Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Traditions and Ritual

Some people think it's fate. My friend calls them magic moments. When things just connect in time. An opportunity of sorts. And everything falls into place. It's the way I felt when... First of all, let me explain.

In the October issue of First Monday magazine, I revealed my interest in the Crone Ceremony. A Write Happy Old Crone  Of course, it’s written in the style of all my columns: tongue in cheek. I’d come across some info on women celebrating age with pageantry and ritual, a tradition practised for hundreds of years, . I immediately embraced the idea. It's my fervent hope that one day I will be a participant. Perhaps, it will be necessary to be organizer, as well.

One of the ponds on David Plain's property

A few days ago, my husband and I enjoyed a tour with other nature enthusiasts on David D. Plain’s Aamjiwnaang land. Aside from the natural surroundings, other dimensions of this tour captured my interest.
I was fascinated by the sweat lodge we came upon in a clearing. Naturally, I encouraged David, local author and historian, to enlighten us.
Sweat Lodge, David Plain File Photo
Dried remnants of cedar boughs from the last ceremony, also known as a Purification Ceremony, were evident on the open domed structure. A dug out pit for the hot stones was in the centre. These red hot rocks called ‘grandfathers’ are heated for four hours in a separate pit outside the lodge before the ceremony begins. According to David, ‘small cedar boughs are put in the water that is used to sprinkle on the hot stones or 'grandfathers'. This sanctifies the water for use. Cedar is one of the four sacred plants.’
The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
The hut, enclosed in canvas for the sweat lodge ceremony, is large enough for a circle of a half dozen people. David explained that a leader oversees the ritual. Four or more hours of discussion, song, and prayer.

I experienced an aha moment. Purification is also part of the Crone Ceremony. It is suggested that the individual bathe in warm water while consciously purging discouraging thoughts. It is the belief that all negativity will drain away with the bath water.

My mind was still focused on ritual when we came across the remains of a fasting shelter in the bush, triggering my curiosity. Again, David patiently explained the rudiments of this tradition. Fasters go to a place where they can be totally alone for five days. They prepare by participating in a sweat lodge ceremony immediately before they go out to do their fast. He was quick to point out that the person denying himself food and water is checked on periodically.
Fasting Lodge, David Plain File Photo

Oh, and the Faster has a spiritual helper. They are spiritually connected by a ceremony that is held at the main lodge even before they do their Sweat (this aroused more curiosity). The Helper remains at the main lodge, eating and drinking for the Faster. I concluded that I’d make a better Helper than Faster.

Fasting seems like an appropriate addition to the documented steps for the Crone Ceremony. Nothing as extreme as five days in the woods, but some kind of a fast would fit well with the purification part of the ceremony. Like the fasting ritual, the Crone Ceremony is traditionally followed by a feast. A celebration.

It all came together for me. Ritual, tradition, spiritualism. Now, more than ever, I understand the meaning of preparing oneself, mind and body. In my case, for the privilege of joining the Sisterhood of Crones for the final stage of life. A long stage, mind you, but the last third of my life, nonetheless.

I'm thankful for the timely nature walk that stirred my passions and opened my mind to the dignity and honour of practising rituals.

David D Plain is a First Nations historian/author living on Aamjiwnaang Territory, an Indian Reserve in Southwestern Ontario. Among his impressive credits, in 2014 a film production company from Toronto optioned the film rights to his latest two books for a television drama series. He's also had...well, check it out for yourself. 
Here's a link to an interview by Gloria Pearson-Vasey for Writers Networking 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Writing Break is Over

I’m pulling up my socks—or hoisting my bra straps—for a new season of writing. 
In my last post, I said good-bye to my blog for the summer. I thought I was bidding farewell to my writing but that didn’t happen. It was silly to think that I could just stop writing. I continued attending our weekly critique group, Writers Helping Writers. That kept me from getting stale. I love the editing process so being able to critique stories every week was a pleasurable pastime.
I began writing flash fiction to take to the weekly meetings. Kept the stories under 500 words. A great exercise! Of course, it was all crime writing. I can almost hear Bob McCarthy adding that ALL my writing is a crime. Very funny, Bob.
There was a time I was aghast at having to write short stories. After all, I am a novelist. Yeah, right. The advice from Peggy Fletcher to write short stories (she didn’t take no for an answer) was the best I’ve received. Whatever one learns from short stories—especially in a critique group—can be applied to all writing. Novels included. And if Peggy were still with us today, I’d say thank you and admit that I love writing shorts. And I'd give her a hug. A big hug. (My eyes are puddling)
So, during the months that I took time away from my writing (moreorless), I polished (yet again) my memoirs, sent out five queries, submitted some short stories, and read at a poetry and prose event. I cleared and cleaned my desk. Even went through my files! I uncovered some material that I’d forgotten—notes for an ongoing novel, and some scribbled musings for upcoming columns. Oh yes, my monthly column. Taking time away from my writing only refers to my fiction writing. Writing for First Monday was ongoing.
The other day someone asked if I wrote a few columns in advance. I wish. Some work better under pressure. I don’t. Yet, seldom are columns lined up waiting for deadline. It’s always my intention, but there are distractions.
As an example, when I came to the office this morning, my first objective was to draft out a column. After checking emails and facebook, I had an urge to write this blog post. When I looked at my blog, I realized I was still using the old graphics for Crime Writers of Canada. I downloaded the new image. Then I saw that I’d neglected to update the site with my columns from the last several months. I did that, too.
My desk did not remain cleared for long. It’s untidy with notes about old crones and pagan rituals. Background for the column. But also an intriguing idea for a short story. A thriller, perhaps.

It was a good call to break away from my routine for the summer. I’m refreshed and excited. WRITE ON! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Summer Vacation

Hubby suggested I take the summer off. Enjoy the outdoors and relax. Forget about writing the novel, editing short stories, and entering contests. He’s right. Cloistered in my downstairs office, I miss the beauty of summer.
SO FAR IT'S GREAT! Enjoying my early morning coffee on the deck. Meandering around the yard. Listening to the birds. Who knew they could be this noisy?! Going on fishing excursions. Sipping a cold beer in the shade. All good stuff. And since I can check facebook and PM friends on my tablet, I don’t need my laptop.
I admit I did experience writers’ withdrawal. Rather than prolong the suffering, I reached for my special journal…I say special because no one will read it until I’m…you know…gone.
Now retired, my husband’s taken over all the outdoor chores. He loves doing yard work. He even commandeered my flower gardens. He’s doing a great job.
Seventeen years ago, our property was a blank canvas. We planted hundreds of trees and bushes and built flower gardens—sun gardens. The trees have since grown. Only one true sun garden remains and the  vegetable garden is shrinking. Soooo…major reconstruction in progress. Each time I hear the buzz of the chainsaw I get a twinge of sadness as large sun-loving bushes are put out of their misery. Forsythias, nine bark diablos, purple leaf sand cherry, burning bush…gone. But  in their place, I see a variety of hostas, ferns, oak leaf hydrangea, and colourful perennial shade flowers.
And Marv’s quite content to work without my able-bodied assistance this time around. Or maybe I’m not as able-bodied as the old days when we worked side by side. I grunt more when lifting fountain basins and patio pots. I’ve traded the cut-offs and work boots for orthopedic runners and floppy cotton sunhats. ( Just kidding about the orthopedic runners but I admit the sunhat is not very flattering.) Whatever… He prefers to putter on his own. It could be that he simply prefers peace and quiet. I’m not all that quiet.
This morning I had an urge to slink down to my office and…OH MY GOSH, I thought a gigantic bee was next to my ear but it was a precious hummingbird. Wow…where was I? Oh yes, I had the urge to write a blog post.
My husband said to enjoy the sunshine. I’m doing that as I write, though I could read the screen better in the shade of the Linden or under a Maple. A little rain umbrella helps somewhat.
Well, I think that does it. I’ll post this entry, pour another coffee, and grab my pruning shears. There are two ailing standard pines destined for the fire pit. Maybe I can make them look well enough to grace our front steps for another year.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day Four of Writing Retreat

My last full day of reading, editing, and revision.

I’d been trying to wrap up this book for a long time. Editing a chapter here and a chapter there. My critiquing group has been a major help. I’m grateful to have their support and expertise. But it seemed like this project was dragging on forever. That’s why I chose to get away and concentrate on the last few chapters. Besides, I LOVE going away to write. It's the most awesome experience. Normally.

There wasn’t the same rush of adrenalin and enthusiasm I generally experience when I’m away working on a final draft. It’s been a struggle to work when I’m feeling this sick. Timing is everything. Coming down with a nasty cold the first day was not part of the plan. A clear head would have helped.

Generally, I make the most of my time away. Napping instead of sleeping. That’s all I need when I’m totally focused on my work. I get so caught up in it. It’s like a massive burst of energy. Well, I don’t have to tell you that energy didn’t make it this trip.
Each night I fell into bed at 9:00 and slept until morning. So much lost time. Even though one of my mornings began at 4:30.


I still accomplished a good deal and my book now deserves the final draft stamp. Even though I’ve outlined another three chapters. Everything I’ve finished to date has received the final edit. I’m happy about that. I'd have been even happier if I’d written those chapters but it’s time to go. I’ll work on the new chapters after I return home.

I’m disappointed that this retreat has not measured up to those in the past, but I accomplished what I set out to do. I have to be content with that. There’ll be other writing getaways…other books. I’m anxious to get back to my unfinished mystery novel, but that will have to wait just a bit longer.

My husband and I look forward to spending the summer gardening, boating, and barbequing. I promised.

This morning I have total laryngitis, not even a squeak, so it’ll still be quiet around the house after I return. Somehow, I don’t think hubby will mind that.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Day Three of Writing Retreat

Normally during a retreat, I survive on two to three hour naps. I’m usually so psyched that I can work long stretches of time. Really, that’s the whole idea of getting away to write. No interruptions. No routine. It’s incredibly awesome. A marathon of writing. Or editing, in this case.

During this retreat, even the word marathon makes my sinuses throb. All things considered, there’s been good progress on my editing. Using the mind over matter technique, I made a valiant effort to deny my cold symptoms the power to slow my work process. And I was successful. For a good three hours of editing. Make that a great three hours. After that, I started to fade. Just a bit. I hung in there for several more hours.

In that time, I edited another four chapters. Not bad, but not enough. I expected to be farther along at this point. After all, the manuscript was perfect. It was just a matter of turning the pages. Good, good, good, and good. How long could it take. I’m kidding, of course. I did a few rewrites. Nothing major but more time-consuming than nodding my head and turning a page.

The important thing is that I’m satisfied—make that pleased—with all the chapters I’ve completed. The question now is, do I have time to finish the book by deadline. My own deadline. The end of the retreat. I could stay an extra day, a definite probability, or wish I’d packed it in when I got sick, and re-scheduled. Well, it’s too late to pack it in.

Along with the other cold symptoms—headache, throbbing sinuses, fatigue, fever—I’ve lost my voice. Some of you may wonder why that is a big deal. After all, I’m by myself. Why would I need to talk? Writers would recognize the setback. Reading my work aloud is one of the most effective methods of editing. But let’s look on the bright side. Sure, I can’t read my work aloud now, but by keeping my mouth shut I won’t cough as much—that croupy throat-tearing cough. That’s a good thing. Right?

Here’s to speedier progress, my friends. Wish me luck. Only a few more chapters to go…

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day Two of Writing Retreat

It wasn’t until I closed my eyes that I saw the problem. I’ll remember in the morning, I told myself. I repeated the solution over and over in my mind. I finally threw back the covers and fumbled for the light. There, I thought, as I put the pen down.

Back in bed, the title of the new chapter came to me. I’ll remember, I thought. Yep, you guessed it. I stumbled from bed, wrote down the title, and crawled back. I wasn’t feeling well and besides I had bigger problems. For one thing, I was out of chocolate and down a half bottle of wine. Not to worry, I have lots of green tea and baby carrots. Okay, I’m not short of food but the good stuff is in short supply. Or gone.

That’s not all. The scratchy throat that I’ve mostly ignored for the past few days has been getting worse. This morning I feel like crap. My throat, my sinuses, my head. Oh no, this can’t be happening. I have a deadline here.

Then I did it. Something I try to avoid at all costs. I took a cold pill. Then I drank two mugs of hot water and lemon. Toasted a bagel and made a strong cup of coffee. I’m going to be fine, I told myself. And promptly curled up on the bed and fell asleep. You see, that’s the way cold pills affect me.

I only slept for an hour but felt a little groggy when I woke. That’s when I leaped to my feet. This cold is not going to slow me down. I turned on the shower as hot as I could stand it. If the smell of sulphur water doesn’t kill me, it just might cure me. A woman on a mission, I scrubbed until my skin was pink and my hair was squeaky. I’m in control, not this nasty cold.

Rather than letting my hair air dry, I reached for the hairdryer. Bloody thing must be on a timer. Every couple of minutes it shut down. That wasn’t going to stop me. I slathered myself in scented body lotion and put on a complete set of new clothes. There’d be no slouching braless in a sweatshirt for me today. Every few minutes I’d grab the hairdryer for another two minutes of fluffing.

That wasn’t enough. I opened up my suitcase again. I know I packed it. There it was. A small green case. Lipstick, mascara, face cream. The works. I preened in front of the mirror. Look good—Feel good. Right? That is what they say.

I flung open two windows on the sunny side and turned up the heat. Still too cold to sit outside but at least it’s sunny and the air is fresh.

I have to admit that I feel pretty good right now. Half the morning is gone and I haven’t been too productive on editing my book, BUT it’s going to get better. I can feel it every time I blow my nose and clear my throat. Hallelujah! I’m feelin’ good.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day One of Writing Retreat

The accommodations are a little more ‘rustic’ than I anticipated. The musty smell slightly more prevalent. These units were probably closed up for most of the winter. I expected them to smell stale and unused. I unpack my scented candle and put it to work before I unpack anything else.

At the sight of the Out of Order sign on the fridge, I gulp, until I notice the portable unit right across from it. I quickly pull open the door. Good. It’s working. Hauling my soft-sided cooler closer, I unload all my goodies into the little fridge. When I stand up, I crack my head on the corner of the cupboard. Staggering back a couple of steps, I press my fingers on the tender bump and look for blood. No blood.

Anxious to get set up, I reach for the case with my printer. I brought power bars and extension cords but it looks like I’ll be okay without them.

The small square table is the perfect size for my laptop and printer. I’m in business.

I think I should start with a cup of tea. I put water in the kettle and…the cord is too short to reach the low receptacle. I check the bathroom. Yes, a receptacle…but it doesn’t work. I hit the reset button a few times and manage to get the power back. No problem.

Rubbing my arms against the chill in the room. I decide to close the windows, which are all open, presumably to air the place. I turn on the heater. It looks brand new and it works great.

Though it’s late afternoon before I actually start editing my book, I complete two chapters and print hard copies for that final, final edit. I can’t say that the creative juices are flowing. Everything seems strange to me and I’m not fully settled in.

With every sound I hear, I rush to the window. Much like Lex at home. I tell her it’s none of her business when someone pulls into the neighbour’s driveway. Stop barking. Now I know how she feels. One can’t ignore something like that. Only I don’t bark. But I do use it as an excuse to grab something to munch. Work progresses slowly.

Fatigue set in around 9:00. Unfortunately, I’d been up since 4 AM. It was just one of those mornings. It happens. Pulling back the bedspread to do that little black-speck-around-the-edge-of-the-mattress check, I discover that though the room smells musty, the bedding smells freshly laundered. And, oh yeah, there are no black specks.

I can’t sleep. My throat closes up. The stale air is making me feel ill. I am up several times before I open a window. There’s a rush of fresh cold air. I feel guilty that the heater ran all night long, but I had a decent sleep.

So now, it’s morning. My first morning here. I prepare my hot water and lemon and somehow the place looks better than it did yesterday. Quaint even.
Think I’ll toast a blueberry bagel, make a coffee, and do what I came here to do…focus on finishing this book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writers Networking Interview

Lambton County author Gloria Pearson-Vasey interviewed me for her blog series 'Writers Networking.'

Writers Networking: Phyllis Humby
Columnist, novelist, blogger, talented penner of prose in many forms, Phyllis Humby is a member of several professional associations including Crime Writers of Canada.
Always welcoming and ever-affirming of other writers, she is the heart of the Lambton Writers’ Association of which she is founder.
I’m delighted that Phyllis has graciously taken time from her busy schedule to be my first Writers Networking interviewee.
Phllis Humby photoG: Phyllis, where do you get ideas for your entertaining column, ‘Up Close and Personal’?
P: From day to day interaction with friends, strangers, animals… Seriously, most of my ideas come out of the blue. This often happens just as I’m about to begin housecleaning and I have to drop everything and start writing… So strange.
G: What motivated you to organize Lambton Writers’ Association?
P: In 2013 I was a Fringe Reader at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. During a social gathering, the room was packed with writers engrossed in conversation. Clustered in groups of 2 or 3 or 4, some were sitting cross-legged on the floor, perched on the edge of chairs, crowded onto a sofa, while others communed elbow-to-elbow. Everyone caught up in passionate conversation. It was a huge honour for me to be there and I was ultra aware of everything and everyone around me. The synergy in the room was surreal! It was an extraordinary experience. Peggy Fletcher said it. ‘Family and friends will be bored with dangling participles but you’ll always have the ear of a writer.’
The Lambton Writers’ Association is a venue for passionate writers to mingle and network. An opportunity to talk about dangling participles…
G: When did you first know you were a writer?
P: One definition of a writer is a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation. I guess since I write a monthly magazine column I can say I’m a writer. The fact that I occupy much of my time writing stories and books qualifies me as a writer. Yet, it’s my reverent respect for writers that makes me feel unworthy to apply that label to myself.
I’ve been an incorrigible daydreamer for as long as I remember. Maybe longer than that. Inner dialogue, circumstance, and characters entertained me from the time I was a child. Even my dreams were feature length! It was years before I began recording my imaginings. And several more years before I confided to anyone that I wrote stories. One may argue that the fact that I can’t stop writing is the final determinant that I am a writer.
G: How do your previous work and/or life experiences influence your writing?
P: Everything I’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched influences my writing. My life experiences (I can remember incidents at age 2 )are a resource and stimulus for my writing. I worked with the public for most of my life and that is a writer’s bonanza. I love people and years of people watching have undoubtedly affected my ability to create realistic—sometimes sinister—characters. I’m open-minded and imaginative enabling me to absorb things that I haven’t personally experienced. And ‘fortunately’, (only from a writer’s perspective) I ‘feel’ other people’s pain and joy. The emotions can be overwhelming at times but I’m sure come into play subconsciously when I’m working on a story.
G: What are the genres in which you write? Do you have a preferred one?
P: I made the decision to write genre in the desperate hope that it would be easier to break into a specialized market. Crime is on the rise—popularity-wise—and since it was always a favourite read, I tried writing it. Yes!! It’s exciting and very challenging. And don’t be surprised to see a bit of the paranormal or fantastical in my stories. Why not, it’s fiction. Crime writing still involves a good deal of research, which I enjoy. I’m a stickler when it comes to detail. I also love writing stories set in the 30s and 40s. I’m comfortable in that era. An old soul, perhaps…
G: Do you have a particular setting for your writing?
P: I’ve tried writing in every room of the house. I have a bright cheery office on the main floor but I had to give it up to my husband. Not because he wanted it. Because I was too easily distracted by nature and the adorable wildlife outside my window. A crime story would suddenly become whimsical with mice scampering through the leaves or bunnies munching on burning bush shrubs. Cardinals, with their little toenails—do they have toenails?—clinging to the window screen. I’d find myself daydreaming instead of writing. Now I work in the downstairs storage room. No windows. And a nearly two –inch- thick door. It’s okay. No, really. I have a huge cluttered desk, bookcase, and boxes of files. I share the room with bins of Christmas decorations, three miniature trees, and some dusty workout equipment. And a trunk. Oh, and a crafts table for my granddaughters that is usually filled with my junk. No prob. I like this arrangement.
G: What kinds of books do you read?
P: It would be easier to share which kinds of books I don’t read. I tend to avoid light frivolous reads. Romance isn’t high on my list. Not as a reading preference, that is. I love character-driven books—especially a great series, crime/suspense, historical… I love the books that take me forever to read because the writing is so incredible that I keep re-reading paragraphs as I go along (deep sigh). I like credible stories with grit.
G: Do you wish to share anything about your personal life?
P: For nearly twenty years I was proprietor of a small-town retail lingerie business. I’m finishing up the manuscript of my experiences—sad, hilarious, frightening—and hope to submit it to a publisher within the next short while.
G: Have you participated in writing contests?
P: I have, but I’m very selective. First of all, I prefer writing novels to short stories. But I have experienced some success with my contest submissions. Eden Mills Writers’ Festival selected a humorous story, Delusional Date. Whiskey Nights, a psychological suspense, placed second in the YMM National Short Story contest. A mystery story, Reflections of Miss Sally, took first place at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference in Toronto for Crime Writers of Canada.
G: What works have you published to date?
P: I’ve been fortunate to have numerous short stories, book reviews, and newspaper and magazine articles published in journals and anthologies in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.
G: What are your thoughts on traditional vs indie publishing?
P: Oh boy. First off, I believe that anyone who is serious enough about his or her writing to go the full measure and have it published is a deserving author. Maybe it’s a matter of low confidence but I prefer to be told by a traditional publisher or agent that I’m worthy of ink on a page. The publishing trade is overwhelmed with wannabees and I’m one of those who keep sending queries in the hope that the timing is right. Timing and circumstance are keys to being ‘discovered’. I’m blessed to have some of my short stories on the market and will be ecstatic the day I receive word that one of my novels is being accepted by a traditional publisher.
G: Anything else you wish to elaborate on?
P: When I first began submitting my work, the rejections were hard to handle. Maybe not the first or third or tenth, but eventually I began questioning why I was trying to market my work at all.
Writer friends are a lifeline. A special camaraderie that can’t be duplicated. They taught me that writing and publishing is about the journey. Not just the destination. From that moment, my attitude changed. I’ve made numerous acquaintances of incredibly talented people, attended inspiring events, and rejoiced in the success of colleagues. I’m enjoying every aspect of this wonderful and rewarding journey. And all that is to savour along the way. If I travel no further than I am now, I am not disappointed. I’m in awe of the people I’ve met, thankful of occasions we’ve shared, and gratified by the passion-filled experience. Oh, what a magical journey.
booksSo appreciative of your sharing, Phyllis. Thanks too for your continued nurturing of the Lambton Writers’ Association. Continued happiness and success on your writing journey.


You can visit Gloria's web page here

Monday, January 12, 2015

When A Writer Stops Writing

What happens when a writer decides to stop writing? I found out a few months ago. It was my fault, of course. I’d taken my passion and turned it into something stressful. More like work than play. Joy had left the building – my office at least. My brain rebelled and misery seeped through the tension like blood from an open wound. (Give me a break, I do write crime, you know.)

It was too much. The writing deadlines, the literary events, the number of new books to be read, digested – god forbid reviewed, no time for that. The market flooded as everyone and his brother – or sister, as the case may be – were self-publishing. Excuse me, that’s no longer politically correct – it’s independently publishing. Something I vowed never to do.

Now, before you get your drawers in a knot, I’m not criticizing those who want their books in print and then do everything in their power to make it happen. On the contrary, I have a rather grudging respect for them. But it’s not for me.

I’ll continue to polish my novels, maybe even send a few more queries. I did get an exciting nibble a few months back. It was on what they termed my ‘dark thriller’. Perhaps it was too dark for them. Trends change. If I started writing traditional mysteries, the publishers would be sending out calls for stories about little old ladies dragging blood spattered axes behind them. (Now we’re back to my dark thriller.) There shouldn’t be trends in the publishing industry. What happened to just a damn good story? Don’t get me started.

Anyway, the whole … writing thing … was getting me down. I was running as hard as I could and not getting anywhere fast. So that’s when I took a timeout. No writing. If I can go for a couple of months without sitting at the computer, then I can escape forever.

After a few weeks, several weeks actually which is more than just a few, I had an overwhelming urge to write. I bought a new journal. Something special. I rooted through my desk drawer for my treasured Cross pen, sleek, silver and engraved. It had been a gift. At least thirty years old – older than some of the writers whose books are on the bestseller list. Never mind.

I opened the tooled leather cover and began to write. I wrote like no one would read it. My philosophies on life, my regrets – I know we’re not supposed to have any, but who doesn’t – and something magical happened. It felt good. I felt good. I couldn’t remember the last time I hand wrote anything, aside from a grocery list, which is usually indecipherable.

Journaling had been a life-long habit. One that I’d neglected when I began writing stories. I’d stopped looking inward, never scratching deeper than the surface, thinking I knew what I wanted without reflection.

This brings to mind something a published friend said to me. “Be very careful what you wish for.” These cryptic words echoed repeatedly through my mind. Sage advice. Not that I’ve given up on my aspirations. No, I’ve simply put things back into perspective.

And so here I am. Back at the keyboard. Void of expectation. Void of commitment – relatively speaking. I’ve put the joy back into writing. It’s a passion, not a job.

Yesterday, my husband stopped at the open door to my office. “Haven’t seen me here for awhile, have you?” I said. He didn’t comment but I think he was pleased. As if everything had fallen back into place.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Memories of Mom

Though my mother is never far from my thoughts, it’s on the occasion of her birthday that my memories are most poignant.
My mother, Gladys Crowell, was born January 11, 1911 to Maritime farmers Frederick and Melissa.  She grew up with her sisters Laura, Mabel, Elvie, and younger sister Thelma, along with brothers Forest and Cecil, whom she idolized.  
Sitting with my mom on quiet evenings, as her crochet hook weaved intricate doilies, she often recounted the fun and mischief she and her siblings shared as children.  Forbidden to go to the frozen pond after dark, she and her brothers would climb out the dining room window, their blades slung over their shoulders, and head off to meet friends from the neighbouring farm.  Her handsome brother Forest entertained them with his graceful turns and manoeuvres. 
Watching televised skating competitions, a favourite pastime in later years, brought back memories of those cold wintry nights on the pond.  My mother often boasted that Forest skated as well as any professional.  Tragically, her brother died of diphtheria at the age of twenty-one.  A crushing loss for my mother.
I remember seeing a wedding photograph taken in the early thirties. A tall, broodingly handsome man with black wavy hair stood at my mother’s side. Demureness emanated from the tilt of her head, her chocolate eyes and dark lashes. It was the jaunty angle of the hat over her dark hair and the broad fox collar of her coat that suggested her sense of style and class. 
Within five years, she was the mother of three girls.  She often related the story to me. The baby had turned one year old the day her husband didn’t return home. Each time Mom rested her head on the pillow, she could hear the revving of a car engine.  Though there was only silence when she went to the door, the sound of the car returned when her head touched the pillow.  In her heart, she knew.  The next morning notification came of her husband’s fatal accident.
Years later, when Mom was visiting her sister she met my Aunt Elvie’s military boyfriend – a blond, blue-eyed MP.  Mom reminisced that she was surprised when the officer appeared at her own door one evening.  He claimed he had dropped by to see her little girls, as he was very fond of children.  He suggested that perhaps he could read to them. It wasn’t long before the widow and her children looked forward to his evening visits.  The girls danced to the tune of his fiddle music and crowded onto his lap while he read stories. 
Decades later, my aunt was still ribbing my mother about stealing her boyfriend. Their marriage produced two children before moving from Nova Scotia to Ontario where an unanticipated arrival joined the family – that would be me, number six.  Mom celebrated her forty-first birthday less than a month later and became a grandmother six months after that.
I remember waiting at a bus stop when a woman mistook me as a grandchild.  My mother corrected her, and saved further embarrassment to the woman by telling her she had a grandchild almost the same age.
Mom began working at the local hospital when I was around two years old.  In addition to her part-time job, caring for the family and household, she took in boarders – as many as three at a time.  With a congenial personality and sometimes-zany sense of humour, she added levity to many grim situations.
It was probably the year before she took sick that I met a young co-worker of my mother’s from the Red Cross. She wanted me to know that the girls at work thought my mother was special and everyone looked up to her.
A woman who took pride in everything she did. Spirited and popular, with an envious sense of style, and a zest for life despite life’s hardships. 
My mom.