Sometimes it’s hard

Earlier this week, on Thanksgiving Monday, under the title “In all things give thanks“, I posted a photo I’d taken during a drive in the Fraser Valley,  and I included a quote from Psalm 95:2.  We have so much in our lives for which to be thankful and I was feeling full of praise.

Give Thanks

Tuesday morning we were once again driving in the Fraser Valley and I took this photo as we crossed the Golden Ears Bridge. We were on our way to an appointment with our veterinarian. Our eight-year-old Labrador Retriever, Tynan, hadn’t been well over the holiday weekend and we were looking forward to finding a solution for whatever was ailing him.

The solution wasn’t at all what we expected.

After x-rays, ultrasound and various tests we were confronted with the devastating news that what was ailing him couldn’t be fixed. Even with immediate surgery, the prognosis was poor. Less than three hours later we were retracing our route, returning home without him, in shock from the unexpected loss.

To add to the ache, for the first time in over fifty years there were no canine greetings to distract us when we arrived home. We’ve had many dogs during our lifetime. Our first were Labrador/Shepherd crossbreds. Later I bred, trained and exhibited purebred Shetland Sheepdogs for thirty-five years. We’ve always shared our home with anywhere from two to five dogs at a time, but somehow, after the passing of our last Sheltie, Tynan ended up as our lone canine companion. Now the house is painfully empty.

With this heaviness permeating our hearts and home, how can we obey the admonition to give thanks? It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s very hard today. And yet, while my mind wants to complain bitterly at the sudden loss of our dearly loved companion, at the same time bittersweet memories are bubbling up and bursting out — memories that bring with them joy and thanksgiving, not for what is, but for what has been.

Best Buds

Best Buds

Through my tears I give thanks for:

  • the experience of smelling his baby puppy breath the day I carried him home on my lap those too-short eight years ago;
  • remembering how he  would clamber onto the shelf under our coffee table and fall asleep there, until he was eventually too large to fit the space;
  • how he and our younger daughter’s Lab and Aussie were always so excited to see each other, no matter how long it had been between visits;
  • the day our other daughter’s Brittany Spaniel taught him that there was joy in swimming, not just walking in the ocean waves, and how, at our Cariboo lake, he would happily do the work of swimming out to retrieve sticks, only to willingly give them up to our son’s chocolate Lab who was waiting at the shore to snatch and claim them as her own;
  • watching him shadow my hubby everywhere he went, even to waiting outside the bathroom door for him;
  • giggling at how he leapt into the air like a gazelle and gambolled about when asked if he thought it was his dinnertime, or if he was ready for his daily 3 km walk with my hubby;
  • loving how he would slowly elbow the front half of his 90 lb. body up on the couch beside me until he could nuzzle my ear and leave a tiny kiss on my nose before being chased off;
  • knowing how much he loved to go for a ride with us, and always knew which vehicle to approach when we mentioned we were taking the truck or the van;
  • marvelling at how he could instantly turn from a couch potato into a showdog when it was time to go to a dog show with his special friend and handler, Jayne Luke, and how he adored the specialty cookies that always arrived with her and the toys she bought for him after each of his wins;
  • laughing at his love of a plastic garden pot and how, whenever I was planting bedding plants, he delighted in stealing just one empty pot and racing ’round and ’round the back yard with it;
  • smiling at how his head tipped, his ears lifted and his expression brightened whenever we told him one of our family members was coming to visit — he knew everyone by name, including their dogs;
  • remembering how he watched inconspicuously for the last corner of a sandwich, bit of toast or pizza crust, because he always got it if he wasn’t blatantly begging.
  • how he would roll over on his back and freeze there, all four legs in the air, hoping for ‘a tummy rub’ whenever we walked past;
  • and perhaps most poignantly, how happy he was at the end, tail wagging, munching a generous supply of biscuits provided by our caring and compassionate vet, content and unafraid because we were there.
Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

He had his own toy box, and today the dozens of plush stuffies that he adored and played with but never destroyed, have been washed and put into storage — even the very first fabric squeaky toy made for him by his breeder. There might not be another Labrador in our family, but you never know, perhaps one day some new puppy will come along to adopt them.

You’ve been a long-suffering reader if you’ve persevered this far! 

My point, of course, is that no matter what disappointments or catastrophes life dumps on us, we won’t likely be thankful for them, but hopefully in retrospect we’ll look for snippets of joy in the experiences we’ve had despite them.

~

R.I.P. sweet friend

CAN. CH. RIVERSEDGE TYNAN AT CAREANN
January 22, 2006 – October 14, 2014

Tynan 2012

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The clutter in my life, garden and writing… better known as reality

In the pre-dawn stillness yesterday morning I lay awake, contemplating the coming day. Its square on the calendar was empty. I love non-designated days with their freedom to pursue whatever tasks come to mind. One of retirement’s perks! I tugged the duvet close and snuggled down to think about what I might undertake once daylight broke.

My mind began lobbing ‘could’ and ‘should’ ideas at me like a tennis ball machine. Soon I was burrowing deeper and wishing I could go back to sleep, but it was too late. I was overwhelmed with mental clutter. If you could have seen into my head you would think it looked a lot like my gardens.

Back Garden Flowers

A landscape designer would be horrified by the gardens here. In each of the eighteen or so years we’ve lived on this rural property we’ve planted a few things — sometimes a half-dozen new perennials, sometimes a woody shrub or another tree. Goodness knows we don’t need any more of the latter! Our home is surrounded on four sides by towering trees…lots of cedar, hemlock and fir interspersed with a few poplar and alder. But one can’t really consider them ‘landscape’ trees, so I’ve added others like Japanese Maple and Dogwood.

Fall Backyard

Hubby and I have created assorted garden beds around part of the yard’s perimeter, prying out the boulders and filling the holes with whatever needed planting. There was never much planning done, except to choose things that could cope with the soil acidity and abundant shade. We have a well for water, and once things have been established we don’t waste any on them, so they also have to be hardy and drought tolerant.

The beds are a mishmash. That’s the nicest thing I can say about them. In one area Solomon’s Seal has all but choked out a clump of Siberian Iris and one white Astilbe. Wild ferns poke out from the middle of  sprawling Junipers, and everything leans in the direction of the sun, eventually overlaying whatever is in front.

It’s a muddle.

Except for a few tubs and baskets on the deck, we don’t plant annuals in the backyard. In fact, we don’t plant them in the front either, except for a small bed that edges the sidewalk at the front door. For the past several years I’ve bought one flat of colourful bedding plants, usually Begonias, and tucked them into unoccupied nooks and crannies. It’s my one concession to summer colour…a bright spot in the chaos of green. I try to remember to water them in May and June, but once summer comes, they’re on their own like everything else. I am always surprised that they survive and sometimes even flourish.

Fall Flower Garden

It’s all somewhat reminiscent of what comes out of my cluttered mind. Little ideas germinate and manage to develop into potential stories. I nurture them along for the first while and then, without plotting or planning, give them the freedom to grow or not. Most times they surprise me by producing an abundance of words. Occasionally, like one I’m considering now, they shrivel up and disappear from the page. The fact is, not all ideas are sturdy enough to last.

It can be discouraging in writing when enthusiasm for what seemed like a good idea fades; or in gardening, when a pot of cheery marguerites suddenly stops blooming and turns brown; or in life, when some days just seem like too much. But that’s my reality. Fortunately, there’s always another idea, a fresh blossom or new day coming.

Have you ever abandoned what at first seemed like a promising idea? Do you save it for reconsideration later, or toss it altogether?

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Spider Season

They dangle, harmless but horrific. Those ugly bulbous orb-weaving spiders are everywhere! I know, I know…it’s fall. They hang out in the fall. I understand their need to capture extra calories. I just don’t want to encounter them in their restaurants when I’m en route to my car or stepping onto my deck.

Different spiders make different kinds of webs — spiral orbs, tangle, funnel, tubular and sheet webs — but it’s just this sticky, stretching-across-open-space, hit-me-in-the-face kind that send me off the deep end.

 

Rained on Web

No, there isn’t a spider in this web. Yesterday I and my trusty can of ‘Raid’ sent him over the rainbow garden bridge. I admit to gritting my teeth and holding my breath as I pointed the spray in his direction. But there were no qualms at all. Yes, I know he was a “good” spider, but he made the mistake of crossing the boundary between his territory and mine. The rest of his family live on, somewhere in the garden, in their out-of-the-way nooks and crannies, without risk of annihilation. 

Fall Garden

If you have a masochistic need to be grossed out by a B-I-G spider, go check out this Facebook post from my grandson. Personally, I’m content to display the delicate beauty of the rain-etched web without its occupant.

There are a lot of things I like about autumn, but the sudden influx of spiders is not one of them. ::shudder::

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Facts or Fiction in Writing a Novel

One of our signs of autumn is the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, which is the larva form of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella Tiger Moth. It waits out the cold winter, sometimes freezing solid, and thaws out in the spring to pupate and eventually become a moth. (Such interesting tidbits I provide for you on this blog!) The width of its coppery brown stripe is said to be an indication of the severity of the approaching winter  — the thicker it is, the milder the winter. That’s the myth, anyway. 

Furry Fellow

Wikipedia says, “Folklore of the eastern United States and Canada holds that the relative amounts of brown and black on the skin of a Woolly Bear caterpillar (commonly abundant in the fall) are an indication of the severity of the coming winter… In reality, hatchlings from the same clutch of eggs can display considerable variation in their color distribution, and the brown band tends to grow with age; if there is any truth to the tale, it is highly speculative.”

Separating truth from fiction can sometimes be a challenge. When we’re writing non-fiction or memoir, truth matters, but in a novel it’s not so important. At least, that’s what some writers seem to think.

There’s a difference between truth and accuracy. A novel may be fictitious but any details must be accurate for the story to remain credible. But, you say, it’s contemporary fiction. We write what we know. Why do we need to research anything?

Yesterday on the Seekerville blog, author Amanda Cabot‘s post, “So You Want to Write a Contemporary“, asked seven questions writers should consider when deciding whether to write contemporary or historical fiction. In her sixth question she debunks the idea that contemporary doesn’t require research. The reality is, all writing requires research.  It’s true that research for contemporaries is different from historicals, but it’s still essential that your details are correct.  If anything, readers are more critical of contemporary authors who get their facts wrong because it’s so easy to get them right.”

Hopefully our contemporary fiction isn’t devoid of an interesting setting or enriching details just because we’re writing only “what we know”. It’s good to stretch our horizons and venture into a bit of unfamiliar territory once in a while.

What kind of facts do you deal with in your writing? How did you research their accuracy?

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A wedding weekend overflowing with family, friends and faith

It was that kind of weekend — the only two warm sunny days sandwiched between two weeks of rain — ideal timing for a glorious outdoor family wedding.

There is no writing application hiding at the end of this post. Instead, please indulge me while I share a few photos. My head and heart are filled with memories of a sweet union of two families, and of our home being joy-filled with the happy chaos of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was no time for writing!

Wedding 5

 

Wedding 0

 

Wedding 1

The wedding’s chosen theme was a little vintage, a little country… elegant, but in a casual, relaxed way. Peeking out from under the bride’s white lace were the toes of her cowboy boots; the groom’s attendants wore cowboy boots with jeans. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Wedding 2

Throughout the ceremony the focus was on the Christian faith of this special couple. At the end of the service as they symbolically braided three cords, our eyes were drawn to the words of Ecclesiastes 4:12, prominently displayed behind them, reinforcing the declaration that this was to be a three-way union, with God integrally woven into their lives.

It was that kind of weekend — one filled with cherished family and friends, enriched with love and faith. We were blessed!

Wedding 4

 

~

“A cord of three strands
is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12b (NIV)

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Are you too busy?

Overnight the weather has changed. Overnight we’ve gone from summer to autumn. The calendar says so, whether we want to believe it or not.

Falling Leaves

Some days I’m convinced my life is run by a calendar. Most of my activities are scribbled into those tiny squares, partly so I won’t forget any of them and partly so I won’t double-book engagements, meetings and appointments. On Facebook last weekend I saw a graphic that said, “Too busy is a choice. Life is not an emergency. Life is a gift.”

“Too busy is a choice.”

I’m pretty sure most of us don’t think it is. We think busy is what life does to us as the clock ticks through its 1,440 minutes every day. Now that fall has officially arrived the pace will pick up. Today is the first day of school for children throughout BC (thankfully, the teachers’ strike is finally settled), our church choir resumed yesterday, my writers’ group is back in action, and a myriad of meetings are already vying for visibility on our calendar.

One bit of wisdom I’ve learned through the years is, while so many home, church, school and community activities are worthy of my support, I. Can’t. Do. It. All! I can’t and I shouldn’t.

When we exceed our emotional or physical limitations we cease to be useful. We admire those who appear to give 110%, but in reality it’s impossible to overextend ourselves for very long without suffering consequences. In today’s society burnout and nervous breakdowns are commonplace.

“Too busy is a choice.”

Septembers are a little like Januarys in that they provide ‘beginning again’ opportunities. We get to decide how we’ll spend the majority of these minutes, days and weeks. Oh, I realize there are some commitments that have to be shouldered; life isn’t all about us. But we are responsible for how we use the one life we’ve been given. We are answerable to the One who gave it to us … expected to make wise use of our time and abilities.

A new season begins today. There are new opportunities, old commitments and decisions facing us. Now might be a perfect time to evaluate and reestablish priorities.

We writers know about squeezing our passion into leftover crevices of our days, procrastinating about finishing (or starting) a particular manuscript, waiting until deadlines choke us before giving the task the priority it always should have had. We say we’re too busy, and we let that excuse stress us to the limit. But …

“Too busy is a choice.”

The choice is ours to make. I believe I have some thinking to do!

~

Are you making any changes in your scheduling this fall? What (or who) is it that you want to make time for?

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