Monday, December 11, 2017

So This is Christmas

Yesterday my friend Kathy and I went to a concert at Elmhurst Outdoors. What a perfect afternoon it was for the event.The snow cover framed the lodge which was decorated beautifully. Inside the place was cozy and welcoming. Mike Biggar , Sandy MacKay, Grant Heckman and Jessica Rhaye entertained for two and a half hours and it was wonderful. The afternoon show had sold out leading them to offer another show at 6:00. I am sure that show was lovely as well. Mike Biggar delivered an energetic and funny performance highlighting his immense talent and musicality. Jessica Rhaye's crystal clear voice is delightful.Mike talked about the spectrum of Christmas music lovers from the haters to the can't get enough-ers. Those who want Christmas music from mid November to well into the new year, to those who tolerate it on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I am somewhere in between. I hate that the music comes to an abrupt halt and those days right after Christmas day it seems everyone has already forgotten about Chritmas.I have my favorites and I do enjoy most of it.Each song they offered yesterday had a quality of its own and I lost myself in the music. Then they introduced the Christmas song I dread hearing depending on where I am and how able I am to process the depth of the song's meaning for me. Sometimes it hits me when I'm not expecting it and it always brings a jolt of pain and nostalgia. I love it and treasure it and dread it at the same time. The first few measures of it bring me right to the heart of what this song is for me. So this is Christmas...Tears fill my eyes as I type those words. I instantly return to the Christmas Eve when Zac changed the lines in John Lennon's song. I will never hear that song without hearing my son singing along. It was Burton's traditional Christmas Eve run. He had been doing that run for many years beginning when Zac was a toddler and his dad took him along. First stop Sussex for Burton to do his last minute shopping. Later as Zac got older Zac would also buy presents for me and for his siblings. A few years later Megan and Chapin tagged along and did their shopping. Then a stop at Connell's ,then at Mike's for his Christmas Eve birthday spread and open house.Later a stop to see the Barrett's was always made. The run was and still is a tradition entrenched and honored. Both Chapin and Caleb look forward to driving their Dad on that day and sometimes count on it for their last minute shopping.But back to the particular day Zac changed the words to the ones that still echo in my head and heart. Caleb was just over one year old. I had decided I was not staying home but was coming along for the 'run'. All four kids, Burton and I piled into the Jimmy.I prepared two bottles for Caleb filling them with milk from our milk cow.Anyone that knows me knows I don't have a keen sense of smell. Had someone else filled those bottles they may have prevented what happened later.Off we went. Right away Caleb devoured his first bottle. Just before Norton he seemed fussy and still hungry. I gave him his second bottle. Seconds after finishing that one Caleb projectile vomited managing to hit each one of his siblings with a shower of sour milk.A quick stop was made at the Norton store where Burton ran in to buy paper towel. I stripped Caleb down to his diaper and threw away his clothes.The kids cleaned themselves as best they could and off and we headed to Sussex to buy Caleb a new outfit. Sometime along the way Zac began singing So this is Christmas and what have we done. We brought our mother with us and its not very fun.For years afterwards that was Zac's Christmas song and I was seldom(or possibly never)invited on the run. So as Mike , Jessica, Sandy and Grant belted out that song and as the crowd sang along to the chorus I held on tightly to that memory.The world just acknowledged the anniversary of John Lennon's death and that song of course is part of the legacy he left. It is also a part of the lasting legacy Zac left in this family.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Some Snow and Christmas Decorating

Let it Snow!I say that knowing I am going nowhere today. I am so happy to be staying home and getting down to the job of decorating for Christmas. I do not mind that job at all . In fact I consider it a gift to find myself at this time of year again. Oh how quickly the years go by. This time three years ago I was flying home from Meg's . Leonard had died in the early morning after about six weeks with us . He had arrived in October choosing to spend his last days back in NB near family and friends. Thirty nine years ago I was still in the hospital with my newborn baby . Over the years the Empty Stocking Fund broadcast was always the day I would pull out all the decorations and get down to the work of decorating. It really does seem like a short time ago I was just putting them all away .I have many treasured decorations. I treasure the Willow tree nativity set Chapin and Brianne gave me over the years and I always set it up in the den. I love pulling from the large Rubbermaid container each item that has a special value and place.Last year we went to Meg and Cody's Christmas day so I put up a simpler version of a tree. This year we are celebrating Christmas at home with a January visit to Alberta so there will be a big tree and that job is for another day. Toady I will vacuum and dust. I will put away the year round objects and replace them with the treasures of Christmas. I will accept the season as a gift and a privilege not a hardship or nuisance. We live with such bounty and blessing. We have our health and our wellness and love of family and friends. If it snows it will just add to the beauty of the season. Snow will cover the starkness and drabness of November and each twinkling snowflake will greet the season. Just as seasons add up to a year and years become decades each Christmas season adds to the memories and victories of the season past. I am attempting to clean and purge this month. The chaos of a major bathroom renovation has led me to want some order in the mess and I am tackling every room , every closet, drawer and cupboard. The other day I asked Burton to dismantle my Kenmore sewing machine so I could put it out for the garbage truck. I thought long and hard about this. The sewing machine has not worked for a long time. I had it fixed once years ago but it never really worked well again. I can not remember the last time I tried to sew with it. As I was carrying it downstairs Caleb asked me how I could throw it away. "Doesn't it have sentimental value?" Yes it certainly does. My dad bought me that sewing machine when I was in grade seven. My mother thought it was an extravagance and frowned on his purchase. She thought I would never sew. I made her a dress the following year and completely surprised her on Christmas morning. I sewed a lot on that machine. But that sewing machine is not my Father's love . My Father's love was and is so much more and throwing it away does not diminish the love he has for me, the faith he has in me and the bond of our relationship.So I will go through the boxes and once again place all the treasures of Christmas in our home. I will celebrate the season of 2017 with all its blessings, its challenges ,its worries and its hopes. The snow will fall, the lights will twinkle and the days will pass and I will take comfort and joy in it all.

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Trip to Fredericton

On Saturday I took a trip to Fredericton. As I drove there I thought about the reasons I always feel good about making that trip. I lived in Fredericton from grade 2 to grade 5. 619 Regent St. is a huge and happy part of my childhood memories. I was not happy to move away. I returned to Fredericton to attend St. Thomas University. This was a huge and happy part of a stage in my life I was very proud of. I had been a big underachiever in high school and despite my desire to be a teacher it hadn't been enough to motivate me to do better. But somehow I pulled it together and found the will to make that dream come true. My years at St Thomas were wonderful. I worked full time and managed to work toward my first degree. Then I took a small break and got married and got pregnant with my first child. With a nine month old Zachary I returned to Fredericton (Burtt's Corner actually) and back to St. Thomas to get my education degree.Two summers in the 90's I traveled to UNB and participated in the Maritime Writers Workshop . Both experiences were very memorable for me and gave me the confidence to keep believing I was a writer.For one of those workshops I stayed with my friend Barb, her husband and two little girls who referred to me as Soup. What a wonderful week that was. Every morning I would walk from their house to the university and I was right back to the little girl I'd been walking and biking those streets with friends.I weaved those memories into the story I wrote of 1960's Fredericton in The Sewing Basket. Years later Fredericton became the place I would go to visit my daughter who also attended St. Thomas.She introduced me to a dish at the Diplomat that always calls me back.So on Saturday's trip I felt all those positive Fredericton feelings. I have gone several times to sign my latest book at the Fredericton Chapters. I have often seen Amy who is a strong connection to Zac and always fills me with joy as I see her little family and her smiling face.I meet readers who I've met before and always enjoy signings there. Saturday was no exception. Amy wasn't able to fit a trip to the store into her day but I met Kim a writer with her own story to tell and her own path to walk toward publication. I met Heather, an excited reader anxious to get the new book who after digging a little bit turned out to be the daughter of the salesman who sold me three of my Toyotas. I met Jennifer who was celebrating her 40th birthday shopping with her sister. She stopped and took the time to connect with me and bought three books. Her age and December birthday was a connection to Zac I felt so strongly and she was so kind.Natalie , a neighbor and her two daughters were shopping in Fredericton and stopped by to see me. She had come to my house earlier that morning to buy a copy of Maple Sugar pie for her daughter but took the time to come and support me. We talked and laughed and I so enjoyed the minutes they took from their shopping time.Then a woman came in looking vaguely familiar and I knew right away there was a connection of some kind. The connection turned out to be a previous meeting in which she had bought a book which led her to read all the books and be anxious to buy Maple Sugar Pie. She reads my blog regularly and she was so generous and kind in her praise and love for my work. That was definitely the icing on a already delicious cake. The cookies however were not the hit they were in Moncton. Only three were taken. One after a little girl picked it up to smell it (she was gluten free) and then I suggested she give it to her mother. Barb came for the last twenty minutes but wasn't able to pull hoards of Frederictonians to the table. But that was just fine. I had already surpassed my best expectations having had Kim, Jennifer, Heather, Joyce, Natalie Lindsay and Nicole make my day. Supper followed at the Diplomat with Barb and our friend Mary. An evening of knitting and chatter, a good nights sleep and a breakfast with Patrick( a Susan White fan )and his wife Catherine at The Cabin rounded off the trip. Then I had a safe and reflective drive home from a city I love and have such great feelings about.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Day at Hampton High

I am just recovering from my day at Hampton High.No I did not catch a flu bug or the sniffles but to say the day was draining and recovery was needed is an understatement.One probably can't understand why these days are so exhausting for me unless they sat in on one of my sessions. Now I know I do that to myself. I know I could present a very generic hour talking about writing , editing, publishing etc.and I do talk about all those things. But I bring more to each presentation than that. I remember when I did thirteen presentations during my TD Children's Book Week tour in Ontario. Driving to the last presentation of the week I tried to tell myself not to give so much, not to open up so personally to the kids I was seeing in the Scarborough library that morning. I went over in my head all the things I could say about loving libraries and loving to read when I was a kid and almost had myself convinced I wouldn't dig down deep and give the same heartfelt presentations I had delivered and felt proud of giving all week. I had had some amazing interactions in those previous sessions. I'd had standing ovations,tearful kids and warm embraces. I thought if I just kept it light I could get through it and not feel the deep exhaustion I normally feel. Seconds before I parked in the library parking lot it occurred to me that the kids that were filing into that room to see Susan White deserved to see Susan White. There were things I could say to them that belonged to only me. The second I saw the bright and receptive faces in the front row I knew I had no choice but to show up. I have to tell myself that before every school visit but Hampton High holds special value to me and special challenges. It is the school in which I feel the most responsibility to honor my son. I also admire and respect what goes on in that building. So many staff members nurtured Chapin and Caleb and supported Meg and Ashlie. I have a few resentments and heartaches concerning Zac's experience there but those shortcomings exist in every school . I do not dwell on them. I do however feel the need to always honor Zachary White in that building. I drive up and take a quick glimpse at the tree planted in his memory. I walk in the front door and take the opportunity to do so as a privilege. I show up and I don't hold back emotion and feeling. On page 84 in The Year Mrs. Montague Cried Taylor quotes Mrs. M as saying "Don't we look a fright? If someone came in right now, they would wonder what in the world I was doing to you.Tears are shed in my presentations, eyes well up , lumps come to throats, there is laughter and deep sighs. Real feelings emerge and I make no apology for that.I tell of sorrow,of joy, of pain, of comfort, of dreams and failures, of family ,of loss and love. I tell of accomplishments and discipline ,of vulnerability and triumph. I talk non stop and go rapidly from story to story and no two sessions are the same. Kids ask profound questions and always give me their rapt attention.I walk away exhausted but so thankful!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Taking Our Turn

Thirty nine years ago I was preparing to give birth to my first child. We had only been married a year and a half and we were living in a rented house and didn't even have a car of our own. I was beside myself with excitement, anticipation and fear.We were taking our turn with this stage of life. I observe young people at this same stage and feel such joy for them. It fills me with such a mixture of emotion. So much emotion and I keep a tight lid on it. What completely overwhelms me is just how quickly we've jumped from stage to stage. We are now the sixty some year olds, the grandparents, the old people. It occurred to me the other day it was a case of taking our turn . Each stage , each decade , each role we take on have been taken on for generations before us and will be taken on by generations after us. I know that is not a new or overly profound thought but it is for me. Seeing it that way helps me to embrace the turn we are now a part of. I think of kids on the playground waiting for a turn on the swings. This was always a major thing with four or five swings and a hundred kids wanting a turn. Who gets a turn , how long will the turn be, how do you give up your turn when you are really enjoying it and may not get another turn that recess.All very huge concerns when we focus on the turn itself and not the enjoyment of our turn no matter how brief.Turns end and others step up and take their turn. Turns come to abrupt ends and sometimes we can't imagine letting our turn go. But other turns appear, turns we didn't even realize would bring such joy. I look at my elderly parents and some elderly friends and realize their turn is almost completely over. Does stepping away from the swing when recess is over mean our turn wasn't amazing, we didn't give our time swinging high in the sky the attention it deserved? Of course not but it would help if we had no regrets getting off. If we spent our whole time on the swing worrying about the turn ending , worrying who was waiting to take the next turn, how we could have made our turn better then we've wasted the joy of the turn. I am possibly rambling now but this whole turn analogy is helping me to see the entire picture clearer. I know the sorrow of turns being over too soon;of twenty years olds and five year olds, of newborns and the unborn not getting long enough turns or no turns at all. But in all that we should constantly remind ourselves to step up and take each turn and give it all we can so that when our turns are over we know the joy and the gift those turns really were.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thank you Tori

I am bursting to write this entry . In fact I was awake before sun up writing it in my head. I am so grateful for the gift of Sunday morning to process and write about the gift I received yesterday. I am probably not the only author who's not overly fond of signings.I compare it to being at a yard sale or flea market with the table filled with items nobody wants or takes the time to look at. Now seriously it isn't that bad. Most people at least make eye contact.At my last signing in Moncton I had cookies and that was a big hit. I remember a few years ago when signing copies of Ten Thousand Truths my table was set up beside a rack of Fifty Shades of Grey. People rushed toward me with excited looks on their faces . One little boy burst through the door with his dad and exclaimed." Mom has that book". For a split second I thought he meant his mother was reading Ten Thousand Truths. NO. So signings can be grueling. They can be as lonely as the life of the May Tag repairman.But usually I have one or two interactions that make it all worth while. Yesterday was such a day. Before I was even given a chair to sit down at the table that was set up for me at Indigo I saw a couple of women hovering near the table.They appeared interested which is always nice." We are waiting for you to sign some books " one of them said as she was joined by her daughter. I immediately recognized a student I had met at Bayside Middle School. She was carrying three of my books.She was also carrying the book report she had written after reading Waiting For Still Water. What a thrill for me to see the enthusiasm on her face and the pride on the faces of her mom and grandmother. Reading had not come easy for Tori. I spent years teaching and mothering kids with learning disabilities that make what seems so effortless to some kids seem like such an impossible hurtle to overcome for them. Tori's mother beamed with pride and joy as she told me her daughter's love for my books and her determination to read them. What more could any mother, teacher and author ask for? I can not even begin to express what interactions like that mean to me. I write for many reasons; because I have to, because I want to, because I have stories to tell, because it brings me such joy. I write for myself first trying to tell a story in the best way I know how. I write to express my feelings and my emotions and am thankful for the opportunity to do so. I am also beyond thankful to be published. I am so grateful to sit at a table and offer six books to any reader willing to open the pages . And I am so blessed every time I hear that one reader was impacted by the words I wrote and the story I told. Tori's mom said that her daughter was reading The Year Mrs. Montague Cried out loud to her which was something she never believed would happen. This morning as I sit in my office and reflect on the upcoming birthday of my firstborn son, the nineteenth birthday we've had to have without him, I take such comfort in knowing his story is being read. My little boy struggled so with reading. I felt so helpless as his mother and as a teacher not being able to take away his feelings of frustration and failure.In the few short minutes that I had with Tori, her mom and grandmother I felt the depth and magnitude of their journey. I felt the deep love of a mother for her child and the huge challenge life sometimes presents. I also felt the joy of simple accomplishments and the reward of fighting the good fight and not letting adversity rule.So now as I attempt to pull myself together and finish this entry on a lighter note I will say this. I would not trade those moments like I had yesterday for all the money made by the author of Fifty Shades of whatever, although it would certainly help to pay for this bathroom renovation. Speaking of which my middle son just arrived to begin crack filling. I have so very much to be thankful for this morning!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Day at Sir James Dunn Academy

Yesterday I traveled to St. Andrews to spend the day with students at Sir James Dunn Academy.Funny story! I wanted to give myself two hours to get there so that I would have time to eat a leisurely breakfast at Tim Hortons in St. Andrews then find the school and get settled before my 8:35 presentation. So I went to bed early the night before setting my alarm clock for 5:30. I got right up, got dressed and ready to go. I went out in the cold and started my vehicle and sat for a few minutes waiting for my delightful seat warmer to kick in. I glanced at the dash and was surprised to see it said 4:55. I checked my watch and realized I was one hour too early. Somehow the time on my bedside table clock had been wrong and my 5:30 wake up had really been 4:30. Back to bed I went but of course I did not fall asleep. I got up at 5:30 and did round two, departing at 5:55. Good travels got me to Tim Horton's with lots of time. And so my day began. My first presentation was to was a great group of grade sevens.I kicked into gear and did my thing and the kids responded generously. A couple of their questions were. " Have you started your next book?" Are your earrings books?" Next I welcomed a group of grade 6 and grade 8 students. They were a bit more animated having woken up and I revved up and delivered a similar presentation. It always does surprise me how each one does take on a flavor of its own. Good thing because Mr. Carey sat in on almost every one of them.Some questions from that crowd were:"What was the favorite part of the first book you wrote?"Do you remember everything you wrote?" I then had a nice long break. A nap would have been nice but I wrote in my 'WRITE'journal and had tea and birthday cake visiting with several friendly staff members Then Mrs. Norman and I enjoyed a meal prepared by the culinary arts students. In the afternoon I presented to a grade nine class first. They were delightful. I made a point of learning all their names first thing and was able to interact with them for a lively and rewarding hour.The kids made random reading requests and I read at least one passage from each of my six books. Jacob asked me to read the Taylor Anne Reading Challenge and I had the kids stand if they had read the book or had it read to them as I went down the list . I was pleased to see that some of my favorites are still being read. Hats off to whoever read 'There's a Girl in the Boy's Bathroom ' to those St. Andrew's kids.After the grade nines took their collective energy out of the room the Grade tens came in. Again I quickly learned their names and gave my all to the hour we had together. Marshall ( can't remember if he was Gr. 9 or 10,sorry Marshall ) was writing pretty much the whole time I talked. I was so pleased he was actually processing my words. I got a kick out of the fact that he wrote that as I talked I branched out in all directions but usually came back to where I started. I do certainly do that and I sometimes wonder if it exhausts the kids as much as it exhausts me. But the kids are always kind and respectful. I looked out at this amazing bunch of kids as they sat taking in every word and responding to my story. Oh I love those magic moments and that is why I take myself away from my warm comfortable home and away from my desk on a writing day to share the gift that writing is for me. Thank you so much Mrs. Norman for inviting me and thank you each and every student and staff member that made me feel so welcome at Sir James Dunn Academy on a sunny November day in beautiful St. Andrews. The widow of Sir James Dunn gifted the town this impressive building and the generations that have filled its halls have and continue to bring that gift to life.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Rest,Regroup, Repeat

I find myself again on another Sunday morning having the same kind of talk to myself I so often have. It is raining steadily and the November sky is grey and dark. Its just the kind of day for staying inside and resting. Last week was a busy one. I only had one day of writing and only that one day at home with no interruptions or obligations. Weeks like that at this point in the game wear me out. I spoke to several teachers yesterday that had just finished writing report cards and I thought back to those hectic demanding days and must say I breathed a huge sigh of thankfulness. But with change comes new demands and one must step up to meet them ,then wind down to recover from them.That is what this day looks like for me. In my way I will rest, regroup and repeat. Firstly I make a list of my blessings and my concerns. I look at each (concerns mainly) and decide if I can do anything about them. If not I attempt to let them go. Yesterday on my walk I reminded myself to only carry the burden of one day's worry at a time. This is a very wise approach as so much of what we (me anyway) worry about is not immediate and important at the very time we worry about it. I can't think of the exact quote but the wisdom is don't borrow tomorrow's troubles. I can not remind myself of that one often enough. So today's troubles are few. I have a dry roof over my head.I am warm. I have food to eat. My family is well and several of them will gather at my table for Sunday supper. I feel healthy. I have choice and can let this day be whatever I need it to be. I have people who love me and I love my people. The bathroom renovation I have dreamed of for several years is underway and about half finished. Materials and tools are the mess I walk around and that is a good and hopeful thing. I have another school visit scheduled for Tuesday in St. Andrews which will mean a very early departure. I hope to get my winter tires put on tomorrow and I have two days at home before I have to put my energies and emotions into what I expect will be another rewarding and exhausting experience as an author.Looking only that far ahead I return to the gift of this day and tackle only the challenges this day gives me. Top of my list will be to get dressed and that does not seem too taxing. Rest, regroup and repeat and in all that be grateful. Seems doable!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Back at Bayside

Yesterday I spent the day in the Bayside Middle School library surrounded by books and 26 very keen, very engaged and very kind kids. I began with getting to know them a little bit first,learning their names. Lots of Rileys and lots of Katelyns made for a few mix ups and I mixed up Chase and Grace a couple of times but for the most part I didn't do too badly. Some of the kids were more vocal than others but each and every one of them brought something to the table. The long tables held copies of four of my books they had read and paper which they so willingly wrote their own thoughts and stories on. It was a magical day. We shut out the grey day outside and the frenzy of activity in the halls beyond the library door and concentrated on reading and writing. The kids shared parts of the books that had touched them and I was thrilled as they read passages I had written. The Sewing Basket group were especially vocal and I was so pleased Ruth's story had impacted them as it did.They asked good questions and made insightful observations. They compared and contrasted the four books and discovered slivers of similarity in them. They discussed the emotions, the conflicts,the settings and the characters in each. They shared their own aspirations and listened to mine.They divulged their writing interests and brought their own personalities and experiences to the paper.We discussed the things that keep us from writing and realized the common threads of being too busy,lacking confidence and doubting our own ideas that all writers no matter what age experience. I was completely exhausted, but hugely rewarded and encouraged as I left the building and waited in my car for the long row of buses holding our future to leave so I could go home. What a gift for a writer and former teacher the day was! Thank you Mr. Laskey and thank you Riley, Rylee, Jeana,Hannah, Sara, Madison, Lydia,Savannah Kate, Taylor,Jackson, Brady, Luke,Mathieu, Kaitlyn, Kaitlyn,Megan,Katelyn Valerie,Chase,Mackenzie,Riley,Reece, Hadyn, Lily, Grace.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Silent Song

On my drive home yesterday after the annual shopping trip Ashlie and I take with Brianne, her Mom, sisters, aunts and cousins I did a draft of this entry in my mind and it seems I have a lot to say. First of all we have been doing this trip long enough to have accumulated a lot of memories and stories. We used to go to Bangor and have now for several reasons gone to Moncton instead. Lots of laughs , lots of shopping , memorable meals and a connection that increases every year. More than anything our trip builds a bond of love and support that is worth so much more than the purchases we take from our bags for our Saturday night post shopping Show and Tell.Another year and another great trip. Yesterday as the others broke off to do more shopping I went to visit my dear Aunt Lois. She is in a lovely care home and every time I visit her I am more impressed by the staff and comfortable caring home they provide. If someday I find myself unable to be in my own home I wish for a home like Serenacare on Briarlea. My beloved aunt is in the final stages of Altzheimers. She now spends most of her days asleep and unresponsive. When I arrived I was led to a lovely little sitting room where she was nestled comfortably into a comfy chair. She was looking beautiful , her snow white hair styled , her alabaster skin with just a hint of blush, her black turtleneck and red fleece vest was topped off with a lovely necklace. She was covered with a warm cozy blanket and her head tilted comfortably resting on a neck pillow. She looked beautiful to me and I was so thankful for the obvious care she'd been given. I knelt beside her chair and spoke to her telling her only half of what my bursting heart was feeling. I touched her cheek, her soft hair and I cried . I thought of so many things , so many memories, so many years of sitting in the presence of my aunt , my mom and their two other sisters bearing witness to the love they held for each other. I looked at the piano across the room from my silent aunt.My cousins gifted the piano to the home in memory of their dad my beloved Uncle Bernie who left us around this time last year.I thought of the part music played in my aunts and my Mom's life. They sang in church, played the piano publicly and daily for their own pleasure. I could almost hear my aunt's voice and Mom's voice joining hers as I sat in silence, the only sound being the shallow breathing of the woman I love so deeply. I could hear her loving words, her genuine interest in every aspect of my life. I could hear her comforting words as she came through my door the day Zac died.I heard the lines of the theme from Romeo and Juliet that she sang at my wedding.I remembered when that voice faltered as she kept playing unable to sing caught up in the emotion. The songs of her life were always songs of love and caring and of a faith so strong and constant. My silent aunt and my silent mom gone before they leave us but present in my very being which gives me the assurance that they will never be gone and their song will never be completely silent. My cousin Joy when visiting her mom these days sits at the piano and plays and Lois opens her eyes and her mouth and sings in her weak and wobbly voice. I did not attempt to play but heard her voice in my heart. A time for us, someday there'll be. A new world, a world of shining hope for you and me.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Love the Life You're in

Twenty seven years ago I was patiently waiting for my fourth child to be born.I had stopped teaching right after Thanksgiving as being on my feet and trudging up the stairs to my classroom was more than my girth would allow. The baby boy I would deliver on Nov 6th weighing in at 10 lbs 8oz was the reason for my discomfort in those last few weeks. He was welcomed and immediately loved by his two big brothers and one big sister. His nicknames of Cale-man ,Caveman and Bo Hunk were quickly given him and he took his place in our family. He now gets the name of The Farmer. We love our boy and all he's brought to our family (top of the list being Ashlie whom we love like a daughter)Yesterday I was privileged with a group of other writers as part of the WFNB WordsFall event to visit Beth Powning. What a wonderful gift that was. She welcomed us warmly to her home , to her writing garret and to her wealth of wisdom and experience. She and her husband Peter settled into their home and property in the early seventies and every nook and cranny of their old farmhouse speaks to their creativity and the beauty of the life they have lived within its walls and in the fields and woods of their property. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with her.Coming back home last night I digested all that I saw and felt in Beth's home and in hearing her story.I thought back to the old farmhouse Burton and I looked at in Wickham when Zac was just a baby. We had dreams of buying an old farm and making it our own. I remember the summer kitchen and back porch attached to the house and Beth's house reminded me of that . I have often thought how different our life would have been had we been able to purchase that house in Wickham. Instead we redirected our dream to the piece of land Burton's father had given him years before. There was no house on the property and we needed to see a vision and wait for the resources to build a home and a life on that land. I went off to St. Thomas with a nine month old in tow and got my Bachelor of Education. We returned to the peninsula and rented for a few months while I started teaching and we began building a small shed on our property. We moved in with a two year old Zac. Meg came shortly afterwards and we realized the shed was too small and a bit too pioneer-like so we bought a trailer. For five years we lived in that trailer while building our cordwood home. Lots of stories there for another time. Fast forward to today and to my thoughts on my drive home.One can always look at another person's life, another person's home, and another person's achievements and feel discontent with your own. The choice is allowing that to diminish your own or instead to take that comparison and let it shine the light on your own blessings. I believe cleaning and attending to your home is a form of worship. Today I will mindfully worship my home and my property trying hard to see its beauty and its worth, not its flaws and shortcomings. The life I have been given has brought me right to this day. I will clean and make brown bread rolls to accompany the chili Ashlie will bring for our Sunday supper. I will walk the wood road to the top of the hill and deeply feel the amazement of my people , place and purpose.I will not covet, but celebrate and worship and take strength from that choice.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

In Love Again

No my entry is not announcing a new relationship or the renewal of my old one . It is celebrating my joy in realizing as I write today that I am hooked on the book I'm writing. I am in love again. I often get asked which of my books is my favorite. There is no one answer to that but one thing I've noticed is that as I start a new piece of work I am always filled with doubt and skepticism. I don't always love it right away. Today 62 pages into the work that I started at the end of August I feel an attraction and a connection to it. It has a long way to go and many changes and revisions will take place but I care about it. This morning I finished reading the manuscript that I will soon begin the editing process to get it ready for a spring release. I cried and felt the deep hold it has on me. I believe in it and am ready for the next step to get it ready for a reader. My current work is in such beginning stages that I have not been sure of its value. As I work this afternoon pounding and sawing is my background noise. My friend Skip and his brother Tim are working away at our bathroom renovations. They are putting in a new window today and I am thrilled about that. I began with a vision , a hope of renewal for a dated somewhat moldy bathroom. The plan saw the demolition taking it right down to the bare bones. Walls will be re-located, all new fixtures and a walk in shower stall will be created. I see the vision and despite the inconvenience and annoyance of being without a tub and shower I am so excited for the outcome. It seems to me that is similar to the arch of creating a new book. Hard to let go of what was done in the past, hard to let the doubt and fear and worry go , hard to hang on to the vision but all so worth it. Nothing is free or easy or without effort.Every little step is meaningful and contributes to the beauty of the end product.I will post finished bathroom pictures(hopefully before Christmas)

Monday, October 30, 2017

And it's Monday Again

I debated with myself as to whether or not to write this entry. I will write it and then decide if I post it or not. The debate comes from the feeling that I sometimes get that I should be fine, I should not be dwelling on it. I have been told this over the years and I understand the people's good intentions to tell me that but I feel the way I feel which leads me to believe that others probably do too. Loss is a fact of life and I understand that very well. The measuring or comparing of loss is sometimes used to help put things in perspective and I get that too. But the daily living with and processing of emotion and all the things that come from loss is a reality and I think talking about it is better than pretending it doesn't exist. I lost my son 18 and a half years ago. I can clearly see healing and progress in dealing with the challenges a loss brings but I know the truth of it. Yesterday I gave a lot of thought to what Sunday mornings are for me. I calculated that since Zac died I have had 960 Sunday mornings.That also means I have had a lot of Saturday nights . For the first couple of years I woke up at 3:00 almost every night. It was 3:00 when we got the call that Zac had been in an accident. Oddly enough during Zac's first year and for a few months beyond he woke at 3:00 almost every night to be fed and snuggled before returning to his crib. So there is that. I have worked through the emotion of that but my fear and anxiety around Saturday nights continues and the weariness and defeated feeling I face on Sunday mornings has not gone away either. I recognize it and I give myself permission to feel it,ride it out and rally from it. Possibly another approach might be better but I haven't found it. Some might say get yourself to church or get out and help others. Some might say a lot of things but what I am saying by sharing this entry is that people struggle. You might look and say things like " it's been eighteen years' or whatever else we say to assure ourselves that people are all right. The truth of it is each person has their triggers, their struggles and the times that are more difficult and they have their own ways of getting up each day and putting their feet on the floor. Each of us puts on a good face but the obstacles we face don't go away.But the next day comes and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.I am so thankful for wood road walks ,for Sunday suppers with my loved ones, for tears and laughter and for Mondays.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What 82 Moms Means to Me

I do not have time to write this entry. I am sure I could find a few more dusty surfaces, a dead fly of two to sweep up or some clutter to relocate but I am done. I will put the finger foods in the oven in twelve minutes then put the kettle on. My dear friends who have become the 82 Moms group that meet once a month will be arriving shortly after that . I said to Burton yesterday "Why do I put myself through this?" he wisely observed that I do this so that I can go to their homes (and eat all afternoon) for the other months of the year. There is something to that but having the 82 Moms in my life is so much more.I know that when it comes our turn we all clean and cook and try to plan a menu that will measure up to the food the others served. We do put our best foot forward but we also know that despite our frenzy of preparation our friends are not coming to inspect our houses or criticize our cooking.They come to catch up , to laugh and to sometimes cry. They come to hear of the joys, the sorrows ,the struggles and the victories. We tell of weddings and births, of sickness and loss. We hold each other up and expect to be held.We eat and celebrate another month in the lives we have been given. We all had babies in 1982. 1982 seems a lifetime ago and oh the changes we have all seen. But we gather together with a year in common and oh so much more.What a wonderful gift and well worth the effort it takes to welcome them in to my dusty and imperfect home. And for those of you that read my last blog entry, Burton scrubbed the back veranda this morning on his hands and knees. I love that man!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Talking Turkey

I am feeling much more generous, calmer and more forgiving and probably in a better frame of mind to talk turkey than I would have been when I got home after dark last night.I have just returned from a very good market day . The sun is shining brightly and I feel an optimism that had completely escaped me when I got home last night to our bevy of Christmas turkeys hunkered down in a huddle at my back door on my back veranda. By the way with a bevy of turkeys comes a massive amount of poop. A minefield of poop really in all descriptions from runny to solid lumps. Not a very nice topic and not a very nice thing to come home to.Turkeys are challenging to get in at night. Burton makes the constant strong argument that free range need to be FREE range and so they spend their days meandering wherever they want to go. To put them in for the night you have to start rounding them up at just the right time;not too dark, not too early when they have no intention of going to bed. ( this somewhat reminds me of getting kids to bed) You have to begin to round them up trying to keep them together, but invariably one of two fly off in the wrong direction tempting others to follow. You keep at it with the goal of getting them to move in a crowd as the momentum improves if they are herded closely together and move as one. Once you get them across the driveway it seems they get the message that it is bedtime. Usually with a few gentle reminders as you move the broom from side to side as they keep moving until you get them close to the shed and they file in. This method does not work at all if you wait too long and they have already decided they are having a sleepover on the back veranda. They don't understand that that is not a good idea or healthy for at least one or two of them which will probably become a midnight snack for a fox, a raccoon or a coyote that under the cover of darkness has no trouble coming in for the challenge and the reward.I did my best to attempt a round up but was only successful at herding them off the veranda and down in front of the basement door. I could not see any hope of getting them all the way across the yard and into their shed. I do not pick birds up. I do a lot of things but that has never been one of them. I came in very pissed off by the poop and very concerned that we would have fewer Christmas turkeys freely roaming in the morning.Sometime later after I was in bed Caleb came and heroically relocated the birds (by moving them individually I expect) and I haven't counted them since I got home but I think they are all accounted for. So now after a morning of selling books,seeing friends and neighbors and meeting new people I am venting in this manner. I just ate a delicious lunch of Massaman curry from a wonderful Thai vendor at the market. I will go tackle (scrape) the poop off the back veranda. Last night I was not sure I could live with such conditions. It hadn't helped that my absent husband had left his lunch mess in the pantry. Things are usually better the next day and I am glad we can't instantly file for divorce and end a forty year marriage in a moment of anger and frustration. Good thing I might add.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another Sunday Morning

I am so thankful for Sunday mornings. I am weary this morning and actually slept in longer than I normally do. The sky is overcast but the air is warm. It looks like fall for sure and I have not rallied yet to tackle the day. I am pensive and somewhat melancholy and will take my time. I will start with this entry and go from there. First of all Sunday mornings are a time for thankfulness. I went to bed with thoughts of Caleb and Ashlie returning from a wedding in Fredericton and Meg and Cody in Jasper for a friend's funeral. Their friend was a victim of the horrendous massacre in Las Vegas. How to even get my head around that is more than I can do but I mourn with the girl's dad who yesterday buried his second child. My heart breaks for him. Caleb and Ashlie got home safely and for that I am so thankful. Another week begins and challenges lie ahead.I remember in the first few years of finding my way through grief I called these mornings my Sunday mournings. I usually listened to music, had a long bath and cried a lot of tears.Sunday morning remains a quiet, reflective time and I am so grateful for what this time provides. I regroup and draw on my reserves of strength to fit me for the week ahead.Sometimes I truly don't know where the next bit of energy or optimism is coming from. I sometimes during this time want to crawl back into to bed and escape the rest of the day. I seldom do and for that I am thankful. I usually hop to the rest of the day, accomplish a few things and prepare a Sunday supper for my loved ones. I love the trajectory this day offers when I take a few minutes or a couple of hours to just be in my weariness.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Oh So Thankful

I have been away. Away from my home and away from my computer. A week ago Sunday I flew to Meg's to surprise Paige for her birthday.I pulled it off and the girls were happy to see their Monkey. On Monday I did an author visit at their school and it was wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me how receptive kids are to my story and my journey to become an author. I spent the week just enjoying the company of Meg .Cody, Emma and Paige. Had some good food , some laughs, hugs and snuggles and left in time to get back for the market on Saturday. Despite my fatigue from an early morning arrival and operating on four hours of sleep I had a good market morning and received what I always receive when new and old readers gather at my table. The next day we drove to Kings Landing for our thirty first Thanksgiving meal at the Kings Head. It was wet and by the time we walked in we were drenched. It was such a welcome rain though so we tried not to complain too much. Yesterday I cooked our turkey dinner and pretty much everything that was presented was grown or raised on our farm. I love that feeling and am so thankful for the bounty. Burton and I took advantage of the warm afternoon and took a plunge in the lake. It was a quick and cold dip without the ceremony of my last swim on September 28th. We can say however that we swam on Thanksgiving Monday. Before I left I took my hard drive to Hampton for a cleaning and this morning I drove up and got it. So now I am back home and back on the computer and back on track looking ahead to writing days in October. The foliage is stunning. There are a few puddles and rain has soaked into the parched land.Some renovations are pending and I see some busy times ahead. So very much to be thankful for!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

One Lone Sunflower and lots of Morning Glories

September is winding down.I was in the lake two days ago and it may have been the last time. I will see what the afternoon temperature gets up to as my rule is 20 degrees and above I get in the lake.Our weather has been so warm which makes hanging on to summer easier. My pickles are made. Some beets are pickled. My grapes are picked and jelly made. The girls have been gone for as many weeks as they were here. I am back to my writing and pleased and somewhat puzzled with where my new work is leading me. Every morning I step out the door still remembering and feeling summer.I have one lone sunflower that survived the trampling of our two big pigs. Its sunny face stands bravely not as tall as the sunflowers of other years and not flanked by the long row of others.That one sunflower speaks loudly to me of tenacity and the beauty of one.I planted morning glories to vine around the wire frame that fits over the well head. The long hot summer kept the growth of the vines slow and sparse.Now with heat in the day and cooler mist at night and early morning they are catching up and offering a plethora of blooms. At first one blossom a day , then two and today several circle the base of the trellis. I look forward to going out for the next few mornings to see the magnificent glory of their fragile beauty. The center looks like the sun itself . Oh what a gift as the leaves change color and the lake gets closer to becoming another summer's memory. Accomplishments , failures, joys and disappointments. Pleasures and regrets. Goals for another day and confidence in what can be. My lone sunflower and each morning glory offers that to me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When Glory is Fleeting

Why bother? I showed a friend the other day the photograph I had taken an hour or so earlier of a beautiful blue Morning Glory I had just happened to notice seconds before I got in my car to drive to pick her up so we could go on our weekly swimming,lunch and errand outing. She commented on the beauty of the blossom and asked about where I had them,how many I'd planted,and how long they stayed in bloom. I said the two blossoms I'd seen this morning might be the only ones I would get and that they don't last very long. Why bother? she asked. I answered "Just because they are beautiful." When I got home that day the two blossoms I had photographed were gone, closed up and done. The beautiful morning glories had had their glory for just one morning. Today I took pictures of two more. They were just as breathtaking and I paid very close attention to each aspect of the gorgeous blossoms, the leaves around them and the glory they presently put forth. When I got home two hours later they were both gone, not closed up as the last time, but one broken away lying limp and shriveled on the ground, the other stripped bare with only the stamen and one small sliver of petal left on the vine. Glory so fleeting and almost missed had I not happened upon them exactly when I did.That entire concept leaves me in awe and brings tears to my eyes. Why bother? Why love and put energy into the beautiful and meaningful treasures life gives us? Why let yourself feel the awe of the amazing when they die, they fade, they disappear? Why bother? Oh, not to bother would be the bigger tragedy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dealing With Discontent

Yesterday my friend Kathy and I went to look at the Hospital lottery house. I found myself during my typical wakeful hours in the middle of the night imagining myself living there. This morning I attempt to put some feelings of discontent to rest by thinking of the story my mother used to tell me about the house with the golden windows. The moral of that story was to appreciate what you have instead of looking at what others have wishing it was yours. I am not a little girl wishing I lived in the big house on the far hill with the golden windows but that doesn't keep me from sometimes looking at a life different than my own and dropping myself into that reality. I can imagine walking out of my master bedroom to the back deck and pool. I can imagine sitting in my impressive office writing. I can see my friends and family sitting around the granite half moon end of the kitchen island. In all that dreaming I push myself back to the reality and to the beauty of my own golden windows (even if most of them need replacing) I am approaching a major bathroom renovation and at this point have a picture and two facecloths that are leading my vision. I am afraid to demolish , to create chaos , to become vulnerable. But I keep reminding myself of the suffering and loss that millions of people around the world are experiencing due to flood, fire, earthquake, hurricanes and war. How can I not fully embrace my house and see the beauty it holds? Buy the ticket , dream the dream but get on with the life I have been blessed with.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Back to School

Yesterday and today I spent a fair amount of time on Facebook scrolling down looking at back to school pictures. I love them . I love the excitement on the kids faces or in some cases the indifference. Usually they stand in new outfits with back packs over their shoulders. Some photos show the walk to the bus or the stepping out of the bus door. Lots of kids are holding signs announcing their grade placement. Some fancier signs give all the data. Age 5 , Kindergarten, what I want to be when I grow up. Pictures of celebration and pictures of acknowledgement of just how quickly kids grow up. I used to say to my kids that I was going to put a brick on their heads to keep them from growing. I remember wishing I could freeze an age or a stage or a phase, a moment in time or the way our family was at a certain time. Oh how very futile that thought is. We want what we can never have and couldn't have from the moment our children entered the world.Our kids grow and change. We have our kids as long as we have them and can do nothing but accept the hard truth of that. I of course see this in the awful reality of having lost my oldest boy when he was twenty. I think of sweet Ava and sweet Frankie who are gone so soon. There is deep sorrow in the loss of a child. I find myself so often feeling the need to preach to parents to pay attention, to cherish the moment. I restrain myself because like so many other truths it is not up to me to make sure people know them. The truth of the ebb and flow of life , the rapid passing of years, the ups and downs of loving and the challenges of living our lives is not my truth to tell but belongs to us all. Each back to school photograph tells that truth loud and clear. When I sign a copy of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried I write' Always tell your own story". That is the thing, we all have our own story to tell. The moments are packed and precious and each day holds a piece of that epic story.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Floods , Fraility and Fatigue

To be very clear I am not feeling sorry for myself in this entry. I realize the weariness and heaviness I feel this morning is nothing compared to what thousands of people are dealing with in Texas and hundreds of thousands in India. But I am weary this morning and somehow feel the need to give voice to that. It is the long Labour Day weekend. We have had a taste of the cool temperatures to come. We've had the furnace going for the last two nights and I have not been in the lake since Monday. Monday afternoon I went for a delightful swim with a friend and then we sat on the shore for two hours enjoying the wonderful gift of conversation. Time in no way wasted when two friends catch up discussing a hundred things and feeling the deep connection of experience and caring. The rest of the week unfolded dishing out moments of obligation and duty, sharing and giving and being there as best I could for friends and family. On this day that approaches my parents 69 wedding anniversary I am burdened with the challenges that lie ahead for them. I wish I had the ability to make the impact of physical and cognitive impairment easier for them as they face the changes that are sure to come. One day at a time is the wisdom I am holding on to this morning. One days gifts and one days burdens. One days worries and one days blessings. Put your feet on the floor and be what you are called to be. Give what you can and take what you are given from those who are walking their own paths. You will get back in your lake and you will again feel the lifting of fatigue and feel flickers of hope and optimism .

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Whispering Hope

Thank you Audrey. The words and melody of the hymn Whispering Hope resonates in my mind this morning. In the night I gave thought to the words I might write today but opening Facebook this morning my heart lurches toward the sorrow of another family facing loss. The loss the Short family of Port Aux Basques,NFLD is feeling this morning is deep and debilitating and beyond understanding. I met Stacey and Lew two years ago and got to meet their beautiful Ava. At that time they were perplexed with the frequency of seizures that had started in their healthy oldest granddaughter. They had been told she had epilepsy and were doing their best to deal with what that would mean. Shortly after the diagnosis changed and they were told Ava had Batten Disease. They knew nothing about that disease but as they learned about it they quickly realized the nightmare that was to come. Many hospital trips and many life changing setbacks had just begun. As a family they faced each one with as much courage as they could muster and always with strong, determined love and loyalty. Ava had a little sister and another one soon to be born and her Mom faced all Ava's disease threw at them while still mothering her younger daughter and new baby. They gave Ava every fiber of their being as she fought bravely. Last night Ava's brave fight was over. Her little body succumbed to the horrors of the disease and her beautiful smile was extinguished. At Audrey's funeral yesterday I heard and witnessed tributes to her beautiful smile and loving presence for almost 93 years on this earth. How are we to understand why one smile lasts 93 years and one only 6 short ones? There is no understanding and only the whisper of hope in such sorrow.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Breakfast at the Cottage

What a glorious morning it is. I took my coffee to the front veranda(the cottage) and had a few minutes of amazing reflection and bliss. Our big old drooling , sneezing, begging dog joined me trying very hard to step on my feet. I quickly wrote my journal entry and took in the sights , the feel of the day and the quiet beauty. One more week of summer holidays. I realize I could go back to work anytime I wanted to. The rigid schedule I lived by for twenty nine years is now fluid and flexible but I use the margins of it to organize myself to the discipline of writing. I am very excited to get back to work but somewhat nervous about the challenge. I think back to the beginning of the six books I have published. The beginnings were as unsure as the work I hope to start next week. Some small seed of an idea started the process of finding story , character and letting the writing swell as I sat each day allowing it to unfold. I love the process and trust it more than I did at first but still feel the fear and doubt . This is much like the trepidation I felt preparing my classroom , looking at my class list and undertaking the challenges each school year brought. The challenges, the rewards and the joy of the job. The whole jumble once the door opened and the kids came in. So a few solitary moments at the cottage helps to prepare me for all that getting back to my office will bring. I can not even begin to say how very thankful I am for the opportunity to be there.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Two Weeks From Today

This morning I took my coffee and journal out to the back veranda and took in the beauty of the sights and sounds around me. The sun was strong burning off the thick morning dew . I could feel a trace of fall in the air while at the same time feeling the beauty of summer. As a teacher I would already be feeling the tug of the school year coming and feel the need to hang on tightly to the last few days of summer holiday. I know my daughter in law feels that same tug. The tug is different for me these days. In two weeks I will return to my office and to the work I have been given the chance and privilege to do since giving up the work I loved for almost thirty years. I now am happy to let someone else welcome the Grade Four students when school starts up again. I will be busy writing books. I will begin writing my eleventh book. Six have been published ,one awaits publication in the spring and three sit on the back burner waiting. Someone at the market on Saturday said I will need a bigger table soon. I am happy that I still sell all six regularly although Meg would say The Sewing Basket doesn't get its fair share of recognition. I will squeeze as many books in as I can and be thrilled as each one arrives. For now I look forward to two weeks from today when I will say goodbye to my summer routine and welcome my writing routine again for another year. Today I have a plethora of peas and beans to pick and some weeds to pull. I have a lake to visit a couple of times and I look forward to attending Charlotte's Tea with my sister in law and friends this evening. Oh the joys of summer and the anticipation of fall. Kathy Thornhill's beautiful hooked masterpieces hang on the wall beside my table and I love that the one with an open book and pile of books is in full view.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Weekend After

This house is so quiet. I put the girls rooms back to rights and packed away all their treasures the day after they left. I have taken it fairly easy all week trying to get my energy level back. I was able to come and go as I pleased , nap when I felt like it and watch whatever I wanted on TV. Life is back to normal and we miss those little girls like crazy. They were happy to be back home and it is of course as it should be but thinking that we won't have them running around again until next summer is not easy. Every summer brings new joys and changes. Again this summer I see the results of my futile attempt to keep all the weeds from our massive garden. In reality it would probably take five full time employees to keep it weed free and we are managing with two part time ones. At this point in August the picking of peas and beans takes priority and I couldn't possibly catch up with the weeding. I vow once more to go smaller next year. Last year I kept a close eye on the growth of my sunflowers. That has not been a focus this year and sadly the last few standing have been knocked over by our beautiful big brown pig who breaks out once in awhile looking for love. There is always next year. Perhaps that is the best lesson gardening gives us. In fourteen days I will return to my office. I am quite sure what I will begin to write but won't know for certain until I actually sit at the keyboard and see what takes over. The gifts the summer gives us , the bounty the garden brings and the joys of writing are unpredictable, changing and variable but the blessings of season have a constant that give us the assurance to believe in " maybe next year". For that I am so thankful.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Don't Even Talk About It

"Don't Even Talk about it!" is what Paige has been saying for the last week or so whenever the topic of leaving has been mentioned. Transitions, change, goodbyes are so difficult. But all good things , all things come to an end. This morning the house is quiet because the girls had a sleepover at Aunt Bri's and Uncle Chapin's. That means of course that I will not hear their footsteps and their morning greetings again until next year. We will coax them from their beds in the early morning hours tomorrow and put them in the car to drive to the airport for an early flight. I am sad and don't want to talk about it but here I am writing about it. The morning air held the promise of fall and I am anxious to return to work but how can summer and our time with the girls be ending? I know just how quickly weeks, months and seasons pass so it should not surprise me that we have come so quickly to this day. I will begin the packing and the process of letting them go. They live in Alberta and I must come to terms with that. I will, but my heart will break seeing them walk through security. We try hard not to have long, emotional goodbyes but the emotion sits under the surface . I know these weeks have mattered more than we can even imagine. Our girls know us so well and have added to their repertoire of data that can be brought up quickly and at anytime when they need their grandparents and need to know just how much we adore them. We have had so many laughs, so many moments and distance can not take that from us. Ok,so on this beautiful New Brunswick day I will get them ready to go back to Alberta but I know New Brunswick goes back with them and the summer of 2017 was worth every single minute, every challenge ,and every bit of what we all offered to it.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

With Each Jump in the Lake

Five more sleeps. How very quickly six weeks goes by. July has passed and the beginning days of August are the wind down days of the time of Summer 2017 spent with our granddaughters. With each jump in the lake the time to say goodbye gets closer . I will swim after they go home as long into the fall as I can and each time I will see in my mind Paige swimming vigorously out to the raft, her blonde hair and the collar of her red and blue life jacket sticking above the rippling water. I will see Emma swimming closely behind her and triumphantly reaching the raft and taking an exuberant jump into the deep water. Each drive down and back will hold the echoes of the conversations and the beauty of the chance to hit the lake one more time. I heard a woman on CBC today talking about the wonderful healing power of water and swimming. She said that water has the power to take our feelings whatever they are and give us back only good ones as we leave it. I have known this for a very long time. I have taken the gift of healing the Walton Lake gives me season after season and do not take for granted any of its power. I believe that as the girls leave us they take a part of that gift as well. The memories of getting to its shore,of running and jumping in and of allowing the water to connect us are deeply cemented in their minds and will hold a lasting place in their memories with us.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When I'm at the Cottage

I love the months of summer. I love all the seasons and everything they bring but I love that summer transforms my house into a cottage. For moments of each beautiful summer day I see my home as my cottage. I stop a bit from my busyness and pretend I'm at the cottage. I take my lunch out to the front veranda and take in the beauty surrounding me. I stop and just enjoy the peace and quiet of my summer retreat. I swim in the beautiful Walton Lake and hang our bathing suits and towels on the line. The back veranda is covered with sand and water shoes and life jackets hanging from hooks on the wall. For brief moments my year round home holds all the charm of a treasured cottage. I try to go to the cottage at least once a day. I stop worrying about the dust, the dirty floors, the dishes in the sink and go to the cottage where none of that matters. I stop fretting about the weeds in the ridiculously huge garden and sit in the lounging chair, on vacation. I go to the cottage and just sit and enjoy while at the same time anticipate getting back to my office. I have two story lines percolating in my head and we shall see which one takes over when I get back to work. Oh the joys of summer and time at the cottage.And the best thing about my house also being my cottage is;there is only one tax bill.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Our Granddaughters are our Garden

We are almost done week number four. We have had a lot of fun, some fights, pretty good bedtimes and I have heard "Monkey!" thousands of times. This summer of 2017 has held its share of wonderful memories and monumental moments. Emma has learned how to ride a bike without training wheels and has gone from a smaller one to the bigger one I bought for them . She has continued to be a stronger more confident swimmer and is growing like a weed. Paige has gone from standing reluctantly on the shore of the lake watching us swim to being the first one in the water, swimming(with her life jacket) all the way to the raft. She has almost mustered enough courage to jump off instead of lowering herself into the deep water from the ladder. She is still using training wheels on her small bike. We shall see if she makes the transition from life jacket and training wheels before her time here is over. Grampy continues to be in charge of the laughter, the one who hollers the loudest and can quickly bring Emma out of an episode. He can scare the life out of us all and he is the one who loads us up for a late night swim under starry skies. He is the keeper of fun and the one who constantly reminds me nothing else is as important as the time we are spending with our granddaughters. Our huge garden is getting some attention but the garden we are tending to this summer is the garden of granddaughters. We watch it grow and blossom and it fills our hearts with joy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Don't Stop

I have not written an entry since the day we were expecting the girls. Almost two busy weeks have gone by. The highlight so far has been our trip to NS. We traveled to River John for the grand opening of Mabel Murple's Book Shoppe and Dreamery. Sheree Fitch and her husband Gilles Plante welcomed about six hundred people to their magical property. It was a beautiful day and it was a pleasure to be part of the celebrations. We returned the next day to a quieter book shoppe and a chance to actually talk and get a hug from Sheree. I also got to meet author book store employee Linda Little and had a lovely chat with her. We will be back !Yesterday as on most Saturdays I stood behind my table at the Kingston Farmers Market. This year I have six books displayed and am happy to meet people and talk about my books and writing. Every week I get small gifts of interaction and yesterday was no exception. The crowd always holds a mix of locals, devoted readers and complete strangers from far and wide. Last week a family who lives and works in Qatar and summers in New Brunswick visited my table again for the latest book having purchased and enjoyed books from past summer visits. Their enthusiasm to see my new book on the table was wonderful. On that same day a man stopped and told me he has read Ten Thousand Truths at least five times and takes it annually on the cruises he takes in the winter. He eagerly bought Waiting For Still Water so he could spend more time with Rachel, Amelia, Zac , Jodie , Raymond and return to the farm on Walton Lake Road. Buyers like that warm my heart and make the quiet and slow first hours on market morning well worth it. Yesterday I had a couple more such interactions. A woman approached and said her aunt was in waiting for her breakfast but would be coming to my table shortly in anticipation of my new book. Susan appeared a while later and was as excited as her niece predicted. Her husband accompanied her and admitted he was as big a fan as she was. After buying two books he said just before leaving. " Don't stop". What a lovely thing to say to a writer. Don't worry I don't plan on stopping and after this summer hiatus will eagerly get back to my office. Oh how very thankful I am for it all. So for now it is granddaughters, garden, swimming and road trips, market Saturdays and all the gifts of summer.All the joys of summer that prepare me for the wonderful privilege of returning to my writing in the fall.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Beautiful but Not Perfect

I had a few minutes of pure bliss standing in my backyard early this morning. The freshly mowed grass was glistening with dew . The rooster was crowing with the beautiful blue sky and white clouds in the expansive sky above. The buildings , the green, dots of color and the peaceful feeling filled me with a sense of beauty. This place and all of the physical features of this place are here because we worked to put them here but the real essence of this place has nothing to do with our efforts and is the true beauty I feel standing there. At each glance I can find imperfection. I see grass that still needs mowed, rows that need weeds pulled, buildings in need of repairs, projects that failed or are undone. So much imperfection among such beauty. The choice to make in those quiet moments and in life itself is which to focus on. In our relationships, our families, the work we do and the pleasures we pursue we are called to make that same decision. Do we look for perfection and miss the beauty in our quest? A balance must be found that has us doing our best but accepting the flaws. Take the moments of beauty and truly see them. That is my goal.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bounce

This morning I am a jumble of weariness, discouragement and sadness. I am attempting to rally. I just got a bit of a pep talk from my daughter . I know that even if every squash plant is devoured by those nasty little black and yellow striped bugs I will be able to buy squash from other more successful( one who uses chemicals) farmers in the fall. I am holding my sweet little grandpuppy anticipating the grandmother duties that will ramp up next week. I vow to not complain while the girls are here. The privilege of having them seems crystal clear after witnessing yesterday the sorrow of grandparents in the throes of despair after loosing their sweet granddaughter. Frankie was given a loving tribute which helps to comfort those grieving but does not lessen the challenge of the days , months and years ahead as they find their way without her. I attended the graduation last night at Hampton High of my final grade four class. I feel overwhelmed by the emotion of that on so many levels. I still contain so much sorrow that Zac never had the opportunity to walk across that stage. I stood before his tree, the oak that was planted in his memory weeks after his death. I cleaned off the dirt that covered his name and briefly stood before it allowing just a small amount of that sorrow to penetrate my thoughts. The puppy's even breathing and warm little body on my lap is a comfort and I try to begin the task of rallying deciding what that rallying will look like. I have known more difficult days. I have faced more challenging hurtles than the ones being presented to me on this June morning. But nevertheless I need to dig a little deeper this morning to tap into the reserves of strength and courage. I pray those reserves become evident to those in need this morning. The valedictorian at last night's graduation referred to those resources as bounce. Today I ask for the ability to bounce . I am thinking the best plan would to be to head for the lake and see if the water will give me the buoyancy and bounce I so require today. And my son just reminded me that last year we ate squash until Easter so I best get out there and pull up my socks.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Go Jump in the Lake

Yesterday was a delightful day. The lake is certainly part of what makes a hot day bearable for me. As usual and for whatever the reasons might be I am planting about one hundred rows of assorted vegetables. Peas seem to be the dominant one this year. I am probably about half done planting the peas which will finish the planting job for me except for some bedding plants in the kitchen garden. I often think as I'm planting the kitchen garden how nice it must be to manage a small plot like that as most normal people do. Something propels me to optimistically drop seeds in a hundred rows believing I can maintain such an endeavor. Blind and misguided optimism which is of course what takes me to the keyboard. That being said I love the side benefit of tedious, hard work for getting my mind geared up for my next novel. Yesterday I jotted half a page of notes for a possible start in the fall. Dropping seeds with hope for harvest. I do sometimes wonder what I would do to fill my days if I didn't have writing and gardening. But the lake makes it possible. Yesterday in the scorching heat I established the plant five rows and go for a swim rule. I couldn't help but reflect on the gift I have of making such rules for myself. I thought of people being made to work in endless heat, dehydrated , undernourished and treated heartlessly. I thought of Nelson Mandela laboring in a rock quarry with no measure of freedom except for what he could muster in his own mind. I do believe in the lessons of hard work. I still, as I bend over the rows, feel the presence of my grandmother and the influence of my grandfather who maintained an impeccable garden year after year. As I bring my little girls home for another summer I hope some of that work ethic rubs off on them. And we always have the lake. How very blessed we are!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Inside and out

I am taking a few minutes to write a quick entry. I am feeling slightly torn between the inside and the outside. Funny how when the outside chores ramp up the inside stuff still needs to get done. Dust balls are billowing along the baseboards and dust is layering on surfaces. I have a huge bag of seeds waiting in the garden shed. They will not plant themselves. Grass grows long in the several sections I attempt to mow throughout the season. The list is long to prepare for the girls although I'm sure they could care less if the items get checked off or not. This feeling of so much to do with so little time feels very familiar . Every year I face the tasks feeling the same doubt that it will all get done. And some of it doesn't. The plan this summer is to replace the railing on the front verandah. It is beyond time for this but we shall see if it gets done. My boys(the carpenters in the family ) are way too busy with their own to-do lists. I decided to go ahead with furnishing the front verandah instead of waiting for the railing to be replaced. I started hunting on kijiji and am thrilled with my finds. Each item I went for is beautiful in its own way. Tables, rockers, chairs and hutches that have previously graced some other space in someone else's home have gathered to bring beauty to my neglected front verandah. I will hang some flower baskets and keep cut flowers on the tables all summer and take pleasure in the simple joys and the tasks that appear on my daily lists. Whether all the jobs get done or not I will take pleasure in the season and the good health that allows me to tackle each job. And the first job this morning will be to vacuum some of those dust balls and then get outside.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Something From Something Pretty Impressive Already

I have written about my son Caleb's undertaking to build something from nothing. I have also written lots about my son Chapin's building accomplishments and almost every day still walk down to marvel at the home he built. This past week has given me with a bit of worry in the back of my brain as my two boys tackle another building project. To be more exact this week they are unbuilding. They are deconstructing a large barn , hauling away the materials and rebuilding at least two if not more structures on the White farm. I think this is pretty impressive. Firstly I have always been impressed with the craftsmanship of barns in the past. Few modern barns can compare to the barns built in the last century. I hope they have taken some before and mid project pictures. I understand that the barn they are tearing down has already been moved and reconstructed once. I can't wait to see what structures they end up with. I am so proud of my boys and the two women who stand behind them. Together I see a future unfolding that will pay witness to a time when craftsmanship and hard work established farms and families. I look forward to being the matriarch in this and watching the years unfold every day, building something more from something pretty impressive already.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Almost Time to Get Outside

I love the rhythm of the seasons I have established since retiring from teaching when the rhythm was set in stone for me. Funny how I've pretty much adapted the same routine but with the gift of flexibility. From the day the teachers go back in late August or early September I go back to my office and follow a dedicated 3-4 day a week schedule of writing. I do allow writing related activities to usurp my writing time occasionally and also allow for family responsibilities, being a daughter of aging parents, a grandmother , wife and mother. Friendship sometimes requires interruptions as well. But I for the most part maintain a writing schedule that winds down at the end of May. Then I get outdoors. Some rainy days get me back inside but as June approaches I look forward to the great outdoors. I will get in the lake soon. I will allow the lake to give me the multitude of gifts it always has. I will swim often and kayak regularly. I plan on treating myself to a new kayak when my royalty cheque arrives this week. And the garden of course. It is time to get into the dirt. Before the girls arrive I plan to have everything planted and up and ready for the weeding and hoeing I so enjoy. I will don my bug suit and be outside. The lawn will be mowed regularly, giving me those wonderful moments of solitude while pushing my mower in circles, letting the noise and predictability allow me to spend time with my thoughts. I will sit on my back veranda and let summer fill me. The plan is to replace the railing on the front veranda and I hope to bring life to it when the railing is finished. The front veranda faces the surprisingly busy Waltons Lake Road. I look forward to choice of veranda, choosing the placement of sun , the desire for quiet privacy with chickens and dogs or active observation of neighbors, the cows in the pasture and lake goers. I have stated many times that our home changes with the seasons. In winter as I step off the veranda into deep snow and snowshoe to the top of the hill along a winding wood road it is a cabin in the woods with all the comforts of wood heat and cosiness. In summer it becomes our lake cottage even though the lake is not right outside the door. The lake defines our days of gardening and spending glorious time with our girls. What happens at the Lake stays at the lake. So today will be my last regular writing day and as we slide into June and into summer, it is time to get outside.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Birds of a Feather

This is a week of author related activities. It has been a busy few weeks of events connected to writing. I launched book six , went on a week long Hackmatack tour, had a WISP visit and did a bit of writing. I started back at the market and each Saturday brought lots of writing talk and lots of book sales. On Wednesday Cathy and I drove to Fredericton for the 2nd annual NB Book Awards. Lots of writers and supporters filled the room at Memorial Hall and celebrated writing and writers in New Brunswick. David Adams Richards in his understated brilliance gave a keynote address that inspired us all. Today I will head to the city and spend the weekend hanging out with writers and those of like minds at the WFNB's WordSpring event. I remember the first time I made myself attend such an event. I was still working hard to convince myself and others that I was a writer. That does become easier with each published book but as a rule we writers are introverted, cautious and full of self doubt. But something propels us to put ourselves onto the page and toss that caution to the wind. We gather to celebrate writing and writers but let's remember to be kind to one another. Let's congratulate award winners and short listed authors but let's make sure we celebrate and support all writers at every stage of the game. As a director on the board of WFNB I am pleased to play my part in that remembering that the real work takes place alone at our keyboards and in our notebooks. Claim your status as a writer, claim the credit your work deserves and claim the opportunity to share that passion with others.