A Good Home, Arts, Libraries, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

A Busy Week and Purple Fingernails

Accepting a blogger friend’s challenge, I painted my nails purple to attend the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, Ontario last weekend.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Purple Nails

Of course, my friend won the challenge hands-down (hands-up?) because in this picture below, she’s also wearing a purple shirt! 

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Mandy and Purple Nails

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I’m a volunteer with the Festival and it was a great success! Painters, photographers, authors, actors, musicians and others shared their talents with enthusiastic audiences.

Blog Photo - Festival Marie-Lynn playing guitar

Blog Photo - Pat Calder Stall at Festival

Blog Photo - Festival Mandy Bing paintings

Blog Photo - Festival Book Fair

Blog Photo - Festival Sharon Ramsay Curtis

Blog Photo - Festival Kim aubrey reading

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival Performers

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival gifts for Chairs
Above 6 photos by Hamlin Grange

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In the photo just above, publisher Jennifer Bogart(right) and I are presenting gifts to Felicity Sidnell Reid (left) and Susan Statham (2nd from right), the hard-working co-chairs of the Festival’s organizing committee.  

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It’s also been a great ‘Myrtle week’.  I dropped into A Different Booklist  – one of Toronto’s best-known book stores. Owners Itah and Miguel introduced me to customers Shay Lin (holding a copy of Myrtle), an international student from China, and Qing, her mother.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist

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Earlier, CBC Radio interviewed daughter Lauren and me about Myrtle. Metro Morning host Matt Galloway and his team were terrific. They pre-interviewed us, and, when we arrived, made us welcome. Then they talked us through the journey the interview would take.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Interview by Matt Galloway

They were so kind, I suspected that someone in the team must have read An Honest House, which describes my struggles with PTSD, cognitive difficulties and pain following a car accident. So I asked producer Morgan Passi.

Imagine my delight to discover that this is just the way they operate!

Blog Photo - Myrtle interview by Wei Chen

Next, Lauren and I were skilfully interviewed by the wonderful host of Ontario Morning, Wei Chen. She greeted us warmly, made us feel entirely at home and the interview began. 

Bravo, CBC Radio!

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A few days ago, Seattle’s Allen J. Mears posted on Facebook a photo of his daughters, Megan, 8, and Hailey, 6, with Myrtle. I loved it! Thanks to the Mears family for allowing me to share it here.

Blog Photo - Myrtle with Megan and Hailey

I love  photos of children reading Myrtle, courtesy of kind parents and grandparents.

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to 2 daughters

In these photos, Ashly Dixon in Wisconsin is reading Myrtle to her daughters Denali, 9, Anika, 6, and son Vincent, 2, while their father Damien takes the photos. 

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to children by Ashly

Ashly says they all love the book, including the brilliant illustrations and Myrtle’s “message of acceptance and knowing one’s self-worth” .

Thanks, Dixon family. 

And don’t you just love the pyjamas?

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Carl Randall, a veteran marathon runner, did something unusual to spread the word about Myrtle.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Carl at Brunswick County PL

He and his wife Jackie have brought Myrtle to libraries in various cities — including New York, where he recently ran the marathon.

Blog Photo - Myrtle held by Carl at NYPL 2

Thanks, Carl and Jackie! 

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Finally, Kev Cooper – blogger, book reviewer, author and musician — has made Myrtle “Book of the Month” on his website, Books & Music.  Wow, Kev! Thank you!

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A Good Home, Author Interviews, Book Interviews, Books, Interview Shows, The Next Chapter

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE

Pushing the limits is risky, even reckless.

But I learned early that pushing the limits was the only way to succeed.

Book launch Cynthia reads and smiles closeup

It took long-term injuries from a car accident for me to learn – angrily, grudgingly – that some mountains aren’t surmountable.

Along the way, I gave my doctors, therapists and family a helluva time.

Apologized sincerely each time.

And yet, here I was, pushing the limits again.

**

You have to hand it to chronic pain: it’s cruel, but consistent.

Post traumatic stress disorder lives in the shadows, striking unexpectedly.

It’s my own personal terrorist.

I’ve had therapy and medication. But just when I think I’m improving, the damned thing strikes again.

Book cynthia closeup reading at Evas

It gives me nightmares, and in the daylight, jumps out of memory bushes I didn’t even know were there. Then I become terrified, and if I speak at all, it’s a tortured stutter.

Can you imagine that happening on a radio or TV interview about my new book?

agoodhome_cynthiareyesThis was one limit not worth pushing.

**

ONE YEAR LATER

Radio hosts Felicity Sidnell Reid and Gwynn Scheltema just wouldn’t quit.

Blog Photo - Felicity Sidnell Reid

Blog Photo - Interviewer Gwyn Scheltema

In late summer, they finally got me into their studio for their show,  Word On The Hills.

They’d agreed to accommodate my restrictions.

And I used every tool my therapist taught me – even making fun of myself.  

Listen to all or part of it here:

  http://wordonthehills.com/2014/08/31/cynthia-reyes/

**

Then came the second interview.

I had foolishly said “Yes” a year earlier — then prayed it wouldn’t happen.

My family and friends were the ones pushing me this time.

Blog Photo - Shelagh Rogers and The Next chapter

“Shelagh Rogers is a wonderful interviewer,” they kept saying. “She’s skilled and compassionate. She won’t let you fall on your face.”

It wasn’t Shelagh’s skills or compassion that worried me.

It was the fact that she’s been so candid about her own struggles that I knew I had to open up about mine.

Worse, she’d be coming to the place where I am most myself: my home.

All of this meant that I was headed for disaster.

**

We walked around the garden, chatting pleasantly.

Flowers bloomed, birds sang, the sun shone.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

And then it was time.

**

Afterwards, my friend Marilyn arranged afternoon tea for all of us. I remembered most of that lovely event, but almost nothing of the interview that preceded it.

I know an interview took place.  I know I cried at times. And I remembered kindness from Shelagh and her team. 

I later heard the interview along with CBC Radio listeners across Canada. Listen here
Blog Photo - Cynthia Reyes on The Next Chapter

So, what did I learn?  

That laughter helps. (And tea.)

That pushing myself remains risky. 

But sometimes, I have to take the risk.

**

Thank you, Shelagh, Felicity, Gwyn and your teams.

A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Autumn Colours, Maple Trees, Ontario in Autumn, Shelagh Rogers, The Next Chapter

Autumn Colours in Ontario

We’re giving thanks for so much here at the old farmhouse, where my husband, his childhood friend Tasso and I just listened to the wonderful Shelagh Rogers interviewing me about the story behind my book A Good Home, on CBC Radio.

Friends in Canada: the show is repeated Saturday at 4 p.m.

For my friends worldwide, here’s the podcast.
http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/nextchapter_20141013_25045.mp3
I leave you with this interview, and the beautiful fall colours of Ontario.
Much to be thankful for, indeed. With love and thanks, from our family to you.

Cynthia Reyes

Thanks to Hamlin Grange for his lovely photographs

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Imagine my first autumn in Canada. I’d come here from Jamaica, where the trees and shrubs didn’t change colours — unless you counted the parade of blooms on shrubs like bougainvillea and trees like the poinciana.

Autumn in Ontario was a wonderland of changing colours and scents. The fresh smell of a cool fall day, the rain having come overnight and disappeared by morning, replaced by brilliant sunshine. The smell of wood logs burning in the fireplace.  The blazing colours of the trees. And the shrubs.  And the pumpkins.

Photo by Hamlin Grange Photo by Hamlin Grange

Photo by Hamlin Grange

 Colours, glorious colours. 

I had seen pictures, but the first time I beheld the autumn colours with my own eyes, I was astonished. When I realized that the leaves would soon fall and the maple and oak trees would be stripped of their glory, leaving bare branches and trunks…

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A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Authors, Book lovers, Books, Canadian Gardens, Canadian life, Canadians, Country Living, Gardens, Verandahs, Victorian Teas

A Cup of Comeuppance

I grew up in the tea-drinking capital of Jamaica.

Mandeville.

Mandeville was a mountain resort town. The air was cool, the sweaters were thick and some of the oldest homes were built with multiple fireplaces.

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This and the  next 3 pictures are via google images

It was a snobbish society back then, and more British than the British. The denizens of Mandeville included the titled, the somewhat aristocratic, and those who wished they were.

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Blog Photo - Mandeville view

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Bloomfield Great House, Mandeville

Afternoon Tea meant dressing up; cucumber sandwiches prepared by a servant; tea served from heirloom teapots into dainty cups.

I looked down my nose at these customs.

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Fast forward a few decades, and I’m at home near Toronto, when a friend serves me my comeuppance. A cup of comeuppance, you could call it.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Garden

Marilyn Mirabelli, owner of Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas, catered an afternoon tea for my visitors. As you can imagine, Marilyn is passionate and knowledgeable about tea.

Guests included Shelagh Rogers, the celebrated and beloved host of the CBC’s author-interview program, The Next Chapter. Shelagh had read about our old house and garden in my book, A Good Home, and I was pleased to invite her and her colleagues Jacquie and Erin to visit.

Marilyn and Shelagh
Marilyn and Shelagh

We sat around the verandah table, drinking tea from colourful cups.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea pink cup and saucer

We enjoyed delicious freshly-baked scones, fruit preserves, Devon clotted cream, and smoked salmon.

The tea was called Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teapot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea in Pot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Ladies

Marilyn regaled us with tea-tales.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Cup and Saucer 2

Contrary to popular belief, Marilyn said, it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford – a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria – who started the afternoon tea tradition.

Anna had dizzy spells in the afternoon, so the doctor prescribed tea with buttered bread. Soon, the other ladies-in-waiting joined Anna in her chamber for tea and toast. Queen Victoria liked the  ritual so much, she joined the tea party too.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea and Cup Ear

We also learned that a teacup handle is called an “ear”. Guess why?

Marilyn explained the markings on the bottom-side of our saucers, which give clues to the origins of each set. We eagerly held out our saucers to learn more.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Saucer markings

My husband dropped in to say hello. He said we were all grinning like girls at a tea party. Which I guess we were. Kinda.

Fact is, for one afternoon, I’d become a lady who does afternoon tea. 

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teacups

I imagined that my teenage self would have been horrified.

“But we’re not snobs!” I told her.  “And we don’t wear hats! And the teacups don’t match! And there are holes in the old chenille spread – – er, tablecloth!”

But she was not amused.

So I didn’t dare tell her that I could get to really like afternoon tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

Just as long as the cups don’t match, the tablecloth has holes, no-one has a fancy title, and everyone knows how to giggle.