The Truth About the Creative Life

I have been sharing a lot about my writing life and how grateful I am for the opportunities and experiences that have been and that are provided to maintain this creative life. Where does it come from? There are many names we give this source, God is the go-to name, and that is completely fine. For me, it’s the universe. The universe has always provided exactly what was needed and what I was ready for to get to the next step. The universe has exposed me to experiences that we part of my path, but I may have chosen the wrong situation and it was still part of my journey to understand the lesson to be learned. What do I mean by this?

What you resist, persists

There once was a girl who wanted a boyfriend. She was jealous of her friends who had a boy chasing after them. This girl was average-looking, but when she looked into a mirror and stared into her own eyes, she saw something special. She was told how special she was by her parents, especially her mother and maternal grandmother. She felt this unique energy of love, but she didn’t believe it when the boys she had a crush on used her for her pens and pencils at school only to get closer to her girlfriend. In high school, the boy she had a crush on took her to a basketball game, went to the mall with her, talked to her in the hallways of high school, sat next to her in class. She was smitten. She thought he was going to ask her to the next school dance.

“Can you give me “Julie’s” phone number please. I want to ask her to study group.”

The boy explained he wanted to be someone who was as academic as he was. If he couldn’t compete with Julie then he may as well collaborate with her and at the same time date her. He also said his friend liked the girl and he would introduce them. It was a win-win for everyone the boy implied.

The girl was devastated. She was mad. She was hurt. Her body raced with jealousy and anger.

She didn’t give the boy the phone number nor did she sit next to him in the next science class.

The girl vowed she would never let a boy take advantage of her again. Never say never.

After the science boy, she met a new boy through the youth group the science boy invited her to that she still enjoyed attending. Divine intervention came into play. The new boy, a skater boy, was nice, they had a few things in common, like music and books. The girl thought he was too good-looking for her, even when he asked if they could give her a drive home, she declined. She thanked them but said she was okay with taking the bus.

A few weeks later the skater boy called the girl to ask her out. She was in shock and happily accepted. They dated for a year until she started to receive more attention from other boys. She treated her skater boy like her crushes treated her. Her skater boy wanted more. She didn’t. He wanted to get married when they finished university. She wanted to travel and be free. She never shared with the boy she never wanted to get married. She left him for another boy who wanted even more of a commitment, marriage, babies, and house. She ran away from the love she always wanted but didn’t want the commitment.

***

True love persisted me every time I kept it at an arms length. I always thought there was something more. Deep down I knew if I stayed with skater boy, I would have lived a life I didn’t want. One with marriage, children, the dog, the house and white picket fence. That was my perception, I should say that was my ego’s thoughts. I listened to the ego for a long time and by the time I went through each relationship, each heartache, I was stripped down to the core. I didn’t want to date any more, I didn’t want to share my hart with anyone, I needed to heal and learn to love myself before giving up my heart to another.

Then I met my hubby. We are not married but we have been together for eighteen years. Somewhere the universe picked up on my intentions of finding a man who would take care of me but let me be independent. After the last heartache, I pretty much gave up on love. I said I would be single until I got my s@$t together, loved myself and started writing seriously. I started to write everyday which made me feel joy and love myself for the creative being I was and am, and I started to take myself seriously as a writer and in my career in the hotel life. I was living my intentions as best as I could. Then my hubby showed up and there was no games, no nonsense and no waiting for the other shoe to drop. We connected and have been on an adventure of a life time ever since we met. Yes, there is work and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, but we always come to centre and understand we are different but the key is we talk through everything and we support one another 150%. We are in an stage of constant flow and growth. The universe provides us with exactly what is needed to maintain this amazing creative life.

One of many of my go-to quotes regarding the flow of the universe is by Jen Scenario, ‘I am one with the universe. The universe is amazing and so am I?’ YES!

Thank you for being here with me today.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Sharing Snippet: Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ Resort Life

My next memoir, Behind the Kitchen Doors ~ Resort Life, continues with my journey working for luxury hotels in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I focus on how it is to work in a resort-like hotel during the winters, where the hours are less and I picked up shifts where I could, and a second job at a daycare where I ended up with chickenpox at the age of twenty-three. There was never a dull moment. Every experience was one step forward of the path of where I was going.

Christmas at the Lake

Christmas at the Lake was magical. It was a snow globe of a perfect winter wonderland. Snow-covered mountains, the glistening snow on top of the frozen lake, a section plowed off for skaters, and a cross-country ski trail to the end of the Lake. It also seemed that every tree outside around the property was wrapped in white Christmas lights. It was stunning.

Inside the hotel, it looked like Santa’s workshop from all the Christmas movies you can think of. Most recently I think of the Christmas Chronicles with Kirk Russel and Goldie Hawn meets White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

The Christmas trees in the lobby were gargantuan species of bright and dazzling yuletide ordainments. Each tree had an empty box decorated in shining holiday paper with oversized bows placed ever so perfectly around the base of the tree. There were Christmas trees everywhere you looked in the lobby, each dining room, and hallways throughout the hotel. It would be easy to play hide-and-go-seek and get lost in the trees.

***

When I was working on the holiday buffet, I watched people pile roasted turkey and slabs of prime rib on their plates, I would break up the monotonous of the buffet service by staring outside the floor-to-ceiling bay windows facing the glacier-fed Lake. The Christmas trees outside were beautifully decorated and with the falling snow on the branches of the trees, the magic of the holidays filled my heart.

            Sis: Excuse me do you have any horseradish?

            Marion Ann: What?

            Sis: That woman is pointing at an empty bowl.

            Marion Ann: Opps!

            Sis: Daydreamer.       

            Marion Ann: Yes. Yes, I am.

***

I didn’t talk to Michael a lot during the holidays. He was busy with school and I told him how busy the hotel was. I shared stories about the elaborated buffets the companies chose for their employees. I told him about the overpriced wine I pushed onto my tables to make extra money.

He would imply it was a good way to save money for when I was ready to move back to Nova Scotia. I would agree to avoid the conversation.

Marion Ann: I wasn’t ready to leave.

Sis: Either was I.

            Christmas Time for Employees

My first Christmas away from home was painless. I was working a lot to distract myself from the traditional events that I was missing in Nova Scotia.

At the Lake, on Christmas day I only had to work a small Christmas morning champagne breakfast for a family that booked a private room to celebrate together. It was the easiest hundred dollars I made, that as on top of the gratuity built into the private room and catering fee. The family felt bad for me that I had to work on Christmas day.

            Sis: Then hand over another hundred.

            Marion Ann: Exactly.

After I cleaned up my function, I made my way to my cousin, Debbie’s, house in Canmore for Christmas dinner. It was nice to spend time with family.

I didn’t mind working Christmas, it meant double time pay, and extra sympathy tips when I shared, I was away from family.

The one event I was looking forward to was the employee Christmas party. It was one of the elaborated buffets and the managers served the employees. The poured the first glasses of wine but then left the bottles on the tables for free pour service. It was a recipe for disaster.

The management was in charge of bussing tables and wine service. Dinner was an elaborate buffet by a culinary team from another sister property. Usually, Kananaskis sent a team to work the event, and then we would go there to help them with their Christmas party. Who wouldn’t want to work at another property, get paid to hang out and drink, because that’s what happened. The cooks prepared dinner, the servers and dishwashers did their jobs and then after dinner, they were offered to party with us, we all knew each other from staying at each other’s property with the staff discount, or transferring from one property to another, the mountain properties were one big happy family.

***

My debut memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, shares my first three summers working for the Chateau Lake Louise, a beautiful hotel on top of a mountain. It may be far away from your home but you can’t hide from what you left behind. Click Here fore more details ~ Thank you.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Sharing Snippet: Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ Resort Life

I am trying to honor myself and the creative life by sharing more of my work in progress, my next hospitality memoire, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ Resort Life, where I share my experiences working for luxury hotels in the Canadian Rockies. I pronounced at an early age I wanted to be a writer. Possibly at the age of 8 or even earlier. I always had a story in my head. I wanted to write (and still do) TV shows, movies, books and I thought I would write romance or maybe mystery, because I read a lot of romance and mystery books. I also loved watching, ‘Murder She Wrote’, and Romancing the Stone, who wouldn’t want to be Angela Lansbury or Joan Wilder?

Through serendipitous events I have been provided with life experiences that I am grateful for.

***

FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT

            Standing in the kitchen by the entrance to the main dining room of Chateau Lake Louise, the Victoria dining room, meant I was either coming or going from the kitchen.

            Going into the dining room to get whatever appetizer, entrée or desert to place in front of a couple, table of four or the dreaded table of eight or ten tourists sitting together. Too many people to keep a track of at one table. Give me five tables of two (tables for two people) and I’m good. It’s easier to talk to a couple. Couples usually are on a special occasion, not wanting to talk to me. They want to gaze into one another’s eyes.

                        Sis: Honeymooners. Ugh.

                        Marion Ann: Low maintenance is good.

            Larger tables, for example eight or ten people, meant multiple couples or family traveling together. The beloved Taulk or Princess Tours guests tend to group together when they travel weeks together. Then they decide to have dinner together, which is fine, but for servers, it’s a lot of work. The people at the table like to talk to one another across the table about everything and anything. Sometimes it was too much information.

            Guest A: Lilian, did you hear about the woman on our tour with cancer?

            Lilian: What kind. What a shame.

            Guest A: I thought you knew.

            Guest C: Who?

            Guest A: You know, the single woman who sits by herself on the coach.

            Guest C: I know her, well I don’t know her but I know of her.

On and on it goes, until I stand up straight and I speak over their noise.

            “Good evening everyone. Can I start anyone with a cocktail while you review the menu?”

I look at each of the guests as I talk, they are nodding and smiling acknowledging me. Some of them look past me or right through me as if I’m not even standing there. They don’t care.

            Guest A: Gin martini, straight up, that’s without ice, with a lemon twist.

            Guest C: Chardonnay.

            Guest B: Water is fine, I have a heart condition.

            Guest C: Shame. They say a glass of red wine a day is good for the heart. Have a glass, it won’t hurt you.

            Guest B: Who says that?

            Guest C: Doctors.

            Gust A: It’s true. I heard it as well. Go ahead, have a glass.

                        Sis: Gezus! I’ll finish it if none of you finish it.

Ten minutes later I’m ringing in the drink orders at the bar. I see one new table being seated in my section. Normally this wouldn’t happen if the table of ten is seated. But nothing is certain in the dining room.

                        Marion Ann: Seriously!?

                        Sis: Here we go!

My friend is bartending and gives me a look of understanding. I roll my eyes as I place the glasses of wine and high balls on my serving tray. The bartender is placing the martinis on another tray to follow behind me. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Before I get back to the table of ten, I say hello to my new table, they are a young Asian couple, all smiles and taking pictures of the Lake. I see the little note by their drink menu to tell me they are a F.I.T table, (A tour Individual traveller, they are travelling on their own but their meals are like any of the larger tours, soup, salad, entrée and desert, easy Frisbee services). I ask if they would like a winero or a beero and they point to the white wine on my tray. I smile to acknowledge their request.

I walk towards my table of ten who are now talking about a grandson’s wedding.

            Guest C: They spent five thousand dollars on the dress.

            Guest A: Five thousand? I didn’t spend a hundred dollars on my dress.

            Guest B: What are these kids coming to?

                        Sis: Oh my gawd!

                        Marion Ann: Deep breath.

I place the drinks in front of the right people and they all pick up their glasses and toast one another. I let them know I will be right back to answer any questions and take their order.

            Guest B: Oh dear, we haven’t even looked at the menus. Give us another five minutes.

                        Marion Ann: Shit. I hate when they do this.

                        Sis: Self-entitlement.

                        Marion Ann: High maintenance equals no tip.

I nodded and confirmed I would be back in five minutes to take their orders. I walked towards the couple with their white wines. They thanked me several times and started taking pictures again. I headed to the kitchen with my bar tray to pick up their first course of miso soup.

I walked back in the kitchen where I could stop smiling and take a deep breath. I knew the table of ten was going to make for a long evening. I over heard them trying to figure out if they should share all the appetizers.

                        Sis: Sounds like fun.

                        Marion Ann: At least I could gather more personalities to use in a story.

                        Sis: That’s a girl. Focus on the writing.

There was a reason I returned to the Lake and wanted to stay for as long as I did. Creativity provided me with the perfect surroundings to write about. The other life stuff that happened was part of the deal. The table of ten ended up tipping me more than the regular fifteen percent. They told me they appreciated my attention to detail and privacy. I didn’t do anything differently that night. I did my job. I provided them quality service, food and an experience.

***

If you would like to read more about my first memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, please click here. Thank you.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Story by Senses: Touch

I enjoy participating in Instagram writing challenges and recently I have started to follow the group #writerfriendschallenge. The first time I came across them I was intrigued by the themes, structure, and writing socials. This month there is a theme about telling stories by senses. This week was about touch. The host of the group shared her interpretation about the theme and shared fifty words to describe touch and I was instantly hit by inspiration. It was like a huge light bulb went off and I heard myself saying ‘Hello, here I am!’ Here are those words:

Arid, Abrasive
Bitter, Balmy
Course, Chunky
Damp, Dry
Etched, Even
Frigid, Fragile
Gritty, Gossamer
Hollow, Harsh
Inflated, Itchy
Jagged, Jaggy
Knotty, Knitted
Level, Loose
Mild, Metallic
Narrow, Neat
Ovenlike, Oily
Parched, Padded
Quick, Quiet
Rough, Rutted
Smooth, Scorching
Thorny, Tough
Uneven, Unbreakable
Violent, Vicious
Wiry, Wrinkled
Yielding, Youthful
Zippy, Zapped

Are they not great words to describe touch? I shared with the group after someone said that touch must be something important in my memoirs. I honestly never thought about it but at that moment I said, absolutely! The words were perfect for certain areas of my memoir, for example: The smooth and crisp table cloths we placed on the tables of the main dining room overlooking the glacier-fed lake for dinner service. The frigid temperature of the walk-in fridge always had the hairs on the back of my neck tingle to get the tiramisu for the chef to garnish to place the dessert in front of many thousands of guests served. Our uniforms could never be wrinkled or uneven, they were a reflection of the type of service provided at the prestigious hotel. I was a person who happened to be in that particular burgundy skirt, white frilly blouse, and burgundy vest that was worn by many people before me and would be worn by another young woman leaving home for the first time to work for a luxury hotel on top a mountain where she would find herself.

I am having fun with the words today! I love how one writing prompt can spark a flurry of words and inspiraiton. With that, I will head off to my work in progress and get back to the story.

Thank you for being here with me today. To find out how what working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies is like, my debut memoir, Behind the Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, please click HERE. I share my expriences about my small world being cracked open to a new world of hospitality where rules are broken and no one to answer to for staying up late to spend time with a summer crush.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Elements of a Memoir

There are times I need to go back to the basics and dive into the elements of memoir writing. One of the topics I recently reviewed a memoir video series has helped keep me on track with my writing. The recommendation:

Choose four elements of high emotion for your memoir. Write about these times and see where they fit in your work in progress. I listed more than four when I sat down to start this project. The time frame I am working on for my next memoir begins with my last year working at the Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta and then I move to Jasper Park Lodge, a sister hotel that was part of the hotel chain. The four main high emotion times that came to mind quickly:

  1. Leaving the Lake where I was comfortable to move to another hotel with a guy who I believed loved me because he said he loved me.
  2. During an employee end of summer party: Being confronted by a girl who tells you she’s been sleeping with my boyfriend for the entire summer season and he told her that he was leaving me to be with her.
  3. The same night of the staff party – I find my boyfriend kissing another girl.
  4. After months of work on healing our relationship, my boyfriend tells me he is being pursued by another hotel and will be moving to Atlanta.

It doesn’t seem real when I read these choices, but they all happened. I am sure a version of each situation listed has happened to others. I am here to share that we are not alone. We all go through “stuff” and I am here to say how I coped and survived and can tell the story now.

More Tips on Writing Memoir:

  • Create a sensory experience: Use all your senses to recreate your experiences. What did you see? What smells can you associate with? What did you touch, how did it feel?
  • Use fiction writing techniques: Memoirs must be as compelling as a best-selling novel. I found that using dialogue helps build suspense. “Show, don’t tell” by describing action rather than overloading with exposition. Using fiction techniques can help you move the story along.
  • Don’t write your whole life story: Memoirs tend to be about sections of your life, for example: my first three summers working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies was my focus.  
  • Knock their pants off: Create an emotional journey. Take your reader for a ride where they want to get to the next chapter. You need to create enough tension that draws the reader in. Invest the time and energy to share the truth and raw emotion.
  • Write every day: This may sound like an obvious statement, but if you plan on writing any kind of book, the best way to do this is to write everyday. Develop a daily routine that works for you. Writing is like working out, you have to work at it to develop the muscles. You have to write everyday to get the words on the page.

These are a few reminders for myself as well. I haven’t been able to write everyday on my memoir only to my own excuse. I write morning pages every day and then three days out of the work week I will sit down for 15 minutes or so to work on my memoir. It’s 15 minutes more than if I didn’t write. I consider any times spent on writing a win.

Thank you for being here with me today. I hope you are doing well; I love to hear from you.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Sharing Snippet: Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ Resort Life

Hello everyone. Thank you for stopping by today. Each month I am going to try and share a snippet from my second memoir in the series of, Behind The Kitchen Doors. This memoir is about the last year working at Chateau Lake Louise and moving to Jasper Park Lodge. Both luxury hotels and resorts in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. This is a work in progress and as I share it helps me work out timelines and memories. Writing memoir is lonely, but I am not alone. I am right here on the page and that fills me with joy.

***

Fast Romance

Like everything in hospitality, things move fast, guests coming and going, servers flipping tables for the next seating. Chef’s chopping, prepping, plating. Housekeeping cleaning rooms, front desk checking in and checking out people on a rotation. Romance was no different.

The start of any romance between employees seemed to be on a tilt-a-world ride, get on and hold on for dear life because it’s going to be a bumping ride.

I had my eye on Anthony, for weeks. I knew he was single because there was talk about how he dumped the Poppy Café, family restaurant, chick because she couldn’t stop doing cocaine. She begged him to stay with her, or said the rumor mill. What intrigued me was Anthony’s morals. What I didn’t know was his mother was a user. When he was a kid, he watched his mother and step father be taken away by the police for possession. He lived his with grandmother for a bit and when he moved back in with his mother things were normal. Or so said the rumor mill.

It’s awful when people share initiate conversations with their lovers to their drunken friends who embellish the story.

Anthony and I started off slow then quickly were inseparable. I was such a geek when I told him that my dad sent me Keith’s from home. He implied to save him one, he would love to spend time with me.

            Sis: Oh-okay.

            Marion Ann: Why are my knees shaking.

            Sis: He’s hot.

            Marion Ann: Too hot for me.

            Sis: No way – get on that.

Anthony was good-looking. He was tall, gorgeous and had charm. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He fit in at the Lake perfectly.

            Sis: You just didn’t want to see it.

            Marion Ann: How could I get past those eyes.

            Sis: So blue.

            Marion Ann: So blue.

Anthony’s eyes were that baby crystal blue color, Paul Newman style, how could I resist.

Over the next week Anthony and I missed each other. He left me notes on my door, ‘I knocked and no one was home…”

After work I would head to the pub but I never saw him. When he was at the pub I was working and vise versa. On my days off I spent time in Banff, I needed to get away from the Lake, the nightly routine of working until 10:00 pm then rushing home to change to hit the staff pub, Stables, to buy three or four drinks to have before last call was becoming tiresome.

            Sis: We seemed to be saying this often.

            Marion Ann: It was the only thing to do.

            Sis: I’m sure I can think of something else.

            Marion Ann: I know.

 I was aware I could have been writing instead of sitting in staff pub drinking my tips away. But I was enjoying myself. I liked sitting around talking wit friends. We bitched about guests, supervisors and each other. It was the way to decompress the constant feeling of being on. Smiling for six hours a night, being perky, being positive, bullshit conversations about football because it was an easy Segway to talk to most Americans.

When I left my tables to head to the kitchen, I would lose the smile and go into prep mode for my food orders. I sensed how the rest of my team was doing, everything was about timing, one missed minute could throw me into the weeds, where it would take more time to get back to a smooth service. It was better to be on top of the service than saunter around thinking everything would work out.

Serving was about time management, multi-takings, having several sets of eyes on your tables, the bar, the kitchen and the reservation book.

If the kitchen got behind the whole team was screwed. We would be waiting on any given coarse and there was nothing we could say. The Chef would be yelling at the cooks to move faster, then the servers to pick up the food even faster. It was a nightmare. There were not many nights like this but when it happened, it felt like the whole world sucked you in and spit you out with a broken soul.

One night I had a tour in the upper section of the Edle, the fine dining room at Lake Louise. Think of a sunken living room, with five steps up from the main floor. This section was not used often because going up those four small stairs took an extra minute of time that set me back to attend to my tables on the main floor. It doesn’t sound like it should be difficult, but think of it this way.

In a typical one-bedroom apartment, think you are entertaining all your guests in the living room, then another few people show up and there is no room, so you offer the bedroom area that is about twenty steps away. Then four more people show and they are seated in the bedroom. Twenty steps away from your main guests now seems like running a mile. You are now running from your living room to the bedroom to make sure that everyone is taken care of. Touch each table, does anyone need a refill on their wine, beer, scotch, and water? Are the appetizers going to be ready to go out to the table in the bedroom at the same time as the entrees for the first table that arrived sitting in the living room? It’s a juggling act that I saw as a Tetris game, each piece had its place and would fit perfectly if you did all the right things at the perfect timing. Until one of your table’s orders a flambe for dessert.

            Sis: Shit.

Flambes were my favourite dessert to offer to tour guests because it was an additional ten dollars at the guest’s expense. Their four-course dinners that were part of their meal plan included a regular dessert, ice cream, cheesecake, tiramisu, the basics. Flambes had many moving parts, liquor, fresh fruit, crepes, a flambee cart, and fire. Every tour guest agreed to the additional cost and that possibly meant more money for me.

I either could lie to the guests and tell them that the all the carts were being used and there would be a wait, which would be more time for me, or, I would ask for help from the captain server or I would attempt to take on the show and lose time with my other tables.

This time I asked for help. I couldn’t afford to get out of sync with the tour. I would be making the same amount of money. The tour was guaranteed grats. There may be the ten dollars upsell on the flambee but no guarantees on an additional tip.  

Everything happened quickly in the F&B world. You had to keep up or fall behind.

***

Thank you for taking the time to read this snippet. You can find my debut memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, HERE.

If you liked, Kitchen Confidential and the Grand Budapest Hotel, you will enjoy this eye-opening life experience of one employee’s journey of working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

When Do you Turn on The Northern Lights?

At the end of each month I set goals for the topics of my blogs for the month. I had planned to share a few tips on how to start your writing routine, but I thought I would switch it up and share about my hotel life and the every day dealings I encounter. Sometimes I may sound ungrateful or rude about the experiences, and this is not my intention. I am writing my second memoir about working for luxory hotels in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. After 25 years in the business, I shake my head when guests don’t read information about a package, descriptions on menus or simple instructions on where the elevators are and walk in the opposite direction. I know this sounds like a vent, but they are every day situations that happen. The truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

My years working at Chateau Lake Louise were my favourite guest questions. There is even a book in Alberta about the questions guests ask about the area.

  • How heavy is the mountain?
  • Do the shrimp from the seafood pasta coming from the glacier fed lake?
  • When do you turn on the northern lights?

My typical answers

  • With the glaicer a few tons, without the glacier, a few less tons.
  • No, unfortunely they wouldn’t survivor in the sub temperatures.
  • The northern lights: I would start to explain the science behind the phonmenon, then I would get cut off with a different question.

When I worked at Jasper Park Lodge, the Elk roamed the property of their free will. We would share with guests not to approach the Elk, especially during rutting season. “What’s rutting season?” guests would ask me when making their reservations. I would explain, it’s mating season, and if you see two bull Elk bucking then head in the opposite direction. Slowly. Parks Canada had signs up everywhere about the Elk, you couldn’t miss the risk signs. A wedding party tried to complain that the Elk ruined their wedding because the animals wouldn’t move for their wedding pictures. They also complained because someone from the wedding party was chased by an Elk after the guest tried to scare it away from the event. Don’t get me started…

One of the hotels I worked for posted a promotion on social media for a special event. The details were very clear on what was included in the price, ‘total package rate $260 per night plus taxes, based on double occupancy. The first question is, ‘so each person pays $260?’ The hotel changed the wording to $130 per night plus taxes per person based on double occupancy. The first question was, ‘That’s a great price! It’s only $130 per night?’ On average, out of 10 people I may have spoken to about the promotion, I would get seven people asking the same question. Again, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, however, if there is another way hotels can convey package pricing, please share your suggestions. In my recent hotel, I try to spell every detail out, but I know there are going to be questions and that’s the nature of the business. I would love to make it simple for guests and the hotel. Suggestions welcomed.

I am truly grateful for every experience that has been provided to maintain and excel my creative life. The hotel life and creative life are one in the same for me. I have more than a life time of stories from working in a variety of hotels. I have served and met many guests from all over the world. Some guests are simple, some high maintenance, some in-between. I have delth with actresses and actors, rock and pop stars and everyone in-between. The common theme, everyone just wants to be welcomed and have an enjoyable experiece. That is my job. I am here to serve others. I chose the hosptiality life to make your stay as special as I can. Then I will say, hospitlaity chose me as creativity chose me to work through. To share the stories with those who choose my book, blog, newsletter to read. Thank you.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

If you liked, Kitchen Confidential and the Grand Budapest Hotel, you will enjoy this eye-opening life experience of one employee’s journey of working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers can be found Here. Thank you.

Sharing a Chapter of My Next Memoir

I am commiting to my New Year’s intentions of sharing more. To share more about my creative life, the struggles I face as a writer who works a more than full time job. I am working on my next Hotel Memoir about working for luxory hotels and resorts in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. My debut memoir, Behind the Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, is about my experiences in Lake Louise. My next memoir picks up where I left off at the Lake and then I move to Jasper to work for the companies sister property, Jasper Park Lodge, located in Jasper, Alberta. A small alpine town in the commerical centre of Jasper National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies. Like moving to Lake Louise from Nova Scotia, I didn’t know anythhing about Jasper. My boyfriend at the time asked me to move to Jasper with him because he accepted an offer at the Lodge as Chef de Partie, he was motivated to become a Exectuive Chef at an early age. I was driven by his passion towards his carrer and my longing to leave the Lake and the ex-boyfriend I couldn’t seem to let go of. It’s a messy story and I’m working on sharing it in this next memoir. I am still working on the titel of the next memoir, for now, let’s go with, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Winters, because I share experiences of what it is like to work for a luxory hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in the winter.

I am sharing this chapter about the brief history of Jasper Park Lodge, the ghost stories and my insights of losing myself in Jasper. I welcome feedback, please email me at marionann.berry@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Thank you.

Jasper Park Lodge

If you get the opportunity to visit Jasper, Alberta, I highly recommend you take a few days to enjoy your experiences.

Like many of the original Canadian Pacific hotels, Jasper Park Lodge has it’s unique history. First named Tent City in 1915 for the railway workers of Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. In 1920 it was managed under the Canadian National Hotels. In 1988 it was sold to Canadian Pacific Hotels, now under Fairmont Hotels. The property sits along the shores of Lac Beauvert, larger than Lake Louise but similar activities to enjoy, canoeing in the summer and skating in the winter. The lake also was a hinderance for the animals of Jasper. One winter I witnessed an Elk fall through the Lake when a heard was crossing the lake. It was amazing to walk one Elk plunge into the water while the others stood solid around the break in the ice. That summer the Elk had to be removed by Parks Canada.

            Sis: It was not a pretty sight.

            Marion Ann: Especially when the lake was unthawing and you could see the poor dead elk with its eyes wide open. Image what it was thinking as it fell through the ice.

            Sis: Help me!

The resort has many ghost stories. Some that I have witnessed, some that made me walk a little quicker past a particular cabin, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand tingle as I tried to quickly look into the window of the cabin where a room attendant died.

The Chambermaid of Point Cabin is one of the stories that have been told by generations of JPL employees. The woman, let’s call her Lily, was cleaning the card room (a small upper-level room from the living area) and for unknown reasons fell down the stairs to her death.

The lights in the card room turn on randomly from time to time. The Front desk receives phone calls from the cabin when there is no one checked into the cabin. The hairs on my arms are standing up. I would walk by the cabin and take a quick glance to see if I could see the light on or a shadow of the Lily.

My imagination would run wild as I walked by the cabin. Who was Lily? What brought her to the Lodge? Why take a job in the middle of the Canadian Rockies as a Chambermaid? 

A question many of us were asked by guests. Why work in a hotel far from home?

            Sis: Why not?

The other ghost story that the Lodge is know for is the lady in the photograph. The picture was placed near the dining room, The Moose’s Nook, and anytime I went past the picture I shivered from a random coldness, even in the middle of a hot day in the summer.

As the story goes, in 1920 a photographer took a photo just outside of the Moose’s Nook at JPL. The picture, meant to feature the empty dining room. The photographer swore he was alone and that the room was empty, but when the photo was developed there was what appears to be an elderly woman sitting at a table.

The story told behind the photograph is vague. Apparently, an elderly couple died at the Lodge and the man would be wandering around the Lodge while the woman waited in the dining room for her husband to join her. Vague or not, it is a romantic ghost story. Image waiting for you loved one not knowing they are dead. Now left with the grief and waiting for them to return night after night.

I wouldn’t go to the Mooses Nook if I didn’t need to. I wasn’t afraid but I didn’t want to interrupt the woman waiting for her lover. My boyfriend at the time and a few of our friends had dinner one night before it closed for the season and I was uncomfortable for most of the evening. That feeling of someone watching us loomed over me as I tried to enjoy the beautiful meal. However, I just felt like I should be looking for someone at the same time. Was the elderly woman sitting with us? Was she sharing her grief with me? I didn’t go back to the Nook unless I had to assist with setting up a function. I am not normally afraid of the spirt world, but I wanted to avoid the feeling of loss as much as possible. In hindsight I lost myself at the Lodge and felt the weight of grief for many years after having my heart broken by not only my ex-boyfriend, but by my self.

Thank you for being here with me today.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Procrastination 101

pro·cras·ti·na·tion: the action of delaying or postponing something.

This writer’s middle name and almost could be my first name, is procrastination. I putter around and subconsciously look for things to do when I am getting ready to write.

I have shared how I crave to be right here, on the page, writing. I want to run to the page so I can work on my next story, the work in progress, and everything else involved with my writing life. I want to be here. Yet, then why does it take so long to sit down and start writing? It’s not writer’s block, I have so many ideas swirling around this beautiful creative mind that I want to write. I want to know where the characters are going to take me. It’s the time before I actually sit down to write is the time I am wasting. For example:

On Saturday mornings I get up, write morning pages for about a half-hour. I work out for about an hour, get myself ready. I water the microgreens because my hubby, Adam, now is going to the farmers market to sell our microgreens. Then when I get back upstairs to the house I notice how dusty the hardwood floors are after a week. I get the broom, the cat loves to chase the broom so we play for a minute or five. I have been contacted by work on three different occasions on my ‘day off’ but I am the GM so I really don’t have a day off. I have days where I don’t go to the hotel which happens to be on the weekends. My ego gets bent out of shape and I take 20 minutes to meditate, to come back to center. Now, it’s time to write. The whole morning was filled with some things that needed to be done. The dust on the floor can wait and I will remind myself next Saturday of this.

When I was meditating I saw flashes of the next hotel memoir I am working on. How it should start and if I should share about the time how a major band in the late 90’s and early 2000’s almost got me fired. I also saw how I need to move some of the chapters around in my current work in progress. When I finsihed my debut memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, I was amazed how refreshed I felt for writing the past and letting it go, but, there were times where I wasn’t sure if I should share certain aspects of my first summer working for the luxory hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I went back and forth on details and finally stepped out of the way and took out what was not needed to share my story.

I find myself in a similar situation with some of the details that shaped me as a person, and I have to remember that other peoples of opinions of me are none of my business. I am sharing my experiences as a server in a dining room that happens to be in one of the most beautiful hotels in the Canadian Rockies. If some of the bad decisions I made help someone understand they are not alone then I have done my job as a writer. I have touched someone’s emotions and they feel less isolated in their story. I consider this winning the lottery.

Now that I have sat down to write, I feel grounded. I am right where I am to be. On the page. Procrastination can go to the end of the line. I know it will be back but I will be ready.

Thank you for you being here with me today.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing..

A Writer’s Confession

My New Year’s intention is to make my creative life more of a priority. This means I have been focusing on my craft and more importantly my genre, memoir. I normally listen to books when I am working out and driving to work. I have a 20 – 25 minute commute to the hotel life, why not fill that time with listening to fiction, podcasts, and now, interviews with memoir writers. I am a fan of Mary Karr’s, author of three acclaimed memoirs and poetry books. I have read, The Art of Memoir, two or three times and have listened to it twice and I am about to listen to it again to get my head back into the physical writing of my second memoir.

On Wednesday, I was watching an interview with Mary and she shared a Sufi poem translated by Robert Bly. I listened to it twice and now have it printed and posted on my wall in my writing room. There is something about the words that trigger memories that I wanted to dig at but haven’t been able to. I was avoiding the flashbacks of the embarrassment of my reactions to the situations I found myself in when I was younger. The choices I made to stay with a man who was a cheater and liar use to haunt me. But as a believer in the mantra, everything happens for a reason, the choices I made were made for a reason. Creativity chose me to work through. I am the vessel to write the ideas creativity whispers to me. For the moment I know I am to write about my hotel life experiences, and the life lessons I learned while working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The choice to stay with a man who I adored but we were not very nice to one another for the first year and half of our relationship, was a choice that maybe many of us have lived through and I am here to share my experiences to say you are not alone. I am facing this notion each time I write, each time I pick and scratch at what the truth was in the moment it was happening.

The Radiance

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such
rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
birds and animals and the ants–
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in
your mother’s womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that’s why everything you do has some weird
failure in it.

The first line captures me, why such rush? I am trying to catching up on the memories that flood my mind of my time working in the Canadian Rockies. I was in my early twenties and thought, I just need to get through this to get back home, back to university so I can get back to the Lake to work. What was the rush? I learned how to stop and take in the beauty of the moment and now there is no rush, however, time seems to be slipping by quickly and I am right here, exactly where I need to be. On the page, writing. The remainder of the poem strikes a cord that makes me want to cry because the words are raw and true.

Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that’s why everything you do has some weird
failure in it.

During that time I was with the wrong man and was not my true self. I was walking around feeling very alone because of my choices. I was embarrassed and thought others were judging me. How could I face them knowing they thought I was so innocent, yet I wasn’t so naive. I chose to avoid the truth, turn a blind eye. I got caught up with the notion of being in love, trying to control someone who couldn’t be held onto. I forgot who I was and I ignored the intuition I once was in tune with. I was floating along like a ghost. I was lost for the period of time I was tangled in love with that boy I thought would love me forever. It turned out he loved himself more and chose his own path. I once too broke up with someone and said to them, ‘I love myself too much to stay with someone who doesn’t know what they want.’ How did I forget that? How did I lose myself to one person who consumed my heart, soul, and true self?

All these memories and feelings came from first hearing this poem and then reading it over and over. It is as if my past experiences were living in between each word, each sentence of this beautifully dark poem. I am so grateful for the intentions I have set for myself and to come across a poem that I may never have come across if I didn’t make my creative life a priority.

Everything happens for a reason.

Thank you for being here with me today. I wish you all a beautiful day.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…