A Good Home

Finding leadership in the midst of a troubled world

Jane has stated the situation our world finds itself in clearly and well, and so I am reblogging it here. Thanks, Jane.

Robby Robin's Journey

If ever we needed to believe that our leaders have our backs, it is now. The past few years have been unsettling for most of the world, for many, many reasons over which we have no control. If your blood pressure has risen, it’s not surprising. Let’s take a look.

Inflation has hit big-time for the first time in decades, as supply chains have been strained. This is starting to have a significant impact on people and businesses right across the board.

Two years of the restrictions required to keep people (and healthcare systems) safe during a historic global pandemic have taken their toll on people’s patience, resources, and even friendships.

Disturbing levels of division, distrust, misinformation, and even hatred have changed the landscape in the United States, and now the 3 weeks of the “Freedom” Convoy occupation in Ottawa have forced Canadians to confront the hard reality that there…

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A Good Home

Anne Nenarokoff-Van Burek – Woman of Substance

I wrote this about my friend Anne in 2014. I wanted to re-share it in tribute to her and her family:

Author Anne Nenarokoff-Van Burek is the kind of woman I’d like to be when I grow up.  The kind of woman who, in addition to being talented at her profession,  knows how to cook, bake, make delicious preserves AND grow orchids!

Blog Photo - Anne et cusine

I’ve tasted Anne’s “poires au vinaigre” – pears with spices — and it’s addictive.

Blog Photo - Annes Preserves

The woman has flair. Anne knows how to arrange flowers, art and furniture in a room (something which challenges me greatly).

Blog Photo - Bouquet -Jardin

Her home is decorated simply and elegantly – in that French way of combining new stuff with old stuff and still have it all look lovely.

Blog Photo - Salle a manger

Anne is as much at home in Paris as she is in Toronto.

Blog Photo - Salon chez Anne

She has a great relationship with her son and her husband.  And as if all that weren’t enough, Anne teaches French, writes for the theatre and has written an intriguing memoir.

Blog Photo - Book Cover

Ariadne’s Thread: The Women in My Family is  a refreshing read.  It tells the story of the remarkable women in Anne’s family, all of whom were born in Russia before the 1917 revolution. They escaped to France, where, Anne says, “they had to adapt to a life radically different from what they had known. When their world collapsed, they could either collapse with it, or reinvent themselves.”

Blog Photo - Ariadne's Thread 1

The women came from a privileged background.  In Paris, they still had their upper-class manners and traditions, but their income and social standing were both drastically reduced. It was a harsh change and one that could have broken their spirits. They chose to survive instead.

From these women – Anne’s grandmother, aunts and her mother – Anne learned values which have guided her own life: “resilience in adversity, self-reliance, frugality”.

I’ve read this book twice. I gobbled it up the first time –  then read it again, more slowly.

I love it for the characters: Anne’s grandmother, aunts (so different from each other), and her mother. And I love it for the small details (such as Anne’s unmanageable reddish hair when she was a girl, and her teacher’s face and neck, among many other skillful descriptions).

Anne's Father and Aunts
Anne’s Father and Aunts

Canada’s story is sometimes described as “a story of immigration”.  All of us have roots – close roots or distant ones – in another part of the world.  Some of those immigrants came seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children.  Some families gave up luxury to gain freedom.  They fled war, revolution, oppression – leaving their privileged lifestyles, loved ones and precious belongings behind.

Whatever our history, wherever our roots, the stories we Canadians tell are often infused with dreams, sacrifice and faith in a better tomorrow.

By examining the lives of the women in her family, Anne’s book offers “clues for a better future”.

Anne Nenarakoff-Van Burek

“If we want a better world,” she says, “we could do worse than turn to a few old-fashioned values and work at putting them into practice. The book is a tribute to the precious heritage I received from people who lived and loved fully, and for whom everyday life was a celebration. I hope they will inspire many.”

Blog Photo - Inka

Ariadne’s Thread: The Women in My Family is available on Friesen Press, amazon and through most booksellers worldwide. You can buy the book in English or in a bilingual version (French and English). Below are the ISBN numbers:

  • 978-1-897018-53-8 is the bi-lingual version
  • 978-1-4602-0721-5 (Hardcover, English)
  • 978-1-4602-0719-2 (Softcover, English)

One last thing:   did I mention that Anne also embroiders?  That’s her work on the book cover.

A talented woman and an interesting book.

Postscript: Anne died on Saturday. Her loving husband John, son Nicolas and his family and many friends and relatives feel the loss of her vibrant presence but also feel enriched by her unique spirit in our lives.

Colour Photos by John Van Burek.

A Good Home

Update From Me

Yes – I’m missing in action – again. Sorry.

Here’s an update about a few things.

Huge snowstorm last week! By the time it was over, at least 20 inches of snow. Our side-road wasn’t cleared for 2 days.

The GrandToddler is speaking in sentences and repeating things other family members say. It’s delightful. But it reminded GrandPa and GrandMa of the time, decades earlier, when one of us yelled (forgetting our own toddler was in the room): “Turn off the f—ing light!” That toddler (now a Mama herself) went around saying: “F—ing light, F—-light.” We were horrified at what we’d done. Thank goodness she stopped saying it after a short while.

The amaryllis flowers have bloomed and rebloomed through December and January and now we’re on our last bloom for a while. What a cheery sight.

My friend, late 80’s, lives in a long term care home but her mind is sharper than mine, her will is strong and though she uses a walker, she takes long walks every day. Or did, till the latest COVID wave caused her and the other residents to be locked in. Meaning she couldn’t leave her room.

I was so busy with family matters, it was days before I realized what it was doing to this remarkable woman and by the time we chatted by phone, she was in tears. The isolation and lack of activity had worn her down.

I started to call her every morning, and sometimes, evenings as well, chatting about everything but lockdowns.

I discovered one small aspect of her lockdown life, though, that made us both laugh: early every morning, she defied the lockdown by sneaking downstairs to fetch a newspaper from the empty lobby. She knew she wouldn’t encounter anyone else, but I imagined her in her house robe and slippers, pushing her walker and hoping no-one would catch her breaking the rules. It gave me a smile every day.

When the lockdown ended – after about 23 days – I rejoiced with her. But I told her I also felt slightly cheated that she no longer had to steal out of her room to fetch the paper. That gave us both a chuckle.

I, of course, know what it’s like to be stuck in a room, unable to leave. It happened to me again last fall when I got myself in trouble for doing “normal” things like walking through big department stores searching for a single item – and ignoring the warning signs from my back, leg and foot till it was too late. I never get used to being stuck in bed, and when I have to take painkillers, I feel like a failure. Still.

I hope you’re coping with the pandemic lockdowns. It gets to me some days, but (so far) I’m surfacing. I stay connected to 2 arts organizations. I have friends and relatives who are struggling with much bigger health issues than mine so I keep busy supporting them in different ways.

Despite the abundant snow and cold, I ‘m also feeling better these days – which is another kind of warning. It’s when I feel better that I get into trouble! Wish me luck – or at least some patience and maturity.

A Good Home

Christmas Thanksgiving

Whether you celebrate Christmas, the Solstice, or another special/sacred time this December, I wish you joy, peace and good health.

Entry Hallway Table at Christmas

For our family, this is a sacred season. And fun. And a bit hectic with the cleaning up, the grocery shopping, the card-sending, the present-wrapping, the phone calls. And then comes a time of peace. A time of reflection and thanksgiving.

We give thanks for those who never stop working to make our lives easier and safer – the nurses and other healthcare workers in particular right now. And the supermarket workers, the people who pick up our garbage and recycling, the postal workers, those who deliver packages. The faith leaders, the caring neighbours – people who never seem to stop helping others.

We thank those who work through the holidays to keep homeless people safe, to keep some families and individuals fed and cared for.

For our own family, friends and neighbours who are always there for us, even when they can’t be with us in person.

For my blogger friends – some who have helped bolster us with prayers and good wishes through challenging times.

For readers of my books – whether it’s the Myrtle the Purple Turtle books created by Lauren and me, or more recently, Twigs in My Hair, the gardening & nature memoir created by Hamlin Grange and myself. Thank you.

I wish you peace and joy this season. And good health – always good health.

I give thanks to God for this holy time. For the blessings that surround us.

The world may have seemed even scarier in recent times. But always – always – there is something and someone to be thankful for.

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!

Cynthia.