A Good Home

Some pictures for Cynthia

It’s been a long time since I was able to take a long walk – something I loved to do. So Beth Callahan, hiking in France and Spain, decided to ‘take me along’ partway.

She didn’t know that San Sebastian, one of the places pictured here, occupies a place in my heart for one funny and several beautiful reasons.

I was among the first Canadians to arrive there at the height of the passionate ‘fish war’ between Canada and Spain in 1995 and found myself defending my country — while also assuring San Sebastian residents that if they would only agree to cook it and send it back, they could have all our Canadian fish. (Great fish recipes and cooks there.) It made many people smile, though one man never got over his upset at me for being Canadian.

Thank you, Beth, for evoking memories of this special place, and for the other photos too!

Notes from a Hermitage

For blogging friend extraordinaire, Cynthia Reyes (.com), who I have walked some time in honor of during this hike, here are some pictures of Good Homes seen along the way in France and Spain:

Tonight I’m in Llanes, which a Spanish speaker tells me is pronounced “YAH-nez”. There are houses here called “Casas Indianos”. They are mansions built during a time after many from the Northern coast of Spain had gone abroad to the Americas to find a way of making a living during a time of hardship in Northern Spain. These mansions were built as fruits of their labor overseas.

Just beyond Unquera in the North of Spain. It’s been turned into a hiker hostel.

Spanish Colonial? This is in San Sebastián, Basque Country. San Sebastián was one of, if not the, most beautiful and vibrant cities I’ve ever visited.

Chambre d’Hôte “Les 3 Cochons d’Olt” in Arcambal, France…

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A Good Home, Canadian Gardens, Carol and Wayne Shaw's Gardens Summer 2018

Wayne and Carol – The Garden

You may remember Wayne and Carol from my post “What A Project!” 

Blog Photo - Wayne Building

Wayne’s always building something, and my family is always intrigued with his projects. 

Blog Photo - Wayne and Carol Kitchen ws

His latest ones were their new kitchen, and the exterior of  “The Coach House”, below, with plans to finish the interior next.

Blog Photo - Carol Garden coach house beautiful exterior

“Has Wayne completed The Coach House yet?” I asked Carol a few weeks ago.

“He will, but right now I’ve got him mulching the garden beds,” she replied.

Their garden in Warkworth, and others elsewhere in southern Ontario needed mulching this summer.  It’s been hot and dry.

Blog Photo - Carol garden delphiniums over fence - gorgeous

So while we wait for Wayne to return to the splendid Coach House, let’s take a photo tour of Carol’s garden, starting with the beautiful blue delphinium over the front fence.

Blog Photo - Carol garden glorious photo of delphinium over fence

Blog Photo - Carol garden delphinium over street

And lilies and daisies and other blooming stuff.

Blog Photo - Carol garden pink lilies and sign about flowers

Blog Photo - Carol Garden orange lilies - picket fence in bg

Blog Photo - Carol garden beautiful potted arrangement on front patio

Blog Photo - Carol garden at front with plants and house front

Blog Photo - Carol garden daisies etc

Moving along the side towards the back…

Blog Photo - Carol garden wide shot of fence and rocks and flowers from street

By way of the paths…

Blog Photo - Carol garden lovely side path and blooms

Blog Photo - Carol garden path from other view

We see mulched beds and flowers – the results of both Wayne’s and Carol’s hard work…

Blog Photo - Carol Garden from coach house view

Blog Photo - Carol garden with barometer over flower pot

Blog Photo - Carol garden bed well mulched

 beside and between the main house and Coach House.

Blog Photo - Carol garden lovely shot of the coach house and back of house and garden bed

And it’s all lovely, of course.  We expect nothing less.

We’ll check back in with Carol and Wayne when the Coach House is complete.

Blog Photo - Carol garden back garden bed

Meanwhile, I hope your summer goes well, unless you’re in the part of the world where it’s winter — in which case, I hope winter is short and spring is near.

Photos by Wayne and Carol Shaw

A Good Home, Living by One's Principles, Meghan Markle, Parenting

Rabbits, Principles and Thomas Markle

It’s retribution, I tell you.

You instil certain principles in your children. 

And then they grow up and use those very principles against you.

~~

Take the case of the rabbit.

Blog Photo - Rabbit in tall grass

We raised our children to be kind to animals. We forgot to mention that kindness might have limits — when the wild rabbit ignores the grass and clover and eats its merciless way through your vegetable and flower garden, for example.

Blog Photo - Garden Hosta cu

Blog Photo - Garden Zucchini

So we set a humane trap, meaning to entice the rabbit with carrots, then trap it, and bring it safely to a nearby park. 

“W-what?” Asked younger daughter in outraged tones. “You do realize that when you move the rabbit from his territory, you’re sentencing him to death? He won’t cope and will be eaten by predators!”

God forbid we should become murderers, even while attacked by marauding rabbits.

~~

And then there was that time I generalized about a whole group of people.

“M-mum!” said older daughter, shocked and appalled. “You, of all people! You, who taught me to never stereotype, never generalize. I cannot believe it!”

I tell you: It’s enough to make a person raise their kids without any principles at all. 

~~

And then there’s Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas, and his Very Tough Time. His daughter recently married a British prince and he feels excluded because she hasn’t called recently.

Meghan has repeatedly praised her parents for raising her with strong values: the importance of hard work, discernment, dignity, humanitarianism.  And their daughter seems caring, accomplished, dignified.  She excelled as an actor, blogger and humanitarian, recently married a British prince in a ceremony watched by millions (including myself) around the world, and became the duchess of Sussex.

Blog Photo - Meghan Markle and page boys climb church steps

All parents want to be loved and respected by their offspring. No-one wants to be left behind. But Thomas’ revenge included a 9-hour interview with the same newspaper who led an 18-month-long smear campaign against his daughter. 

Blog Photo - Meghan Markle on church steps

Yes, he admitted, I made a little mistake. I took money from the media for staged photos, disgracing her just before her wedding. Then I didn’t show up to walk her down the aisle. Then I blabbed her private affairs to the media. Then I publicly insulted her, her mother and her royal in-laws. 

But I helped raise her, and paid her school fees; she owes me.  If she continues refusing to talk to me, I’ll just inflict more hurt. Publicly.

Meanwhile, the duchess seems to be holding her father to certain values. Dignity and discernment, for starters.

~~

Parenting may be the toughest and most expensive job in the world. We do our best for our children, but the time and money we give cannot buy their souls. 

When they’re hurt because we don’t practice what we preach, the least we can do — painful though it is — is to humbly reflect on our missteps, find the grace to admit our errors, and make amends.

Acts of Friendship, An Honest House, Book Reviews

No-One Is An Island

“In our view, An Honest House should be required reading for everyone.”  

Isabel Bassett, former government minister and CEO of TV Ontario and Ernie Eves, former premier of Ontario, wrote those words about my second book, An Honest House

I’m sharing their moving words here. For one thing, it allows me to salute Isabel and Ernie for supporting emerging talent, as well as ambitious and accomplished individuals from many fields.

Blog Photo - Isabel and Co
l-r: Tiffany Ford, Djanka Gajdel, Isabel Bassett, Cynthia Reyes

It’s often the little things people do that make a difference, isn’t it?

Telling others about someone’s new endeavour.

Bringing diverse groups of people together to meet and perhaps collaborate on a project.

Blog Photo - Ladies at Isabel gathering
Left: Mickey Palha. To my right: Heather Peterson and Silvia Wynter 

Or buying an author’s book and reviewing it. 

Bravo, Isabel and Ernie!

Here’s their review:

Image of "An Honest House: A Memoir Continued", by Cynthia Reyes

“As I read through An Honest House, I kept thinking that what happened to Cynthia Reyes could happen to any of us.

I wondered how all of us would  cope if we were stripped not only of our health but of our identities as successful, involved leaders and found our new selves to be  pain ridden, physically altered, and anxiety prone among other things.

Would we have the indomitable spirit that kept Cynthia fighting to regain her former self and role in life despite her enormous frustrations adjusting to her injuries following her accident?

How did she keep going?  

How did she find her new role?

Three of the many take-aways in this inspiring book stand out for me and my partner, Ernie Eves, who experienced loss of a different kind when his only son was killed.

The first, of course, is Cynthia’s determination, however wavering at times, to come back both physically and professionally.

Then, over time, as she realizes she cannot turn back the clock, there is her gradual recognition and appreciation of  the overriding value of what she has already: her supportive, caring husband, Hamlin, her two daughters and their families, her friends, faith  and community and, not to forget, her enchanting nineteenth century Ontario farmhouse.

The third inspiring finding for us is that Cynthia has managed to continue to play a significant role in Canadian life by writing books that show how someone can create new meaning and purpose in their lives, however futile it might seem at first.

Given the challenges all of us face at some point in our lives, especially as we suffer the debilitating side effects of aging, we can learn from Cynthia Reyes’ courage, determination and spirit.

In our view, An Honest House should be required reading for everyone.”

— Isabel Bassett and Ernie Eves.

~~~

Thank you, Isabel and Ernie. I share the credit with three extremely caring editors, a dogged publisher, great beta readers, my loving family and friends. 

I’m grateful for all of you who extend yourselves to help others — especially in tough times.