Talking About Aging

This is the fourth year in a row that my friend Diana Trautwein has taken up October’s 31 Day Writing Challenge. She says, “First was 31 Days in Which I Am Being Saved by Beauty (2012), then there were 31 Days of Giving Permission (2013), and last year, it was 31 Days of Looking for the Little.


This year the theme is 31 Days of Aging Gracefully. I haven’t joined her in the writing, but I delight in reading her words. Diana is a gracious lady, full of wisdom and deep faith. She is also a gifted communicator.

Signature-Headshot-Left-2225x270If you read the Bio on her blog, you’ll discover that for over twenty years she was a stay-at-home mom, then owned a small floral business for seven years. In mid-life she went to seminary, answered a call to pastoral ministry, and finally retired at the end of 2010 after seventeen years in two churches. At present she is a certified spiritual director and writer.

She says she’s trying to be a better writer, “to tell the stories God has written in [her] life.” I don’t know how much better she can get. She already writes with honesty and a clarity that sometimes leaves me breathless. For anyone facing or contemplating increasing age (and isn’t that all of us?), I highly recommend bookmarking Diana’s blog, Just Wondering, and following her October daily entries as she shares her very personal reflections on this sensitive topic.


Diana says, “This is a year of facing into reality for me. I turned 70 in January, I landed in the hospital in February and again, at the end of April. I traveled to Kauai in July with our entire clan to celebrate FIFTY years of marriage, and in August, my husband and I moved, downsizing after 18 years in a much-loved larger home with a huge yard. Yeah, it was time. It IS time.” [To continue reading, please click the October 1st link:

October 1 — The 31-day Write
October 2 — Living In Gratitude
October 3 — Slowing Down

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I have miles to go…


(Consider clicking on photos for a larger view.)

In round numbers, we drove about 500 miles on a weekend in mid-July, then 600 more on a round trip to our Cariboo cabin in early August, and another 1000 to the Kootenays and back in the past couple weeks. I am always awestruck by the seemingly endless miles of wilderness in our province, and how long it takes to get anywhere.


Although he was speaking of a winter landscape, Robert Frost said it well:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
It takes time and effort to travel any major distance, whether it’s a journey by car or by pen. Wherever we’re going, we must stay the course or we’ll never reach our destination.
A novel of 90,000 words may take one writer only a few weeks, and another, several years. The speed doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of effort. (There’s a lesson for all of us in the story of the tortoise and the hare.)
As mentioned in my previous post, I abandoned the journey on a short story this month, not so much because I wasn’t enjoying the writing, but more because the effort lacked purpose. Not to say I won’t ever finish the story. One day I might, but I’ll need a better reason than to meet the deadline for a contest of dubious value to me.
I want to feel passion for a story — a yearning to record and share its characters and their message. I want to immerse myself in the creation of words that will transport me into and through their world. A novel-in-progress is beckoning me to put aside less challenging distractions and get back to work.
A journey awaits.
I’m curious. What motivates you to write?
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A Humbling Encounter (reprise)

Earlier today I came across a post on Facebook from Chris Hadfield:

“46 years ago today we walked on the Moon. Neil, Mike and Buzz inspired me to do something different with my life. I cannot thank them enough for the gift they gave us all.”

I wonder if they thought of their accomplishment as “a gift”. I wonder if they had any idea it would impact generations to come, well beyond the historic and scientific milestone it was.

I recall Robert Thirsk telling me about having his love of Mathematics and Science instilled while in my Grade One classroom, and his passion for space exploration fostered by a Grade Three teacher who brought a radio to class so he and his fellow students could listen to the historic ‘walk on the moon’ moment as it happened. Teachers may never know the value of what they do, but they believe in the importance of nurturing young minds.

On this 46th anniversary I thought it would be timely to share this post from my 2009 archives…


Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

[On May 27, 2009] he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 was another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he would live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”


My link with this history-making event was miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.

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Information Overload


It’s just a truck — this single vehicle that replaces all our other ones. Granted, it’s new, and we expected there would be some changes since years ago when we acquired our previous one, but things like a ‘Centre Stack‘ command module with touchscreen computer wasn’t one of them.


And yet there it is, front and centre, almost as big as an iPad, telling us everything we need to know, and a lot we don’t. Bluetooth wireless connectivity wherever we go. Sheesh! It takes more programming than our home computers! Thankfully it came with a manual.


The problem is, we can only read so much before our heads begin to swim with information overload. We forget which feature requires that we touch the icon for more than two seconds until a beep sounds indicating the setting has been saved, and which one will shoot past all the settings if you do more than touch it once lightly.

We’re learning that it’s best to deal with one feature at a time, on a priority need-to-know basis. We sit in the truck with the manual in hand and work through the necessary steps. At this rate, however, it might take until it’s time to trade it in again before we figure out everything.

I recall when some of my writing attempts made me feel equally uncertain. I read so many books on how to write, that when faced with a blank screen I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Too much information had overwhelmed me and confused the process.

Now I just write. I do it while hoping that I’ve absorbed the most useful techniques enough to use them automatically, but knowing any necessary repairs will happen in stages during a later revision process. I’ll read the finished manuscript through multiple times, looking for specific shortcomings to correct each time. When I’m done, I’ve come to accept it still won’t be perfect, but it will be ready to face the scrutiny of my critique partners, who will undoubtedly offer additional advice for polishing.

I wonder if I could convince my critique group to meet in the truck for one session. They could browse the manual and offer suggestions for programming the Centre Stack display. I’d love some help in finding and setting my favourite radio stations from Sirius satellite’s choice of one hundred and twenty!

How do you deal with the ‘information overload’ syndrome?

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Simple Things

Old fashioned Oxeye daisies can be found just about anywhere. We see patches of their sweetly nodding heads scattered along mile after mile of dusty roadsides, and liberally sprinkled through wild meadows.

There’s an attractive, wholesome aura about them, but they’re considered an invasive species and of major concern in some areas of British Columbia — a relatively short-lived perennial  “that decreases forage for wildlife, decreases local plant biodiversity, and may compromise vegetative ground cover due to its growth form that results in exposed soil.”


Fortunately there’s an equally delightful-looking alternative available, the Shasta daisy. For a few years I searched the local nurseries in vain for them. I discovered the variety I sought wasn’t the only kind, but I finally located what I wanted, and  blogged about it here.

Their chaste, sunny little faces are such a joy, brightening the often-shady, mostly green places of our yard. There’s something about these ordinary, simple flowers that also lightens my heart. I associate them with my grandmother’s garden, with daisy-chains, and straggly bouquets gathered and clutched in grimy hands. There’s a nostalgia when I recall fields adrift with them in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ television series that the girls and I watched faithfully.

They make me want to break out in song…

… but, of course, I won’t. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to hear that! (Although the video’s worth watching since there’s a little face near the end that could be considered a clue to something else that is soon coming to brighten our days and lighten our hearts.) ;)


Simple things are appealing, and I don’t mean just daisies. Most of the characters in my current novels seem to prefer a pared down lifestyle. They don’t live in mansions, do elaborate dinner parties, or take exotic vacations. Are they reflecting my own preferences? Probably so, although I don’t intend to impose such limitations in all future stories. I suspect many readers enjoy the escape provided by more complex settings.

What’s your preference as a reader? or as a writer? Do you lean towards the austere or the more complex when it comes to a story’s setting and the characters’ lifestyles?

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Discoveries and Ideas

We like to meander along unfamiliar roads and pathways. While we were travelling on the Sunshine Coast a week ago, we followed this country road until it finally ended at a private residence overlooking Jervis Inlet. Along the way there wasn’t much to see thanks to all the overhanging trees, but while we retraced the trip in the opposite direction we looked closer, and there were plenty of discoveries.


Maple Road on the Lower Sunshine Coast


Tall spikes of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)


A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the lookout for lunch


A patch of Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)


An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) enjoying the dappled sunshine

We wouldn’t have noticed any of these delights if we hadn’t been looking for something. It’s not that we were specifically looking for any of them, but simply keeping our eyes open, watching with expectation.

One of the most common questions a writer is asked is where do our ideas come from. The best answer I can come up with is “everywhere in general and nowhere in particular.” Everything has potential as story material. Whenever my hubby sees something interesting or unusual, his first response is usually, “How can I turn that into a children’s story?” Mine is, “Surely I must be able to get a writing application out of that!”

The trick is not to just move through our daily existence, but to experience each moment of it with expectation. So much is there, just waiting to be discovered!

Did you discover anything new or especially interesting last week?


“But blessed are your eyes because they see,
and your ears because they hear.”

[Matthew 13:16]

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