Copyright

Please note that all posts are copyright. Do not reprint in whole or in part without permission of the author. You may refer to one of my posts in your own writing; simply include the link(s) so readers can be taken directly to my work. Thank you, and enjoy! ~Susan

Monday, 29 August 2016

Back to School

I have two young people moving into residence next Monday. They are off today buying school supplies. It seems they no longer need Mother along to guide (or pay for!) their purchases or to question their choices. How sad for me, and yet how gratifying too. Our purpose in parenting is to lead our children to the point where they can stand on their own two feet. This is a gradual process, one in which we all learn. Our children learn by making mistakes and experiencing victories, and we learn to let go as they develop confidence and capability.

I have a few thoughts for blog posts, but am taking the rest of the week off. Though I don't have as much to help my children with this year, I have to prepare for writers' group tonight and this week I have two physiotherapy appointments, three shifts at work, tea and 'biscuits' at the home of a friend my daughter and I share, and an evening life group meeting. That leaves only Friday, Saturday and Sunday to make sure A and K have all that they need for move-in day. We don't want to make multiple trips to the school even though it's not far.

This fall we'll be semi-empty-nesters. I'm sure the kids will come home for occasional visits - Thanksgiving, Reading Week, and Christmas at least. I'm not sure what their plans are beyond the end of the academic year; maybe this is it. Regardless, it's bound to be a transition for all of us, and I wish all of us well. If you have any advice for this season of life, please feel free to share it in the comments!


 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Flashback Friday

Thanks for the positivity during my recent illness. Things did happen in threes, unfortunately: first, I got sick, then I fell in the shower and tore a muscle in my side, then I wound up with pink eye!! But apart from my side, which still mostly hurts, I am finally better.

And now a post from April 28, 2012, when I still had my old blog, Notes from Innisfree. I called this one 'Yellow Brick Road' and wrote it for the A-Z Blogging Challenge:

As part of my daughter's birthday celebration (she had her birthday on Thursday this week), we're going to see a stage production of The Wizard of Oz today. That got me thinking that the 'yellow brick road' would be an appropriate topic for today's letter, Y.

What was the yellow brick road? It was the path Dorothy and Toto, along with the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion, had to travel to get to Oz. What did they hope to find there? The wizard, who they hoped would help Dorothy and Toto get home, give the scarecrow some brains, give the tin man a heart, and fill the lion with courage. In other words, each had a need they thought the wizard would be able to fill. In the end, though, they discover that each had what s/he needed right from the start. Dorothy and Toto had the ruby slippers that would enable them to return to Kansas; the scarecrow had a brain, the tin man a heart, and the lion his courage. They just didn't know it.
 
Isn't that like most of us? We have what we need, but don't realize it, or don't know how to access it. Of course, for many, the void is Jesus. They need him, but don't think they do. Or they know there's a God-shaped hole inside, but they don't want to give up control to him. They believe they know what's best and they're afraid God would "ruin" all their dreams and plans. Hey, he's the giver of dreams and all good things (James 1:17). He's not a killjoy. His plans are for our good and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11).  He gives all that we need for living (2 Peter 1:3), and nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37).
 
If you have a dream, don't be afraid to fulfill it, especially if you know God has given it to you, and shaped you to achieve it. Trust in God, and don't lean on your own feeble understanding. In all your ways, seek the will of the One who created you, and he will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6). Honey-child, you have a destiny, and it doesn't involve traveling down a mythical yellow brick road. It's the real deal.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Under the Weather

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last several days. I've been feeling, and still am, under the weather. Hopefully the antibiotic I'm now on will kick in soon and I'll be back to writing. For now just taking it easy, trying to get the rest I need to beat this thing.

Be well, dear readers!!
 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Book Review: Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2013
Genre: Biographical Fiction

First Lines


The prologue begins with a letter from Z to Scott in 1940, which I won't include here, and continues with
If I could fit myself into this mail slot, here, I'd follow my letter all the way to Hollywood, all the way to Scott, right up to the door of our next future. We have always had a next one, after all, and there's no good reason we shouldn't start this one now. If only people could travel as easily as words. Wouldn't that be something? If only we could be so easily revised.
Goodreads Description
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby's parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott's, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda's irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

My Review

Very well written and researched, Z tells the story of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the celebrated author of 'The Great Gatsby,' F. Scott Fitzgerald. Part of the literary and well-off communities, the pair lived the high life in America and Europe, partying the days and nights away in an ever-flowing river of booze and letting the money flow through their fingers like water. There was no such thing as 'economy,' and they were often in debt but wouldn't change their ways. Zelda was full of life and ambition, but was held back by Scott's insecurity and his desire for a 'proper' wife (i.e. one who would worship him as well as stay home and look after domestic and family matters). While they loved one another and in some ways were devoted, their marriage was troubled and Z experienced emotional/mental distress. It is hard to imagine what life was like for their daughter, Scottie.

In many ways a depressing read, it certainly provides an eye-opener into the life and times of two talented and artistic individuals during the early part of the 20th century. At times I did find it hard to keep track of some of the lesser characters.

If you enjoyed 'The Paris Wife' (Paula McLain), this title will interest to you as well.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, 8 August 2016

Intentional Parenting: Money

One lesson that doesn't come naturally for children is good financial stewardship. Because they are accustomed to having everything provided for them by loving parents, they tend to believe that resources are bottomless and that they can have everything they need and want. Most parents haven't been left an unlimited inheritance and know that, if not managed carefully, at some point the money will run out. Children need to learn that money does not, in fact, grow on trees.

I mentioned previously that we have windows of opportunity to teach our children certain things, and the value of money is one of them. A primary way we instruct is through our own example, so the first thing you need to do is determine how you handle money. Are you a spender or a saver? Do you make purchases impulsively or only after a great deal of thought? Do you know how to delay gratification? Do you want your children to grow up and be in the same financial position  you are, or in a better one? If you need to make changes in your own spending habits and understanding of how money works, how are you going to accomplish those changes so that you are a good model to your kids? They are watching us!

My husband and I were recently discussing how our kids caught, or didn't, our own values and habits around money. We definitely feel that we learned to be careful stewards from our own parents through our awareness of their struggles. In my case, I also grew up having a lot of sayings and proverbs drilled into me:
  • If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.
  • Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • If you're not careful, you won't have two nickels to rub together.
  •  A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • 100 pennies make a dollar
Canada ceased production of the penny in 2012 and their distribution in 2013, but non-cash transactions continue to be denominated to the cent. If you're Canadian, you may have to adjust the sayings to reflect our current monetary language. Or perhaps you know other finance-related proverbs you can use; please share them in the comments below.

I do think songs and sayings are a good way to teach, but you also have to show you apply the intent of said songs and sayings to your own spending habits. Do your children see that you take care in your spending? If resources are tight, do they see you buy only what you need? Do you always have to buy brand new, or do they see you shop at the thrift store, on Kijiji, and at yard sales? Are you humble enough to take hand-me-downs from friends and family who have items you could reuse, recycle or repurpose? Can you limit yourself to one fashion trend item of the season, or do you have to have a whole new wardrobe as fashions change? Can you delay gratification on a 'want' item or 'must' you have it NOW?! Children learn what they live. If your own habits aren't good, don't expect your children to have better ones.

Some people use allowances to teach their children good money habits. If you choose to do so, you'll still need to be intentional about how you do it. Allowances never worked for us; our kids didn't seem to care one way or another whether they received their 'own' money. Maybe because they always had everything they needed, supplied by us. So here are some thoughts:
  • make your children buy their own (video games, CDs, DVDs, food treats, this-year's-latest, non-essential foods, gifts for birthday parties, etc.). They will soon see how quickly the money can disappear and may take greater care in their spending choices.
  • ensure that your kids save a set portion of their money every 'pay.' Get them to open a bank account and deposit whatever portion you think is reasonable (at least 10% of every allowance). This way they can see how money saved builds up in their accounts. Some kids get excited about this, especially if they are interested in buying a high ticket item at some point in the future.
  • if you are part of a church or faith organization, teach your children to set apart a portion of their allowance as a tithe (again, 10% is a reasonable minimum)
  • don't tie allowances to household chores. Yes, it may seem like they are getting paid for 'work,' but in my view everyone who is part of a family and who is part of creating a mess or wearing clothes or eating food, should be part of cleaning up, doing laundry, washing dishes, without being rewarded for it. It is simply an expectation when you are a family member.
We can all learn from each other. If you've successfully taught your children to handle money, or if you were successfully taught by your own parents, please tell the rest of us how this was accomplished! (Alternatively, share your failures. They are teachable moments as well.)  

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Rules for the Drive-Thru


My husband and I were fourth in line at the drive-thru last night, stuck behind at least one person in violation of the unwritten rules of the drive-thru. I'm sure we're not the only people who were peeved as we spent at least ten minutes spewing our exhaust into the atmosphere when it should have been a quick process.

As a courtesy to those who may be unaware of the rules and procedures one ought to apply to this situation, here they are:

1. Know what you want before you enter the drive-thru lane. This makes placing your order incredibly easy when you arrive at the microphone. If you have questions about any of the items on the menu, skip the drive-thru, park, and go inside. Be considerate of others.

2. Don't use the drive-thru to order one or several meals. The drive-thru is intended for orders that are quick to supply, like coffee and a muffin/donut/croissant. If your order is larger or more complicated, park and go inside.

3. Don't change your mind about what you want between the microphone/speaker system and the drive-thru window. That just aggravates the cashier/server and holds up the line behind you.

4. Don't ask for substitutions to established menu items. Again, that's complicating the order. In this venue, they're intended to be simple and straightforward.

See how easy it is to properly use the drive-thru? In my opinion as simple as 1-2-3-4.

And here's a 'Do' for you as well:

On occasion, do pay for the person behind you in line. For one thing, it's unexpected and will make his/her day. For another, all day long you'll feel great about your random act of kindness. The world could use more of that, sometimes especially in the drive-thru.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Book Review: One Hundred and Four Horses: A Story of Farm and Family, Afrida and Exile

Author: Mandy Retzlaff
Publisher: Collins, 2013
Genre: non-fiction, memoir

Goodreads Description:

 ‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’

As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.

When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.

Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.

One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.

 
First lines:
They set out as night was falling, but it is almost dawn and there has been no sign of my husband or our horses.
I stand on the wide veranda of the old colonial farmhouse, trying to make out shapes in the early-morning gloom. Before Pat left, he told me to get some sleep, but he has done this before--midnight missions to rustle our own horses off land we no longer own--and I know how it goes.

Goodreads Description:

 ‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’

As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.

When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.

Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.

One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.


My Review:

As someone who cares deeply about both people and animals, this was a tough read. The book begins in Zimbabwe during the time of Mugabe and the wrongful eviction of white landowners from their farms. The Retzlaffs were one of these familiies, and Mandy brings her family's story life vividly. 'Horse people' through and through, the Retzlaffs could not abandon their horses (or anyone else's) to violence or neglect, and risked their lives to bring the horses with them on multiple escapes. At times you will laugh, at times you will cry, but always you will admire the passion and courage of Mandy and her husband Pat to keep their horses alive and safe. Their perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles, and their deep love for Zimbabwe, its horses and the land are felt on every single page.

My Rating: 5 stars

Monday, 1 August 2016

Question of the Month

Happy August, everyone! This month's question is: What is your favourite beach? I'm going to give you my top three, cuz that's just the kind o' gal I am!

My favourite Canadian beach is located in Newfoundland, a place that is dear to my heart. My grandfather was born and raised there and while he spent the vast majority of his life in Ontario, we spent many a summer vacation in his home province. Much of that time involved roaming the abandoned outport in which he was born (Bradley's Cove, for the record), and many an hour in what was known as Crocker's Cove, named after one of several families who'd established the area. Unfortunately, I didn't get a great photo of the beach when I was last there (2010), but here's a half-decent one from my previous visit:


As you can see, it's not sandy, but it's a great place for finding smoothly rounded beach rocks, or for throwing rocks back into the ocean. In my opinion, Newfoundland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. If it wasn't so far away by car, I would go there more often - no doubt about it!

My favourite beach in the United States is located at Fort DeSoto State Park, Florida. In 2005 (and in other years!), it was voted America's Best Beach, which is why we visited it during our trip in '06. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Take a look:


Gorgeous, right? When we went in April, there were very few people to spoil the endless stretch of sand. While there weren't tons of seashells, at least not by the time of day at which we arrived, we did enjoy inspecting those we could find. The water was clean, clear and delightfully temperate. Who could ask for more?

Lastly, my favourite 'local' beach - another sandy one, but this time brought to you by Wasaga Beach, Ontario. It's a bit of a drive for me, made well worth the trip for the longest freshwater beach in the world (14 kms). While it can get crowded on long weekends, and I suppose anytime during the summer, if you arrive early enough, you're sure to find a good spot. I went last year with a couple of girlfriends from high school, and we had a wonderful time.


As you can see by the waves, it can be pretty windy, and we had a hard time holding onto our hats! A good idea to layer, so you can add or remove according to the air temperature. None of us actually went in the water that long August weekend, but there were a number of souls more brave than we!

So, 'fess up - what's your favourite beach? Don't be afraid to name more than one!
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