Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: writing (page 5 of 17)

Golden moment

two dogs.

Two of my family dogs: Jasper, the golden retriever grandpa, with Kola, a cute fuzzy and energetic puppy.

It was 1996 and I was going to Ryerson University. I was in the Journalism for Graduates program and I had to write a non-fiction story for my course Magazine Fundamentals. The class was taught by writer David Hayes and he asked us to write about a “golden moment.” I wrote about my family dog, Jasper. He died not soon after I wrote this piece. I’m glad to have these memories of my old friend.

He walks crookedly. And he is big and red and he loves me. It’s just me and my dog. We chase Sasquatches and bears and run away from bees. We like to go fishing and swimming and diving for rocks. We used to go on bike rides and he would follow me everywhere. But now he’s too old.

Sometimes he’s bad. He once ran away from home for a whole week. It was a very long week. I called his name and looked up and down the lake and searched the cow corn fields. The morning he dragged himself down the driveway, hurt and scared and hungry was a blue sky day. For the next few weeks he had to wear big casts on his front legs. He looked silly. He looked like he was wearing oversized sports socks.

We watch TV together. He lies on the floor and I put my head on his stomach. I can hear him breathing. I always try to match my breath to his but he is always slower.

He can’t see well anymore. He won’t go through the kitchen to get to the music room. I think the glare of the floor tile is too bright for his eyes. I put him on a mat and drag him into the next room. He thinks it’s a lot of fun. He thinks he’s surfing.

When we go cross-country skiing he messes up my trail. I break two perfectly narrow tracks in the deep snow. Perfect so I’ll be able to go faster on the way back. He gets lazy and walks right in the middle of my hard work. His feet get balls of snow tangled in the fur and so he lies down in front of my swishing skis. As he chews off the snow, I have to wait.

I saw him kill a rabbit. He was savage and he scared me. He bit the rabbit’s neck and spit on its fur and looked crazy. I tried to save the rabbit. I put it in a wood barrel but it started to convulse and scream and its eyes rolled up into its brain.

Jasper thought it was funny. I saw him laugh. I know when he laughs. His lip curls up on one side. He does this especially when I’m around and he’s happy to see me.

Jasper is all my golden moments. When I think of my dog I can see the woods we walk through, the streams we wade through, the snow we trudge through, the stars that fall, the flames that wave to the sky and my best friend.

Come to the festival!

Found poetry,.

TMC: Found Poetry. An 2015 festival exhibit at the library.

Since 2012, This is My City Calgary (TMC) holds a festival in April full of music, theatre, visual art and stories. TMC invites you to see what it has going on this year.

TMC is a volunteer-run, non-profit society that brings art and people together no matter what income bracket or social status. The festival is made up of different events taking place around the city. It’s a great opportunity for Calgarians to take a look and have listen at some of the projects from citizens we usually don’t hear or see. Here are two festival events that I’ve been involved with and will be involved in.

Stories from the River’s Edge

Tuesday, April 12 there’s a screening of Stories from the River’s Edge, a collaboration with TMC, ACAD, East Village Seniors Community Association, Loft 112 and the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre. The film captures tales from those who have lived in the East Village: past and present. I led a story-telling workshop for seniors on how to tell their stories. Many of their anecdotes are in the documentary.

Where: John Dutton Theatre Library (616 Macleod Trail SE)

Date: Tuesday, April 12

Time: Doors open at 6:15 p.m., screening starts at 6:30 p.m. followed by a short reception with film makers, participants and community.

Voices in the Wind

On Wednesday, April 13 there will be a book launch for Voices in the Wind. The authors of the stories and the creators of the illustrations are Calgarians who participated in TMC workshops. Contributors come from places like the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, Alpha House, the Women’s Centre of Calgary and Inn From the Cold.

Where: Shelf Life Books (1302 4 St SW, Calgary)

Date: Wednesday, April 13

Time: 7 p.m.

Book sales are to support the ongoing programming of TMC. Bring a friend – and buy a book or two.

Come join TMC at the festival! Read 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.”

A Heart for Kristy

Leaf in shape of heart.When meeting Kristy Thackeray, the first thing you’ll notice is her big smile. The second thing is how friendly she is to everyone: she really cares about people. Kristy was a participant in one of my Chinook Learning Services memoir writing classes last fall and she went out of her way to comfort those who got teary-eyed while sharing their life stories. It was only when she began to share her own writing that I realized how much this woman has been through. It is truly unbelievable what Kristy has experienced and yet she still manages to be a positive and empathetic person. She is putting her life story into a book, which I have the honour of editing. Here is Kristy in her own words introducing her memoir.

My book chronicles my journey of requiring a heart transplant. May 25, 1996 I was granted a wish from the Children’s wish foundation – to meet country superstar Reba McEntire. My family and I arrive in Texas and the unthinkable happens: A heart has been found. My family and I need to get back to Edmonton, AB – NOW!

While I am receiving a life-saving heart transplant, another family is dealing with the loss of a loved one: a daughter, sister, cousin, niece and friend. I received Dawn Marie Tremblay’s heart on May 26, 1996 (Dawn’s birthday). It would take some years for our families to meet. But meet we did, five years later when I became pregnant with twins at 19 (Dawn talked about having twins!)

It was a miracle and I was the first heart transplant patient to deliver twins. Two years after the Miracle Twins were born, one of my girls developed symptoms that were concerning. Tests confirmed my worst fear – my daughter had the same rare heart disease and required a heart transplant. Twelve years later, my daughter is doing amazing! I think about her donor family every day and I wish so badly I could meet them.

In my book, I share my discouragements and small victories along with insight into a world that is filled with medical tests, terms and equipment. When my memoir is available for purchase, I hope you will get yourself a copy. This book is for anyone who wants to laugh and cry as I share my journey of having a heart transplant; because that is truly when my life began.

Amazingly my donor family has also contributed to the book and shared their experiences of losing their daughter and the process of organ donation.

If you would like more information about my book please visit my Facebook page. Also share with your friends.

Some of the proceeds from my book will be used to develop a support program for Donor families. Something that is really needed in Alberta!

La cervix

Horton_High_School_logoIt’s the first French class of Grade 11. I’m sitting in a small beige room with about 18 other students. Since it’s high school no one feels cool but we’re all trying to impress each other with our Beaver Canoe sweatshirts and high-end binders. Heck, even intelligence counted a little bit.

Madam L.W. asks us, in English, if we know what the word for brain is in French. Oh! I know! My hand goes up. It’s the only hand up. Not only is my hand the only one towering over a sea of heads, I’m the only one who thinks she’s pretty smart knowing this word, the French word for brain.

“Oui, Lea?”

“Cervix,” I say with pride.

A strange look comes over Madam L.W.’s face. She twists and turns her mouth as if she’s hoping to keep in a laugh. Her eyes narrow as if she’s trying to think of something not to tell me. As I’m wondering why she’s not saying, “bonne travail” I slowly realize the reason why.

Oh. I know.

“Non, Lea,” says Madam L.W. “The cervix is part of a woman’s body.”

The class laughs and laughs. Laughs some more.

Right. That’s it. Brain is cerveau and I certainly was not using mine. I want to bolt from the room or at least hide under the table. Instead, I sit through the class wondering how many coolness points I lost. Probably didn’t have many to start with. But for the rest of life I will never forget what brain is in French.

Where to go from here

Rogers Communication Centre.

Standing outside of the Rogers Communication Centre, home to Ryerson University’s Journalism program.

When I graduated from journalism school the economy was in rough shape. It was 1997 and there was a global economic crisis. There’s a recession now too and journalism grads are in the same boat I was in almost 20 years ago. One recent go-getter grad e-mailed me and asked for some advice. I met him a couple of weeks ago and shared what I learned about being an unemployed and young journalist.

In 1997, the global economic crisis hit Asian countries the hardest. That’s when I decided to teach English in South Korea. I had been working at the Gap in Toronto and wasn’t getting any bites on my green journo resume. I left for Korea and spent several months there. While I made next to nothing, I wrote a biweekly column for a newspaper back home in Nova Scotia. It gave me a chance to hone my skill writing to deadline, as well as share my insight into a different world with people from home.

Things are different for journalism students today. I got out of school with my degree and had a good possibility that I was going to be hired by a news agency, eventually. Now with the shrinking (and outright shutting down) of newspapers, news programs and news magazines, the possibility of solid work for journalism grads is slim. But there are other places to go, especially when you’re 23 and don’t need to support a mortgage or family.

Take a look at the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP). I went to The Gambia, West Africa as part of an IYIP internship. I was the publications officer for a human rights non-governmental organization, a position that required me to use all the skills I had picked up during my six years of university. I learned a lot and the experience taught me more than a job in an office in Canada would have. Take a look at the internships available today.

Newspapers are important but they’re becoming extinct in urban Canada. In northern Canada, many still rely on the paper for news. People are excited to see their children’s photo on the pages of a community paper. I worked as an editor for the Slave River Journal, (called The Northern Journal today) and it was fantastic. There are a lot of issues and news north of 60. Working at a small paper broadens your perspective on Canadian culture and you meet

forest fire.

Flying over Wood Buffalo National Park and checking out a fire.

people from all walks of life. You get to do cool things too like go ice fishing or take a ride in a helicopter to check out a forest fire in Wood Buffalo National Park. See if these places have openings for reporters/editors:

NWT
Northern Journal
Northern News Service
Hay River Hub

Nunavut
Nunatsiaq News

Yukon
Yukon News
Whitehorse Star

This site was invaluable to me when it came to finding jwork: http://www.jeffgaulin.com/ I hope the journo grads reading this find it useful too. Good luck.

From idea to business

Family Lines logo.Capital Ideas is a community of business owners, helping business owners. Recently, they asked Calgary entrepreneurs: How do you know when it’s time to launch your business?

Here’s my answer: http://bit.ly/1K6AFyX

*There a lot of factors at play when deciding it’s time to launch a business. But there is no one right time. Of course, you can conduct research and do studies and look at algorithms to try and find that perfect opening for your business. However, sometimes you’re forced to be your own boss. I started my writing company after I found myself without a job in the volatile newspaper industry. I wanted to stay in Calgary so I created my own job with an idea that had been bouncing around in my head for more than 10 years. Opportunity knocked right then and there and I opened the door. When launching a business there will always be uncertainty – that’s the only thing you can be certain of.

*Originally published in the Calgary Herald FP section on January 21, 2016.

Playing with words

Pasting words.

Patricia Lortie, a visual artist, pastes words from her negative story, into her happy story.

We all have stories in our lives that we wish we could change. A new workshop by This is My City Calgary (TMC) gives participants the chance to do that with Write /Rewrite: a do-over.

TMC is a non-profit organization that puts artist-mentors together with marginalized people. I volunteer as a memoir writer and Patricia Lortie is a visual artist volunteer. Patricia came up with the Write/Rewrite idea after reading her grandmother’s memoirs that were full of tales of woe. Instead of leaving the sentences to fester, Patricia took her grandmother’s words and rearranged them into a positive story.

This past January, Patricia and I held four sessions of the Write /Rewrite class at the CommunityWise Resource Centre. We had a group of women from all walks of life participating in the workshops. They each wrote a memoir about a sad or tough period in their lives and then took words out of the negative story, to re-write it into something positive and powerful. Non-fiction to fiction.

Next came the visual aspect. Everyone cut out words from their sad stories to be pasted into the happy stories. The negative memoirs had so many holes in them, none could be read. The positive stories were whole and could be shared with everyone.

So if you’ve ever had an experience that you wished had gone differently or think, “Why didn’t I do this or do that?” give yourself a write over.

 

Media meltdown

Old Herald desk.

Drawer full of reporter graffiti. Names and doodles from an antique Herald desk drawer on display at the City of Calgary Corporate Records, Archives.

The newspaper industry across Canada was dealt a massive blow last week. It hit me personally as my husband was caught in the layoff tsunami. We need more trained journalists, not fewer.

I know there are other sectors hurting and the economy in Alberta is weak right now. At a Calgary Chamber of Commerce event a couple of weeks ago, I talked with a member about how she’s dealing with the tough economic climate. She said there have always been booms and busts and it’s part of the cycle. She’s been through it before and said she will weather this storm too.

I’ve been through it as well and was laid off from my newspaper job in 2009. I’m not employed as a journalist today. It’s a sad time for all media across North America and many don’t seem to see the worth in news anymore. I read the comments section of the CBC Calgary story on Postmedia’s move to combine and gut the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun newsrooms (as well as similar mergers in Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa) and it made me sick to see what people were saying about papers. That news should be free and journalists only write what Big Business tells them to write. Conspiracy theories from commenters who don’t value the job of reporters.

Walking amongst the tall buildings and business workers in downtown Calgary on Friday, I overheard a woman telling another woman, “Change is good. Remember that.”

Change can be good and in fact, journalists live for change. It’s one reason why we get into the news business. But change can also leave spaces, voids, gaps in information. These holes deprive us of stories, stories that explain what’s happening in our city or country or world. Stories that unite us with other people and connect us to our neighbours.

Bloggers might be able to fill some of the cracks, but they’re not trained to follow and uphold time-honoured journalistic standards of accuracy and fairness. To separate fact from opinion. Being a journalist is not just an occupation: it’s a profession; it’s a calling. The newspaper landscape of Calgary has been indelibly changed and not for the better. As journalists disappear from newsrooms, so does the record of our city’s history, our stories.

Little snow, big snow

hill over looking a pond in winter.

Tobogganing hill over looking the pond. Twenty years ago there were fewer trees on the hill.

When there’s a snow storm in Nova Scotia, there’s a snow storm. It’s not the full-sized, plump flakes that add up: it’s the little, wee ones that fall fast and furious. They hit the ground piling up and up and up…until the bus can’t get down our dirt road. That’s when school is cancelled and my sisters and I get the day off.

With our bonus time we head outside to build forts and go tobogganing down the hill above the pond. We spend hours in the snow and I never felt cold. Just damp from the heavy, wet Maritimes winter.

When our neighbour comes over with his tractor to dig out our driveway, the snow banks grow and grow and grow. They’re mountains and they need to be climbed. One day we play badminton on top of the big hill. I’m not sure who thought this would be a good idea but we chase the shuttlecock from peak to peak. Then we wrestle to see who can stay on the snow bank the longest. We don’t call the winner “King of the Hill.” Whoever stays firmly on two feet at the summit is the winner and allowed to call the loser “Rocky Bell Bottoms.”

When the winter afternoon turns into night, I lie in the snow on my back, under a huge fir tree, and look at the stars and airplanes through the branches. The wind picks up and I shiver. Time to go in. I have homework to do that I didn’t do yesterday.

Floppy disc discovery

floppy disc.

Floppy disc driving at the Calgary Public Library.

While home for the holidays in Nova Scotia, I found a treasure trove: some old, old floppy discs. Not those round ones that look like records but the hard square ones. I brought them back to Calgary and wondered how to get the data off them. Who has a computer with a floppy disc drive anymore? The Calgary Public Library.

I went to the third floor and asked for a floppy disc drive and plugged it into a port. Then I popped the first disc into the drive and it spat and whirred like an ancient engine being turned on for the first time in 100 years. The noise was loud and I was hoping no one was going to “Shhhs” me. It is a library. You’re supposed to be quiet.

I found a lot of photos I had scanned and put on disc in 2003. I also uncovered stories and homework assignments I had written at Ryerson University in 2006. The following is a piece I wrote when I lived in residence only steps away from the core of Toronto. I had a room (that I called The Coffin because it was tiny) in a four bedroom apartment. Each unit in Pitman was designed the same way. I had three roommates (women) and we lived on a co-ed floor. Here’s a vignette from 20 years ago. (Really?)

Noise. A man’s laugh is projected from one bedroom. Haunting pagan music follows from another. The sounds mix and float out of the hallway, pooling in the living room. Sarah and De sit in a circle amidst it, making their own noises.

Sarah’s arm drags across paper. Making a swishing sound as she writes. Bright purple socks sticking out of brown cords and pushed into brown boots is Sarah. De’s making clicking sounds. She’s an interior design student and she’s crouched on the floor and tediously gluing tiny, straight sticks together to make a giant octahedron. Click. She’s gluing the sticks into triangles. Click. She’s building the complex design slowly in case it collapses. De has one leg tucked under her. It’s as if she is trying to create the same symmetry in her design. Sarah walks over to help. Swish. Her cords make a rough noise like her arm on the paper. She sits the same way as De.

Pitman Hall.

Common room at Pitman Hall.

Two shadows are thrown over De and Sarah. The white wall outlines a couple. Two people in a slow dance. The shadows move together and then apart.

Swish. John comes out of the shadows. He’s carrying a plant. “Look,” he says, “it’s real.”

He gives the plant to Maura, who has also come out of the shadows. Bang. John slams the door. Maura takes a seat beside Sarah.

The room fills up with chatter. Talking, talking and talking. The conversation is light and easy. Meringue on lemon pie. Chitchat about classes and octahedrons. Nattering about New York and Chicago. Dirty dishes.

“There is no volume to it.” De mutters to her creation.

Crack. Maura’s knees break as she bends to show De pictures. Her knees sound like octahedron sticks snapping half. But De keeps going with the glue gun. “Psst,” it says. The glue gun wants to tell a secret.

“Psst, come here.”

Rustling paper. Sarah returns her focus to her writing. Maura looks out the window. Not much talk now. A few expletives from the glue gun lady. Maybe she’ll shoot someone. Psst, psst and pssssstttt!

Then smooth silence. A few strains of music escape from the room down the hall. Phone rings. Thud. Everyone jumps up. Pattering feet. Who’s it for? The circle is broken. Everyone has left and so must I.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 Family Lines

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑