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.

 

 

 

 

 

Childhood, Childhood Memories, Myrtle The Purple Turtle

What Makes You Different….

No child wants to be different. To be taunted for something you can’t change.

I know.

I wanted dark hair, like everyone else. Instead, during childhood, I had flaming reddish hair. “Reds” was the kindest of my nicknames.

I loved playing — boisterously — with my sisters and friends. Suddenly, I was struck with childhood epilepsy, and — over several years — would have to frequently retreat to quiet spaces. While my friends played, I read books, kept a journal and sometimes wrote little stories.

I grew to love reading and writing and — thank goodness — my family nurtured this love.  I read so well that my mother and grandmother sent me to read the Bible and newspaper to elderly patients in the local infirmary. 

It was my first “job” as a volunteer, but a weird role for a small child. I didn’t want to do it at first. I wanted to be out playing, like the other children.

~~

How was I to know that the very things that made me odd would also make me strong? 

That having reddish hair in childhood would strengthen my empathy towards “different” people, persisting long after my hair colour had gradually darkened on its own?

That having epilepsy — being forced to slow down and read — would nurture my love of stories and words and expand my view of the world outside our small village?

That all of it, even reading the news to elderly people, would help prepare me for rewarding careers in television, community service,  and — more recently — in publishing?

~~

E6BCE995-289B-4D68-96B4-2347B7056FE3

If I could, I’d tell every child in the world:

Don’t hate the things that make you different. Love them. Because the very things that you’re teased for, even excluded for, will provide some of your greatest strengths.

I’d say:

See the teasing and strange looks as proof that you’re wonderful.

It’s painful now, I know.

It’s hard to believe now, I know. 

Try to believe it anyway.

I know.

~~

Dedicated to every child who feels different, including a very bright young girl with purple glasses whom I recently met.

#loveyourshell

A Good Home, Author's Homes, Personality Profile

At Home With Sally Cronin

 

Sally Cronin  makes me want to stand up and salute.

An icon among independent authors and bloggers, Sally is host to more than 32-thousand blog followers, supporter of hundreds of authors around the world, author of eleven books,  gardener and wife.

Blog Photo - Sally CroninMCU

She and her husband David live in Ireland.

But let’s start at their beginning.

“I was assistant manager of a hotel and took David’s booking for 10 days starting on September 16th.  I commented to one of the receptionists that I loved his accent and that I thought I would marry him… joking!

Blog Photo - david and sally

“He arrived and I organised some business meetings for him. He was due to leave on the 26th but booked in for another two nights. He invited me for a drink after work and we chatted for about an hour.

“He asked if I would have lunch with him the next day.  We had lunch and walked along a windswept beach in the rain. That evening, he met me after work with a Chinese takeaway and the next day he came to say goodbye. He confessed that he had booked the two extra nights so he could ask me out, because he had fallen for me right away.

“We married six weeks later on November 15th, 1980.”

~~

Blog Photo - Sally flowers

Since that remarkable beginning, Sally and David have lived in 17 houses — some rented, some bought and restored — in countries as varied as Sri Lanka, South Africa and Spain.

Each one has had a different location or character but all were home because we were living there. For me, home is where the heart is and that means David and me.” 

They recently returned to Ireland after several years in Spain. The two share a large home office.

Blog Photo - Sally Workspace

“I also love the kitchen-diner where I create meals and we entertain our family and friends. However, I have to say that I love our little library. Every time I walk through, I can see my collection of books from Wilbur Smith and other favourite authors.”

Blog Photo - Sally Library

Sally’s own books range from novels to non-fiction, sometimes inspired by her own life.

“My first book, Size Matters, was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70 kilo. I have written another ten books since then. I am an Indie author and proud to be one.” 

Blog Photo - Sally Book-covers-10x

Sally took a break from writing books when her mother became ill and died in 2012. A qualified nutritional therapist, she started her blog (Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life) “as a place to write about health, humour and any other subject that interested me.”

Her blog also provides a platform for other authors — a place where they’re introduced and their books promoted.

“After twenty years as an Indie author, I understand how difficult it can be to keep your latest book in the spotlight… Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing an author that I have promoted receiving a comment stating that ‘I have bought your book’. Job done.”

~~

Blog Photo - Sally garden

At home, Sally and David always seem to have something on the go. They’ve been working on the garden. And Sally’s new book, inspired by the couple’s return to Ireland, launches this spring. It’s the sequel to Tales from the Garden. 

Blog Photo - Sally Tales From the Garden - Cover

“Tales from the Irish Garden continues the story of Queen Filigree and her court as they seek exile in Ireland in the garden of the Storyteller. The stories are linked and fall into the four seasons, peopled by new characters, resulting in some tears and I hope quite a bit of laughter.”

Her own life has included personal disasters, triumphs and suprises. 

“Around every corner there has been the unexpected. I have pushed open some fascinating doors which led to where I am today.

“Although we are now well into our 60s, we still believe there are a few more doors to push open and a few more places to visit. For example, we love our current house, but in a few years it will be time to move on. As long as we are together, wherever we end up will be home.”

~~

A Good Home, Book Honours, Book Readers, Books, Must-read books of the year

Myrtle Makes “The List”

The news today is that Myrtle has made “The List” — CQI Magazine’s list of must-read books. This is thrilling news indeed and we are very grateful.

At the end of the year, I also want to warmly acknowledge:

  • Reviewers and journalists who’ve shone a spotlight on Myrtle the Purple Turtle and helped make it a bestseller
  • Book-buyers who purchased a copy for their family, friends, local schools, libraries and charities — and some who sent me such delightful photos
  • Teachers who are using Myrtle to instil in their students the value of compassion, respect, self-acceptance and friendship 
  • Librarians who have bought copies of the book for their members
  • All of you who have supported my family and illustrator Jo Robinson along our unusual journey to publishing the story of Myrtle. That includes you — my blogging, Facebook and Twitter friends, who have cheered us on.

THANK YOU!

I wish you a healthy and rewarding new year.