Two former town councillors running for mayor in Sackville are defending their voting records on the contentious issue of seismic testing for shale oil and gas. John Higham and Virgil Hammock were …
I feel like this will be the longest winter in history. I have been spinning in time since my son went to college. The Old Bitch Above saw it was wise to keep me busy so she gave me two night jobs through the summer to distract me from my thoughts. But now it is fall and I am grounded and unemployed. The ‘home schooling’ cupboard sits quietly. I roam from room to room, writing my novel, I say.
I don’t have an empty nest but every time I look at my eleven year old daughter I feel the ominous ticking of the clock. Before I know it she will be gone too. There will be no more use for my big tubs put away every season for rotating holidays: decorations and costumes for Hallowe’en; three colourful baskets for Easter with rainbow coloured fluff and carefully stored decorated eggs from decades back; two boxes of decorations, books and videos for Christmas and Hannukah. I have a room full of boxes of illustrated children’s books, barbies, stuffed animals, small cars, castles.
I don’t have to get rid of any of it yet as my last child still sits down to play. To play. I love to see her there, her voice is much quieter than when she was younger and I could hear her narrating her stories from the next room. But she is still dreaming and playing. To hear my children play freely is my absolute joy.
If I could take one little child every day out of the school system and let them play quietly in my house I would love that. It would be an open offer. Any age in any class that wanted to be safely mothered. Left alone to think and play until they wanted to talk, offered homemade soup and fresh bread when they were ready to eat.
It would be a break from rules and regulations, no schedule and no rules except on how to be polite and respectful. Gentle reminders on grammar and pronunciation, mentoring in manners. Endless encouragement and love would be my gift.
Fostering children. We won’t now, we probably never will. I have thought about it many times. I would never foster a child that was older than my youngest because that would make her uncomfortable. But maybe we could foster younger children. She loves little children and babies and is very good with them.
However, I read that if you have had a Child Services File opened on your home it could be seen as non-negotiable factor and we would be rejected right away. When I read that, a time when I was constantly being rejected for jobs, I could not stand the affront of being rejected for fostering. I couldn’t take it emotionally. No more failure and rejection, I just couldn’t take it.
The irony! That we had failed our smallest child by allowing perpetrators into our home and that this now precluded us from helping any other children. The bleak irony of it just filled me with wrath against a sick and destructive family that still held some sticky fingers of turpitude around our happy family.
I believe that our experience with sexual assault has made us better people. We no longer hesitate when we hear a story of abuse. We never wonder what it feels like to be a victim and/or related to a victim. We know what the court cases are like and the reactions of your community. We are educated and we could be helpful to a child going through a similar experience. We would be a better foster family because of our past experiences.
Time has passed and I have begun to see my fear of rejection as too personal and emotional for the bigger picture. New Brunswick is crying out for foster families. Older foster parents are retiring and younger families are not taking over. New Brunswick lost 118 foster homes in 2013/2014 for many different reasons. Some homes were closed for failing to cooperate, some retired, some ‘bowed out’ after their children were adopted.
We might start the process and see how it goes. Our home would be examined, our finances, our psychological state and our health. We would have to apply for a criminal record check and talk about the past. If we passed through these hurdles then we would have to take a nine week course. I suppose we can start the process and see if it is meant to be.
Meanwhile, back to the novel, a wildly cathartic trip through an imagined world in which my schizophrenic sister escapes the spiral of her drug filled, sex is rape, panhandling life and has a home, and true bliss, feeds and cares for a teen foster child.
I have spent the last six months going into debt. It has been a lot of work. I am pretty tired now. During this process I worked two jobs and tried to start a business. Now I have one part time job, no business plan and some really good debt.
We bought the house next door and tore it down. That’s what we did. We made a bold move, saved our house and increased its value immeasurably. Our house will be worth more with a secure front lot and a clear view of the ocean. But even more pertinent to our present lives, we have cleared an emotional path. We have taken back what hurt us and we have taken control.
At the beginning of the summer we noticed that our most recent neighbours were making all the noises of someone who is about to move; even less attention to their house than usual and then a sudden short burst of activity which ended up being a small ugly deck.
I had to ask them if they were selling. We are on a shared driveway and their front lawn is basically in front of our house. If you sit on our porch you can wave at them as they go in and out of their house. We both had the courtesy to give each other a lot of space and we looked after each other’s cats when we traveled so we were on good terms.
The couple in the house had decided to sell, or in fact their parents had, as they did not own the house and that explained why they never did any work on it. They wrote out a rough ‘for sale’ sign and told us that they were selling privately to avoid the costs of a realtor. They knew that we were going to buy it. The negotiations started.
When we first moved into our house 14 years ago our neighbour was a 98 year old woman named Phyllis Anderson who lived alone in her family home. I brought her the mail and sat and had coffee with her which she heated on an uninsurable old ceramic gas stove. She soaked up sun in her run down sunny porch with the ancient windows, surrounded by old photos and knitting and books. She told me all about her history in the house and stories involving her father and brothers.
I loved having her as a neighbour and I was truly sad when she died at 101 years in the local old age home. She held out in her home until she was 100 years old and I will always admire her grace and good temper as she accepted the move. As a retired nurse she was fairly comfortable in a institutional environment and whenever I visited she would be busily involved in activities like bowling, bingo or cards. We were good friends; she would have found this crazy house history endlessly entertaining and accepted out ultimate decision as practical.
When the house went up for sale after her death we asked her young nephew if we could buy the front garden that was basically in front of our house. Unfortunately he wanted to sell it as a whole package and we were new to debt at the time, having only recently bought our own house and still paying off a student loan, so we decided we could not afford it.
We threw our fate to the winds and said, what will be, will be. And then the worst thing happened. A family bought the house on-line, unseen. After getting to know them I suspect they fled from their last house and neighbourhood in shame and debt.
To put it succinctly and with the dark humour that helps survivors, they cut down all the trees and their children sexually assaulted our four year old daughter. I don’t really need to say more. It was a long couple of years but eventually they moved on leaving a scar in their place. The quiet garden with apple trees was gone and replaced with a excessively large septic mound. It was hideous and made the sharp turn of the road even more dangerous.
This time when the house went up for sale we were not going to make the same mistake. We are a healed family but we could not take that chance again. Our daughter, a strong and confident 11 year old now, was content and optimistic about new neighbours. I believe it is a sign of how well my daughter has healed that she does not feel fear at meeting new people, and it makes me very happy.
However, my husband and I were not comfortable with our chances of having another family from hell. As soon as the sign went up I pictured chained or wandering dogs and motorcycles and loud radios. And I knew if that happened we would have to move. It would be too stressful and I would never feel comfortable allowing my daughter to be home alone.
So we bought the house for a very good price. But that house, like ours, was built in the 1850’s. And no one had worked on that house since possibly the 1950’s. In the fourteen years we had been at our house we had spent a lot of time, sweat and money. We had ripped out old linoleum and false ceilings full of crap, we had insulated, and put on a new roof and painted and plastered. We had planted trees and and flower beds.
Nothing had been done on our next door house. The foundation was crumbling, the electricity had to be replaced, the roof was not good and would have to replaced in at least 5 years, the ceiling were stained and the walls had been painted terrible garish colours right on top of the wall paper. A geothermal had been put in, at great cost, that would never work efficiently in a house that had open holes in the cellar walls and no insulation in the walls. Trees were leveled. Everything was ugly.
At first we were both enthusiastic about fixing the house and making it pretty again and renting it as a vacation home or as a B and B. Over the summer and into the fall I calculated costs, researched comparables, talked to banks and business development organizations. I priced electricians and construction workers. The more we talked about it and looked at it, the more we were drawn to the inevitable conclusion. If we did not give up on this project now we would be forced to in about five years. And we would be carrying much more debt.
The practical costs of saving the house, and the costs of running the house as business, did not add up. And I have to admit that I never got over the dark memories of that house. The destructive neighbours had pulled down walls where there had once been sweet little rooms. I knew the moral lassitude that had lived in the rooms, I remembered how dirty and smelly it had been when they were in there. And I always thought about them as soon as I entered one of their rooms. They had destroyed the house already.
So the project that had I had been working on every day and every night, pivoted. It flipped on its head. This was a huge pivot. I moved from construction to destruction; costs, contractors, deadlines, planning commission demolition permits and a visit from the Dept of Environment.
Now as Christmas nears and I look out the window to our usual view of the ocean, the view is entirely unobstructed. The septic mound has been scraped away and dumped in the hole where the house once stood. The foundation stones have been piled up, waiting for the spring and our landscaping dreams. Dead tree stumps are gone.There will be no scar at all in the end, just a green space with a beautiful rock garden and trees; oaks, apple, and a weeping willow. And a big grassy lawn where a 12 year old girl can kick her soccer ball. I know Phyllis would understand.
looking at this old blog from my library studies certificate
It is a small library but an active one. The librarian, Kate Grigg, is wonderful and manages the many requests from quite a large surrounding population.
I enjoy that library and have depended on it during home schooling years. I have run the Hackmatack Reading Club and a Nancy Drew Reading Club, as well as sent my kids to any story time activity.
A blog for the tiny library would be an interesting project, although I am quite sure that if I suggest the idea, it will be handed back to me.
It would be a useful site where the librarian could not only list town and library activities, but she could also link RSS Feeds to book lists from reading…
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I wrote poems when I was a child. I remember one that was pretty straight forward. It was about my life plan. I wanted children and then I wanted to write. At least that was the gist.
When I mentioned this at breakfast the other day my husband said, ‘Be careful what you wish for, they say, because you just might get it’, but then he smiled because he must have wished for a sexy wife and a happy home with delightful children.
Then I had an epiphany. I had to stop and think; place my index finger on my lips and frown. All the whirring sounds of breakfast, a child asking where her brush was, a cheap dishwasher taking off like a jet engine, faded away and my mind focused on one point: had I been pursuing this plan all along? Was I living out a lifeline that I had set up when I was ten years old? I had to shake my head. I had to smile.
What really took me by surprise was that I have spent much of my life quietly thinking that I had failed; that I had not lived my dream life. I was critical of myself for not having ‘become a writer”. What I didn’t realize was that I was a writer, and always had been. My own child self had given me plenty of time to find a good man and create beautiful children and write and think all along the way.
I have always been writing, thinking about writing, reading, and writing some more. I wrote for myself, I wrote for academics, I wrote for the free ranging feminist community. I wrote on film, art, theater, computer technology, medical topics and local politics and events. I wrote about everything and anything as a freelance journalist. I wrote cover stories on everything from chocolate to female impersonators.
I have never stopped writing and one of the classic photos my kids took of me is of the back of my head, my hair casually clipped up, typing away at the computer. I had a Mom just like that – typing, frowning, placing her finger in her upper lip while she was thinking. We were trained to wait til she had finished her thought before interrupting.
And like all writers I also wrote poetry and stories. Files, folders and black journals full of emotions and ideas formed into words. It does not matter if anyone noticed. I have been following that plan like a blueprint. I do have the happy home that I imagined. It is becoming more possible to do more writing as they grow older.
Later that same day while I was wandering aimlessly around Facebook I saw the image of a donkey tied to a plastic chair and under it was written, ‘Sometimes the obstacles you imagine are not as big as you thought’. I think I heard a chorus of hallelujah in my brain. Second level to the epiphany!
The next day I stared writing a novel. I jumped in with no plan and no particular structure. I wrote and I wrote and at about 10,000 words (thank you Nanowrimo for getting me going) I re- thought the main character and introduced another character and kept going. At about 30,000 words I knew who I was writing about, why I was writing and how it was going to end.
I have long dreamed of this moment. I am ecstatically happy and not in a temporary way in which you expect that sad drop of disappointment later. I can’t be disappointed about results or expectations because I am entirely happy about recognizing who I am and acting on it. I have acknowledged my childhood plan.
Characters and scenes from short stories that I wrote long ago are queuing up. Some of them want to be in this novel, some of them want their own novel. I am enjoying the big canvas; I am taking my time building characters and scenes. I am having fun doing it and I know someone else will have fun reading it.
I am confident about my created world. It reminds me of the process of my rug hooking, a hobby I began last winter when I was homeschooling my youngest. I enjoy the process; the visual concept, the gathering of the wool, the painting in colors and textures. While I am pulling strips of hand cut wool up through the holes of the burlap my mind relaxes and indulges in day dreaming. I listen to music and I think about things. Halfway through one rug I have an idea for the next one.
And this is how I feel about my stories now. Working in an entirely different medium helped bring about this commitment to the novel. Just as I always finished every rug I began, even when I had thought of an even better idea for the next one, I know I have to finish this story before I begin the next one.
It is incredibly satisfying to recognize that all my earlier writing is not wasted. It had its place in the forming of my characters and visions. I don’t need those dusty files anymore because the characters have burst out of their tight little short story forms and lunged forth into characters who want more space to develop. Poems, images, and dreams are becoming living thoughts in my fictional characters.
When I was a child I wrote because I loved to and that spirit is returning. Writing is my friend. I am writing because I want to. Sometimes it does take discipline to sit down and write but it is work I was meant to do.