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.






64 thoughts on “Doing What Scares You”

  1. I applaud your bravery (and this isn’t the first time!) and Hamlin’s beautiful love & support. Thank God for the nudges of those who love us best!

    1. Pre-accident, it came very naturally to me, Judy, because I was a television journalist for years and often had to do live broadcasts. Fear of speaking – in public and even private — was one of the accident impacts I hated most.

  2. I’m thrilled that you said yes and that it went so well Cynthia. I’ve said yes to my first public performance – reading a short story at an event – later this month. I’m terrified so I’ll take courage from your courage 🙂

    1. Oh, please do, my friend! You will find yourself getting lost in the story you are reading, because you feel passionate about it, and the nerves will behave themselves.

  3. So proud of you, Cynthia! I remember from your books, your fear of speaking in public. And now Hamlin was able to help you up the podium! Congratulations on a successful speech. I will look forward to your next book. Cheers!

  4. You are really something! Brave and resilient. It sounds like a wonderful experience, all because you took the plunge with your husband’s support, and believed. I think the coolest aspect, too, is that the other book will finally see the light of day!

  5. Congratulations on finding the strength to move past the feeling of terror and give what must have been a wonderful speech! My thanks to all who supported you; encouragement holds us up and helps us move on. I’m looking forward to your new books.

    1. I bet you could have. Thanks for your lovely reply and the congrats. Having shelved and forgotten this book, I’ve got my fingers crossed that all will go well and I’ll finally see it in print.

  6. A really inspiring post, Cynthia. It’s great to have such wonderful support from your husband, Hamlin and your daughter… And what a great cause! I have just posted a new review for you on my site and my offer to invite you as a guest still stands. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kevin. I had no idea you were reading and reviewing the second Myrtle book, and I thank you more than I can adequately describe. You’ve made my day, and Lauren’s and Jo’s too, as soon as they see your review!

    1. I’m smiling at the very thought that someone thinks me brave, dear Clare. Thank you for the vote of confidence. I see myself as a recovering coward. And I can hardly wait for you to read and give me your reaction to the next book.

  7. Well done! One of these days I intend to buy one or both parts of your memoir. I may consider the gardening book for my husband… as he’s the one around here who makes things grow. 🙂

    1. Well, as you know, Val — my husband had to take over the gardening, so he’s also the one around here who makes things grow. Thanks for your lovely comment!

  8. What a wonderful “true life” story! So delighted for you and happy you had the support and encouragement from your husband and family … and entire community. I think I needed to read this, to remind me that to be scared of new projects is perfectly O.K., and challenges can be good for us. 🙂 Thank you Cynthia!

    1. Thanks for your very kind note. It’s been interesting to hear from several individuals that they needed to be reminded. So, in reminding myself, others were too. A double gift to me!

  9. Cynthia, good for you (though honestly, I know you have a boatload of strength and resourcefulness in you.) We don’t grow if we stay with what’s comfortable, and you are a perfect example of what happens when we push our boundaries and through our fears. You grow, girl! 🙂

  10. You are doing adorable things! I think you really deserve all the nice things people say about you!
    Besides, I am an expert in gardening. It’s now 50 years or even a bit more doing that. My mom was a gardener, an extremely good one. Since early childhood, I noticed I have green thumbs, whatever is put in soil, grows unbelievably.
    It’s too bad, we have to move so often, but I have started and developed from scratch 5 nice gardens while being 15 years in Canada. It sometimes breaks my heart to leave these gardens after putting in a lot of effort and work in them, but that’s what it is.
    After art, I think gardening is the second best thing to do.

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