A Good Home, Flowers, Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Home, Writers

The Guilty Gardener

Blog Photo - Garden - Rose

I love gardening.

But for a smart person, I can be really stupid. 

**

A pain-filled fall and winter got worse as we headed toward spring: the few times I went out, I caught something.

Flu.

Bronchitis.

A cough that wouldn’t end.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Worn out and afraid of falling, I rarely even went into the garden.

Stuck in bed, I tried to write my way back to sanity and health.

Spring came.

Blog Photo - Garden - Roses in Boxwood Garden

And then.

“You’ve relapsed,”  the specialist said flatly during my hospital visit.

“Guilty,” I replied. “Sorry.”

“Do NOT feel guilty,” she answered.  “It was an awful winter. All my patients with complex injuries had a very tough time.”

“But your immune system is also weak,” she warned.  “Be very careful this spring.”

I listened.

I promised.

And I was. Blog Photo - Garden - Working in Garden1And then.

It was gardening season.

Day after day, my husband worked hard in the garden.

I watched, feeling entirely useless.

He left, on an errand.

Blog Photo - Garden - working in Garden 2And then.

I spied a large crop of forget-me-not growing into the lawn from the garden beds.  I know they bug him, and I know they’re easy to dig with a trowel. And so I thought I’d help.

A small thing.

A good thing.

I could do this. Blog Photo - Garden FMN straying into lawn I crouched over the lawn and started digging, feeling useful. When the back and leg pain intensified, I lay on my front, face just above the grass.

I dug, sneezing as dust went into my nose.

Then I spied a few dandelions nearby. Now I crouched over them, trowel engaged.

“Stop!” said my wiser self.

I listened.

I meant to.

In just a few seconds. Blog Photo - Garden - Butterfly on Mint

And then.

My sense of time did not kick in. It rarely does.

When I got up, the pain almost knocked me out. I staggered. Stumbled. Fought against falling, my cane desperately trying to find purchase in the ground.

“Cynthia! Cynthia!” came the panicked shout.

I had not heard my husband return.

Blog Photo - Garden in late Spring I ask you: which is worse?

To watch your partner struggle to do the gardening duties that you loved doing — on top of everything else on his plate? Or risk even worse pain — and his distress — by doing a few small gardening things to help? Blog Photo - Garden - working in garden 3 Blog Photo - Garden compost bags Some days, I’m almost used to the pain. It’s with me all the bloody time.

But the guilt? I never get used to the guilt of watching him do all the gardening work. It drives me nuts.

“Why do you do this?”  He shook his head, frustrated and angry. “You know better!”

Yes I do.  Blog Photo - Garden in shadows

So I’m obeying the doctor. Again.

Sparing my husband distress. Again.

Trying to cope with guilt. Again.

All stuff that requires a person to be not just smart, but wise.

So far, so good.

Wish me luck.

**

Dedicated to all gardeners who are struggling due to age, illness or pain. And to the caring people who help us: thank you.

A Good Home, APTN, Artist, Canada, Canadians, Country Living, Couples, Creative Writing, Docudrama, Flowers, Home, Home Decor, Homecoming, Interior Design, Joyful Moments, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Maple Woods, Nature, Rex Deverell, Rita Deverell, Rita Shelton Deverell, Trees, Vision TV, Women leaders, Women's Studies, Writers

At Home with Rita Deverell

For many years, Rita Shelton Deverell wanted to produce a docudrama about a remarkable woman. But other careers got in the way. Blog Photo - Rita at PodiumThe actor, playwright and docudrama-maker has also worked as a TV presenter and head of current affairs for Vision TV, the Canadian network she co-founded; news director (mentoring her successor) at APTN, the Aboriginal People’s TV Network; professor of journalism and women’s studies in  two Canadian universities;

Her achievements earned her a place in the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honour.

At last, Rita is writing the docudrama screenplay about Florence James.  She’s writing it at her country home in the ‘Sugar Bush’, outside Toronto.Blog Photo - Back Deck and Chairs “We bought the country place 22 years ago when our son graduated from high school. Thereafter we started to rent apartments in Toronto.  There have been five Toronto apartments in 22 years (plus two in Winnipeg, and one in Halifax where I worked three-year stints). The ‘Sugar Bush’ house remains home throughout these moves and always welcomes us.” Blog Photo - Rita Living Room closer Like Rita, Florence James found a productive life and award-winning career in Canada.  Rita came to Canada from Texas as a young woman, but Florence came here past age 60, after some terrible events.

“‘McCarthy and the Old Woman’ is about a feisty, resilient real-life heroine who lost everything because of the communist witch-hunts in the USA.  Florence James was blacklisted and bankrupted.  She survived the loss of her money, reputation, life’s work, her home and the death of her husband.”

The planning, creative thinking and writing for the docudrama are taking place here. Two writers live here. Rita’s husband Rex is a well-known playwright. Each has an office on the house’s lower level.Blog Photo - Rita Dining Room “Sometimes I write and plan in longhand at the drum table. But I have to get the feeling that I’m ‘going to work’. Rex has never gone to an office, so I have to keep his joke-telling self away from my work space.” Blog Photo - Desk Rita’s homes – country and city – are beautifully designed – by her.  They are bright, comfortable, unpretentious places, where history, art, houseplants and flowers mix. Many objects were passed down from Rex and Rita’s parents. Blog Photo - Rit's Small table “Every place in the large five-area living space is for my favourite leisure time activity, reading detective fiction. Blog Photo - Rita in CountryEntrance “We have lots of family pieces by now: the drum table was my mother’s. Blog Photo - Rita Drum Table in Sun Nook “The small desk and dining room table were Rex’s mother’s. The rocking chair was Rex’s grandfather’s, though not upholstered in leopard print. Blog Photo - Living room side shot “Outside, the yellow Muskoka chair is really the place I love to sit and dream and have nothing to do.” Blog Photo - Front Deck and Chair “I’m a home addict. The trivial side is I love to look at houses, read the real estate ads all the time, adore interior decorating, and can be cheered up by having a design idea.

“The important thing though is I’m an introvert, and actually draw my energy by starting each day from home base. That’s a place where my life is ordered, feels controllable, and beautiful. Then I can go out into the world and deal better with the dis-ordered, un-controllable, and sometimes ugly.”

Recently, another of Rita’s projects was launched to positive reviews.  It’s a multimedia, educational kit called ‘Women, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues and Resistance’. Free and downloadable, it includes a DVD:

http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/research/centresandinstitutes/IWGSJ/Events/ToolKit.aspx

Photos by Rex Deverell.

A Good Home, Book Editor, Book lovers, Books, Canadians, CBC Television, Creative Writing, Life Challenges, Mentoring Writers, South Africa, South African Journalism Training, Tim KNight, Writers

A Terrific Writer-Editor

Tim Knight is a brilliant writer.  

Blog Photo - Tim Knight CU

He’s an Emmy-winning documentary-maker.

Ladeda
On location: “Inside Noah’s Ark”

And writing coach.

Luckily for me, he’s also an excellent editor.  

I know this because he taught me to write for television and edited many of my stories.

And because when I came up with the crazy idea of producing a book  — at the worst time in my life — Tim calmly agreed to be my editor.

It was not a job for the faint of heart.

I first met Tim just before my graduation from journalism school. Tim Knight, head of TV Journalism Training for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was already a legend. He interviewed me for the best job a TV Journalism graduate could land: an apprenticeship with the CBC’s prestigious trainee reporter program.

Blog Photo - Tim when I first met him

Each year, CBC TV picked the top 6 students from journalism schools across Canada. That year, I became one of the six. But my journalism professor wasn’t pleased. I was a Canadian citizen, but one who’d come to Canada from Jamaica. He argued that the job should go to a real Canadian. 

Tim overrode his objections and I got the job.

Tim’s been looking out for me ever since.  Not that I gave him much choice.

I sought Tim’s advice before every career move. Producer-director. Executive producer. And when Tim decided to leave the CBC to write his first book,  he recommended that I replace him as head of CBC TV’s journalism training.  His word carried so much weight that the job was offered and I took it.

Blog Photo - Tim's book

We worked together to train South African journalists at the end of apartheid.  For us Canadians, this was a remarkably moving experience.

Blog Photo - Tim and S. African journalists

Blog Photo - Tim and Madiba

Years later, I had a car accident.

In ‘Type A’ style, I thought I could return to work soon.

Not so.

Something happened to Tim when he realized the full extent of my physical, intellectual and emotional states post-accident. His cool manner slipped: he was worried about me.

Tim became one of the few people who knew just how bad things were. He’d watched me struggle — to write, speak, think.

He must have been surprised when, years later, I said I was producing a book and wanted him to edit it. Not that he showed it.

“Send me the manuscript,” he said.

I did.

“This book could be great,” he replied. “Not just good, but great.  It needs more work.”

More work! I was already exhausted.  How much more work?

Some chapters were excellent, Tim said. Some would need substantial work. But he would help me.

It was not easy for anyone to help me back then. Blog Photo - Tim, wearing hat Sometimes, Tim had to stop our conversations abruptly. I’d start stuttering badly again, lose track of what was being said to me, but refuse to admit I was in trouble.  

His voice would become very firm.  “Cynthia, we’ll talk again later.” Tim never babied me, which was important. No matter how unwell I was, I always sensed when people were trying to baby me, and I didn’t like it.

Mostly, Tim said, I needed to make the music consistent throughout the book.

The music?

The music.  The storytelling.  The rhythm, the pace, the cadence of the writing. And so we went to work, to create the music in every chapter. agoodhome_cynthiareyes

**

Every good writer needs a good editor. Considering the shape I was in, I especially needed a good editor.

Tim not only edited my first book, he also edited my second.

What a blessing to work with such an excellent editor, trainer and communicator.

Thank you, Tim.

A Good Home, Book lovers, Books, Canadians, Creative Writing, Following your dreams, Home, Mentoring Writers, Non-fiction writing, Reading, Writers, Writing workshops

At Home with Author Donna Kay Kakonge

Canadian Donna Kay Kakonge is a prolific author whose range includes memoirs, how-to books, academic tomes and others.

Blog Photo - Donna Book 4

She’s published dozens of books.

Blog Photo - Donna Book2

Donna also paints, teaches creative writing, and has just completed her Ph.D.

Blog Photo - Donna Book 3

She makes the time to support other authors – especially first-time authors and those who are independently published. She mentors them, lines up readings for them, and shares her own experience.

“If you know you want to write, if you really, really know that you do …. new writers of all ages…then just do it! Write! Make sure you do. And coupled with this you MUST make sure that you also read. Imagine a musician that does not listen to music. This would be laughable. You must read in order to write.”

Donna also runs Creative Writing Workshops. The next one is at the Toronto Public Library in June.

She does this in her spare time. She has a full time job with Mobilman Management Inc.

Blog Photo - Donna LR2

Much of Donna’s writing in the past ten years has been done in her downtown Toronto apartment , “900 square feet with a washer and dryer included”. Her home is filled with paintings – some of which she did herself.

The apartment is home.

“I love my home. I didn’t show my bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, laundry area or my home office, but they are also lovely. I feel very lucky to have this place.”

It’s home not just because her possessions are there, not just because this is where she writes her books, but because her family and friends live on the same street.

“My sister and my nieces live across the street. I have a friend from my undergrad days who lives down the street. My father lives next door. He’s been living in this area since 1981 and owns seven houses in this area.”

Donna likes her street because it’s “quiet and safe”.  Because it’s centrally located and has several  grocery stores in the area.  And because almost everybody knows everybody. Most of the neighbours know each other.

Blog Photo - Donna living room

“What a lot of people don’t always think about is that it truly can take a long time to make a place feel like home. Even though I’ve grown up in this neighbourhood since 1981  — and went through a period of time where I was moving in and out of this neighbourhood — I have traveled and lived enough in other areas of Toronto to learn to truly, truly appreciate my home. I feel excessively fortunate!”

So much so that Donna says she doesn’t plan to move – ever.

“I have finally found my home – and it’s right in the city where I was raised – imagine that!”

MORE ABOUT DONNA’S BOOKS

Donna’s latest book was published in March of 2014, under the title:

Young Black Women in Toronto High Schools: Portraits of Family, School and Community Involvement in Developing Goals and Aspirations

Her books are in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. Among the titles available in French:

Comment Écrire Non-Fiction Créative (How to Write Creative Non-fiction)

Qu’est-il arrivé à l’Afro (What Happened to the Afro)

Comment à parler Crazy People (How To Talk To Crazy People)

All are available on Amazon, or through Donna’s website at: http://www.donnakakonge.com

Thanks to Donna for the photos of her home.