us to endure, and is here to get her dose of ultraviolet, vitamin D, and give the sinuses a break.

We have been showing off our little town to her and she is much impressed.  Not just with the scenery but how we drop in on people at any time and they welcome us in.  Even people who we don’t know invite us in, as long as we say the name of someone that they do know.  This is our Mexico, filled with friends, lots of info sharing, many small adventures that give us amusing and interesting stories that would never happen back home.  One of the best for me happened to us tonight.

Tonight, while having a drink in our favourite bar at the end of the beach, a volunteer from the Tortuga (Tortoise) Shelter came in and asked us if we understood Spanish and if we would like to help release the baby Tortugas that were hatched only an hour ago.  We all jumped at the chance.  Coincidentally, Jim and I had been by the shelter two days before.  We peeked in at the fenced off section of the beach with the little flags indicating where the tortuga eggs are buried below the sand. We had often done this before, but this time we read the cards on the flags. On the cards it said “Proximo Nac.” and a date.  I tell Jim that this means the next time for their birth, but we look at the dates and Jim notices that the dates are all this week and over the next few weeks.  But we continue on our merry way, not knowing that we will be pressed into service two days  later in the early evening to release these babies to the ocean. 

Now a bunch of us gather around a bin of sand with dozens of baby Tortugas, only and inch and a half long, all struggling to get out and move forward to the ocean.  The volunteer gives us a little history.  The babies are only one hour old and they release them after sunset, about seven p.m., so that the birds won’t pick them off. They show us that in the tummy of these little creatures is the area that contains the mysterious locator that will ensure these tortugas will return to this exact spot, fully grown, in 15 years, and ready to lay more eggs each season. Over their lifetime, (which is up to 150 years old) they will hatch 900 eggs, of which only a small percent will survive.  They ask us to never take part, or condone in the consumption of Tortoise eggs (a delicacy). 

They tell us to take off our shoes and socks, and roll up our pant legs as we will be getting wet. They prepare the palms of our hands by smoothing a bit of sand across them, so the tortugas are oriented with the sands they will be returning to in 15 years.  Then we each get a baby tortuga, so small and new, placed in our palms. They try to wriggle up the mini beaches of our sand-laden palms, instinct pulling them to the ocean.  We have to keep re-placing them to the bottom of our palms or they will get away on us.  I am amazed to think that this wee creature will one day be as large as the kitchen table I am now typing at.  Out of Jim, Danielle and I, Jim is the only one who has seen the magnificence of a full grown Tortoise in the ocean, while he was sailing in these waters a few years ago.

Now the volunteers are taking us down to the ocean and explaining that we have to go to the edge of the surf with our wriggling babes, and after a wave the volunteers will tell us when to release our tortugas to their fates.  The wave comes crashing in and christens our ankles up to our knees. “Ahora!” the volunteer calls, “Now!” In we place them, and as the water from the wave withdraws the undertow sucks the babies out into the ocean, the small creatures left up to their destinies in the vastness of the Pacific.  I am overcome with emotion, and call out “Good luck!” the only thing I can think to wish the small babe that was entrusted to me for mere minutes before I had to release it. My voice is lost in the waves, but I put up a silent prayer as a surrogate mother wishing a long and happy life to this one. And that is all any of us can hope for.

I reflect how nature has prepared these little ones to go straight out into the world and handle all that befalls them immediately, unlike us humans.  After nearly 50 years I still don’t know if I am prepared for all that life may throw at me.  But perhaps we always do have everything we need. A little luck and our persistent wriggling through is the only thing we ever needed and ever will need.  Whatever our life here on the planet will be, I am once again eternally grateful to be part of the mystery, the adventure, and yes, even the struggle. For life is a vast and deep ocean which none of us can fully fathom, yet to help others, all creatures great and small, seems to give us an ethereal joy, and may be our highest purpose.

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival www.survivaltothrival.com

See Writing retreats to Mexico on sale now at: www.survivaltothrival.com/services/retreats

The Gala

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

The Tango Gala

A brief post before I fly to San Francisco to join the Experts Academy.  The Tango Gala on Saturday was amazing.  I had no idea how many talented tango dancers there are in Vancouver.  They came dressed in glitter and glamour and in all shapes and sizes . All were extraordinary and impressive with their own personalities in their dance. Like the little Asian man who was always 5 inches shorter than any partner, yet his passion for the dance was tireless. He was living his dreams.  The demo from Guillermo Salvant and Silvia Grynt from Argentina brought by Gabriela Rojo was fun and of course, impressive. I caught some still photos from my video here.  I downloaded the video of one demo (they did three) to youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXjtBr97XfM . In addition, we saw on the dance floor Salsa, Milonga (a tango at double time), Merengue and Tango waltzes. We also saw a terrific Bellydance demonstration.  But the best was seeing Gabriela herself doing her Gaucha Bolero dance. I also downloaded a vid of that at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgTJgTIH848 .

Jim and I dance about 6 dances together and I managed to do a few things passably but we both felt way out of our league.  Jim even threw in a few swing dance moves to a few of his surprised dance partners. We are so much more competent at that dance.  Do what you know, they say but it takes time to learn anything, takes time to know anything. One day, I hope to be comfortable doing the tango. I wonder how may human beings on the planet at this time have tried to master a dance? Perhaps many more with Dancing with the Stars (must be very good business for dance schools these days).  Ah, but trying is one thing, gaining competence is another. Many people give up. Jim says, persistence + work = joy & ego strokes. And for some of us, it is delightful to move the body and express ourselves in whatever God gave us.

The Upcoming Big Gala

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango lesson #8 – three big lessons for everyone.

Once again Gabriela has pushed me to learn intermediate steps and pieces of choreography beyond what is normal for beginners, but Jim and I have finally figured out why she is doing this. I am not quite the Tango protegé she and my ego wants to believe. We figured that she is trying to get me to catch up to Jim.  Why? So we can dance together in the big Tango Gala next weekend. OMG this sounds like the plot of a schlocky Hollywood film!  No, it is not a competition just a dance, and also a demo of some of the  world’s best tango artists.

So we learned a classic slinky tango sequence that draws all the focus to the woman and her gams. Now, a word about this. I like my body.  And it has taken me years to feel that way about it, but I still envy women with nice legs.  Even when I pare down to my skinniest I have stocky legs – they are not horrible – but they are far from classic dancer’s legs.  My mother used to say, “Just be thankful you don’t have a set of toothpicks and some knobby knees.”  And I am thankful for that. I like what I have. But, what is a girl to do when coming up to the big Gala?

In another chapter in my life E got me into taking bellydancing. She had been taking it for awhile and I was a beginner. We were practicing one afternoon and I was trying hard to get it right and finally she said, “Just fake it, ’til you make it.”

“Really?” I said.

“Just think of everything you thought bellydancing was when you were a girl, and would play at it. Whatever you thought of it then, exotic mystery, harems, the Dance of the Seven Veils, Barbara Eden and I Dream of Jeannie, you should still use.”

In essence, just play it as if you are it, not as if you are learning it.  So, I let myself go to that place, and had fun swinging my hips more and using my arms and hands more fluidly.  Is it surprising that my dancing got much better?  So, the same thing goes for tango. Be as sensual and mysterious as you like.  Pretend you are a double agent flirting with another secret agent.  Whatever it takes.

Two lessons to get out of this one… no three. First,’ fake it ’til you make it,’ is a terrific practice when you are learning. Second, don’t let go of your fantasy about things because it keeps whatever it is beautiful and alluring. Even as you are adding the reality, keep the fantasy. Third, you can’t dance well if you worry about what you or your gams look like, so just love them and make everyone else love them, not by how they look but by how you move them.

These are all lessons you can transfer to just about everything in life, even the last lesson. If you worry too much what others think you are not moving as fluidly as you can in life.  Whenever you realize you are doing this to excess, pause and do a rethink. Check in and see if you might be creating something that is no longer worth creating.

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival www.survivaltothrival.com See retreats to Mexico on sale now.