Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: memories (page 6 of 15)

Heart of the matter

ebook cover.

Cover by Eveline Kolijn.

No matter who we are, we all want the same things. We all want to be sheltered from the heat and cold, have food to fill our stomachs, and to be loved. In the book, Voices in the Wind, you’ll see this as a common thread. Pick it up and follow it to your heart because some of the people found on the pages lack the basic necessities of life.

The authors of the stories and the creators of the illustrations are Calgarians who participated in workshops with This is My City (TMC). TMC is a non-profit organization that puts artist-mentors together with marginalized people. The contributors to this book come from places like the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, Alpha House, the Women’s Centre of Calgary and Inn From the Cold.

Voices in the Wind is an ebook and free. It’s best downloaded on an iPad, however, you can preview pages by clicking on the preview link at http://bit.ly/1NMC4vH.

Read it the stories. Look at the art. Hear the people as they tell us in their own voices, “it doesn’t matter who we are, or where we are, once we get down to the heart of the matter, we’re all the same.”

30 years of helping

Family_Lines_STARSSTARS celebrated its 30th anniversary recently. I was lucky enough to write a piece on the history of volunteers with the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society. Read the story by clicking on the image to the left or go to the STARS Horizons – 30th anniversary edition, page 16.

 

A Slightly Tainted Hero

book by Graham Clews.He has done it again. Graham Clews released his second book of 2015. The Westlock, AB author is a writing machine and just launched A Slightly Tainted Hero. I’ve started to read this humorous yet philosophical look at an accountant’s late-in-life romp with marriage, money and his 15 minutes of fame. Check it out:

A Slightly Tainted Hero

Dave Lockwood is an accountant. He just turned sixty and he’s feeling old–mainly in body rather than mind. Then there’s his office manager, Irene Blanchard. She’s about twenty years younger, about the age Dave’s mind seems to think it is as it valiantly labours to adjust to his ‘maturing’ body. Which is why he unwisely confronts a mugger while escorting Irene to an underground parking lot in downtown Edmonton. Oh and the mugger is armed.

Blind panic follows as shots ring out and somehow Dave becomes an overnight hero. In fact, he’s shocked to find that he’s now a successful, wounded, nationally known hero. But instant fame has its drawbacks as Dave’s past sins slowly emerge from behind a long closed door. Louise, his wife of thirty-six years, is not pleased. Neither, it seems, is anyone else as the fallout spreads: his partners at work, the police, the mugger’s family, and even Dave himself.

This novel takes an often humorous, sometimes thoughtful look at the bittersweet irony when the good things in life turn out, as they often do, to be ‘Slightly Tainted’. Or, as Dave likes to put it: “Every silver lining has a cloud!”

Graham now has seven novels to his name, covering many different subjects and genres. From historical fiction to stories for young adults to political humour, the characters keep forming and jumping from his mind to the page.

For more info on Graham and A Slightly Tainted Hero, go to: http://www.graham-clews.com.

He’s also on Twitter, GoodReads, Facebook and has a blog.

Remembering our veterans

HMCS Calgary.

HMCS Calgary: Canadian Flower class corvette that was in service in the Second World War. Credit: Museum of Alberta

I’m wary of writing about my memoir writing participants from the Drop-In Centre because they are like you and me. Except these people have been hit a little harder by life and need a helping hand. I’m writing about them now because my writers last week wrote about Remembrance Day and I wanted to share their outlook on the day.

One woman wrote about how Remembrance Day was the only holiday that didn’t need gifts or a large meal, just remembering. She added how glad she is that the poem In Flanders Fields was written by a Canadian, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. She said the sombre yet powerful words can be shared with our U.S. neighbours, not not claimed by them.

Another writer in my class wrote a story about soldiers marching off to war and never coming home. He wrote about how the sacrifice of those in the First World War, Second World War, Korean War and subsequent peacekeeping missions, have made it possible for him to live in a free Canada today.

I looked around at where we were. Our desk was a bulletin board laid on top of a big blue garbage can. It was a makeshift office in a half kitchen, half storage room that smelled of chocolate and disinfectant. The hum of the fridge smoothed out some of the edges cutting in from the DI seniors’ centre: laughing and coughing and blaring TV ads. Despite the invading commotion, there was a peacefulness in our little writing space. Here, we all shared something in common: remembering our veterans.

Note: My memoir writing workshops are organized through This is My City (TMC). TMC brings art and people together no matter what income bracket or social status. I have been volunteering with TMC for a few years and facilitate four-week, life writing workshops at the Calgary Drop-In Centre and Alpha House.

The “me” in memory

Family_Lines_alzheimer'sFor an hour a week I write with a man who has Alzheimer’s disease. We write about the yellow leaves that fall on his front lawn. We write about eating Thanksgiving turkey and Brussels sprouts. We write about going for walks with a dog name Bo. We don’t write stories about the man as a young boy or raising his family or his career days. Those memories are locked away in a place where only Alzheimer’s has the key.

From the time we’re born, we start building memories and telling stories from them. When our memories are gone, what happens to us? Are we our memories?

Who am I without my recollection of a life lived? What’s my personality without the anecdotes of where I was born or when I went fishing with my dad and he fell asleep and pushed me into the creek? What would I be like if I didn’t have stories to share with family and friends and strangers? Who would I be?

In the end, I don’t think memory loss diminishes the person. A person is still him or herself despite a lack of reminiscing about the past. They still create moments of joy every day.

Trail tales

Skoki main lodge.

Reading in the main lodge at Skoki.

I’m sitting in Skoki Lodge reading a book. The lodge itself must hold many, many stories as the log building is over 80 years old. The story I’m reading I found on the Skoki bookshelf and it’s called Every trail has a story: Heritage Travel in Canada by Bob Henderson. One chapter is about women who bucked their traditional roles in the early 1900s and took to the trails. Mary T. S. Schäffer is one of them and she explored the Skoki area as well as other remote Alberta regions.

Mary, a Philadelphia Quaker woman, took on the Rockies on horseback. She photographed and painted the people she met in what remains today, isolated and hard places to get. Some of the art she produced and treasures she bought along the trail are found at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.

Another hard-core adventurer was Lillian Ailling. Lillian was a Russian woman who came to North America. She didn’t like it here and started walking home to Russia. She hiked from New York to the Yukon in 1927 trying to get home. Once in Dawson, Lillian worked as a server until the spring. That’s when she took a boat she repaired and headed down the Yukon River and out to the Bering Sea. Did she land in Russia? Maybe. One story says she arrived in the fall of 1930. Another says something different.

Australian author Cassandra Pybus tried to trace Lillian’s story to Russia but hit a wall. She later got

Skoki Lodge.

Skoki Lodge.

help through a man who had once met Lillian. He got in touch with Cassandra and told her Lillian got married and settled in Dawson.

Which ending do you like best?

It thanks to authors like Henderson and Pybus that I even know there was a story, and thus have an ending to choose. Just think of all the people who have done amazing things and we’ll never know about them.

 

Manwich mistake

Sloppy Joes.

Sloppy joe / Manwich = Yuck

There’s a memory going around and around in my head. Waiting to get out…or spill out. The story is about a sloppy joe.

I was little, maybe about six years old, when I was invited to my friend’s birthday party. Her name was Suzie and she lived across the street in a white house a few homes over. She was a couple of years younger than me and I remember her in a pink dress.

I bet I was excited for the party. In that way when you’re a kid and you can eat all the goodies you want and not worry about getting a muffin top. (Though I doubt muffin top was even a word used in the mid-70s in Nova Scotia to describe wobbly stomach bits hanging over your jeans.)

My two sisters and I headed to the festivities. There were friends and games and it was lots of fun. Suzie’s mother walked around to each kid asking how many sandwiches we wanted. When it was my turn I said, “Two, please.”

Two because I didn’t know if Suzie’s mother would know I meant a whole sandwich. If I said I wanted one sandwich, she might think I just wanted half a sandwich. I wanted the whole thing. The two parts of the one sandwich.

I guess the kind of sandwich didn’t matter to me. My prospective party meal wasn’t going to be gluten-free or multi-grain or sugar-free anyway. Back then, a sandwich would have a fifty-fifty chance of being peanut butter or peanut butter and jam. On white bread.

I was sitting in an armchair when Suzie’s mother brought me my sandwich…that wasn’t. I had no idea what it was. In front of me were two buns oozing ground beef. What I didn’t know then – but I know now – is that Suzie’s mother had said “Manwich,” which is a brand name for sloppy joes.

The sloppy joes/Manwiches/whatever did not look good to me. They didn’t taste good either. And there were two of them.

My parents raised me with manners. When you are visiting someone, you eat what they give you. You eat everything they put on your plate. You leave nothing.

Whether I took big bites and gobbled it down quickly or took my time sliding the sloppy joe down my throat, I don’t know. I only know that those two Manwiches were the first two and last two of my life.

Winter in summer

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park - Kananaskis Country.

Aug. 22, 2015. Chester Lake trail – Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country.

It’s still August but that doesn’t mean it won’t snow in Alberta. Here’s proof that the dog days of summer in the mountains can be white and cold. At least the sun is shining and the lake hasn’t frozen over…yet.

Whatever the weather, it’s not time to reminisce about another season passing. It’s not time to move on to making autumn memories. No. The calendar says summer and darn it, I’m going to enjoy every last drop of it. Even if those drops come in a frozen form usually found in winter. Summer snow makes a cool story anyway for those of you sweltering in the heat.

Political write

Photo of Graham Clews.

Author Graham Clews

Let me introduce you to Graham Clews. Graham is addicted to books — writing them, that is. The Westlock, AB author has seven novels to his name, covering many different subjects and genres. From historical fiction to stories for young adults to political humour, the characters keep forming and jumping from his mind to the page. Now he’s looking to get his books into the hands of readers. That’s where I come in.

I’ve been helping Graham with the marketing of his books. He has taken a year off from writing (if he can help it) to promote his novels. His first book signing will be on Sunday for his latest title, Politically Detained. With the country in the middle of a federal election campaign, the book couldn’t have hit shelves at a better time.

For most of us, we tune in and out of federal politics. It can be dry, boring and many people feel any election result won’t bring about much change anyway. The ennui goes beyond Harper versus Trudeau versus Mulcair versus May. It doesn’t really seem to matter who is at the helm of the government, there’s no way to make a difference. Or is there? That’s the serious question Graham explores with a deft comic touch in Politically Detained:

Across Canada people gripe about politicians, but never do anything about it. There’s a reason: they can’t. So why try? After all, how do you form a special interest group when you’re in the majority? How do you get the message to the elected if it costs votes? How do you fight apathy when so many people are too busy to care?

Photo of book cover.

Politically Detained: a book about change

The answer…you’ve gotta have a cause; you’ve gotta have a plan; and you’ve gotta have the right people. A disgruntled Minister of Finance, determined to step down in a reckless burst of glory; a half dozen well-heeled seniors with influence who are not afraid to use it; a reluctant Member of Parliament, accidentally caught up in their web of intrigue; three spectacularly unfair federal policies that cost billions; a novel plan to reform the federal electoral system and, what the heck, the senate too. It’s a good place to start….

If you’re interested in what’s happening in Canadian politics right now, then Politically Detained: A novel about change is a book you’ll want to read. You’ll also be able to meet the author if you live in the Edmonton area. Graham is signing books at Chapters Strathcona, 10504-82 Ave., this Sunday, Aug. 23 from 1 to 5 p.m. Political leanings of all stripes welcome.

For more info on Graham and Politically Detained, go to: http://www.graham-clews.com.

He’s also on Twitter, GoodReads, Facebook and has a blog. Now go read a book!

Giving back

detail-pen-photography-Favim.com-5198291Capital Ideas Calgary asked businesses: “How does your business give back to the community?”

Here’s my answer published in the Calgary Herald on July 23, 2015: http://bit.ly/1MaJcig

How does your business give back to the community?

Everyone has a story but not everyone has the chance to share his or her stories. This especially true of people living on the streets or dealing with addictions. As the owner of a writing business, I’ve been giving back to the community by teaching memoir writing workshops at homeless shelters and detox centres.

I’ve been volunteering through a Calgary organization called This is My City (TMC) for a few years. TMC brings art and people together no matter what their social status. In my workshop, Write YOUR Story, participants learn to tell their tales in their own words. They can write happy stories or sad stories or scary stories or inspirational stories. Positive or negative, these anecdotes give a voice to people whose words might never be heard.

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