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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The squeaky wheel… or bird!


Depending on where you look, you can find various definitions of raucous:

  • making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise;
  • loud and unpleasant to listen to;
  • behaving in a very rough and noisy way;
  • disagreeably harsh or strident;
  • hoarse, screeching, squawky, grating, jarring, brassy;
  • boisterous and disorderly.


DSC04699The Steller’s Jay is a raucous bird. There’s no doubt he fits every definition. But he’s bold and he’s beautiful. I love watching him. He tears in, settles on our deck railing and makes his impatient presence known. Soon he’s squawking, “Get away from my suet!” to any other bird who may be enjoying a quick snack. If he’s ignored, he flies up and flaps in the other bird’s face. He’s quite outrageous. He gets heard. He gets results.



I’m not suggesting his behaviour is something to emulate — after all, nobody wants to be labeled unpleasant or disagreeable —  but there may be a lesson to learn from him. If you want something badly enough, you have to make an effort to get it. You have to put your determination into action.

Fellow writers, I think there’s a writing analogy tucked in here, don’t you?

How determined are you to reach your goals? What might you have to do to achieve them?


Therefore, my beloved brothers,
be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord
your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

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Squirrel! Squirrel!

I sometimes wonder at a squirrel’s mentality. Does he think at all, or simply react to survival needs? The Douglas squirrel is a regular around here… one or two of them come by periodically to investigate the state of our birdfeeder.

BirdfeederLast spring the bears demolished the feeder that had attracted a good variety of birds as well as fed our squirrels, so this winter my hubby replaced it. The one he chose is touted to be squirrel-proof, and for the most part, it is, but it’s almost bird-proof, too. It lacks the surrounding cage that would provide a toe-hold and has much smaller perches, large enough only for chickadees and juncos. They reach into the tiny openings to extract their morsels and there is virtually no spillage for those who normally would forage for leftovers on the ground below.

Was our squirrel deterred? Of course not. He leapt from the railing, only to find nothing to grasp and thus fell back to the deck. He climbed the side of the house and jumped across to the rounded and slippery plastic top. When he reached over the side, he slid off and landed several feet below, on the ground.

squirrel 1

He came via the roof next time. He disappeared briefly into the gutter and reappeared right over the birdfeeder. He leaned precariously out towards it, but it was still out of reach. So he readjusted his position and instead, clinging to the plastic edge of the gutter with his feet, grabbed a chunk of the nearby suet and clambered back into the gutter to enjoy his snack.

squirrel 2

squirrel 3

squirrel 4

There’s a writing application here.

Determination coupled with persistence pays off. You may not always get what you originally hoped for, but if you keep trying, success in a different form may be within reach. Give up and you’ll get nothing.

My ‘One Word’ for 2013 is DETERMINATION. I will be reminded of it every time the squirrel comes to visit!

Have you chosen a special word for this year? What will it take to motivate you when you need renewed effort to reach your goals? 


You might enjoy this YouTube video. It’s one in a series of four which provide a fascinating study of a very determined (or perhaps just very motivated) squirrel.


And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9
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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Do we need ideal conditions to produce our best writing?

Wildflowers flourish all along BC’s highways. I don’t think you can drive for half a mile without seeing washes of colour paralleling the pavement. On my recent trip, while stopped in a construction zone, we admired blue Chicory (Cichorium intybus) mingled with cheery clumps of yellow Dune Tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum). In this most unlikely location they were nodding happily amid the parched roadside gravel and rocks.

(A click will significantly enlarge photos)

They reminded me of a fridge magnet I received years ago from a friend, that says, “Bloom where you are planted,” echoing the words of an old Sunday School song:

Bloom, bloom, bloom where you’re planted.
You will find your way.
Bloom, bloom, bloom where you’re planted.
You will have your day.

As writers I think it’s natural to crave ideal conditions for our writing. We ogle with envy the beautiful dens and their floor-to-ceiling bookcases and polished mahogany desks, believing they must provide the perfect writing environment. We postpone our efforts, believing we’ll have more time to write that novel after the children are grown and away at school, or when we retire from our nine-to-five job.  We rationalize that we need to be free of distractions, demands or other commitments before joining in a 1k1hr word sprint to start a new chapter or finish a scene.

But give us ideal conditions and I’ll betcha some of us would still be undisciplined enough to offer other excuses for procrastinating. If writing is a priority for us, we have to find a way to write, despite the difficulties.

Like the tenacious Tansy and Chicory plants, our success doesn’t depend on ideal conditions so much as making the best use of what we have. We need to heap determination atop our desire, and make the effort to bloom wherever we are planted, regardless of the circumstances.

I know life intervenes sometimes, but if you’re serious about your writing goals, what prevents you from pursuing them?


And God is able to bless you abundantly,
so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

II Corinthians 9:8 NIV


He who observes the wind
[and waits for all conditions to be favorable]

will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 AMP


 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NKJV


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Since when is a writer like moss?

I don’t understand moss. Shallow rooted, persistent beyond belief, it turns up everywhere. It’s in the gravel walkways around our property, taking over the lawn, creeping up trees and hanging from the limbs like gymnasts on a trapeze.

In some places wild mosses are overcollected … varieties becoming threatened. That’s definitely not a problem in my yard. Moss multiplies like dust bunnies (don’t you dare look under my desk!) happily smothering less hardy plants in its wake. We’ve pretty much given up fighting it in the lawn. It’s green, is soft under foot, needs no maintenance and doesn’t require mowing. Bonus!

How it survives the bleak conditions around here is a mystery to me, but it provides a fine example of what it takes to succeed as a writer. Find your niche and then be persistent. Don’t be demanding. Don’t worry when someone rejects you by tearing away a chunk of your soul. Just carry on doing what you’re doing until the wound is covered over and you’re re-established on the path.

Not bad advice, don’t you think?



The photo of moss hanging from branches wasn’t taken at my coastal home but at our Cariboo cabin on a frosty morning. We’ve always called it ‘Moose Moss’ but that’s a misnomer. It may be Alpine Tree Moss but I don’t know for sure.


The Long Road to Publication


For the past few months my aunt, Norma McGuire (aka Nonie Vogue), has been working on a special and very personal project – a chapter book for children. It contains bedtime stories that were told by her now deceased husband to their children and grandchildren. Each chapter recounts an adventure of an old fishing boat captain and his young friend.

The manuscript for JOHNNY AND MR. FREDERICKS* has been read and re-read, revised, edited and proofread multiple times. Accompanying illustrations have been sketched. A website has been created. All that remains is to find a publishing home for it.

Despite all the telling, writing, editing, revising and illustrating, that ‘all’ is probably going to be the longest and most difficult part of the journey. Those of us who are still looking for agent representation or a publishing contract of our own know all too well how distant that view can sometimes look, especially when the rejections roll in and the waiting seems endless.

Pursuing a dream takes more than just work. It takes hope, courage and determination as well as patience and persistence. Throughout her eighty-eight years Norma has shown all those qualities, although she’s not one to sit around and wait for things to happen.

I’ve mentioned some of her accomplishments before. She’s a photographer, she paints and she quilts. Throughout her marriage she worked alongside her husband who was a commercial artist. Years after anyone else would have retired, she created a line of hasti-notes from her own paintings. In the past four-or-so years she has been knitting for a homeless mission: so far, exactly 155 toques and 126 pair of mitts, as well as 72 tiny toques for newborns in hospital, with who knows how many more to come. During the past two years she has also filled seven leather-bound journals with wise quotations and stories from her life to create ‘treasure books’ for her family, every page accompanied by a sketch or watercolour painting – to date, 572 of them!

Somehow I don’t think she’ll have any trouble seeing this book publication project through to completion, regardless of how long it takes. She’s a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of person and already has the goal in sight.

Stories as told by Harry C. McGuire
Edited & Illustrated by Norma G. McGuire