Tuesday, May 22, 2018

At a Loss For Words

Some might doubt I am ever at a loss for words. I will attempt to find the words to say how wonderful the last few days have been. It was book launch weekend and so much more. Meg arrived on Wednesday and squeezed as much into her six day visit as she could. I had encouraged her to make the visit be what she wanted it to be and to not worry about spending time with me. She did what she does best which is visit the people that truly matter to her. We squeezed a family turkey dinner in and of course the main events. One of those main events was Ashlie's university graduation. Friday was a gorgeous day and Ashlie proudly donned her cap and gown and received her Business degree. We are so hugely proud of her accomplishments. A group of family and friends gathered at Churchill's for a celebratory supper. I had to eat and run to get to the Legion for my peninsula launch.FedEx had delivered my books just under the wire and I hadn't actually held Headliner until I walked into the already filling Legion. I paused very briefly to hold my seventh baby. Robbie and Calvin entertained and people gathered, warmly welcoming Headliner and supporting me. I did two readings and had a great time talking to so many of the people who have been by my side every step of the way. The next morning I laid out seven books on my table at the Kingston Farmer's Market and had lots of buyers.My friend Denise gave me a quote I will proudly repeat when talking about my books. " Your books are like a good meal, they take a long time to prepare and a short time to devour." The rest of Saturday was for regrouping, relaxing and a little bit of Royal wedding watching. A walk was more than needed and I processed and gave thanks. Sunday morning was quiet and I was able to prepare my head and heart for the next launch. And what transpired at the Market Square library certainly filled my heart to overflowing. The Saint John String Quartet filled the space with melodious music and set the wonderful tone which was to follow. Three amazing Bayside Middle students took their roles and added to the magic. Emma emceed wonderfully. Hadyn introduced me with her unique flair and any author receiving her words would be thrilled beyond measure. I read four passages and felt the room respond while at the same time knew the deep emotion my husband and kids were feeling.Katelyn closed with humor , confidence and a generosity I will not soon forget.All the while the strings continued to create beauty and emotion. Books were sold and signed. Words were exchanged and my writer's heart was filled to overflowing which will carry me through the isolated days at the keyboard when my confidence wanes and my words hide from me. Then loved ones (which included my dear friend Alice) gathered around a table at Splash and enjoyed Thai food , laughter and conversation. My grandchildren entertained and filled our hearts with joy and pride. Bella and Grampie shared ice cream and we shared time together which is a gift greater than riches. My riches are bountiful. My heart is full and my cup overflows. My daughter has now driven away in her rented tin can and will be boarding her plane soon.Another launch has happened and memories were made. To truly find the words for it all is more than this writer can do, but that of course will not stop me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Before We Disappear

It is a beautiful sunny , cool and windy Monday morning. I am thrilled to be home. I just had a few busy, somewhat demanding days in a row and the gift of quiet and home shines through brightly this morning.Compared to the extended demands of my teaching years these intense bursts of activity are nothing but in the wonderful , slow and steady life I now lead they stand out. When traveling is required and putting myself out there is expected I can usually step up and pull it off. After the frenzy I always feel so happy to return home and return to the predictability and choice of my days and seasons. I texted my daughter on Saturday voicing my anxiety regarding the fact I had not made a list since Thursday morning . My list making I realize is just an attempt to stay grounded and my need to process and stay in control. I am sure a therapist could have a field day with me but I don't need to have a professional tell me why I do what I do. I do what I do because I need to. My daughter wisely replied. " Mom , sit down somewhere and make a list, go outside and look at the buds on the trees and listen to the birds". She knows me so well.She sees me and that is a gift beyond measure. Yesterday I sat and gazed at my mother. She sat as a queen on her throne dressed in her signature manner, jewelry , a scarf , her clothes somewhat layered possibly not matching but each layer fashionable. She patted her hair and smiled. Every gesture is now open to interpretation as Mom can no longer speak and her thoughts are locked inside. Was her hair touching a comment on how messy she believed it to look, how unhappy she was with the hairdresser or the color, a plea for a compliment or a way to tell me my hair need attending to? In that brief gesture I saw all of who my mother was and still is . It feels like in so many ways she is disappearing right in front of my eyes. She is tiny and elf like, child like I suppose and fading.She no longer has a primary role in the family group.She is not cooking for us , asking questions or making comments. We talk and laugh and our exchange excludes her in many ways. We pull her in to the conversation as one would include a small child , reacting to her body language and following her if she goes outside or into another room. Dad is reluctant to discuss in front of her the challenges and frustrations he is experiencing, trying hard to maintain her dignity and the sanctity of their almost seventy year marriage.Yesterday with my brother, sister in law and my father I looked through pictures laughing and remembering and I was so sad not to be able to ask Mom for details and hear her recollections. I dig very deep to find my beloved mother in the shell of the little woman who sits before me because I know she is still in there. Her disappearance makes my current role as mother and grandmother even more poignant. I left my mother and went to my son and daughter in law's for supper. I absorbed every aspect of that get together. The house was filled with 21 members of the two families who were connected when Chapin married Brianne. Nancy sat in her place of honor as two of her children, six of her grandchildren and eight of her great grandchildren interacted around her. Burton and I reveled in our sons, their life partners and three of our grandchildren. We laughed, we ate , we hugged and told stories and made memories.We saw each other and celebrated family. As I walked home afterwards I listed my reasons to be thankful and it occurred to me that I had a big part ( as did Tricia) in steering the ship that brought us to the moments of family that was Mother's Day 2018.From the youngest to the oldest I see them all and am so privileged to be seen by them. I will fade and disappear but so much will be left behind and will continue to flourish and grow.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

This Too Will Pass

May we all take a collective sigh. Flooding has taken over our thoughts,and has affected us all. Of course the real suffering has come to those who have seen their properties destroyed . Delays, closures and inconveniences are nothing compared to seeing homes and beloved cottages destroyed. There has been no deaths and for that I am grateful. But I feel a heaviness that the rising water has inflicted on us all. I am attempting to regain optimism and hopefulness. I believe this happens collectively whenever a major upheaval occurs that challenges our 'normal'. Life as we know it can be shaken and completely turned on its' head. Personal and collective loss can hit us without warning and knock us off our bearings. We must ride out the storm,hang on through the worst of it and then wait for the water to recede and the mess to be dealt with. Again I speak to this from the sidelines. Our hearts break for our friends Cheryl and Sheldon who have seen their hard work and dreams destroyed. We will show up and do what we can to support the huge job of cleaning up, rebuilding and re -investing in their dream. That is the difficult part of living through an upheaval of any kind. Believing and dreaming again. Finding a place for the sorrow and the fear and letting the light shine through again. That is my prayer for us all today. Whatever you have been called to deal with I pray the light comes through and the hope resurfaces. Deep breath, big hugs and shake off the sadness. This too will pass.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Year of the Flood

I am high and dry but so many others are not. As the last few days unfolded references were often made to 1973 and 2008 . Now the flood of 2018 has become it's own statistic and has written its own story.Today is my mothers 90th birthday.The plan had been to gather here for supper and celebrate. But road closures and ferry closures have changed the plans. This of course is nothing compared to what other people are facing as flood levels reach an all time high. Our ferry workers have labored tirelessly to keep the two ferries at Gondola Point running.Homes, cottages and businesses have been affected and infrastructure has been damaged and compromised. Highways are closed and many wait for the water to peak and gradually recede. Oh how powerless we are to the forces of nature.I feel the tension of the flooding situation even though the challenges are not mine to face. I talk to my Dad on the phone and try to convey birthday wishes to my Mom. Oh how the years change things. Nineteen years ago today Burton's Mom died. Nan who had been a constant in our lives was gone seventeen days after her grandson. I am deciding how to tackle this day. I will take it as the wonderful gift it is. I will prepare a meal and welcome whoever can come to it. I will cut my mother's birthday cake and celebrate her and Nan and the wonderful force they both were in our lives; two amazing women who fed and sustained us.I will keep those affected by the flooding in my thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I Raise a Glass Half Full

This entry is not for whining . Hopefully is is just the opposite although I have found myself feeling somewhat sorry for myself these last few days. I have been sick. Oh poor me! I seldom get the flu or a cold anymore since I am not in contact with a million germs like I used to be. This one got us though. Chapin got it first then Burton came down with it. I seemed to be in the clear until Thursday and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. At first I took it as a reason to do nothing, lay low , relax ,step back and just be sick. But around day three I was over that and I resented the lack of energy and the lack of optimism that usually carries me. I must say I have given a lot of thought to those who struggle with their health on an ongoing basis and truly admire those who keep going and put a good face on. I tend to do just the opposite . I retreat, let every thought turn to my failures and shortcomings. I heap on guilt for the things I am not doing, the Sunday supper I didn't prepare the challenges I didn't take on . It is exhausting and sends me back to bed.So now on the downhill slide to being better(I really hope) I am attempting to regroup. Luckily my sick days fell on a weekend that held no real commitment and I am thankful for that.May promises some busy days , some exciting events and Meg's visit. I plan on being well for all of that. Saturday I will start the market again and I look forward to my weekly interactions. I will travel to Halifax for the Atlantic Book Awards. I will attend WFNB'S WordSpring.I hope to receive copies of Headliner soon and anticipate the joy of opening the carton and holding my seventh book. I will launch Headliner on the peninsula and at an event at the Saint John Central Library . Meg will arrive for a visit and gets to meet her new nephews and niece. Ashlie will graduate from university .We will celebrate Mom's 90th birthday and Dad's 88th. Yesterday Burton and I celebrated our 41st anniversary and Ashlie's birthday. We were thrilled to gather as a family around Chapin and Brianne's table. The smiles around that table, the singing and laughter was everything I needed to fill me with the optimism my sick days had depleted . Oh how very blessed we are.This morning I raise a glass or a cup of coffee and see that cup half full. Perhaps the best gift being sick gives us is the realization just how wonderful being well is. Thanks for the reminder and let's get on with it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

It Takes a Village

I have told the story many times of the first time I knew that the Kingston Peninsula was where I wanted to live my life and raise my children. As a ten year old I stood in the midst of a crowded hall full of residents of all ages and knew the value of belonging to a community. Yesterday I experienced the same thing and hope my grandchildren felt it as deeply as I did on that day fifty some years ago. I couldn't help but think as I left the Legion yesterday that nineteen years ago the community gave a similar outpouring .On the day of Zac's funeral we were swept up in the loving embrace of our friends and neighbors. Births, deaths, accidents, fire, flood, life changing events are the times a strong community rallys behind it's people and shows support. I know other communities do the same but I have been privileged to live in this one. I used to tell my students that to have a friend you need to be a friend. Well yesterday was proof that Chapin and Brianne were raised to be a friend.This morning the April sun shines as the month winds down and I am filled with feelings of love and hope. I feel the dark night has given way to the bright morning. I am so deeply thankful for that.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Like a Pressure Cooker

Monday morning again. I have a short time in the quiet of my office as I have some daughter duties to tend to this morning. I will return as quickly as possible and take the hours left to me. Headliner has gone to print . I am very excited about that. I have participated in this process seven times now but the thrill has not diminished in the least and I can't wait to hold the finished book. I am proud of the work we all have done. I love the cover and I believe in the story.The story is a simple one of love, loss and struggling to make sense of it and find your way through. Just before bed last night I happened upon Willie Nelson's new release entitled 'Something You Get Through'. His voice is faltering a bit, his face shows a life lived and his words spoke deeply to me. I have always bristled at the phrase " getting over it" when it comes to grieving. Some may say by writing another book about loss I am stuck in the not getting over it. I beg to differ in the loudest possible voice. I can only speak for myself but I believe it is the getting through that counts.Now the getting through looks different for everyone and I can only speak to my own experience. At this point nineteen years after loosing Zac my grief is often like a pressure cooker. Certainly not as often as it once did but now and again the grief builds up, presents itself in dreams and blows off the lid.At those times the pain and fear and panic is as strong as it was in the first moments, days and months. The methods of getting through are learned, the belief you can rally is established and the lid is placed back on.I am so thankful for that and accept the reality of what my getting through looks like.Just as being Zac's mother for twenty years gave me immeasurable gifts ,navigating my way though loss has given me blessings as well.It is not up to me to question why and all I am truly left to do is my best and call witness to the journey. Perhaps in doing that I can in some way encourage others.