Monday, September 18, 2017
Why bother? I showed a friend the other day the photograph I had taken an hour or so earlier of a beautiful blue Morning Glory I had just happened to notice seconds before I got in my car to drive to pick her up so we could go on our weekly swimming,lunch and errand outing. She commented on the beauty of the blossom and asked about where I had them,how many I'd planted,and how long they stayed in bloom. I said the two blossoms I'd seen this morning might be the only ones I would get and that they don't last very long. Why bother? she asked. I answered "Just because they are beautiful." When I got home that day the two blossoms I had photographed were gone, closed up and done. The beautiful morning glories had had their glory for just one morning. Today I took pictures of two more. They were just as breathtaking and I paid very close attention to each aspect of the gorgeous blossoms, the leaves around them and the glory they presently put forth. When I got home two hours later they were both gone, not closed up as the last time, but one broken away lying limp and shriveled on the ground, the other stripped bare with only the stamen and one small sliver of petal left on the vine. Glory so fleeting and almost missed had I not happened upon them exactly when I did.That entire concept leaves me in awe and brings tears to my eyes. Why bother? Why love and put energy into the beautiful and meaningful treasures life gives us? Why let yourself feel the awe of the amazing when they die, they fade, they disappear? Why bother? Oh, not to bother would be the bigger tragedy.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Yesterday my friend Kathy and I went to look at the Hospital lottery house. I found myself during my typical wakeful hours in the middle of the night imagining myself living there. This morning I attempt to put some feelings of discontent to rest by thinking of the story my mother used to tell me about the house with the golden windows. The moral of that story was to appreciate what you have instead of looking at what others have wishing it was yours. I am not a little girl wishing I lived in the big house on the far hill with the golden windows but that doesn't keep me from sometimes looking at a life different than my own and dropping myself into that reality. I can imagine walking out of my master bedroom to the back deck and pool. I can imagine sitting in my impressive office writing. I can see my friends and family sitting around the granite half moon end of the kitchen island. In all that dreaming I push myself back to the reality and to the beauty of my own golden windows (even if most of them need replacing) I am approaching a major bathroom renovation and at this point have a picture and two facecloths that are leading my vision. I am afraid to demolish , to create chaos , to become vulnerable. But I keep reminding myself of the suffering and loss that millions of people around the world are experiencing due to flood, fire, earthquake, hurricanes and war. How can I not fully embrace my house and see the beauty it holds? Buy the ticket , dream the dream but get on with the life I have been blessed with.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Yesterday and today I spent a fair amount of time on Facebook scrolling down looking at back to school pictures. I love them . I love the excitement on the kids faces or in some cases the indifference. Usually they stand in new outfits with back packs over their shoulders. Some photos show the walk to the bus or the stepping out of the bus door. Lots of kids are holding signs announcing their grade placement. Some fancier signs give all the data. Age 5 , Kindergarten, what I want to be when I grow up. Pictures of celebration and pictures of acknowledgement of just how quickly kids grow up. I used to say to my kids that I was going to put a brick on their heads to keep them from growing. I remember wishing I could freeze an age or a stage or a phase, a moment in time or the way our family was at a certain time. Oh how very futile that thought is. We want what we can never have and couldn't have from the moment our children entered the world.Our kids grow and change. We have our kids as long as we have them and can do nothing but accept the hard truth of that. I of course see this in the awful reality of having lost my oldest boy when he was twenty. I think of sweet Ava and sweet Frankie who are gone so soon. There is deep sorrow in the loss of a child. I find myself so often feeling the need to preach to parents to pay attention, to cherish the moment. I restrain myself because like so many other truths it is not up to me to make sure people know them. The truth of the ebb and flow of life , the rapid passing of years, the ups and downs of loving and the challenges of living our lives is not my truth to tell but belongs to us all. Each back to school photograph tells that truth loud and clear. When I sign a copy of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried I write' Always tell your own story". That is the thing, we all have our own story to tell. The moments are packed and precious and each day holds a piece of that epic story.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
To be very clear I am not feeling sorry for myself in this entry. I realize the weariness and heaviness I feel this morning is nothing compared to what thousands of people are dealing with in Texas and hundreds of thousands in India. But I am weary this morning and somehow feel the need to give voice to that. It is the long Labour Day weekend. We have had a taste of the cool temperatures to come. We've had the furnace going for the last two nights and I have not been in the lake since Monday. Monday afternoon I went for a delightful swim with a friend and then we sat on the shore for two hours enjoying the wonderful gift of conversation. Time in no way wasted when two friends catch up discussing a hundred things and feeling the deep connection of experience and caring. The rest of the week unfolded dishing out moments of obligation and duty, sharing and giving and being there as best I could for friends and family. On this day that approaches my parents 69 wedding anniversary I am burdened with the challenges that lie ahead for them. I wish I had the ability to make the impact of physical and cognitive impairment easier for them as they face the changes that are sure to come. One day at a time is the wisdom I am holding on to this morning. One days gifts and one days burdens. One days worries and one days blessings. Put your feet on the floor and be what you are called to be. Give what you can and take what you are given from those who are walking their own paths. You will get back in your lake and you will again feel the lifting of fatigue and feel flickers of hope and optimism .
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Thank you Audrey. The words and melody of the hymn Whispering Hope resonates in my mind this morning. In the night I gave thought to the words I might write today but opening Facebook this morning my heart lurches toward the sorrow of another family facing loss. The loss the Short family of Port Aux Basques,NFLD is feeling this morning is deep and debilitating and beyond understanding. I met Stacey and Lew two years ago and got to meet their beautiful Ava. At that time they were perplexed with the frequency of seizures that had started in their healthy oldest granddaughter. They had been told she had epilepsy and were doing their best to deal with what that would mean. Shortly after the diagnosis changed and they were told Ava had Batten Disease. They knew nothing about that disease but as they learned about it they quickly realized the nightmare that was to come. Many hospital trips and many life changing setbacks had just begun. As a family they faced each one with as much courage as they could muster and always with strong, determined love and loyalty. Ava had a little sister and another one soon to be born and her Mom faced all Ava's disease threw at them while still mothering her younger daughter and new baby. They gave Ava every fiber of their being as she fought bravely. Last night Ava's brave fight was over. Her little body succumbed to the horrors of the disease and her beautiful smile was extinguished. At Audrey's funeral yesterday I heard and witnessed tributes to her beautiful smile and loving presence for almost 93 years on this earth. How are we to understand why one smile lasts 93 years and one only 6 short ones? There is no understanding and only the whisper of hope in such sorrow.
Monday, August 21, 2017
What a glorious morning it is. I took my coffee to the front veranda(the cottage) and had a few minutes of amazing reflection and bliss. Our big old drooling , sneezing, begging dog joined me trying very hard to step on my feet. I quickly wrote my journal entry and took in the sights , the feel of the day and the quiet beauty. One more week of summer holidays. I realize I could go back to work anytime I wanted to. The rigid schedule I lived by for twenty nine years is now fluid and flexible but I use the margins of it to organize myself to the discipline of writing. I am very excited to get back to work but somewhat nervous about the challenge. I think back to the beginning of the six books I have published. The beginnings were as unsure as the work I hope to start next week. Some small seed of an idea started the process of finding story , character and letting the writing swell as I sat each day allowing it to unfold. I love the process and trust it more than I did at first but still feel the fear and doubt . This is much like the trepidation I felt preparing my classroom , looking at my class list and undertaking the challenges each school year brought. The challenges, the rewards and the joy of the job. The whole jumble once the door opened and the kids came in. So a few solitary moments at the cottage helps to prepare me for all that getting back to my office will bring. I can not even begin to say how very thankful I am for the opportunity to be there.
Monday, August 14, 2017
This morning I took my coffee and journal out to the back veranda and took in the beauty of the sights and sounds around me. The sun was strong burning off the thick morning dew . I could feel a trace of fall in the air while at the same time feeling the beauty of summer. As a teacher I would already be feeling the tug of the school year coming and feel the need to hang on tightly to the last few days of summer holiday. I know my daughter in law feels that same tug. The tug is different for me these days. In two weeks I will return to my office and to the work I have been given the chance and privilege to do since giving up the work I loved for almost thirty years. I now am happy to let someone else welcome the Grade Four students when school starts up again. I will be busy writing books. I will begin writing my eleventh book. Six have been published ,one awaits publication in the spring and three sit on the back burner waiting. Someone at the market on Saturday said I will need a bigger table soon. I am happy that I still sell all six regularly although Meg would say The Sewing Basket doesn't get its fair share of recognition. I will squeeze as many books in as I can and be thrilled as each one arrives. For now I look forward to two weeks from today when I will say goodbye to my summer routine and welcome my writing routine again for another year. Today I have a plethora of peas and beans to pick and some weeds to pull. I have a lake to visit a couple of times and I look forward to attending Charlotte's Tea with my sister in law and friends this evening. Oh the joys of summer and the anticipation of fall. Kathy Thornhill's beautiful hooked masterpieces hang on the wall beside my table and I love that the one with an open book and pile of books is in full view.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
This house is so quiet. I put the girls rooms back to rights and packed away all their treasures the day after they left. I have taken it fairly easy all week trying to get my energy level back. I was able to come and go as I pleased , nap when I felt like it and watch whatever I wanted on TV. Life is back to normal and we miss those little girls like crazy. They were happy to be back home and it is of course as it should be but thinking that we won't have them running around again until next summer is not easy. Every summer brings new joys and changes. Again this summer I see the results of my futile attempt to keep all the weeds from our massive garden. In reality it would probably take five full time employees to keep it weed free and we are managing with two part time ones. At this point in August the picking of peas and beans takes priority and I couldn't possibly catch up with the weeding. I vow once more to go smaller next year. Last year I kept a close eye on the growth of my sunflowers. That has not been a focus this year and sadly the last few standing have been knocked over by our beautiful big brown pig who breaks out once in awhile looking for love. There is always next year. Perhaps that is the best lesson gardening gives us. In fourteen days I will return to my office. I am quite sure what I will begin to write but won't know for certain until I actually sit at the keyboard and see what takes over. The gifts the summer gives us , the bounty the garden brings and the joys of writing are unpredictable, changing and variable but the blessings of season have a constant that give us the assurance to believe in " maybe next year". For that I am so thankful.
Monday, August 7, 2017
"Don't Even Talk about it!" is what Paige has been saying for the last week or so whenever the topic of leaving has been mentioned. Transitions, change, goodbyes are so difficult. But all good things , all things come to an end. This morning the house is quiet because the girls had a sleepover at Aunt Bri's and Uncle Chapin's. That means of course that I will not hear their footsteps and their morning greetings again until next year. We will coax them from their beds in the early morning hours tomorrow and put them in the car to drive to the airport for an early flight. I am sad and don't want to talk about it but here I am writing about it. The morning air held the promise of fall and I am anxious to return to work but how can summer and our time with the girls be ending? I know just how quickly weeks, months and seasons pass so it should not surprise me that we have come so quickly to this day. I will begin the packing and the process of letting them go. They live in Alberta and I must come to terms with that. I will, but my heart will break seeing them walk through security. We try hard not to have long, emotional goodbyes but the emotion sits under the surface . I know these weeks have mattered more than we can even imagine. Our girls know us so well and have added to their repertoire of data that can be brought up quickly and at anytime when they need their grandparents and need to know just how much we adore them. We have had so many laughs, so many moments and distance can not take that from us. Ok,so on this beautiful New Brunswick day I will get them ready to go back to Alberta but I know New Brunswick goes back with them and the summer of 2017 was worth every single minute, every challenge ,and every bit of what we all offered to it.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Five more sleeps. How very quickly six weeks goes by. July has passed and the beginning days of August are the wind down days of the time of Summer 2017 spent with our granddaughters. With each jump in the lake the time to say goodbye gets closer . I will swim after they go home as long into the fall as I can and each time I will see in my mind Paige swimming vigorously out to the raft, her blonde hair and the collar of her red and blue life jacket sticking above the rippling water. I will see Emma swimming closely behind her and triumphantly reaching the raft and taking an exuberant jump into the deep water. Each drive down and back will hold the echoes of the conversations and the beauty of the chance to hit the lake one more time. I heard a woman on CBC today talking about the wonderful healing power of water and swimming. She said that water has the power to take our feelings whatever they are and give us back only good ones as we leave it. I have known this for a very long time. I have taken the gift of healing the Walton Lake gives me season after season and do not take for granted any of its power. I believe that as the girls leave us they take a part of that gift as well. The memories of getting to its shore,of running and jumping in and of allowing the water to connect us are deeply cemented in their minds and will hold a lasting place in their memories with us.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
I love the months of summer. I love all the seasons and everything they bring but I love that summer transforms my house into a cottage. For moments of each beautiful summer day I see my home as my cottage. I stop a bit from my busyness and pretend I'm at the cottage. I take my lunch out to the front veranda and take in the beauty surrounding me. I stop and just enjoy the peace and quiet of my summer retreat. I swim in the beautiful Walton Lake and hang our bathing suits and towels on the line. The back veranda is covered with sand and water shoes and life jackets hanging from hooks on the wall. For brief moments my year round home holds all the charm of a treasured cottage. I try to go to the cottage at least once a day. I stop worrying about the dust, the dirty floors, the dishes in the sink and go to the cottage where none of that matters. I stop fretting about the weeds in the ridiculously huge garden and sit in the lounging chair, on vacation. I go to the cottage and just sit and enjoy while at the same time anticipate getting back to my office. I have two story lines percolating in my head and we shall see which one takes over when I get back to work. Oh the joys of summer and time at the cottage.And the best thing about my house also being my cottage is;there is only one tax bill.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
We are almost done week number four. We have had a lot of fun, some fights, pretty good bedtimes and I have heard "Monkey!" thousands of times. This summer of 2017 has held its share of wonderful memories and monumental moments. Emma has learned how to ride a bike without training wheels and has gone from a smaller one to the bigger one I bought for them . She has continued to be a stronger more confident swimmer and is growing like a weed. Paige has gone from standing reluctantly on the shore of the lake watching us swim to being the first one in the water, swimming(with her life jacket) all the way to the raft. She has almost mustered enough courage to jump off instead of lowering herself into the deep water from the ladder. She is still using training wheels on her small bike. We shall see if she makes the transition from life jacket and training wheels before her time here is over. Grampy continues to be in charge of the laughter, the one who hollers the loudest and can quickly bring Emma out of an episode. He can scare the life out of us all and he is the one who loads us up for a late night swim under starry skies. He is the keeper of fun and the one who constantly reminds me nothing else is as important as the time we are spending with our granddaughters. Our huge garden is getting some attention but the garden we are tending to this summer is the garden of granddaughters. We watch it grow and blossom and it fills our hearts with joy.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
I have not written an entry since the day we were expecting the girls. Almost two busy weeks have gone by. The highlight so far has been our trip to NS. We traveled to River John for the grand opening of Mabel Murple's Book Shoppe and Dreamery. Sheree Fitch and her husband Gilles Plante welcomed about six hundred people to their magical property. It was a beautiful day and it was a pleasure to be part of the celebrations. We returned the next day to a quieter book shoppe and a chance to actually talk and get a hug from Sheree. I also got to meet author book store employee Linda Little and had a lovely chat with her. We will be back !Yesterday as on most Saturdays I stood behind my table at the Kingston Farmers Market. This year I have six books displayed and am happy to meet people and talk about my books and writing. Every week I get small gifts of interaction and yesterday was no exception. The crowd always holds a mix of locals, devoted readers and complete strangers from far and wide. Last week a family who lives and works in Qatar and summers in New Brunswick visited my table again for the latest book having purchased and enjoyed books from past summer visits. Their enthusiasm to see my new book on the table was wonderful. On that same day a man stopped and told me he has read Ten Thousand Truths at least five times and takes it annually on the cruises he takes in the winter. He eagerly bought Waiting For Still Water so he could spend more time with Rachel, Amelia, Zac , Jodie , Raymond and return to the farm on Walton Lake Road. Buyers like that warm my heart and make the quiet and slow first hours on market morning well worth it. Yesterday I had a couple more such interactions. A woman approached and said her aunt was in waiting for her breakfast but would be coming to my table shortly in anticipation of my new book. Susan appeared a while later and was as excited as her niece predicted. Her husband accompanied her and admitted he was as big a fan as she was. After buying two books he said just before leaving. " Don't stop". What a lovely thing to say to a writer. Don't worry I don't plan on stopping and after this summer hiatus will eagerly get back to my office. Oh how very thankful I am for it all. So for now it is granddaughters, garden, swimming and road trips, market Saturdays and all the gifts of summer.All the joys of summer that prepare me for the wonderful privilege of returning to my writing in the fall.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
I had a few minutes of pure bliss standing in my backyard early this morning. The freshly mowed grass was glistening with dew . The rooster was crowing with the beautiful blue sky and white clouds in the expansive sky above. The buildings , the green, dots of color and the peaceful feeling filled me with a sense of beauty. This place and all of the physical features of this place are here because we worked to put them here but the real essence of this place has nothing to do with our efforts and is the true beauty I feel standing there. At each glance I can find imperfection. I see grass that still needs mowed, rows that need weeds pulled, buildings in need of repairs, projects that failed or are undone. So much imperfection among such beauty. The choice to make in those quiet moments and in life itself is which to focus on. In our relationships, our families, the work we do and the pleasures we pursue we are called to make that same decision. Do we look for perfection and miss the beauty in our quest? A balance must be found that has us doing our best but accepting the flaws. Take the moments of beauty and truly see them. That is my goal.
Friday, June 23, 2017
This morning I am a jumble of weariness, discouragement and sadness. I am attempting to rally. I just got a bit of a pep talk from my daughter . I know that even if every squash plant is devoured by those nasty little black and yellow striped bugs I will be able to buy squash from other more successful( one who uses chemicals) farmers in the fall. I am holding my sweet little grandpuppy anticipating the grandmother duties that will ramp up next week. I vow to not complain while the girls are here. The privilege of having them seems crystal clear after witnessing yesterday the sorrow of grandparents in the throes of despair after loosing their sweet granddaughter. Frankie was given a loving tribute which helps to comfort those grieving but does not lessen the challenge of the days , months and years ahead as they find their way without her. I attended the graduation last night at Hampton High of my final grade four class. I feel overwhelmed by the emotion of that on so many levels. I still contain so much sorrow that Zac never had the opportunity to walk across that stage. I stood before his tree, the oak that was planted in his memory weeks after his death. I cleaned off the dirt that covered his name and briefly stood before it allowing just a small amount of that sorrow to penetrate my thoughts. The puppy's even breathing and warm little body on my lap is a comfort and I try to begin the task of rallying deciding what that rallying will look like. I have known more difficult days. I have faced more challenging hurtles than the ones being presented to me on this June morning. But nevertheless I need to dig a little deeper this morning to tap into the reserves of strength and courage. I pray those reserves become evident to those in need this morning. The valedictorian at last night's graduation referred to those resources as bounce. Today I ask for the ability to bounce . I am thinking the best plan would to be to head for the lake and see if the water will give me the buoyancy and bounce I so require today. And my son just reminded me that last year we ate squash until Easter so I best get out there and pull up my socks.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Yesterday was a delightful day. The lake is certainly part of what makes a hot day bearable for me. As usual and for whatever the reasons might be I am planting about one hundred rows of assorted vegetables. Peas seem to be the dominant one this year. I am probably about half done planting the peas which will finish the planting job for me except for some bedding plants in the kitchen garden. I often think as I'm planting the kitchen garden how nice it must be to manage a small plot like that as most normal people do. Something propels me to optimistically drop seeds in a hundred rows believing I can maintain such an endeavor. Blind and misguided optimism which is of course what takes me to the keyboard. That being said I love the side benefit of tedious, hard work for getting my mind geared up for my next novel. Yesterday I jotted half a page of notes for a possible start in the fall. Dropping seeds with hope for harvest. I do sometimes wonder what I would do to fill my days if I didn't have writing and gardening. But the lake makes it possible. Yesterday in the scorching heat I established the plant five rows and go for a swim rule. I couldn't help but reflect on the gift I have of making such rules for myself. I thought of people being made to work in endless heat, dehydrated , undernourished and treated heartlessly. I thought of Nelson Mandela laboring in a rock quarry with no measure of freedom except for what he could muster in his own mind. I do believe in the lessons of hard work. I still, as I bend over the rows, feel the presence of my grandmother and the influence of my grandfather who maintained an impeccable garden year after year. As I bring my little girls home for another summer I hope some of that work ethic rubs off on them. And we always have the lake. How very blessed we are!
Monday, June 5, 2017
I am taking a few minutes to write a quick entry. I am feeling slightly torn between the inside and the outside. Funny how when the outside chores ramp up the inside stuff still needs to get done. Dust balls are billowing along the baseboards and dust is layering on surfaces. I have a huge bag of seeds waiting in the garden shed. They will not plant themselves. Grass grows long in the several sections I attempt to mow throughout the season. The list is long to prepare for the girls although I'm sure they could care less if the items get checked off or not. This feeling of so much to do with so little time feels very familiar . Every year I face the tasks feeling the same doubt that it will all get done. And some of it doesn't. The plan this summer is to replace the railing on the front verandah. It is beyond time for this but we shall see if it gets done. My boys(the carpenters in the family ) are way too busy with their own to-do lists. I decided to go ahead with furnishing the front verandah instead of waiting for the railing to be replaced. I started hunting on kijiji and am thrilled with my finds. Each item I went for is beautiful in its own way. Tables, rockers, chairs and hutches that have previously graced some other space in someone else's home have gathered to bring beauty to my neglected front verandah. I will hang some flower baskets and keep cut flowers on the tables all summer and take pleasure in the simple joys and the tasks that appear on my daily lists. Whether all the jobs get done or not I will take pleasure in the season and the good health that allows me to tackle each job. And the first job this morning will be to vacuum some of those dust balls and then get outside.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
I have written about my son Caleb's undertaking to build something from nothing. I have also written lots about my son Chapin's building accomplishments and almost every day still walk down to marvel at the home he built. This past week has given me with a bit of worry in the back of my brain as my two boys tackle another building project. To be more exact this week they are unbuilding. They are deconstructing a large barn , hauling away the materials and rebuilding at least two if not more structures on the White farm. I think this is pretty impressive. Firstly I have always been impressed with the craftsmanship of barns in the past. Few modern barns can compare to the barns built in the last century. I hope they have taken some before and mid project pictures. I understand that the barn they are tearing down has already been moved and reconstructed once. I can't wait to see what structures they end up with. I am so proud of my boys and the two women who stand behind them. Together I see a future unfolding that will pay witness to a time when craftsmanship and hard work established farms and families. I look forward to being the matriarch in this and watching the years unfold every day, building something more from something pretty impressive already.
Monday, May 29, 2017
I love the rhythm of the seasons I have established since retiring from teaching when the rhythm was set in stone for me. Funny how I've pretty much adapted the same routine but with the gift of flexibility. From the day the teachers go back in late August or early September I go back to my office and follow a dedicated 3-4 day a week schedule of writing. I do allow writing related activities to usurp my writing time occasionally and also allow for family responsibilities, being a daughter of aging parents, a grandmother , wife and mother. Friendship sometimes requires interruptions as well. But I for the most part maintain a writing schedule that winds down at the end of May. Then I get outdoors. Some rainy days get me back inside but as June approaches I look forward to the great outdoors. I will get in the lake soon. I will allow the lake to give me the multitude of gifts it always has. I will swim often and kayak regularly. I plan on treating myself to a new kayak when my royalty cheque arrives this week. And the garden of course. It is time to get into the dirt. Before the girls arrive I plan to have everything planted and up and ready for the weeding and hoeing I so enjoy. I will don my bug suit and be outside. The lawn will be mowed regularly, giving me those wonderful moments of solitude while pushing my mower in circles, letting the noise and predictability allow me to spend time with my thoughts. I will sit on my back veranda and let summer fill me. The plan is to replace the railing on the front veranda and I hope to bring life to it when the railing is finished. The front veranda faces the surprisingly busy Waltons Lake Road. I look forward to choice of veranda, choosing the placement of sun , the desire for quiet privacy with chickens and dogs or active observation of neighbors, the cows in the pasture and lake goers. I have stated many times that our home changes with the seasons. In winter as I step off the veranda into deep snow and snowshoe to the top of the hill along a winding wood road it is a cabin in the woods with all the comforts of wood heat and cosiness. In summer it becomes our lake cottage even though the lake is not right outside the door. The lake defines our days of gardening and spending glorious time with our girls. What happens at the Lake stays at the lake. So today will be my last regular writing day and as we slide into June and into summer, it is time to get outside.
Friday, May 26, 2017
This is a week of author related activities. It has been a busy few weeks of events connected to writing. I launched book six , went on a week long Hackmatack tour, had a WISP visit and did a bit of writing. I started back at the market and each Saturday brought lots of writing talk and lots of book sales. On Wednesday Cathy and I drove to Fredericton for the 2nd annual NB Book Awards. Lots of writers and supporters filled the room at Memorial Hall and celebrated writing and writers in New Brunswick. David Adams Richards in his understated brilliance gave a keynote address that inspired us all. Today I will head to the city and spend the weekend hanging out with writers and those of like minds at the WFNB's WordSpring event. I remember the first time I made myself attend such an event. I was still working hard to convince myself and others that I was a writer. That does become easier with each published book but as a rule we writers are introverted, cautious and full of self doubt. But something propels us to put ourselves onto the page and toss that caution to the wind. We gather to celebrate writing and writers but let's remember to be kind to one another. Let's congratulate award winners and short listed authors but let's make sure we celebrate and support all writers at every stage of the game. As a director on the board of WFNB I am pleased to play my part in that remembering that the real work takes place alone at our keyboards and in our notebooks. Claim your status as a writer, claim the credit your work deserves and claim the opportunity to share that passion with others.
Monday, May 22, 2017
In the last two days I have received two posts from two readers sending me a picture of Maple Sugar Pie and a kind review after reading it or as they prepare to read it. The day before I got a lovely message from another reader who took comfort and pleasure in the shedding of tears the book brought to her . I know this doesn't mean its topping the New York best seller's list but the value of these posts and messages is huge to me. The other enjoyable part of seeing these in my Facebook feed is the chance to see the cover. I am so pleased with the cover. I love the coloring, the simplicity , the subtle references to family, food and memory. I love seeing Gladys. I love the crumbs, the white plate and silver cutlery, the pie in the corner and the tattered recipe. Yesterday I dug a tattered recipe out of my own collection. I considered re-writing my mother's Rhubarb Custard Pie recipe onto a new card but thought of how treasured her handwriting already has become and how more treasured it will be when she's gone. Oh how many rhubarb custard pies I have enjoyed at my mother's table. Yesterday I pulled a golden brown pie from my own oven and served it proudly to my Sunday supper crowd. What an honor to do so. The significance of the title Maple Sugar Pie does not become clear until the last few pages. I am not even sure how it evolved . I don't think I knew it from the start. What I did know was the value of food and memory , of food and connection, of food and love. So each time I see the cover pop up in my news feed I feel again the joy of writing the story and seeing it unfold and the joy of a cover that meshed that all together.
Monday, May 15, 2017
"It all started with a kiss." This was Brianne's grandmother Nancy's response yesterday when I told her the large crowd gathering was her fault. She beamed the whole time her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren milled around her. We had a wonderful Mother's Day supper at Chapin and Bri's house last evening. It was so nice to see my daughter in law caught up in the excitement and stress of the first hosting of a large family event. We have all been in that same frenzy when we think every little detail matters when really the people who gather are not looking at dust or imperfections but enjoying the hospitality, good food and fun. I sat back and enjoyed every bit of it. Sitting beside Nancy I absorbed her pride and her joy in being in her granddaughter's new home. She kept saying "This is quite a house". And of course she was complimenting the structure ,the décor and the accomplishment but more than that she was giving voice to her joy that her granddaughter had a home built with love. At one point as the large crowd was swarming the island and dishing up their suppers I made reference to what a treat it was to just sit back when usually I was in the middle of providing Sunday supper." That is your riches" she said. How very true her words are. Above anything money can buy my riches lie in my loved ones and the moments we have together. Mother's Day with all the advertising, all the hype and pressure is often difficult for so many; those who have lost children, have longed for the gift of motherhood, those who no longer have their mothers and so many more. Just a day and sometimes a disappointment or sorrow when the key is of course to celebrate our relationships every day. Love your circle, hold each other up and claim your riches.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Yesterday I returned again to my old high school. Last year when I went it was a huge deal for me. I walked the hallway of my memory and visited the feelings of my high school years. Yesterday I felt no need to do that. I did however share with a new group of grade nines my high school experience and my feelings of failure, stupidity and defeat that defined my high school years. Much of that was my own fault but it also was the fault of a system that allowed me to under perform. I am so over that and so strongly believe in an individuals ability to achieve what others may deem impossible. What better group to preach that to than Grade nine kids. Last year I also battled the rampant cell phone presence and we addressed that before I came and there were no cell phones in sight.(not even mine)I had a wonderful two hour writing workshop with a quiet but yet responsive group of kids just bursting with thoughts, creativity and the passion to write. I saw myself in several of those kids and I hope they saw something of themselves in me. I took Lionel back for a visit and he and I told our Simonds High story. Funny how an old pillow still resonates so much of my 17 year old self. My friend Jane and I made a plan to have joint custody of Lionel and trade off every year so that we would always stay in touch. Lionel has lived with me for almost 43 years. He has been loved, played with, slept on, thrown around and ignored. His neck is floppy and he has very little stuffing still in his head. He is stained and missing buttons. He has small holes but still has his trusting expression. I could go on about the changes in me in the last 43 years but I will not. I will only say that again I stood in a classroom in my old high school as a retired teacher and a published author ,both things I dreamed about and believed impossible when I walked those halls as a student. In your face ghosts of defeat and failure!!!
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Here I am on a Tuesday morning sitting in my office which is exactly where I want to be. Back from my Hackmatack tour I am ready to process that experience and my writing as this writing season winds down and comes to an end. Last year on this very day I sent the work of the last few months to my publisher. I was still revising and believing in the value of Maple Sugar Pie, hoping to see it take shape and to hold it in my hands. Reading those musings fills me with gratitude and the confidence that if I do the work, and believe in the work it takes shape in its proper time.Last week I was given the privilege of presenting in four schools as part of the Hackmatack Children's Choice Award 2017 .I traveled to the beautiful towns of Mahone Bay and Lunenberg. Chris Pottie was a wonderful host as she met me at Bayview Community School where her husband is principal. The kids were great! Chris then drove me to Bluenose Academy where presented to two groups. My favorite question there was 'What do you think makes a good book?' There I bought a book from the young author Breton Hayden. Her and her dad have written a delightful book titled Coffee Talk:Project Special Day. I look forward to giving that book to my son in law for Father's Day. Chris and I had a lovely lunch in Lunenberg and then stopped in to Lexicon Books. There I bought 'The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis'. I drove to Halifax in the fog, happy to arrive at the Lord Nelson Hotel and park, not having to drive again until I was on my way home. Tuesday night I had supper with my cousin Jan. Wednesday morning a cab took me to Aldernay Gate where I met Ashlee and she drove me to Upper Musquodoboit. I walked into the school of my dreams. Small student population, bright welcoming building, staff beaming with pride and the realization of the treasure these walls hold. The kids were absolutely delightful. The first group were P,1,2,3. I quickly learned their names and the time flew by. My favorite question in this group was 'Is your husband really scary?' There's a story behind that question. Scary in the nicest possible way is all I'll say. The next classroom held Libbie, Maggie, Chloe,Grace,Aubrey, Serena,Lily,Cameron,Tia,Colton and Keaton. If an author wants to feels appreciated go visit this class. They were thrilled to have an author come to visit. My favorite question here was' Can you read more?' Ashlee and I had a quick lunch and then made our way to Musquodoboit Valley Education Centre. The grade sixes from Upper Musquodoboit were visiting there for orientation and I met them first. Gavin, Connor,Jesse,Alex,Emma ,Mitchell,Carmen,Piper, Bria,Brianna, Ethan and their teacher Mrs. Barrett had read The Memory Chair and they were bursting with praise and questions. More kids filed in ,the group too large to learn all their names but Danaan and CJ introduced themselves. Danaan quickly showed herself to be the resident expert on The Memory Chair showing as much enthusiasm for the book as any author could hope for. Then the little kids came. I worried that I would not have enough energy for them as they didn't appear weary at all even though the school day was winding down. The 50 kids shared their energy with me and I gave it my all. They were bursting with questions. I would like to share all twenty of their great questions. They ranged from personal ones like "Do you have a dog or cat? and what are their names? to "Who is your publisher? , Do you write every day? What book are you writing next?' They showed genuine interest in the entire process making me believe reading, writing and books are in no danger of disappearing. So I have just hit the high points of my school visits and haven't even talked about the actual Hackmatack Awards Gala. I will save that for my next entry.I want to write today!
Sunday, May 7, 2017
After signing several books and welcoming many people I made my way to the front row . I sat beside Tammy and Liz and Sydney and Sarah, two excited girls that made me feel like a celebrity for sure. Rose Pitt graciously introduced me. She was warm and witty. Her kind words touched me deeply as did the humorous stories she told. It was the perfect opening and I am so grateful to her, to Gary, Barb and Robbie for bringing what they brought to the night. I read selected passages trying to provide a framework for the story without divulging too much. Lilah and Emma manned the laptop bringing up the three songs accompanying the text. It was perfect. I wanted to freeze the moments and the feeling in the room as 'I'll Take you Home Again Kathleen' and 'Oh My Papa' played. The final song 'Sh Boom Sh Boom' sealed the wonder of the evening. Burton had dropped hints of a surprise that would accompany that song and I was a bit afraid he might sing. I had hoped some people would get up and dance but that didn't happen. I am glad the real surprise Burton had up his sleeve didn't take place. The reading had mentioned the hall being so warm that men had taken off their shirts and woman had kicked off their shoes. Burton's plan had him and several young men in the crowd removing their shirts. That didn't happen.Beth closed, acknowledging Gladys on the cover and in the crowd. I was thrilled that Gladys was there. She even said she was able to hear most of it. Robbie and Calvin played another set and I signed more books . Butter tarts provided my Mrs. Dunster's and tea and coffee donated by Reed's Point Pub were enjoyed. The book launch fizzled out turning into our 40th anniversary celebration and the celebration of Ashlie's 26th birthday. The night was wonderful! A huge thank you to all who came out to help us celebrate and to all who helped to make the night happen. It will be hard to top my sixth launch. I am so very blessed!
I am bursting to tell so much. It has been a busy and wonderful two weeks and I am just sitting down now to process it. I have of course journaled every day recounting in some detail the delightful aspects of each packed day but this is the first opportunity I've had to find the time to write a blog entry about any of it. I think I will write two separate entries. So here goes. Launch week: Where do I begin? I will hit the highlights. Monday the books arrived. What at times seemed like the impossible task of getting everything done and having the books be here for my launch day had been pulled off .The amazing Terrilee Bulger had done it. She had orchestrated the editing, designing , proofing and printing and I now held Maple Sugar Pie in my hands. Swimming, dress shopping and enjoying the movie 'Maudie' with my friend Kathy made Tuesday a perfect day. A quiet Wednesday allowed me to put everything in order. I planned my Hackmatack visits and firmed up my launch readings. Thursday began with the dentist. I then dropped off the Rav 4 and Ronnie put my summer tires on. Louisa and I went to 82 Moms. The calm before the storm so to speak because unbeknownst to me Burton had arranged the girls to accompany Megan home for the weekend. So my quiet Thursday evening was interrupted by two little girls quietly making their way into the living room to surprise Monkey. They were bursting with the excitement of the surprise! Friday was taken up with errands and a day at Quilt Sisters. Uncle Chapin and Aunt Bri came for supper and a game of dominoes enjoying the company of their two nieces. Saturday morning was the first market day and I stood proudly with my latest book selling 24 copies and talking to lots of people. I came home to quickly try to put the house in order before going to the Legion to set up. Bob Langford used his technical expertise to get all the audio ready for my readings. Joy, Cheryl and Sheldon arrived at the Legion to offer a hand but Bill, Mae and whoever else was there had it all under control. Then we went home to a potluck . It was wonderful. Lots of delicious food, friends and family and lots of kids running around. Livvie, the large brown pig meandered through the adoring crowd. ( except Fletcher who was terrified of her)Mo and Andreas brought their beautiful little family . I got a chance to hold six month old Grace which helped to calm me a bit. I was concerned the calming might make getting geared up for the launch difficult. I wasn't sure I could get my second wind. I considered going to the lake and jumping in. Paige said she would go with me but she would just watch. Emma took control and said " Just breathe Monkey" and I went to get ready without the help of a freezing cold dip in the lake.When Burton and I got to the Legion there were already lots of people there. Ken and Linda had picked Mom and Dad up. I had thought that maybe this launch would be too much for them but there they were beaming with pride again despite the venue and possibly the uncomfortable content in my sixth book. Robbie Pitt and Calvin Gilliland began playing guitar and singing and this was definitely the highlight of the night for me. As I signed books and talked to people I wanted so badly to just take in the music they so generously provided. You can see this entry is getting long and perhaps some have stopped reading. So with the echo of Robbie and Calvin's music in my ears I will close and begin again in my next entry.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Ok, I am squeezing in a blog entry mainly for a chance to regroup , process and wind down before I wind back up again. I have never liked roller coasters. I like watching my brother in law Ronnie on one, as it is possibly the most entertaining thing to hear him scream, but I stay clear of them. But in comparison to this past weekend a roller coaster ride seems fitting and I was usually at the very top. Meg came home on Thursday which I expected but unexpectedly Burton arranged for Emma and Paige to come as well. They walked in the living room as quiet as mice and surprised Monkey. The hugging and expressions of joy went on for quite some time. Burton had said he had a few surprises up his sleeve. The first one had been getting Tony to fix our outside light. That may seem trivial to some but not to me. Meg was coming back after dark as she was meeting friends in the city for supper and I was thrilled that there would be a light on the veranda waiting for her. I tear up just thinking about it which probably means I am over tired. So the girls were the next surprise. Seeing he was still so excited about his surprises I began to worry about what was coming next. I feared it involved him singing to the musical parts of my planned readings. I started Saturday with my first market day of the season. It was wonderful. I sold 23 books and got to talk to lots of people. In retrospect I may have been better off staying home and conserving my talking energy but I managed to keep the reserves full enough to make it to 1:00 in the morning. Next we welcomed about 40 friends and family members to a pot luck at our house at suppertime. Tons of delicious food, lots of laughs and beautiful kids running around.( a beautiful big brown pig meandering through the yard as well) She was a bit hit with most of the kids. We had the unveiling and dedication of a sign ( Skip's Route) by our dear friend Skip. That is a long and hilarious story for another entry. Then Burton dropped his next surprise. Emma, Lilah and Burton carried the large hemlock slab across the yard and presented it to me. This slab which will later be made into a bench was artfully designed by my dear friend Crystal. She carved the names of each family member along with a loving moniker for each one. It was astounding and will long be a family treasure. Then came the book launch. It was truly amazing. I will take the time to write about it in more detail later but I must just say that over one hundred people came to the Legion and it couldn't have gone better. I have so many people to thank and acknowledge. Burton did not pull off his final surprise which I will also elaborate on later. Then we celebrated our 40th anniversary and Ashlie's 26th birthday. I am getting ready to leave for Nova Scotia for a week of Hackmatack Children's Choice Award readings and celebration. Another roller coaster and so for now with my feet firmly planted on the ground I will get myself ready while revelling in my full heart and my abundance of blessing.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Book number six arrived yesterday. My publisher and all her minions worked tirelessly to put it all together to insure delivery before my April 29th launch date. I marvel at the process from the first tiny seed of thought that makes its way to the page, the hours of unravelling the story , the months of revising and fleshing out the work , the submission , the acceptance, the editing, perfecting, developing, the designing of cover and interior, the proof reading, the back and forth checking and tweaking, the printing and the shipping. The work sounds daunting and I probably missed some steps and the book has flaws and mistakes( Burton found one in the first two minutes of perusing the book)but I am perfectly all right with that because life has mistakes. Nothing is perfect but effort and intent are everything as far as I'm concerned and this morning as I look at the boxes of books waiting to be sent out into the world I am proud of the work that was done. And thrilled I might add. My dream of writing and being published has been realized six times. I continue to write, now working on book number ten and the writing is the light I go to. I have been accused of writing books that are difficult to read without choking up or shedding a tear. I remember apologizing for this at first after The Year Mrs. Montague Cried was published. I have long stopped apologizing. I remember hearing a writer say once that if you haven't cried and laughed over your own work you can't expect your readers to. I can honestly say I have done the laughing and the crying, and have in turn compelled my family to feel the emotion the pages hold. But what a thrill comes with it all. Yesterday Caleb had just arrived to feed his animals, I knocked on my office window and held up a book for him to see. He knew I was awaiting the arrival of the book and gave me a huge smile and a thumbs up. I had dragged him up to my office after I had written the first few pages excited to introduce him to Hazel. He had given an opinion about a piece of dialogue that didn't ring true to him and he was right on. So the thrill comes every step of the way, every single step of the way.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
I am no expert , no Dr. Phil so to speak but I know stuff. The older I get the more I come to believe knowing stuff comes with age ;sometimes anyway if you are paying attention. I pay attention, too much sometimes but nevertheless I notice stuff. Last night I listened to a talk Kate, Will and Harry were having about mental health. Just three normal people who happen to be royalty but also just happen to know about mental health. The reason for that of course is because mental health applies to everyone even the rich , the famous and the crowned. It is a juggling act we are all called to take on the moment we enter the world and it continues until we are given our leave. The trick is to keep the balls in the air the whole time or at least most of the time and when balls drop pick them back up and get the rhythm again. Now to the stuff I know. I know grief and worry and anxiety. I know fear and doubt and panic. I also know when they mount up and surge. I make the comparison that you can sometimes feel a storm coming. You stand outside and feel the wind picking up. Something tells you its coming and it is not in your control whether it does or not. What is in your control is what you do when it hits, how you ride it out and what you do to clean up afterwards. The storm comes usually while I am sleeping. It sneaks in the cracks and wrecks havoc tossing me like a feather in a hurricane. I have seen it come enough times to know the signs. So it is the morning after. I hold tight to what I know, to who I love and to those who love me. I search for the balls and put them in the air again.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Yesterday I gave another journaling workshop, this time at the East Branch Library. What a lovely facility and what a warm and welcoming group of converts I spoke to. I am hopeful that most were sold on the love of journaling. This morning after I write this entry I will attempt to organize my journals back in to their keeping place. What treasures they are to me. From the first 5 year diary I began in 1968 to the one I wrote in this morning each one holds snippets of the life I have been given to live , to love and to remember. Each of the twelve participants brought their own lives, loves, memories and passions. The first writing exercise brought a wonderful range of that experience. Emily voiced fear and uncertainty, Jan voiced her despair and disappointment at the demolition of the three jelly bean houses on Wellington Row, Peggy spoke of her indecision and doubts about coming to the workshop and then the validation for the journaling practices she already had in place. Carol wrote about the sound of birds she heard this morning and the hope of Spring. Nan wondered if her dull days held anything worth journaling about. Marie chronicled her morning, mentioning the purchase of sandals which spoke of the prospect of warm weather. Angela wrote about a phone call to her mom that held such love and devotion .Stacey wrote about her anticipation of her upcoming trip to Ireland. Sue wrote about her morning, the highlight being a two hour swim. Charles shared what he had learned about Rockwood Park , Lily Lake, and the World Skating event held years ago that attracted half of Saint John to the rows of bleachers that used to encircle Lily Lake. The group listened while I shared my love of journaling. I read emotional and humorous entries. I read the April 6, 1900 entry from my great grandfather's journal which was the day his father died. He took the horse and wagon to Hampton to get the coffin. I read the entry I wrote shortly after my 101 year old grandmother died. I read the day my youngest granddaughter was born. Oh the gifts those journal pages hold. So I will stack my full journals with the many empty ones that wait for me to fill them and journal on hoping that I convinced some around the table yesterday to do the same.
Friday, April 7, 2017
My father in law William Elias White fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He was a 21 year old man from rural New Brunswick sent to fight one of the most horrendous and memorable battles in the First World War. He survived. On Sunday I will stand with his sons and daughters, his grandsons and granddaughters ,and his great grandchildren and remember him and his comrades. When thinking if I would leave the comfort of my bed and my home to stand at sunrise while the flag is lowered I reminded myself of just how minuscule that sacrifice is compared to the one Burton's father and thousands like him made that day. Yesterday coming back from my walk I slogged through the mud on the wood road thinking of those men. They slogged through mud amidst death and agony and the possibility of their own demise . I was heading to a warm and welcoming house not the misery and destruction of war. We can not even imagine what they went through. We can remember though and honor their bravery. The other thing that came to my mind was the legacy of his survival. I of course would not be walking on the land I walked yesterday if he had met his end at Vimy Ridge. His son , my husband and the father of my four children would never have been and our lives would not have intersected. That fact also led me to realize that the battles I've been given to fight; loss, sorrow, worry, uncertainty would have taken another form if his destiny had altered mine. In remembering tomorrow I will remember it all; the young boy in the portrait on our bedroom wall, the soldier who went to battle, the husband who fathered my husband, the son he raised with deep military values and deep pride in what his father lived through, the sons and daughter I was blessed with, my present and future grandchildren, the land we built our home and life on , the past, the future and the present with all its challenges and battles. The simple act of standing and remembering is not simple at all. It holds the enormity of what has been, what could have been and what is.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Here we are in April. I sat with my journal this morning to make my April goals list. April is a heavy month for us. Just the thought of approaching April holds so much. But it has arrived. The first day is traditionally light hearted, silly, foolish filled with tricks and such. I never was a big April Fools trickster. Tricks and practical jokes made me nervous. I don't have a poker face and don't do well with trickery. The first day of April is my friend Alice's birthday and who better than Alice to be born on such a day. Over the years Alice has pulled off her fair share of tricks and jokes. My favorite remains the time she and Megan hid on me in my Dad's big three ton truck. They crouched silently until just the right moment for ultimate effect which was to scare the life out of me. A couple of years ago she was looking after my granddaughters for me one afternoon. When I arrived to pick them up there was not a sign of them anywhere. Not a sound was made until searching the house for them I heard Paige's giggle. Alice , Emma and Paige were squeezed into the upstairs bathroom shower stall just waiting for the right moment to jump out at me. Perfect! She had taken the thrill to the next generation. I love my crazy friend Alice. I love that she snatches birthday cards away at parties scratching out the giver's names and replacing them with her and Paul's. I love that she is full of surprises, some intentional some not so much. I love that at the beginning of the month that became the hardest to get through eighteen years ago I can celebrate the birthday of a loyal and hilarious friend. My foolish friend Alice is no fool at all but she certainly can bring a smile to my face. Love you Al!
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
So I am wallowing a bit in self pity today. For the last few weeks as I walked I considered the scenarios surrounding the 2nd annual NB Book Awards. Scenario # 1 not being short listed #2 not being short listed but Riel being short listed #3 being short listed along with Riel #4 being short listed with out Riel. I talked myself through each of the scenarios. This morning I was presented with scenario # 2 Admittedly I ranted a little bit, might have sworn a bit and possibly vented a bit to Burton. OK so now to put the things I said to myself when I imagined # 2 to work. I begin with the words of John Candy from Cool Runnings delivered to the Jamaican Bobsled team the night before their medal race. Not word for word but what he said was 'you are who you are with or without the gold medal'. Good advice and very true but when you find yourself standing on the podium with the silver or bronze or not making the podium at all you really have to work hard to remember the truth of that. I like where I am in my writing career. I await my sixth published book and am proud of the work that went into it. I still feel a deep pride in the achievement of writing The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I constantly get messages from people about the impact of that book. I am not going to list my accomplishments. I am who I am without any of it. As most authors and most if not all people in general, I second guess myself. I question my self worth and doubt my abilities. I listened to a long loving tribute yesterday from Shelagh Rogers to Richard Wagamese and he deeply struggled with self doubt. After a childhood shuttled in and out of at least fifteen foster homes he battled a deep feeling of unworthiness. I came from a home of love and even though I sometimes felt I disappointed my parents and didn't always choose the path they wanted me to take I knew unconditional love. So shake it off , and get on with it. Shake the hands of the shortlisted authors and let John Candy's words push out all the rest. Oh and Tessa just had her calf!!!
Monday, March 20, 2017
My mother is 88 years old. I am thankful to still have her. She is physically well and still always looks like a million dollars. Mom and Dad spend the winter in Florida and will be coming home soon. Mom's sisters have all suffered some form of dementia but the type Mom has is possibly the cruelest. Mom has Primary Progressive Aphasia. She can no longer process speech. Now anyone that knows my mom knows she loves to talk. She is very outgoing and social. I always hated her dragging me around the room to meet everyone and she would quickly fill people in on my attributes. She loved talking on the phone with her sisters and her friends. Doreen in particular was always good for at least an hour. Mom used to call me every single day wherever she was. Over the last several years I began to notice a change. At first there was an occasional halted word or she would repeat something. She began using fillers more and more to pause the sentence while she searched for the right word. I would count the 'yeahs' and they were plentiful. I must admit this got annoying but I would gladly go back to that and wait out the stream of "yeahs". This winter the daily phone calls stopped. Dad calls twice a week and I speak to Mom for a couple of seconds before we end with I love you. I can't tell anymore that that's what she is saying but I know it is. I no longer tell her anything because she can't or doesn't appear to be processing it. Any bit of conversation she tries to have with Dad is like a scavenger hunt .What appear to be random facts are really clues she painfully tries to give as she attempts to tell him something. Sometimes a simple snippet takes two hours of back and forth and Mom won't give up. I woke up this morning with a word in my head and it was my mothers voice saying it. Ganglion. Strange word but my mom was a medical fountain of knowledge. She worked as a librarian at the Saint John Regional Hospital for years before the internet and she did hundreds of searches for medical students, doctors and nurses. I used to tease her and call the old General hospital the Iva Bradley Memorial. She worked in the out patient department there and she was a crackerjack. Her gift of gab was definitely an asset. The other thing that I woke with this morning was my memory of my Mom laughing and some of our standing jokes. I laid there for quite awhile trying to remember the name of the woman from her childhood we would use when she would put a kerchief on her head. Mrs. Coughlan. The sadness of Mom's condition is really hitting me. I realize now that I will never be able to get missing facts from her. I will never again have a real conversation with her. She is gone before she's gone and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a woman who loved to talk to have that taken from her. I know how sad it makes me that it has been taken from us.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
If you have been reading my blog this winter you will have noticed my running obsession with watching the construction of my son and daughter in law's house. Last year and the year before it was all about the snowshoeing and the gifts of the wood road. This year I only snowshoed one day. I already feel some regret about that but it just wasn't the same kind of winter. I walked every day but usually down across the road not up over the hill. The reason for that was mainly my interest or obsession with watching Chapin and Bri's house take shape. I have watched it from the day they began clearing the land. It was a tree covered knoll on the top of a hill with a glimpse of the lake below through the thick stand of trees. At first it appeared to be an unlikely choice but as the land was cleared and Chapin took his small excavator to the spot it seemed a possibility. They worked for hours clearing and preparing the spot for the footings . I am not going to describe each stage as the stages were many. The challenges and the waiting for things to fall into place was huge. Chapin had taken the summer off hoping to have the house ready that fall. I watched their struggle with a task so much bigger than they realized. Each day I would go to see the progress. Some days were monumental others not as obvious but each achievement brought them closer. People kept asking if they were in yet. Friends and relatives walked down or drove down to see. One particular day Chapin's grandparents and Brianne's grandmother went to have a look. The grandmothers were helped into the house and up the stairs and glowed with pride. The grandfather took in each detail voicing his approval. Brianne's grandfather who is no longer with us always voiced his love and approval and that was felt every step of the way. From afar the grandparents continued to show such genuine interest in the progress, reliving the building of their own family homes. I guess part of my obsession comes from that as well. It seems like just yesterday I watched with such joy as we built our home. Last weekend they moved in. The huge job of settling in has just begun. We were all there to help. Sisters and sister in laws carried beds, mattresses and boxes. Brothers, fathers and brother in laws lugged heavy items in through doors . Unpacking started and pictures were hung. The last construction jobs are being done. Railings and paint touch ups. Decks and steps will take shape when the weather warms. Gradually the construction site , the building of a house becomes a home. I felt the difference yesterday as I walked down. I will stop my daily inspections. I will step back and take my rightful place. But in saying that I am so glad I walked that road every day and watched. I am so proud of my son and my daughter in law. And get ready for the same obsessive attention Caleb and Ashlie when the time comes for you to return to the Walton Lake Road and build the house that becomes your home.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
A wonderful author has left us. The date of Richard Wagamese's death has already been recorded as March 11,2017 on Wikipedia. I have not yet heard it on CBC or seen the announcement anywhere except on Sheree Fitch's Facebook page. I am heartsick about it. We have lost a powerful and passionate voice. This was a gentle, haunted man with the courage to face his demons and put words to paper. I have no idea what took him from us. He was just one year older than I am and as we often do we consider age deciding if one dies too soon. Of course he has died too soon. I expect he had a work in progress. I expect he had lots more work to do. I mourn that unfinished work. But on this day of his demise I celebrate what he leaves us. I remember following Canada Reads the year Richard's Indian Horse was on the short list. I was a strong advocate for it and felt the work was diminished by some of the incorrect or insensitive or just plain stupid remarks that were made. I wrote to Richard voicing my opinion and received a very gracious reply. I was not telling this man anything he didn't already know. He lived an entire life shadowed by racism and surface understanding of his reality. He soldiered through hardship and loss and found some light. I pray he left with a measure of peace. I will take Indian Horse down from my bookshelf today. I will hold the book close and embrace its existence. I will open its covers and reread the story it holds. I will remember the author and wish him Godspeed. I will be thankful for the journey that brought his words into my home. RIP Richard.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
I don't pick chickens up. My post today is not really about catching and clutching chickens but seeing Sunny go after and catch one gave me the thoughts I will expand upon. Last night my sleeping, restless , tossing and turning hours were filled with writing. I did not get up and go to my computer but in my mind I was working,. This morning I hope that some of the clarity I had will find it's way to the page. I do know the beginning sentence of the paragraph I will start with this morning. The novel I'm working on actually came from a dream. The beginning scene was a scene in a dream that pretty much got written the way I remember dreaming it. I wrote a previous book ( yet unpublished ) from the seed on an idea that came to me in a dream. After sharing that idea Caleb declared it to be the end of my writing career. Oh please, like successful authors have not written far-fetched novels based on dreams or opium induced delirium. I love the work I am getting to do. I love the fact that I am living the dream of being a published author. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the interior of book number six and planning it's launch. This morning a friend wrote to say she would introduce me. Book launch number six. Yesterday I saw a fellow author who will be launching her third book voice concern hoping her community would not disown her or tire of her launching books. Her words caused me to wonder the same thing. My first launch was such a celebration on so many levels. Many former students came to celebrate The Year Mrs. Montague Cried as they had lived it right along with me and my friend Ruth who had held me up so many times introduced me. I was overwhelmed with the huge crowd. Ten Thousand Truths brought out a good crowd as well. A former student introduced me. We again gathered at the Farmers Market and I felt such support. My best childhood friend introduced me at the launch of The Sewing Basket. The crowd was a bit smaller but the support just as genuine. We took the launch of The Memory Chair to the Parish hall. Ashlie so lovingly closed an evening celebrating a book dedicated to her mom. We launched Waiting For Still Water at the Parish hall, my cousin Joy introduced me and my daughter struggled through an emotional closing resorting to her sarcasm and quick wit to manage it. I will not make her do that again and my boys do not have to take their turn. So I hope Susan White book launches are not so 'last year'. I hope my friends and family( although never Ronnie apparently)will continue to indulge me; because I went after and caught a dream just as deliberately as Sunny caught that chicken.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
It is a cold sunny early March day. The month stretches ahead and this morning I reflect on Marches in the past. March has a quality of its own. It fluctuates from spring like to deep winter weather. We always gauge our wood supply with March in mind although April often sees us burning lots of wood. March is a bleak yet hopeful month. In the past few years it has been filled with challenges and has sometimes been difficult to get through . I remember the March Burton left for Afghanistan as being a wet, cold, dreary stretch of days more to endure than to enjoy. March is Emma's birthday and that is a cause for celebration. Our oldest granddaughter will be eight which is quite hard to believe. The girl's flight home for the summer is booked so this morning I look ahead to those summer days when they will fill our home and hearts making up in a small way for their absence the rest of the year. In the meantime I will approach the coming months with anticipation for the release of my sixth book and the tour highlighting The Memory Chair as a Hackmatack nominee. I will get back to the Farmer's market and happily display six books for sale. I will keep writing , do a library workshop, and a school visit to MCS. I will participate in WFNB's Word Spring event in Saint John. I will judge short stories for the Writers Union of Canada and young writers stories for the Frye Festival. Burton and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, Ashlie's 26th birthday and Meg and Cody's second anniversary. We will face the 18th anniversary of the day we lost our precious boy. We will watch as Chapin and Brianne move into their new home and Caleb and Ashlie continue to make their house a home. March like all the other months will fly by and push us on to the next. Before you know it we will hear our granddaughter's voices echoing in these rooms and in the fields and trails outside. Gardens will grow and we will get back in the lake. Oh the hope of things to come and the gratitude for the blessings of the past.
Monday, February 27, 2017
I did not watch much of the Oscar Awards show last night so I missed the big mess up. Talk about fake news. La La Land,no we mean Moonlight. How awkward! I remember when as president of our Little League I screwed up the best pitcher trophy. We had two Donalds, both excellent pitchers and I mistakenly had the wrong Donald's name engraved on the trophy. I did not notice it until the moment I was presenting the trophy. The wrong Donald's father was a coach sitting right beside me and I could not just give it to the right Donald without addressing my mistake. Very awkward. I ended up giving a trophy to both of them and getting the real Donald his own trophy after the fact. I was mortified so I can only imagine how all of the people involved in the big screw up last night felt, besides Warren Beatty maybe who did not appear the least bit flustered. I know in the scheme of things making a mistake at the Oscars is so trivial and I must say if I ever stand on the stage and am mistakenly given the Giller and then have it immediately taken and given to the right person I will be slightly embarrassed but as they say " just happy to be nominated".
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Today was supposed to be a cleaning day. I made my extensive list and hoped to get through every room in the house. Very ambitious and I was nowhere near successful. I got through two; the laundry room and the den. I also went to get Eva at a sleepover and went to Sunny's 7th birthday party. I went across the river for Chinese food and had Caleb and Ashlie for supper. I also managed to get a lovely wood road walk in. So the rest of the list waits, possibly for tomorrow. As I was engaged in the little bit of cleaning I did get done, I thought about what cleaning is. I have said before that it is a form of worship. If that is the case I do not worship enough in that capacity. Let me expound on that thought. First of all I am not much of a cleaner. Now I do keep things relatively neat. I like order and I am quite particular about certain things. I ALWAYS make my bed. I keep my kitchen counters fairly clear and I don't have a lot of clutter. The worshipful aspect of cleaning is I believe the paying attention and being grateful for our blessings. I do not aspire to have expensive or showy things but I do enjoy the things I have. There are many items in my home that hold a lot of meaning and value to me. When I take the time to dust them, vacuum or sweep around them ,or rearrange them I am acknowledging and focusing on the gift of having them. Today for instance when I dusted the set of Willow tree figures Brianne and Chapin gave me some time ago I concentrated on the beauty of them. I also thought of the significance : a mother embracing her daughter, a father kneeling and hugging his son, two brothers hugging. These figures represent my family and they hold a special place on the windowsill in my den. I see them every day but do I really see them. Cleaning makes me take the time to see. We can get caught up sometimes and complain about having to clean. What a stupid thing to complain about really. Our homes and the possessions that need cleaning are blessings. I look ahead to more worship time tomorrow.
Monday, February 13, 2017
I asked for it. A few entries ago I was lamenting the ice cover and the lack of snow. Well we have snow now. Today is the fifth storm day I believe and a storm it is! Southern New Brunswick and most of Nova Scotia are closed for the day. My office window is closing in as the snow billows and falls . I will try later to trudge through the field a bit wearing my snowshoes. My Rav 4 is quickly becoming buried. Be careful what you wish for you say. Well I love the snow. Even the record breaking snowfall of 2015 didn't really bother me. I realize that is because I can stay home in my warm house and let the snow pile up around me. But really whether you like it or not it is falling. This is winter. Spring will come and these days will become stories we tell. Today as long as the power stays on I will enjoy the comfort of my office and keep writing. We will shovel out. Our driveway will get plowed. For those that must travel, stay safe. For those that must work to clear our roads, stay safe and thankyou!
Sunday, February 12, 2017
In November I wrote about Caleb building something from nothing, a new home for Tess and the others. It occurred to me that I hadn't followed up on that and shown or written about the finished building. They were reluctant to go in it at first. Tess is a hearty breed and she does not mind the cold or snow. She is the queen of the pasture and the others pretty much do what she tells them. They now take shelter and get fed in there and have accepted it as home. The field beside the shed has been ice covered and treacherous for weeks but now has a good snow cover. According to the weather forecast it will have a deeper cover by tomorrow night. This morning however the sun is shining brightly. Again Caleb had a plan and carried it through, adding to the structures housing the animals on this farm. Watching from the sidelines I am filled with pride and contentment. I can not think of a better life than the one we have right here. This whole farm, our family and the life we have was indeed something we built from nothing. Just two crazy kids falling in love in grade nine and believing they could do what they set their minds to. I am so thankful that Caleb and Ashlie and Chapin and Brianne have that same belief.
Monday, February 6, 2017
It is a beautiful Monday morning. There is a light snow covering everything and the sun is shining brightly. There's a lot of football talk and Lady Gaga talk on FB. Personally I don't like football. What I did like about last night was seeing Burton, Ashlie and my boys wrapped up in watching it. After another enjoyable Sunday night supper we cleaned up, Bri went home to get an early night, four of us played Wizard and then everyone but me hunkered down to watch the Super bowl. I watched the Bushes being wheeled on to the field to do the coin toss and was given a short history of the Bush administration's failings by my youngest son. I saw a few commercials which in my opinion is the real entertainment value of the night. I did stay up until after half time. I must say Lady Gaga has energy and she is one of a kind. I will give her that much. The over the top extravagance and cost of the production doesn't sit right with me and the whole 'America the great' feel of the night leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I chose to go to bed, grab a book and escape thinking any deeper. I was robbed of my recliner and my control of the remote but I do enjoy seeing my family bond and connect rooting for the same team. ( I'm sorry they lost, I guess, although I really don't care)
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
I only got to know Nadine for a short time in the whole scheme of things but every moment we had seems like it was crammed with years of getting to know each other. From the first introduction it was as if we had a strong connection. She allowed me to get to know her very quickly and got to know me as well. She welcomed my son into her home and her heart investing in him right from the start. We became a team watching our kids fall in love with each other. Little did we know that this bond was fleeting but would have to last a lifetime. The force that was Nadine left us physically but has never been far from our day to day since she left us eight years ago.Nadine adored her two daughters. She was present in all they did and her death left a hole of massive proportions. I have watched those two girls facing that huge loss every day the best way they knew how.I have always tried to support that difficult journey and have always been so thankful I was given the time to get to know Nadine and her girls so that I could bring knowing her to what I try to offer to their struggle. Ashlie calls me Mama White and I am honored by that but I never forget for one moment the Mama she is missing every moment. As I remember Nadine today I think of her words describing family; unconditional and committed.As we face another year without her I pledge my unconditional love and commitment to the beautiful girls she left behind.