Posts filed under ‘writing family stories’

Dreaming of spring but living in the now

We can well dream of the season ahead when plant life begins to poke its head above the soil and the sun warms them and helps them grow, yet we must live in the now and not in dreamland. For as Janice L Dick says in her post today, then we have material to write about. She wrote:

“No matter who we are, we will experience uneven roads on our respective journeys. Writing is living out our thoughts, dreams, fears..

 

 

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some of the gaillardia from my garden last year

 

Canadian Networker Fall Business Expo photo courtesy of KW Snap 2015

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March 1, 2016 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Turning us upside down

Gayleen and Frank, 25th anniversary - Copy

Two years ago today, we were preparing to attend the funeral of my childhood friend, Gayleen. Since then, I’ve endured the loss of friends— Kathy, Susan and Pat— this year, and others, and of course, Samantha, who died much too soon at the age of 16 years old. Today I dedicate this blog post to anyone who has lost a family member or friend in the past year, because I know I am not alone.

Turning me upside down

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Life is a strange thing. Just when we think we’ve got things sorted out and life is ‘humming along,’ there comes a change. A boss says, “We don’t need you anymore” or a change in economic times makes us reconsider our spending, and even where we live. Along with that sorting and packing up of our belongings come feelings of bewilderment and sometimes anger and a lot of sadness.

Big events change things and force us to make new decisions that we might not have made otherwise, such as when a tornado turned the barn on our family farm into a shambles of wood and cement and broken beams. We were fortunate that no one was in the barn at the time and that the animals were in the field that August day when the storm passed through. It was clear that the barn had to come down afterwards for safety reasons, but my parents had to decide what to do next for their farming operations.

There was no death on account of the tornado, but there was some trauma for the house got a good shaking too. Everything my parents had worked for had changed. If there were any blessings, it was the way people in the community worked together to help out those affected by the storm.

Grief, as a part of life, is even stranger. We get settled into a lifestyle, while knowing we won’t have forever, but someone close to us dies and it sets everything we know on end. Time is marked ‘before’ and ‘after’ the event. Before the tornado, before the cancer diagnosis, before the accident… and after.

When friends offer their condolences or bring a meal for a family upended without their beloved, those are difficult times, but healing begins with those comforting hugs and help.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, named the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What was once was believed to be an orderly pattern, people soon learned that there’s a back and forth, not necessarily in that order. Still it’s helpful to know what feelings are part of the terrain.

I don’t pretend to know how it feels to experience the death of a child or spouse, but I do know it in relation to the death of a good friend or close relative outside my single family unit. There’s an empty place where that person once was, and even when we know the person has believed in God, and whom we presume to have gone to their heavenly home, there’s the ache that’s left—an emptiness.

In a conversation with a fellow church member this past year after yet another death of a friend, I said, “We’re never ready.” She was quick to agree and cited two examples from that very week, one of them being Samantha, who at 16 had already shown much promise.

We cry ‘too soon’ or ‘it’s not fair.’ We may plead and bargain, but this is our new reality and our life is thrown out of its routine by something so large that’s beyond us.

Society, at least in North America for the most part, would have us rush back into living, to try to forget our trauma, to keep busy and move on. While there is a comfort to routine, even that has been upset, whether in job loss, tornado’s destruction or the death of someone close. The grief moves with us. Ross says:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Christians believe that the person, loved by God and accepted as his child, will go to that perfect home where there are no more tears and where Jesus wipes away those tears. Hard as it is to go on without the beloved, we believe that Jesus walks with us through that grief and that if we’re crying, it’s quite likely he sheds tears with us as he did for his friend Lazarus.

This may not be overly theological, but I’d like to think of Jesus as having one very large handkerchief that he uses to wipe away our tears, as well as a big warm hug to help us along the way. He`s gone to prepare a place for us, a place where there will be no more tears.

The ‘hanky,’ as my grandmother would have called it, may very well belong to a friend and the hug from those around us, in his stead. And I might ask, as I did in this part of a poem I wrote this fall for another storyteller whose grandson died in October:

 

“Is that handkerchief big enough

for our tears too?

for Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s

my tears

and those of all our friends?”
May you be comforted this day by someone’s love and not be afraid to call on God for his love and peace as you grieve.

 

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a bouquet for you today

January 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Memoir Writing Opportunity

Do you know of a senior, who lives in Kitchener, who maybe doesn`t get out much but who would like to begin to share their stories. Everyone has a story.

I`m pleased to have been offered the time to present my workshop.

Senior Connections Jan 11

http://www.carolynwilker.ca

Canadian Networker Fall Business Expo

December 30, 2015 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

The Shedding Christmas Tree

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My granddaughters, aged 4 & 6, each made one of these for their tree a few weeks ago when we were doing a craft. I made one along with them.

 

Pets shed their fur, people lose hair upon combing it, and trees eventually lose needles when they’re brought indoors too. But our tree is not a real one and it’s shedding too. Pretty badly, I might say.

We take our tree out of its storage box each December, assemble the poles that are never really hidden and put them in the stand, then stage the branches according to colour sequence from top to bottom. Then at the end of the season, sometime in early January, I take it apart and put the branches and all back in the box.

All of this came after a year or two of having a real tree and then needing to put them all out of the curb each January with all the others. That was before they were collected for environmental purposes, at least that I knew of. I worried about all those trees cut down for a short season indoors and decided to do something different. And so we bought our first artificial tree.

Once the pieces are out of the box and on the tree, we, rather I, spread out the compacted branches and then put on the lights. By the time I have done this, the living room carpet is full of those fibres that are meant to resemble needles on a pine tree. I complained about the fall-out last year when I put the tree up, and this week I said, “At the end of this season, this tree goes out.” Next year, it means we get a new one.

It was a White Rose special, a moderately priced tree, and for a lot of years it served us well. By the time we get the lights on and all the decorations, it’s passable, apart from the spindly topmost pointed branch that always leans when I put on my hand crafted angel, though it’s not very heavy. She looks like she’s had one too many celebrations. Unless you compare our tree to a real tree or one of those with hinged branches—much fuller branches—with the lights already on them, it doesn’t look too bad.

Usually my husband hauls out the boxes—tree and decorations—and hands over the rest of the job to me. When I’m done assembling and decorating, he vacuums the room because every year it sheds. This time I gave him the job of sorting out the lights since he had wrapped them carefully and completed the job on each bundle with tape as he does with all electrical cords, in a neat and orderly fashion.

By the time I returned home from an errand, he not only had the lights sorted, but he had assembled the three strings of green lights and put them on the tree, after a fashion. He said, on my return, “You can rearrange the lights how you like them.” I did some rearranging, but he’d done not such a bad job of it himself. And the bonus, he had the lights turned on. That was to check that all the lights worked, he said.

 

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This ball was a gift from my friend, Amanda, last year. Love it!

 

This morning I began to decorate the tree, putting on my myriad collection of ornaments, snowmen, Santas, angels, pewter ornaments, some of those coming from various parts of the world. In previous years our children helped decorate the tree, but they have homes of their own and have their own ornaments—some collected throughout childhood. Last year it was my granddaughters, Evy and Ana, then 3, 5 years old, who helped me with the finishing touches. This year the lower ornaments on the tree are ones a baby can take off and hold without the fear of breaking.

 

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one of my Nova Scotia ornaments

 

I’ll put on Christmas music while I decorate—this year a collection by Michael Cavan Kelly—and remember the Salvation Army brass ensemble that played at the grocery store last evening. Then we’ll move the tree into its place, wrap the tree skirt around it and my husband will vacuum again, because as sure as the tree needs to be decorated, more of those green fibres will be on the carpet and on my socks and all through the house. After that, and only then, I turn off the rest of the lights, and sit back and admire my work.

 

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our tree, all decorated

 

I’ve already begun my shopping, in fact, I have a good chunk done. And this weekend I’ll finish writing the last of my Christmas cards and get them in the mail. What we all do for a holiday such as Christmas! And only then will I get out the white stone crèche and figures and arrange it somewhere out of reach of our eight-month-old grandchild, who’s seeing Christmas for the first time.

And that’s our preparation for Christmas, besides preparing our hearts for the Saviour we will celebrate.

May your hearts be filled with joy and peace this holy season and may health, healing of relationships and love of family and friends be yours this Christmas.

 

 

 

All  photos on this blog are my own unless otherwise mentioned.

December 10, 2015 at 2:00 am 2 comments

From my writer’s notebook

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It hasn’t always been my practice to carry a notebook, but since I’ve begun to write, I make sure that I take along a small notebook or a few pieces of paper, and at least one good pen to write with. I try to practise what I tell my students to do, to gather fodder for story or poem, inspiration for some day when the well seems to have run dry.

There’s a notebook, quite often coil bound, at my bedside table for the late or middle of the night inspirations, a notebook in my car, a notebook in my purse, albeit a tiny one. And pens—well many pens around me—but not always many in my purse.

After my office was painted and I was putting it back in working order, I found one such book. Here’s an undated entry from a notebook that bears the dates 2005, 2004 on other pages:

“We are like grass withered and brown; our bodies perish, our souls flee. Surely there is some trace, some remembrance of our time here when eternity comes.”

What triggered this entry, I wonder? Was it someone’s death? Was it before my book?

Another jotting that sounds like the making of a poem: “Earth’s morning jolted from a dreamless sleep, seamless as the evening sky.”

Poetic, and again no date or reason for writing it. Where was I? What was I doing? Maybe it doesn’t matter when or where, only that it’s there.

One, dated April 7, 2005, about my relationship with God:

I, sinful and weak

break my word to you time after time

year after year

but you have not turned me away

have not given up on me

 

Who would give me so many chances…

 

Indeed, who else?

 

Some of these entries are jottings during our pastor’s sermon. Words, phrases that I want to remember, in a notebook, other times on the back of the service bulletin. I quickly scribble down the line so I can write about it later—Sorry, Pastor, I’m still listening, sort of. My mind is taking a rabbit trail from your sermon; you’ve triggered an idea. Always a writer’s mind here, you see.

Even now, I have three pens laying on the desk, even while my fingers work on the keyboard. I often use pens for a first draft. My fingers can more easily keep up with a flow of words when they come to me than typing on a keyboard. When I type, I keep correcting my writing.

If L. M. Montgomery could keep up to her story while using pen, then it’s still a good thing, and I have the best of both worlds when I can use the computer for revision.

Another jotting and I know where it came from:

Dimpled hands reach

arms wrap around me

something to hold on to

grabbing hold of hair  ears

whatever can be clasped by those tiny fingers

wet kisses on my cheek

I return the hug gladly

 

 

Not polished, nevertheless, something I want to remember.

I’ll keep on carrying notebook and pens, because I never know what gem I may discover. Writing comes from living a life, not only from sitting behind a desk, typing.

 

What treasures do your notebooks hold?

December 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm 2 comments

Through the Locks by Boat

Back to our holidays and something we did for the first time. My husband and I had watched from the sidelines as boats went through locks in Peterborough and in Midland area, but this time we experienced it while riding in our daughter and son-in-law’s boat.

We had a clear day and my daughter packed a picnic lunch, water and juice boxes, and extra snacks for the children. We set off from the trailer and got settled in the boat, life jackets and all.

DSCF9150 We saw a bird on one of the other boats as we pulled out.DSCF9152Here’s a better shot.  It’s a stork.

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DSCF9155Leaving the park behind, I noticed how the boat makes a trail that looks like a dolphin’s or whale’s  forked tail. It’s slightly cooler out here on the water with a bit of breeze.

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From http://www.boatingontario.ca/Articles/tabid/71/ID/42/PageID/61/The-Trent-Severn-Waterway-Trenton-to-Bobcaygeon.aspx

Buckhorn – Lock 31 is a very busy spot in July and August, so keep a good watch for downbound traffic as you turn into the lock.

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Waiting at the first lock at Buckhorn for all the boats to be secured. As a boater, our son-in-law is a safe operator.

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Looking up to the top to see how far the water will rise. She already is a  good helper in putting out the bumpers to protect the side of the boat. It was also a very warm day and we’re wearing our sunscreen.

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I cannot remember all the spots and which ones they were. We went through Buckhorn Lock, 31, then Lovesick Lock, which was #30 on the way to Bobcaygeon.

LoveSick Lock: There’s a story to that name.

Lock 30 – Lovesick, tucked in on Millage Island, is hard to spot, so look for the red day beacon on Wolf Island to guide you in and around the green buoy to the lock.There is no road access to the lock, so the quiet and beautiful surroundings make this the place to be in this area. In peak season, plan on arriving early and grabbing a space on the lower lock wall.You’ll also find space on the upper walls in a park-like setting.

http://www.boatingontario.ca/Articles/tabid/71/ID/42/PageID/61/The-Trent-Severn-Waterway-Trenton-to-Bobcaygeon.aspx

After LoveSick Lock, we passed many rocky islands, with the wind in our face and the sun overhead, then through Burleigh Lock

By this time we’d gone through two locks, had a picnic at Lovesick Lock and then one more lock

DSCF9166 Some grand boats on this stretch of water. Think we’re back at Buckhorn.

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Many interesting cottages and homes along the lake

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DSCF9170Getting to be good boaters

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Canoe pulled up to that island. Is there even a cottage there?

DSCF9209 The open water, the sky. The sun was hot but we’re cooler on the water. Still a sunburn at the end of the day in spite of  applying more sunscreen part way through our outing.

DSCF9213 Along the lake shore on our way back to the resort. It’s been a good day and the girls are tired.

DSCF9172 A nearly deserted island?

DSCF9200 On our way back to the resort, and the girls slept part of the last stretch. It was a good day.

Photos copyright C Wilker unless otherwise noted

August 26, 2015 at 10:56 am 4 comments

Anticipation

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A bird sits on the topmost branch of a cedar in our backyard. He looks one way and then another. I open my office window a crack to check if he’s singing. He’s not, at least at this moment. And then he takes flight and I cannot see him anymore. The sun is shining in a light blue sky that holds fluffy white clouds. The air is still cool, but the snow banks have been shrinking and what’s on the sidewalks is turning into a small lake.

I thought to wear my rain boots instead of heavy winter boots yesterday when I prepared for my walk, and it was a good thing, for as the sun warmed the atmosphere, the puddles on the sidewalk and near street corners had grown large enough to slosh through and get one’s feet very wet.

Two young boys, just home from school, stood on top of snow piles next to the sidewalk and gathered whatever snow they could grab and tossed it in the water on the street. Perhaps they were checking how fast the snow would melt, or was it a science experiment, trying to displace water from the already growing small lake on the road?

Teens skateboarded down the middle of the street, talking as they went, and separated enough to let a car pass as it came close.

The streets are widening too, with the receding snow. I haven’t seen a robin yet, but I’ve heard the cardinal call. Is it spring yet?

After a long winter, with much snow and dark nights, I’m ready for spring to show its face, ready to see the earth come alive and the buds form on the trees, but I am not rushing time, for each moment we have is one we will not have again.

In the past few weeks, we’ve heard news of the death of three people, two elderly relatives and my friend Kathy, which has been difficult. Good-byes are hard, even knowing they go on to heaven. Those days of mourning are not to be rushed.

At the same time, we also await the arrival of a new member of our family, at the beginning of life beyond the womb. And I do not want to rush those last days of the mother-to-be preparing her heart and mind for the birth of her baby, or the baby’s father to recover from what may have been a viral bug. He needs to be well to attend the birth of their first child. The obstetrician has said, “It’s time.” And so soon, we shall meet our new grandchild who has indicated life through many kicks and movements within its little warm fluid-filled sack.

In the church year, we’re in the season of Lent, a slower more reflective time, with dark shadows, death, and a lot of waiting. It’s interesting how Lent parallels our anticipation of spring after a long winter, in the northern hemisphere, and how that promise of joy comes at Easter when we often see the first hint of flowers coming from the cool earth.

New life, and that brings me back to the anticipated baby.

 

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I think this baby may yet beat the arrival of our spring flowers, and then we shall be stepping lively to meet this little one and congratulate the new parents. There may be tears, of both joy and sadness, when this baby arrives. Perhaps we’ll even sing as loud as all the birds together. The baby’s young cousins will meet the baby they have been waiting for, and welcome the baby with kisses and gentle hugs.

 

 

March 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

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