Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Governess out soon!

Here's what the cover will look like. It will be in stores sometime in September or early October. I'd encourage you to ask your local library to order some copies, if you don't mind. Every little bit of exposure is welcome. I'm also putting together my 2017 schedule of book signings, so please let me know if you want to organize something in your area. Thanks!

Saturday, 27 August 2016


Son #1 is getting married today. Family are gathering from across the continent. Kilts are cleaned and brogues are polished. Cupcakes are ordered. Pipes are tuned. Grandson is being dropped off with me to mind today, while Granddaughter goes with Mom to get dressed up for the ceremony. A joyous occasion, and I'm proud of my son and the commitment he is publicly making. I look back on his life and see so many instances of gentleness, kindness, and love, and I watch all these experiences now lead him to this day. Love you, my son.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Simple Sells

Have you noticed how it's the simple things that endure the test of time? I was thinking --- I don't know why -- about how the simplest toys have been the most popular. Lincoln logs. Catch-the-cup-on-the-stick. Slinky. Silly Putty (I loved how you could press it on the Sunday comics, which were in colour, and peel it off and see the comic on the Putty). Pound the peg through the board, turn it over, and pound it again the other direction. Remember clackers? The idea was you had two glass balls suspended from a small ring, and you held the ring and moved your hand up and down and the two balls would bang together. There were tricks you could do with them. (Think about that. Glass balls. Banging together with a loud whacking sound. It's not hard to see why they eventually pulled the little time bombs off the market, but in the meantime they were fun.) Tiddlywinks. Pick-Up Stix. Toss-Across (basically Tic-Tac-Toe played with tossed bean bags). Twister. Marbles. Jacks. Jump Rope. And how hard was it to invent the Pet Rock?

So what's the next simple, easy-to-manufacture thing, and how can I make some money on it?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Hello across the Globe

There is a handy doodad on this blog that lets me see what countries my readers are from. This week the map has exploded and some countries are lit up that aren't usually -- Australia, China, a few countries in Africa and Europe... (Hi Michael in Germany)...and I'm curious to know who these people are, reading across the planet. I'd love to get a comment from each of you letting me know where you are and how you stumbled across this blog!

Isn't it fun how small the world feels when with a touch of a keyboard we can talk to people thousands of miles away? I remember when fax machines first came out, I thought it was like something from Willy Wonka's factory, sending things great distances through the phone line, and I was disappointed to learn I couldn't fax myself to Ireland. Why doesn't someone invent teleporting already?

My son once looked up everyone on the Internet with his same name, and they formed a club of Ryan McKendrys. I don't know if they are planning any events or get-togethers, but the sheer fact that they could is amazing. There are a few rare moments when my Luddite self appreciates technology.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


When I let the dogs out this morning, the sky was a sickly yellow and there was a feeling of expectancy in the air. Sure enough, shortly after that it started raining, a sudden downpour that sounded like gravel being thrown against the windows.

We have had a very hot, dry summer, and it is wonderfully refreshing to think of all that water soaking into the dust. My gardens will be yawning and stretching to take it all in. There is something wonderfully snug about curling up with a novel on the couch in the lamplight while the rain comes down and does my work for me.

The other night Brio the intrepid was uncharacteristically anxious. After I went to bed, he kept following my husband around and pushing himself underneath his legs whenever he sat down. Then he slunk around the lower hallway for a while, head down as if in guilt. He wouldn't settle, and when my husband came upstairs and told me about it, we decided to let Brio come up to bed with us, something we ordinarily discourage. But I've learned to listen to dogs.

Instead of curling against the backs of my knees as he likes to do, Brio pushed himself against my head. Hubby and I started speculating that perhaps I was going to die and Brio knew it. I expressed my desires for a graveside service only, my ashes in the biscotti jar I've kept for that purpose in the curio cabinet. He could make a bonfire of the memory sticks containing my writing. My niece Clare gets Grandma Jean's set of china. But even as we giggled, there was a tinge of worry...I've known dogs to be right before. See last line of previous paragraph.

But in the middle of the night, an unexpected thunderstorm broke, sending wave after wave of thunder rattling the house and zapping the dark with brilliant flashes of lightning. At every crash, Brio jumped and whimpered. So that was what he'd been sensing! My dog was a scaredy cat.

As soon as the storm abated, Brio settled and slept, and he was his normal bouncy self the next morning. And for this morning's rainfall, which doesn't include thunder, he's perfectly oblivious. He's snoring as usual under the desk as I write.

I will continue to listen to dogs. And be grateful for the rain.

Saturday, 20 August 2016


Put up three bushels of tomatoes today. It was a 16 hour marathon but it feels great to look at these 66 gleaming jars on the counter. All I need is flour, eggs, and olive oil and I can keep us in pasta for the year.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Or I could do this...

Instead of fundraising for donkeys, I could buy this and turn it into a terrific Bed and Breakfast...

Sigh. Just not enough lifetimes to do everything I want to do! How does one choose?

Monday, 15 August 2016

Musings on Donkey Milk

I was watching a TV show about Italy and they featured a farm and donkey refuge that sells donkey milk. Apparently it's closer to human milk than any other mammal's, and babies that are allergic to formula can often drink donkey milk instead. They showed how affectionate and easily maintained the animals are. In one shot, a woman was rubbing a donkey's head and it had its eyes closed and a beatific smile on its face, like a contented dog. The milk sells for 14 Euros a litre, and each donkey gives half a litre or so twice a day. Times that by 40 donkeys, and I don't know how much profit they're making, but it was intriguing, anyway.

My first thought was "Why haven't I heard of this before?" Followed by "What an interesting way to make a living!" Followed by "I want to go there." And then, uneasily, "What do they do with the baby donkeys?" Hmm... They didn't say. But all in all, it was a really uplifting story. And then my final thought was, "Why am I watching other people on TV have adventures instead of going out and having them myself?" This is the only life I get. What am I doing with mine? Yes, I'm learning interesting things...but I'm doing it sitting in my own living room. I want to be out there.

And then, surprisingly, my husband handed me a job posting he found on the Internet for a communications manager for the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, in Guelph. Okay, so is the universe telling me something again? The job calls for fund raising, which is outside my comfort zone, though the rest sounds up my alley. It isn't what I had dreamt of doing, really... but who knows? Maybe the universe is onto something.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Diversity in Toronto

Thursday I went to a Tai Chi parade in Toronto. There were two gorgeous, long Chinese dragon puppets dancing along in the parade to the drums. Asian ladies were handing out free fans and flags. A Scottish pipe band played that included a Dutch-Malaysian piper, a half-Mexican piper, a Georgian (Russian) drummer, and an Italian-speaking Pipe Major. And then someone spoke to the crowd about Tai Chi entirely in German. Gotta love it!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Of Mankind and Meteors

It's 3:00 a.m. I'm in my fuzzy koala bear-motif bathrobe and bare feet, sitting on the back patio on a lawn chair. It's pitch black outside other than one street lamp on the other side of the fence. I'm cupping my hand around my eyes to block out the lamp, peering up at the sky. I'm hoping the clouds will part long enough for me to see stars, much less the meteor shower the newspapers have been promising us. And I'm thinking if I were in Timiskaming or up at Whole Village, I could probably see the night sky. My former boss is at his cottage in Penetanguishene, where I bet there's a whole skyful of stars shining over the water. Is it too late to jump in the car and head north?

At last there's a break in the cloud cover and I see a scattering of pinpoints of light. The clouds are moving so fast it makes me feel as if it's the stars zooming across the blackness, except they never move in relation to me. For an instant I glimpse the vastness of the turning heavens above me. And I feel suddenly very small.

I can't help but think about the news I see on TV or in the papers every day -- acts of terrorism, cities bombed, political posturing, shootings, poverty, famine, obsession with the economy -- and all at once mankind seems ludicrous. We are squabbling over a speck of dust hurtling through the universe. We are not even a blip on the screen, we are so infinitesimal. We're not piloting this planet we're riding. The laws of gravity and forces of nature are in charge of our course and we have no say at all in any of it. What makes us so pompous and self-centered? Why are we wasting our brief flash of life arguing with the others on our speck? We should just be enjoying the ride together and marveling at the sky.

I was about to go back inside, feeling rather sad and hopeless about the human condition...when I saw a meteor. A bright, long blaze swooping across a quarter of the sky to the west. And then the clouds covered everything over again and that was the end of the show. I went inside to get ready for work, to walk down to the bus station and start my daily slog...but my little corner of the speck seems different to me now.

Have you ever felt that change is coming but you don't know what it is? That's where I'm at right now.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Mormon Mom Blogs

I was astonished this morning to open my Metro newspaper on the subway and see the headline "Mormon mommies have the best blogs." It's not often you see Mormons in the paper here, and it's even more rare to have the article be something complimentary. Apparently our commitment to family, creativity, and general wholesomeness appeals to readers, LDS and non-LDS alike.

The article also pointed out that most Mormon bloggers try not to get too preachy and don't want to bombard their readers with their faith, and I have to say I do that myself. The purpose of my blog is to exercise my writing while hopefully entertaining a few people and stretching our thinking from time to time. I can't disconnect from who I am, of course, and my faith will inherently influence what I write, but evangelism isn't the purpose of the exercise. But there was one quote in the article that bugged me. Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California, is quoted as saying, "Mormons want nothing more than to be liked and respected and mainstream...They want to be just like everyone else but they want to be better at it."

If that were true, why bother becoming a Mormon in the first place? The point is not to be like the rest of the world. We aren't mainstream, and that's the whole idea. We haven't exactly withdrawn from the world, but we are trying to live differently, act and think differently, and we avoid the things of the world that can drag us down or distract us from our faith and our purpose. Our religion should set us apart from those around us, or what's the use of it? Our past shows we aren't afraid of being not liked and not respected if that's the result of living according to our beliefs. The world seems to be more tolerant of diversity now and it's been a long time since we were tarred and feathered and driven out of the country. But if it came down to it, I think any truly converted Mormon would be willing to go through pogroms and persecution again if necessary. (And I suppose in some countries that is still going on to some extent.) So I'm not sure why Patrick Mason would say such a thing, unless maybe he was misquoted.

I suppose there's also the danger in our blogs that we could be perceived as the DIY church, or the Church of the Happy-Looking Children, and the theology could become secondary or even buried. There needs to be a balance in there somewhere. There's a theological reason behind the self-reliance and the smiling children. Our religion informs everything about us, from our clothing styles and diet to the way we think and speak and how we spend our time and money. It influences our hopes and ambitions and where we stand and what paths we take in life. If our beliefs don't change us and make us different, we aren't living according to them very well.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Monks and Pizza

Last week my husband went to a Zen meditation session at a Korean temple he'd never been to before. The abbot in charge had just had foot surgery and had only gotten out of the hospital an hour earlier (they kept him in an extra few days because they knew he wouldn't hold still and rest when they sent him home). Ordinarily the abbot cooks the evening meal while participants are in the meditation session, but last week of course he didn't feel up to it. He had arranged for a Vietnamese group to bring in food, but for various reasons they didn't arrive. So the abbot, ever practical, ordered in Pizza Pizza, which I thought was charming.

This week I attended with my husband, and the group was welcoming and kind. I felt I'd known some of them for ages. The abbot, true to form, kept leaving his wheelchair to hobble about. A smiling, chuckling Korean monk, he made you feel like laughing for no reason, and as I watched the others as they knelt to listen to his dharma talk, I could see real love in their faces. He cooked the meal while we meditated, an interesting and yummy cold broth (with ice cubes floating in it) over a dense tangle of noodles, sliced cucumbers, and bamboo. And he didn't sit down once while we ate, but continued to bustle about on his bandaged foot. The man doesn't rest. It felt wrong to sit and eat while this obviously unwell man worked in the kitchen, but I was told this is how he wants to serve. He never sits to eat with the others.

When we left, the abbot was out watering the garden. There was a woman there last night who didn't participate in the session but stayed instead out in the garden, sitting on a bench. I assume she has cancer, as she was bald and extremely thin and frail. She looked to be in some distress, holding her head and fighting tears, and my first impulse was to go to her. But the abbot calmly moved around the garden, watering the plants with the hose, giving the woman space but always in the vicinity. Just letting her know he was present but not intruding. And I thought I understood why the woman came. It is an accepting, warm, and peaceful place. He may not be able to heal her body, but you could sense she felt he and the temple could soothe her spirit. There's something nourishing about them.

The abbot told us with a laugh that he has kidney failure and has to go back to Nuclear Medicine at the hospital twice this week. I told him he has to be healthy, because I only just found him and have things to learn from him.

My husband and I are contemplating joining the group for a three-day meditation retreat in September. It depends on whether I can find a dog sitter, and whether I think my body is up to three days of the half-lotus position, which right now sounds scary. But I've been wanting more inner contentment, and it sounds like a good way to kick-start the journey.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

In the Good Ol' Summertime

One of my bosses asked me if I was having a relaxing summer. My first response was yes, I'm reading a lot and swimming now and then and...and bottling fruit and caring for two gardens and drying herbs and meeting writing deadlines for the publisher and going to Highland Games and walking my dogs and setting up a loom and crocheting Christmas ornaments to sell this fall and mowing the lawn and going on weekend drives with my husband and I'm first counselor in the Relief Society at church and I'm taking teacher training once a month and oh yeah, I work a sixty-hour week...but I only have one son left at home, who is pretty independent, and my husband does most of the cleaning and cooking. So yeah, actually, it feels pretty calm this summer. This is about as relaxed as I get.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Struck me funnier...

The aforementioned son who wanted me to fix his snack is starting college in a couple of weeks...studying to become a chef.