Category: Life (page 1 of 5)

A Surprising Gift for Christmas

Christmas…

Excited children, twinkling lights, the smell of fresh baking…

Sweat pooling under the armpits as you  trudge on the treadmill…

RECORD SCRATCH

Okay, maybe that’s not what comes to mind for most people when they think about Christmas. But this year, it’s been part of my ‘MO’ for quite awhile now.

I’ve been faithfully attending cardiac rehabilitation for almost ten weeks now. My last session is on December 22 – just in time for Christmas. I started going back at the end of August but had some ‘setbacks’ (namely two trips to the emergency ward and more time in hospital) so ‘restarted’ in October. Since the program is not available in my community, I have been driving almost two hours one way to attend in Fort St John. Fortunately, I have three children who live there, so I’ve invited myself to stay over most weeks, and have been spending a lot of time with the grandkids. I sometimes feel as if I should just move permanently!

Kidding, of course. I am amazed at how much stronger I feel. What a gift! I jokingly say I haven’t felt this physically fit for years.

Most of all, I am grateful for the gift of life. Near death experiences will do that to you. For those that don’t know, I had a heart attack in May of this year and then had to have triple bypass surgery. Many people shrug when they hear those words – bypass surgery. It is a common procedure these days and most people know someone who has gone through it. No biggy, right?

For those of us who have experienced it, let me just say, I hope to never have to go through that again. Having your chest cut wide open and having your heart stopped so that it can be operated on, is a bit disconcerting, to say the least, no matter how ‘common’ it might be! The months of painful recovery are no picnic either. It’s why I am so amazed by the fact that I can sustain a ninety minute work-out that actually makes me sweat.

Reasonably good health is a gift not to be taken for granted. It’s the one I’m most grateful for this Christmas.

Football, Flurries, and Fifty-Thousand Words

Wow. November is drawing to a close and with it three milestones starting with the letter ‘F’:

  1. FOOTBALL! The CFL’s Grey Cup was played on Sunday, and although my team didn’t make it to the big game, I thoroughly enjoyed what will probably go down in history as one of the craziest upsets ever. The Toronto Argonauts came back in the final minutes to beat the highly favoured Calgary Stampeders in a wintery snow bowl. I felt bad for the Stamps, since the game was freakishly reminiscent of their loss last year, but on the other hand, kudos to Ricky Ray for becoming the first starting quarterback in CFL history to win four Grey Cups.

2. Fifty Thousand: Yes, I love football, but I also love writing and this year I finished ‘Nanowrimo’ for the seventh time. I clocked in my 50,000 words earlier today on a project I have loosely named ”Teaching Memoirs’ since it includes a large segment on my time teaching Drama as well as quite a bit on my time homeschooling. I’m not sure exactly where it will go from here, but I’m looking forward to editing it and seeing what happens. (Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month – where people from around the world sign up to write 50,000 words in the month of November.)

3. The final ‘F’ for this post – Flurries – lots of them! We have been locked into a snowy world for about three weeks now, and as you can see from the pictures of the Grey Cup game on Sunday, it looks like we’re not the only part of the country to be experiencing these above average snowfalls so early in the season. My husband has shovelled our driveway at least ten times (not exaggerating) and it isn’t letting up. A ‘White Christmas’ is a no-brainer around these parts!

Remembering Remebrance Day

As a child, I had to sit through two Remembrance Day ceremonies. The first usually took place on Nov. 10 at my school. Hundreds of students would cram in the gym and sit quietly through the familiar reading of ‘In Flanders Fields’ and the 23rd Psalm. Amazingly, everyone was able to remain still – even the normally fidgety ones – during the minute of silence. Somehow, the sense that this was something REVERENT had gotten through.

The second service took place at the Elks Hall. For some reason, this service had even more impact. It followed much the same program with the reading of ‘thee’ poem and ‘thee’ psalm, but there was something more. All the aging soldiers were there, medals jangling on their breasts as they marched in as best they could and sat in a place of honour near the front. After the playing of ‘Reveille’ by our local trumpet player came what was – and still is – perhaps the most moving aspect of all: Reading the roll call.

There is something very poignant about hearing name after name being called; all young men and women who fell defending democracy. The other thing that made my heart flutter was the fact that I recognized most of the surnames. Many of these last names were repeated during my morning attendance at school. You see, I come from a small prairie town where everyone knows everyone. These were relatives of people I knew; fallen soldiers that claimed Mossbank as their home.

Added to this was the fact that my hometown of Mossbank used to be home to an airbase during World War Two. A lot of air force veterans trained there during the war years, so anything military was kind of a big deal. After the war, most of the activity was moved to nearby Moose Jaw, a much larger and better equipped air base. (And currently still the home of the famous Canadian ‘Snow Birds’.) When I was a child we could watch for free as the Snow Birds did much of their flight training over our town, and you could still go exploring many of the abandoned hangers. They have since all been removed and the former base is now the home of the golf course.

When I moved away from Mossbank I continued to make attending a Remembrance Day service a part of my life. We moved a lot, so I’ve been at many different types of services. Most contain the same basis elements, but some seem more reverent than others. Still, I find it one of the most touching ceremonies, despite the sense of ‘ritual’ that it most often contains. I inevitably shed a tear or two, and usually go home to spend the rest of the day in reflection. One year I was able to take my children back to Mossbank for Remembrance Day. They were all a lot younger then, but I think it may have helped them understand the deep meaning that the day continues to hold for me. As we listened to the ‘Roll Call’, I think they may have recognized a name or two, as well.

May we never forget that these are not just story book heroes that we read about years later. They were real men and women who sacrificed themselves for our freedoms. No words can really express the gratitude that we owe. Thank you.

Nano Time Again!

November is my favourite time of year for one simple reason: Nanowrimo. In case you’ve been living in a cave (or aren’t a writer), Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. Writers of every genre and experience are encouraged to write 50,000 words during the month of November, cheering one another on via forums and other incentives. I missed last year’s Nano, but I have completed my required 50,000 words six consecutive times before that. Two published book came out of it (NEIGHBOURS 1 and KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS) as well as other works that I hope to publish some day.

This year I am breaking with tradition and trying my hand at non-fiction. Technically, I’m not writing a novel, but I figure 50,000 words is still 50,000 words, right? I’m excited about several memoir projects that are in my head, so that is the direction I plan to go this year. As a former homeschooler, I have lots to say on that topic. As a heart attack survivor I’ve got some revelations to share. As a drama teacher, I’ve got some advice on teaching theatre in the ‘boondocks’, and I recently was inspired by something a house guest said about ‘agism’ in our society. Where I actually end up will be anyone’s guess, but I have lots of inspiration. Stay tuned for more.

And now back to those 50,000 words…

Life of Fictitious Ink

In the summer of 2013, I started down the path of setting up my own publishing company, looking to the day when the rights to  some of my own novels would revert back to me. With baby steps, I went through the process of setting up my business, getting a licence, and registering my publishing company – FICTITIOUS INK.

In 2014 I published a little ‘test’ book called LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: ADVICE AND REFLECTIONS ON NAVIGATING THE ROAD OF LIFE.  The book was based on a speaking engagement I did at a women’s retreat, and I thought it would serve nicely as a giveaway.

I also decided to test myself further, and publish a children’s book – THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS.  This was a very personal project, as I wanted to publish it as a tribute to my late mother, who often sang Haven Gillespie’s beloved song to us as children. I started painting the illustrations shortly after she passed away in 2007, but it took several years and much time getting copyright permission etc, before the book would be a reality.

In 2016, three years after getting my business licence, I decided it was time to publish something more substantial. I had learned a few things about formatting, various software options, and other best practices, and had the next perfect ‘test’ book in mind. I’d received the rights back to my NEIGHBOURS Series, so republished these as a  set of serialized ebooks along with a complete volume in both ebook format and paperback.  It was my biggest publishing effort to date. It basically took up most of that summer, but it was well worth the time and steep learning curve it took to get this book the way I wanted it.

Somehow, in the busyness of that summer, I also got the idea for a little prayer journal which I put together called THIRTY DAYS OF TARGETED PRAYER: A JOURNALING TOOL TO BOOST YOUR PRAYER COMMITMENT.  Again, my motivation was rather personal. I am a voracious ‘journaler’ and often ‘pray’ while doing so. I wanted a systematic way to pray for other people and this is what I came up with. (By the way, I’ve been using it myself ever since.)

The learning continues and in 2017  I reformatted and republished THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS as a hardcover book, which is so much nicer than the paperback. I also published two children’s books as class projects, writing and illustrating the story books with my Art 7 and 8 students.  HOCKEY IN THE WILD and FIRE BEAR are the results.

The second in the NEIGHBOURS Series also came into being with another set of serialized novellas and a complete version called KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS.  And I finally got around to the impetus for this whole experiment, which was to republish my own work when I got the rights back. My first published novel got revised and republished under a new name: CONSPIRACY OF BONES (And the Beat Goes On)

 

When I actually take the time to write it all down, I feel pretty satisfied. Sometimes it is easy to feel like you aren’t getting anything accomplished, but I can see steady growth and forward movement. I have plenty of plans for Fictitious Ink for the coming years.

Check out the FI website here for more cool photos.

 

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