Saturday, October 14, 2017

Summer of the Horse: Autum Autonomy

Here's the smile of a new rider finally getting to practice what she's been working on all summer.
You see, it's one thing to have a weekly lesson but those of us who bailed out of piano lessons because we had to practice every day grew up to realize it's all about the practice. If you don't work on those exercises in between the lessons, you don't improve, you don't figure things out on your own, you don't get better, you don't learn to enjoy yourself.
So I was pretty excited when my instructor, Dawn, said those magic words at the end of September: "You can ride on your own as long as there is someone at the barn to supervise."
As Emily, the editor of Field Notes, would say, "Eeps!"
I'm still riding Dakota the lesson horse so I pay twenty bucks to the person who is doing chores at the barn to keep an eye on me but hey, I'm quite willing to buy one less book a week in order to fund my riding practice.

I took it easy for my first autonomous ride. I'd hurt my back the week before so this was a chance to find out if riding was responsible for weakening my iliac crest (thankfully, no) but I also wanted to work on some basics: keeping my head up, steering, and my legs.
Yeah, I know, my legs again. The good news is, we hitched the stirrups up a notch and it's made a world of difference. Amazing what a difference one single hole on a leather strap can make.
It brought about a much needed breakthrough by the end of my last lesson: "My legs are loose! I get how that feels!" I shouted to Dawn across the outdoor ring.
Getting to take practice rides on my own will let me work on the little things that matter, including the intangibles like confidence and non-verbal communication, so I'm grateful for Dawn's trust. The barn and rings aren't busy during the week, and I cherish the peace and quiet of working on my skills without distractions, without instructions.
Once November comes, the writing schedule shifts into high gear so I'm looking forward to these few hours a week when I can step away from the chair and step onto the saddle. Horse riding will be the perfect antidote to story writing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Writing Workshop for Girls Aged 12-15

A word on the location: This workshop is open to girls from all over Cumberland County (and beyond). Oxford is a central location for Pugwash, Springhill and Amherst, and where I can find the appropriate venue (not having to pay for a day's rental keeps the cost of the workshop low).
Registration closes October 23.

Monday, October 09, 2017

That Takes The Cake

Thanks to everyone who showed up on Saturday at the house. I know it was a busy weekend so it was great to have so many people coming and going on that beautiful autumn afternoon. Dwayne talked me out of letting the chickens roam free because he figured they'd hang out in his cucumber patch. 

I'm not sure how many other authors would have an open house -- at their own house -- to celebrate one year since the publication of their first book, but my book is filled with stories that are so personal, it seemed completely appropriate to have a birthday party.
My book is local so I decided the cake needed to be as well. Megan Bishop, of Bishop Family Farm and BFF's Sweet Spot in Wentworth, created this custom Field Notes cake after a 45 minute consultation. She did a great job of understanding what I wanted, right down to using the same script for the cake that appears on the cover of the book.
Honestly, as the day of the party approached, I started to get nervous because I'd been talking up the special cake for my book's birthday but I need not have worried; the dark chocolate cake and buttercream icing was perfect.
If you want cakes or pies, you can check out Bishop Family Farm on Facebook. I'm thinking I need to do a column about Megan because I suspect she has a "heart and home in rural Nova Scotia" story.

Wow, a whole year since Field Notes was published. I feel just as happy today as I did when I opened that box of books a year ago.
Thanks for being part of this dream come true! 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Giving Thanks, Living Thanks

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, by Sara Jewell.

On Monday of this week, I got out of bed at seven o’clock, fed the cats and the dog, let the chickens out of their coop, then stood in the yard as the sun burst through the clouds hanging over the river and breathed in deeply the fresh October air. Then I went inside and poured myself a mug of coffee.
Thankfully, this is not going to be my last good memory. I’m not going to look back on those twenty minutes of Monday morning and recognize those as the last moments of my happiness before my world was changed irrevocably.
Others are not so lucky.

I took my mug of coffee into the living room and turned on the television to check out the news. The headline on CNN screaming at me across the bottom of the screen read, “50+ Dead, 200+ Injured In Concert Shooting in Las Vegas”. After watching for a few minutes, I turned off the TV.
I turned on my phone and opened up Facebook. The first post on my screen announced that a friend’s mother, in the late stage of cancer and the early stage of dementia, had died.
I got up and cooked oatmeal, which I covered in pumpkin seeds, blueberries and milk. I sat down at my dining room table, overlooking a front yard filled with dappled sunlight, and ate my breakfast with tears dripping off my chin. I was doing what I always do, what I enjoy doing, and living my good little life, while yet again, the lives of so many are changed irrevocably.
Sometimes, without having survived anything, I feel survivor’s guilt, so on Monday, when the personal and the universal were twisted up together in a braid of grief and pain, I sat at the table and pushed back the guilt with gratitude.

Thank you for oatmeal and coffee. I am grateful for the nourishment and comfort they provide.
Thank you for sunshine and clouds and wind. I am grateful to live so close to nature.
Thank you for this house. I am grateful to be sheltered and protected.
Thank you for the cats and the dog. I am grateful for their companionship.
My gratitude does nothing to stop the suffering of those in Las Vegas (or Edmonton, or France, or Mayanmar) but expressing gratefulness has to be, somehow, better than feeling guilty.

In A.J. Jacobs’ 2007 book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, he wrote on Day 263 about his growing obsession with being thankful for everything: “It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”
As we approach the long weekend, we will say “Happy Thanksgiving” a dozen times between now and Monday. Instead of giving, however, what about living thanks? Perhaps this weekend is a chance to kickstart a year of being obsessively grateful every single day for all the little good things.
Thank you for reading this. I’m grateful for the connection these words create.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Prettying the Place Up

The best part about having a birthday party for Field Notes the book -- besides the cake -- is getting to clean the house inside and out. We've let things slide so this is a great excuse to wipe down those baseboards and pull weeds out of the rock garden. I might even do some painting. You don't realize how much living marks up the walls until you invite a whole whack of people over.
This gorgeous rooster was a gift from my sister's family so he'll be welcoming guests as part of the fabulous display I'm creating in my head. I do that, you know. I get caught up in the less important things like decorating the entrance and will forget to clean the huge windows out front!
Just ten days until the Field Notes First Birthday Party! 2 to 4 pm on Saturday, October 7. Come see our rooster and have a slice of a very special cake.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Field Notes Is Turning One!

Two weeks today

Everyone welcome! 
Email me if you need more specific directions:
fieldnotescumberland @ 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Barn Thoughts

After I'd finished combing my lesson horse's hair, I made a joke about how much more handsome he is than that other guy with the same coloured hair. All of a sudden, I thought about all the orange jokes, all the name-calling, all the vitriol that is spewed towards that man. So much hate at worst, disdain at best, and most of the time, the attacks are personal.
And I felt with my heart, not just my head, that no matter how much I, or anyone, disagree with his words, his actions, his policies, etc, we simply, collectively, have to stop the name-calling and derogatory comments and the personal putdowns. Even to him. To his supporters. To his detractors. To everyone. No more saying, "He's an asshole." No more saying, "She's just a fat cow." No more sharing a putdown even if it's just to a horse. 

And to make it personal: No more putting yourself down, and no more taking that shit from anyone else. (A friend of mine asked me just today, "Every time I sit down to write, I hear my father's voice in my head asking me why anyone would be interested in what I have to say." I told her, "Your father isn't your target audience." So that's your answer when anyone -- even a parent or a husband puts you down: "You are not my target audience.")
We have careened down a slope so slippery, it's like there's no slope at all; we just plummeted fast into a dark abyss of negativity and verbal free-for-all. What have we accomplished by giving up tact and civility and compassion? We have to find a hand hold and start hauling ourselves out of that abyss. 

Nothing will ever ever ever change if each of us cannot stop with the disrespect, no matter how hard it is, and be kind with our words. It costs nothing to say, "This attitude scares the shit out of me," instead of "He's an asshole who's going to get the world blown up." 
Don't tell me that's true. It doesn't make it right. But if it is true, we need to try and make it better -- we need to try and make him better, and it can only happen if we are stop insulting each other. Because no one listens to insults. No one hears you when the words coming out of your mouth are rude personal attacks.
Let the women make some laws for a bit, 'kay? Because like your mama said, "If you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all," and that should be a law. 
As I brushed my horse's mane, thinking about the joke I made, I thought that if each of us could go ONE DAY without saying something nasty/derogatory/uncomplimentary about anyone, and I mean anyone, not one comment typed online, not one comment flung at the television, not one comment muttered under the breath at the grocery store, we might just bring civility back into our lives. Or at least, wedge our toes back in the door.  Let ONE DAY become another and another. Create a new, universal habit. If everyone -- even the assholes -- could take a day off from saying the worst possible things, we might have a chance to make this world great again.
It's not okay to talk like this and we can't make it the new normal.

[These thoughts were likely brought about by the meditative quality of brushing and combing my horse in the peace and quiet of the barn. They blossomed, however, out of my recent reading of Brene Brown's new book, Braving the Wilderness. She devotes one chapter of the book to our need to maintain civility in all our discussions; I think that's a skill we're not teaching or demonstrating to young people any longer. For these thoughts to bubble up so strongly in me me this morning as I combed Dakota's mane, Brown's book obviously made an impression on me.]