A Good Home, French books for Children, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Vertu la tortue violette

My New Baby

Babies of all kinds are being born these days.

Here’s one of mine.

Born “Myrtle”, reborn with a new name — “Vertu”, in French — she arrived recently.

Blog Photo - Vertu cover

Huge thanks to Jean Long and Jessica Charnock, who translated the book from English, then diligently proofread the book in its draft form.

Blog Photo - Jean and Jessica

To do the translation, Jean took a big break from designing and building new birdhouses.

Blog Photo - Rustic birdhouse with red roof

Jessica, meanwhile, took a break from the acclaimed Myrtle the Purple Turtle wall hanging she was creating at the time.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Rug 2

Thanks to Clif Graves, who formatted the book patiently and well.  With Clif’s help, the book is also distributed by IngramSpark, making it easier for the bookstores, libraries, schools and other organizations who usually order my books.

As always, thanks to illustrator Jo Robinson, who created the original images.

I’m grateful to my co-author Lauren Reyes-Grange (of Myrtle’s Game and subsequent Myrtle the Purple Turtle books) whose brilliance allows me to shine. 

I’m indebted — yes, that’s a great word, ’cause he invested in me! — to my husband for his love, support and commonsense.  He and our entire family continue to help me with everything I undertake.

They all make for a remarkably diverse crew of midwives and family members. Two French-Canadians; two Jamaican-Canadians; one American from Maine; one South African, and a bunch of Canadians.

I’m also dedicating this post to Carol S, a Canadian who has become a  super agent for the Myrtle books. 

Thank you all for loving Myrtle! Err… Vertu!

A Good Home

Which Do You Prefer?

Someone once asked me this question.

“Whose approach do you prefer: Martin Luther King Jr or Malcolm X?”

“Both”, I replied. “And Rosa Parks. And the Black Panthers.”

My friend stared at me, speechless. Talk about asking a simple question and getting a difficult answer!

~~

When you’ve worked in countries like South Africa and led organizational/societal change at home — or maybe if you’ve just lived long enough — you learn that change rarely comes about because of a single leader or strategy. To make substantive change, enduring change, it takes a variety of approaches.

We need the moderates — the diplomats who can inspire courageous but peaceful protest; the people who can argue with the powerful without losing control.

We need the academics and media — people who study the issues without bias, but can raise the alarm when our  freedom, safety, democracy and human rights are threatened. 

We need the people who will be uncompromising in demands and language. They’re not comfortable company at the dinner table, but they’re essential.

We need the everyday heroes who will stay put in their seat on the bus, refusing to obey an unjust law.

And you need the people who, like a sword hanging over our heads, will threaten our peaceful, comfortable existence.

I salute Nelson Mandela, a hero for our times.  And yet, I know that a much less popular person, his former wife, Winnie Mandela, also played a vital role in bringing about revolution. 

Imprisoned for it, tortured by prison guards, then, later, hated by many for her worst actions as a guerrilla leader. But how can anyone deny the impact of her war against the apartheid government? 

How can anyone deny the role of the freedom fighters who were killed, imprisoned or exiled from their homeland?  The journalists who were imprisoned or exiled for criticising the apartheid government?

On a humbler level, I’ve experienced a thing or two.  As a founder and former president of a prominent Black Canadian organization, I saw people so set in their preferred approach to change, that they made enemies of those who fight the same battle in different ways.

Guilty, your honour.  As an impatient young leader, I made enemies unnecessarily. Missed important opportunities.

Later, I realized: if we’re all fighting for the same outcome, why on earth are we not working together? Why dismiss and belittle those who disagree with you on strategy but share the same goals?

Age and learning about how societies and organizations change have helped me to see the bigger picture. And this I know today:

It takes several kinds to bring about change, so let us learn to value them. And where possible, let us work with them, not against them.

A Good Home

Mama’s Garden in Spring

We’re no longer at the farmhouse, but at this time of year, I remember….

Cynthia Reyes

My husband named this garden for my mother. It’s my favorite garden and I promised to tend it.

But my injuries made gardening a huge challenge and Mama’s Garden became a little jungle.

For the last few years, it’s looked a bit wild, especially from the outside.

Mama's Garden Side shot with dogwood, ferns etc

Mama's Garden side shot

But it’s always a treasure-trove on the inside.

Mama's Garden Ferns and Jack in the pulpit

My Good Man weeded the pathway for me this Spring – thank you, thank you, Kind Sir!!

Suddenly, you could see the path and even the plants stood out more.

That purple flower on the left below is woodland phlox. Farther below, in the next picture, is Solomon’s seal, blooming its small white bells.

Mama's Garden Pathway May 2015

Mama's Garden Solomon's seal

Mama's Garden Purple Iris CU

Yes, even Irises bloom here. 

Mama's Garden Yellow Iris CU

Ferns, hydrangea, Jack-in-the-pulpit, May apple,dogwood, ligularia, wild phlox, woodland phlox, astilbe, hosta — and many more plants grow together here.  Including two clematis vines.

Mama's Garden Double Clem CU

Mama's Garden Path and Arbor side

 The double clematis flourishes on the entrance arbor. It will cover that…

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A Good Home

Cynthia Reyes — the Crazy One

My husband drives me to the Toronto airport for my interview. Pass it, and I’ll be granted a NEXUS card, which speeds up passage through the Canada-US border.

Never mind the fact that I haven’t travelled anywhere in many years. I have hopes; many beloved family members live in the US. 

The two officers — one Canadian, one American — want to make sure I’m really the Cynthia Reyes I claim to be.

I start to giggle.  Then stop, feeling alarmed.

Cynthia Reyes is a disreputable name.

~~

I’m remembering the time I discovered my namesakes on the internet. 

There was the woman who had a flat tire and asked a passing cop for help, forgetting she had a huge bag of marijuana in the car trunk. 

“Even you wouldn’t be that crazy”, my family said.  Leaving me wondering: do you mean that I wouldn’t flag down the cop, or that I wouldn’t have a bag of marijuana with me?

But I digress.

​Here’s another:  “Cynthia Reyes, 41, of New York was arrested and charged with third and sixth degree larceny on Jan. 27.  Reyes’s bond was set at $5,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9.”

Oh dear. 

~~

I now understand how people feel when they have to prove they’re not drunk. Or insane. 

“Well,” I tell the NEXUS officers, “there IS a Cynthia Reyes who is an author too, you know; she lives in the US.  And another one is a paediatrician.” 

I puff my chest out, warmed by the halo effect of being able to cite reputable namesakes.

The whole interview somehow goes downhill from there. They have moved on with their questions, but I am still stuck with wanting to defend the name Cynthia Reyes. So I mis-answer their queries, supplying replies they didn’t seek or ones they requested two questions ago.

The woman officer regards me in disbelief, the man in bewildered amusement. As in: “Yes, we have a live one here, Mildred.”

My poor husband, watching from a short distance, doesn’t know if he should step in and help or let me try to swim to the surface on my own.

~~

As I valiantly continue to screw up the interview, the officers still staring, I start to laugh.

They start to laugh. We are all laughing now.

I wipe my eyes.

It’s fingerprint-time. I must stand a distance from the counter, positioning both sets of fingers on their hightech thingamijiggy. But without my cane, I start to fall over.  The quick-thinking officer stops me, does something with the equipment, and I prop myself up against the counter. It works.

~~

Despite my obvious insanity, the officer now seems to be telling me I’ll be granted a NEXUS card.  

Huh?

He reads a list of things I must do when I travel.

“Slow down, slow down,” I say, still not believing. “I must make notes.” 

If he’s rolling his eyes, he hides it well.

~~

“She is special,” my family would have told the officers. It’s how they explain my strange answers to often simple questions — the way the words come out, or simply the way I see the world.

Point is: You never want to interview me. About anything.