My First Book

Crossing a big ticket item off your bucket list is a momentous occasion. This I know, as I have managed to clear my entire 2015 Ta-Da list and am walking into 2016 with a relatively clean slate. Of the many achievements of the year passé, the biggest, and most personally exciting, is finally getting around to self-publishing my first novel.

Once upon a time, I jumped out of a plane. The most common question afterward was Alex Skydivingfrom how high I jumped. When I answer 3,000 feet, there is always that little catch, that little hesitation that says, oh, is that all? To which I always respond, hey, dead’s dead; doesn’t matter how far you fell.

So, then, yeah, I self-published my own book. But the thing is, I never really wanted to publish it at all. That’s not why I wrote it. I’m not looking for fame and glory. It matters not a lick to me one way or the other what happens to it now. (Although, yes, I would be beside myself if Kevin Costner wanted to make it into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Channing Tatum. But I digress…) I was happy to have completed the story. I wrote over 100,000 words, in some kind of a coherent order, and enjoyed every minute of the process.

It was my husband, Paul, who had always pestered me to try to find a publisher for it. Ironic that he had never actually read a word I wrote – that also being funny since so much of it was about him. But he, ever my greatest supporter, wanted me to publish it. I decided that, yes, I did want to see a copy on my shelf along with some of my other favourite books and started editing it.  Before it was done, he passed away.

As I prepared to tackle my renovations last summer, I finally thought I should put this task on the grand Ta-Da! list and get ‘er done. Before the office went in. Before my thoughts and dreams would become obsessed with Romantic Shorts. And so I put the whole thing together and published it through Amazon.

Pyrrhic Truths Front CoverAs it turns out, it doesn’t matter who actually turns your story into a book; when that pile of neatly trimmed paper lands in your hands, and without thinking, you stick your nose in and breath in that new-book smell, the elation and satisfaction of accomplishment are to die for!! And there it sits on my shelf. Quietly watching me and whispering constantly that it would like a baby sibling.

Yeah. I’m on that.

And looking forward to it.

Welcome to the family, Pyrrhic Truths!

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An Open Letter to Potential Refugees

Dear Refugee:

I am one of the Canadians who is not supporting our new Prime Minister’s promise to bring you and thousands of others like you here to relocate.

There is a good chance I’m going to lose some friends over this. Fact is, if anything I say here comes as a surprise, they didn’t know me very well. But please, hear me out.

This does not make me a bad person. This does not mean I don’t care. And it does not make me racist.

It does, however, mean that I will protect my family and my friends, my safety and my way of life before I will blindly accept you on your word. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know you. You have an incredible story. It’s very likely a lot worse than you’ve been able to express. And I don’t for a minute pretend to understand what you’ve been through.

But I do understand enough to know that I cannot let you bring danger with you.

Chances are, you have a great deal to offer Canada. You likely have skills and ideas to improve things here. You are probably capable of contributing to the compassion, culture, and success of our land. You will bring new opinions, traditions, and perspective. These are actually the ingredients that have made Canada the beautiful place it is!

But I don’t know that. I don’t know you. You can’t possibly just expect me to trust you. And that has nothing to do with who you are, where you’re from, or what deity you think created us all.

It does have something to do with the people who are chasing you from your home.

You see, if I were a bad guy, I’d make sure me and some other bad guys blended in with you and your families, and I’d wait for some caring, big-hearted country to let us in, and, well, really, it’d just be too easy. Things have changed in the 500+ years that immigrants have been joining this nation. Gone are the days when people arrived not knowing what a suicide bomber was. All it takes is one lone murderer, one who is convinced of his mission and is not afraid to die, to threaten the safety of innocent Canadians. That price is too high to pay. And I for one do not want to be sitting at the funeral of two hundred of my friends and family consoling myself with the fact that at least I didn’t hurt some poor refugees’ feelings by not trusting them.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t come here. On the contrary, like most Canadians, I’d like to do more to help those who do come find their way once they’re here.

What I am saying is, I’d like to see a better way to get you here. As our neighbours in Newfoundland reacted to hundreds of sudden visitors on 9-11, there are countless families in Canada who would be willing to help – to put their own money, not just their tax dollars where their mouths are – and our Government should encourage that. I’d like to see every family who supports this initiative sponsor a refugee family. Sponsorship should include lodging, within or close to the sponsor family’s home, provision of new and donated supplies, goods, and belongings, intensive guidance to help the new family find their way through our health and education systems, our employment and banking systems, even our grocery stores and garbage collection protocols. Sponsoring a refugee family should mean inclusion into Canadian culture – all facets of it: our food, our dress, transportation, entertainment. The sponsor must ensure that the new family understands Canadian manners and masters at least one of our official languages. And the sponsor should be completely and totally, 100% responsible for any negative impact their charge may have on our community.

Imagine coming to a country where you spend at least three years in close, protected, inclusive, and compassionate contact with a family who already knows what life in Canada really has to offer, and sponsors would enjoy untold tax breaks to help offset the expense of having a second family to support until they’re on their feet.

Of course, Canadians who are truly against this humanitarian immigration would not feel compelled to participate, but could rest easy knowing that those refugees who do arrive are making connections and building relationships with their Canadian sponsors, neighbours, and community in a positive and meaningful way. As we get to know each other, we build respect. And trust. And you become one of us, contributing everything good that you, your family, and your culture have to offer. Trust me, Canadians will always welcome a new food and another reason to celebrate!

The bottom line is, I’m afraid. I’m as afraid of the bad guys as you are. In some ways, I have more to lose. We enjoy a peace that you probably can’t imagine. One that I’d love to share with you. But to do that, we first have to protect it. And if we’re stupid about this whole process, you could very well be making the trip for nothing.

It’s Okay To Let Go Of The Kids

I had the privilege of spending yesterday visiting my boys at their places. By the end of the day, I had come to realize a great many things for which I am truly and utterly grateful. And a few things I need to file into the ‘Nailed It’ category.

Both of my sons, now aged 22 and 21, have had a very rough year. Though they travel in very different circles, have very different abilities, and are at very different stages in their life journeys, each was faced with a serious and major turning point in their young lives. Both are still adjusting to their new circumstances without Dad. Becoming men themselves, both have been denied the greatest single influence and support to their success. At a time when they both need Dad more than ever, they are having to learn to rely on themselves and trust that they already know what they need to know. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.

I have watched them both struggle, in their own ways, making mistakes, backtracking, making little steps in the right direction, and falling down again. Always, I have been ready with the safety net. But mostly I’ve had to stand back and let them go. And wait. And hope. And trust.

Over the past few months, each of my sons has met a crossroads. Both were faced with choices that could have had devastating and permanent repercussions. Both were forced to balance emotion with logic. Both have found themselves fighting for their futures. It’s been unbearable to have to watch.

In the past few weeks, both have pushed me out completely. And I have had to trust that we gave them the skills. To believe that they have the heart and the fire to see them through the worst their lives will throw at them. To hope I’ve been able to give them enough.

Going into yesterday, I was unsure. Worried even. When last I spoke to either of them, each was facing a decision, choosing a new path. Both were considering options that hadn’t even breathed their first breath just days ago. I had no idea what to expect. I pulled out of the driveway knowing that, good or bad, things were going to look quite different when I got back.

Twelve hours later, I sat in the van, parked, radio still on, and broke down. Somewhere along the way, we had got things right. Somehow, we have raised two boys – two incredibly different children – into two responsible and independent young men.

I spent my morning yesterday with one son who took charge of his own life, despite my desperate attempts to slow him down fearing he was not quite ready. Yet he was easily able to convince me that I was wrong. He is well. And safe. And happy.

My afternoon took me out to catch up with his brother, who had shut me out as he wrestled with a complete change of direction. As I sat listening to his plan, I couldn’t help but realize that his path had led him to exactly where he needs to be right now. And looking down the road with him is very exciting.

So I sat in the van, feeling the gratitude. And the hope. And marvelling that both of my sons have chosen their own way. Both have chosen independence. Both are confident and compassionate and strong. They are so different. And yet, in all the ways that matter most, they are exactly the same. I couldn’t be more proud to be their mom.

As for all my doubt and worry – I’m entitled. Only hindsight can spout cliches about everything happening for a reason and working out in the end. I don’t care how much faith you have; sometimes things don’t work out. Happy endings are not guaranteed. But I do know how to recognize one when I see it.

And yesterday, though not an ending but two incredible new beginnings, will be filed in the ‘Things I Can’t Express Enough Gratitude For’ drawer. Part earned. Part lucky. And all appreciated.