Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Thank you John Candy

So I am wallowing a bit in self pity today. For the last few weeks as I walked I considered the scenarios surrounding the 2nd annual NB Book Awards. Scenario # 1 not being short listed #2 not being short listed but Riel being short listed #3 being short listed along with Riel #4 being short listed with out Riel. I talked myself through each of the scenarios. This morning I was presented with scenario # 2 Admittedly I ranted a little bit, might have sworn a bit and possibly vented a bit to Burton. OK so now to put the things I said to myself when I imagined # 2 to work. I begin with the words of John Candy from Cool Runnings delivered to the Jamaican Bobsled team the night before their medal race. Not word for word but what he said was 'you are who you are with or without the gold medal'. Good advice and very true but when you find yourself standing on the podium with the silver or bronze or not making the podium at all you really have to work hard to remember the truth of that. I like where I am in my writing career. I await my sixth published book and am proud of the work that went into it. I still feel a deep pride in the achievement of writing The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I constantly get messages from people about the impact of that book. I am not going to list my accomplishments. I am who I am without any of it. As most authors and most if not all people in general, I second guess myself. I question my self worth and doubt my abilities. I listened to a long loving tribute yesterday from Shelagh Rogers to Richard Wagamese and he deeply struggled with self doubt. After a childhood shuttled in and out of at least fifteen foster homes he battled a deep feeling of unworthiness. I came from a home of love and even though I sometimes felt I disappointed my parents and didn't always choose the path they wanted me to take I knew unconditional love. So shake it off , and get on with it. Shake the hands of the shortlisted authors and let John Candy's words push out all the rest. Oh and Tessa just had her calf!!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Gift of Gab

My mother is 88 years old. I am thankful to still have her. She is physically well and still always looks like a million dollars. Mom and Dad spend the winter in Florida and will be coming home soon. Mom's sisters have all suffered some form of dementia but the type Mom has is possibly the cruelest. Mom has Primary Progressive Aphasia. She can no longer process speech. Now anyone that knows my mom knows she loves to talk. She is very outgoing and social. I always hated her dragging me around the room to meet everyone and she would quickly fill people in on my attributes. She loved talking on the phone with her sisters and her friends. Doreen in particular was always good for at least an hour. Mom used to call me every single day wherever she was. Over the last several years I began to notice a change. At first there was an occasional halted word or she would repeat something. She began using fillers more and more to pause the sentence while she searched for the right word. I would count the 'yeahs' and they were plentiful. I must admit this got annoying but I would gladly go back to that and wait out the stream of "yeahs". This winter the daily phone calls stopped. Dad calls twice a week and I speak to Mom for a couple of seconds before we end with I love you. I can't tell anymore that that's what she is saying but I know it is. I no longer tell her anything because she can't or doesn't appear to be processing it. Any bit of conversation she tries to have with Dad is like a scavenger hunt .What appear to be random facts are really clues she painfully tries to give as she attempts to tell him something. Sometimes a simple snippet takes two hours of back and forth and Mom won't give up. I woke up this morning with a word in my head and it was my mothers voice saying it. Ganglion. Strange word but my mom was a medical fountain of knowledge. She worked as a librarian at the Saint John Regional Hospital for years before the internet and she did hundreds of searches for medical students, doctors and nurses. I used to tease her and call the old General hospital the Iva Bradley Memorial. She worked in the out patient department there and she was a crackerjack. Her gift of gab was definitely an asset. The other thing that I woke with this morning was my memory of my Mom laughing and some of our standing jokes. I laid there for quite awhile trying to remember the name of the woman from her childhood we would use when she would put a kerchief on her head. Mrs. Coughlan. The sadness of Mom's condition is really hitting me. I realize now that I will never be able to get missing facts from her. I will never again have a real conversation with her. She is gone before she's gone and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a woman who loved to talk to have that taken from her. I know how sad it makes me that it has been taken from us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When a House Becomes a Home

If you have been reading my blog this winter you will have noticed my running obsession with watching the construction of my son and daughter in law's house. Last year and the year before it was all about the snowshoeing and the gifts of the wood road. This year I only snowshoed one day. I already feel some regret about that but it just wasn't the same kind of winter. I walked every day but usually down across the road not up over the hill. The reason for that was mainly my interest or obsession with watching Chapin and Bri's house take shape. I have watched it from the day they began clearing the land. It was a tree covered knoll on the top of a hill with a glimpse of the lake below through the thick stand of trees. At first it appeared to be an unlikely choice but as the land was cleared and Chapin took his small excavator to the spot it seemed a possibility. They worked for hours clearing and preparing the spot for the footings . I am not going to describe each stage as the stages were many. The challenges and the waiting for things to fall into place was huge. Chapin had taken the summer off hoping to have the house ready that fall. I watched their struggle with a task so much bigger than they realized. Each day I would go to see the progress. Some days were monumental others not as obvious but each achievement brought them closer. People kept asking if they were in yet. Friends and relatives walked down or drove down to see. One particular day Chapin's grandparents and Brianne's grandmother went to have a look. The grandmothers were helped into the house and up the stairs and glowed with pride. The grandfather took in each detail voicing his approval. Brianne's grandfather who is no longer with us always voiced his love and approval and that was felt every step of the way. From afar the grandparents continued to show such genuine interest in the progress, reliving the building of their own family homes. I guess part of my obsession comes from that as well. It seems like just yesterday I watched with such joy as we built our home. Last weekend they moved in. The huge job of settling in has just begun. We were all there to help. Sisters and sister in laws carried beds, mattresses and boxes. Brothers, fathers and brother in laws lugged heavy items in through doors . Unpacking started and pictures were hung. The last construction jobs are being done. Railings and paint touch ups. Decks and steps will take shape when the weather warms. Gradually the construction site , the building of a house becomes a home. I felt the difference yesterday as I walked down. I will stop my daily inspections. I will step back and take my rightful place. But in saying that I am so glad I walked that road every day and watched. I am so proud of my son and my daughter in law. And get ready for the same obsessive attention Caleb and Ashlie when the time comes for you to return to the Walton Lake Road and build the house that becomes your home.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We Will Always Have Indian Horse

A wonderful author has left us. The date of Richard Wagamese's death has already been recorded as March 11,2017 on Wikipedia. I have not yet heard it on CBC or seen the announcement anywhere except on Sheree Fitch's Facebook page. I am heartsick about it. We have lost a powerful and passionate voice. This was a gentle, haunted man with the courage to face his demons and put words to paper. I have no idea what took him from us. He was just one year older than I am and as we often do we consider age deciding if one dies too soon. Of course he has died too soon. I expect he had a work in progress. I expect he had lots more work to do. I mourn that unfinished work. But on this day of his demise I celebrate what he leaves us. I remember following Canada Reads the year Richard's Indian Horse was on the short list. I was a strong advocate for it and felt the work was diminished by some of the incorrect or insensitive or just plain stupid remarks that were made. I wrote to Richard voicing my opinion and received a very gracious reply. I was not telling this man anything he didn't already know. He lived an entire life shadowed by racism and surface understanding of his reality. He soldiered through hardship and loss and found some light. I pray he left with a measure of peace. I will take Indian Horse down from my bookshelf today. I will hold the book close and embrace its existence. I will open its covers and reread the story it holds. I will remember the author and wish him Godspeed. I will be thankful for the journey that brought his words into my home. RIP Richard.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Catch a Chicken

I don't pick chickens up. My post today is not really about catching and clutching chickens but seeing Sunny go after and catch one gave me the thoughts I will expand upon. Last night my sleeping, restless , tossing and turning hours were filled with writing. I did not get up and go to my computer but in my mind I was working,. This morning I hope that some of the clarity I had will find it's way to the page. I do know the beginning sentence of the paragraph I will start with this morning. The novel I'm working on actually came from a dream. The beginning scene was a scene in a dream that pretty much got written the way I remember dreaming it. I wrote a previous book ( yet unpublished ) from the seed on an idea that came to me in a dream. After sharing that idea Caleb declared it to be the end of my writing career. Oh please, like successful authors have not written far-fetched novels based on dreams or opium induced delirium. I love the work I am getting to do. I love the fact that I am living the dream of being a published author. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the interior of book number six and planning it's launch. This morning a friend wrote to say she would introduce me. Book launch number six. Yesterday I saw a fellow author who will be launching her third book voice concern hoping her community would not disown her or tire of her launching books. Her words caused me to wonder the same thing. My first launch was such a celebration on so many levels. Many former students came to celebrate The Year Mrs. Montague Cried as they had lived it right along with me and my friend Ruth who had held me up so many times introduced me. I was overwhelmed with the huge crowd. Ten Thousand Truths brought out a good crowd as well. A former student introduced me. We again gathered at the Farmers Market and I felt such support. My best childhood friend introduced me at the launch of The Sewing Basket. The crowd was a bit smaller but the support just as genuine. We took the launch of The Memory Chair to the Parish hall. Ashlie so lovingly closed an evening celebrating a book dedicated to her mom. We launched Waiting For Still Water at the Parish hall, my cousin Joy introduced me and my daughter struggled through an emotional closing resorting to her sarcasm and quick wit to manage it. I will not make her do that again and my boys do not have to take their turn. So I hope Susan White book launches are not so 'last year'. I hope my friends and family( although never Ronnie apparently)will continue to indulge me; because I went after and caught a dream just as deliberately as Sunny caught that chicken.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

And Hope of Things to Come

It is a cold sunny early March day. The month stretches ahead and this morning I reflect on Marches in the past. March has a quality of its own. It fluctuates from spring like to deep winter weather. We always gauge our wood supply with March in mind although April often sees us burning lots of wood. March is a bleak yet hopeful month. In the past few years it has been filled with challenges and has sometimes been difficult to get through . I remember the March Burton left for Afghanistan as being a wet, cold, dreary stretch of days more to endure than to enjoy. March is Emma's birthday and that is a cause for celebration. Our oldest granddaughter will be eight which is quite hard to believe. The girl's flight home for the summer is booked so this morning I look ahead to those summer days when they will fill our home and hearts making up in a small way for their absence the rest of the year. In the meantime I will approach the coming months with anticipation for the release of my sixth book and the tour highlighting The Memory Chair as a Hackmatack nominee. I will get back to the Farmer's market and happily display six books for sale. I will keep writing , do a library workshop, and a school visit to MCS. I will participate in WFNB's Word Spring event in Saint John. I will judge short stories for the Writers Union of Canada and young writers stories for the Frye Festival. Burton and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, Ashlie's 26th birthday and Meg and Cody's second anniversary. We will face the 18th anniversary of the day we lost our precious boy. We will watch as Chapin and Brianne move into their new home and Caleb and Ashlie continue to make their house a home. March like all the other months will fly by and push us on to the next. Before you know it we will hear our granddaughter's voices echoing in these rooms and in the fields and trails outside. Gardens will grow and we will get back in the lake. Oh the hope of things to come and the gratitude for the blessings of the past.