Show, don’t tell

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I was introduced to the phrase “show, don’t tell” by a woman who runs a small publishing company in Arkansas. After she read the first three chapters of my novel, she gave me some extremely helpful advice. I have since edited those first chapters and am moving forward with much more knowledge about writing.

What she said to me made complete sense. In the first chapter, one of my lines ended with “the impending nightfall felt menacing”. It did not occur to me to show the reader how the night was achieving that menacing quality rather than just tell them. I was guilty of some rookie writing mistakes and rather than telling me my writing needed work, she showed me how to make it better.

This same phrase introduced itself to another realm of my existence, proving three words can pack a powerful punch. When new people join your work team, there are bound to be some adjustments, not only for the new employee but for the long-term team members as well. And when that new employee steps into a managerial role, some toes are going to be stepped on and some noses will be out of joint.

Once the employees aired their grievances, it was agreed that the new employee would show the team how his new ideas could improve the existing way of doing things instead of just telling them how he wanted things done. By showing them and not simply telling them, not only will he have his new ideas implemented but everyone will get involved and the team will become stronger.

Life gets in the way

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I made myself a promise that I would post a blog every day through the  month of November and, although I gave it a good run, I have failed.  Yesterday was the first day I didn’t post something and, although I feel slightly disappointed, I am not going to beat myself up about it.

Trying to find something to post about every day is difficult.  Sure, I could rely on old posts or memes to get me through but that would not be me and yesterday was a busy enough day without having to make time to create a meaningful post.

Having posted every day for 18 days in a row has been a blessing.  It has re-awakened my passion to write.  It has helped me to harness that creative flow within me and has given it a chance to speak again.

Life gets in the way of our best laid plans but, if we can keep the big prize within our sights, we can overcome any obstacle to make that plan a reality. I want to write.  I want to be published, and life is not going to get in the way of that.  Even if  I miss a day or two of blogging, it just means my creativity is being stored for the days that my words will have more meaning.

Me scribere.

 

The traditions of Christmas

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Each year, when my father was still with us, he would phone at 6:00 am to wish me a Merry Christmas and get the day started.  This year, I expect the lines from Heaven will be clear again Christmas morning and that phone in my head will ring just prior to that dreaded time in the morning.  But this, admittedly, is among the favorites of my Christmas memories.

There are many Christmas traditions we still follow and, although they become slightly modified as the years pass, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.  After we moved to our tiny little town, Christmas Eve was spent bundled in our warmest winter gear standing at the end of our driveway.  The sirens could be heard before the truck was spotted and the lights would crest the hill by our house.   Santa Claus was atop the biggest fire truck and would pass all of the eager children, bundled tight like we were, waiting for a glimpse of the big guy before we were hurried off to nestle in our beds.  There were no visions of sugar plums, only the wonder of how he fit his ever-growing frame down our very thin stove-pipe. I pondered that thought until the weight of my eyelids became too troublesome and drifted into sleep with that unanswered query still nagging my brain.

Santa on a fire truck

As the years passed we began to give back.  We would faithfully wait at the end of our driveway with a case of beer for the jolly man and the rest of the fire department.  I mean, he had to have been freezing up there and what better way to keep him jolly than with some beer?  I’ll never forget the eve of one particular Christmas when Santa told us that he didn’t drink beer, but instead enjoyed a Rye and Coke.  I guess everyone has a Christmas wish and the following year we granted his with a tall glass of whiskey and carbonated syrup.  My gifts were fabulous that year!!

We almost missed him one year and I raced to the corner of the next street to catch him on his way back.  I stood in anticipation, forever in the shadow of the child I once was and with the smile of the child I hope to always be. Santa waved and wished me a Merry Christmas and I walked back home with a smile that went from one ear to the other.

Every Christmas morning we were allowed to open our stockings and then we were forced to stare longingly at the big presents under the tree while we choked down some breakfast.  That tradition should have been abolished but still remains intact. Paper flew, boxes were cast aside and we became buried in a pile of pure love.  Thanks to my mom, inevitably one or more of the presents would still have a price tag on them and that became a much-anticipated tradition as well.  My brother followed up spectacularly a few years ago by not only leaving the price tag on a gift for my sister-in-law but the price tag was hanging outside of the gift box and not wrapped up inside.

My mother was the David Copperfield of making presents disappear. She loved to start her shopping in June and would hide the packages where we would never find them.  She mastered her craft so well over the years that we would receive some of our Christmas presents in March when they magically appeared months after the festivities had ended.  There was always a competition between my brother and I to see who would open the last present on Christmas Day.  We would skilfully hide a gift or two and casually pull them out an hour or two after the mayhem had ended.  My mom changed the face of that contest and it was anyone’s guess as to whose Christmas present was going to appear at Easter!!

As I sit writing this, the gifts are waiting to be coated in the festive colors of wrapping paper.  The Shrimp Dip has been made by my brother, (hopefully there will be some left for the big day) and he is busy preparing his house for the onslaught of family, food and extreme commotion.  This is the best of Christmas.  It’s not the gifts or the decorations, it’s time spent laughing about the price tags, the long-lost gifts and the early morning phone calls. It’s watching my brother “float” his Christmas dinner in gravy.  It’s Santa Claus on a fire truck and being tricked by my nephews to play a Shepherd in church on past Christmas Eves. It’s a glass of wine with the people closest to me, the people who don’t care that I have to unbutton my pants after eating too much turkey or that I may just wear track pants this year.   Christmas is about presence and not presents.

To all of you and all of yours – a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Stuffing all you can into the holidays

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There’s a lot to be said for the joy the holidays bring – or any celebration, for that matter.  Whether it be a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a reunion, the ease of the conversation, the steady flow of wine, the melodic sound of laughter and the joy of being with a close-knit group of people is unequalled.  There is an undefined comfort level that allows us to become absorbed in the festivities that surround us. The fact that we can gorge ourselves and have an excuse to eat everything in sight with only a few fleeting moments of guilt is sublime.

turkey

The molecules change in the room when family and friends get together for a holiday celebration.  There is something intrinsically sacred about holidays and the memories that are created within those moments. Time has a way of strategically obliterating those precious seconds as it marches on at a frantic pace, but our shared memories have a way of stopping that clock, if only for a few moments.

Holidays are a portal.  They can freeze time and create a vortex that allows us to travel back and relive certain periods in our lives.  The memories wrap themselves around us like a blanket and soothe us with the warmth of the times that have engaged us and truly breathe a bit of life back into our frenzied lives.

Although many holidays have passed and are collecting dust in the books of my hallowed history, watching my brother “float” his dinner in gravy brings back a rush of nostalgia, and that, to me, is what the holidays are truly about….personal moments that any other person would find arbitrary but, to me, define my holiday experience.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving has come and almost gone and the only glaring items that were missing, as always, were my mom and dad.   I know they were with us in spirit, especially during the making of my brother’s always-spectacular turkey dinner.  And I know my mom was smiling down on our dinner knowing that my brother nailed her stuffing recipe this year!

Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with the memories your family helps to create.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Balls to the wall

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It lay dormant, nestled in the corner of the family dining room at the cottage.  It listened to every one of our crazy conversations and eventually became the topic of many of those conversations instead of just blending into the background.

Its birth was accidental.  It came to be through a simple act of property maintenance.  The family cottage was built in the early 1900’s and had begun to show its age so, without regard for its final appearance, a spray foam was used to seal a few cracks in the old building.  What resulted in the upper corner of that dining room was eventually named and heralded as a true piece of our family history.

Perhaps this innocuous object was made more grotesque by my family’s depraved sense of humor.  It is even reasonable to say that other families may never look at this simple mass and see what we all saw.  But from the first time it was noticed at a family dinner, it was affectionately dubbed the “shiny ball sack’.

Over the years, this harmless protrusion witnessed our highs and our lows.  It feasted on the sounds of our laughter and it absorbed the collection of our tears.  Somehow that inanimate object became a large part of the traditions of our family meals and I was devastated to find out it was going to be amputated from its place in those family traditions.

I haven’t been able to visit the cottage yet this summer so I was unaware that the surgical removal had taken place – until today.  I came home from work to find a lovely gift bag on my front door step and when I saw what was inside, my heart swelled.  There, gently preserved in a shadow box, was the shiny ball sack that has been a part of our family dinners for decades.  My aunt had painstakingly saved this piece of history and presented it in a way that would allow me to keep this little gem of our family history safe and sound.

ball sack

My mom and I used to laugh endlessly about this mutation of foam and it will now find its place beside a picture of my mother in my living room.  It is a fitting ending to this chapter knowing that two of the things that brought me so much joy will be together again.

 

 

The mosaic of a life

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My drive to work each day is relatively stress-free compared to most commuters.  I have a 10-minute journey through a small, quaint little town and the traffic in the winter is minimal at best barring any unforeseen wildlife charging through an invisible cross-walk.

This relaxing drive affords me the time to look around and absorb the nuances that make me appreciate the fact that this town is my home.  Like all towns, Port Carling is steeped in rich history and tradition and we are proud to boast those memories in our Museum as well as through unique artist renderings.  In 2005, “The Wall” was unveiled and, at the time, it was the largest historic photo mosaic mural in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(image credit: muskokalakes.ca)

This tribute to history contains 9,028 individual photos that bring to life the 1922 RMS Sagamo going through the locks in Port Carling.  These photos span a century from 1860 to 1960 and yesterday, for some reason, this mosaic really struck a chord deep within me.  I have passed it every day on my way to work and never took the time to truly comprehend how snapshots of occurrences in our lives can create such a grand picture of our past.

So many little pieces of our history are used to make up our most significant memories. Stopping to look at this wall made me think of all the snippets that have etched themselves into my brain and have begun to create the mosaic of my life.  Some of those fragments in time are dripping with vibrant colors of happiness and others are mottled with the greys of anguish and grief, but all of those hues combine to create the spectral portrait of my life.   

If you were to create an emblematic picture of your journey, what would your mosaic look like?

#heartgrew3sizes

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My early Christmas memories consist of an overflowing Christmas tree with presents that never seemed to end.  As as child, I thought that was normal.  I lived with the belief that every voice in the world was hoarse from saying thank you after each gift had been torn open.   I assumed every house was just like mine and every child was lost in a sea of wrapping paper, ribbons and tags after the last gift had been opened.

But that mound of brightly decorated paper blinded me from the reality I would come to know as I got older.  My Christmas was not the normal image of the holiday celebration.  The large roasted turkey and all the accompanying dishes that adorned our table did not magically appear in every other house on Christmas day.  When I learned that fact, my happiness was changed.

I had been oblivious to reality until I was in my last years of public school.  I honestly don’t even remember if there were food and toy drives when I was that age.  I just recall the anticipation of Christmas morning, not even realizing that there were kids I went to school with that may not see anything under their tree on December 25th.

Over the last three years, the Christmas tree that has become most important to me is the one in our hotel lobby.  It has become a temporary home for gifts that we have collected or purchased with the generous donations of our many supporters.   This tree overflows, much like the one I remember from my youth, but it will bring smiles to many more kids than just the two children who stumbled upon our family Christmas tree on that much-anticipated morning every year.

Toy Drive1Toy Drive2

This tree holds the hope that so many more children will be able to open a gift on Christmas morning.  This tree embodies the true essence of Christmas because the gifts that lay under its branches come from people who will not get the gift of seeing a child’s smile as they open their presents on Christmas day.  This tree truly represents the spirit of giving.

I can only hope that my future Christmas celebrations will embody the generosity I have seen over the last three years.  And my Christmas wish is that everyone takes a moment to remember those less fortunate, especially during the holidays.  The season is about giving to everyone…..not just the ones on your list.