Western Adventures

I’m writing this while on a flight from Calgary to Montreal with a final destination to Quebec City. This is the part I dislike the most about vacations – the end travel. Once the fun is over I’d like to be beamed home without having to go through all the hassle of dragging around luggage and passing time in airports or on long flights, but this time I’ll count my blessings. This was a perfect vacation and in thirteen days I crossed quite a few items off my bucket list. I also added on a few more.

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Steve and I, accompanied by his sister Carolyn and her husband Glen, flew to the far end of Canada to Vancouver, and began our trip with a few days exploring the city accompanied by our daughter Rachel. We threw in a quick side trip to Whistler on the only rainy day of our vacation. Despite the rain we made the most of our time, visiting an old friend, and taking the gondola to a mountain peak in Squamish. With our own personal tour guide we were able to visit a few spots that we may have overlooked if we had been on our own, and since Rachel is a big fan of hiking trails and waterfalls, we saw some of the nicest.DSC_0470[2028]

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After leaving our home base in Vancouver we spent a night in beautiful Victoria, taking some time to catch up with some relatives, before heading up the coast to Tofino. We enjoyed the beach, the hiking trails, and, of course, the beautiful Pacific sunset. Steve and I had already explored these areas during the winter season, but it was a completely different perspective during the summer in high season. The colours, the lush landscape, and the mountains were constantly grabbing our attention. It helped us better understand the magnetic pull of British Columbia for the citizens of Eastern Canada and many other countries. The province has a variety of landscapes, cultures, ways of life, and mindsets to offer. There’s something for everyone.

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We discovered uncharted territory (for us) when we ventured toward Alberta, starting in Jasper and descending through the national parks to Banff and Canmore. It seemed that each corner we turned offered us a view more spectacular than the last. So many times I thought the landscape was so unreal that it resembled a painting by a very talented artist. Between the majestic mountains and the picture-perfect turquoise lakes our heads were constantly swivelling. I even stood on a mountain glacier!

My take-away from this trip? I came away from BC feeling dissatisfied. With the province? Definitely not. I was left with a taste for more. I know there’s a lot more to explore and I didn’t have enough time to do it. Fortunately for us, with a child living on that coast, we have the perfect excuse to return. I would love to spend more time on Vancouver Island, visiting the area around Victoria, and going up the coast to discover other small towns. On the mainland, I’d like to visit the Okanagan region on one visit, and perhaps northern BC on another. Alberta also merits some further exploration.

Any disappointments? Definitely. We never saw a bear sauntering down the main Street of Banff or Canmore despite numerous warnings not to feed them. We also didn’t see any cowboys on horseback venturing through downtown Calgary (I believe we had also been warned about feeding them). But, those are both minor disappointments compared to the abundance of great experiences we had over the course of two weeks.

We certainly have a country to be proud of and a lot to explore and discover. My advice? Take advantage of it.

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Fathers

 

To young children, they are playmates, fixers, cheerleaders, and absolutely essential. As those children grow into teenagers and young adults, fathers become a ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’ kind of person. They become the watchdogs and the lecturers while still tenaciously hanging on to their role as playmates, fixers, and cheerleaders. It’s a fine line they have to walk.

I lost my father when he was fifty-six years old and I was twenty-three, still a young adult. My oldest is now twenty-three and the other is four years behind. Once we pass this stage, I will be in uncharted territory, but Steve, my husband, was fortunate enough to have a father who lived to be ninety-three, and who remained an important presence in his children’s lives.

I think most of us grow up hoping to make our fathers proud, trying to live up to their example. Whether they realize it or not, they have a powerful influence on our lives. They are often the yardstick against which we measure ourselves – our moral compass.

My husband has set a high standard for our children to follow. He has taught them by example with his dedication as a volunteer fireman and fire chief, with his hard work and his tenacity, and his ability to deal with people no matter how delicate or urgent the situation. He uses his sense of humor to amuse and defuse.

He may not know the difference between taupe and brown, but he can settle disputes with reasoning and good cheer. He may come home with cucumbers when we sent him to the store for zucchini, but he will turn himself inside out to help mend a broken heart. He will buy bus passes for a grown daughter who lives thousands of miles away to make sure she doesn’t have to walk home late at night. He will drive across town at any hour to change a flat tire, or pick up kids after a party. He’ll search for light and sound systems to make sure our girls have ‘the best party ever’, and he’ll try to teach them skills that may serve them later on in life. In other words, he will always go the extra mile for his kids.

Those are traits of a good father.

I often wonder how my life would have differed if my father had lived a longer life. Would I have made different decisions? Would I have followed a different path? It certainly would have been wonderful to have him at my wedding and to see him dote over my babies. I know I took him for granted while I had him, as my girls probably do with their own father. But I still hold my dad’s legacy inside me, and I can only hope some of it will be passed on to my children. If not, the legacy of their own father and his before him will be more than enough to help them along.

 

 

 

 

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Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer (without the crazy part)

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Yesterday, was a day of chores and responsibilities, topped off by a BBQ supper with the volunteer firemen and their families. All in all, it was a great day.

But, today is the ultimate lazy, hazy day (I’m too old for crazy). I hurt my back a little yesterday doing housework (which leads me to believe that housework is bad for your health and it should be banned). so today I couldn’t get back into the gardening or anything that required lifting or pushing vacuum cleaners.

It’s so unusual to sit around and do nothing that I feel guilty. But, at least I’m not alone. Everyone in this household seems to be afflicted by the lets-be-lazy attitude today. And why not?

This is what we work all year for – to be able to enjoy our homes, our families, and our friends, especially when the weather is nice and we can sit back and smell the roses (or in my case, the lilacs).

Happy Summer!

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A bit of news…

My title is the same subject line I had in my e-mail to family members and close friends last Monday evening. I wanted to let them know that I had received and accepted a publishing contract for my second novel, ‘Sins of the Fathers’. They were very generous with their congratulations and best wishes, as they always are. The next day, many of them followed up with questions about the book, the publishing company and the process, so I’ve decided to try to answer some of those questions now and I’ll take care of others as the process evolves.

The book: It’s set mostly in Montréal, but it does cross the ocean to Dublin for a period of time. It’s a suspense novel with a touch of romance. The main character is a pub owner by the name of Charlie (a female), and there are a couple of secondary male characters named…    That’s as much as I’m going to give away for now. I haven’t written my blurb yet, but when I do, I’ll share it with you.

The Publisher: It’s an independant publishing company based in Texas by the name of Black Rose Writing. So far, I’m impressed with the enthusiasm and dynamism of the other authors that I’ve seen on the BRW Facebook author page. I look forward to learning a lot from them.

The process: There’s a lot to be done between now and release day (which is projected to be December 2017). I have obligations to fulfill involving editing and polishing the manuscript before they will then edit it again and suggest corrections. I’ll  give my input for the cover art, and I have to submit blurbs about the book and myself. Then there will be the all-important task of promotion and marketing, of which I’ll have the lion’s share, but from what I’ve seen, I’ll be supported and encouraged by my Publisher.

This weekend, we made a quick trip to Montreal to take some photos and double-check some of my settings. My head is full of new ideas for my edits.

For me, there are three stages of writing that I love the most: 1) coming up with an idea that has meat on it, 2) finding someone who thinks it has potential and 3) preparing it for its release into the world. ‘Sins of the Fathers’ has now entered stage 3, and I’m very excited about the next several months.

More to follow…

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Sharing

I had an interesting experience this week. I met a man from Australia who has penned a non-fiction book and would like to have it published. When he heard I had written a novel he wanted to know how I had found a publisher. This was a first for me. I haven’t had much opportunity to mingle with fellow authors, and I certainly have never found myself in a position to give advice to anyone. All I could do was share my very limited experience with him.

In addition to sharing my story, I told him how I read a lot of blogs and articles about writing, constantly trying to improve my skills. It think of it as a personal challenge to try to become better at what I do.  I told him about my own blog and how I make an attempt to be present on social media.

But, I think the most important message I had for him was not to give up. Publishing is a big world, and it’s easy to get discouraged. I’m sure there are millions of writers in the world and a very small percentage of them become best-sellers, and only a few become household names. But, you have to keep doing what you enjoy, and believe me, there’s no point in being a writer if you don’t enjoy it.

This a message that can be shared with everyone, no matter what they do in life. Do something you enjoy, it’s as simple as that.  Don’t do it for the money. If you don’t like what you do every day, in the end it won’t be worth it. Find something you enjoy, whether it’s a career or a hobby, but make it something that challenges you without becoming a weight around your shoulders, something that makes you glad to get up in the morning, and the rest will take care of itself.

 

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Circling the Sun – A confession and a review

I have a confession to make, and for most of those who know me, you won’t be very surprised.

I’m not an adventurous person. There, I said it.

When I was a teen and young woman I read two authors religiously – Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon. I wouldn’t read anything else for fear that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I made an exception for The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, which I read several times, over and over again.

Eventually, I ran out of books by my then-favorite authors and either had to branch out or give up reading altogether. So, I dipped my toe in the reading pool, but remained cautious. I would find one author I liked and would read everything I could find written by that particular author, and, over time, I eventually built up a decent-sized stable of reliable authors.

Recently, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and picked up a book by an author I had never read, feeling sure I wouldn’t make it past the first chapter. I was proven wrong (admittedly, not for the first time).

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Paula McLain pulled me into her novel, Circling the Sun, with a net made of gossamer so fine I couldn’t even feel the pull. The description of the flight in the prologue remained in the back of my mind for the duration of the novel, leaving me unsure of the type of ending I was going to encounter.

The novel succeeded in grabbing and holding my attention because of two elements. First of all, I was thrown into a country which I have never visited, but through Ms. McLain’s descriptions of Africa in the 1920s and 30s I felt I was there with her protagonist. The setting was weaved into the story in such a way that you didn’t feel like it was being spoon-fed to you. It was simply there, surrounding you.

The second element, which always succeeds in catching my interest, is the fact that the novel is based on a real-life person, Beryl Markham. I had never heard of this woman, but I am fascinated when an author takes a less-than-famous person and fictionalizes his or her life, using what little information is known about them to create an intriguing novel.

In this case, Beryl’s story of her successes and her defeats is captivating reading. Always keeping in mind that the novel is based on a true story makes it even more engrossing. Beryl lives a life which would be unusual enough in our present time, but living it during those decades would be virtually unheard of. Her strength of character, her determination, and her fearlessness were qualities which were not generally encouraged in young women in that time and place. Her talents, firstly with horses, and then with airplanes, were nothing short of remarkable.

I would like to thank Paula McLain for entertaining me with her excellent story and writing techniques, and also for teaching me to be a little more fearless in my reading selections. However, I will be falling back on my old habit of reading authors I’m familiar with at least one more time. I’ve discovered that Ms. McLain has a few other novels…

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A Resolution

 

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As you may or may not have noticed, I had taken a hiatus from blogging. Not because I‘ve given up on writing – far from it, I write all the time. At first, I think it was due to having too many other things to work on, and then it developed into a feeling of rustiness.  I had waited too long and I couldn’t get back into it. To top it all off, I was wondering what in the world I had to say that would interest people. Thus, my hiatus.  But, I feel guilty about my laziness. I believe that blogging and maintaining a presence is important for my writing.

So, on that note, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf. I’m too late to make a New Year’s Resolution, so I will make a Mother’s Day Resolution.

I resolve to take up blogging again, and I won’t tear my hair out worrying about what’s interesting. I will write about what’s important to me at that time.

This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. I always find it difficult to accept that I should be the recipient of good wishes on such a day, even though I’ve been a member of the club for over twenty-three years. There are those who have gone before me, and continue to go before me, that are more deserving. My mother passed away several years ago, but my mother-in-law continues to impress people with her energy, good cheer, and resourcefulness.

But all parents, whether mother or father, are deserving. It`s an important job which affects every aspect of your existence. And, the contract doesn’t come to an end when the children reach the age of eighteen.  It’s a lifetime commitment and sometimes it becomes even more difficult and more important and more heart-wrenching as they grow older, or maybe we’re just less able to handle the stress as we grow older.

So, even though it’s nice to have a day to celebrate mothers in particular (and it gives us an excuse to get together for a meal, some chatter, and a few laughs) the joys and the challenges are a daily occurrence and one I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know there are a lot of mothers who would agree with me on that point. Enjoy your day!

Now if I can just remember how to post this…

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