Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Country Ditches and City Sidewalks

 The lupine; a vibrant flower welcoming summer in its bountiful waving splendor, an invasive plant with a bad rep. This purple or pink blossom is both. The lupine fills the country ditches, gets invited into flower beds and pops up along city sidewalks. Today I look out my ground level window and the purple blossoms speak to me. 

They wave to me beside the concrete column  as if to say, 'You made it'. I moved in to this city space almost a year ago with the intention to see the four seasons as I worked to refresh and recover. These purple blossoms with their strong stems and green leaves have done the same. They had their blossoms fade and fall, had their green turn brown and become weighed down by frost and snow cover. They poked up in early spring and reached toward the sun. They now flutter in the warm breezes and add color to their surroundings. I will leave this city space and return to the plethora of lupines in the country ditches and will even see some that have survived chickens, pigs and cows in  the garden I once called Zac's garden because he had built a rail fence behind the newly dug ground in which I planted my first flower garden ( post sheep on the farm) Oh so many days and seasons have passed since that act of hope but hope and vision remain and  that fills my heart with gratitude this morning.  The Lupine, maybe a weed, a nuisance, an unwanted plant but a blur of beauty this morning and a reminder to be the best we can be ,wherever we find ourselves. 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Thank-you Grade Four

 A community circle their teacher calls it and I certainly felt like I was welcomed warmly into the community of Mrs. Johnston's Grade Four class at Sussex Elementary School this morning. I quickly tried to put their names to memory and before it fades I will go around the circle and name each student. My apologies if I get any spellings wrong , mix any kids up or leave anyone out. Rayah, Cam T, Travis, Owen, Rhys, Brianna, Dakota, Dominick, Yanna, Paige, Tyler, Maddie, Jacob, Jack, Jaden, Levi, Jade, Cam F, Tessa, Alexis, Rayan. Gabby and Ava  were absent but their friends made sure I signed bookmarks for them. The class read The Year Mrs. Montague Cried and invited me in for a visit so they could ask me some questions. Jacob and Travis met me at the office and escorted me upstairs to their classroom. The kids were waiting in their circle and gave me their undivided attention. My teacher mode quickly accompanied my author mode. My first task was to learn their names. Then the questions began. The students had worked on preparing them and the teacher had chosen the best ones. The kids with questions waited their turn to ask them and I did my best to answer. I can be a bit wordy at times but I tried to stay on track. Then I read them one of my favorite journal entries in the book. 

On my way to Sussex I thought of an observation challenge which would earn the observant student a free book of their choosing. I will not say what they had to notice so I can use it again but I was so pleased when Rayan made the observation. She was given the choice of Ten Thousand Truths, The Sewing Basket or a copy of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. She chose The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. In response to Brianna's question; so I could enjoy the best of both on June 9th , 2022 in Mrs. Johnston's Grade Four class. Thank you!

Monday, June 6, 2022

I Was There!

 I expect the next few weeks and probably months to be emotional and lots of tears will be shed. Actually I might cry all the way through the writing of this entry. But whatever ! I am no stranger to crying and firmly believe letting the tears flow is a good thing. I was in Fredericton on the weekend and drove by 619 Regent St. several times. Now the truth of it is, I didn't actually drive by 619 Regent St, because it is no longer there. The house, the driveway, the shed and the playground across the street are no longer there. Not a trace that I could see but for me I see it all and I see the little girl who lived there. As kids every time we went to Moncton, Mom would tell us when we were driving by her old school. It was an empty field and we used to laugh and tease her. I so get it now. Places of my past are not there anymore and even if they are, they are no longer my places. I drive by my old school and it is no longer my school. The Mrs. White within its walls is not me. The Grade Four teacher is not me. Soon the person within these thick walls of brick and pine wainscotting, below the ground, with windows looking out to the sidewalks of Princess and Sydney Streets, will not be me. I am attempting to concentrate on the days I  have left in this small, sweet space. I am ready to leave and not one bit ready at the same time. I signed a year's lease with a very deliberate goal in mind and I am so grateful that all that has taken place exceeds my greatest expectations. This year on Princess St flew by . I wanted each season to firmly encase my healing and recovery. I wanted simplicity, solitude and sanctuary to give me the rest and respite I needed so badly when I drove down my driveway last June. This beautiful small space gave me all that in abundance. I had lonely times, lots  of doubt , guilt ridden thoughts and struggle. I had nights of troubling dreams and shaking sobs. I finished a book here and started another. I watched the leaves turn and fall from the trees. I saw the snowbanks pile up to almost cover my windows. I heard the night traffic and it's stillness. I woke to the morning bustle of  school buses. I saw sunrises and sunsets from my vantage point looking down Princess St. toward the harbor. This is a year I'll not soon forget. I was a 65 year old woman running away to the city and I felt like the seventeen year old girl who once did the same. I will pack my things. Caleb, Cody and Jenna will come and move me out just as they moved me in. I will leave and say goodbye to this place but I will take it with me. I will someday drive by and see my ground level turquoise windows and say to myself or to whoever is with me, "I lived there." I lived here for a year, a wonderful gift of a year. I will leave a part of me in this space and because of my time here I will return more whole, more complete and more prepared for the next place.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Open For Business

The title of today's entry means two things to me. I will begin with a quote I put at the front of my first book The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. "Teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability" Parker Palmer. Yesterday I returned to the classroom; four classrooms actually and at least three of them were former classrooms I'd inhabited for a year or more during my 29 year teaching career. After thirteen years of retirement it felt in some ways as if I'd never left and in other ways like I'd never been there. I returned as an author for the first in person author visit I'd done since February 2020. I was concerned I'd forgotten how to do it. I hadn't forgotten. I began my day with Mrs. Thorpe's Grade Four class. That was delightful on many levels. My grandson Skyler greeted me with a big hug and a wide smile. I knew several kids and  realized I taught several of their parents. Mrs. Thorpe herself was once a student of mine and she did her student teaching with me. The kids were engaged and generous . They had excellent questions and I enjoyed my short visit with them. Next I went to the Grade 7/8 class; a tougher crowd but overall attentive and courteous. Another grandchild greeted me there but not with as   much obvious enthusiasm. Grade seven is a whole different ballgame. Next I had lunch in the staff room and it felt like old times. Some of the staff I left behind are still here but many of the people around the tables I did not know. The atmosphere felt exactly the same and I felt the  demands I  remember  so well. I must applaud these people as they have endured two very difficult and demanding years and still show up every day for their students. I was not sure I had the stamina to do the afternoon but rallied and made my way to the 6/7 class. They were great. They have begun reading Skyward and they had lots of thoughtful questions. I finished the day with a short visit to the Grade Five class and again had the pleasure of another grandchild . She had hugged me in the hall  earlier  so she tried to blend in and not draw too much attention to herself. I am very tired today and again am reminded just how taxing teaching is and how I was smart to leave when I did. But as an author and especially in my home school greeted by friends, grand kids and familiar faces yesterday's visit was everything a successful author visit should be. I  am grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to share my work and my love of  story. Thank you MCS!
Now to the second meaning. The hardest  or the most draining  part of my author visits is the opening up I do. I tell a personal story of love and loss and it is never easy. I am open and honest and hopefully show my true self. It is the only way I know how to be but it takes a lot out of me. I spend lots of time talking about the process of writing , the challenges of getting published and all the other  aspects of being a writer. But interspersed I hope are aspects of being human and living life to the best of my ability. I am always rewarded when I open up. Kids are  struggling with the same challenges we are and I have always found them to be caring , sensitive and honest in their responses. In my opinion if we are not open to being exactly who we are there is no point showing up. As the school year winds down I have one more school visit and will meet with a grade four class who have been reading The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I look forward to everything that will bring. Maybe next year I will find the time and energy to book a few more school visits and I will again make the effort to be 'open for business'.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Words are Not Enough

 How can I write about this? How can I not write about this? As a mother, a grandmother, a retired Grade 4 teacher, as a mother who has lost a child and as a human being I am shaken to the core. We all are. The very depth of this evil horrific thing is too much for anyone to grasp. Eva,Xavier,Jose,Irma,Nevaeh,Ellie,Tess,Lexi,Jacklyn,Jailah,Jayce,Miranda,Amerie,Makenna,Layla,Maite,Annabell,Eliahana,Rojelio,Alithia,Uziyah.

We will remember them for a few days. Their loss will be referred to and calculated in the terrible statistics surrounding school shootings. Words of  sadness , condolence, regrets, anger , blame and dismissal will be uttered. But for the loved ones and those left behind with the deep wounds of  May 24th, 2022 words will never be enough .

Monday, May 16, 2022

When a House is a Home

 Today I feel led to give tribute to a house that was built  on a hill, on a dirt road by two young people who had no idea what they were doing. The couple walked up the long driveway past an old foundation of a house that had burned down many years before on property the young man's father had gifted him, believing his young son was a farmer at heart. A few years before the two  had dreamed of a life together while on the property, which is another story for another day but a memory that still makes them laugh. Their first  undertaking settling  on that land was to build a small shed with a loft and  move in with their two year old son while the man traveled a lot with the military and the woman began her first teaching job. The little shed had very little in the way of amenities but they moved in with as much excitement as some would into a mansion. They bought sheep and began a farm with faulty fences and half finished outbuildings. The woman became great with their second child and still climbed the ladder to the loft believing a second child would fit into this small space and she would be fine with no running water. A story of an unfinished  macrame crib designed to hang over the older brothers' corner bed is a good one too. A mobile home was bought while the husband was away and the four settled into that, welcoming a third child three years later. The big house was always the dream and one evening the woman saw a piece on the CBC news about a cordwood house and the seed was sown. This was definitely a case of not having a clue what they were doing but they did it anyway. Hole dug one year, footing the next, foundation the next  and cordwood walls constructed laboriously  one full way round at a time,  beginning on July first and laying the last run on November 17th. The next year the top floor and roof were put on and they moved in on December 15th with very little of the interior finished. I am tearing up now as I remember them  standing with  their  three kids in front of  the  Christmas tree with the bare cordwood walls still showing, holding a cake celebrating their house-warming. The house was not that warm the first winter! Eventually the walls were  covered with drywall, crack-filled and painted, flooring and finishing touches were added. A couple of years later  they welcomed their fourth child and improvements were made as they could afford them. Lots of changes, improvements and living  have brought the house on the hill to where it is today. This house has always been a home, as the small shed had been and the mobile home was. For that man and woman the property they walked and dreamed of building a home and a family on has been the only place they have known.  But a next  chapter is being written for this couple. The home they lovingly built  will welcome the next  generation , a new farmer and  the woman he loves and  shares  his vision.  A new family will reside in it's thick, strong walls and the former couple will take their dreams across the road, follow a  new vision and make a new structure into a home. I am really tearing up now , but I am filled with pride, hope , joy and excitement. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

And You Call Yourself a Blogger?

 I call myself many things and others call me lots of things as well. I will start with my list; wife, mother , grandmother, sister, niece, sister in law, friend, author for a few. Burton calls me Mrs. White. My kids call me Mom. Two of my grandkids call me Monkey and three of them call me Grammie. I am called Sue more than Susan. "And you call yourself a blogger" my daughter said today when she asked if I was going to write a blog  this afternoon. Earlier she told me I looked old so maybe I look as tired as I feel today. I just sat down at my desk and made a list of the tasks I hope to tackle. I put blog on the top of the list. Why? Not because I call myself a blogger or because my blog coach told me to. I am writing this entry to process and evaluate who I am on this day and why I do what I do. I could nap instead. Today I held my twelfth book in my hands. Being able to do so does not come without a lot of hard work and concentration. I love being an author and I am thrilled to hold another book but the effort and success of doing

so is just a small part of everything else I do at this stage in my life. It used to be teaching that took up so much energy and space in my every days. I used to juggle raising four kids , keeping a house and farm, maintaining a marriage and friendships, being a daughter to aging parents and so on and so on. Today I had planned on driving to Moncton to see my dear Aunt Ruth but a mis-communication changed my plans. Perhaps things happen for a reason as I believe they often do. Maybe I will have more reserves and be better prepared the next time and I will get to sit and visit with my beloved namesake aunt. I do not call myself a blogger but I call myself a pretty darn resourceful, caring and  resilient woman. An old woman perhaps but I venture to say I pretty tough old cookie never the less. Call me whatever you like but I will keep showing up and doing my best for the people I love. I will also keep counting my blessings, take my rest when I can get it and sometimes I'll even blog about it.