Happy Canada Day!

I woke up early this morning — if 6:15 am is early? — let the cat out for his morning stroll, fed and watered the birds. Now I can drink my morning coffee and enjoy our national hodilay holiday.

There — typo corrected. It’s not that I can’t spell, but my fingers get ahead of my brain — or is it vise versa? — and I usually type morning as monring. Which makes me think of an amusing blip from the brain of my cell phone’s auto-correct. I’d told a friend that I’d bought a tin of Maxwell House (coffee) and sent it without checking. This should be an automatic No-No for me! I must have missed a space, so auto-correct thoughtfully changed it to My new tin O’Farrell House.

Not sure who O’Farrell is, or how he got his name programmed into the system, but SOMEDAY I will learn to CHECK every message before hitting SEND. 😉

Wishing my fellow Canadians a lovely holiday as we celebrate the beauty and diversity of our great country.

June Recap

Hello to all my Readers & Followers!

It’s the end of June and I thought I’d do a round-up of this month and what’s been happening at our house over the past few weeks. To keep from rambling on and boring you to tears, I’m setting my timer for thirty minutes.

I last posted on June 13th, the day before we went to Moose Jaw for my brother-in-law’s funeral. It was a secular affair, as you’d guess when they started out with the song, “House of the Rising Sun.” Perhaps it was a favorite of his, but Butch was a straight-laced, hard-working family man, a loving husband and protective father. But he did in middle age buy a Harley. He and Rose made several long trips on that bike. Sadly Rose, the love of his life, passed away at the end of 2019.

The next day, June 15th, my husband Bob woke up with a pain, he had the feeling he might have a kidney stone. Both of us took it pretty easy that day. June 16th Bob was in yet more pain; our daughter took him to see a doctor while I was cooking supper at the seniors’ home where I work on a casual basis.

The doctor found he had an infection, a kidney stone, and a gall stone, so she kept him in the hospital overnight. I brought him home Friday but he was in so much pain I took him back in Saturday morning. Since then he’s had more appointments plus an ultrasound; with antibiotics and pain medication he’s making a slow recovery but it’s been a quiet two weeks here at our house.

For myself, I’ve felt rather unmotivated. Sitting and waiting for doctors and tests, doing the basics to keep up once we’re home, blogging has taken a back seat altogether. I cancelled last week’s shifts at work, too. Also, the season of insects is upon us and I’m really sensitive to the bite of some invisible beastie; wherever I’m bitten, I tend to get big hives that itch like crazy for a few days.

I’ve been trying to keep up with outdoor things like dead-heading the flowers, filling the tubs I use to water the birds. I get some surprises, too: one evening this huge jackrabbit came hopping along the south side of our house, stopped to drink from one of the tubs on the lawn, then off down the lane he went. I was sitting on the step, motionless. Our black cat was standing in the driveway not so far way, but he seemed bemused by this long-legged, floppy-eared creature bigger than himself.

One afternoon I saw a doe in the yard between our trailer and the woods; a couple mornings later she came down the driveway with her fawn. They stopped by the trees on the west side and the fawn nursed, then off they went into the canola field beside our yard.

All spring we were wanting rain badly, but the “showers of blessing” have come at the perfect time this month. Everything is looking so lush right now.

My cousin from Edmonton was in our area June 28th, brought here by her son, his wife and daughter. They intended to visit a son in Prince Albert, friends in Saskatoon, and they drove out this way to visit us. Bob wasn’t feeling up to a visit yet, so he stayed home, but I met them at a local coffee shop and we had a good visit.

And that brings us to the end of June. How can it be! We still haven’t installed our window unit air conditioner. We haven’t had very many hot days –in fact some of our days have felt more like October!– and nights are cool here. But that will be our next project: setting up the air conditioner before the weather really heats up.

My half hour is up. Maybe now I can stay on track. I’ve seen some great prompts and have thought about responding; maybe I’ll post some of those ideas even if they’re way late.

Wishing you all a great summer.

Three Family Funerals

Several weeks ago my husband’s cousin called to tell us that their twenty-year-old granddaughter Hannah had passed away rather suddenly of an infection of the blood. When Hannah was born, she was missing the main artery to her heart, so within months she had her first of many surgeries to deal with this serious issue, mainly ballooning the smaller arteries into her heart to allow the blood to flow as freely as possible. The doctors guessed she’d live maybe six years.
Though she had a portable oxygen tank for most of her life, she was a lively girl with lots of dreams for the future and a ready smile. She’d had a heart valve replacement about six months prior and it took her a long time to recover from that — and she said, “No more.” Still, she seemed to be doing okay lately, but this infection came suddenly and took her within few days. She never had to go through another operation. Her funeral was May 21st in Saskatoon.

Last Nov 28th my sister Wilma left me a voice message: “Chris, we have to talk.” Our sister Donna, who’d just turned 66, had died of a drug overdose. She was living with some friends in Regina at the time. She moved often, often had no phone, and I hadn’t been able to get in touch with her for several years.
Her middle son, James, had her cremated that week; since then it’s taken some time to set a date for burying the urn with her ashes. We did that last Saturday at noon in Moose Jaw with close family and a few friends present. Afterward we met at a pavilion in the park for a lovely simple picnic lunch. I was really glad we went; visiting with the family brought closure to her death.

My sister Rose died at the end of Dec 2019 and her husband wasn’t well. Both of them smokers since their teens, Rose had contracted lung cancer, was treated, but it spread and then she got an infection that took her.
I can’t say we knew her husband very well. We lived in the East for twenty of their married years and haven’t meet him very often since we’re back. Plus, Butch was the type that never has so much to say. But we knew his health hasn’t been good for some years; he suffered from serious emphysema and also was treated for bladder cancer in 2019. Now both problems have risen up to overwhelm him; last Saturday we all knew it wouldn’t be long until there’d be another funeral. We received word Tuesday evening that Butch had passed. He’d have been 69 in September.

So this month seems to especially be our “season” for funerals and/or “Celebrations of life.”

A Day’s Journey

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is TRAFFIC. Here’s a little verse in response:

rush hour traffic
streams of weary communters
snailing homeward

Today We Bury My Sister

Donna died of a drug overdose on November 28, two days after her 66th birthday. Her middle son, James, had her cremated within days, but it’s taken while to arrange burial of her ashes in her daughter Barbie’s grave. Barb died back in 1989, from what likely would have started as cervical cancer. A sad time for us all; Barb was just sixteen and full of life.

Being a Saturday morning, the traffic on the highway between here and Moose Jaw will probably be light. We’re to meet at the cemetery at noon to bury the urn holding Donna’s ashes, then we’ll have a gathering in remembrance, which will take the form of a family picnic in the park. I don’t expect it to be a large gathering, as she lived in her own circle of friends so a lot of her nieces and nephews hardly knew her.

Donna and I were close when we were young — as close as siblings can be when they live in different homes over 100 miles apart — but as an adult she and her family lived here in SK while we moved East and lived in Ontario and Quebec. Coming back to SK, I was only able to locate her a few times. So, sadly I’ve only seen her four or five times in the past thirty years — mainly at family funerals.

I haven’t had anything to do with her Rob & Jason, her oldest & youngest sons, since I spent a few days with Donna when Barb died. Sad when families get so estranged, but my husband and I chose a different path — lifestyle if you will — and lost contact with them. Hopefully we can get a bit more acquainted today.

Travel By The Book

I subscribe to BookBub so this morning I received my daily list of suggestions for possibilities that might interest me. Frank Zappa once said, “So many books; so little time!” I can definitely identify.

The book suggestions completely crossed the planet, going from Fatal North by Bruce Henderson–about the 1871 Polaris expedition–clear down to Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker. Everything you ever wanted to know about the South Pole explorations. Then we have The Art of the Compliment by Christie Matheson. probably something everyone should read. 🙂 And Peter Singer writes about The Most Good You Can Do.

The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam would be a book for US political history buffs. The blurb says: “An in-depth examination of the political career, personal life, and untimely demise of Robert Kennedy.” Like most everyone during those years, I heard & read about the Kennedy family tragedies but now it’s “water under the bridge” and not high priority reading for me.

One writer has decided to time-travel, literally, to Victorian England. The Victorian Life by Sarah A Chrisman. Blurb: “Fascinated by the 19th century, one couple decided to fully commit to a Victorian way of life. From tending oil lamps to wrestling with corset laces, this charming and insightful read chronicles a modern exploration of a bygone era.”

Have these folks chosen an upper class lifestyle or do they give glimpses of life for the rest of society in that era? I have a book of written records made by various people back in Victorian England, describing the living conditions they observed among the working class and the destitute. The average George Brown, victim of the Industrial revolution, who had only a cup of tea yesterday, nothing today. Homeless men spending nights in a poor-house. Women doing men’s jobs–cheaper labour costs, you know–working hard in a factory for twelve hours a day, with a nursing baby strapped to their chest and a toddler or two beside them. Or a family in London’s East end in a slum where landlords rented by the day and if you couldn’t pay, your belongings–what few you had–were thrown out in the street so your apartment could be rented to someone who could. Corset laces were the least of their worries.

I’ve noticed that people who claim to be reincarnated weren’t, in their former life, an average Joe, Pedro the galley slave, Lizzy the overworked scullery maid, or Piers the crippled soldier. History is full of unknowns barely surviving, but the folks who claim to remember a past life were usually a famous/notorious SOMEONE. Biblical character, prophet, Rajah, Prince or Princess, doctor or scientist. I don’t know as anyone’s ever claimed a past life as a writer. 🙂

Time travel books work the same. The traveler’s dropped into an intriguing time in history and accepted by the locals. These from-the-future visitors always have the means to keep from fatal accident, starvation, or execution as a heretic or witch, until they head home again. Well, I suppose that’s fiction for you: writers have complete control of their character’s fate.

I believe that now and then we all need an accurate picture of life as it was way back when. Last night I was listening to the audio-book about Nicholas Nickleby and his life at Dotheboys Hall. Kudos to Charles Dickens, an author who gives us a realistic view of life for the lower classes of his day — and through his novels actually managed to change society’s attitude toward the poor. If we only knew it, we still benefit very much from what he accomplished.

BookBub, Book Cave, Reading Deals and various other outlets are ways for writers to advertise and get their books out to readers. There are lots more book deals but I have a very restricted list of interest. Subscribers can tailor their selections to their own interests when they sign up.

What’s A Short Story?

One writing site I follow recently held a contest: “Write a short story in 500 words or less.” As I read through the various submissions this morning, part of the problem for me was thinking a story is always fiction. However, this contest called for a non-fiction story. So I read brief memoirs, rambling musings about life, possible devotional articles, but few submissions that I’d consider a real STORY.

Am I off-base in my understanding of STORY? There are a number of weekly writing challenges I do participate in that call for writing a story in xxx words, so it’s good to get a handle on the concept, even if I didn’t enter this contest.

Image from Pixabay

According to GRAMMARLY’s website, “Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. … A short story is a short, self-contained work of fiction…”

And I see the ubiquitously quoted “Baby shoes for sale, never worn.”

Writer L Ron Hubbard gives good pointers on how to critique a short story: You need to judge the originality, the scene-setting, characterization, conflict and plot, a theme. It should be engaging and deliver some emotional payoff.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is BRIDGE and I think it fits in today’s musing.

A short story should create a BRIDGE between a writer and a reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I need to reach out through my own – or my character’s – experience and touch your heart. It may be only a little chuckle, a small example of the human nature we all share, or a bit of sorrow.

Image by Josch13 — Pixabay

If I write about the time our family went to the zoo, saw the polar bears, watched the antics of the monkeys, had a great time, and came home, will that touch your heart?

If our beloved Jr disappeared at the zoo and we searched frantically to find him, that experience could easily be crafted into a story and would resonate with all parents. If I had to tell it in 100 words or less, that would take a lot of whittling! There wouldn’t be a lot of room to develop scene or theme, but it could be done.

Stories, especially short ones, need to start with a bang. No “Our family was at the zoo one sunny morning in mid-July. We were watching the polar bears splashing around in their pool when our I noticed that our son had disappeared in the crowd.”

We watched the polar bears splashing so comically in their pool. I turned to lift my six-year-old so he could see more of their antics…and he’d disappeared!
“Frank,” I screamed over the noise of the other tourists, “Where’s Junior?”
Frank whirled around. “Junior! Where are you,” he shouted as we both scanned the crowd frantically.

Most readers would easily get the picture and feel some connection to this couple.

Anyway, enough of my musings. What do you see as the elements of an engaging short story? Do you like upbeat, happy endings? Or are you one who likes being left with a haunting melancholy when you’re done?