Excess: An amount or quantity beyond what is normal or sufficient.

This word best sums up 2012 for me.

Now, I am happy that I’ve accomplished many things this year including having this web site created (thanks Pat) and taking my first crack at blogging. My first non-fiction short story was published last summer. I co-hosted The Writer’s Studio Reading Series with Esmeralda Cabral for the first seven months of this year. Completed four courses at University while working full time. Traveled down the Oregon coast in August. I even managed to make new friends along the way and kept the ones I already know and love.

A well-informed purchase

I’ve also spent a lot of money. Not the things that we all need such as food, household supplies, pet food, even dinners out and the occasional movie, book, or magazine. Or those well thought out items, such as the red 2012 VM Beetle I bought in May– the first car that I’ve ever owned whose age is in the same decade that we’re living in. It’s also the second car I’ve ever bought.

What I’m talking about are the many times, I unintentionally walk out of a store with yet another sweater from Jacob, another pair of shoes from Gravity Pope, another book from the Book Warehouse, or another bag from Whole Foods with yuppie cookies in the shape of flips flops, beach balls, and palm trees, the latest vitamins, and brown rice sushi that I don’t need.

I can consume too many sweets such as bags of sour chews, scoops of vanilla ice cream (okay, sometimes the whole bucket), and  Triple berry muffins to satiate my appetite in between breakfast and lunch. It’s this unthinking reaction to consume something as soon as the thought pops into my head.

Have I been consuming more than my share of the pie?

It’s as if I took over from my sister Wendy. She was the one who bought in excess, not me. But when she died in 2005, I thought “so what?” to another pair of black shoes, another duvet cover from Daniadown, or another set of towels. Another hit of feeling excited, euphoric, in the moment.

None of these purchases have made me any happier.

I am not in debt. I will still eat, pay my bills on time, and I am lucky enough to be able to live my life as I basically choose. I am also within my normal weight range. But what I want in my life is to not be beholden to an internal force that has taken choice away from me.

My wish for us all in 2013 is to receive what we need, but not necessarily what we want at the precise moment we want it.

Happy New Year everyone,


Most of my friends love yard sales. They tell me of pulling their car over to sift through other people’s junk lying on a sidewalk, front yard, or garage, elated to find that one spatula, book, or mug for a quarter. I even have one friend who would forage in the lane ways, looking for old lamps, living room side tables, or book shelves. I likely don’t need to add that all of these friends are perfectly capable of buying almost anything they want at any price within reason. I, however, can’t stand these sales.

So why did I just have my sixth one last weekend?

I've had them all.

It has taken me four years to begin clearing out my family home yet again. In 2008, I rented a bin that sat outside the front of the house and loaded old furniture such as two full bedroom sets that were in rough shape, a couch, two love seats, three chairs, several beds (yes, plural), two old desks, boxes upon boxes in the crawl space and things that never should have come into the house in the first place. I took five car loads of linen to the SPCA. A friend of mine estimated that I had 300 mugs and glasses spread out on the living room floor before my first sale. I sat at the shredder for weeks to dispose of bank statements, tax returns, old bills, and various documents – some that went back to 1959. Even now my mind goes blank when I try to think of everything that my sister, father, mother, and grandparents owned. Afterwards, I called Big Brothers to pick up a room full of stuff left over from the sale.

I’ve asked several people why I was the one left to look over every last family possession and decide what to do with it. It appears I am the only one who didn’t inherit a hoarding gene, although I do have one uncle that I likely take after. The mere thought of clutter makes my skin crawl.

“Because no one else would have done it, Jenny.” Has been the general response.

At first I felt that I was leaving my family behind each time I got rid of their possessions. I had this feeling that if they came back they’d sure be mad at me for getting rid of their clothes and precious knick-knacks. I’d have to replace them. Eventually, I got over that, when enough time had passed that internally knew that they will never be coming back.

I felt as if stuffed animals and cute ornaments including horses, unicorns, racoons, cats, and dogs were real and would have feelings of abandonment when I ditched them. Even today every sale is draining for me, my life oozing out on the floor around me. I have made a bit of money, but in the end, it likely amounted to maybe $600-700 for all six sales. I get angry, irritated, and wonder why I’m doing this until I realize that this is my process. Let the feelings pass. Acceptance.

There have been good times at my sales. Most people that come are friendly and love to talk. Everyone collects something different – old watches, cameras, classical music, children’s toys from certain periods, tea cups in a particular colour. They’ll haggle over anything and walk away if when they think 50 cents is too much money. I thoroughly enjoyed egging one customer on by up selling him whenever he gave me a price on a lamp.

“$2.50” he’d say.

I’d counter with “$4.00”. Then watch him squish up his face, close his eyes, and whistle lightly through the space between his front teeth while shaking his head as if to say ‘You’re killing me.” I did that three times before giving him the lamp for $2.50.

There are a crew of people that come early every time, arriving in different vehicles, but running into each other as they make their rounds on a Sunday morning. They’re all of different ages, cultures, and gender. One guy sticks a yellow flier through my mail slot the day before the sale just in case I’d let him take a look before everyone else. The group stands around while I set up, asking me if I have certain items that I never do.

Perhaps I’m making up for when I sold something I never should have. It was before the sale, and a man asked if I had any books. My Grandfather had many old books from working as the curator of the Nanaimo Museum. I said, “sure come on inside.” He went through many of books I hadn’t even gone through myself. He ended up taking an old Lord of the Rings collection, the Hobbit that we use to read aloud as a family, and worst of all two first edition Pauline Johnson books bound in leather. I am sick today about those books, and even though he paid me what I agreed to, I wish I never let him in the house. That incident is part of the reason I never touched anymore stuff until this year.

Will I have any more? Ah, probably…

My local bookstore has been saved.

The Book Warehouse on West Broadway has been saved

In an earlier blog I wrote that the all the Book Warehouse locations were closing, however, as of June 1st, the Book Warehouse is now operating under Black Bond Books http://www.blackbondbooks.com/events.php. Same great staff, and except for a few layout changes (the Fiction section is now where the New Arrivals use to be) it’s the same store I’ve been frequenting for the last 20 years.

Just to make sure, I went in last week and bought an Oxford dictionary and while at the front counter I couldn’t help but blurt out, “I’m so happy you’re still here!” to replies from both store clerks, “We know! We’re really happy too.” Just when I thought the the hard copy reading material around my work hood had been unsurped by the ereader.

Will I ever get an ereader? Definitely, but this news has certainly postponed it for me for a year or two. I see owning an ereader as an extra to hard copy books, likely using the digital form for traveling, although I’m told that the ereaders are fragile and can break, for example, when one’s bags are checked onto an airplane.  I can just imagine asking my travel companion, “do you have a book I can borrow? Mine broke.” I hope that both digital and hard copy books can find a way to coincide together in our constantly progressing electronic world. After all, I didn’t get an iphone until last year, but now that I have one, I don’t know what I did without it.

Now onto replacing my desktop!


When I heard that the Book Warehouse was closing its doors, it hit me that as a reader and a writer (the latter of which I am calling myself freely now) I will have to take a close look at the way I utilize books, the Internet, and publishing.

I don’t have a Kindle or a Kobo. I am a compulsive book buyer and have spent countless lunch hours at the West Broadway branch walking down each aisle, soothed by the rows of big, small, colourful, thick and thin paperbacks and hardbacks with their spines not yet cracked, neatly tucked into shelves for me to pluck out when I see something interesting. Like candy with no calories. As I listen to the classical music floating throughout the store, I breathe in and then out, knowing that the world is okay especially when I have a new book to read. This is likely why I receive over $100 in Book Warehouse gift certificates for Christmas each year.

I already spend most of my time reading from computer screens, whether at work as a computer trainer or at home writing my own stories and I read CBC online every morning, so I have already made the transition in some ways. But the thought of lying in bed with a small screen in front of me doesn’t sound the same as holding my new book opening its cover for the first time, carefully reading the publishing information at the front, the dedication on it’s own page, any quotes the author has chosen, and later flipping back to scenes that I want to read again.

In the corner of my bedroom stands a wooden bookshelf bought over 40 years ago, its back facing the wall, hiding “deliver to Dr. and Mrs. Irvine” written on the back in black felt pen along with my family’s address. This is the shelf that contains all the books I have not yet read. Sitting on the corner of my chaise lounge I lean over deciding what to read from my own bookstore, finding the right one for that moment.

Once I’ve read the book, I take out a small notebook that I keep in the cupboard of my bedside table and write down the name, publisher, date of publication, month and year read, and a short review. Satisfied, I walk the book downstairs and place it on the bookshelf that covers one wall, floor to ceiling, in the basement.

It doesn’t take me long to find a several books that I take to the cashier to check out how much I’ve spent.

“I have three gift certificates and no idea how much is on each.” I tell the woman behind the counter as I place my stack of five books – Tea Obreht, Elizabeth George, Virginia Woolfe, Steve Martin, and John Updike along with three birthday cards – in front of her.

“I may have money over to buy a few more.” I smile. For a moment this is really fun, a splurge that I didn’t expect.

“Let’s check and see then.” She says as she scans the plastic cards. I watch another store clerk milling around behind her that I spoke to the last time I had a gift certificate.

“I’m so sorry. I come here all the time. I work at City Hall so it’s easy to pop in.” I say. “I love it here. I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” I don’t know what else to say as I know they are losing their job.

She smiles. “It’s nice to have a local bookstore to browse through at lunch time.”

“You picked a good day to come.” The other store clerk tells me. “Yesterday it was packed in here. I thought we were going to sell out in one day. Even now.” I turn around as he motions to the people behind me filling the aisles, all with books in their arms on a usually quiet Friday morning.

I turn back to the cashier. “You have $53 left.” She tells me.

“Okay, I’ll be back shortly.” I grab my bag and dive into the store again, this time finding books by William Gibson, The Lonely Planet Southern Africa, quotes from Steve Jobs, and two birthday cards. At one point, I put my bag, books, and my umbrella on a wooden chair that always sits by the mystery section. I take a picture with my iphone, the irony not wasted on me. I’ve cried in here at times when the world out there was too much and I needed a safe place for just a few minutes. The final book I pull from the shelf? Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre.

“All the best.” I say as I take my two bags and walk out for the last time. I think again to the bedroom bookshelf. It’s overflowing and I’ve already resorted to tucking books horizontally on top of other books. Perhaps I’ll place the new ones on the floor and in my bedside table, although there’s a stack in there too as well as a pile by my bed (I see this as the magazine/sale rack/sporadically read area).

I haven’t decided if we book people need a revolution of our own or if we need to succumb and read from a stale gray screen.





Welcome to my blog. My intention is to write about what goes on in my everyday life, the writing I do, and who I am or striving to be in this world. I want to keep it interesting – sometimes it will be funny; sometimes not. Whatever I do, I’ll do my best to keep it fresh! I welcome your comments. And a shout out to my friends – click that RSS button to subscribe!


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