Tuesday, April 25, 2017

That Thrill Again

Book number six arrived yesterday. My publisher and all her minions worked tirelessly to put it all together to insure delivery before my April 29th launch date. I marvel at the process from the first tiny seed of thought that makes its way to the page, the hours of unravelling the story , the months of revising and fleshing out the work , the submission , the acceptance, the editing, perfecting, developing, the designing of cover and interior, the proof reading, the back and forth checking and tweaking, the printing and the shipping. The work sounds daunting and I probably missed some steps and the book has flaws and mistakes( Burton found one in the first two minutes of perusing the book)but I am perfectly all right with that because life has mistakes. Nothing is perfect but effort and intent are everything as far as I'm concerned and this morning as I look at the boxes of books waiting to be sent out into the world I am proud of the work that was done. And thrilled I might add. My dream of writing and being published has been realized six times. I continue to write, now working on book number ten and the writing is the light I go to. I have been accused of writing books that are difficult to read without choking up or shedding a tear. I remember apologizing for this at first after The Year Mrs. Montague Cried was published. I have long stopped apologizing. I remember hearing a writer say once that if you haven't cried and laughed over your own work you can't expect your readers to. I can honestly say I have done the laughing and the crying, and have in turn compelled my family to feel the emotion the pages hold. But what a thrill comes with it all. Yesterday Caleb had just arrived to feed his animals, I knocked on my office window and held up a book for him to see. He knew I was awaiting the arrival of the book and gave me a huge smile and a thumbs up. I had dragged him up to my office after I had written the first few pages excited to introduce him to Hazel. He had given an opinion about a piece of dialogue that didn't ring true to him and he was right on. So the thrill comes every step of the way, every single step of the way.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It is What it is

I am no expert , no Dr. Phil so to speak but I know stuff. The older I get the more I come to believe knowing stuff comes with age ;sometimes anyway if you are paying attention. I pay attention, too much sometimes but nevertheless I notice stuff. Last night I listened to a talk Kate, Will and Harry were having about mental health. Just three normal people who happen to be royalty but also just happen to know about mental health. The reason for that of course is because mental health applies to everyone even the rich , the famous and the crowned. It is a juggling act we are all called to take on the moment we enter the world and it continues until we are given our leave. The trick is to keep the balls in the air the whole time or at least most of the time and when balls drop pick them back up and get the rhythm again. Now to the stuff I know. I know grief and worry and anxiety. I know fear and doubt and panic. I also know when they mount up and surge. I make the comparison that you can sometimes feel a storm coming. You stand outside and feel the wind picking up. Something tells you its coming and it is not in your control whether it does or not. What is in your control is what you do when it hits, how you ride it out and what you do to clean up afterwards. The storm comes usually while I am sleeping. It sneaks in the cracks and wrecks havoc tossing me like a feather in a hurricane. I have seen it come enough times to know the signs. So it is the morning after. I hold tight to what I know, to who I love and to those who love me. I search for the balls and put them in the air again.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

For the Love of Journaling

Yesterday I gave another journaling workshop, this time at the East Branch Library. What a lovely facility and what a warm and welcoming group of converts I spoke to. I am hopeful that most were sold on the love of journaling. This morning after I write this entry I will attempt to organize my journals back in to their keeping place. What treasures they are to me. From the first 5 year diary I began in 1968 to the one I wrote in this morning each one holds snippets of the life I have been given to live , to love and to remember. Each of the twelve participants brought their own lives, loves, memories and passions. The first writing exercise brought a wonderful range of that experience. Emily voiced fear and uncertainty, Jan voiced her despair and disappointment at the demolition of the three jelly bean houses on Wellington Row, Peggy spoke of her indecision and doubts about coming to the workshop and then the validation for the journaling practices she already had in place. Carol wrote about the sound of birds she heard this morning and the hope of Spring. Nan wondered if her dull days held anything worth journaling about. Marie chronicled her morning, mentioning the purchase of sandals which spoke of the prospect of warm weather. Angela wrote about a phone call to her mom that held such love and devotion .Stacey wrote about her anticipation of her upcoming trip to Ireland. Sue wrote about her morning, the highlight being a two hour swim. Charles shared what he had learned about Rockwood Park , Lily Lake, and the World Skating event held years ago that attracted half of Saint John to the rows of bleachers that used to encircle Lily Lake. The group listened while I shared my love of journaling. I read emotional and humorous entries. I read the April 6, 1900 entry from my great grandfather's journal which was the day his father died. He took the horse and wagon to Hampton to get the coffin. I read the entry I wrote shortly after my 101 year old grandmother died. I read the day my youngest granddaughter was born. Oh the gifts those journal pages hold. So I will stack my full journals with the many empty ones that wait for me to fill them and journal on hoping that I convinced some around the table yesterday to do the same.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Each Battle Fought

My father in law William Elias White fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He was a 21 year old man from rural New Brunswick sent to fight one of the most horrendous and memorable battles in the First World War. He survived. On Sunday I will stand with his sons and daughters, his grandsons and granddaughters ,and his great grandchildren and remember him and his comrades. When thinking if I would leave the comfort of my bed and my home to stand at sunrise while the flag is lowered I reminded myself of just how minuscule that sacrifice is compared to the one Burton's father and thousands like him made that day. Yesterday coming back from my walk I slogged through the mud on the wood road thinking of those men. They slogged through mud amidst death and agony and the possibility of their own demise . I was heading to a warm and welcoming house not the misery and destruction of war. We can not even imagine what they went through. We can remember though and honor their bravery. The other thing that came to my mind was the legacy of his survival. I of course would not be walking on the land I walked yesterday if he had met his end at Vimy Ridge. His son , my husband and the father of my four children would never have been and our lives would not have intersected. That fact also led me to realize that the battles I've been given to fight; loss, sorrow, worry, uncertainty would have taken another form if his destiny had altered mine. In remembering tomorrow I will remember it all; the young boy in the portrait on our bedroom wall, the soldier who went to battle, the husband who fathered my husband, the son he raised with deep military values and deep pride in what his father lived through, the sons and daughter I was blessed with, my present and future grandchildren, the land we built our home and life on , the past, the future and the present with all its challenges and battles. The simple act of standing and remembering is not simple at all. It holds the enormity of what has been, what could have been and what is.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fools

Here we are in April. I sat with my journal this morning to make my April goals list. April is a heavy month for us. Just the thought of approaching April holds so much. But it has arrived. The first day is traditionally light hearted, silly, foolish filled with tricks and such. I never was a big April Fools trickster. Tricks and practical jokes made me nervous. I don't have a poker face and don't do well with trickery. The first day of April is my friend Alice's birthday and who better than Alice to be born on such a day. Over the years Alice has pulled off her fair share of tricks and jokes. My favorite remains the time she and Megan hid on me in my Dad's big three ton truck. They crouched silently until just the right moment for ultimate effect which was to scare the life out of me. A couple of years ago she was looking after my granddaughters for me one afternoon. When I arrived to pick them up there was not a sign of them anywhere. Not a sound was made until searching the house for them I heard Paige's giggle. Alice , Emma and Paige were squeezed into the upstairs bathroom shower stall just waiting for the right moment to jump out at me. Perfect! She had taken the thrill to the next generation. I love my crazy friend Alice. I love that she snatches birthday cards away at parties scratching out the giver's names and replacing them with her and Paul's. I love that she is full of surprises, some intentional some not so much. I love that at the beginning of the month that became the hardest to get through eighteen years ago I can celebrate the birthday of a loyal and hilarious friend. My foolish friend Alice is no fool at all but she certainly can bring a smile to my face. Love you Al!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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.