Friday, December 9, 2016

The Power of Persuasion

It would seem I have completely out of the blue booked flights for Burton and I to go to Meg's Christmas day. It seemed to happen in spite of me. It began with an e-mail announcing deals on flights to several places one of them being Edmonton of course. I realize the all seeing internet knows my attachment to Alberta. Add to that the picture on top of my desk I have been looking at every day. Emma and Paige's faces in their Christmas picture from last year had been working away at my vulnerability. Hearing Paige in the background of almost every phone conversation was also tugging at my heart. She is a cool cucumber when it comes to showing her emotions and she chooses to keep us at a distance unless she can have us up close. Then she is free with her affection and never fails to delight us. She especially has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger. Emma on the other hand blurts her feelings out and several times in the last few weeks has lamented that Monkey and Toad are not coming out for Christmas. So deliberate advertising and deliberate granddaughter manipulation worked together to wear me down. Once I began to entertain the idea then I started working on Grampie. He seemed stoic at first ( about three seconds ) and then I saw his resolve start to crumble. I made my classic pros and cons list and the pro list was considerably longer. The cons list was practical and held strong reasoning mainly regarding money or the lack of it but the pro list involved granddaughters and the fact that being 7 and 5 won't happen again. 'Life is too short' came up. I texted a close friend for advice and got the same arguments back that I'd been having with myself. Burton of course by that time had completely given in to the possibility of seeing the smiles on Emma and Paige's faces and feeling their arms wrap around him in a welcoming hug. Then the phone rang and I heard Emma's voice saying" Mom says you might come for Christmas, Monkey?" I was done with the debate. I pushed 'book flight' and the rest is history. We are going to Meg and Cody's for Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Is Upon Us

Last night I sat in the dim, Christmas light illuminated St. Augustine's church and listened to words and music. Amid the bustle we get caught up in it was a lovely reprieve. Just two and a half hours of not looking at my phone is rare these days which when you really think about that, is pretty sad. But more about the words and music. Stephanie Mainville and her daughter Lydia provided the musical interludes between sections of the reading of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. The words were as melodious as the fiddle, the keyboard, the cello and Stephanie's beautiful voice. I have been blessed to have a deep and meaningful history with that beautiful voice. Stephanie and her mother brought Christmas music to the church I attended and the choir I was a part of. For several Christmas seasons I sat under their tutelage learning songs, alto parts and bringing together Christmas cantatas of the most professional standard. Those days hold so much for me. I was the busy mother of four growing children. I was a busy teacher and those hours of choir practise were just for me. Tears come to my eyes when I recall those wonderful Christmases. Last night Rickie joined me and the stage she finds herself in right now, teaching and raising four kids, is so much the one I was in during those choir days. Oh the joy those memories bring me and oh the sorrow. How could they have passed so quickly? For years after Zac died I could not sing in public. I could belt it out if I was alone in the car or in my house but when I found myself in church for a funeral or at a Christmas service I could not even open my mouth. I will not try to analyse this but about two years ago my mouth opened(I think it was a Christmas Eve service)and I found that I was making a sound, I was singing again. I do not know if I will ever return to a choir or any form of public singing but I am thankful to be able to join in when given the opportunity. Stephanie and Carolyn have spent their lives making and bringing music to others. I have been given the privilege of bringing words. So this morning I give thanks for words and music and the advent of this beautiful season.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Home Sweet Home

The dreary November days are speeding by. This time next week will be December 1st. Yesterday I stepped back and took my bearings. In the last few days I have had the strong desire to take control of some things, my house mainly. Instead of going to my office and getting down to work Monday I cleaned and re-organized the upstairs bedrooms. I felt a strong need to touch base with my home . I guess I am nesting or hunkering down for the long winter ahead. When I finished I had a wonderful sense of gratitude for the home we have created and inhabited for almost 30 years. Perhaps as I watch the building of Chapin and Brianne's home the value of mine becomes even clearer. That is not to say I wouldn't love to step into the new construction. Just their closets alone are making me a tad envious. Imagine shelves and lights in every closet, and fresh paint , new trim, clean windows. I could go on but the truth of it is I love my lived in, less than perfect abode and would not trade it. This house has a history that warms me to the core. Along with the joy there is of course a deep sorrow embedded. All homes hold that sorrow even if it is just the absence of the now grown children and the changing times. Add to that a sorrow of a family member no longer able to walk through its doors and come home. In my attempt to get a grip on my surroundings I felt a distance from my writing. I felt a gulf that at first made me afraid I would not find my way back to it. Yesterday I stepped back and evaluated. I gave myself a good strong talking to. Dedication and discipline are great and I would not have five published books without it but sometimes I need to just let myself off the hook. I am unsure of the work I just started but so be it. I have found myself in that spot before and got past it. My editor wrote yesterday to say the edits for my next book will arrive just before or just after Christmas. I will be happy to get to them but in the meantime I can afford to let my writing simmer. Maybe next week a burst of writing energy will appear and this slump will be behind me. But if not I can certainly immerse myself in cleaning , Christmas prep and the gift of home. November's fallow earth lies waiting for Springs' new growth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sunny Brae Middle School

Yesterday I did a WISP (writers in school program)visit at Sunny Brae Middle School in Moncton. It was my first author visit this school year and I felt a bit apprehensive. Would I be able to muster my energy and gear up for a day of non stop interaction with middle school kids? On my way I heard an interview with Chris Hadfield and it was as if he was speaking right to me . He talked about fear and bravery. Now I know in the whole scheme of things talking to large groups of kids might not be the scariest thing in a world of very scary things but it does hold some peril especially when you are allowing them to see your vulnerability. So Chris gave me a pep talk and I got down to business. I presented four sessions in the gym to the entire student body. The kids were wonderful. Each presentation took on a personality of it own and even though the gym teacher was required to sit through all four he heard slightly different presentations each time. I marvel at how the audience shapes my presentations. The last group was a grade 5 crowd and they were delightful. Somehow my presentation brought me around to reading the last page of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I have stated many times that I would never read that passage in public. I always felt I would not be able to read it without completely breaking down. However as part of yesterday's format in a couple of the groups I asked the kids to select the reading by asking for the book and a specific page. The last request by a student in the Grade 5 group was Book 1 ,last page. I considered refusing but did not. I read it. Afterwards I told the kids I thought I couldn't do it but I had and that I deserved a round of applause for that. They generously clapped and acknowledged my efforts. I did not plan that and of all the other gifts the morning gave me that was the huge one. I then got to conduct a writing workshop with 22 great kids that were bursting with enthusiasm for writing. Thank you students of Sunny Brae and Lynn Carter for inviting me. Thank you to their librarian for such a warm welcome and her generous support of my work.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mid November Sinking in

The moon and the sun are lighting mid November days and nights.This morning I am letting mid November sink in. I spent a few hours on Saturday sitting signing at Indigo and Coles, watching and listening to the sounds and sights of Christmas shopping. The day after Remembrance Day seems to unleash the Christmas season. I had a few people stop and buy Waiting For Still Water for Christmas gifts. That is nice. This weekend I will begin my Christmas shopping by going on our annual shopping trip with Brianne, Ashlie, Brianne's mom, aunts , sisters,and cousins. I am signing on Saturday afternoon in Chapters in Moncton and will take those two hours as a break and the gift it is. Tomorrow I have a middle school author visit and I am just about ready to firm up my plans for the day. I see the opportunity as a privilege and a huge responsibility. I hope to deliver a presentation that is meaningful, sincere, encouraging and thought provoking. I find this task daunting but am always rewarded greatly. I will take my books, my experience and my story and attempt to truly show up for the kids that gather in front of me. On a visit to Hampton Elementary I was gifted this jar of jellybeans . The candy is gone but I hang on to the message. Making a difference is what I try to do. Hopefully I will be given that opportunity again tomorrow in a middle school in mid November.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Finding Your Voice

This past weekend I travelled to Shediac for WFNB's WordsFall. I stayed with a group of four other writers at a lovely cottage in Pointe-du-Chene. Thankyou Heather, Andrea, Rosalyn and Annette for welcoming me. It was beautiful in November so I can only imagine what a nice spot it would be in July. I particularly enjoyed a session on Saturday morning with Rebekah Chasse. Rebekah is an actor with lots of energy and enthusiasm. She conducted an excellent workshop encouraging us to find our voice. As writers we supposedly find our voice on paper. But then we must take what is on paper and bring it alive when we share it orally. Several tips she taught us stand out for me. As an exercise when I got home I randomly opened Waiting for Still Water and attempted to deliver whatever I stumbled upon . What a powerful lesson that was for me. Each passage should have power in isolation. She kept saying our work should leave questions; should leave the listener or reader wondering a whole range of things; caring about what comes next; curious to know more. This should be achieved without a preamble . What a huge lesson this was for me. Possibly she hit the nail on the head as far as good writing is concerned. As a yardstick randomly check your work and see if each passage offers an element of intrigue, a glimpse of something bigger, something important to the story. That all being said I am anxious to set my current work to this expectation. Thank you WFNB, WordsFall, Rebekah and the writing community of NB for challenging us all to be better at what we do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Something From Nothing Again

One Sunday morning awhile ago Caleb set out to build a small shelter for new calves. It was at least five cows ago. As he headed out the door I asked him what he was going to do. When he told me I made the comment 'something from nothing'. At the end of the day he had created a sturdy little shelter. Since then we have used that line many times when Caleb sets out to add to the structures on the farm. He amazes me how focused and driven he is. This Sunday I looked out to the lower field and saw that again he was creating something from nothing. He and Chapin worked Sunday afternoon starting to build a new cow shed. Our big beautiful Tess will have a new home where hopefully she will give birth to her calf. Last week I began again to create something from nothing. I love how a book presents itself. Tuesday after finishing a rewrite of a novel I had previously written and didn't quite work I wasn't sure what was next. While swimming on Wednesday morning I let my mind go to a thought that had been percolating in my head for weeks. Thursday I sat down and let it begin. I will watch it unfold as I will watch the structure Caleb decided to build take shape. Our somethings from nothing don't actually come from nothing, they come from a thought, a vision for what can be and a first step taken to make them happen. If you look closely you can see Tess hanging around waiting for the creation to be completed. Hopefully I have readers doing the same.