On the brink of 2018

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It's after 9 in the evening, December 31st, as I write this last post of 2017. I say goodbye soon to the year that's brought varying emotions, accomplishments, and reaffirming of friendships and making new ones too. It's been a year of releasing two new books, Good Grief People, a shared venture with five other authors on the meaning of grief, and the other, Harry's Trees, a direct result of the life my father lived and what he shared with me and others in our family. Together with all the opportunities to promote our books, speak and do storytelling, I am grateful for them all.

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It's a been a year of celebrating achievements with others in my circle of writers, and a year of saying goodbyes to people we've known and loved. A year of supporting friends who have had challenges, even as they lent an ear at earlier times when I needed to share my struggles.

This evening as I look online for others who mark this last evening of 2017, we can look no further than our own Canadian Prime Minister, as recorded on the CBC news this evening.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/new-year-eve-world-cities-livestream-2018-1.4468771

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a statement released Sunday, reflected on the country's accomplishments in the past year, as well as its 150th anniversary of Confederation, but added "we still have a lot of hard work left to do."

"In 2018, let's continue to celebrate the values that unite us - openness, compassion, equality, and inclusion," he said.

"Let's move forward together, put those values into practice, and work to build a better future for all of us."

By this time, Auckland, New Zealand, has already rung in the New Year

Fireworks kick off the New Year in Auckland as New Zealand bids farewell to 2017

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders took to streets and beaches, becoming among the first in the world to usher in 2018.

You don't have to go further than your own backyard--maybe not in the extreme cold tonight--to decide what you will do to promote peace and goodwill in your family and your own community. The goals you're pursuing or intend to pursue. Things of the heart and soul that will bode well for you.

And now for the most recorded song at New Year's, Auld Lang Syne, which is essentially bringing good wishes for the year ahead. The song is an old Scottish tune that's usually credited to Robert Burns in 1788, though Burns admitted that he'd based it off of various Scottish songs and poems. Read here to find out more on why this became a tradition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk8ptSeA49g

Happy New Year to you! Many blessings for the year ahead!


O, Come Let Us Adore Him

DSCF1593.JPGO come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

Translator: Frederick Oakeley; Author: John Francis Wade

Last evening we had a beautiful and peaceful Christmas Eve service at church. Rev. John Boehmer delivered a meaningful sermon about God coming as a baby that we might stop and notice amid our troubling and, at times, trying world. I loved his story about the boy, Mischa, in the orphanage and keeping Jesus warm. I'd love to read it again and again.

We drove home in fresh snow and we do have a White Christmas. I rearranged my creche figures to show the baby in the manger, the way artists think it might have looked.

This morning, Christmas morning, dawned bright and clear, the trees shuddering in the wind and awhile ago, light snow blowing off the workshop roof. Likely pretty cold out there, yet the sky is blue with some puffy white clouds.

If you're travelling today, dress warm and drive safely and have a good day with family or friends. And remember Christ coming as a baby that God might be with us.


Oh, Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree is an eclectic collection of memories. The ornaments come from a variety of places and people.

DSCF9527.JPGThis machine stitched emblem was a gift from Elaine, a former member of our Business Associates Breakfast.

DSCF9520.JPG This one is made from a gourd that's carved out to resemble a bird house. I bought it from a vendor at Christmas in Paris a couple of years ago. It's delightful.

DSCF9522.JPG This ornament came from my friend Karleen who now lives in Colorado Springs. I put it on the tree every year to remember the diversity of culture in that area that includes native Americans.

DSCF9525.JPGOne of my pewter ornaments made in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. This one of many was a gift from my friend Maryann who lives out east.

DSCF9524.JPGSanta, ready for the beach, from New Zealand. A gift from our daughter, Adrienne, and son-in-law, Tyler, when they lived across the world from us. They're not likely to forget that Christmas when they couldn't get a turkey dinner.

DSCF9528.JPGOne of my favourite angels, from the Angel Store in St. Jacobs, Ontario. I love how the light shines through it.

DSCF9530.JPGA lovely beaded ornament, one of a set, made by my writer friend, Kelly, some time ago. Still goes on my tree every year.

DSCF9517.JPG My tree with other ornaments and a tree skirt that I made in my craft business days. A crocheted snowflake made by my mother-in-law, a hand-print ornament with my granddaughter's hand, a broom doll, also from craft days. A cross-stitched elf made by a choir mate, Pat, when I sang in a particular choir. Love them all.

What memories does your tree hold? Can you name them?


Posting at The Word Guild

This week I posted at The Word Guild authors' site as I do once a month.

A Promise Waiting

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Snow falls softly here as I write today. No doubt there'll be more snow by the end of the day. People were out raking leaves just over a week ago, but soon the cold wind came, shooting like an arrow down the tunnel of the city's main street.
Tuesday evening I'd been out to meet with writer friends from our critique group, for a little social time before Christmas. On the way back to my car, the wind pushed against me, making me shiver and my teeth chatter. Though I wore a warm winter coat, my legs were cold. I thought, Here comes winter.
Coloured lights remind us that Christmas will come soon and the snow with it. In some points north, I'm sure they have plenty of it.
Winter, in our part of the world, begins near Christmas usually, and the nights are darker. Soon we'll have the longest night or shortest day of the year, however you want to look at it. At that time of year some folks mark Blue Christmas because of losses they've suffered. Others struggle with diminishing sunlight and seasonal affective disorder.
It may also be appropriate to match that early winter in our part of the world with the Advent season in our Christian church--a time of waiting, a time to remember how things were for people before the Christ child came to the world. People were under duress from the Roman government, and now it seemed they wanted even more taxes to pay their way, from common folks who worked hard just to get by. Another census so that all the world could be counted. All their world, as they knew it. It seemed they had little hope. ...
Read more here.
https://twgauthors.blogspot.ca/2017/12/a-promise-waiting-carolyn-r-wilker.html

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

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At the end of Day One of the District 86 Toastmasters Fall conference, some attendees were still on the dance floor. From my hotel room I could hear the beat of the drums. I like to dance but the strobe lights that rotate as the music plays are not kind to my senses and eyes. They can cause a migraine and that's not what I need in the middle of a jam-packed conference. And so I retired for the night, but not to go to sleep right away. I had a blog post to write for Saturday the 11th.
Doris DTM.jpeg My friend, Doris Tuckett, one of three members of our club who earned her Distinguished Toastmasters designation this year.
We'd eaten a good meal, served by the hotel staff, watched the banner parade directed by Area 61 Director, Chris O'Brien, in a lively and engaging style. We'd also celebrated 'Of the Year' awards as well as visiting with other Toastmasters. Three members from our club, the Energetics Toastmasters, were to receive their medal for the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, and I wanted to be there to help them celebrate that achievement.
Read more here:
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Crafts for Christmas

My sister Joan and I once had a crafts business, actually we each had our own, but we worked on craft shows together. We bought fabric and trims and made things like tree skirts, Christmas tree ornaments, and we lined picnic baskets and outfitted them with dishes. We geared up for the shows throughout summer and by fall, we had a reasonable amount prepared and tagged, ready to go. We also had aprons, tea cozies and much more and booked ourselves for several Christmas craft shows each season. Although we've moved past our craft business, I suspect we still like to make things, if only for ourselves.

Now that we both have grandchildren, it's fun to explore crafts again, as a way of entertainment. This year, the Christmas gathering on our mother's side is in our hands again, and so we've been thinking of decorations for the tables and for a craft for the children.

As we talked about pine cones and what we might do with them, I went on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.ca) to see what I might find there of interest. I was looking for something easy and safe that my oldest granddaughters might help me with. My sister has gathered large cones and found a place to get small ones too, and laid them out to dry.

Take a pinecone and felt to create a cute owl or other animals ;) Een dennenappel en vilt maken samen een leuke uil of andere leuke beestjes :)

Whimsy Love: http://www.whimsy-love.com/2013/10/diy-pinecone-owl-hedgehog.html?m=1

These owls will require bits of felt for eyes, or googly eyes, to glue on, plus the wings as well. A small gue gun that's not so hot would be safer than my large one when small children are around.

Karácsonyi toboz díszek (SamySeven) - Meska.hu

* http://www.meska.hu/t1509785-karacsonyi-toboz-diszek

This is what we have in mind for the table centrepieces. My sister and I have ribbon, and I have cord for the strings. A bit of glue dabbed on the tips and sprinke glitter on (white or colours) and they're ready to set to dry. We can then use them for our Christmas tables for our family gathering.

Wonderful Pine Cone Christmas Trees for You to Craft  - http://www.amazinginteriordesign.com/wonderful-pine-cone-christmas-trees-craft/

* https://i.pinimg.com/564x/90/81/7f/90817fe898478b0a4dfa12ca9cbde079.jpg

At the dollar store, I found sparkles in various colours in bottles. A bit of glue and ribbon and a sheet under the table to catch all the glitter that escapes us and we're set. Dishes of glittery pine cones could be our table centrepieces, and then for the children's activity, either the owls shown above or the reindeer below would be easy enough for even the smaller children to decorate.

Christmas Lollipop Noses

* http://thewhoot.com.au/whoot-news/recipes/reindeer-lollipop-noses

I think we'll use items from nature as much as possible this year, just because it's available and inexpensive. And not too time-consuming for our busy lives.

What will you put out for your Christmas decorations?

*All the links are shared from Pinterest. Please go there for instructions on creating each item. Thank you to these artists who share their creativity.


Autumn is here

Like the poem, Indian Summer, by Canadian poet William Wilfred Campbell, we've seen trees turn color, geese gather in 'V' formations to fly south and gardens slowly winding down. I went out to take some photos this morning in the damp, chilly air and here's what I saw.

DSCF1477.JPG A few last morning glories smiling at the sun ...

DSCF1478.JPG nearly bare vines holding onto last seed pods that I haven't yet harvested

DSCF1479.JPGHeuchera not blooming but the leaves still look good

DSCF1480.JPGScented geraniums with a few last pink flowers, and the leaves beginning to turn red as they do in autumn

DSCF1482.JPGMums transplanted from a pot, brilliant red

DSCF1483.JPG A young maple in our back yard, showing off its red leaves, waiting for someone to take it home and plant it in a bigger space

DSCF1484.JPG The carrots did well this year. I thinned them earlier in the season and they've grown big. Time to take them out of the ground.

DSCF1485.JPGA few last tiny tomatoes, they also did well this year. With the frost, it would be a good idea to gather the last ones in soon.

DSCF1487.JPG The sedum tops are changing colour too

DSCF1493.JPGAnd the trees in our neighbourhood are changing from green to red ...

DSCF1494.JPG and orange.

Across the street the tree that turns to a lovely yellow is just beginning to change colour. That picture will have to wait.

DSCF1491.JPGThe michaelmas daisies are still a lovely pink ...

DSCF1496.JPG and a few last gaillardia are hanging in while the arctostaphylus next to it now bear red berries.

Thus it is with the gardens in the fall. A time to slow down and stop blooming, and rest for the winter. While we mortals keep going, but sometimes at a slower pace.

My husband took out the snow shovels but I hope we don't need them for awhile yet.

How's your garden doing?


October Gardens

Our eldest granddaughter said on her last visit, "Can we go and see the garden?" They'd helped me plant it, after all, and they wanted to see what was happening there.

"Sure," I said. And the two older ones ran off to the backyard to see how things looked.

They came back and the eldest said, "The plants are dying."

"That's what happens end of the summer."

She thought about it.

"Still some tomatoes though." And there are carrots yet too. I gave them what I had last picked. They each popped one in their mouth, their eyes showing that they enjoyed the flavour.

DSCF1463.JPGA handful of tiny tomatoes that I picked this afternoon

DSCF1462.JPGStill some tiny tomatoes on the plant

DSCF1461.JPGAnd carrots in the ground. I'll get the girls to help me pull those next time they come.

Today I thought it worthwhile to take some pictures of the remaining garden plants that are still alive. The cucumbers and most of the zucchini plants have withered to a few stems here and there. Not so pretty.

DSCF1459.JPGThe morning glories are not so glorious now. There are still a few flowers in the morning. I'll enjoy them until the frost gets the last blooms. I'm beginning to pick the seed pods off to save for next year. Hard brown pods that crinkle under my fingers when I squeeze them. The seeds fall out in my hands, and I package them and give many away to friends and family.

DSCF1449.JPGThe chrysanthemums are quite lovely now and I have them in various colours

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Even the flowers have changed. The gaillardia have fewer flowers ...

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and the scented geranium leaves are changing to a delightful red.

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DSCF1447.JPG The sedum we dug up from my parents' farm last fall has changed colour. The bees are still buzzing around the plants with blooms so I was careful not to disturb them.

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The old shrubs we had in the front garden were not doing as well this year. It was time to replace them. Here's one, along with part of my shadow that it's hard to avoid at this time of day.

DSCF1448.JPGI'll soon put away the fairy garden until next spring and my granddaughters and I will collect the pretty stones from the pebble path that my granddaughters helped install in the spring.

Thus the garden blooms and fades, blooms and fades, according to the time of year and the plants' habits. Before long we will have coloured leaves too. Some have only a hint of colour now, but that too will come.

And next spring, we'll start all over again.


Launching Harry's Trees

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Two little girls who attended the launch with their Mom, Rachel (photo credit: Mary Pfaff)

Just over a week ago, after much preparation and promotion, I launched my children's picture book, Harry's Trees. My general market version of the book rolled off the press in mid-June just when many people were thinking of summer vacation, and so I decided to wait until September for the launch. Deb Schurink at the Tavistock Library offered to host the event when I asked if it might be possible. After all it was our home town and part of the influence in my father's life and the book.

I wrote the first edition with my family in mind, especially my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews that they would someday know one of their great grandfather's passions. That edition came off the press in early January and my siblings already have their copies.

What happened from there was amazing. People who saw the book envisioned possibilities in the manuscript and art for a wider market, and so once Good Grief People was off the press--another book I'd been working on as a co-author--it was time to get Harry's Trees going again. I hired the team at Angel Hope Publishing to look after the paperwork involved in registering the book, the ISBN, and alterations to match the typical picture book on the market. The art and the story remained the same.

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My friend Liz, the book seller for the event (photo credit: Mary Pfaff)

On Saturday, September 16th, my husband and I arrived at the hometown library, me with hopes of many people coming to the launch. I asked my friend Liz to handle book sales and she was happy to do so. Many members of my family came, Mom, three of my sisters, my daughters, sons-in-law and three of our five grandchildren. I had invited them to help me celebrate the book. Others came too, including two people I'd never met who were intrigued and curious.

Of course, I was delighted that the book's illustrator, Maja Wisor, could join us with her friend Mike. My publisher, Glynis Belec, of Angel Hope Publishing had hoped to be there but had a previous engagement. She was there with us in spirit.

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DSCF1433.JPGShowing pictures from the book, beautifully illustrated by my artist, Maja Wisor, who was also attending. A beautiful, bright setting in that library.

(photo credit: Len Wilker)

A social time followed the storytelling, with refreshments provided by the library staff.

DSCN3468.JPGLong-time school friends, taking a few moments to pose and share some laughter (Photo Len Wilker)

All in all it was a good day and Harry's Trees was suitably launched to the world.


Many Conversations

image14.JPG Today I wrote for The Word Guild as I do once a month. We are an organization of writers and editors who are Christian. Here's my post:

September 8th to10th was our hometown fall fair-- the place we loved to go with our parents when we were children, the weekend after Labour Day and when we were back in school after the summer. We looked forward to the parade, rides in the midway, eating caramel corn, and seeing our school friends. Incidentally, it was also the place where my parents met when they were young adults, at the Friday night dance.
This year, as an author with a new book, Harry's Trees, I'd signed up early and paid for a table where I could meet people of my hometown community. I had other books too, but my new picture book rose to the top in interest. Probably helped by articles in the Tavistock Gazette, the Ontario Farmer and Oxford Review and people who knew my Dad and his inspiration for this book.
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Read more here.
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IMG_2479.JPGphoto by W. Fuhr with thanks