Lessons From a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Musher

… And a top skiing instructor, and an extreme landscaper, and a backcountry horseman (in the 1940’s when most women did NOT do that).

Yes, of course, this is one and the same person – my mom!

As mentioned, in the 1940’s, when most of my mom’s friends were learning the fine art of sewing, doing kitchen duties and catering to their husband’s every need, Mom was kicking around on her horse in the B.C. backcountry when she wasn’t teaching gym to kids. She wanted to visit family in Vancouver 300 miles away approximately, so off she went (in her twenties) on her horse without a second thought, with some grain for her and her horse to eat, beef jerky, and a general idea of how to get there. Did I mention there were no roads? Seven days later she and her horse wandered into Vancouver no worse for wear, visited for a few days, then turned around and went home again. No problem!

mom and horse

As a small child, I assumed that every kid’s mom was able to man-handle 100 pound slabs of rock from the hills surrounding our place to put into landscaping. (She was only about 5’4 ) We lived on three acres that contained barns, horse pastures, fish ponds, huge multilevelled barbecue areas, ravines, and lake frontage to romp around in. Normal stuff, I thought.

Then, I remember, when I was about seven, skiing with family while mom taught others to ski. She’d started skiing when she was about 50, but as her indomitable nature dictated, she excelled quickly then was hired to teach at our local mountain. She has been hailed as one of the best teachers to have hit the mountain, even to this day!

Later, my parents, in their seventies, lived in a cabin by a small lake above our town. No running water, outdoor biffy, and bears for neighbours. My kids’ earliest memories were of tobogganing by the cabin in the winter, and fishing on the lake in the summer. Mom owned two siberian huskies that pulled her around on a sleigh in the winter. These dogs were obstinate pullers by nature, but were as calm and obedient on the leash as any citified dog.

How?

Mom twisted their leashes over their backs, around their middles and through their hind legs. So… uhm, pulling for these male dogs was not an option on the leash. Ingenious, right? This allowed mom to take them on lengthy strolls through the woods by herself.

mom and dogs

Mom has always had a quiet, get-things-done nature with no negative thoughts on her situation or other people. Don’t think for a second that our family has always been blessed with good health and prosperity. We have had our share of tragedies with finances, health and relationships, but with everything she showed a humble determination to simply work through obstacles, and when you couldn’t, you worked with what you had left. Let go and let God, was her steadfast motto. She introduced me to my faith and showed me where her strength comes from.

She is now celebrating her 97th birthday and is going strong.
Elsie Wilson is the ultimate hard act to follow!!

Love you to the moon and back, Mom!!!

IMG_20151029_181039778

Advertisements

Almost a Mother’s Worst Nightmare

DSC_0269ap

“Mom. Where are you now?”

The urgency in my son’s voice shot into my ear from my cell phone. The initial embarrassment of forgetting to turn off my cell phone during a golf game evaporated immediately.

“Dave. Why? What’s the matter?” I was sure everyone around me heard my heartbeats. My husband stopped our golf cart, and stared at me.

“Mom. Understand. I’m okay. Alright? I’m okay.”

This, of course, did nothing to calm me.

“I’ve been in a rafting accident. I’m in an ambulance on the way to Golden.”

“Oh, Dave.” I fought to control my voice and tears, and ordered myself to hold it together. “What happened? Is everyone else okay?”

The hesitation in his answer sliced through me.

“Our raft flipped over and… and my friend Rene died.”

Shock, fear and sorrow ricocheted around in my brain, but also thankfulness that I was hearing his voice trying to calm me down. He took a deep breath and related the horrific story of a weekend rafting trip gone terribly wrong.

My husband and I dropped everything and drove the four-hour trip through the night to arrive in Golden at 1:00 a.m. All I could think of was to be strong for my son who had obviously gone through the worst 12 hours of his young life.

However, when I saw my red-eyed limping son at the hotel waiting for us, my tears of thankfulness mixed with sorrow burst through the dam.

My son was exhausted from telling the story many times to the search and rescue, police, doctors etc. so we let him tell us what he could before we turned the lights out for a sleepless and restless night.

My heart couldn’t stop aching for the lovely young man whom we’d never met, and whose life had ended all too soon in a matter of minutes. Rene was well-known, and popular, and only a turn of fate placed him in the front of the raft, where two occupants were thrown into the river. Only one was retrieved to the safety of a floating, albeit eventually upside down raft.

The next day we had to clean out Rene’s truck and drive it back to his awaiting fiancée. (They were to be married in one month) Again, my tears would not be denied, as I looked at the lettering on the truck of this young man’s business. He had built a new business, was going to get married, had his whole life ahead of him, but within minutes on the river, everything he and his fiancée had planned ended.

During the long drive home, I reflected on how we are given people to love in our lives. Without the ecstatic ups from marriage, births, and watching your kids graduate etc., and the heart-wrenching downs of family feuds, sickness, and death etc., we wouldn’t be able to express ourselves realistically in our writing or identify with how others write using these emotions.

Personally, I feel blessed to be able to love deeply enough to have a battered and scarred heart. Scar tissue is stronger than the original tissue and is a testament to life.

If you’d like to read the amazing blog written by Chelsea, Rene’s fiancée, here it is.

http://cultivatebalance.ca/the-gift-of-the-night-before/

So tell me, how has life affected your writing, or do you have a favourite author, whose emotional writing you can identify with?

A rose by any other name . . .

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it?

Objects have different meanings to different people. This is a photo from my daughter’s recent wedding.

Wedding Photo

What do you think could be happening in this photo and why?

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .  in as few words as possible, write a story about this picture and paste it into your comment below.

Ready. Set. Go!

TRADING DEPENDENTS

About 15 years ago, my sister-in-law glanced incredulously at me while flipping the pages of my sketchbooks. “Loraine, why on earth aren’t you doing your artwork? Or your writing for that matter?

I laughed. “Oh, sure, I think I have all of a ½ hour per day when I’m not either driving the kids around to their school sports, cooking meals for said children, or taking care of our acreage and horses. Oh, yes… I guess I also have a husband in there too who requires a little attention. If I allowed myself creative outlets, I would be like that cranky dog with a bone. I would not be a nice mommy or a supportive wife if I was dragged away from my writing or artwork. Besides, creativity can’t just be turned on and off like a tap when the few moments arise.”

The excuses rolled out of my mouth faster than our kids and their friends exiting their school at 2:30. And to be honest the excuses were mostly valid. At that point in my life the kids were my priority and I wasn’t going to miss a thing. Their desires and needs for my services and time would soon pass as their priorities and lifestyles changed.

Andrew in track

(My son Andrew in his track years)

It might have been different had I not had my other hobbies taking up my time too (my horses and showing). So my creative side waited, not all that patiently, along the sidelines.

Later, after my kids graduated and the hours spent as a taxi driver and fan of their sports diminished to zero, I allowed myself to tread tentatively toward my neglected artistic and creative side. Also due to nagging injuries, I had to let go of my horses and acreage. My creative juices were flowing full steam ahead in the form of writing courses, conferences and contests. I was also commissioned to illustrate my first book. Hallelujah! I’d turned the page of my life.

However…

Dependents come in many forms. First it was the children but now my last remaining parent, my mom, whom I adore, needs my help. Of course, as before with my children, when her needs arise, I leave everything and leap to her side. Thus my creative outlets are yet again sometimes leashed and tethered.

Mom and girls

(Me, my mom and my sister)

But I have now found, perhaps as a more assertive ‘over fifty’ woman, that delegating has had to become the norm, rather than taking on everything as I did before. We luckily do have a large and supportive family in town and there is now a schedule of duties. Even though I’m the only daughter in town, the other brothers have been roped in for duty as well as their fantastic wives.

Also, my age-old excuse of being unable to ‘turn on my creativity like a tap’ doesn’t cut it anymore. If I have only a few minutes to spare, those minutes are put to use. Every person has an ideal time to write and work, and mine is in the mornings. However, if have been up with the owls on occasion to get some deadlines met. Even though my kids do ‘all nighters’ for school frequently, I detest them. But do them I must, to get done. Oddly enough, my body seems to go through a bit of a sleepy snit-fit about midnight, but then gives in for the second wind now.

So, tell me. How do you all get your projects done when dependents tug at your collars?

Why I Don’t Give 1-star Book Reviews

plasticstars  Have you noticed a disparity between the rating systems of Amazon and Goodreads?

On Amazon, a one-star rating is “I hate it.” On Goodreads, “Did not like it.”

Let me start by saying I seldom use the word “hate” in any situation, and if I do, it’s usually in anger over something profoundly evil. And books I don’t like are not necessarily evil.

Anyway, I don’t ever give fiction a one-star rating because if I think the work is poorly written or not a story I would like, I don’t read very far into it. And if I don’t read the whole story, I don’t rate it.

I can usually determine from the first few pages, first chapter, or a sneak peek of the middle that I won’t enjoy a particular book, but that doesn’t mean the next person won’t. With excerpts available in so many places online, including  author websites and reviewer blogs, I don’t think a reader needs my one-star rating of a novel or novella to decide whether to read it. For me, if an excerpt doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy the book — and probably won’t look for it at the library either.

I’ll often give an author a second chance if I reject the first of his or her novels I pick up (not always the first one written). Most of the time, I’m glad I did.

This brings me to the other rating levels.

On Amazon, two stars mean “I don’t like it.” On Goodreads, “It was okay.” To me, there’s a huge difference between them. I give two stars to a book on Goodreads if I was able to stick with it and read all the way through but it didn’t impress me in any way (therefore, it was okay). On Amazon, “It was okay” would be three stars, whereas three stars on Goodreads is “Liked it.”

The rest of the rating systems for Amazon and Goodreads compare as follows:

4 stars: Amazon – I like it. Goodreads – Really liked it.

5 stars: Amazon – I love it. Goodreads – It was amazing.

If I review a book on one site, I copy and paste the same review on the other, but my star ratings usually differ. For a book I “liked” on Goodreads (three stars), I “like it” (four stars) on Amazon. For a book I enjoy a lot, if I “Really liked it” on Goodreads (four stars), it’s probable “I love it” on Amazon (five stars).

Good books are like my friends. If I “really like” you, you can assume that I love you too (in a nonromantic way).

Do you rate books on either site? What are your personal rating criteria? Do you ever stop reading a book because you don’t like it, or force yourself to read one, and then give it a low rating?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

My Interrupted Day

She had an unfair advantage because I wore an employee related name tag, but I didn’t even know her name. We’d had what amounted to a briefer than brief conversation a couple days before. But today, she obviously needed to talk because my simple “Hi, there,” resulted in a ten minute conversation about difficult personal stuff—a judge’s ruling, the realities of divorced parenting, and the pain of separation.

My mind already spun with the details of the full day ahead of me. I didn’t have time for a lengthy conversation. At first I inched away but pretty soon, I stopped moving. All she needs is someone to listen.

Relief washed through me when she mentioned crying out to God that He would provide a way through what she could only see as an impossible situation. In fact after a night of prayer and soul searching, she felt His guidance directing her toward what only yesterday she would not have considered. And she was okay with it—she could see the possibilities. God in His infinite wisdom knew what her humanness could not comprehend, and His all-encompassing grace and power had begun to mold her will to His.

I didn’t have answers for her tough situation, but I could tell she wasn’t expecting me to. All she needed was someone to listen.

freedigitalphotos by Kittisak

freedigitalphotos by Kittisak

Throughout the day, other random occasions came to mind. Times when I was in the right place at the right time to reach out to someone. Today, my racing mind put aside the details of the day and made a conscious effort to listen. But that wasn’t always the case. I wonder to which side the scale would tip to if I could look into the past and weigh when I took the time to be there for someone versus the times I insisted on being too busy to care. I’m pretty sure the results wouldn’t make me feel good.

We set aside, in an obligatory sort of way, a week to do nice things for people –Random Acts of Kindness week which fell on February 10-16 this year. I’m not sure I realized the yearly observance was happening at all. I was probably too busy, trying to burn the candle at both ends and somewhere in the middle too. But that’s not how I want to live… missing the chances to love on people.

I want to be a person who doesn’t miss opportunities to be kind, to be a listening ear, to just be there. Someone who will sense a need—you know, not have to be knocked over with a bulldozer—and take the time to do something. And not just that one week each year.

photo/goodneighborstories.com

photo/goodneighborstories.com

There’s nothing wrong with a national observance. It raises awareness and prompts intentional consideration. A lot of people probably extend the acts of kindness for at least a little while. Like the way the “drive-thru difference”, the act of paying for the order of the car behind you, has caught on. People have been blessed—both the givers and the receivers.

But what if we practiced a random acts of kindness life? What if, each day, we chose to go out of our way to assist or befriend or hug someone? What if we looked closely at the people who cross our path? What if we took the time every day to care?

I can only imagine how that much looking out for others would impact the world. You see, if lots of people are keeping their ears and eyes open to the needs of others, there would have to be a lot less time for “me, me, me” thinking.

I hereby pledge to be intentional about seeking and finding random opportunities to practice kindness. Will you join me?

What’s the nicest random act of kindness you’ve experienced?

Literary Geometry

I’m writing today about the awesomeness that is the love triangle. Ever since my grandma sat me on her lap and read Little Women, I’ve enjoyed a good love triangle, or tetrahedron, or–well any more than that, and it’s probably a hot mess. Ditto for one poorly done which happens more often than not. Although a poor love triangle does not a poor book make.

Little Women Cover

Scalene.

There are no even sides and often one angle is obtuse. That is it’s such a stretch it doesn’t make sense. I’m going to use heroine and two heroes since I think that’s most common. So this is girl meets up with two guys, one a really good choice and one really bad. No matter how this plays out, it’s a problem. Although making the wrong choice and having to live with the consequences to add some good drama. This is the stuff of good tragedies.

Isoceles.

Two sides are even and one is short. This is the majority of triangles. We know who the heroine is going to end up with, but there’s enough tension between the two angles with the short side, it’s not a total bore. Typically, the wrong pair come together for a time but then it doesn’t work out and the heroine ends up with her true love. Formulaic, yes but it can be done well. It’s best done when either off screen or in the first few chapters the heroine is with the wrong guy and the hero comes in and rescues her. The remainder of the story doesn’t even have a triangle. Although sometimes wrong guy comes back to mess with the even sides. This is pretty much the formula for many a romance novel.

Equilateral.

Now this is literary gold. There’s a heroine with two equally great choices. Better yet if they’re both great guys but completely different. The best love triangle I have ever read falls into this category, Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices. [Disclaimer–this is not a Christian book. It’s mostly clean but there are a couple of objectionable scenes.] I’m not going to spoil it but you need to read about halfway through book 2 to even realize there’s a love triangle. I  read the synopses (which are spoilerish) and wondered how there could even be a triangle when there was an obvious couple. Let alone for me to gain sympathy for the second pairing when I was so in love with the first one. The author brought it! Did she ever.

Infernal Devices

Other Geometries.

Sometimes there’s more than one option. Take Little Women. There are four sisters and one handsome next door neighbor, Laurie (Theodore Laurence). One of the few love stories with more than four sides that works. I think many people who read Little Women are surprised and disappointed by who Laurie marries. For me, probably because I was young, and in many ways his choice is my favorite character, I was satisfied with the outcome. I also recommend Little Men and Jo’s Boys to see how truly right Louisa May Alcott was when crafting her story. Then again, it’s quasi-autobiographical, so she drew upon reality.

Two more Alcott books I love are Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. In Rose in Bloom, Rose returns to be with her eight male cousins as a young woman. While several of the cousins are too young, four of them are candidates to win Rose’s heart. Various circumstances narrow the pool until she ends up with one of the cousins. Never mind the ick factor of first cousins pairing up, this is one of my favorite love stories.

Rose in Bloom

What is your favorite love story? And what geometry does it take?