A Good Home

Colin and Justin

In 2013, Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan made me cry.

And then they made my husband cry.

But our whole family loved them for it.

colin and justin

I had followed their writing and TV shows: they are brilliant designers. But they didn’t know me.  How surprising then, that  Colin and Justin should have done something special that helped launch my career as an author.

It happened at a time when I was coping with serious injuries from a car accident. I badly needed to believe in myself.  

Book Cover - A Good Home

My first book, A Good Home, became both critically acclaimed and a bestseller.

In the years since then, I continued to follow Colin and Justin’s projects, cheering them on when they launched a new TV show and an excellent home accessories line.

Blog Photo - colin and Justins Log Cabin

Occasionally, I dropped them a note. But I still never met them.

Yesterday, an appointment fell through. I ended up strolling through a nearby store, delaying the long drive back home.

I looked up at two men and recognized them instantly.

With several books to my credit, I now know what it is to have fans and I know what it’s like to be approached by strangers. But no fan could have behaved as bizarrely as I did yesterday. 

I think I yelled something like “Colin and Justin! It’s me, Cynthia Reyes!”

And then I hugged them.

They probably should have called store security.

But Colin and Justin hugged me back as if deranged women with windswept hair, absolutely no makeup and no attempt at sophistication,  attacked them in stores every day.  

Blog Photo - CR with Colin and Justin

They asked about my writing, and whether their support had helped. I was so proud to tell them that it had. 

If you look at the back cover of my first book, A Good Home, you’ll see a lovely testimonial from Colin and Justin. But if you want to know the full story, and why my family and I are so grateful to these two men, please read this:

https://cynthiasreyes.com/2013/09/07/the-review-that-left-my-husband-speechless/

Thanks again, Colin and Justin. For your brilliant designs. For being kind to a stranger. And for being you.

Humour - Kinda

Raptor Foot & the Nail Salon

On Father’s Day, younger daughter and son-in-law gave my husband a gift: they took him to the nail salon for a pedicure and invited me along.

It was a rare treat for us both.

Blog Photo - Nail Salon - Pedicure

The men bravely entered the salon full of women. They had their limits, though, refusing to get their nails painted, though I did suggest it.

Everything went well till it was time to leave. My nails seemed dry and I asked if I could put my shoes back on.

“No!” the attendant replied, shocked. “You have to put on your sandals!”

Sandals? “I have no sandals!”

Blog Photo - Cynthia at Nail salon - green slipper on foot

“Then you have to wear those things out to the car, Mum,” daughter interjected. “You can’t put on your shoes!”

“I am NOT wearing these strange-looking green things on the street! Why didn’t you tell me to wear sandals?”

“I thought you knew, Mum!”

“How on earth would I know?” I wailed. 

Oh, Mum,” she said, before bursting into laughter.

Turning to each woman and one girl in the room, I asked: “Did you bring sandals?”

Everyone said “Yes”.  I was the only one who didn’t know the rituals.

Blog Photo - Cynthia at Nail salon 1

I hung my head in shame.

Then I looked up to accuse them: “One of you could have at least said ‘No!'”

To which they only laughed harder.

My son-in-law tried to hide his amusement, but daughter and her father seemed unable to stop laughing out loud. Worse, husband called me “Raptor Foot” because of the strange salon slippers I now had to wear in public.

Blog Photo - Cynthia at Nail salon - in salon slippers

But then he sent me this video, which celebrates the Toronto Raptor’s big win with a dance named Raptor Foot, so I forgave him.  https://youtu.be/Q4IUyOXD0uo

 

 

A Good Home, Author Cynthia Reyes, Gardening Books

Doing What Scares You

Sandra Whiting has a way about her. When she asks for a favour, it’s hard to refuse.

Blog Photo - Sandra Whiting

Between her personality and track record for getting things done, she’s admired by many.

Add her contributions as an arts-supporter and artist (Sandra is a storyteller with a great sense of humour)  to her voluntary work for Canada’s Black and Caribbean communities, and you get the picture. 

But that didn’t make me immediately accept her invitation to give the keynote speech at the premier annual event of  PACE, the charitable organization she leads.

Blog Photo - PACE Children

I love PACE.  It’s helped tens of thousands of children in Jamaica and Canada. But I hadn’t given a keynote speech since the car accident of over a decade ago and the very thought was frightening.

My husband intervened.  He reminded me that at each stage of my recovery, I have done something that terrified me, and that, even when the results were miserable, I usually felt better for trying. 

Further, the topic was something I knew well: What we can teach children and ourselves from gardening and nature.

Blog Photo - PACE Strawberry Social

“What if I stutter?” I asked, panicked. “And what if they hate me?” “What if….” 

“You won’t stutter and they won’t hate you,” he reassured.

So, with a lot of help and encouragement, I said “Yes”.

 ~~

Having said “Yes”, I was even more scared. What to do? 

For inspiration, I went searching for stories I’d written about gardening in earlier years. And here’s where I got a big surprise: I came across a whole manuscript I’d written about gardening, growth and healing — years earlier.

Surprised, for two reasons. First, it was almost completely written. I’d thought it was only partly done. Even more surprising? It had been professionally edited. How could I have forgotten that? 

The answer came quickly. I had forgotten because my beloved husband had become ill and nearly died of a pulmonary embolism. I had put everything aside in the frantic weeks and months that followed. 

My husband is a courageous man. I watched him fight to recover, despite frequent frustration over his illness.  His bravery and sheer grit were so obvious, they inspired me to return to a tough subject I’d been avoiding: what it’s like to keep pushing ahead, to try to squeeze every moment of joy from a life painfully changed. 

Book cover - An-Honest-House

So, instead of the gardening book, “An Honest House”, based on my personal journals, was published in 2016.  It won The Diamond Award for book of the year.

~~

My husband recovered and returned to being a highly-regarded consultant and public speaker. This man knows how to create a strong speech.

We chose three excerpts from the unpublished gardening book, and built a speech around them.  I realized I could simply read whole parts of the speech, as I’d done at author-readings.

Blog Photo - PACE Guests at the Enchanted Gardens Sale

We arrived at the event. Inside, people were already admiring the flowers at the Enchanted Gardens sale. There was a joyful feeling everywhere.

Blog Photo - PACE Guests at Strawberry Social

Several people approached me. They had bought their tickets because I was the speaker, they said.

The pressure intensified.

~~

My husband helped me up the steps to the podium. At our table, my daughter and son-in-law sat, supportive, encouraging.

As I looked out at the large audience, I recognized several people I knew. They were smiling, beaming love and support.

Even strangers beamed encouragement, I think. Though they might have still been smiling over the introduction. Maxine, the woman who introduced me, told everyone what I’d written in my bio but also forgotten: that I’m a terrible cook, knitter and floral arranger.

~~

I started to speak, then read, growing more confident as I went along. There were times when people seemed glued to what I was saying. They even laughed at the right times. That was a relief, because I’m a terrible joke-teller too.

~~

It still feels like a miracle that I got through it, and that it was well-received. But I did and it was. 

Blog Photo - PACE - Cynthia and Diana Burke

And now, in a touch of grace, I will have two books published this year. 

First, of course, is the new children’s book in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series, co-written with Lauren Reyes-Grange and illustrated by Jo Robinson. 

The gardening book will also debut. Years after it was put aside, this book will see the light of day — because I said “Yes”, and decided to do what scared me.

~~

Dedicated to Sandra Whiting and the children supported by PACE.

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Home, Spring, Spring garden

Spring Has Sprung….

Blog Photo - Iris and Trillium

“Spring has sprung, the grass is ris

I wonder where the birdies is!”

They is all in my garden.  Or on window sills, cooing softly each morning.

Blog Photo - Dove looks back

Gathering twigs to build nests, lying on eggs inside their houses, chasing off squirrels and other pests from their nests.

Blog Photo - Tulips Pink2

Along with flowering bulbs of various colours — some truant, some close together.

Blog Photo - Tulip stray in Garden bed

The rain has kept everything blooming longer this spring.

Blog Photo - Tulip red and yellow CU

Blog Photo - Trillium CU

Blog Photo - Trillum Group

And speaking of rain:

Blog Photo - Stream between trees

There is a river in the valley just below our garden. It was a stream, but since early May, it’s looked like this. 

Blog Photo - Stream in May 2

That’s how much rain we’ve had! It’s feeling like Ireland around here in Southern Ontario.

I won’t mention the mosquitoes, though. I simply won’t. Except to God, whom I occasionally ask: “Give me ONE good reason for mosquitoes, God! Just ONE!”