Saturday, January 31, 2015

Storm Cookies

I have spent the morning, as well as all day yesterday, working and reworking, writing and rewriting essays for my Field Notes book collection.
It's a lot harder than I expected it would be -- and I certainly wasn't expecting it to be easy. What I've discovered, however, is that my strongest writing happens when I write about other people. So after two days of work, I know that this collection of essays will combine my stories with the other people's stories.
But I've done enough. This kind of work uses a lot of brain power and it's time to take a break. Tomorrow afternoon I have my first 4H project meeting, in cake decorating, so it's time to switch gears creatively and move into the kitchen. I have a cake to bake and icing to mix up.
I've made this cake recipe dozens of times so why do I feel so nervous making it now? Who knew cake decorating at level one could make a 44-year-old woman anxious?
Creating food has always been my answer to lack of inspiration in writing. If I couldn't write, I vented that energy into baking. Now that I'm working on several book projects, as well as my columns for two newspapers, baking is a break from writing, a chance to relax mind and body.
With immediate, enjoyable results. The way my brain is spinning right now, there is going to be dozens of cookies piled up in a few hours. Or else my husband will find me passed out in a bowl of batter in about 20 minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Making Tracks

We've been snowshoeing fiends since the snowstorm on Tuesday & Wednesday, which I suppose means only that we've been snowshoeing a lot the last two days but it's such a treat. Not that I'm complaining about the winter we've had so far; it's been great for walking, great for this writer who needs to move after a day sitting in her chair, hunched over a keyboard (bad habit, that hunching).
But there is something very different about tromping through the snowy woods on snowshoes. It's a better workout (my brain and heart are grateful for the pumped-up circulation) and it just feels like winter, feels good to move through the cold air, through the hushed air of a snow-covered plantation.
"There are no bugs," my mother is fond of reminding me when I convince her to join me on a walk.
We're not the only ones making tracks in the woods, though.
Winter reminds you that you are not alone out there. It's easy to forget the fox and rabbits. mice and deer, coyotes and porcupines that live in these woods; those eyes that watch us from hiding spots we'll never find. Once the snow falls, we realize just how many creatures are living in our woods.The rabbits are plentiful this year.

 There will be one more romp along our trails this afternoon, as the sun sets, one last trek through these woods before another 20 or 30 centimeters overnight obliterates our tracks, keeps me inside tomorrow hunched over the keyboard, thinking of the creatures in the woods huddled somewhere with their backs against the wind and the snow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cleaning Up

The old tractor is huffing and puffing in the yard today, clearing the snow drifts from yesterday's blizzard. It is an old tractor that remained in good shape because it sat in a barn until my husband's father suggested Dwayne take it home. But it snorts and bellows because of moisture in the gas tank or in the lines, things I know nothing about. I've seen it backfire then belch fire and smoke. Dwayne babies it, yells at it, curses it, but ultimately fixes it.
The old tractor is back in the warm garage now but my husband will stick with it until he solves the problem and then the huffing and puffing, snorting and bellowing will start again and our yard will be cleared.
As I write that, I hear the tractor revving up. Didn't they know how to build machines back then? They built machines to last. They built machines they way they lived: So they never give up. Just like my husband, born in the 50s just like the tractor he's working on right now.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Barn Cat

Nothing pierces the heart like a skittish barn cat. Look at this sweet thing with that wee face, crying in the barn because she's hungry. She's also afraid of people.
"Any closer than this," my friend said, "and she'll take off."
My friend's other cat, a black-and-white boy, greets you when you arrive. He lets you pick him up and cuddle him. He stalks your camera strap and clomps across the yard on his white polydactyl feet when this sweet thing cries for food and the people say, "Time for breakfast."

Friday, January 23, 2015

These Days Are Made For Chickens

With no snow on the ground, comparisons with "this time last year" are inevitable. When I think that our chickens were cooped up inside from November until April, what a winter they are having this year. There have been more days for them outside than inside -- and they don't even have sweaters to wear. Hardy, happy birds.
The only downside is the plethora of chicken poopsicles that my dogs find irresistible. I wonder if I could market them as a dog delicacy? Afterall, it's an all-natural treat and we have oodles.
(Which reminds me, I have to do one last read and tweak of that food essay I'm working on about my dogs and their obsession with food. And, yes, there's a paragraph about poop.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015


 "There's a hoar frost this morning," my husband announced at 7:30 when the sky had lightened enough to see.
I looked up 'hoar frost' and it's a complicated explanation for us non-meterological types but I think the best way to described it is that a hoar frost is winter's dew. Instead of water droplets on blades and branches, we see ice crystals.
"That means there's a thaw coming," my husband added. "There must be. When I was out on the deck with my coffee, I heard the freight train rumbling through Oxford Junction. They say that's a sign of a thaw coming, when sound travels like that."
I was awake in the middle of the night with a headache so piercing, I felt nauseous. Pain is much less bearable when it's dark. If my husband had awakened and asked me what was wrong, I might have cried. I spent some time lying on the bathroom floor but it was cool in there and eventually eased the nausea so I returned to bed. After some more tossing and turning, trying to find a position that didn't make the headache worse, I drifted off to sleep for awhile.
The dogs woke us early so we all got up and I made them breakfast. Then, instead of waiting for the day to warm, we went for our walk early, inside the crystal palace of the tree plantation. No sparkles this morning; no sun but also no wind. It was very quiet and very peaceful. Like something is coming. Snow, a thaw, spring.
My favourite time of the day in my favourite place. 
Last winter, the deep snow made for its own kind of beauty but it was less accessible for walking with the dogs; this year, the ice snakes along the ground beneath our feet, creating in the grooves left by the four-wheeler. The sleepless night made me feel off-balance, not the feeling you want when walking on ice, but the cold air felt good on my bare head, taking the edge off the pain.
Maybe spring doesn't need to come yet.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In Conversation With...Carolyne Angers

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 by Sara Jewell Mattinson

Simone Angers is sitting in a large, comfy armchair in the TV room of her daughter’s large heritage home in Springhill when Carolyne kneels on the floor next to her mother’s chair.
“Mom, I need a hug.”
As Carolyne lays against her mother’s lap, Simone smiles and pats her back.
“She’s my angel,” she says.
“Mom, I’m turning 60 tomorrow,” Carolyne says when she sits up.
“I know,” her mother replies.
“And you’ll be 90 in May.”
Simone puts a finger to her lips. “Ssshhh.”
Last year, in honour of her mother’s birthday, Carolyne did something completely unplanned and utterly out-of-character: She got a tattoo.
“I saw a tattoo artist standing outside his store so I asked him if he was any good,” she says with one of her big-smile laughs. “He asked me what I wanted and I didn’t know. I said, ‘Ten minutes ago, I didn’t know I wanted a tattoo.’ I’m not a tattoo person.”
She went inside and together they designed the tattoo that is now on her right forearm: Three cherry blossoms.
Carolyne pulls up her sleeve and shows the tattoo to her mother. 
“What’s this?” she says.
Her mother points to each pink flower. “Bob. Me. You.”
“We three,” Carolyne nods. “I love you, Mom.”

Later, over tea at her kitchen table, Carolyne says, “We three. My mother, my husband and me. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have the husband that I have.”
‘This’ is being a full-time caregiver to her mother who has congestive heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
Due to failing health, Albert and Simone Angers moved from Port Royal to Bob and Carolyne’s home in Springhill in October 2012 where they had their own bedroom and bathroom on the main floor. Two weeks after the move, Carolyne’s father passed away. 
“My siblings wanted to put them in a nursing home but, thanks to Bob, we brought them to our home,” she says. “Dad was dying, as it turns out. It was almost as if once he knew that Mom was going to be safe and nurtured and loved, he was done.”
Carolyne describes her mother as very French, very polite and very social. 
“So coming to our home, even now, all of her manners are still in place. She doesn’t go to bed at night without thanking Bob and thanking me and wishing us goodnight. She didn’t have any company the way she has now and she loves it. We love it too but sometimes it’s hard because…Price Is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Murder She Wrote,” Carolyne saysof the TV shows Simone likes to watch.
Carolyne says her learning curve for caring for a parent with dementia was steep. 
“I was a bit task-oriented but then I had this neat idea.”
Every morning, Carolyne makes herself a cup of coffee then, still in her pajamas, she goes to her mother’s room and sits on the bed. The dog jumps up with them. For about an hour, they just hang out together surrounded by Simone’s familiar things, her paintings and photos of her husband and three children. 
“In the moment, she amazing but she doesn’t remember ten seconds later,” Carolyne explains. “So we visit. We reminisce and we talk. I tell her how I’m doing. It starts the day off so calm and tender. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. Sometimes she’ll say ‘We love each other and as long as we have love, we can get through anything’. The love I receive is so big and wonderful. I would do anything in the world for her.”
Carolyne, who lives with a chronic illness herself, admits she can be a bit of a tornado when it comes to caring for her mother. She knows she is demanding when it comes to getting support for her.
“I might not be good for myself but I am fierce for her,” she says of the perception that she is combative and hard to get along with. “Because of who I am and the way I talk, it seems like I want something for me but I don’t. It’s for my mother. Everything I do is for that woman.”
 This feeling has been reinforced by her mother’s congestive heart failure. 
“Every night I kiss her a whole bunch because I don’t know if I’m going to see her in the morning,” says Carolyne.
After breaking her arm last year trying to get out of a chair while Carolyne was making tea in the kitchen, Simone now uses a walker to get around. Despite her mother’s objections, Carolyne insists because the congestive heart failure makes her mother weak and the dementia makes her forget how to put one foot in front of the other.
“She’s never alone now,” Carolyn explains. “Sometimes I get on my knees and say, ‘Mom, I really need to have a shower. Promise me you won’t get up’. But she’s never alone.”
Carolyne’s excitement at having this conversation points to the isolation many caregivers experience.
“It’s as isolating as heck,” she agrees. “It’s the most lonely thing I’ll ever do in my life. There’s nobody to rely on for help. It’s scary to imagine. Most of the support staff for Mom have been amazing and I have emergency health services nearby but really and truly, it’s an awful burden to put on someone, to make them ask for help.”
Her isolation is compounded by the fact she and Bob are fairly new to the area (he transferred to Springhill with his federal government job), their two children (and one grandchild) live in Ontario and British Columbia, and taking care of her mother and her own health issues prevent her from getting out and meeting people.
But you won’t hear Carolyne complain about what she sacrifices to care for her mother at home.
“I don’t this because it’s the right thing to do. I do this because I want to do this,” she says, driving her finger into the tabletop for emphasis. “It’s not an obligation. How long will I be able to do it? I don’t know. It depends on where my mother’s journey goes. This is a wonderful, joyous experience.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wallpapering With Words

This was my work on Friday afternoon: Taping the best of my columns to the walls of the hallway outside my upstairs office.
Three years' worth of bi-weekly columns makes for interesting wallpaper. My mother keeps wandering down, looking at a different piece of paper each time. I rush out of my office to do something and leave the pages flapping in the breeze of my haste.
This wallpapering was not the procrastination exercise it might appear to be -- although those aren't unheard of when there is an essay to be written or a chapter to be edited. This is the necessary work of figuring out what to do with this collection of columns.
I even taped up 17 of my favourite conversations, the ones that can easily be turned into an essay, because these stories mean so much to me. Capturing other people's lives and experiences in 1,000 words and a simple photo has been one of the most rewarding writing projects I've ever undertaken. Two a month for three years means I've met an awful lot of interesting people.
That I've been trusted by an awful lot of people to treat their personal story with care and respect.
I'm hoping a few of them can make it into the book.
Yes, this wallpaper job is the process of creating the idea for a book. When the columns were piled in a box, the idea seemed unwieldy and without an obvious start. But like any big project, such as eating an elephant, you take one bite at a time. You find the obvious starting point -- organization of materials is usually that point -- and you work forward from there. The first bite in the Field Notes book project was to cull the collection. As I culled, I taped the keepers to the wall. As I taped them, I grouped them into themes.
By the time I was done, an idea that seemed huge and overwhelming had become not merely manageable but motivational as well. Seeing the columns grouped together by themes (requiring more eye-catching titles than "Holidays", "Death" and "Animals"), I wanted to get started right away on recreating the essays.
But there is another, more demanding book project underway for the next six months, so Field Notes (which too requires a more eye-catching title) will simply hang on the wall, a passing reminder every time I enter and exit my office, fluttering notes that won't blow away in the whatever whirlwind I create.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Good Morning

A meditation, this. 
In the quiet of the warmth, 
in the peace of the morning,
in the moment of welcoming the day.
Come in, 
let me pour you a coffee,
there's cream and sugar on the counter,
please don't sit on the cat.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January Is Not The Time To Test Your Resolve

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, January 14, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

We’re two weeks into the new year. How’s it treating you? So far so good? How’s everybody doing with their New Year  resolutions? 
You doing okay? Plugging along, keeping those cravings and bad habits in check as you steam forward with great enthusiasm and success?
Yeah, thought so. 
It’s tough, isn’t it, to make changes? Especially when the world around you doesn’t seem to support you.
I mean, if your resolution was to walk more, um, totally understand if that hasn’t happened yet. Minus 21 plus a wind chill? Not even the dogs are interested in going out and they’re covered in fur. 
One of my resolutions for 2015 was to stop eating sugar. I was doing great on New Year’s Day until then my friend Alia showed up with a platter of Lebanese treats. 
I love her treats. Cashew, walnuts, filo pastry and honey! Try as I could, it was hard to justify the nut protein and the medicinal properties of honey.
But you know what? It was okay. Who says you have to get it right the first day? Or the second day? Or the first week, for that matter?
So we’re two weeks into the new year. You doing okay? Or are you consumed with guilt and self-loathing that you failed to keep any of your resolutions? Maybe one of your resolutions could be to stop being so hard on yourself.
My other resolution was to stop complaining. Now let’s talk daily failure to keep a resolution! We really do complain a lot about nothing so one way to make myself happier is to stop reacting to and commenting on those simple annoyances I can’t do anything about.
I can’t control other people’s reactions but I can control my own.
So if you’re moaning and groaning about not sticking to your resolutions again, stop. 
Because we’re only two weeks into the new year and I’ve said it before, does it make any sense to make major, or even minor, changes on January first when all that chocolate is still lounging around in its new pajamas and the outside temperatures are enough to freeze a woolly mammoth in its tracks? 
If there was ever a perfect time to absolutely fail at resolving to change some habits, January is  it. I mean, look at the name of the Roman god for whom the month is named: Janus. Do you see th word inside that name? That’s the kind of month it is. 
February, on the other hand, is most likely named for the purification festivals, februa, held in ancient Rome during that month.
So sit up straight, square those shoulders and finish off that chocolate eclair because this is only the training period. We’re only two weeks into the new year and it’s far smarter to consider January a transitional month as we psyche ourselves up for eating less sugar, walking more, complaining less, starting that exercise class, giving up chips and pop and maybe even quitting smoking. 
It’s January, for heaven’s sake. This month is simply about survival, which means staying warm and getting your jeans zipped up. This is no time to resolve to give up cookies and hot chocolate and Quality Street chocolates. 
Not that I’m talking about myself or anything.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Quit beating yourself up for not being able to quit those cigarettes. After all, when it’s minus 22, you need to huddle around that warm glowing tip for warmth.
So you have two more weeks to train. Come February first, you’ll be a powerhouse of resolve.  And you’ll be a purified machine of unbreakable resolve by the time the temptations of Valentine’s Day roll around. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How Cold?

This is the moment, from inside the house where it is warm, that I anticipate on the mornings when I don't have to get up and go to work at the newspaper.
As I stand on my yoga mat stretching my muscles and circulating the blood around my body, waking up the brain for a day of writing, I watch for the change in light, the indication that my welcoming prayer is going to work on this frigid, frozen day.
It's this moment when the sun crests the trees on the other side of the river and reaches its long, warm tentacles across the road to peer into our yard.
This moment lasts about ten minutes, this moment of warm orange light, before the sun rises above all the trees and turns yellow, glaring and demanding.
"Enough with the Sun Salutations. I'm here. Time to get moving, get going. Start your day already."
So it's my cue to settle in at the dining room table with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.

Meanwhile, around me, the usual debate rages.

How cold is it?
Apparently, minus 29 isn't cold enough.
"What's the real temperature?" my mother always asks.
She means in Fahrenheit. I've stopped arguing with her that there is no difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, or miles and kilometres, but it seems these pre-metric people insist on converting. But it's bizarre: She converts to miles because it sounds shorter and she converts to Fahrenheit because it sounds colder.
I think minus 29 sounds plenty cold enough to me.
The digital temperature gauge does underscore another truth: That if you don't know what the temperature is, you don't know how cold it is. Let the sunshine fool you -- it's a lovely day for a walk in the woods.
Around noon, that is.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bog Humbug

This is outrageous!
The dogs came through with a new pair of boots for their momma but there's a catch: My Bog boots have been urbanized.
They are narrower through the toes than my red Bogs, the one I've lived in for two years, the ones with the holes covered in duct tape. My Bogs are as much a part of my country life as are chickens, a four-wheeler and dark starry skies.
Apparently, the designers believe women who want to wear high all-weather boots are doing it for fashion. Those women are living in the city and walking to Starbucks for their cappucinos and scones. They're tucking their skinny jeans into high boots in order to look trendy. They'll be onto a new footwear fad next year.
But not this modern chickie.
Here in the country, it ain't about fashion, it's about tromping through snow and cleaning out the chicken coop and walking the dog through swampy fields. It was the deep snow of last winter that convinced me I should upgrade to a higher boot. I've worn Bogs since I moved here and while I'm thrilled they come in other colours besides black, it irks me that the urban rubber-boot-wearing fashionistas are messing with my practical, reliable, almost-indestructible country-girl's-best-friends Bogs.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Making Tracks

What a morning for a walk. Fresh air, bright sunshine, fresh snow.
The snow that fell yesterday created perfect conditions for seeing who has been out and about all night. Some interesting creatures made tracks through our property. In the plantation, lots of rabbit and fox tracks plus snow-filled human boot tracks -- my husband trying to find the porcupine that is eating his spruce trees.
But in our yard! Such surprises. I followed a muskrat track from its end to it beginning, from one end of our property to the other and all the checkpoints in between, although its true beginning was obscured by snow swept into the ditch by the plow. Likely it came from the river, crossing the road to us. Why it carried on into what is left of the woods behind us is a muskrat mystery.
Fox and muskrat and human

Muskrat and cat

This is what children who don't live in the country miss. All these tracks, all these animals, all the stories. This connection to nature. Things that go bump in the night.
When I taught outdoor education back in the mid-nineties at a centre north of Toronto, the children who lived in apartment complexes were the most gobsmacked by tracks and birds, bugs in the field and frogs at the pond. Imagine their reaction when I discovered under a tree a ball of mouse fur and tiny white bones that had been regurgitated and spit out by the owl that ate it.
Put away the phones and video games and go for a walk at the park, across a field, through the woods. Stop, look and listen. There is so much life out there that is living out there in the world despite our best attempts to destroy it.
I can't imagine ever going for a walk and feeling utterly alone. But considering that the two pairs of pileated woodpeckers that lived in the woods next to our house haven't been seen since all the trees were cut down, the day could come when there are no tracks but my own.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Nuts To This

The dogs and I went for a walk this morning for the first time in a couple of days. Hard to face -22 and a windchill, no matter how furry the hood is. Even Abby, she of the abundant energy and love of running running running, wasn't too keen to be out.
You know it's cold when you have to walk out with the dogs to the field to make sure they poop. Otherwise, they dash out, do as little as possible and dash in again.
I've just finished writing an essay for an anthology about food, wrote about my dogs so it seems like dogs and food are all about what goes into a dog and what comes out of them.
In country, with these two, it's poop in AND poop out.
But anyway, we were talking about walking, not pooping (although I noticed on our walk this morning that the deer poop in the field is frozen, which will upset Stella), and it was nice to go for a long walk in the woods and the snow again.
I'm like this squirrel; as long as I'm bundled up and can keep my back to the wind, I'm pretty content to walk along, thinking my thoughts and listening to the sound of the snowflakes falling from the sky.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

In Conversation With...Jerett Rushton

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 by Sara Jewell Mattinson

Jerett Rushton has agreed to meet at a restaurant in Oxford and when I arrive just before ten o’clock to claim a table near the back of the room, the restaurant is empty but for a table of four young men.
When the waitress arrives with one menu, I tell her I’m expecting someone.
“Are you waiting for Jerett Rushton?” one of the young men at the other table asks and I nod. He gets up and walks across the room to join me.
Given what I know of the extent of his injuries from a hit-and-run accident less than 18 months ago, I was not expecting him to be walking at all, let alone without any visible limp.
“I wasn’t supposed to walk for a year,” Jerett tells me. 
He isn’t the bionic man now but the 25-year-old has made a remarkable recovery since that horrific accident on September 22, 2013.
At two o’clock in the morning, Jerett was walking along Upper Main Street in Oxford, heading to the motel where he’d booked a room for the night because he knew he’d be drinking at a party. The last thing he remembers is seeing the Subway sign and thinking a sub would be good.
He was hit from behind and dragged 50 feet. The driver of the car that hit him took off but the car behind stopped to help.
“I remember a little bit about being on the ground,” says Jerett. “I couldn’t get up and couldn’t figure out why. Then I blacked out.”
After initially being taken to the hospital in Truro, Jerett woke up later the same day, a  Sunday, in intensive care in Halifax. 
“There wasn’t too much that wasn’t broken,” Jerett says in his mellow, un-ironic way. “My big thing when I woke up in hospital was relief that I didn’t lose any teeth.”
His neck was broken in two spots, his right arm was broken and the nerves severed, his left wrist was broken and so was his left leg. Both ankles were broken and his left foot was crushed.
“They took me into surgery and they put the halo on,” he explains. “The halo was to hold my neck straight, to keep me from moving. To do that, they screwed holes in my head.” 
The holes are in four places on his head. The two that are visible are small, deep scars on his forehead that he sees every time he looks in the mirror. 
“My arm was pulp so they had to stick a bar in. I have a bar in my left leg and two screws in each ankle. I had rods through my foot to hold my foot together.”
But miraculously there was no head injury and he didn’t lose any limbs. 
“That was my first question, besides the teeth,” he says. “I asked if they had to cut anything off and they said no.”
He also knew he wasn’t paralyzed because he could move his fingers and feel his toes.

Submitted by his family: September 2013
For the first few weeks in hospital in Halifax, Jerett says he did little else but sleep. Family and friends were a constant presence at his bedside. 
“They were there all the time,” says Jerett. “I know it was hard on them, guaranteed it was. They tried to keep someone with me all the time in Halifax; when they moved me to Springhill, it was pretty near every day I had someone there with me.”
The move to the rehab centre at the hospital in Springhill happened in October and that’s when Jerett got to work on regaining mobility in his left leg and right hand.
“They said age was my best ally. They weren’t expecting me to walk for a year; I was walking in four months. Where the nerves were severed in my right arm, I couldn’t move my hand. Right-handed,” he points out. “I think that frustrated me the most. It bugged me enough that I stuck with the physio quite a bit. They said if I worked at it, I would get it back and I wanted it back.”
His right hand is “perfect,” he says, making and releasing a fist. “It might not be as strong as it was but it’s about as good as it’s going to get.”
In February 2014, six months after the accident, Jerett was discharged and he returned to the home he shares with a friend in Pugwash Junction.
“I still can’t work,” he says. “My legs aren’t able to do it. I can’t do long periods of standing. And at this time of year, everything hurts. I never thought the weather could have an effect but yeah, it does.”
There’s no jumping out of bed first thing in the morning for Jerett. He has to move his ankles and do some stretches before he goes to bed and before he gets out of bed. 
“My ankles and leg are the only thing that bother me. My neck bothers me most of the time but I just deal with that,” he says.
For Jerett, the mental part is the hardest. 
“Everyone said I had a great attitude in the hospital. Afterwards, sitting home not doing anything, that bothered me. There was a lot of time to think. ‘If this didn’t happen…’ I still speak with a woman in Amherst every so often, just to talk stuff out,” he says. “Everything was broken and I could work to fix that but the head stuff I have trouble with. I have anxiety issues now.”
Jerett isn’t struggling financially yet, “but it’s going to come here shortly,” he admits. “I get a percentage of lost wages through the driver’s insurance.”
Family and friends held a fundraiser for him in Oxford six weeks after the accident. It’s not often we find out how the donations benefit the recipient but Jerett says the money has made a huge difference.
“I feel lucky to be here. I wouldn’t have made it as far without everybody and their support. Friends, family, the people at the hospitals. Even those who donated at the benefit dance; I’d be broke right now if it wasn’t for that. I appreciate it so much. ”
He also wouldn’t be able to drive. 
“The car I had at the time of the accident was a standard so I had to get another car because my shifting leg is the bad one and my shifting arm was broken. I had to sell it and get another one,”Jerett explains. “I think I started driving again in May after leaving the hospital in February. It was the money raised through the benefit dance that allowed me to get a good, reliable car. I still had to do lots of travelling for appointments. The benefit dance is still helping me.” 

December 2014
Speaking of driving, what happened to the driver of the car that mowed Jerett down, changing the rest of this young man’s life?
The driver pleaded guilty to two charges, impaired driving causing bodily harm and not rendering assistance, and was sentenced to six years in jail. 
“It could have been more,” Jerett says.
And then he can’t answer more questions on that subject. Of everything – the accident, the injuries, his future – being the victim of impaired driving is what makes this quiet young man even quieter.
“It’s hard to talk about.”
He’d rather talk about his future which presents its own set of challenges.
“Being a labourer is something I always did because I was good at it and I liked it but I probably won’t be able to do it again,” he says. 
So Jerett must return to school. Once he completes the upgrade of some high school courses, he’s hoping to go to college this coming September. 
“I have  it narrowed down to three ideas: plumbing, electronic technician or an aircraft mechanic. It still involves a little bit of labour but I’d rather not sit behind a desk all day. If I can get a bit of both in, that won’t be too bad.”
Jerett admits he was never great at school and if he gets accepted, he’ll have to come up with the money to pay for college but what choice does he have? He’s only 25 and definitely not a quitter.
“Family and friends have told me that if I got through what I did, I could pretty much do anything but I don’t think quite the same way. I was never much for school but in order to survive, I have to make a change.”

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Snow Day

After a long walk through the snowy woods, nothing tastes better than a cup of hazelnut coffee in a winter mug.
We need long walks through snowy woods just as we need days of precipitation, rain or snow days that keep us inside being creative and productive and efficient. The long walk clears the mind and fills the lungs with fresh, crisp oxygen and pumps the blood through the body and the brain. Wake up! Wake up! Get ready to create!
(I suppose in the old days, rain or snow meant a day to procreate.)
Last fall, I discovered a rejection letter from an agent that was ten years old. Sent in November 2004, this letter landed in my life in the middle of a series of crises: Dad's dementia was worsening, my infant nephew was having open-heart surgery and my divorce was stalled for no good reason. So the letter, all three encouraging paragraphs (a rarity now in these days of 200 email pitches a day and three-line form rejections thanks but not for us) about my book didn't register, the phrases telling me to keep working at this novel did not register on me. Not like they did in November 2014.
And I realized that it's never too late. Of course, it could be. This novel could be outdated, it could be irrelevant. But it's not too late to find out because you never know. I could be wrong in my assumption; it's happened before. (It happens a lot.)
It also means that on a snowy day, after a long walk through fluffy snow, through the snowy woods with the dog bounding ahead and racing back and showing me just how damn happy she was to be walking (running leaping bounding) in this fine, fine snow, it meant that I spent an entire day finishing a 5,000 word story for middle-grade readers that has been hounding me (running leaping bounding at me) for five years.
It's never too late.
I love this idea. I love that this story is pure vintage Nova Scotia. I love that a memory from my husband's childhood inspired it. I love that my husband sat in the blue chair in my office and filled in the details I don't know. I love that he suggested cliches and I rewrote them. I love that it snowed today. I love that I drank hazelnut coffee. I love that when I woke up this morning I had no idea how much would be accomplished today.

Friday, January 02, 2015

That Didn't Last Long

The "No sugar in 2015" resolution lasted about as long as it took my friend Alia to stop by and wish me happy new year with a platter of Lebanese treats. Try as I do to justify eating these -- they're full of cashews and pistachios which are good for you! -- they are sweets.
How generous of her, though, to think of me while she was preparing food for her family celebrations on Christmas and New Year's. I know Alia loves to cook and she knows I love Lebanese food but what this thoughtfulness reminds me of is the generosity of Maritimers.
There can be a "Not them" attitude in this province towards immigrants (a closed-mindedness that is ten times greater than the one exhibited towards "Come From Aways") but if we could learn to be a little more open, a little more accepting, a little more gracious, we'd discover that the generosity and friendliness Maritimers take such pride in can be found in most of the people who choose to move here from other countries.
We are all members of the human race. Where we are born -- Canada, Lebanon, China, Australia -- is a result of a great cosmic lottery; it's nothing we have any control over.
Alia and her husband Sam, who have lived in Nova Scotia for 25 years, who chose to remain here when the immigrated instead of moving to Montreal or Toronto, feed a visitor to their home as well as any fourth generation Maritimer I've ever known. Tea? Coffee? Sweets? How about an entire meal? No problem. Whether you're eating a boiled dinner or falafels and pita bread, you don't come away from anyone's home in Nova Scotia with an empty stomach.