My Two Front Teeth (and their somewhat epic saga)

When I was 8 I knocked out my two front adult teeth. It isn’t even an epic story. I wasn’t punched defending my friends honour. I didn’t make an insane hockey save (like most Canadian kids dream of doing at least once).

I was goofing off, around a yellow plastic slide, at night, in a park, in the winter, at Brownie Camp.

February 1993 – 9pm at the park outside the Nepean Museum. I was trying to jump onto another Brownie as she came down the slide. I missed and smashed my face on the side of the slide. Obviously the ballet lessons I had when I was 5 had done nothing for my lack of gracefulness. Though my failed jump could also be the fault of, you know, winter boots, and well, snow.

My teeth, roots and all, were knocked clean out of my face by that frozen plastic slide. Being winter in Canada in February, my teeth disappeared beneath the snow, never to be seen again.

I don’t even remember there being any pain, just shock, and lots of blood.  My mother (who happened to be one of my Brownie leaders) rushed to my side and held her puffy white mittens to my face as we shuffled inside to the bathroom. When she pulled them away, they were stained red with blood dripping off them like some low budget horror movie. I remember looking into the mirror and seeing the gaping hole in my smile. I didn’t even cry.

They were huge buck teeth, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing really.

Within a couple of week I had been fitted with a plastic, retainer-like appliance with two fake front teeth attached to it to fill the gap in my smile.

Not attractive, but really fun.

I learned to use my tongue to click out my retainer whenever I was bored or needed to do a Bugs Bunny impression. This was a great party trick until middle school where kids are just horrible little people. I have blocked out those two years, so moving on.

For High School I switched school boards for reasons completely unrelated to me not wanting to go to school with anyone who knew me as ‘Fake Teeth Girl’, though that was a huge bonus in my favour. I could start over, where maybe no one would notice that I had two fake teeth in the front of my face.

There was a slight problem. I had knocked my teeth out in Grade 3, and it was now 5 years later. I may have been petite, but I did grow, and so did my mouth, and the rest of my teeth just didn’t seem happy to stay where they were. Without my Huge Buck Teeth holding everything back, the rest of my teeth decided to claim the prime gum space for themselves, inching forward to close the gap.

By the time I got to high school, the two plastic teeth on the front of my retainer were together smaller than the real teeth they were between. It. Looked. Ridiculous.

Grade 10: Good-Bye fake teeth retainer. Hello Braces!

Since my teeth wanted to move anyway, it was time to help them along. Most other 15 year olds had braces too, so no one really cared. And with metal train tracks over my teeth, no one really noticed that two were missing. And a week later, I got glasses.

Luckily our school wasn’t too bad on the clique front. The football players were not the hottest or most sought after guys in the school: the hockey and rugby players were (hey, this is Canada.) We also didn’t have a cheerleading team, but our Reach For the Top (televised competitive trivia – just like the Mathletes in Mean Girls) – were National Champions!!

I was a drama kid, head of the Multicultural club, took photos for the yearbook, and sang in one of the choirs. My circle of friends ran the school (aside from actually being co-president of Student Council); they ran Athletic Council, Music Council, Drama Council, AV Club, the Newspaper, and the Yearbook. All in all, I had a great High School experience. Not bad for a kid with no front teeth.

I even had a boyfriend.

We met at a Joint Council of Ottawa meeting. It has nothing to do with marijuana, I swear. It was a council made up of teenage members of Girl Guides of Canada and Scouts Canada. The council would organize activities and camps for all of the members in Ottawa and the surrounding region. It was a nice, safe, supervised way for relatively harmless teenagers to hang out and go camping together. (Seriously, harmless. I mean, Guides and Scouts, come on.)

I arrived at my first JC meeting with a fresh broken arm. As in, that morning. I had been trying out for the girls touch football team at school. (yeah, touch football TRY-OUTS). It was my turn to do the running drill, and I fell while running backwards, and fractured my left radius.

I really should stay away from these whole jumping and running things.

He was the first person to come over to me at the meeting to say hi, ask about my arm, and sign my cast. We were High School Sweethearts for nearly 2 1/2 years and he went to a different high school. I still think that is pretty impressive considering we existed in a time before everyone had their own cell phone. No texting, no Facebook, which is probably why it worked.

With the end of High School fast approaching a realization washed over me: I desperately wanted teeth for Prom.

Most girls dream of the dress, the hair, the limo, etc. But nope, not me. I just wanted my braces off and to have what would maybe look close to two real front teeth. This would cost my parents an awful lot more than a regular prom.

Just weeks before the big day I had my appointment and four veneers were cemented to my now four front teeth. My eye-teeth and k9’s were reshaped to look like front teeth and eye-teeth, respectively. I was over joyed and my friends were really, genuinely happy for me.

It was great. Prom was great.

At the age of 18, nearly a decade after my dance with the slide, that holiday season was the first time that none of my “hilarious” uncles suggest I sing ‘All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth’.

Now, 22 years after that eventful night, when casual conversation occasionally turns to dental work, my friends and colleagues are surprised when I point to my mouth and say ‘these are fake.’ My teeth, or lack thereof, were once a defining factor in my life.

Now, I just smile… and stay away from yellow plastic slides.


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A New Phase – Scrivener & Allye/Erin Feedback Sessions

So I have moved much further along in my writing process thanks to a little program introduced to me by Allye called Scrivener. She has it on her Mac and I have the trial version on my hp which I will be purchasing before the trial period is over (in 16 non consecutive days…)

It is really a content generating program for writers rather than a word processing document and I am totally in love with it even though I haven’t fully figured out all of the features yet. In a few short weeks my word count went from around 6000 patchy pieces to over 10,000 in structured parts. That may not sound like a lot for a seasoned writer, but for a first time dive into this world, I think I’ve done pretty well so far.

I nearly have a whole chapter! This is very exciting to me, especially because it is the first chapter and many authors don’t write the first chapter until closer to the end. Maybe it won’t end up being the first chapter, but right now it is the introduction of my two main characters and I’m so happy it is almost complete. Once I have it to a completed first draft state I will be passing it along to a couple of trusted friends (other than Allye) who have volunteered to give me feedback and do some editing.

I am wary of joining any forums for writing feedback because I am afraid that someone will steal my ideas… that may sound cocky, but it is an honest fear. I don’t yet know if my work is any good or if it is spectacularly original, but if it is, and someone decides to copy/steal/expand on it, then I would lose control of my creation (my class last night was on intellectual property rights…). This is why when I hand it to my trusty feedbackers, it will be in paper format – not that they would steal it (and I know that they could lose it), but I just feel more comfortable that way.

Speaking of trusty feedbackers, Allye and I had our first Feedback Session – which I can forsee was just the first of many yet to come. We were sitting in the second bedroom/office at my place and each selected a section of our work (we both chose the beginning…) for each other to read. We nervously traded laptops in the middle of the room with an “I hope you like it” sort of laugh, and then sat there reading.

There was a big sigh and giggle in the room when we finished… because we had just let each other in on the big secret that is our respective novel. I was so happy when Allye said that she liked it and thought it was good. Allye’s work is really increadible. We each found flaws, loopholes and questions to discuss in each others projects and expanded on things that were questioned while each reinforcing the parts we thought were well done. A supportive girly atmosphere all around.

Talking through it really seems to help flush out tiny ideas into realisitc concepts, which is especially important in the fantasy world that I am creating as well as in the sub-world that Allye is creating. There are rules that need to be established in order for the fantasy to have boundaries and be based in reality – in a way that makes sense and feels natural.

So I can see this becoming something that we do every 2-3 weeks as we each have more detail to sort through and loopholes to figure out (there always has to be a loophole…)

I guess my frustration now lies in my ideas coming in spurts when I really don’t have the time or opportunity to get them into my laptop (which I coudl have been doing now except for being at work…). My other issue is that many of the ideas I have had in the past few days have been from a time period about 10 years after the start of my novel – when the characters are much older.. so I know where they are going in esscense but still need to get them there…

Alas that is a problem for another day…


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Untangling the Knots

One part of my knotwork life that I did not mention in my first post is my writing. For the past few months I have been writing a fantasy novel. It is a pretty basic, medieval/feudal setting of some political and romantic inclination. It is not yet truly a fantasy novel except for the fact that it takes place in a geographic location that I have made up myself – sort of an alternate historical fiction at this point rather than fantasy.

That being said I have taken my good friend Allye’s advice and have now officially begun to blog my experience writing this novel. For the past few weeks hardly anything has been added to what I call my “working story pieces” document. So I’ve been a bit stuck and uninspired. The good thing about this sort-of writers block is that I know where my issues are. Maybe writing them out will help me sort my way through them and get more on to the page, so to speak.

My first issue is that I have trouble writing dark characters. I can write the character outline and some of their back story, but when it comes to sitting down and writing an actual paragraph (let alone a full scene or chapter) I seem to have no idea where to start. I get frustrated, but frustration isn’t enough to get to what really needs to be written. It may stem from reading ‘choose your own adventure’ novels where I always took the ‘good’ or ‘safe’ path, which somewhat reflects my own life. This even surfaced when playing Fable III – I always lead my character through the most moral path possible.

That being said, I don’t believe that you have to experience or do bad things in order to be able to write evil characters or dark events. I do however believe that being in a dark place (mentally) personally, can affect a person’s writing (see some interviews by J.K. Rowling for her own experience with death and grief and how it affected the Harry Potter series). Perhaps I haven’t been able to tap into those darker experiences and feelings that I have had in order to channel it into my writing.

The other issue I have right now is being able to incorporate more ‘fantasy’ into my novel. I have not included any magical or strange beasts so far, not even a mention. I have a couple of characters who are magical, but not like in Harry Potter or the Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time Series (Robert Jordan).  I have just a few people whose magical abilities manifest themselves a bit differently in each person. The ratio of magical characters to non magical characters is more like that of Lord of the Rings where only Gandalf and his order are the recognized wizards (before I get long emails from Ringers describing the magical properties of all of the other races, particularly Elves and Hobbits – I have read LOTR, love the books, and am just using this as a simple example of my own ratio).

For example I have one character who can see Auras – very useful for seeing a person’s true character and the direction of their intentions.  Another one of my characters is able to use a sort of compulsion to slowly manipulate and control another persons opinion and attitude – and in the long run because of this: their behaviour. Another character is skilled in healing. The distinction is that not everyone can do everything magical which means that learning is difficult because though another person may be magical, they probably can’t help you master your abilities because they are different. This makes having magical powers a very hit and miss sort of situation and involves a lot of trial and error.

The other issue that I had mentioned is the animals which are very prevalent in most fantasy novels. The obvious place to start would be with all of the great standards of Western (and some Eastern) Lore, particularly Dragons, Manticores, Mermaids, Phoenixes, etcetera. All of these have their own great history and weaving them into my story has not yet seemed natural. Even the bad guys so far in my story are other humans, not some evil animal or omnipotent deity that has manifested in Humanoid form.

So really not much of a fantasy novel? Lol… ah well. What I do have are a handful of characters that I really love who have slowly developed in ways that I did not imagine a few short months ago. If anything, I just want to get these characters out on paper so I can see how far they really can go (or how far they will fall – depending on the person)

I guess it probably doesn’t help that I am currently reading Game of Thrones – the first book in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. His story is so complex (and sometimes confusing) and rich that it is all I can do to want to write something that brilliant. So there is definitely an intimidation factor that I am dealing with right now, and one that I didn’t feel when I was reading Lord of the Rings. Maybe it is the writing style, or the grandeur, or the flowery writing (or lack thereof depending on the author). All I can do is write my story and hope that maybe it will actually be worth reading.

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The Knotwork that is my Life

Knotwork (noun): ornamentation consisting of a mass of intertwined and knotted cords.

Yes, that’s a good way of explaining my life: knotwork. All of the intertwined things that make up me and my life. My busy, crazy life. Really though, my life isn’t that crazy, but you can judge for yourself.

The idea for Knotwork Life came to me while I was at work one day, writing a post for our company blog when I realized that I really wanted a separate blog for myself. That is, since I write about work for work (and I do sometimes live my work) I thought that I needed a place to record, vent, and share my not-work life.

Everything in my not-work life is very intertwined to make up the sometimes seemingly confusing life that I have made for myself. Really, if you follow it through like a piece of knotwork, it is not that confusing, has a pattern, and overall is really something intricately beautiful.

My mini bio looks very jumbled with a list of things that I do, but it is these things that make me who I am and are part of my identity. One of the reasons I wanted to start writing was to organize these pieces of not-work and be able to look back and reflect in order to see what direction I am going. The other factor is a philosophy in which I truly believe and that is work-life balance. I don’t know if I have work-life balance. I know I don’t during the school year where I am a third year, part time, university student. So if this helps me to find work, life balance, and I can be an example, inspiration, or helper to others finding it as well then that would be wonderful.

So who am I? Well I have a pretty good idea of that while at the same time still discovering things about myself and adapting and changing for each new situation and challenge I find myself in. So here is the breakdown; the cords that intertwine to makeup the knotwork that is my life.

Family: Daughter to two amazing parents, who are practical, down-to-earth people. Little sister to an architectural genius who I believe will someday change the skyline of some of the worlds greatest cities. Wife to an amazing husband, who is my best friend, a true guys guy while being quite the nerd/geek, and an all around easy going nice guy who gets along with everyone. Daughter in law to two of the nicest in-laws a girl could ever ask for, and sister-in-law to two very funny guys.

Friends: My friends live both near and far: in the room next door, and as far away as Australia. There are friends who have been with me through thick and thin over the past 12 years, and those who I only spent a short time with at a training conference or camp but who have irreversibly affected my life.

Girl Guides: The organization that has affected my life more than anything else. It is the piece of me that only some can understand, and some will only ever think of for the cookies.

Irish Dancing: My exercise and one of the passions of my life. The patterns of the dance itself are as intricate as Celtic Knotwork and the music moves my feet and affects my soul. It is something I was born to do and links my daily life to a piece of my ancestry.

Travel: The driving force of why I work (in the industry that I am in) and the direction of my “big purchase” spending. I was bitten by a bug for which I never want to find the cure.

Photography: I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the pictures that they take. Many of my pictures (my favourites) are landscape, nature and travel photography.

Reading: I am a mildly voracious reader – I stick to certain genres and am not one of those who will read anything I can get my hands on. I love historical fiction, fantasy, and the classics. I also love books related to people and politics (such as biographies). my favourite sections at the book store are Non-Fiction, Politics/World History,  and Travel.

School: Currently, the University of Ottawa, working on an Bachelor of Social Science Honours in International Development and Globalization. I’ve had the idea for a while now to go to Law school when I am done, so we will see how that pans out.

These are just some of the facets of my life, which individually taken, they are just plain and not that interesting, but intertwined together, maybe they make something interesting. I don’t know yet… we will have to wait and see.

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