Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Would I Change Anything?

In thinking about this month’s topic, I find myself in a quandary about what to write. After a chaotic and frightening few weeks following Thanksgiving here in the U.S., I’m just thankful to be alive…at least for the immediate future. But nothing is ever guaranteed, and nothing in life really unfolds as we’d like it to. We can plan all we want, but can never count on the stars aligning in the right pattern, or that cosmic monkey wrench out of the blue dashing our dreams. Or those moments of real joy when the impossible is achieved and knowing that nothing will ever take them away.

Like everyone, I’ve made my share of mistakes, and rash choices. I’ve learned to live with them and find my footing on the new trajectory that unfolds, occasionally pausing to look back and ponder how different life would have been…if only. But what purpose does that serve?  I can’t change any of it and dwelling on it is not only stupid, it’s self-defeating.

I am who I am based on all I’ve done…mistakes and all. I do what I do—now, this moment—based on the choices I’ve made and road blocks I’ve faced, the battles I’ve fought, lost and won. I’ve arrived at this point in life because of the whole mishmash that has been the cumulative effect of every day, every moment I’ve lived.

I can’t say I would change a thing. To do so would make me someone else. I’m not sure I’d respect that person or be able to call her “me.”
Coming July 2018

Monday, December 11, 2017

Would I Redo by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

When I was in school, I wanted to travel and my dream job was to be a stewardess as they were called back then. I studied French, German, and Russian so that I would know some other languages for when I landed and maybe stayed over in another country. In my last year a job show was held at my high school and I went to talk with the representatives from an airline. She was dressed in her uniform and was very nice.
     I explained that I wanted to be a stewardess and asked for information. She told me that I had to be a certain height and weight, which I was. She said that all stewardesses had to wear a girdle even though their figures might be perfect. I was okay with that. Then she told me that anyone who wore glasses could not be a stewardess. I was devastated, since I needed prescription glasses but seldom wore them. I went to an optometrist to get contact lenses. This was when they were still made of hard material and my eyes could not adjust to them.
     So I gave up my dream of being a stewardess. However, I married, had wonderful children who have given me wonderful grandchildren and went on to become a writer. I travelled extensively through British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Alaska, when writing my non-fiction backroads series.
     I belong to a dragon boat team and I have taken part in international festivals in Caloundra Queensland Australia (spent four week visiting the sites of Queensland and New South Wales then a week in Fiji) Sarasota Florida USA, (my husband and I travelled through two provinces and nineteen states on our way there and back home) and will be going to Florence Italy in 2018. While there I hope to visit many other European countries. I’ve also been to Japan and China. So not being a stewardess has not stopped me from doing the travelling that I wanted to do when I was younger.
     Just a note: my sister owned the Canadian Tourism College in Vancouver for many years. One of my granddaughters took her course and is now a flight attendant. She doesn’t need to wear a girdle and, while she doesn’t wear glasses, today it wouldn’t matter if she did.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What I Would Change by Anita Davison

One thing I would change which might have altered how things went in my life, is that I would have listened to those voices of my childhood that said I could, and should write. It wasn't a crowd of enthusiastic teachers and mentors, but the one or two spontaneous remarks I could sense were genuine. [My schoolteachers barely knew I existed – when I achieved top marks in an English Language exam, my teacher said, ‘Well that was a surprise’]

I should have asked those early voices why they thought so, or even how I could go about becoming a writer –  but I was brought up in an atmosphere of blending in, never drawing attention to yourself and where the words ‘not for the likes of us.’ still ring down the years.

It might sound like a cop out to say, ‘no one showed me how to do it’ but that’s how it was to feel something is achievable for others but not for me. I didn’t have much of a sense of self-worth, so I didn’t reach for the stars, only the nearest thing. The thought of ‘what if’ was always there, but I had no idea how to turn a spark of ambition that never quite grew into a flame, into a reality.

This was, of course, in the pre-internet days when libraries were sanctums of yellow-paged hardbacks and indexed file cards guarded by stern matrons who believed silence must be maintained at all costs, especially against questions from schoolgirls – so where to start? No, I didn't live in medieval times but compared to today it might seem like it.

So I floundered, toyed, and touched the surface ever so lightly, but never jumped in.

I began writing late and purely to please myself and slowly learned during a process of criticism, editing and reading, that writing is a craft which begins with some talent, but can be acquired and needs to be honed by practice, reading, editing and more practice.

The more I write, the more I realise there is so much more I don’t know about writing – or even what good writing actually is. It's  also not how technically perfect you can turn out a piece of prose; it’s about how you communicate feelings and experiences in a unique voice with which readers can connect.

Photographs of youthful, bright eyed young women bringing out chart-topping novels are everywhere, and although thrilled for them – and I truly am - I cannot help a stir of envy of the many years they have ahead of them to write, inspire and be inspired as their careers and reputations grow.

Or maybe it was meant to take this long to find out these things, that I’m simply a [very] late developer? In which case – regret is pointless.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

One Thing I Would Change by Victoria Chatham

 Each time I’ve started to write this blog, I’ve had to stop and think. What would I change, if I could? I’ve virtually run my life before my eyes and considered many milestones but have come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t change anything. Not. A. Thing.

Do I wish some things could have been different? Yes, for sure. I would have loved to have grown up in one place, instead of moving every year because of my dad’s military service. I would have loved to have had more contact with my cousins instead of the annual visit to my grandmother’s house. I would have loved to have had more opportunities to be with horses.

Not having had those things made me come out of myself and look at what I did have. New homes and schools meant learning about new places and their environs, most of them in South Wales, the most exciting being Pembroke with its castle and the Sunderland flying boats based at Pembroke Dock. 

Spending those summers with my cousins made me appreciate them the more and I got quite inventive about finding people with horses and then helping out where I could – including on the baker’s cart drawn by a chestnut mare called Lizzie. I did the rounds with him on Saturdays and even got a free loaf of bread to take home with me at the end of the day. Although my parents could never understand from where my interest in horses originated, that loaf of bread was always appreciated.

As an adult, I would have preferred to not have two divorces in my personal history, particularly the first one for the effect it had on my children. But what I learned from both of those relationships set me up for a third marriage which, although that husband passed away sixteen years ago, continues to sustain me with so many happy memories. I would also have preferred to not have had breast cancer twice. But because I did, I met many wonderful people and benefitted from them in so many ways. I really cannot imagine what my life would have looked like if I had changed anything along the way. All my life’s experiences have molded me into the person I am today, someone who is healthy, happy, and looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings.

Not long after I came to Canada I heard the author Gail Bowen being interviewed on CBC radio. She commented in the interview that people who lived a varied and exotic life often make the best writers as they had so much material to draw on. I’m not sure if I could say my life has been exotic, but it has certainly been varied so, if Ms Bowen’s comment holds water, then I guess I’ll be writing for a long, long time.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Risalamande, A Traditional Scandinavian Christmas Recipe by A.M.Westerling

My husband is Danish and this is one of the fun little customs we keep going.  

Risalamande - Danish Rice Pudding

1 cup pearl rice
5 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
½ cup slivered almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups whipping cream
Cherry Sauce

Boil rice in milk over low heat 45 minutes. Cool, then add sugar, almonds and almond extract. Whip cream until stiff and fold into rice mixture. Chill. Turn into bowl and top with Cherry Sauce or spoon into individual dessert dishes and top with sauce. Makes about 12 servings.

Cherry Sauce

1 16 ounce can dark sweet cherries.
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Reserve about 1 teaspoon cherry liquid. Turn remaining liquid and cherries into saucepan and heat to boiling. Blend cornstarch with reserved liquid and stir into boiling mixture. Cook and stir until well blended, then cool sauce and chill.

Now here comes the fun part. Place a whole almond in the pudding and whoever finds the whole almond wins a little prize, usually a marzipan pig. As our family has grown, I now use 2 almonds.

This recipe comes from the late 19th century so perhaps was not made during the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Fly Away Snow Goose by Juliet Waldron & John Wisdomkeeper:

Thanksgiving can be tough sometimes, or it can be an utter blast. Some of the most memorable Thanksgivings for me came during the time we were married students, visiting well-heeled relatives of my husband in Gloucester, MA. We became totally irresponsible as soon as we were under the roof of his Aunt and Uncle, all acting like kids again, playing hide and seek in their 30 room Victorian with cousins. Downstairs an epic dinner was being made, and we were off Scot-free if we occasionally passed some time helping in the kitchen, washed/dried dishes, peeled potatoes, sliced apples for pie, or mushrooms and celery for stuffing—whatever weary hand work our elders were sick of. Those times with friends and family were warm, shiny, and are now (in my mind) generally surrounded by a nostalgic golden haze. 

I have come to think of Turkey Day as a kind of late harvest get-together after the crops are mostly in. (Our local exception is the soybeans—now being cut and threshed by giant machinery, producing great clouds of dust, rumbling around the fields.  

When I remember elementary school, I think of an endless series of hand turkeys posted on the cement block walls, of pageants in the auditorium, where they taught us about the first Thanksgiving of the saintly Pilgrims  and their supposed kumbaya moment with the Injuns who had kindly shown them how to survive on these wild shores.

Sadly, all the history I learned later, as I discovered the real scoop on what happened after my ancestors migrated to the “new” world, is some pretty sorry stuff. The acts--some beyond "terrible," that took place during this collision of cultures has taught me plenty of uncomfortable lessons. I’m still learning because privilege can't see itself. Old false narratives require a lot of undoing. 

While writing Fly Away Snow Goose, I learned about the Great Tlicho leader Monfwi. He said that it has become imperative that we learn to “see in two ways” in order for humanity to progress into the future. We must begin to wisely use all the knowledge and skills the people of every nation can bring to the table. The First Nation’s "way" is the wisdom of hunter-gatherers, a way of living with one another and with the earth that we Europeans have been traditionally taught to scorn. 

It seems more than time to deliver on our responsibilities to one another—and to treat the unique biosphere upon which we are ever so privileged to live with respect.

I’ll end with a link to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address to the Natural World, a beautiful and meaningful spiritual thank-you to Mother Nature. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving .

~~Juliet Waldron


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