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Welcome to my notebook…

by Jan

This is where I practice scribbling my thoughts, post photos, and allow rambling insights.  Thanks for the visit. Please, feel free to add a comment or in join a discussion. Say what you mean, mean what you say, just one rule: Don’t say it mean!

PS. For more stories and past personal insights, visit JanParkerArts and read from my notebook.


by Jan

I last saw Debbie Romero at our 40th high school reunion in 2013.

She was a bright star in our class. I met her at girl scout camp. She played the flute. We were friends, and she was smart – Debbie was so smart.

After we graduated from LAHS, Debbie got a scholarship to Smith College. That pretty well tells you just how incredible smart she was. At the reunion she told me she was a lawyer on the board of directors of Smith.

I lived in Amherst and worked as a janitor at UMass the first year Debbie attended Smith. We got together a few times. She showed me around the school.What I remember most, was her telling me of a woman who left an apple legacy for the students at Smith. What that meant was every student was to get an apple a day if they attended the school.

For me — that was the coolest legacy. What a fine thing to leave for others.

I heard the news of Debbie’s death yesterday. Fucking cancer.

I didn’t realize it until yesterday, but I still think of Debbie and that legacy when I eat apples, and I eat them most days.

I’m glad I knew you Debbie. Salute.


by Jan

I moved to the small town of Grove, Oklahoma in 1977. I was married to a man named George at the time. We had just moved from the DC area where George was a Captain in the Army.

I can say — my life was different from how it is now. Really, really different.

The best part of this move, was my good fortune of needing to go to the local laundry mat.

I was loading up the machine, and noticed woman my age, wrapping up her weekly laundry chore. She started the conversation.

“Are you new here?”
“Yup, just moved in a couple of days ago.”
“Do you have kids?”
“Do you smoke pot?”
“My name is Sandie.”
“I”m Jan.”
“What would you had said if I had answered differently?”
“I would have just left – I have too many friends with children and not enough that get high, why don’t you come by sometime.”

She folded her laundry and left.

I finished up my laundry and drove to her house.

We’ve been best friends for 40 years now.

I’m a lucky girl!


by Jan

My best girlfriend and her husband are here for a visit.
What that means is… the house is full of extra love and laughter now.

I’ll post a story another day.


by Jan

If you are on our Christmas gift list — the chances are pretty good you’ve received a Sunshine Coast calendar. Becky Wayte is the photographer, and I’ve been a fan of her work since I first saw her work on Facebook.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to follow her around in a day, not in a stalky weirdo way, but in a super curious, watch her work, and could I keep up with her way.

It seems to me, that she is up taking a photo of the sunrise most mornings, then throughout the day she will post a photo of a bear, bird, flower, or tree from some hike she is on. And before calling it a night, there will be an incredible photo of the sunset posted. (Plus, I know she also has a job at the college here!)

If you are on Facebook – follow Sunshine Coast Trails. Her work is lovely.

So, anyway – Becky took a workshop on portrait photography in Nova Scotia recently. She mentioned she was looking for volunteers to practice on. Seeing my chance to get to know her better, I offered to sit.

Ken and I had out portrait taken once before a few years ago. I have to say it was a bit of an ordeal. Furniture was moved, lights were lit, there were screens, and cords. The setup was complex and then it felt like there was hours of fussing, hundred of photos taken, with me sitting on a stool, wondering if my smile was crooked or hair under control. The end result was nice — but the process was a bit much.

So, it was an absolute delight when Becky showed up yesterday with camera in hand, looked around the house, set me down in a chair, and took my picture.

Sure there was some fussing. The light from the window made my purple frame glasses give a reflection she didn’t like on my face, and could we please take down some of the art on the wall to have a clear background — no problem.

I took her direction,  my glasses came off, then on. She said, turn your head this way, lower your chin, look at me with intent, and snap.

I don’t think Becky was here a full hour. She took maybe 20 pictures of me. Then before she left, she asked Ken if he wanted his picture taken too. Ken changed his shirt, sat at the table and click, click — done and done.

The end result – Amazing!

Becky caught us. The photo of Ken is pure Ken. And, while I admit, it is hard to look at a photo of myself without some form of judgement, I feel I must write a book now. I’ve the perfect photo for a jacket cover!

The sign of an expert in any field, is in their ability to make hard work appear easy. Becky did just that.

I salute!


by Jan

I rarely get excited by celebrity. Oh, sure I often tell folks how ,I saw Elvis Stojko on the streets of Vancouver and said, “Hey Elvis,” he in turn said, “Hey!

It was cool. But, for the most part, the few times I’ve met the famous, I don’t stumble or goo-gah.

Stefan Sagmeister, was someone I was star struck by. I think he was just so darn handsome that it threw me. I mumbled something clever when I met him, like… “heh, I’m a big fan.” Honestly, other than listening to his TED talks, I know nothing of his work. Still, I was struck.

Now, last night we saw Ron James. I’m a fan, I really like him, but I was not star struck in the least. What I was, was totally convinced, that if given half the chance, he and I would be terrific friends. I just know it.

Of course we didn’t meet. I was one person in a house full of people he made laugh. I did not go back stage. I did not shake his hand, invite him for tea, or grab a photo with him. He came on stage, did his thing really well. We laughed and applauded, then came home.

It was a super fun time, but I feel it was also, a missed opportunity.

He’s on to his next gig in Mapleridge tonight, then Prince George. I’m left with memories of a great show, and the certain knowledge that Ron James and I should be friends. I know he and Ken would get on like a house of fire as well.

Knowing famous people is not my goal; choosing fun people to be friends with is.

Marian Bantjes is probably the most famous person I know today. I like her for a plethora of reasons, her fame is only a bonus for me though. Now, I’d really like Marian to marry Colin Firth. Again, not because he is famous, but because he is someone I’d like to be friends with, and I thought it would be nice if they could come for over dinner. She tells me he is already married…. Whatever.

All this mindless rambling, to say, we had loads of fun at the Ron James show last night. We laughed and laughed, and I am not giving up on making him my friend. I really hope he will one day come to my birthday party, or sit on the deck with me and we could swap stories. I just feel that, if we would take the time, we’d make good friends. I just know it.

Oh, here’s an idea — maybe Marian could marry Ron James! Yeah!

P.S. Did I quit the writing class too soon? 🙂


by Jan

If you read this bloggy thing on a regular basis, on January 3rd I said I wanted the Canadian comic, Ron James come to my birthday party. On January 4th, I said I would use all the points, I collect to get him here.

If you haven’t Googled Ron James yet, please do so. Find some clips on You tube, sit back and enjoy a show. To me the guy is one of the best word smiths around AND he is hilarious.

Now, If wishes were horses, we’re riding tonight!

My birthday has passed, but Ron James is in Sechelt!
We have tickets to his show tonight, and I’m pretty darn excited about it!

Oh and… it looks like my brother Art sold the house in Dodge. Crazy times of change ahead.


by Jan

After much hubbub, hand wringing, and advice from a really smart friend, I decided to quit the on-line writing class.

It was not the class for me. I struggled and struggled just to understand most of the assignments. Not much made sense to me. The class was for screen writers and it wasn’t really a class. It was on-line lectures and a web site to post stuff. But rarely was a comment or critique made. I could go on with reasons and excuses, but the truth of the matter is — the class wasn’t for me. I appreciate my friend Marian, and her voice of reason. She encouraged me to quit and I was grateful.

The class did excite me in some ways. Maybe this fall I will find a creative writing class at the college. Then again — perhaps, I’ll sit on the deck and read.

I admit it is hard for me to quit. I don’t like being a drop out. I know I have a hard time sticking to things. I like to go where my nose takes me. My attention span is short and when things get hard, I look around for easier.

Then again, I have stayed happily married since 1983, and sober for 33 years. 1984 was same year I started playing tai chi and quilting. I’ve been spinning since my leg wreck more than 25 years ago. Sandie and I have been best friends for 40 years! And while I’m not participating in PAWMA, NWMAF of Tai Chi seminars, I’m in close touch with many friends I’ve met through the arts. I imagine I will grow old with them as well.

Chungliang Al Huang encouraged me back in 1989, to try something new every decade. He suggested I give it 10 years. His theory was that practicing anything for 10 years would make you pretty proficient at it and in 80 years, you would have eight skills you were pretty good at.

Even though I’ve quit more things than I’ve started – I have stuck to a few. This bloggy thing for example has been going on since 2008!

So, I’m a quitter who persists!


by Jan

The dog ate my homework.

That’s my story – I’m sticking to it.


by Jan

This master writing class with David Mamet is hard. I’m in way over my head, and while I’m grateful for the challenge, it’s obvious, that I should take a grade 12 creative writing class instead. (Not that that would be any easier!)

When I’m not an instant success at something, my inclination is to quit. But, my closet is full with the unicycle, water colours, and rope twirling kit. Those are only a few of the skills I gave up learning. When learning is hard, I stall and go watch TV.

The problem is I can’t think of thing I’ve learned that came easy. I’m not a natural at anything. Every skill has taken perseverance and practice. For example, my learning to cook is why we had to unplug the smoke detectors in the house and why my pot holders have burn marks on them.

I like learning; I’m a curious person — and why I became a teacher. We all know being a beginner is hard. I prefer being told how easy I make something look or how skilled I am, much more than hearing, “this needs work” and “try again.”

Right now I’m in that that horrid place where my writing is not coming together. I know I should not be posting it in public.

The next two assignments in this class don’t make any sense to me. I need to spend time with the notes, workbook and probably listen to the lecture again.

Today my goal is to “just do it.” I know from experience that if I stall much longer, I will have a hard time getting back to it. Then my habits will kick in and my learning will stop.

Plus… I don’t want to leave my so called “children’s story” up as the post to read if you are coming to this bloggy thing for the first time.

The good news is the weather here on the coast today is rainy, windy and all around crappy, so today is the perfect day is be inside, go to class, and throw words at the paper.

Then again — maybe I’ll find a “Say Yes, to the Dress” marathon on TLC!


by Jan

Assignment #3: Tell a weird story to a child. Suspend your own rationality and start making up a story out of thin air.

A child’s story
Once upon a time in a very small town, an old woman signed up for a dramatic writing class. She had no idea of the challenges she would face.

The first two assignments went fairly well. Nothing to comment on, but the third assignment really stumped her. Her instructor told her — just for fun, make up a story and tell it to a child.

The old woman knew this instruction would be her downfall. The town people knew it too. Everyone knew she would never be able to be close enough, long enough, to tell any child, any where, any story. Children didn’t sit well with the old woman. She was not one to control her urges.

For four days the woman walked and thought. She looked out windows and kept thinking. Every time a story idea came to her, she’d get an uneasy feeling in her gut.

Being from a small town, people knew when the lady got around children, a low growling sound would emerge from her. Some thought she was growling at the little ones because she was mean. A few people knew the truth. The old woman was not growling at children. She was not a mean or hateful woman. In fact she love children; her tummy would rumbled when she got close to children because she craved babies.

Of course eating children is a problem for some, vegetarians mostly. Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, but then, she thought, they’ve never tasted one.

It was easier to have your choice of babies in a big city, but small towns were different. The old woman found she had to sneak, and could only grab a bite when no one was watching. She still remembers that time at the park with the fat one. Still, most of the mothers keep a good watch out, and don’t provide opportunity for more than a good chomp, sometimes two.

There have been times when the old woman was scolded for chewing on a baby. Once a policeman wag his finger at her when she was caught with baby drippings on her dress, and had forgotten to wipe her mouth.

Most children knew to stay away from her, especially when they heard the growling sound.

The editor of the weekly paper knew the old woman was a good writer. He wanted her to pass the course, and thought if she did, she might one day write stories for the town. He was also, well aware of the old woman’s dilemma, and her struggle to complete her assignment. He thought he could help, so he used his resources and concocted a plan.

The entire town showed up for a special town hall meeting. The Mayor laid out the challenge and in true community fashion, asked the town to help one of their own.

After much back and forth, and some heated debate, a solution was found. Not everybody was happy, but it was agreed, a sacrifice would be made.

The old woman was told to go ahead and write her children’s story. The town would support her. She was to not panic, her cravings would not be a problem.

The woman worked day and night on her assignment, writing and rewriting. Finally she had a story she could tell the children. Truthfully, she was more excited about the moment before she told the story, than for the completion of her assignment.

The morning her assignment was due, she walked proudly around the town, thanking everyone for making it all possible, especially Mrs. Skinner who made the biggest sacrifice of all. Then the children gathered in a circle, and she began,

“Once upon a time, in a small coastal town, an old woman celebrated her birthday. And first thing in morning, before anyone else was awake, before anyone else got in her way, she got to eat a baby…”