Catch Up!

I chose this title thinking of a writer from Ontario whose work appeared in some of the same publications as mine over the years. She was a retired schoolteacher when we became acquainted. She often sent out emails to the people on her contact list with the title “Catch up” and she’d tell us all the news from her corner of the world.

She once sent me a photo of the farmhouse she lived in. It was beautiful. Over the years she moved several times as she downsized. She sent me some of her books in the past and shared her poetry with me, although she wrote more fiction that poetry. She’d tell me about the trips she went on, which sounded so remarkable to me for she was over 8o at the time. I was impressed by her stamina and her ability to try new things, her sense of fun and spirit. I came to value our friendship.

Overtime the emails became less frequent and I couldn’t help but notice that she seemed a bit confused–sending the same thing several times. Eventually, the emails  and letters stopped. I have no idea if she’s still with us in mind or body, but I appreciated her encouragement over the years and all her little “catch up” emails.

So, here is the “catch up” at the Best household this time around. Hold fast to your britches this is exciting stuff!

Zucchini…zucchini…zucchini. But if you’re on my Facebook you already know that it’s a zucchini jungle here in East Dalhousie as an influx of the green beasts are arriving daily to my garden. I’ve been slowly finding homes for these wayward …Ummm…souls doesn’t sound appropriate here, but you know what I mean. Here’s the scoop when it comes to zucchini. You either love them or loathe them, and when you loathe them you REALLY loathe them to the point where you don’t even want to hear the word zucchini mentioned in your presence. I have shuddered in the past over people’s rendition of the “I hate zucchini and don’t even mention the word to me” ballad. These people need some serious help! On a positive note, I’ve been discovering some new recipes that incorporate zucchini.

 

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5 weeks to T-Day (That’s twin day for those of you out of the loop) although I won’t be surprised if they come a little ahead of schedule as they’re growing like zucchini …um make that weeds. Did I mention we’re having a girl and a boy? Exciting times. Speaking of twins, it seems there are twins everywhere I look. These twins were in the backyard yesterday nibbling away. No doubt a hint that the lawn could use mowing again.

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Miss Charlotte has her backpack ready and will heading off to school on the 8th of September. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Wasn’t it just a year ago she started walking and talking and reading? Oh my!

Some sad news for us this month as well. One of my mum’s childhood friends, who went to the School for the Blind with her, isn’t doing so well. My mum and stepfather got down to visit her in the hospital yesterday to say their goodbyes. The last time I saw her was at Mum’s wedding last fall. She was anxious to know when my next book was coming out. Growing up, I heard so many stories about Mum’s friends from the school and many of them have stayed in contact with her over the years. It’s a strong bond they all share.

That’s what friends are for—I’m reminded of this in so many ways. A late night email from a friend, who sent along some words of encouragement, for no particular reason, not only gave me a much needed boost, but impressed upon me the importance in lifting one another up. We can all use encouragement, not just during our low times, but all those times in between—writers especially. So a big thank you to my friend who understands that the little things really do mean so much.

We were to a beautiful wedding at the end of July at Sainte- Famille Wines in Falmouth. So happy for these friends who go back all the way to elementary school if we’re being technical.

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I’ve a few book events coming up in September and will be part of the Arts and Life Tour again this year. I’ll be at the Parkdale/Maplewood Museum  the same as last year.  You’ll even see my name listed! Drop in and say hello if you’re taking in this tour. I’ll be there with my books and we can talk about writing or zucchini—you choose. I’m versatile that way! Seriously, sometimes people shy away from speaking to authors at these events, feeling that they’ll be expected to buy a book. That’s not true.  While authors love it when someone makes a purchase, we also love meeting people and having a good gab!

Also, before I go, I’d like to mention to any of the writers out there who would like to be a guest on blog during the month of September feel free to contact me through the “contact me” or my regular email if you have it. If you have a book you’d like to promote we’ll mention that too. I’ve declared September the “lifting up my fellow author month.” 

 

Now it’s your turn. What do you have to share as part of this “catch up” post?

 

Waiting on Inspiration

I’ve been waiting on some inspiration for the past couple of weeks, hoping for some idea for a blog post. Then it hit me—like inspiration does. I’ll write a post about inspiration because, at the moment, I feel inspired to do so. Inspiration often hits us like the shot from a gun. Bang! She kind of blind-sides us at the strangest, most inconvenient times. We’re waiting in traffic, sitting in the dentist’s chair, fixing dinner for a hungry crowd. She doesn’t give warnings. Oh no, that would be too easy for inspiration. She’s cagey, a bit of a trickster, but no matter what her terms are we welcome with her open arms. IMAG0574AShe comes right out of the blue when we least expect her. Dropping what we’re in the midst of, we hurry toward our computer, or if our computer isn’t handy we whip out a notebook, and scribble down that brilliant thought, paragraph, sentence, or word. Satisfaction forms a smile on our face as a comforting feeling wraps a warm arm around our heart. Finally, the waiting is over. We’ve found the very inspiration we’ve been longing for. Most times when we weren’t even looking. One thing is for certain we can’t rush inspiration—nope, not at all. Like an apparition stepping through the mist she comes to us in her own good time. She can be illusive, sometimes shy, other times she appears in her party dress, classy and down right sassy, ready to entertain us with her flamboyant moves. She can dance for hours if we’re willing to watch. No sense in letting our frustration build as we wait and wonder when she’ll appear. There’s no point in sending her a gold embossed invitation or attempt to serenade her in the evening hours beneath moonlight and stars. We can’t coax her out of hiding like a kitten that’s crawl under a doorstep the moment a little hand reaches out for it. She’s a free spirit, who comes and go as she pleases. What’s most amazing is the way she can appears to us in so many different forms. No two people will ever see inspiration in the same way. Just as we are one of a kind, her relationship to us is unique, therefore everything we create, even though it may come from that same place of inspiration, is totally different. How cool is that? IMAG0581AIt has taken me quite some time to realize that no one will write a story the way I do, about the things I do, in the way I do it. Some people will like it, while others won’t. It’s that simple. I can’t/ won’t please everyone, but that won’t stop inspiration from seeking me out. She’ll come to me in spirit, in truth. She’ll touch me with moments of insight and send me in a direction that has never before held the weight of footsteps on its path. Do you often find yourself waiting on inspiration or is she a constant companion?

Working For the Weekend

 

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Early this morning my brain kept singing “everybody’s working for the weekend,” and I thought how true that is–for me at least. I wish it wasn’t so, but until my dream of signing that million dollar book contract come true I’m doomed to work a Monday to Friday. You know you have a seriously boring life when you find yourself getting excited over a new pair of work gloves–just saying. Maybe that’s why I write.

I wanted to pass along the link to Christi Corbett’s blog. Christi invites authors to her blog to tell their “Path to Publication” story. This week’s story is about little ole me! Here’s the link if you’d like to read my story. Oh, and have yourself a great weekend. I’ve a wedding to go to and I’m planning to see my little grandson. Yup, I love my weekends. Believe me, they’re much more exciting than a new pair of work gloves!

The story of my friend Oran

Have you ever thought about living to be 100? What it would be like to see all the changes in the world over a span of one hundred years? Would you even want to live that long? A lot of people say they most certainly wouldn’t want to, although I wonder if it’s because most of us really don’t expect to live that long so it’s an easy judgment to make. Some people look at old age as a disease of the body and mind, and I suppose for many it is. But I’m just not sure it has to be that way. I’ve heard about some pretty remarkable centurions. I can’t help thinking that much of it had to do with their attitude and their determination to age yet never grow “old.”

My next-door neighbour lived to be 100. She was a remarkable lady. She’s been gone for about 7 years now, but I think of her so often. She was a feisty lady with a twinkle in her eye and a fierce determination to do things one way or the other. Many times it was that “other” way, but it never made a difference in the end result.

I spent many hours at her house being entertained by her stories of long ago, totally enthralled in that way of life she so vividly described in her yarns. There was so much for someone like me to learn and my love for local history deepened with each story she told. I loved hearing her stories about the first time she remembered ever seeing a woman smoke (probably a big deal at the time!); her days in a one-roomed schoolhouse; the very first doll she ever had that she won in a raffle but ended up giving it away to a little girl she thought wanted it more; and even her memories of the rumble they heard the morning of the Halifax explosion in 1917 and when word finally reached them in the Forties Settlement that “Halifax blew up.” I once asked her why she didn’t write down her stories but she told me she didn’t want to because there had been so much sadness. She often spoke of her father’s death during the flu epidemic after the First World War and how she went to work as a hired girl shortly afterward. She never complained about any of these things or the sadness she spoke of, but simply stated them as fact.

More than her stories, as if they weren’t enough, she helped teach me that I was capable of doing things I normally wouldn’t even have attempted on my own. I like to think that a little of her determination kind of rubbed off on me over the years.

cupOne spring she decided we’d paint her bedroom. She’d chosen a soft lavender colour for the walls. It was her favourite. Painting I can do… no problems there. But while I was in the middle of rolling on the lavender I heard a strange sound coming from the kitchen. I went off to investigate only to find that my friend had her skillsaw out and was cutting a piece of wood to make a shelf for her newly painted room. Just so you know, she was about ninety at the time.Together we put up the shelf. Now, I’m not a shelf-putter-upper person by any stretch of the imagination. When I need a self put up in my house I get Hubby to do the job. But not that day. That day I was a shelf-putter-upper. While I put up brackets for a brand spanking new shelf, Hubby was nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, as I painted the walls and put up the shelf, my friend kept speculating on who would lay the cushion floor she’d bought. (Yes, she wanted the room to have a complete makeover.) Did I know anyone who could do it? she asked. While I couldn’t think of anyone, apparently she had someone in mind. And really, I should have known better. I really, really should have.

I’m not sure if my face gave way my surprise when she handed me a pair of scissors and told me to start cutting but it certainly should have. I stared down at the scissors, took a deep breath and started. There was no question about it. I was in for the whole deal. Cushion floor does NOT cut easily with scissors, but skin sure blisters easily—just so you know! And now that I think of it, she probably had me pegged for the job right from the start. She could be cagey that way …but cagey in an endearing way that always made me smile. Thank goodness the room was small with no strange and unusual cuts to make. It was no good for me to say I can’t do this, she’d have just said to give it a try anyway. She never worried that her expectations would not be met.

Like so many women in her time she was a quilter. I helped her with a few quilts one winter. I’d didn’t know how to use a thimble let alone quilt, but I did it. I love quilts, absolutely LOVE them. “Have you ever seen an ugly quilt?” I asked her one day as we stitched away. “Yes,” she said quite seriously, “this one.” But “ugly” or not, it keeps me warm, and I absolutely love it. Yes, she gave it to me when we were done. Of course it’s more than just a quilt, it’s pieces of coloured fabric stitched together with heart and soul and laughter and love and memory—and all those things makes it absolutely beautiful.

One thing I loved about doing things for my friend was she never expected perfection. (Good thing for that!) She was always just happy to have it done…and always grateful to have company.

IMAG0584One summer, when she was further into her nineties, she decided she wanted to finish one of the bedrooms upstairs in her house. Ignoring what others said about why she would decide at her age to tackle such a job, she went ahead. Her niece helped her. Saturday mornings we could hear the tap-tapping of hammers from down the road. “Oran must have got a pet woodpecker,” my husband would joke. It used to make us giggle as we imagined the two of them working away. But you know what? She got ‘er done. And I’m not sure if I’m more impressed that they did it, these two women with no carpentry skills, or the fact that at 90+ years she wasn’t too old to hope or wish or want or dream. And while I’m not absolutely sure, I think that her “I can” attitude had much to do with her longevity.

There is so much more to this story than I could possible post here, more than a lifetime if I were to dig deep enough. But more importantly, I think this story, this story of my friend, Oran, who lived to be 100 years young, is a story we can all learn from. Life is so much more than the number of years we’ve lived but the number of years we’ve filled with love and laughter and memories, not only for ourselves but for others.

Have you ever thought about living to be 100? Has anyone in your life made it that far?

Starting Over

I’ve moved. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time now. It was hard to get the time to set things up, and I’m still working at it. It’s a slow process. I hope you’ll be patient with me. Moving is a lot like starting over. You’re shaking your past, leaving it behind, saying adios amigo, see ya later alligator…

IMAG2341But wait a minute…I’m not really going any place. I’ve moved my Dalhousie blog to WordPress. A slow Internet connection played a big role in this decision. Blogger was simply impossible for me to deal with. It’s why I stopped updating. It just wasn’t worth the hassle. Okay, so now some of you are saying Dalhousie Blog? What the heck is that? Some of you know as I continually get clicks from the “way out here in Dalhousie ” tab on this blog. But the Dalhousie blog is a simply blog about life in rural Nova Scotia.

So if you’re interested you might want to check out my “other” blob. I have to be honest, this move has left me a little lonely without a single blog stat. I have one blog follower (Okay, apparently that’s me!) I inadvertently subscribed to my own blog and it simply won’t let me unsubscribe. Kind of pathetic, isn’t it? All well….I’ll start the slow climb upward. And really it’s not about the stats. A blog is an extension of ourselves, a way to express who we are. Who knows perhaps in time I’ll find a way to merge these two parts of my life and bring them together into one. One thing I did notice when the new posts were imported that some of them are a bit off in alignment. I tried moving things around but WordPress was stubborn. It just didn’t happen. So I’m going forward, turning my back on past posts. Full steam ahead!

Anyway, the “other” blog is mostly for photos, usually a quote, and written post. Quite simply for the time being. Perhaps as time goes by I’ll write some longer posts, but that will depend upon how inspired I feel.

So, if you’re ready, willing and able, here’s the link to the brand-spanking new …way out here in Dalhousie blog. I hope you’ll drop in from time to time and I hope I’ll feel much more comfy here with WordPress.

Basil the Bootlegger

IMAG2423Years ago people used to comment all the time on what a small world we live in. That was back in the days before social media and the Internet, when you could travel to another county in the province or even a whole other province and cross paths with someone who knew a relative or neighbour from your little community. It seemed a big deal. A little serendipitous, a little uncanny that you should stumble across someone who shares that connection with you—enough to make someone declare what a small world it is. Usually here in Dalhousie, you’d meet someone who was acquainted with an old fellow who used to bootleg. Seemed no matter where you went in Canada, and mentioned you were from Dalhousie, his name would come up. I swear he’s East Dalhousie’s most famous person which is exactly what Cammie had to say about her aunt Millie in Flying With a Broken Wing. But seriously, that’s the truth about these little communities in Nova Scotia—the bootlegger holds near celebrity status. And now just look, there’s a blog post even named after the bootlegger from Dalhousie. Yup, people still remember him from back in the day. I should only hope for the same recognition with my books. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this writing career of mine!

These days our world has been made even smaller via the Internet and social media sites. Now, we’re stumbling across people from all over the world. I can promise you though, not one of them has heard tell of Basil the bootlegger. Well, maybe now if you’re reading my blog. With all the social media sites out there we’re privy to information we’ve never had before and our world just keeps getting smaller. Some of you might remember that I was contacted last winter from someone in the US who wanted a picture of an ancestors tombstone here in Dalhousie. I snapped a photo and sent it off…Super cool. I was happy to oblige.

If you’re an author, the world has also become smaller with all the different sites at your disposal. A Google search of you or your book will bring up reviews as well as all the sites your book is listed on. You can read what others have to say about your book on GoodReads and what rating they give it. A site called WorldCat.org will show you the libraries around the world where your book (print and digital) is available. How cool to know that “Flying With a Broken Wing,” is in a library in Perth, Australia, and that someone in Singapore can sign out a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” and read about life in little old East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia—my backyard yet a totally different world for them.

An author can even track their book sales (print and digital) on a site called NovelRank that allows you to track your book on any Amazon site around the world. Novel Rank tells me that someone in France downloaded a digital copy of Flying With a Broken Wing. Tell me you don’t think that’s cool! There’s also a site called “Author Central” that tells you areas in the US that reported sales of your books, as well as the number of copies and how your book sales rank. Copies of my books have sold in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston. (I believe this site keeps track of, not only Amazon sales, but other sales as well.)

And if all that doesn’t have you falling over with adulation for the Internet, you can become involved in promoting your own book through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or by starting your own blog through WordPress or Blogger. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this. Some might say we really don’t need all these tools at our disposable, and that might be true, nonetheless they’re here. Like it or lump it. I prefer to like it, but also to pick and choose how much time I’ll devote to any one of these sites. Let’s face it, if your book makes a peep anywhere in the world you have the ability to know about it. Wonder why some days the Internet can make us feel like a spy?

To prove my point about how small the world has become I just did a Google search on Basil the Bootlegger and a whole page of links came up. Seems he’s more world famous that I previous thought! Okay, so I’m just joking with you, but I bet I had you fooled for a second.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to know—was Basil actually related to me or just someone from the community? You bet he was a relative, a distant cousin a few times removed. Wow, never thought I’d be boasting that fact. When all is said and done my claim to fame might not be the books I write at all, but the fact that I have a connection to the once infamous bootlegger of East Dalhousie. Go figure!

The only thing now that could bring Basil world wide recognition would be if this post went viral. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

What are you thoughts on the small world we live in today? Is it good, bad, scary or do you fully embrace it? More importantly, do you know who Basil the bootlegger was or were you related to him?

 

Seeking the Light

Over the weekend we attended a friend’s art exhibit at the LaHave Bakery Galley. It’s almost breathtaking to see someone’s life displayed through art of any form, to be an observer of how they grew over the years. The work displayed (Yes, we refer to it as work but as my friend, Jude, would say it’s not work–it’s play, it’s fun) covers a span of over forty years. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share some of my favourites since I obviously can’t post all 36 pieces of art. Here’s a bit of what Jude has to say about her art.

” I draw and paint my world through the eyes of my soul. This is how I see the world. These manifestations of my soul are a result of where I live, what life I have created, what I love, how I see, how I’ve grown and have enriched my home, my life”

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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”  Thomas Merton

Celebrating & Getting Organized

I recently celebrated my sixth year blogging anniversary. No champagne, no fireworks—just a little notification from WordPress stating the fact. Yippee!

I’m kind of proud of the fact that after six years I’m still blogging. I’ve seen many bloggers come and go over the years. Some of them I still miss from time to time. I started blogging to give people a place to find me once my first book was published, imagining as I did that thousands of people would seek me out. Okay, I’m just joking about the thousands. Back then, I knew nothing about blogging. Most days I still feel that way. It’s kind of a hit and miss. Do I have anything worth saying? Does anyone even care?

What has made blogging so worthwhile to me had been getting to know the blogging community. Truthfully, I wish I had more time to explore all the wonderful blogs out there. I love that the blogging community is so supportive. It’s nice knowing that you can make friends all over the world. Talk about expanding your horizons. Who would have thought this possible a few short years ago? So I thank you all for tuning in when I publish a post and thanks to those non-bloggers who faithfully read. You’re all so awesome. Did I mention I’ve been doing this six years? Of course I did!  ;)

What you probably haven’t noticed (unless you have eyes like a hawk) is that I added a new tab on my blog and organized all the guest blog post, just to put them all in one place. It seemed like a good job on a cool June day. Truthfully, I don’t tend to be very organized even though I like things to be orderly. Too bad these things couldn’t happen all on their own.

So that’s what I’ve been doing today, celebrating and organizing. Are you a organized person or do you just muddle through?

Lessons From Life

Life is all about learning. Each day we’re offered the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves, the world we live in and the people who make up our world. This past week I’ve tried to pay close attention to what life is trying to tell me. Subsequently, I’ve put together a list of some of the random lessons that have come my way.

Quotes and photos

  1. It is possible to have too many plastic containers.
  2. Proofread carefully.
  3. Be persistent. You don’t have to get it right the first, second, third, fourth…….time. You get what I mean.
  4. People you thought were friends sometimes aren’t.
  5. Facebook will not always send you notifications.
  6. It is not helpful to stay stuck in the past. Keep on movin’.
  7. Sometimes, when housecleaning, you really do need a toothbrush.
  8. If you think someone has betrayed you you need to have a glass of wine and get over it.
  9. Good friends will take time to make you laugh.
  10. There are many varieties of pickles in the world. You only need to choose one.
  11. Some people lie, accept their faults but don’t trust what they tell you.
  12. You won’t always get what you want but you have to be okay with that.
  13. The small gestures mean a lot.
  14. We all experience brain farts.
  15. Cry, but only if you have to.
  16. Inanimate objects have the ability to move all on their own.
  17. Everything you need cannot be found on the Internet.
  18. We all see the world in a different light.
  19. Dust bunnies can be scary creatures.
  20. Everyone needs alone time.

What lessons has life taught you this week?

Dinosaurs, Crowns and Twins

I just got to the point where I’d had enough. I was completely fed up. And so, a week ago I decided to slay the dinosaur in my house—yes, I did say dinosaur. Yes, I did say slay. Let me explain.

She was simply taking up too much room with her slow, uncontrolled, unpredictable moves. Not to mention all the grumbling that was left in her wake. As far as dinosaurs go, she wasn’t really so bad, not like your run-of-the-mill T-rex or even stegosaurus which I venture to guess would be next to impossible to cohabitate with. My dinosaur was clunky and pre-historic but I brought her home when she was newly hatched. We bonded. I knew her every clunk, thump and grind. I wasn’t always appreciative of her. (You know how you tend to take all those dinosaurs in your life for granted.) She allowed me to check email, and Facebook, but she wasn’t so nice to me when I visited my friends in blogland. Sometimes she simply refused to budge. She didn’t want me to *like* any of you, and she didn’t want me to make any comments on your posts. Sometimes, she even forced me to go to the local c@p site to upload photos to my own blog. Imagine that.

Power can go to a dinosaur’s head.

Overtime, she became too independent for her own good. We were becoming disconnected. Yet, I resisted…and resisted. Even though I grumbled and complained. Finally, I just had enough. I mean, how long can you cohabitate with a dinosaur and be happy?

Life’s too short not to be happy with your dinosaur.

So, she’s gone, put to rest, retired, withdrawn, given the boot.

My life will be a bit easier.

Saturday was the launching of Jan Coate’s brand new picture book, The King of Keji at The Box of Delights in Wolfville. Can you imagine a better name for a bookstore? I had a great time. The book’s illustrator, Patsy MacKinnon was also at the launch. Crowns were made for the kids which was pretty cool. Did I get a crown? You bet. In fact, I got two for the little people in my life. I didn’t want to push it by asking for one for myself. Seriously, the crown-making was a big hit with the kids and worked in well with the picture book. Jan read the story which many of you know is set at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Park right here in Nova Scotia. Patsy explained a bit about how she creates the illustrations. I believe she said she worked on them for about six months. I love the colours she used.

While he didn't make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

While he didn’t make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

When you get married and have twins;
Don’t come to me for safety pins.

Speaking of dinosaurs, how out-dated is that verse? Perhaps as out-dated as autograph books which I’m writing into my next story. Does anyone use safety pins or cloth diapers these days? Autograph books?

While on the subject of twins… Some of you already know that we’re about to be blessed with twins this time around. Master Levi is going to be a big brother at the ripe old age of 22 months. There’s no quicker way for a child to grow up then to become an older sibling. I know a mom and dad who are going to be BUSY in the future; September, or so we’re told. Hard to say with twins. We’re all so excited. Being a nanny and guppy is pretty darn cool.

So, that’s my news for now. What’s news in your corner?

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