A Good Home, Oma and Opa, Young readers

Oma Paula and ‘The Best Critics’

I never know how much to tell you about the journey that Myrtle is on! (Are you bored yet?)
 
But many of you have hung in with me through the rough times, so I figure you are more than overdue for good news. And right now, some of my ‘goodest’ news is about Myrtle.
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Blog Photo - Myrtle Readers Paula and the grandies
 When Paula de Ronde wrote about Myrtle on Facebook recently, I was delighted.
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“Yesterday I read Myrtle the Purple Turtle with three of my ‘honorary’ grandchildren. Myrtle got three thumbs up, some giggles and big smiles.
“Cynthia Reyes has written a book for parents and friends who love to read and love to read to children.
“We had quite a talk about it and it is a hit.   Zoe, who is only 2, sat through the whole thing and wanted me to go back to certain of the very colourful pages. She was the illustrations critic and by her response they certainly did what they are supposed to do –  engage through colour.

“Dylan Damien (8) and Charlie (6)… talked about ‘friends’  and that ‘it’s OK to be different.’

“I have told many friends about how much I like this book. However, these are the best critics as the story is for them.  I bet this becomes a go-to, cuddle-up book on those long Winter nights.”

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Stefan Steen took the photo above of his wife Stephanie, their 3 children and Paula.

Paula and Stefan go way back to his childhood, when he and her son Damien were close friends.  Sadly, Damien died young, but Stefan remained close to Paula and her husband Bert.

Stefan and Stephanie named their first child for Damien.  Damien was known for giving the greatest hugs, and Paula says she is delighted that the kids have learned to give her “Damien hugs” too. 

They are the grandchildren of her heart, she says.

Today, Paula and Bert are close to all three children, who call them “Oma”, and “Opa” (Dutch for “grandma” and “grandpa”).

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A retired librarian and cultural connoisseur,  Paula has an eye for great stories.  She was the first person outside our family to read the draft of Myrtle, and therefore was its first reviewer.

Blog Photo - Paula and Bert
Photo Credit: Heather Bubb-Clarke
She said this about Myrtle:
“It is a long time since I have been so effusive about a children’s book.  Now we have something other than The Ugly Duckling, et al,  for this age group with a nice dollop of  ‘how to’ for adults facing this dilemma too.
 

“Children will love, relate and respond favourably to the  humour and that light, underlying silliness that is their everyday language.  I was smiling as I read some of the lines, descriptions and Myrtle’s thoughts.

“There are many teaching moments and issues in this book and you present them in such a warm and lovable way.  It is simple but not simplistic, ethical, tackling issues that we so need to tackle today but without being pedantic.”

I respect Paula a lot, so you can imagine how much her critique encouraged not just me, but our whole family.  And now, we’re glad to know that she has read it to her ‘grandchildren’ too.

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Thank you, Paula, Stefan and Stephanie — and special thanks to our young critics!

 

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A Good Home, Memory

Being “Special”

There’s a lot to be said for being ridiculous — if you mean to.

I often mean to.

But I realized very recently that my family doesn’t always know when I’m joking.

I say something ridiculous.  They burst out laughing.

Or not.

“How can you have known me for so long and not know when I’m joking?” I ask, serious now.

“Because you’ve come out with the craziest things sometimes,” one of them answers. “You’re very special.” 

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Special? 

Oh… Of course.

They were there. Witnesses to the not-so-funny moments in the very bad years.

All those times.  

When I struggled to get the words out, struggled to even think of them, hold them long enough in my mind — only to have them come out in a mish-mash.

Or when the words came, but I asked the same question over and over until someone said: “You’ve asked that question 5 times in the last hour”.

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I can smile at some memories now.

I remember the first time my family pulled out my favourite board game — wanting to help bring back my words.  It was a warm day. We sat at the table on the verandah.

 

blog-photo-verandah-chairs[1]

I couldn’t remember the rules. Couldn’t find the words.

But we stuck with it, moving slowly through incomprehension and frustration to laughter at the ridiculous words I created.

And — the whole time — I called the game “Scramble”, not Scrabble. And no-one corrected me. 

It was, of course, the perfect adjective for my mind and speech, but I didn’t make the connection at the time.  

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I empathize — very keenly now — with people whose memories have been stolen by head injuries, or diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

People like my friend whom I’ll call Mel. 

Mel knitted sweaters, blankets, and made gorgeous quilts — prized by her family and friends. 

Mel had now forgotten all that. Forgotten even family and friends.  

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I was surprised at how elegant she still looked. Dressed in a light-blue skirt-set, not a hair out of place.

We sat together in the lounge of the ward where she lived.

It was a locked ward.

Mel smiled at me politely. 

Blankly. 

I chatted, paused between sentences, searched her face for signs of recognition. I told her it was freezing outside. I told her that I’d recently brought my relatives to see one of her quilts that still hangs in a prominent place that we both know very well. 

I patted her arm.

I said I wished I’d asked her to teach me how to quilt.

“I can’t even figure out how to cut the squares of cloth,” I confessed. “And I have no idea how to join them.”

Her eyes fastened on mine.

She seemed to listen, and even nodded. 

Then her fingers started to move on her lap. Almost as if they had a mind of their own.

Smoothing out the imagined fabric. Drawing, cutting, even joining our imaginary squares.

I watched, transfixed.

Mel looked up at me as if to ask: “Got it now?”

Sublime. It was sublime.

Mel was teaching without words. 

I nodded,  at a loss for words.

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We sat together.

Silent. Smiling. Holding hands. 

It was enough. It had to be enough.

The blank look was back. 

I finally, reluctantly, said goodbye. Hugged her and left her there.

I heard the thud and click of the door behind me as it closed and locked.

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Dedicated to everyone who has a head injury, dementia, or whose brains work differently.

 

 

 

 

A Good Home, Arts, Libraries, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

A Busy Week and Purple Fingernails

Accepting a blogger friend’s challenge, I painted my nails purple to attend the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, Ontario last weekend.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Purple Nails

Of course, my friend won the challenge hands-down (hands-up?) because in this picture below, she’s also wearing a purple shirt! 

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Mandy and Purple Nails

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I’m a volunteer with the Festival and it was a great success! Painters, photographers, authors, actors, musicians and others shared their talents with enthusiastic audiences.

Blog Photo - Festival Marie-Lynn playing guitar

Blog Photo - Pat Calder Stall at Festival

Blog Photo - Festival Mandy Bing paintings

Blog Photo - Festival Book Fair

Blog Photo - Festival Sharon Ramsay Curtis

Blog Photo - Festival Kim aubrey reading

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival Performers

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival gifts for Chairs
Above 6 photos by Hamlin Grange

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In the photo just above, publisher Jennifer Bogart(right) and I are presenting gifts to Felicity Sidnell Reid (left) and Susan Statham (2nd from right), the hard-working co-chairs of the Festival’s organizing committee.  

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It’s also been a great ‘Myrtle week’.  I dropped into A Different Booklist  – one of Toronto’s best-known book stores. Owners Itah and Miguel introduced me to customers Shay Lin (holding a copy of Myrtle), an international student from China, and Qing, her mother.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist

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Earlier, CBC Radio interviewed daughter Lauren and me about Myrtle. Metro Morning host Matt Galloway and his team were terrific. They pre-interviewed us, and, when we arrived, made us welcome. Then they talked us through the journey the interview would take.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Interview by Matt Galloway

They were so kind, I suspected that someone in the team must have read An Honest House, which describes my struggles with PTSD, cognitive difficulties and pain following a car accident. So I asked producer Morgan Passi.

Imagine my delight to discover that this is just the way they operate!

Blog Photo - Myrtle interview by Wei Chen

Next, Lauren and I were skilfully interviewed by the wonderful host of Ontario Morning, Wei Chen. She greeted us warmly, made us feel entirely at home and the interview began. 

Bravo, CBC Radio!

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A few days ago, Seattle’s Allen J. Mears posted on Facebook a photo of his daughters, Megan, 8, and Hailey, 6, with Myrtle. I loved it! Thanks to the Mears family for allowing me to share it here.

Blog Photo - Myrtle with Megan and Hailey

I love  photos of children reading Myrtle, courtesy of kind parents and grandparents.

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to 2 daughters

In these photos, Ashly Dixon in Wisconsin is reading Myrtle to her daughters Denali, 9, Anika, 6, and son Vincent, 2, while their father Damien takes the photos. 

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to children by Ashly

Ashly says they all love the book, including the brilliant illustrations and Myrtle’s “message of acceptance and knowing one’s self-worth” .

Thanks, Dixon family. 

And don’t you just love the pyjamas?

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Carl Randall, a veteran marathon runner, did something unusual to spread the word about Myrtle.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Carl at Brunswick County PL

He and his wife Jackie have brought Myrtle to libraries in various cities — including New York, where he recently ran the marathon.

Blog Photo - Myrtle held by Carl at NYPL 2

Thanks, Carl and Jackie! 

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Finally, Kev Cooper – blogger, book reviewer, author and musician — has made Myrtle “Book of the Month” on his website, Books & Music.  Wow, Kev! Thank you!

A Good Home, Autumn, Autumn Colours, Blessings

Autumn Blessings

Photos by Hamlin Grange

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“In the midst of it all, however, we keep giving thanks. I keep reminding myself that there is no perfect moment in life when all our problems are solved forever. So, let us seek out our blessings wherever they are, whenever they come, and be grateful for them.” (Cynthia, in a note to a friend.)

Autumn is bittersweet.

Blog Photo - Autumn road ahead

It’s the most gorgeous season of my year — its colours so brilliant, they glow. 

Blog Photo - Autumn Tree and Fence

But Autumn also brings a warning.  Of the freezing cold of December, January, February and March. 

My meditation coach would remind me to live “in the moment”.  St. Paul’s writings declare that worry solves nothing; the key is to find contentment in your present situation. 

Blog Photo - Autumn Jacko

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Will I ever get used to Autumn, in all its fleeting beauty? Or is its brevity key to its glory?

Decades of witnessing Autumn and I am still in awe of it. Every year.  

Blog Photo - Autumn Leaves CU

It is, I know, a gradual arrival; colours brighten and deepen on apples, wild berries, shrubs, trees and vines.

Blog - Ripening apples in tree

And yet, there is always a day in October when it catches me by surprise. Every year.  

Blog Photo - autumn - trees on N Road

Suddenly it’s Autumn, arrived fully dressed. 

I catch myself holding my breath…. because there are still sights like this, moments like this, that take one’s breath away.

How can it possibly be this beautiful? I wonder.  That same question, every year.

I wish it could last a bit longer. The resplendence of it, the blazing glory of it, the time before strong winds and heavy rains strip the leaves from trees and leave them naked.

Blog Photo - Autumn Trees 1

I wonder: without the leaves that clothe them, do trees shiver in the cold? Do they regret the passing of their most beautiful season? Or do they give thanks for the respite of winter? For the leaves that, having fallen, will now plenish the soil around their roots? 

Blog Photo - Autumn trees 3

But there I go again. 

So I return to the now. The wonder and splendour of now.

Blog Photo - Autumn Vines Wall Wide-shot

I give thanks for the gifts of this particular autumn. The passing parade of colours outside,  the constant love of my family inside.

The steadying hand of my husband; the care and kindness of my daughters, sons-in-law, and siblings during challenging times. These are love’s own true colours.

Blog Photo - Autumn and sign on door

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This Autumn, there’s also Myrtle the Purple Turtle, published 28 years after it was written as a bedtime story. Our family feels doubly blessed that Myrtle is touching other lives. 

Life goes through its seasons, yes. Some days are a trial, yes.  But:

Let us seek out our blessings wherever they are, whenever they come, and be grateful for them.

Blog Photo - Autumn Trees 2

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Dedicated to my family.