Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

A Nudge from A Stranger

A Nudge from a Stranger   Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. Aesop I’m exhausted and teary-eyed. It’s over. A year’s worth of planning, organizing, begging, cajoling, worrying and praying is done. Well, it’s not truly done until the paperwork and numbers are submitted. Did we accomplish what we initially said we would? Yes, we did. I had the proof, long before launch date, in...

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No House Has Ever Sunk in the Making of A New Friendship             My husband says our house is sinking under the weight. I don’t pay attention. He tends to exaggerate. Instead, I pick up another friend. They’ve been recommended to me because of their clever stories, their poetic words. Or sometimes I just like the look of them, the way they feel when I innocently run my hand across a spine. When I run out of space, I look for solutions, places I can continue to proudly house my loves. What does Dave have to complain about?...

Why Do You Do It    From January right through to mid-October, your friends, your family, perfect strangers ask you why you do it. You ask yourself the same question. It kicks around in your head, wakes you in the middle of the night, and dogs you when you’re deep in the woods trying to escape its demand. It, like the fear of failure and the subsequent consequences, never leave you. Isn’t it time you gave up on doing this thing? Sometimes you’re asked this question too. You smile. Avoid eye contact. When you’re by yourself, you wonder, perhaps this will be the last year.

The Messy Bits A recent horoscope of mine gave me some sage advice. I don’t typically read my horoscope (where have you heard that before), but sometimes something catches my eye and has the kind of nonsensical message that makes complete sense. This particular one, in our local paper a few weeks ago said, “it’s important for you to learn from the messy things in your life and not just assume it all needs to be scoured and disinfected.”

Whatever Happened to Passion   It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it then we explain light to the blind. T.S. Eliot Passion. This simple word spawns so many images for me: the nurse holding the hand of a dying patient, the social worker combing the streets on a cold night to offer shelter or a blanket to a homeless man cubby-holed in an alley, the teacher who comes in early to assist a student who can’t quite get the new math assignment, a mother who sits with her child night after night helping him with his essay. When I...

How Difficult Is It to Make a Good Decision        If something bothered me when I was a kid, I tended to hide out in my room or sit in a corner away from the rest of the family, my nose in a novel. I still react the same way when I have a problem I need to sort out or I have an important decision to make. I need this alone time to figure out what to say, if anything, and what to do. I think about the ramifications of my actions, my words. I ponder and fuss and think some more. Decisions, all decisions really, have consequences. When my mother was...

The Fixer       I admire the mechanical, culinary and gardening abilities of others. I gush over what some people can create and repair with their hands. Envious? Definitely. I don’t do anything with my hands except type, and I’m only able to do that if and when characters and stories appear in my head. I also move my hands when I talk. Mediterranean and excitable, my hands flash here and there with every word that comes out of my mouth. The lack of practical skills on my part is inherited (read not my fault). My father would be the first to tell you (likely...

Am I Finally Growing Up? “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC), Roman Philosopher        You’ve caught someone−a friend, a partner, a colleague−in a lie. What do you do? Do you confront the person, or say nothing and remain watchful. Or do you tell yourself you’ll never be duped again and shut out the person from your life? If you’re me (a card-carrying-bleeding-heart-socialist who tries hard to look beyond the lie to the reasons behind it, usually questioning myself as to what it is...

I Don’t Think He Likes You Very Much I stood in the elevator of my apartment building, gripping my handlebars, holding my bike upright, balanced on its back tire. I jerked myself further into the corner so as not to take up too much space. My elbows and knees were grazed and oozing. A track of grease and blood ran the length of my right calf where chain had chewed away at skin. My helmet was cinched at my wrist as a piece of armour might sit. The bike wobbled in front of me like a shield.

No Honour Among Thieves A few weeks ago, I read how the British government blocked the sale of Jane Austen’s ring to singer Kelly Clarkson because they were hoping a British buyer would come along and keep the ring in Britain. "Objects associated with Austen are extremely rare," British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said. "I hope that a U.K. buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation."

Silky Scorpion Weed With each step I smell the hot pine of the forest. A puffy cloud marks the cerulean sky. Towers of sedimentary rock surround me. In the distance, a sea of alpine flowers−red, yellow, white and fuchsia−wave in the breeze. A clump of deep purple catches my eye. I get closer as we are wont to do with the unusual. The petals are a delicate starburst shape. It’s not until I get a better look that I see the spikes, almost invisible, but nevertheless as pointy as freshly sharpened knives.

What Are You Looking For            My mother used to say, “Why? You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.” This was her response any time I told her we were off travelling again. It didn’t matter to her where we were going. She wasn’t interested in hearing about the isolated backcountry treks in the Purcell’s, the jungles of Peru, the sunsets in northern Spain or the hills of Umbria. She wanted to understand why I had to leave Whistler. “You have everything you need,” she’d say, “what are you looking for?” Without...

The Country of My Birth    I don’t have many recollections of Egypt, except foggy images of lights pawing at my eyes and pushing me awake the night my grandmother died just before my fourth birthday. Some fragrances, even now, of flowers or exotic spices, sometimes remind me of the country of my birth. Beans and other dishes my mother used to make prompt a memory of an experience I’m sure I had, but when I reach for it, it turns to mist. I recall noises, a man shouting in the street below our balcony selling his wares. I can’t remember his eyes, just his voice. He spoke a...

My Brain Needs to Think    I ask him a question. Do you want to go downstairs with your sister or stay here with us? My brain needs to think, he says. He stares at me, returns my smile. Is he trying to figure out what he thinks I want him to say? He then looks at the floor, juggles the ball in his hand. He’s been playing soccer in the dining room, aided by his grandfather. He ponders the question as the ball moves from one hand to the other. He then says, my brain says I should go downstairs. What motivates his decision? I don’t know. He’s a three year old. He doesn’t...

How Some Groups Come Together         I have been a member of so many diverse groups in my career and in my private life that I couldn’t begin to count them (it just goes to show you how old I’m getting). Memory being what it is I couldn’t list at the moment, the various visions, mandates, goals and accomplishments of these groups either. However, I can count on one hand the groups I’ve participated in who shine in that distinct way that is hard to define much less recreate. You know you’ve experienced something special, though, when you’re in such...

Rose-Coloured Glasses Breaking news: Wealthy business owners say the pursuit of profit is no longer enough. Okay, that’s not exactly what the headline read. Here it is: Why Arianna Huffington says there's more to business than profit. The subheading: Pursuit of short-term profit not working anymore, Huff Post chief says. The article goes on: "It's not working for businesses long-term sustainability, and it's not working for employees' well-being. And at a time when so many governments are gridlocked and paralyzed and unable or unwilling to pursue big, bold, far-sighted goals, the private...

Scaredy-Cat When placed in circumstances I don’t like (tight spaces, heights, flying, the dark, any or all of the above), I glue my bravest smile in place (well, sometimes I tear up first), even as it feels pallid.  My breathing is shallow, my hands sweat, and my shoulders tremble. My back hunches, my arms are crossed. What I really want to do is curl up into the fetal position, barricade myself away and have someone else take care of me. But I’m a self-respecting adult (most of the time), albeit a scaredy-cat. So I’m usually able to talk myself out of hysterical reactions. It’s not...

The Photograph I stared obsessively at a photograph posted in Thursday’s edition of the Greek online newspaper, Ekathimerini. The accompanying article outlined the sudden closure of Greece’s public broadcaster, ERT, by the conservative-led government.  After reading the article, I flipped back to the photograph. I went to it several more times that day. In the forefront, there is a crying woman hunched over her control panel, her fingers stretched over switches as if to protect and defy anyone from turning them off. There is an inconsistency in her bold stance. I wonder about her...

Democracy “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” Plato I watched Mr. Harper last week give his speech about the Senate scandal. Besides not providing any viable explanations in his prepared statement, the man sat with that arrogant smile pasted on his face, his lips pursed, and refused to answer any questions. And when journalists persisted, his cabinet ministers rather than advising him to respond to the issues of concern to Canadians protected him and then threw journalists (who were invited by the Prime Minister to this...

Silence “When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russian poet) Remember when you were a kid? I know, I know. It’s been a long time for me too. I mean the being a kid part, not the remembering part. I have flashes of memories from my childhood all the time. Joy, regrets, pride, shame, and hard lessons learned. Remember when your mom asked you if you’d done something wrong?

This Too Will Pass I’m a city girl. I’ve admitted this in previous blogs. I was born in a city, raised in a city, and have been fortunate enough to work in many different cities. I love everything about urban living: the chaos, the noise, the mayhem, and the humanity. As Nikos Kazantzakis wrote, “A man needs a little madness....” As does a woman. My particular madness (well, among my many peculiarities) was city living.

Boston I felt helpless last week as I watched the events in Boston unfold. The loss of life deeply saddened me. There are no explanations, no justification for this act of violence that would make sense to the victims, or to anyone, really. And yet, I do want to understand. I want to know what motivated these people, not because I want to condone their violence, but rather because I believe that prevention is the only answer to ensuring safety. And effective prevention comes from trying to comprehend the motives and root causes of those who choose to flout our laws. I know it’s not the...

Dear Mr. Harper I wonder if there will come a time when you stop attacking others and actually tell us what you believe in, stand for. Or perhaps that is exactly what you’re doing with each of your volleys against the opposition. Your new object of derision is Justin Trudeau. And I’m still trying to figure out what he’s done in less than a week on the job that has you running so scared, finding the minutia to pick at as you would a blackhead. Let me see, Mr. Trudeau took off his shirt for a charity event. Oh, the shame of it. And here I thought giving to and helping others in need was...

Noise Ever notice the noise that surrounds us? Headlines shriek, politicians yell, ads bellow. I don’t typically notice the racket, because I’m a gurgling commotion all on my own and I’m drawn to other ruckus like a moth to a flame.  But then I attend a writers festival (one I haven’t organized myself. Yippy!), and in the hush of an author’s reading, or the rapt concentration of a workshop, or the quiet milling of a book fair (hungry authors hoping their book will be lovingly fondled, leafed and purchased) I realize we’re all trying to be heard above the noise. And for writers and...

All will be yours All will be yours when I’m gone. She used to make these bold statements − I never believed she wouldn’t always be around − whenever she bought the umpteenth kitschy knickknack to stuff into her china cabinet, or a fifth etched glass vase for the dining room hutch, or the tenth figurine to display in the living room. They will be worth something one day. Or maybe you’ll put them in your own home. This, she said, pointing to an exceptionally large sculpture of an eagle in full flight, talons at the ready, would be perfect on your coffee table. Was it just the other day when...

Passing the Torch Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Helen Keller We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Orson Welles Two quotes, two different perspectives. Which one do you subscribe to? Give that some thought while I tell you where I stand. For me, everything is better when it’s shared, whether it’s dinner, a movie, a good read, or more esoteric things like what I’m learning or have learned from others. Sharing makes life better.  Actually it’s what life is about. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with...

The Next Best Thing So have you heard about the Next Big Thing? It's a blog game similar to an interview, with a bunch of questions, where you publish the answers on your blog then tag (if you want to) 5 more people. I decided I was in because it’s meant to raise the profile of your work (always a good thing especially with all the noise and other distractions out there) and it sounded kind of fun (and apparently I have an aversion to saying No). Enjoy! The person who tagged me is a friend and author with an upcoming book to be released in April. Here is his post. And my answers are below.

Still Grieving My mother died on March 15, 2011 at ten to three in the morning. She lay in her hospital bed, muted lights trembling above her head, while one daughter slept in one hospital chair, a grandson slept in another, and I, the other daughter sat beside my mother’s bed feeling a biting cold none of the blankets the nurses gave me could ease. I listened for my mother’s raspy breathing, something that had kept us company for so many of those last days, and heard nothing but early morning hospital sounds. Mechanical sounds, sweeping sounds, buzzing light sounds. And still the cutting...

Opinionated and Unrepentant I have a few pet peeves. Okay, maybe more than a few. Okay, maybe a whole lot. I’m opinionated, I hope in a nice, respectful, able to listen and understand way. I don’t believe in violent protest, I’m a pacifist. But at the same time, I’m not prepared to just sit back and let others determine what is right or good for me. Resistance, as the filmmaker, Costas Gravas once said, is a good thing.

Underestimated I have been underestimated my whole life. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but it’s happened to me so often in my career I should be used to it by now. In the last few weeks, it happened again, not once, but twice. Rather than let these slights slide away like snow off a steep slope, I found myself wondering yet again what it is about me that makes others second guess what I can or cannot do. I’d tell them if they asked (I have never been afraid to tell the truth about my abilities), but they don’t and in the end it’s their assumptions that hurt me.  

On Being Human This week I was tempted, strongly so, to do something I’ve often complained others do far too easily. Yes folks I, who believes in abundance and shares everything she has because she believes there will always be enough for all of us, almost closed ranks, came into myself to protect my turf.  I can’t believe I just wrote the words, ‘my turf’. For those of you reading this blog who know me, you see what state I must have been in this week. Yes, I was more peculiar than ever. Not sure what happened that set me off on this wrong-headed course except there was an innocent...

God Help Us All I’ve been writing a blog every Sunday since the beginning of the year. I took this on as part of a 30-day challenge to myself to try something new. The blog has allowed me to do a brain dump, to tuck away for safekeeping my endless churning thoughts. I had the misguided notion that blogging might help me sleep, something my constant thinking has denied. And if nothing else, I thought the blog might give me an opportunity to get my opinions and views off my chest rather than have them skulk about waiting for the next unsuspecting dinner guest.

Whatever…  About a hundred years ago, I was interviewed for a Deputy Director position for a young offender facility in Alberta. In that interview, the then Assistant Deputy Minister of Corrections asked me one of those questions that at the time I dreaded and had not prepared for (which is likely why I dreaded it): Are Leaders Born or Made? I was a twenty-something then, before that term was even invented. I needed a minute to think. It was a philosophical question and I wondered if he wanted to know what I thought or if he’d already made up his mind not to give me the job and was...

Bellissima I get up early most mornings (4:30 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. early) because I like the quiet of a dark, new day. The world is still asleep and not asking a single thing from me. I can escape into the imagined world I’m trying to create in my new novel before anyone else notices what I’m doing, including me. I avoid email and just get on with putting down on paper the characters and stories that have forced themselves into my dreams and incessantly whispered into my ear as if sitting on my shoulder. Last Monday, email was the first thing that came up when I flipped my laptop’s lid.

Long Live Nostalgia My nephew and his friends are fascinated with the 60s, 70s, even the disco 80s. They wear retro, collect now-expensive vinyl albums, watch old movies and feel as though they may have been born too late. I have become nostalgic too. I tear up when I hear an old song and seek out movies with actual plot lines that don’t depend on blood and gore and split-second attention-deficit scene changes.  Then again, it might be that I’m just getting old and long for a time I like to think was kinder, gentler.   Actually, I’m not sure why the nostalgia. In my case it might...

Afraid But Doing it Anyway I live in a place where people throw themselves off mountains and cliffs on skis, snowboards, bikes, paragliders, any form of contraption that will provide a death defying thrill.  Or at least that’s how I see it from behind my windows, sitting at my desk, in my warm house. Yes, these folks are flouting death, while I look on in awe and admiration. And a little bit of head shaking as I wonder once again, how I ended up in this place with its adrenaline-inducing peaks that draw a line in the sand or rather the granite and challenge all those willing to take...

2012 Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Oct. 12-14, Whistler, B.C. For more information and a full schedule of events visit theviciouscircle.ca. Stella Harvey spoke to the North Shore News about the history of The Vicious Circle and what to expect at next weekend's Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. North Shore News: How did The Vicious Circle get started in Whistler? Stella Harvey: I've always written stuff here and there but I had another career and I was working in Europe for three years. When we decided to come back I sort of thought this might be a good time. I started to do...