Writing a Memoir: or, down the line, who will care how I live my life?

Our daughters’ weddings were beautiful occasions, and traditional in many aspects but unconventional in their relative simplicity.  The girls dubbed them ‘casually elegant’. There were the usual lovely long white gowns, bridal bouquets, and receptions, but not a lot of fuss or elaborate preparations. (Our son’s wedding was more formal but we didn’t have a lot to do with its planning.)

As I compose this post it is well after 2:30 a.m. The house has become quiet. We’re housing the spillover of family that is gathering for a granddaughter’s wedding. Two of the three families who will be staying with us through the weekend are here and have settled in for the night; the third will arrive later today. In addition to sharing in the marriage of two special people, there is the precious time of being together with all the family and friends (170 of them!) who will gather to celebrate the milestone. Being together brings present joy and provides memories to treasure.

X TeacupsOne afternoon last week we were rummaging through boxes of items from the basement, unwrapping pieces of vintage china and crystal to use at the reception. Each piece brought memories of long-ago times when they had adorned the tables of other generations now gone. Stories were shared as each fragile piece was carefully washed and dried. I commented that our memory is a wonderful thing… a God-given blessing… but something that often we take for granted.

X Crystal

We don’t expect to forget the important events that make up our lifetimes, but our minds age along with our bodies and there is no guarantee that in later years we’ll always be able to remember details that we’d like to pass along to younger family members.

Like the Royal Crown Derby tea set that belonged to an aunt who died over forty years ago, and had come to us with the admonition that she would like it to remain in the family to be passed down through future generations of the Garvins.

X RCDerby

Or like the silver bowl with its latticed insert that used to hold nodding blooms of roses from my husband’s parents’ garden … from the very rose bed that a gathering of church young people danced around at a party one summer evening, beating a circular pathway into the grass of the manse’s backyard.

X Silver

We write memoirs for various reasons. Sometimes we want to share remembered antics and anecdotes publicly because we’re storytellers. Sometimes we simply want them recorded as personal recollections, a heritage for our families. We might not think anyone in future generations will care about what seem like insignificant happenings in our lives, or about the eccentricities of dearly departed relatives.(Where DOES that term come from??? Why are they ‘dear’ when they depart???) But my own experience has been one of regret that I didn’t sit down with my parents and grandparents to record some of the stories I’d vaguely overheard in fragments of conversations but later couldn’t recall. Those stories went to the grave with them and are now lost forever. I don’t want my life’s memories to suffer the same fate. Maybe nobody down the Garvin line will care, but if they don’t, they won’t be compelled to read my words. If they DO care, they will be extremely grateful that I took the time to record them for their benefit.

Such stories are part of who we are, and therefore part of the heritage that belongs to future generations. They nourish the roots which will enrich their lives.

Have you written any kind of memoir, autobiography or journal? If so, is it published? What are your intentions for it?

X Pitcher

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“For whatever was written in former days
was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and
through the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

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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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Summer’s Winding Down

Robins are supposed to be harbingers of springtime … that time when everything is becoming vibrant and new. This one is tattered, a little tired-looking and worn. Maybe that’s to be expected as we go into the last weekend of the summer.

Autumn Robin

I read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that Robins can produce three broods each year. If that’s the case, I can understand why this one might be feeling a little frazzled and frayed. Parenting can be demanding! Then again, it’s said that although “the entire [robin] population turns over on average every six years,” the occasional one can live up to fourteen years, so perhaps this one is just showing his age.

All winter long we wait for summertime, and when it finally arrives we exult in relaxed schedules, vacations, and the opportunity to catch up on everything we didn’t have time for in the preceding months. We garden and travel, make time for afternoons on the beach and backyard barbecues. Then, all too soon, we see it …

Autumn Glimpse

… the unwelcome hint that it’s all coming to an end.

We’re already back into September routines and any vacation time we might have had is little more than a distant memory. I should feel refreshed after several weeks of cottage time and family visits, but in reality I’m a little breathless. The weeks zipped by like a roadrunner on caffeine. I enjoyed my activities, but I’m taking stock and discovering that a lot of what I hoped to accomplish during June, July and August didn’t happen. What became of all that extra time I expected to have?

Perhaps having a summer birthday and acknowledging the passing of yet another year in my life makes me more aware of time’s elusive nature. Like the Robin, I’m getting a little worn around the edges. It takes me longer to get things done — although that may be less to do with aging and more to do with stopping too often to appreciate the blaze of changing colours or breathe in late summer’s distinctive scent.

Yesterday was subdued … a mist drifted through the trees most of the day and mingled with a cool breeze. The alders have begun letting their leaves loose to flutter down and clutter the freshly mown lawn, and down at the marsh there’s a hint of gold. We’re approaching the last weekend of summer and I’m feeling a little melancholic about it.

~

“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;
They break forth into shouts of joy.

[Isaiah 14:7]

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 SS-BUTTON

Dealing With Our Limitations

Grumbling is a constitutional right, isn’t it? Everyone complains occasionally. It might be about the weather, the stack of month-end bills, or a mother-in-law’s upcoming visit. Some people don’t like their lot in life, or they don’t feel they get the breaks they deserve. Or they may justifiably resent having to deal with more serious problems, like illness, or incapacitation, or unemployment.

I can think of many reasons why people are discontent, but there are people who have a legitimate cause to complain… and don’t. In her weekend blog post Ann Voskamp included the following video of a KING-TV interview. It blew me away!

 

 

We can’t always manage to do what we wish? The message is: find something else that we can do and then get on with it.

From now on, whenever I bemoan my trivial limitations, the remarkable Paul Smith will come to mind.

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Staying Focused

Living rurally provides me with opportunities to enjoy wildlife of several varieties, literally on my doorstep. You’ve seen photos and read stories here of deer in our garden, bear on the back lawn, raccoons on the deck, and a great assortment of birds and critters at our feeders.

Deer 3

This nice looking buck appeared in the back yard early in July. It was the first buck we’ve seen here … at least, the first one bearing a set of antlers. He had a doe in tow who was casually munching on my rhododendrons. She wasn’t concerned that I stood in the window taking her photo; her buddy was keeping a wary eye on me. When I started moving to a different window for a better shot, he told her it was time to leave, and they immediately disappeared into the woods.

Deer 2

In August while we were driving in a town on Vancouver Island, we encountered this doe on the lawn of a church. We pulled over and I rolled down the car window to take her photo. She apparently decided I was relatively harmless, and she returned to nibbling the grass. Still, she kept a cautious eye on me while slowly working her way to the back of the church property where I lost sight of her in the trees.

Deer 1

This doe was either very smart or very stupid. Last week our daughter’s Rough Collie was on the back porch of their rural home in Cranbrook, barking furiously at the brazen intruder. Perhaps the deer recognized that the dog was on a chain, because she showed no concern, just continued to stand and stare.

Deer 4

After several moments, a noise in the bush caught her attention. I’m not sure how she even heard it over all the barking.

Deer 5

Her ears perked as she evaluated the disturbance.

Deer 6

Deciding it was a possible threat, she turned to face the woods. Then her tailed flagged, and before I could take a final shot, she wheeled and bounded off in the opposite direction. Only seconds behind her was the neighbour’s tubby Basset Hound, running as fast as her stubby legs would go … easily outrun by the swift deer.

The deer have a lesson to teach me about focus. All too often, both as a writer and as a follower of Christ, I get hung up on trivialities and miss out on the important things. I need to pay more attention, evaluate situations and respond appropriately. I believe it was the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca who said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I need to be better prepared and learn to focus on what matters so I’m aware of opportunities when they occur. How about you?

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Writing in a fog?

Vivid blue skies accompanied us during the entire 800 kilometre drive on Saturday… at least, they did after the fog lifted. Until then, there wasn’t much of anything to see.

Morning Fog

As the early morning mist thinned, beautiful Moyie Lake was revealled.

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

After that, the rest of the trip was a joy… just one cloudless vista after another.

Kootenay Pass (Selkirk Mountains), BC

Christina Lake, BC

That resembles some of my writing days. I blunder along, searching for the direction a story should take, but it’s like being in a fog. Everything feels unfamiliar, although it shouldn’t. After all, the route, the basic storyline, is my own. Still, the way ahead is obscure and I can’t see where to go until a fresh breeze of inspiration finally opens up a glimmer of an idea. Once I can expand on it, my writing picks up speed.

That’s where I am right now. There’s a non-fiction article I want to write, but the idea remains murky. Unfortunately, I’m running out of time (it’s for a contest), but I’ll persevere… I’ll keep concocting one sentence at a time, waiting for the breakthrough to happen.

If only the fog would dissipate! Do you think it would help if I set up a couple fans in my office? :)

~  ~  ~

 

 

 

September Clouds and Shadows

Clouds and sunshine, light and shadows… September’s weather can be an unpredictable mixture. Often the first week of school is summery, making it hard to be closed into a classroom. This year it hasn’t been, at least, not here. There have been clouds and showers every day so far, with occasional sunny breaks. Any clear skies seem to appear only in the evenings. We’re hoping for sunny days towards the end of the month with a family wedding in the offing, but you never know.

Clouds 1

 

Clouds 2

(A click on either photo will enlarge it for a closer look.)

This month of new beginnings has its pros and cons. It elicits enthusiasm, but it can also overwhelm. So much happens, and all at once. Holidays end, school starts up (well, everywhere except in BC’s public schools where the teachers are still on strike!), clubs and meetings resume, and we suddenly come face to face with all the tasks and commitments we put aside at the end of June.

We stumble into September with good intentions, maybe even with fresh goals, but without much forethought as to how they will be accomplished. As the proverbial snowball gets rolling and the calendar squares start filling, the highest priority activities get the attention they demand while the less obvious ones slip quietly into the background. Too often they turn out to be the ones we subconsciously think of as self-indulgent and expendable.

Does writing fall into that category? If we consider it a hobby, then it’s okay to relegate it to leftover fragments of time. However, if we’re aiming for a writing career, be it primary or secondary, it must be treated as a serious commitment and given its due time in our daily schedules.

If we don’t give serious thought to our needs as writers it won’t be hard for life’s storms to build up, envelop us and devastate.  Self-preservation isn’t an indulgence!

When we finally acknowledge that we can’t do it all, and a grey cloud of discouragement begins to hover, what can we eliminate to keep from being overwhelmed?

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