Monday, December 21, 2015

I Won't Do Christmas Without You

I am home alone this morning. These days, that doesn't happen very often. Our Christmas turkeys have flown the coop. I will miss their meandering. (but not their droppings)I walked down to get Nellie. What a still and lovely December morning it is. While I was making my coffee a lively and catchy tune sung by The Once from Newfoundland was playing on CBC.I borrowed the title of the song for my blog entry this morning and had the song in my head as I walked down the driveway. I won't do Christmas without you. I thought of who we will be doing Christmas without. Nadine, Zac, Nan, Gram and Gramps, Leonard the people in our life that have left us. And the people who won't be right here with us. Meg, Cody, Emma , Paige, Mom and Dad. We don't really do Christmas without any of them because all the Christmases we were together are part of this Christmas as well. Traditions and memories are the fabric of Christmas in our homes and hearts. Doing Christmas can be a challenge but I choose to see it as a privilege instead. I would do it differently if it were up to me. I would create a Christmas with my Dad bringing us our stockings. My Dad would be surprising me with my first sewing machine. I would pull out the present from under the tree that had 'love Gram and Gramps' on the tag and my teenage self would be hit with the truth that my scary and sometimes judgemental grandmother loved me. I would prop up my 20 day old baby in his plastic chair as Burton and I opened our presents. I would watch a two year old Zac open his presents in the little shed we built and lived in in hopeful optimism before we bought the trailer and built the house. I would stand before the tree , the cordwood walls still exposed on our first Christmas in our house. I would stand back and watch my four kids hang their ornaments every Christmas Eve. I would wipe up the sour milk poor Caleb puked all over himself on the time the whole family went on Burton's Christmas Eve run. I would hear Zac sing 'So This is Christmas" creating his own lyrics and a family favorite every year. I would open the plaque Nadine gave me the first Christmas that now has a place of honor in our home. I would walk down to Chapin and Brianne's the first Christmas Eve we joined her family for munchies. I would watch Emma and Paige open presents, Paige basically wading through wrapping paper oblivious to the presents. I would watch the poor taxi driver drive up with to Megan's with Caleb's luggage and a very spoiled turkey. I would visit every Christmas and do it all over again. That is what we do. All our Christmases meld together. Of course it is hard to have missing loved ones but the times together can not be taken from us. All hearts come home for Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Who I Was There

A few nights ago Burton and I drove by my old school. The original part was built in 1904 and the new part added in 1979. It was lit up and stood there in the Kingston square in all its grandeur. I remarked that it made me sad that I wasn't who I used to be there. Burton in his wisdom replied,"You are still who you were there. Nothing has changed that." Yesterday on my wood road walk I ruminated on that thought. For the most part I think what he said is true. Just because I don't enter that building everyday and continue to teach there doesn't take away the years that I did. I was the teacher I was. I influenced the kids I did. I made the mistakes I made and had the accomplishments I had. I was Mrs. White in that place from 1986- 2009.Sometimes legacies are altered. Sometimes when a person becomes famous or renowned for something their past is embellished. Every detail of their earlier years are magnified and plaques are put up stating that they lived there or slept there etc. Sometimes something is uncovered that taints a person's past (Bill Cosby) and how they were once regarded takes a down ward spiral. Sometimes a person's present behaviour or society's present outlook changes a persons' status and buildings or places are renamed because of the negative opinions. (Trump Tower)Sometimes a person's reputation stays in tact and they are just known by who they were and what they did in the time they were given to do it. That is where I hope I fall. I was given the privilege to teach over 800 kids. I raised my four kids and I was an active part of my community. I was what I was. Those days can not be revisited except in my memory or in the memories of others. I hope nothing changes that. I don't expect fame and fortune will alter it. I don't expect to run for the republican party . I just hope to enjoy what life offers me right now and sometimes take the time to reflect on what it gave me in the past.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mid December Rain

Here in Southern NB we are getting heavy rain. Our yard and driveway look like a muddy spring mess. My son Chapin is building their house and has had several beautiful days for working. Today the rain has given him a rest. Each day I walk down and look at the amazing progress he is making. An impressive home is taking shape on top of a hill far down the wood road our family has enjoyed for years. On a New Years days twenty four years ago we had a picnic down that road. Meg, Chapin and I hauled Cale down on his sled and met Zac and Burton in the woods for lunch. It was one of my favorite memories and every time I walk by the spot I remember how wonderful the day was. Chapin and Bri are building their home around the corner from our picnic site. Saturday I looked up at my two sons working together placing the posts and beams that will support a home and a future for Chapin and Brianne. I was proud on every level. Walking back out the road I thought again of that beautiful winter day and all the days Burton and I laid the strong foundation for the life and the family we were blessed with. I am thrilled that those traditions and values are being carried on. Our sons are amazing carpenters and are both resourceful and visionary. Years from now these days will be the memories. The busy demanding days of the fall of 2015 that Chapin was consumed with building their home will be part of our collective memory. It will be hard to remember when the house did not stand atop the hill looking out over the lake. The day of that winter picnic will have faded even further back in our minds. But the importance of the days we spend together will not fade. These are the days that matter!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

You Can't Breathe Under Water

This morning I can't seem to shake these thoughts and despite my long list of tasks that I hope will get me through the difficulty of this day I am sitting down and attempting to write an entry giving voice to what I am feeling. Please bear with me. Life is filled with grief. It comes at us every time we turn on the news or meet with friends or neighbors or engage in a casual conversation at the grocery store. We are bombarded with stories of loss. Accidents, sudden deaths, prolonged illnesses, violence , fires , it goes on and on. It is what life is and has always been. Compassionate and caring people process those stories of loss , give voice to that compassion, exchange words of sympathy and horror and support one another . It can sometimes seem overwhelming as in instances of mass sorrow like 911,Columbine and the Paris shootings. It can make one feel like they are drowning. I have a friend that does not listen to the news and I think she is on to something but even with a no news policy suffering leaks in to our everyday . If you have stopped reading I don't blame you. I almost stopped writing but I am going to try to get back to what occurred to me this morning. Collective and selective grieving is very different than personal grieving and of course every one of the situations we hear of has at the core of it the personal and very real grief of the people it is actually happening to. I compare the two to swimming above and below the water. When you are feeling the grief as one only hearing about it you have your head above water swimming through the sadness of it and usually it is a quick effortless swim. Sometimes when it is so unimaginable you swim in rougher water even needing to hold one another up or grab a life preserver of some kind to ride out the treacherous waves. You might be in danger of loosing your breath for a moment but you are still above the water. When the grief is your own that grief plunges you deep under the water. Those first few hours days and months you sometimes feel that you will never catch your breath. You will never break through the surface and breathe freely again. But you do. Something, someone, some power forces you to the surface and you find the way to swim there on your own. But the thing is you get plunged down there over and over again. That is the difference between what you feel when you feel others pain and loss and what you feel when you experience your own. That is just the way it is and does not make what you feel for others or what others feel for you less than what it is. It is just reality. The loss you must bear is yours alone and the effort it takes to swim to the surface when you find yourself under water comes from just doing it over and over . Some days it is harder than others. But you can't breathe under water. I am thankful for everything in my life that propels me to the surface and makes swimming up from the deep water worth while.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Did You Write Charlotte's Web?

I love the questions kids ask me. Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day at Bayside Middle School. As always kids amuse me and amaze me with their questions. The group I spent the morning with were generous and insightful . They had participated in a book club. Six kids read one of my four books. What better gift for an author than to meet readers of all four books in one room? And these readers were keen, anxious to give their thoughts and opinions and ready to ask questions. We ended the morning with them writing one reason someone should read the book they had read. I will share a few of those. Then I asked them to write more questions down and I told them I would answer them on my blog. Jenna said " The Memory Chair is beautifully written with a spectacular story to tell." Chloe said " Ten Thousand Truths paints a story in my head ."Danielle said" The Year Mrs. Montague Cried is really touching and it's the best book I've read this year." Brenden said "I think you should read The Sewing Basket because there are a lot of events going on. This makes you want to keep your eyes open almost like an eye spy book or a word search." And then there were the questions. Ryan asked- Besides writing and swimming what is your favorite pastime. Knitting and eating maybe. Mary asked-How did you get the ideas for these books? from life. Robyn asked -What's your middle name? Ruth. Heather asked-Do you ever wonder if any of your students read your books? Yes and I know that some do. Xavier asked Who inspired you to start writing? Lots of people mostly other writers. Emily asked-What made you want to start writing? I like a good story. Isaiah asked- Would you ever write a book with you in it? I probably already have .Lucy asked Can writing books make you frustrated? yes. Luke didn't ask me anything. I guess I had answered all his questions already. Morgan asked-When were you born? 1956 Brenden asked- Who is your favorite actor? Sean Penn. Alex asked-What's your favorite movie? I am Sam. Jaymin asked-What's your favorite TV show? Newsroom. Heather asked-How long does it take to write your book and pick out a title? Sometimes 10 months to write a book sometimes six weeks. Sometimes a long time to get the right title and sometimes I know it right from the start. Bailey asked-Do you have any siblings? 2 brothers. Shannon asked- How long did it take you to write the books all together? About four years. Emily asked-What got you to write Ten Thousand Truths? a boy named Travis. Mikayla asked-What's the favorite book you've written? I don't know for sure. They are all my favorite in some way. Danielle asked-How does it feel being a popular writer? In this room right now it feels good. Kale didn't write anything down but what she probably wanted to ask me was " Why can't you get my name right? as I kept messing her name up all morning. Reese asked-Besides the epilogue what was the most emotional chapter for you to write in TYMMC. January 23 &February 20. Chloe asked- What was the biggest crowd you ever talked in front of? over 100 in the theatre at Hampton High School. Jenna asked - What is your biggest piece of advice for writers? Just write. Then the best question of the afternoon went to Gauge . No I did not write Charlotte's Web. I wish I had . I showed him that it was published in 1952 and explained I was born in 1956 and that my name was Susan not EB. Another memorable day at Bayside Middle School!

Monday, November 30, 2015

December Again

Tomorrow December comes again. I just read my entry from last year entitled Deciding on December. I read all my last year December days in my journal this morning after writing yesterday's events. When I read those entries I feel so many emotions. This time last year we were letting Leonard go. We had no choice on that of course. We had to let his last days unfold as they would as we had no control over it. I had flown to Meg's, surprising them all to have some pre-Christmas time with my precious granddaughters. I spent Zac's 36th birthday doing important things like meeting Emma at the bus, making gingerbread houses and reading with the girls. The next day I went with Meg and we found her beautiful wedding dress. I came home the day Leonard died and we found our way through that as best we could. Caleb and Ashlie had a severe case of food poisoning which made December a huge challenge for them. We had a simple and special Christmas and as I remember those days I fill with gratitude that we had those moments together. So here we are again deciding on December. The years go flying by. It is so hard to believe that this will be our 17th Christmas without Zac. My heart breaks for Shelley and Noah as they face the first one without Jessica. I know that pain and I hold them in my thoughts and prayers. I also hold on tightly to what I know. I look back to last December and all the Decembers before and celebrate the confidence and the hope that this December will bring the blessings and gifts that all the others did. The challenges are not easy but we will make deliberate choices that will get us through another December.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Back From the Rock

Home again ,home again,jig,jig,jig . I never drive up our driveway after a trip away without reciting that rhyme and I always think of Burton's mother when I do. Not sure when but sometime along the way her reciting that line stuck with me . That line for me means I am back to the comfort and peace of my Walton Lake home. Wherever I travel it is that sight that I love the most! We saw some amazing sites on the west coast of Newfoundland. What rugged stark and stunning beauty those cliffs, coves and surrounding water create. And what warm and wonderful people. It was certainly worth the long drive and the uncertain ferry schedule. Our sailing was cancelled three times but we enjoyed the hospitality of Lew and Stacey Short as they put us up and treated us like family. I highly recommend The Short's bed and breakfast or should I say bed, supper , lunch and a drink or two. Stacey is an amazing cook. As anxious as I was to get home we couldn't have asked for a better place to wait out the high winds. So my first trip to the west coast of Nfld is behind me and I have new friends and great memories to take away. I now get back to work on the edits for my next book that will come out in the spring. It was given a new title as I sat waiting and I will let that settle and take form as I return to the story that continues to improve in the editing process. Have I said enough just how grateful I am for the gift I have been given and the opportunity to see my fifth book take shape? We had safe travels, good laughs and great stories and here we are home again , home again, jig, jig ,jig.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Yesterday was a bleak, dreary, cold settling in kind of day ; a typical November 11th. A large crowd gathered in front of the flag and cenotaph to once again remember. Names were called, wreaths were laid and the crowd stood solemnly for those few minutes we give every year to honor those that have made the sacrifice for our freedom. The sights and sounds were familiar and an occasion when young and old gather with the same intention. Across our country this was repeated in every community, village, town and city. At 11:00 we stood in solidarity to remember. I was asked to speak at the afternoon's dinner at the Legion. I gave a lot of thought to what I would say before sitting down to write my talk . The talk could certainly not be all about me. Suffering and loss is so universal and so a part of the solemnness of Remembrance Day. Each individual of the collective statistic of suffering comes with a story , a family , loved ones left behind. I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Sullivan , Chris Saunders's mom. I have seen her in the last few years laying a wreath in her son's memory but I had never met her and talked to her and shared with her the bond we have , the sorrow of a mother's heart. I hope the words I chose were uplifting and meaningful to those that gathered. I was truly honored to have been asked.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Now it's November

November has arrived. With it comes time change and another season approaching. Thursday's rain and wind storm pretty much whipped the leaves from the trees leaving only a few with any color. November , the bleak month takes the stage. Last night as the darkness descended an hour earlier than the day before I realized that I welcome November even though it is so drastic in it's persona. I love the coziness it brings. The warm house and early darkness calls us away from the business of summer days and evenings and the demands of autumn's harvest and clean up tasks. We get ready to settle in for the winter first with the call to Christmas and then the long winter months ahead. I feel a familiar tug to the traditions of the past; the seasonal landmarks and the comforts of home and family. I don't mind the starkness of November at all. The cold and barren outdoors pushes us inside for rest and rejuvenation so that we will appreciate and be ready for the promise of Spring. I am so thankful for the comforts of home now that it is November!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Life's a Circle

Saint John artist Doris Daigle created this beautiful watercolor and presented it to me last Thursday at an event hosted by the Saint John Art Club. The art club members read one or more of my books and some of them produced paintings inspired by something they read. It was wonderful to see their creations. Some members told me about their efforts but didn't bring them to show. It was a wonderful evening.I love the circle effect Doris created when depicting the story in The Memory Chair. I love Harry Chapin's song All My Life's a Circle. I often talk about the cycle of the seasons. So many circles and cycles in our lives. The Double Wedding Ring Quilt is a perfect symbol for that. We all intertwine and impact each other. On pg 109 in The Memory Chair Betony talks about the pieces in the Double Wedding Ring quilt. She ends by saying "Each little piece becomes part of the whole thing before it becomes a quilt." What better analogy about the moments and days of our lives and the experiences and people we meet along the way that come together to create a lifetime.

Friday, October 16, 2015

On the Home Stretch of Harvest

October is in full swing. We have reached the mid point , the leaves are in their full color, the furnace has been on several nights and the garden has just about been harvested. Again the cycle is reaching its completion. The promise of sowing a small seed and attending to it and reaping its bounty has been realized. So much to learn and so much to be thankful for in that process. Last night I spent some time reading the ms that will soon go to the editing stage. I am always so happy when I revisit something and still feel strongly about the story it tells. The scrutiny that editing involves sometimes is daunting and you begin to second guess yourself. Daunting but yet affirming and I look forward to taking that journey to prepare Shame the Devil for publication. At the same time I am fully into the new book I started when I returned to work a few weeks ago. These October days have taken me back to my wood road walks and as I walk through the golden colored ferns and grasses that will soon die down I picture the changes that November will bring to the landscape and then the changes that will come with snow cover. Another cycle just like the planting/harvesting one that we are seeing unfold in these October days and I have the same confidence in the pleasures and rewards it will bring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Home Is

Home Sweet Home. Home is Where the Heart is. Home. This morning my thoughts go to what home is for me. I watch the home improvement shows when Burton is not around. Just ask him about Love it or List it and he will tell you a sad story of his wife hurting his feelings when he attempted to join her when she was watching it one day. Apparently I wasn't welcoming. The poor man has feelings you know. Anyway those home improvement shows are all about making homes nicer, upgrading, improvements. My home is not perfect, far from it and if cash came along I can think of some improvements I would make for sure but I love my home. Burton and I built this house after two years of living in a little shed, followed by five years of living in a trailer that we put on the property when Megan was two months old. I was so sure I could keep living in our 12 by 12 shed with two kids but I caved. After settling into the trailer we began building our house. We had no idea what we were doing really but build a house we did. We built a cordwood house . The stories of building it are plentiful and entertaining . Lots of learning and mistakes and challenges. We raised four children in those years of continual building and thirty three years later we are not done yet. But within the walls of my imperfect house there is a home I would not trade for any of the homes I see on those home improvement shows. I love my house and my home. This week we welcome Caleb and Ashlie home for awhile while they build their first home. They are building a garage and plan to live in it for a few years before they build their big house. Chapin and Brianne live across the road in a small house they moved onto the property the year they got married and have now begun building their big house. Houses , homes, beginnings , building lives. That is a tradition Burton and I began on this property and it fills us with joy and pride to watch our boys doing the same thing. Meg and the girls will come visit next week and be a part of what home is for them living so far away. Grampie has a small bucket waiting for Paige so she can carry feed to the pigs and she is very excited about that. I will prepare meals in the pantry I love and fashioned after the one I loved in my great aunt Alice's home. We will also get to enjoy Ashlie's cooking which is a real perk to having them here. I will continue to watch those shows and see the wonderful transformations designers create but take such pleasure knowing that when I walk through the doors of my imperfect house I am home and no amount of money can improve on that.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mid September

September is moving along at the same fast pace all the months seem to go. We are past the midway point and I am still swimming. Last year the last swim day was September 16th , the year before the 29th. Both of those last swims were run in and run right back out. The swims of my last three days were run in, power through the cold and stay in until it becomes bearable and then keep swimming until the glorious kicks in. Then I get out reluctantly, hoping it's not the last time. Today's temperature is supposed to be in the high twenties so I expect to get back in the lake today. I have written every day this week , stopping at around 4:00 to cut up or cook pickles. I have a quota to meet and am about three batches short. Our corn is being depleted with about two rows still ripening and the rest of the rows pretty much picked by the humans or picked at by the roaming chickens. I have had one wood road walk and will soon work that back into my daily routine. I am thankful for the harvest September brings and the changes to my routine. I will gradually let the summer joys go and replace them with the blessings of fall. I look ahead to the wonders of winter too but hope they are a long way off. My thoughts today are with a family that this week are dealing with the sudden and tragic loss of a father, grandfather, uncle, brother, cousin and friend. A regular day ended in tragedy and has left a family with a new reality and a deep sorrow. Mid September for the MacFarland family will always echo the loss they have been given to face.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Growing Toward the Light

I have said in many entries how amazed I am at the potential a tiny seed holds. A sunflower seed is large in comparison. I dropped a seed in an indent about every two feet along a row and waited for them to grow. I watched the first sprouts break through and hoed up around them. I kept a watch as they grew, standing beside them and measuring their progress ( up to my knee, my waist , etc.) I kept them hoed and gave them lots of soil to support the stalks as they grew. All of a sudden they were as tall I was , then taller, then taller than Burton. Their leaves got huge and the plants once so well spaced all of a sudden had created a wall. Then the blossoms formed. I noticed the main blossom and then many other smaller ones up and down the stalk. Then the yellow burst through. Before too long the main blossom had expanded to a large happy face with smaller faces poking through the large leaves. All the while this process has always headed toward the light. This morning as I gaze up at this wall of sunflowers I think about writing a book and again compare gardening to writing. A small seed began the book I started writing last week. The seed came months ago maybe a couple of years ago. I tried to plant it in January and the time was not right for it to germinate. I dropped it again letting it just sprout in my head as I went about the tasks of summer. By the time I sat down at my desk I knew it had taken root and had the potential to grow. Now each day I turn it toward the light and watch as it keeps growing. I hope to eventually step back and see just how it grew, what came to the light, what forced its way to the surface and what its existence has to show us about the gifts life gives us when we stand tall and strong and grow toward the light.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Like Chocolate Cake

My entry this morning may take several turns but it all began with a thought about chocolate cake. There is a cute commercial on TV(I have no idea what it is advertising) where a little girl recites all the things she loves. I feel like that almost every day. First thing in the morning I walk outside ,usually to go down to get Nellie and I take in the day. Actually several times a day I walk around outside and try to truly take in the blessings around me. I love my home, I love my life , I love my people... Yesterday while I was picking corn for our lunch and walking down the long bountiful rows and gazing up at the gigantic sunflowers just about ready to blossom I was filled again with gratitude for my surroundings. I know sometimes I must sound like a broken record but seriously isn't raving on about how lucky I am better than complaining about everything I don't have? That is when I thought about chocolate cake and I will get back to that. My best friend's sister died when she was just 51.At the time I knew 51 wasn't old but I was much younger then and didn't really see just how young it was. Many people commented at the time just what a tragedy it was because Lynda loved her life so much. She had worked hard to get to where she was in so many ways. For the next few years we grieved about what she was missing. Yesterday I thought about how much I would hate to be told that this was almost over. My son died instantly and had no warning that his time on earth was over. My brother in law Leonard who spent his final six weeks with us last year saw the end coming. I know not what my end story will be but it hit me yesterday that life is like chocolate cake. If you like chocolate cake (that is the other direction this entry will take) you enjoy eating it. You might eat it quickly or you might slow down and savor each bite. Either approach the chocolate cake will be gone. When it is gone the most important thing is that you enjoyed it. My son Chapin is turning 30 tomorrow. For many years I would bake him a chocolate cake for his birthday and top it with boiled icing. A few years ago he told me that he doesn't like chocolate cake with boiled icing. The other profound ( at least I think so ) thought that came to me in the corn row yesterday was if you don't like the chocolate cake, don't eat it. Choose something else. We just get the one dessert so to speak. 51 years , 55 years , 20 years whatever we are given goes so quickly. This is all there is. This is what we get. Don't settle for the dessert you don't enjoy. Pick the one that every bite you take is amazing , delicious and fills you with wonder and gratitude. I know sometimes it takes awhile to know which dessert you really want and you might have to try a few, but if you are given the same one over and over and it doesn't measure up, do what you have to do to get to the one that does and then take the time to really enjoy it..

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This Day has Come

The day the title refers to is actually yesterday. It was a big day . Firstly it was the day Emma started Grade One. Of course she was in kindergarten last year but there is something huge about entering grade one. Grade One is seriously getting down to the business of growing up. And that business happens so quickly. I remember each one of my kids starting grade one(yes even Chapin whom for some reason I can't seem to remember any of his firsts) (third child )Grade one. So much is taught and learned in grade one. Off goes our precious Emma and out comes a grown up young woman. In the meantime we will enjoy all the years in between. Brianne went back to school yesterday and in her experience I re-live my own. For twenty nine Septembers I expended the energy and optimism that going back to the classroom required. Yesterday,I closed my summer journal and opened my regular journal and listed my September goals. I also felt the autumn air as I walked down to get Nellie. I anticipate my wood road walks while I continue to take my lake swims. Yesterday's plunge felt colder and the water a bit choppier as the winds have changed. Yesterday, I got back to work and spent the day beginning a new book. I wrote until 6:00 and really didn't want to stop. Knowing I was coming back this morning helped me to shut the computer down and walk away from a work that fills my thoughts right now. After supper I mowed until it was becoming too dark to see. It is getting dark so early. The air was still so warm and I hated going inside. By the time I finally sat down I just wanted to let the day settle and watch TV.I stumbled on to a movie made in 1965. I almost went right by it thinking that it would be corny. A Patch of Blue. Shelley Winters at her best nasty blonde bombshell self and Sidney Poitier who by the way was way more handsome than I ever noticed before. And the story! The story was deep and heart wrenching and despite the corny music they used in those days and the choppy cinematography(I sound like I know what I'm saying)the story was gripping. At the end of my perfect day I was reminded of the power of story. Story transcends time, story reaches out and gets told, and story matters.I have been given the time , the opportunity and the gift of once again getting to tell a story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Simply Thankful for This Day

Yesterday was a four swim day. I started it with a kayak across the still lake . Then I kayaked back across to the spot we swim and went for a swim before kayaking back to where I put the kayak in. I tried very hard to concentrate less on the effort of paddling and more on the wonder of being there. I am always conscious of keeping the kayak upright and can not fully relax . I usually wait until I am floating on my back to truly let the amazement of the place sink in to my brain. These days though I am a bit on alert as one of my neighbors warned against leeches. In all the years of swimming in this lake neither Burton or I or any of our kids have had a leech attach itself to us. I bring my little container of salt just in case but it occurs to me that worrying about leeches is something like worrying about everything else. The worry can sometimes interfere with the wonder and can cloud what blessings we have in the present. We can not possibly worry about every thing that could happen and the reality of it is that worrying about any of it does not change what will come about. That is not to say that I shouldn't wear my life jacket or that I shouldn't try to make safe choices . But the magnitude of the range of suffering this life brings can not be altered by the amount of worry we expend. Our joy can though and that is the lesson I repeatedly try to teach myself. We are good at saying 'take one day at a time' but are we as good at actually doing that? My last swim yesterday was glorious. I had picked a lot of peas , Ashlie had helped me shell them and I was just cleaning up the pantry after a late supper and freezing the peas when Burton suggested that we go for a late evening swim. Anyone that knows me knows that 11:00 is more my bedtime than the time to head to the lake. Without a second thought I said yes and off we went but I can't say that I never gave leeches a second thought. The water was amazing. The sky was a painting of stars and a partial moon and cloud cover that created a beautiful effect. It was a perfect end to the day. One day that I was given and this morning I begin another and with the lessons of yesterday I say again how truly thankful I am.

Friday, August 21, 2015

August Winding Down

Sitting on my back veranda last evening after a full day of picking beans with several swims and a few minutes in my kayak I tried very hard to take in August. One thing about August evenings , the bugs are not so bad and you can actually sit outside. The air was still and all around me I could see the efforts of the hours of work we put in during the spring and summer months. I thought about the high snowbanks that covered the veranda last winter making it necessary to snowshoe up a bank to get out of the house from January to April. Predictions are that we are going to get another similar winter, so August evenings should be so precious. Yesterday I picked beans all day and Burton took them to Kredl's. When I start to tackle the picking of the long rows of beans I question my reasoning for planting so many. Some day perhaps our gardens will shrink to a reasonable size. I have enjoyed watching the corn grow and we anticipate having ripe corn within a week or so. My sunflowers are reaching their gigantic potential. Peas are plentiful and new potatoes are there for the digging. I really do love the rewards of August and the rewards of hard work. Our animal contingent continues to grow. We welcomed two new calves to the farm this week and apparently more are on the way. Egg production is up and the turkeys are living the good life in their new yard. The pigs are enjoying lots of treats provided by a neighbor that offers a steady supply of spoiled food. Broccoli is a big hit. A couple of days ago I purchased some bargain school supplies for my friend Kathy, who will return to the classroom in a few days. A small part of me longed to fill my shopping cart with notebooks, journals and packages of paper and once more head toward the challenges and joys of September in the classroom. Instead I will find my way back to my desk and into another book. I am very anxious for that as well as the other jobs of fall like pickle making and harvesting. I will watch the last days of August unfold. To everything a season and right now I will relish this one as it comes to an end. More swimming, more kayaking, more picking beans and peas and more reminiscing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Three and a Half More Sleeps

Sitting down to write this entry this morning I thought it was going to be all about my granddaughters and the wind down of their visit. It is safe to say they have certainly saturated my thoughts since I brought them home on July 21st. It is a lot of work having a six and three year old in the house. Many times I have quoted the line "having children is for the young". I am TIRED! Been there done that, so to speak. I raised four kids and I know at the time it was a lot of work but it came gradually and was the life I was living at the time. Dropping two little girls in to a household with two 'mature adults ' that are set in their ways provides a whole different dynamic. I love those two little girls but I am counting the sleeps. My son and his wife will leave in the middle of the night and head for the airport on Thursday to take the girls home. We will look forward to next summer when they return but I am looking forward right now to some other things. Here are a few; evenings when I do not have to get two girls to give in to the much needed break a good night's sleep will give all of us,not picking up a trail of precious treasures they have collected throughout the day and left wherever they lost interest in them, no more negotiating one more bite of food into Paige's stubborn mouth while at the same time refusing to let her have one more bowl of cheesies, not having to calm down Emma after her latest dramatic outburst over something that in five minutes she could care less about, not taking twenty minutes to pull off a departure that normally would take two minutes,not worrying that Paige's next move will result in a boo boo, not having to cover each of Paige's bug bites with a bandage and then somehow convince her that the bandage has to come off eventually, not constantly thinking up reasons why they can't go see Brianne, not having to convince them that Ashlie might not want to play with them non stop after she has worked all day. The list goes on just as the list I could make of the joys they have brought us during their visit. Oh how we will miss their hugs and hearing their little feet toddle in to get us up in the morning. When Paige says 'Monkkkk' in her drawn out manner I crumple and just about give her anything she wants. That is why I am the grandmother and not in charge of raising her. The other thing that became so clear to me when I sat down this morning is how anxious I am to get back to work. My plan is to start writing August 31st when the teachers go back to school. I can't wait to let my next book come. Yesterday, at the market I had the pleasure of talking to Margie, a reader that brought a friend to my table to encourage her to buy one of my books. Margie said that she would like to just stand at my table all morning and sell my books. She read Ten Thousand Truths and any writer would be thrilled with the review she gave it. I believe she used the word 'phenomenal'. I know she did because I wrote it right down in my market journal.(yes of course I have a market journal)I tell you, moments like that make getting up for the market every Saturday more than worth while. Moments like that also fuel the desire to get back to my office and back to the process that brings another book to life. A book that started from some idea and emotion came together and brought idea and emotion in a reader . I shake my head in the wonder of that. I shake my head in awe and thankfulness; that I get to write and that I get to connect to someone that reads what I write. I really could go on at great lengths about that but I do have two little girls waiting for me to engage in the last few days of their summer of 2015 visit. For now that is the important work that I have been given the privilege of doing. My other work will be there waiting for me.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tractor Rides, Aunts and Biscuit

Our girls are here. This is the summer when they are six and three and who they are right now will not be repeated. This is Emma's fourth summer and Paige's second summer .Em comes with missing teeth and a lot longer legs than last year. She still has her strong will and sometimes peculiar fashion sense and she is actually a bit more helpful this year. Paige comes quite independent often declaring 'I can do it myself' with attitude. She is fearless on the monkey bars and can pump herself high into the sky on the swing. She roams outside like a country girl and follows Grampie everywhere. They did some calculating this morning, figuring out how old they will be next year and the year after and how old they were last year and so on. It is activities like that that fill our days. It is the little moments that blend together to make the big and lasting memories of being together. Last night Emma was getting up to wash her hands after supper and slipped in behind her Grampie's chair to go to the laundry room. As we stood at the sink she said " I love Toad . He said 'Can you get by little Toad?" No major thing , just the building blocks of a major relationship that will carry them both throughout the years. This morning the girls were thrilled as our timid and standoffish Biscuit who rarely comes into the main part of the house and who has never gone all way to the top floor, followed them right upstairs . They were so excited to have him join them. Monkey could have managed her bath without both girls and Biscuit beside the tub but privacy is for another time. Paige ran to meet Grampie as he came out of the woods and she hitched a ride to where he unloaded the twitch of wood. She chastised him for not wearing his seatbelt. He assured her it was all right not to wear it in the tractor. Then the girls headed to town with their aunts. They adore Aunt Brianne and Aunt Ashlie. Their excitement each time they get to spend time with their aunts and uncles makes the visit extra special. These girls are growing so fast. We will throw in trips to the beach, family outings and a huge family vacation to PEI but this visit is about the kind of things I have mentioned. It is in these moments that it becomes so clear just how very important building the lasting relationships with the ones we love really is. So again, we enjoy the time we have with our girls doing the simple things that come about just by being together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Never Enough Thyme

Thyme I seem to be able to do without but time I could use more of. I do have the wonderful stretch of a new day each morning and for that I am truly grateful. But where does the time go? Mid July used to make me nervous because summer was passing so quickly. My friend Kathy, who is still teaching, does not like to be reminded of that. My week is going quickly as I try squeeze as much into the hours I have left before I go to get my granddaughters. I am very excited for them to be here. Summer would not be summer these years without their visits and I will love every minute. But my time and my routine will be very different while they are here and my productivity will diminish. Today I tackle a few more garden tasks that will leave the garden in good form for the neglect it is likely to get when the girls are here. I do expect them to be a little bit more self sufficient this year but I know Monkey and Toad will be kept busy. The memories we make in these weeks can not be measured and a few weeds in the garden is a small price to pay for the pleasure of seeing them , hearing them and having them with us on the farm. This is the time that matters!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

It is summer. I finally felt it for sure yesterday as it was my first two swim day. Maybe today will be a three swim day if I get away from my computer and out to the garden . Yesterday we also ate Sunday supper outside and until the bugs got too bad, had a fun game of bocce ball. Another sign of summer was the load of hay that the boys brought up the driveway Saturday afternoon. That was a real big deal for us. Caleb and Ashlie got three cows last fall. It has been fun watching them (Caleb and Ashlie not the cows although the cows are fun to watch too). Caleb had them in a new pasture when I got home from my tour in May. He then bought a baler and he and his brother got Burton's old rake working and cut their first load of hay on Friday. This week Cale will head to another field , a field that holds lots of memories and attachment for us and cut hay there. Again a big deal for all of us. Zac used to get together a rag tag crew of friends, cousins and his two little brothers and while his father was away in Gagetown for the summer would cut and bale hay for the animals we had at the time. I used to help my Dad , grandfather and brother load hay . It was definitely a summer thing . I love seeing my boys caught up in the challenge of haying ;weather, equipment breakdown, lack of manpower to name just a few. For me the very practical endeavor of cutting grass to feed livestock during the winter is mixed up with so many emotions, lots of memory and pride. I am so thankful that Zac taught his little brothers so much in the short time he was given. I am so proud his brothers took to heart his teachings and his passion and will carry it on . Our farm is a family farm;a place of memory, of caring, of hard steady effort that means so much more than anyone can know . But Burton and I know and as we become the elders allowing the younger generation to take over (although I do not see them rushing to weed the gardens) we filled with pride when that topsy turvy load of hay was driven up our driveway.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Worry and Wonder

This entry came to me in the middle of the night and I should have gotten up and written it. We shall see what remains of it in the light of day. I had awoke from a dream where I was a young mother with two kids, my oldest child a girl and a younger boy. I do not remember any other details of the dream but when I woke up I laid there thinking what if I had not had Zac. He was my firstborn. I see young mothers so caught up with the wonder of their babies. It was just like that for me. He was a precious baby, a precious toddler, a delightful little boy, an amazing kid and a wonderful young man. We got to have him in our lives for twenty years. This all went through my sleepless brain and I began thinking about worry and wonder. What a mix of those two emotions is a mother's heart. I worry constantly but I do attempt to find the wonder in my life that helps me let the worry go. The wonder of a beautifully formed flower. The wonder of a sunset. The wonder of my granddaughter's smiles. The wonder of my daughter's sense of humor that keeps me laughing. The wonder of sitting across the supper table with the boy I fell in love with forty years ago. The wonder of seeing my two boys with the girls they fell in love with. The wonder of my granddogs zigzagging in excitement around our slow moving Biscuit. The wonder of my parents who still amaze me with their vitality. It was this list that I compiled as I laid awake. I could have made a worry list but I chose not to. I start this day with my focus on the wonder of the life I have been given and I will keep trying to let the worry go.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ready for the Sun

Father's Day 2015 was a day of heavy , steady rain. I drove across the Saint John river to go to church with my Dad and out for lunch with my parents. Getting in and out of the car offered a good soaking. I came home and cooked a turkey dinner for the man who fathered my children , my brother in law Ronnie and my friend Paul, all fathers that deserve celebrating. As the rain fell we watched our garden sections fill up with streams of running water between the long rows, hoping that all our planting efforts were not being washed away. Today the rain has stopped and I wait anxiously for the sun to come out and dry the ground so I can hoe up the emerging green sprouts. I read this quote this morning 'Don't plant more garden than your wife can hoe'. I am sure it has deep meaning, but for me it has very literal application. I am the one that hoes. I love to tackle each row and as the daily growth of each row of beans, corn , peas, potatoes etc. advances I love to give each and every plant the attention and the time spent weeding and hoeing gives. But I do wonder this year if my dear husband and I have planted more than this girl can hoe. We shall see. I will give it my best once yesterday's rain soaks in and the sun comes out to dry the ground. I include a picture of a past garden that offers me the motivation and assurance that seeds that are planted will grow and the combination of rain and sun brings about a bountiful harvest.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The blossoms on my flowering crab tree were so beautiful a few days ago. I waited for them to come out and almost overnight they were a cascade of deep pink flowers. I had taken a few pictures and then the very next day when I thought to get a few more close ups of the blossoms they were gone with barely a trace of the display of the day before. I now have a vase of lilacs on my kitchen table and look out many times a day to enjoy the purple blossoms on the several lilac bushes in my yard. They too will be gone before I know it. I had one lone deep purple bearded Iris by the back steps and I tried to pay attention to it every time I walked by. It always reminds me of the year we had Chapin's grad party here after prom and entertained or should I say contained hundreds of kids. The morning after that event my clump of bearded irises were pretty much stomped and left as purple footprints on our back veranda. This morning I see several prom pictures on Facebook and along with my thoughts on the fleeting quality of blossoms it serves to make me a bit weepy and reflective. Last night I watched a movie where the family of four kids was the same configuration as mine would have been at one time. It brought me to tears. How quickly life happens . How fleeting one stage passes. I saw another post on Facebook this morning advising parents to pay attention to their small children as they grow up so fast. So overall this finds me typing this entry with tears running down my cheeks. I planted tiny seeds yesterday that I have the confidence ,based on my past experience, will result in plants that will bring about a harvest and die back down in the fall only to be ploughed up and return to the earth. The seasons, the cycle, the continuous evolution of life. None of it should be missed, none of it should be taken for granted. I will wipe my tears and take another day that I have been given. I hold the hope of blossoms to come as well as the memory of the beautiful blossoms I have been given.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

Well we have started. Our planting schedule has had weather delays but we finally got started yesterday. Despite a gusting wind that looked as if it was going to remove all of the top soil and relocate it, I planted all the beans and started planting the corn. Today, I finished planting the corn before the heavy rain started . Burton and Wayne got all the squash in as well. So I find myself in my office this afternoon instead of in the garden. Yesterday I visited a classroom at Lakefield Elementary School. They had just finished reading Ten Thousand Truths and The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. It was a pleasure to spend an hour with them as they asked some wonderful questions and shared their feelings about the stories and life. Kids never cease to amaze me with their compassion and insights. They were very interested in hearing about the sequel of Ten Thousand Truths. Parker asked me what my next book was going to be about. I told him I wasn't exactly sure but that it would come to me as I planted and looked after the garden in the next couple of months. Sure enough as I began sowing the bean seeds yesterday afternoon the seeds of my next book began taking shape. I ran in the house and up to my office to jot my thoughts down. The book I began in January but put aside to get to Shame the Devil pushed its way into my thoughts again and took on a whole new turn. Now I await the quiet hours in the garden so that I can let the story unfold until I find myself back in my office in September. During the summer I will steal some rainy hours like this afternoon and take a bit of time to touch my writing. I will read Shame the Devil one more time before sending it off to be read by someone else. I will make some notes for the book I see ahead of me. I will give some thought to two picture books I have percolating. I will let the summer come. I'll watch the seeds grow in the garden and in my imagination.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And Now it's June

June has arrived. The weather unfortunately is not excatly heralding its arrival. We are awaiting the warm and dry weather that will get the planting season underway. But it is June never the less and all the business of the spring has led me to this day. I am so thankful that all the things I planned for and anticipated fell into place and were everything I wanted them to be. I am taking a deep breath today and looking back at all that has come about. I finished the book I started writing in January. It seemed to have a momentum all its own and although it didn't write itself it certainly pushed itself onto the page. I will take a bit of time to re read it and see it in its entirety before I send it along. The wedding took place and I await the hundreds of pictures Meg's friend Jen took so I can fully digest the beauty and wonder of the day. I did the book week tour and have recovered from my driving experiences. Last week I headed to Nova Scotia. I had thought at one point that we would crowd more into that tour and also head for PEI but I am so glad that it was exactly what it turned out to be. First of all the trip to NS gave me the wonderful opportunity to visit with my cousin Jan and her husband. Over the last few years writing events in the Halifax area or flying from Halifax to Nfld have given me the chance to stay in their home. They have always warmly welcomed Burton and me or a friend and me or just me into their home. They provided excellent meals and lots of great conversations. Jan and I share a rich past. Our mothers are sisters and we spent many years connected by that bond. We value that bond but even more than that we have come to value the bond of friendship as adults. My cousin played the part of Chauffeur to the events I had in Halifax and Cole Harbour. She was so excited to accompany her cousin, the author and I hope she was not too disappointed . Our first library reading was attended by two. Don't get me wrong I will read to two and we certainly enjoyed the two girls as well as the library staff member who tried to reel half the audience in. Half the audience was vocal, exuberant, highly expressive and somewhat of a challenge. She was entertaining though and full of personality. The other half was much quieter and reflective and offered lots in her own way . The Saturday morning library visit offered no audience but the librarian was very welcoming. Two book signings offered their own gifts. I met a lovely woman who wanted to buy all four and since the store did not have all four and she also realized that struggling authors make more money if they sell directly to readers, accompanied me to the parking lot where she bought all four books from my trunk. Thank you Faye! Then came a school visit to Winding River Consolidated in Stewiacke. What a wonderful day I had! Beautiful building , great staff and enthusiastic kids provided a worthwhile visit. Again the best of teaching and being an author made the time spent there a rewarding experience. I was glad to get on the road and head home though. Burton and Cale had extended the pasture and I drove up the driveway to see the three cows standing in long grass enjoying their new territory. The lilacs are almost in full bloom , the flowering crab tree is blooming and the buds on the trees are bursting. I am so anxious to start putting out flowers and planting seeds. I look forward to the lake , to kayaking and watching our gardens grow. We have some building projects to see unfold. I will get the girls by the end of July. The winter has passed with all it gave , the spring arrived and brought so much and now the summer is before us. The sun will shine and the summer of 2015 will unfold. I look forward to the gifts it will bring.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Word Spring

I am torn. I want to write a blog entry and I want to finish my report of my book week experience and I want to get back to my writing. I am anxious to get back to where I left off last time. I also want to mow my lawn and I want to start planting and I want to take my kayak out and I want to go for a walk. I also want to start reading the two books I bought from two authors I heard read or present at Word Spring. Isn't that what most of our days are like. I often ( ok always ) list at the beginning of the month what I want to get done that month. I also list at the beginning of each day what I hope to accomplish. I generally get most of it done. Some days and months the undone stuff gets put ahead to the next day or month. One thing that I want to get done today amidst the other things I have already mentioned is to ruminate and reflect on what I took away from my weekend in Moncton at WFNB's WordSpring. Some of what I gleaned was from hearing other writers read or conduct workshops , some from casually talking to other writers, some from the always interesting discussions my friend Barb and I have around the topic of writing and life in general. Some of what is bouncing in my head this morning just pushed it's way in to my thoughts as all the other was taking place and needs a louder voice when I actually get back to the work that is always simmering below the surface of all the other tasks. I found more out about my characters. I was given more clarity surrounding the underlying story , I better understood some of the motivation and depth to the interactions and possibly see my way more clearly to the ending. I will not know this until I get down to business and let the writing happen. I will finish this entry, hang out a load of laundry, put the finishing of the report on tomorrow's list , walk and mow and maybe kayak later . I will get to work and let the revelations that came to me fight for their place in the story.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This is Where You Are

Now onto the driving part of my book week experience. What a huge challenge that part was. When I arrived in Ottawa, Hertz gave me a Yukon. At first it was thought to have a GPS and then in the absence of that an OnStar to help me with the navigation. But the OnStar had been disconnected and so I was back to the Google maps that I had prepared before leaving home. Back to the Google maps and my wits. Recalibrating is what they call it when your GPS reroutes you when you've made the wrong turn . My brain did a whole lot of recalibrating. Even with careful attention to my maps I found myself lost on several occasions. Sometimes I took the 401 West instead of the 401 East. Sometimes I didn't go far enough or missed my exit . I would stop and figure out where I was. Life gets us lost sometimes. Sometimes we know exactly how we got lost and other times we haven't got a clue how we got where we ended up. Once we figure out where we are then the next step is to come up with a plan to get us where we want to be. I spent a good amount of time doing just that and figuring out east, west, north and south and the quickest way to arrive at my desired destination. It was challenging , stressful, and I was always very relieved when I finally pulled the Yukon in to my destination. I stretched myself and just as anything we do in life that is challenging it is also rewarding. I felt such a sense of accomplishment in doing that. I took the Yukon back to the Toronto airport without a scratch. I caused no collisions and never succumbed to my desire to give up and cry in a Husky parking lot. I did what I had to do !

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Kids Get Top Billing!

Last week I toured the Ottawa/Toronto area as part of the TD Canadian Children's Book Week. Sunday, I flew into Ottawa and began the adventure. And what an adventure it was! One statistic that sticks with me is the number of kids I have been privileged to stand before. In my 29 years of teaching if I taught an average of 30 kids a year I would have taught 870 kids. Last week I presented to approx. the same number of kids. And it was indeed a privilege. I told my story of becoming an author. Intertwined with this story I told of a life in which I have met large and small challenges, loss and heartbreak, and followed dreams and in which I have so much to be thankful for. I attempted to tell the story with humor and sincerity and from an honest place . I was rewarded at every location. The rewards came through the eyes , the smiles , the caring questions and comments and in one place the spontaneous applause that brought this author to tears.(not that tears are ever too far from the surface) Time after time I was impressed by a group of attentive and respectful kids willing to soak up what I was saying. They laughed in all the right places and the places that brought about compassion and empathy they offered in abundance. Overall the week for me was about just that. Twelve times I stood before a large group of kids and shared a story that for me is heartfelt, intense and difficult to deliver. Every single time within the first few minutes I knew that my effort was not in vain. The enthusiastic requests for my autograph that will be forgotten and misplaced was not the indication that what I did last week matters. It is what I saw in glistening eyes, what I heard in heartfelt words and what I felt collectively in the hour I spent with each group that made last week an unforgettable experience for me. Just as I have always hoped that part of whatever I gave to the 800 plus students that I taught over my career mattered, I likewise hope that what I brought to those 800 plus kids last week resonates in a meaningful way. What more could I ask for!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Week That Was!

This is the first of what I am sure will be a series of blog entries as I attempt to truly reflect on what last week was for me. I am going to meet a friend this morning who just had a new grandbaby and is travelling to Calgary to meet him tomorrow. We normally swim on Wednesday but we will swim today and I will do some errands across the river. Then maybe later I will have time to have a good,long look at the experience that participating in The TD Canadian Children's Book Week tour was for this author. I have many stories to tell. It was such a relief to turn in the keys of the Yukon and get on the plane in Toronto and fly back home to where I so thankfully am rooted. It was daunting to stretch myself so far beyond my comfort zone and accomplish just the getting around in the Ottawa/Toronto area. The privilege was the opportunity I was given to present to 800 kids. More on that and the driving later. Let's just say I don't expect to having any trouble turning left (without a flashing green arrow) while facing four lanes of oncoming traffic as I meander across the river and in to the familiar highways that lead to Saint John. Oh, and the snow is gone and it is Spring on the Walton Lake Road!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Write the Wedding Story

The months of planning and anticipating led to the days of last minute busyness , to the hours of final preparation and then to the minutes of frenzied delivery that brought about the emotional and beautiful walk down the aisle. The hours that followed were ripe with laughter, tears, interesting encounters and lots of memories. The two days afterwards held exhaustion, reflection , tension and tears. The tears held the range of everything that family is all about but basically gave voice to love, loyalty and perseverance. Like every good story there are interesting characters, memorable dialogue and raw emotion. There are parts of the story that could benefit from some good editing and there are many different points of views. Overall though it was a story of love. Perhaps my short entry is reflective of how extremely tired I am or maybe it is more a comment on how unnecessary words really are to fully explain how special and wonderful every line of this wedding story is to the ongoing saga that is the story of our family.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last Snowshoe

I took my last snowshoe yesterday. The snow in the woods is not gone by any means but there are large patches of ground interspersed with the snow patches. It is interesting to see what I have been snowshoeing over for the last two and a half months. I could possibly navigate the bare spots but it is the unpredictability of the snow covered spots that holds the peril. They are soft and can plunge you to the uncertain depths below. There is also the uncertainty of the mud and running water hiding under the snow cover. Yesterday I took a step and both snowshoes went in a mud hole up to the ankles of my boots. So I will wait until the wood road dries up enough for me to walk it in my rubber boots and hang up my snowshoes for the season. Last night about 80 people came out to launch The Memory Chair. I got the book from my publisher about a month ago and let it go out to some family and friends but last night it got it's official send off. My friend and former colleague Ellen Whittaker Brown introduced me . She had declined from reading the book ahead of time as she wanted to prepare her talk without knowing the story. She picked up on the theme of memories from the title and wrote a beautiful essay about packing up her Mom's home and the memories it held and where our memories originate. It was lovely. Ashlie closed the night with a moving tribute and her words mean the world to me. Another highlight of the evening and words I will treasure came from my six year old granddaughter, Emma. She was sitting at the computer in my office when I walked in after getting ready for the launch. She turned and with such excitement said "Oh My God, Monkey you look gorgeous." I was raised to never take the lord's name in vain so my first instinct is to change her OMG to Oh my goodness. That is a bit of a loosing battle these days when that phrase is heard everywhere. I was tempted to censor her statement but in the interest of authenticity and truthfulness those were her exact words and the sentence that will best reflect the wonderful night of my fourth book launch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pre-Launch with Gladys

Who do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be Gladys Titus. Gladys is 92, sharp as a tack and the best story teller I know. She is a journal keeper extraordinaire and is the matriarch of almost 50 descendants. She holds court in a small room in a big house that she used to be the mistress of but gave over to her daughter in law and son some years ago. She has the fabric of almost one hundred years stitched firmly into her memory and is always willing to share a glimpse of it to anyone that asks. She can still keep up with the best of them when conversation gets interesting and she introduced me to skinny dipping. She remembers with clarity what she was wearing and every other little detail of events that happened a lifetime ago. Every time I come away from a talk with Gladys whether it is a five minute conversation or a long visit I am thankful for having had the opportunity to sit with her. Yesterday I took a book to Gladys. I had a cup of tea and a ginger snap and had a pre- launch for the Memory Chair just in case Gladys doesn't get to my launch. Gladys has been at every launch so far and hopes to make this one. I hope she makes many more to come.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sometimes Life Trips You Up

I am going to talk about snowshoeing again. If snow keeps falling which it is this morning and if the snow we have doesn't melt soon I will be snowshoeing for awhile yet, even though April is not thought to be a winter activity month. Yesterday, I noticed the name on my snowshoes Winter Leisure I kind of chuckled thinking that my daily treks into the woods are not always leisurely. Apparently some people have leisure time. Don't get me wrong I love all the activities I fill my days with and would not want to leisurely lie around watching TV . Winter Pleasure would be a better name for my snowshoes because that is what they have provided me every time I strap them on. Yesterday I had a few close calls or close falls. The snow is quite packed and crunchy and every once in awhile the front of the snowshoe catches and almost trips me up. It came to me that that is what life is like. You are going along completely wrapped up in whatever you are doing and all of a sudden Boom, you are flat on your face. Sixteen years ago we took a big fall. Since April 18th , 1999 we have been struggling to get back up and some days it is harder than others .Back up but never the same as before we fell. Never the same again. Lots of other stumbles have come our way. Life trips you up. When you catch yourself and prevent the fall, adrenalin courses through you and your heart beats faster until you level out. The adrenalin that keeps us going are the gifts that we are constantly given. Today I look ahead to the gift Meg's wedding will be for us this month. My two precious granddaughters will throw flowers and stand with their parents as they say their vows. We will be together and celebrate as a family the gift of getting back up.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Input and Output

Ok here we go. April is upon us and we are in the final stretch of the race we have been anticipating. The goal is anniversary, launch , wedding and book tour. I find it all a bit daunting, doable(I hope), but daunting. I returned from a week with the girls. A week of birthday parties, bedtime stories, snuggles and wedding talk. I got back to my wood road yesterday. Snowshoeing was perfect. The snow was crystallized and for the most part you could walk on top and still go anywhere. The woods still provide a getaway where I can fill up. Yesterday I considered the idea of input and output. On my return flight I watched The Hunger Games Mocking Jay Part 1. This would not be my first choice and I probably wouldn't go to the theatre to watch it but the other selections that interested me had already been seen on the way out. Catness Everdean is a great name especially when uttered with contempt by Donald Sutherland. One gem I took from the movie was the wisdom that the only things that drive us in life should be the ones we ourselves are passionate about and our motivation should come from our own sources not those that are forced on us by others. We truly reach our potential when we are true to our own convictions and respond to what really matters. Input and output ; the struggle to keep fueled and to do the stuff that really matters. We sometimes get caught up in the output without making sure we have looked after the input. For me that means filling up on a regular basis. Writing for instance has it's fair share of output. The book tour will require a huge amount . My daily writing is what fills up the reservoir from which I will have to take. It is the same with the energy and resources I will need to pull off the rest of the month's challenges. I expect to have 11 writing days. I expect to have several more snowshoeing days. I must also make sure that my motivations are in order and carefully do it all for the right reasons. So today I take the time to fill up.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Monday Morning Gift

I love Monday mornings! I have said this before and I realize not everyone shares that feeling. On Monday mornings from September to May I am in my office writing, if nothing else comes up to take me away. This morning will be my last writing day of March and I am reluctant to let March go even though warmer weather will be welcome. When I get back from Meg's I will have some writing days in April squeezed in with wedding preparation and celebration. I will also celebrate the launch of The Memory Chair. We will face the challenge that April presents as we come to the end of another year without Zac. We will celebrate Meg and Ashlie's birthdays. I am anxious to get to work this morning as yesterday's writing left me eager to keep going . This morning when I checked my e-mail there was an e-mail from the teacher that had invited me to Beaconsfield Middle School. She had attached comments from some of the Grade Eight students. What a wonderful gift on this cold and blustery day. I printed off the page and a half of their comments and I will carry their kind words with me when I go to Ottawa for my tour in May. If my presentations there elicit even a fraction of the thoughtful and empowering remarks they gifted to me I will be pleased. Their remarks will be the boost I need to get me through the busy and draining days of the tour. How could lines like these not lift anyone's spirit and keep them going? " Susan White was very straightforward and nice." Susan White was funny and I'm glad she is making another book." I really like the blend of fiction and real life events." "I loved to listen to her read." " Each chapter really connected to each other, each made you want to hop into the book."" Ten Thousand Truths was one of the deepest book I have ever read." "I enjoyed the fact that she didn't spoil her books while talking about them." " I am excited that there is going to be a sequel to Ten Thousand Truths." I am excited about that too. So on this Monday morning I am going to get back to Rachel, Amelia, Jodie , Zac and Raymond and find out as I write, what the next part of their story will be.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back to Beaconsfield

Yesterday, I spent the day at Beaconsfield Middle School. I had not been there since the last day of my Grade Six year in 1968.I don't remember a lot about being there in Grade six. The inside of the building didn't look familiar to me at all. Outside, the playground and the surrounding streets leading down to the water brought back memories. I remember the smell of the pulp mill that we smelled daily as we thronged onto the playground each morning waiting to enter the building. I remember too how much I did not want to be there. I had left all my friends , my school and the house I loved in Fredericton. I felt like I was in exile on the west side of Saint John. I do remember though that it was there in the back porch of a downstairs flat on City Line that the deep desire to be a teacher presented itself. Possibly the desire to be a mother and a writer was forming there as well. Yesterday, a girl asked me if I thought a would be a writer if Zac had not died. What a heavy 'what if' question. Life is so loaded with that question. What if we hadn't moved to the west side ?, what if we hadn't moved to the Kingston Peninsula ?, what if ?, what if ?, what if? I tried my best to answer that question, a question that I so often ask myself. When I hold 'The Year Mrs Montague Cried' and feel such gratitude for where the success of that book has taken me I can not help but feel the deep sorrow of the very existence of it. How can we ever trace all the what ifs of our lives? The 'it is what it is' of our lives is really the best we can do. So my 'it is what it is' took me back to Beaconsfield School yesterday. I spent a full day talking , reading, responding and answering questions from a great bunch of eager kids. Lily, the most enthusiastic and vocal student of the day was beside herself when her mom came and bought her all four of my books. Her EA has been reading Ten Thousand Truths to her and as I talked she vocalized her excitement . I read the class the last two chapters and she hung off every word. That was so much fun for me. Thank you Lily! Thank you to all the students , teachers, EA's and especially to Mrs. McFadden for inviting me and introducing Beaconsfield Middle School to a writer who used to walk their halls.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What we Teach Each Other and What we Teach Ourselves

I had to push myself out the door today. I thought perhaps I wasn't feeling up to snowshoeing but luckily I listened to the part of myself that knew it was exactly what I needed to do. Once I got going I explored many previously unexplored clearings. I know they will not be as accessible for much longer. I even made my way into the large fenced in pig yard that for most seasons of the year is too muddy and wet to walk through. The two big pigs seemed surprised but pleased to see me. They have a wonderful maze through the deep snow a ways around their feeding trough and shelter. They don't realize that they could step right out of their fenced in yard just about anywhere. My thoughts of the day came to a few of the things I have learned about writing from others and from myself. I will not list them but will mention a couple that found their way to the top of the list. Last night my friend Rosalyn and I drove to Sussex for Beth Powning's book launch. We talked about many things and we always seemed to find our way back to discussing writing. Rosalyn who has kids still at home ,a job, a lot of volunteer work and much more that pushes her writing time aside is constantly trying to come up with a plan that works for her. I told her of one of the tips I got from someone, 'Touch Your Work Daily'. Maybe just that little habit will connect her to the writing until the story she carries within gets completely written. Last night Beth Powning spoke of the beginning to what became the beautiful book A Measure of Light she was launching. The story of Mary Dyer sought her out. I have a manuscript that doesn't quite cut it yet and I think in some ways it is because it is lacking the powerful force of a story that needs to be told. Maybe it will take shape and maybe it won't but I do believe it can wait while the stories that push through take over and demand to be written. We teach each other so much when we listen and in the same way we have so much to teach ourselves when we stop the chatter and the self doubt and hear what we already know to be true.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Time for Paige

My blog coach has pointed out that there are no pictures of Paige on my blog. There is lots of mention of that darling little girl but no pictures. So I am writing a short entry just about Paige. Can't wait to see Paige at another book launch. Can't wait to see all three of my girls. Meg has always gone out of her way to get home for my launches. This year she is squeezing a wedding into the trip. Looking forward to the busy time ahead. Paige is now a delightful , funny and unpredictable three year old. I expect she will keep us entertained.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

They're Here!

Yesterday's blog entry got delayed until this morning as I had a glitch of some kind with my computer which resulted in a migraine headache that sent me to take refuge under the covers. I am feeling a bit better this morning, but still a bit foggy. The sun is bright and beautiful out side though and I hope to rally. I am so pleased to announce the arrival of four boxes of my new book The Memory Chair and a plethora of bookmarks. Again a dream that starts with an idea, a few words and lots of time and attention has resulted in a book I now hold in my hands and slip in to the bookends with the three others. How very happy that makes me! Happy and determined to keep forging ahead with the work in progress and the work that simmers on the back burner.

The March to Spring

After sleeping a bit longer than usual (I'll blame the time change) I am ready for the day. I am getting very anxious to hold a copy of The Memory Chair. I will only have maybe ten more writing days left before going to Alberta for Emma's sixth birthday. The book I am working on continues to take shape and I look forward to sitting down and just letting it. Maybe April will give me a few more writing days but I can see that they might be limited. May, of course starts out with a busy tour week and then garden time will be upon us. I can not quite get my head around Emma turning six. I'll have a really hard time with sixteen. But I know just how quickly sixteen years go by. It has almost been sixteen years since we last had Zac with us. Spring approaches and as it has been every year since loosing Zac I feel that in my very core. As the days get longer, the sun stronger and season gradually comes upon us I feel such a range of emotions. This year we will throw a wedding into the mix. We already have our anniversary and Meg and Ashlie's birthdays. There has always been the mix of joy and sorrow in April. I have been loving the snow , my daily trips up the wood road and I will continue to have that luxury until the snow melts and the road becomes a muddy , slushy mess. I will embrace the spring, engage in all that this one brings and reflect on what the spring of 1999 took away. I will spring ahead and march to the music that has been given me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Zac's Treehouse

What a beautiful structure. Burton commented this morning that he doesn't know what to do with Zac's treehouse . He doesn't want to cut the trees down because of the amount of nails a young Zac used to build his masterpiece. Zac had no restraint using whatever he could find in his Dad's basement. We still come upon light fixture boxes, army ammo boxes and many other items that Zac and his brothers used for their wide range of imaginative play. He tramped every inch of the woods behind the house and across the road. I never walk by this treehouse without a sense of the little boy who built it. My answer to Burton's question this morning was "We will just leave it. It will stand there long after we are gone" Yesterday as I reached the edge of the field approaching the house I thought about how much I hate it when my woods road walks or these days my snowshoe treks come to an end. It is as if I have to come back to reality from a magical place where I can let my worries and heartaches evaporate into the wide blue sky above the trees. As I stepped out into the open field it came to me that the end of every walk serves to reinforce that important life lesson; we must enjoy what we have when we have it. Years from now someone may question the array of old boards and tin that are nailed so haphazardly on to some trees at the edge of the woods. They will not remember the wonderful boy who put them there but I always will.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dancing to Ern's Waltz

I must start this entry by saying that the only thing I hate about snowshoeing on days like this,is stopping. I set out about an hour ago with a bit of heaviness in the pit of my stomach. If asked why, I could probably give about four or five reasons for feeling that way today. Luckily, I am clever enough or at least know from experience that the best way to combat those feelings is to get out and have a bit of a talk to myself. I zigzagged and trudged my way through some absolutely breathtaking openings in the woods behind my house, stopping often to gaze up at massive trees firmly rooted and stretching toward a vibrant deep blue sky. The snow creates a magical setting where creations every bit as captivating as any that grace the art galleries and museums of the world have been fashioned by the thick blanket of white falling on whatever lies beneath, giving the sculpture beauty and mystery. In that beautiful place my mind went to the funeral of the 98 year old father of a dear friend and former colleague of mine. She has been a woman of great influence in my life. Her gift of music was so freely and generously given as a teacher, a choir director, and a mother that shaped and encouraged her talented daughter, musician Stephanie Mainville. I learned more yesterday about where that amazing woman originated. Her father made choices in his 98 years that took him from a harsh and crippling beginning to a triumphant and inspiring end. The gratitude and admiration for the course one man took resounded in the testimony of his grandson and the strings of his granddaughter's violin.During the tribute to Ernest his grandson told a story of a Chinese holy man who after being given lodging and shown compassion by a peasant, gave the man a blessing before departing. His blessing was ; Grandfather die, Father die, Son die. The man upon receiving the blessing asked angrily what kind of a blessing that was. The holy man replied" Would you rather it in a different order? "I wept today when thinking upon those words. I know the sorrow of being given loss in a different order. I think too of a family today that six years ago was also given that loss out of order. We dance a dance in this life and it is seldom of our exact choosing. We must take the music that plays for us and dance the waltz as best we can. That is what Ernie did and all I can hope for is, that someday the same can be said of me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Right Here ,Thank-you Very Much

I often hear the Proust Questionnaire on Shelagh Roger's CBC radio program, The Next Chapter and the question I always answer the quickest is 'Where would you most like to live?' I always answer" right here". I can honestly say I think that all of the time but I think it most strongly when I am on the woods road behind my house. Each day I go through the same ritual once I get a ways up into the woods. I start with petitions , or prayers you might say laying out what I am concerned about or most burdened by, asking for guidance in situations and making some special requests . I then move to listing my thankfuls for this day. This place and this walk always tops my list. I follow them with being thankful for my beating heart and the fact that I'm breathing and able to make the climb up this steep and winding road. This place tops the list and I truly would want to live nowhere else. Today the snowshoeing was perfect. The last few days going off trail was next to impossible but today after yesterday's milder temperatures , a bit of melting and then cold temperatures again, the top layer settled and could better support my weight and I was able to wander off trail. Nellie, my little grand dog enthusiastically comes with me everyday ploughing through the deep snow while Biscuit, our big (and somewhat lazy) dog usually stays behind. Today Nellie was able to run along without sinking too far in the snow.So maybe someday I will be asked the questions from the Proust Questionnaire or be a guest on The Next Chapter. But until then I at least know how I would answer one of the questions. Absolutely and without question, I would most like to live, right here , thank you very much.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lakefield Elementary

Yesterday I visited Lakefield Elementary School. I spent the afternoon with two Grade Four classes. On many of my visits I attempt to learn the kids names but when it is more than one class and my time is limited I don't take the time to do that. I did meet Megan, Sarah, Quinn, Benjamin, Logan, Owen and Isaac and a room filled with eager and interested readers and writers. Thank you Ms. Millett for sharing my work with your students and for inviting me to come and meet them. One of the classes read The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. They had lots of questions and insights. Mostly I talked though and they listened and what great listeners they were. Their teacher remarked that I must have had their attention because no one asked to use the washroom. I know as a former teacher that is a good yardstick (or should I say metre stick)Here are some of their questions. Who is on the front cover? What day did you say Zac died? How did you publish your other books? How old were you when you started writing? Did your husband go to Afghanistan after 911?Is that Taylor on the cover? What day is the 4th book coming out? Where do I buy your book? Was Corey real? How many books a day do you write? Do you think you will write a story about your daughter's wedding? Do you have other awards? Can I keep the paper?(I had just read them the first two pages of The Memory Chair that I had printed off my computer)What advise can you give on editing? (teacher's question)When Ms. Millett read it to us why did she cry? Can you be an author and a publisher? What is an Epilogue? Do you write every day? Did you write this morning? I love those last two questions? They remind me of questions like did you eat your breakfast? , did you brush your teeth?, do you eat fruits and vegetables everyday? Questions about doing things that are good for you, things that keep you well, things that help you grow. For me writing is all that. I love how the boys that asked those two questions understood that. I love just how much they all, got it.