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The Miscellaneous Things We Are Good At

Source of photo: Alcoholics Anonymous

Many years ago, I was a conference in Montreal for literacy teachers and their adult students. During the day, we attended workshops, had lunch together and discussed the many things we were learning, over coffee break. Evenings were free. In a city like Montreal, there was no lack of things to do and places to go. One evening, I ended up with several other conference-goers in a well-known smoked-meat restaurant. We had just finished a delicious meal and were lined up at the cash register to pay when I spotted a friend and colleague – a young teacher – having what was clearly an argument on the sidewalk outside with one of her teenaged students. A tall and physically-imposing young man, he stood head and shoulders over his tiny little teacher. Even under the light of a streetlamp, I could see that she looked frightened and way out of her element.

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Hunkering Down for the Winter

Author’s photo

I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

It’s funny, the things we get used to; the things we come to expect, year in and year out. I would be utterly miserable living in a climate with no crisp fall; no bitterly-cold winter. It’s what I have always known; what I have gotten used to.

There is something exciting, to me, about hunkering down for the winter.

I love how the world changes; sometimes on a dime: one day it is hot and muggy and the next, the year has deliberately done an about-face in a new direction. The air turns chilly, especially at night: the stars come out in bright contrast against the clear blackness of a night sky that is crisp and humidity free. The trees start to change colour – almost imperceptibly at first – and suddenly, the whole world is a riot of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows. The geese get loud again, noisily heading northward every morning in search for food in farmers’ fields and loudly flying southward in the evenings to bed down for the night. They will do this for a good month or more – the flock growing increasingly big and very loud – until one crisp day when you can smell snow on the air, they will head southward and won’t come back until spring.

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Teachable Moment

Source of photo: Gâtineau Hills Fiddle Festival/ Ottawa Tourism

I’m watching a band that has come in to perform at my mother’s seniors’ home. Not one of the members of the band looks to be under age seventy and the lead singer is a spry eighty-six-year-old. I pride myself in my very eclectic set of musical tastes but I have to admit to my Mom that I barely know any of the songs they are singing (or playing on the fiddle), and none of them well.

Nonetheless, the music makes your toes tap and we enthusiastically clap along as the band entertains the crowd.

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At one point, my Mom leans in and tells me, “I know a dirty song to this tune.” And then she proceeds to sing me a few snippets. After my first, surprised, loud belly laugh, I do my best thereafter to only quietly snort my mirth.

As the band is leaving, Mom catches the eye of the lead singer (the eighty-six-year-old J) and he stops to chat with us. Before he even has time to react, Mom is telling him she pays the fiddle as she gently but insistently pulls the fiddle from his hands and puts it in to her chin to play him a little tune she knows. While I’m a little embarrassed, I’m not overly worried (I know Mom won’t be rough with it). I am definitely dismayed for the man, though, as he is clearly not used to handing his beautiful fiddle over to a perfect stranger. I relax as he relaxes; as he notes that Mom knows how to hold it and what to do with the bow. Being very rusty, it doesn’t take her long to hand it back to him in any case.

This is the woman who taught me good manners. This is the woman who showed me how to behave in public; who taught me to be courteous; to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. She behaves as innocently as a child now.

I’ve reflected how an event like this one would have been the perfect time for a ‘teachable moment’ when my children were little: “Next time, sweet pea, make sure you ask the nice man first. People like to be asked before you touch their belongings. And do be polite if he says ‘no’, as is his right.”

As Mom slips further into a rather endearing childhood sweetness, I understand that the days of teachable moments are over for her. All my sister and I can do is hover nearby and quietly apologise for her when it’s appropriate to do so, knowing she is the one who taught us such good manners in the first place.

Luckily, the nice musician understood, and she still talks about how kind he was – the actual lead singer of the band!! – to take the time to stop and talk to her that day; to let her play him a tune.

Perhaps he learned his manners from his Mom, too…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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The Day I Learned About Cruelty and Intolerance

Source of photo: Vecteezy

I recall clearly that it was a beautiful sunny day: the kind of day that happens on that first day in the spring where everyone goes outside without a coat for the first time and the air smells fresh and new and full of possibility.

I was in grade three, walking hand-in-hand with another little girl, through the school playground. I clearly recall how wonderful it felt, to have a friend who didn’t mind showing the entire world that she liked me enough to hold my hand. I was not a particularly popular child in my early elementary years so any public demonstration of affection was a feather in my cap; a sign that I was popular too (sad, that even at age 8, I already understood the concept of ‘popular’).

“LIZZIES!!! Look at the two lizzies!” shouted an older kid, pointing at us and laughing loudly. At the time, I was sure that every single kid on the playground turned to look.

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Time for a Reset?

Source of photo: Dreamstime.com

I was videoconferencing my daughter recently and the connection broke at least five times as we talked. “Sorry”, she told me early on. “My phone’s getting old. I really have to get a new model.”

“Gee,” I answered, “It doesn’t seem like you’ve had it that long: it’s just a couple years old, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s ancient.” She sighed. “I got it six years ago, Mom.”

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Psychopath

Source of photo: Snakes in Suits Wikipedia

The following is a work on fiction, based on a composite of a generous number of people I have warily watched from a distance over the years. According to statistics (* sources below), 1% of the human population meets the clinical criteria for psychopathy. In my country of 38.1 million people, that means nearly 400,000 people. We always imagine psychopaths as serial killers or other hardened criminals, but in reality, most psychopaths hide in plain sight among us. In order from 1 to 10, the professions that draw the most psychopaths are: CEOs, lawyers, the media, salespersons, surgeons, journalists, police officers, clergy, chefs and civil servants. While the percentage of psychopaths in these professions is still very low (statistics cite anywhere from 3-4% to 10.42%), you have likely met one or two in your lifetime. I know I have…

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The Voice (aka ‘Da Voice’)

Source of photo: Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Research and Institute Centre

My father was diagnosed with throat cancer when he was in his mid-fifties – younger than I am now. While he was very proud that he had managed – two years before he got the cancer – to beat a life-long smoking habit, he had unfortunately not stopped soon enough. I had been on his back to stop smoking for many years. When I was around 12 years old, I rushed home from school one day to tell him that ‘all the kids at school’ swore by a stop-smoking trick called ‘eating’ cold turkey. It seemed so easy to me; we ate a lot of turkey so he had effortless access to an easy cure (Dad was kind enough not to laugh but I do recall that he was biting down – hard – on the insides of his cheeks in his effort to remain serious).

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I Don’t Know the Answer to That

Source of first Image: Pinterest

I clearly remember how awesome I felt, coming home for a visit after my first quarter-term at university. I was nineteen years old and in those few months, I had magically learned absolutely all there was to know about life. I was ready to change the world. I was particularly scholarly and knowledgeable with regard to the handful of Psyc 101 classes I had attended up to that point, which had provided me with great insights into my parents. I quickly set to work to teach them everything I knew, knowing how happy they would be that I could ‘fix’ them now.

My father, in particular, was not amused.

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I Hate When You Tell Me That

Source of photo: parade.com

I loved being a Mom. I loved the never-ending ‘why’ questions. I loved the snuggles; the bedtime stories; even the tantrums. Because I truly felt I was playing a role in helping my kids become whoever they were meant to be. My kids are all grown up now and while I do love getting to know the amazing people they are becoming, I do miss those days of being… well, their everything.

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What Do You Do, All Day?

Source of photo: enkiquotes

I envy my friends and family who have boundless, inexhaustible energy. You know the type: they’re up at the crack of dawn, unable to stay in bed because they simply cannot wait another moment to start their day. They go for a run before breakfast; they stop on their way to work to run a few errands; they work late and still manage to throw a little get-together that evening for friends – with food they cooked themselves. They volunteer for at least a dozen organisations. They have time-consuming hobbies that require gobs of energy to complete. They’re the ones who throw wonderful surprise parties; who cook up a meal for you when you’re sick; who always seem to have time for, well, anybody who asks.

They live life with gusto. They suck every drop of marrow from the bones of life.

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Ode to my Father

Mom, Dad, my little sister on top, and me – the constant worrier – below,
not trusting that Dad had her protected, too…

My Dad and Mom were, respectively, just 22 and 23 when I was born. They had not planned on my arriving quite so soon: while they were respectably married when I made my tiny appearance, I was nonetheless way too early to be anything but a shock to them. Dad was attending university at the time, and Mom was working as a clerk at a local department store, to help make ends meet. Dad was spending way too much time out with his drinking buddies and Mom was spending way too much time at home alone with her growing belly. Nonetheless, when Mom started bleeding mid-pregnancy, they both held one another and wept, already enamoured with the little lump that was growing in my mother’s womb. Ever after, they would lovingly call me their ‘little whoops’ and cry as they told me how devastated they were when they thought they were going to lose me. My timing may have left something to be desired but I always knew I was very much wanted all the same.

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This is Just Like Real Life!

Source of photo, Pinterest

Remember The Waltons? Back in the 70s, my family used to watch that show every Sunday night. You didn’t have dozens of TV channels to choose from back then – just two or three if the rabbit ears on your big box of a television permitted it – so just about everyone else we knew was watching it, too. The story lines were wholesome and family oriented. There was no swearing and everything usually got neatly resolved by the time the hour was up. You always felt better, just for watching. You forgot that they were characters in a TV show.

It felt just like real life.

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Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Source of photo

The world isn’t really built around the introverts.

We are quiet; we are shy. We think deeply but our thoughts rarely make their way unscathed, to our mouths. By the time it is our turn to speak, we have broken out into a cold sweat and everything we intended to say has come stuttering and stumbling from a tongue that has suddenly grown two sizes and is impossible not to trip over.

They don’t call it ‘tongue-tied’ for nothing.

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Here’s to the Odd Ducks

Me with a fellow odd duck, many decades ago. And yes, I know it’s a goose…smile…

You see them everywhere, the Odd Ducks.

But only if you look; only if you are paying attention.

They dress differently from everyone else: some wear thrift-store clothes, have unkempt or unusual hair and don’t care a lick about fashion. Others are elaborately coiffed, flamboyant and colourful.

Some are loud and boisterous; others quiet and introspective; blending seamlessly into the woodwork.

They speak easily to the birds, the animals and the little spider in the corner of the room. They hug trees. They feel – and sometimes see – energy all around them. They speak gently to the weak, the tired, the broken and the seeking.

If they let you get to know them, they are interesting. And they are always interested.

They know things; they feel things; they are lifelong learners. They are seekers on a never-ending quest.

They have quirky, esoteric points of view. They don’t fit into moulds (although some of them try, for a time).

They are the strange child; the quirky cat lady; the long-haired octogenarian; the quiet friend.

They are often alone but they are rarely – if ever – lonely.

They are the Odd Ducks.

And you would be all the richer for getting to know them…

My sincerest thanks to Ana Daksina, Troubador of Verse and fellow blogger, for the reminder, and for the inspiration…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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When Did it Become Okay to be so Mean to One Another?

Source of image

I am not what anyone could describe as a social media junkie but like so many my age, I rather like Facebook: you get to reconnect with old friends from childhood. You stay in touch with family members who live far away. You stay connected with old work friends. You share all kinds of jokes, recipes or news. You can even join clubs, tailored specifically to your needs and interests! Like so many people, Facebook became a lifeline for me during the social isolation of the Covid pandemic.

When I was a kid, I aspired to owning my own set of encyclopedias, which seemed to me the height of ‘being rich’. Like almost all my friends, however, I had to go to the library to use an encyclopedia. I didn’t go there for just any old thing: it had to be really important if I was going to bike all the way to the library to find out whatever little piece of knowledge I was seeking.

I will therefore remain amazed – to the end of my days – at how easy it is now, to look something up on the Internet. Want to knit a pair of mittens? Talented people will show you how – step by step – on YouTube. Your doctor told you to lower your cholesterol but didn’t give you any specifics? No problem: you will find reams of reliable medical information and healthy recipes in no time at all. Want to know how tall your favourite celebrity is? Yep, even that silly question can be answered with the click of a button.

I recently joined a local Facebook page that posts the headlines of current events. The news is pretty mundane stuff. Often, I don’t even bother to read any further than the headline. Sometimes I refer to the news link the page manager always incudes in the post. Occasionally, I read the comments.

Always, always a big mistake…

I come from a really nice, rural part of Canada where strangers wave at you as you pass by them in your car. People stop to help you if your car breaks down. Everyone – even teenagers!!!! – speak politely to you. So, I was appalled and saddened by a sudden increase of random meanness and cruelty in the comments section of our little local news page. To what end would people ever speak to one another that way? Would they say these things to one another if they were in the same room? Knowing the folks around these parts, I strongly suspect they would not.

A few weeks ago, I quietly crept away from that page, which is a shame, because it was a good, fast and reliable source of news. The vile comments, the easy anger, the foul language, the cruel taunts, the nasty jabs: well, they hurt my heart (and rather ruined my day).

I understand righteous anger. I have even posted, a time or two, on political events that really upset me. But it is the meanness that takes my breath away. I know we are capable of better. But is it still possible for us to reign in all that nastiness? Or is it like Pandora’s Box, now opened and released on the world; too late to take it all back?

Kids are allowed to have a Facebook account as of age 13. I don’t know if you remember but I sure do: kids that age are impressionable. Kids that age can be wonderfully kind but they can also be incredibly mean.  And they are listening to all of us. There is no way they are unaffected by the cruel comments some grownups post all day, every day.

I have always believed it takes a village to raise a child. That village doesn’t even have to have an awareness that the kids are paying attention, but you can be sure they are paying attention. They hear (or see) every word. And I do wonder: what kind of ‘village’ are kids today growing up in? No parent could shelter them from all the vitriol that is out there.

Remember when mothers washed their kids’ mouths out with soap if they said something vile, or mean, or crude?

Yeah, me neither. I am 60 years old and that parenting fad had already passed by the time I was born.

Well, maybe they were on to something…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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The Rescue Mission

When I was around 12 or 13 years-old, someone told me that the Indigenous people who lived on this continent before Europeans took over believed that everything had a spirit: the rocks, the animals, the trees; even the plants. I don’t recall who told me this and I’ve likely gotten most of the details wrong, but the concept deeply resonated and has stuck with me my whole life.

I have always been one of those spiritual people whose heart recognises the profound truths of this world when she hears them. This revelation was the first big epiphany of my life. Never again would I pass a tree without understanding that it was as alive as I am. Never would I pick a flower without regretting that I had prematurely ended its life. The older I have gotten, the more sacred every natural thing on this earth feels to me. Composting, for example, has become a spiritual experience: nothing brings you closer to the earth than participating in the circle of rot, death and decay that gives every growing thing on this planet… life.

My love of growing things doesn’t stop with the great outdoors: my entire adult life, I never worked anywhere where I wasn’t surrounded by living greenery, lovingly tended by my own hand. Because houseplants were indoors and depended entirely on human beings to remember to care for them, I always felt a deep stewardship: whether they were ‘my’ plants or someone else’s. As a consequence, I have been known to stop dead in a government office (or a doctor’s office or the lobby of an apartment building…) at the sight of a parched plant and to rush to find a glass of water to ease its thirst.

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I arrived at my son and his girlfriend’s house in the dead of summer, in the middle of a heat wave. They were both at work so I let myself in with the key they had given me last time I visited. After being properly love bombed by my grand-dog and putting my stuff in the spare bedroom, I wandered a little aimlessly about the house, wondering what I might do with myself until they arrived.

This is when I discovered the first victim: a shriveled plant whose sad, lone leaf had collapsed onto the shelf on which it was perched, clearly approaching its final death throes.

“Oh, you poor, poor baby!” I exclaimed out loud, as I rushed to fill a glass with water. The little plant was so far gone, I was sure that my efforts were for naught. Not for anything, though, could I have left it to spend one more second swooning on that shelf without at least trying to ease its pain.

I am a very discreet person, not given to snooping in anyone’s house, but this, I determined, was a different matter. Lives were at stake. My grand-dog curiously sniffing at me as I bustled back and forth, I went purposefully from room to room, checking every shelf, every ceiling hook and every piece of furniture for another poor, thirsty victim.

I found several more – they were all fading fast – and I quickly went about the business of rescuing each and every one. To my chagrin, one of the victims was a beautiful ivy that I had rescued as a university student over forty years ago (several of its babies – including the one in the attached photo – are living very happily in my own home).

When the kids got back from work, I did apologize for ‘taking over’. I see for myself the long hours they both work and I understood that this had been a very unintended thing.

I am happy to report though, that by the end of the week, every single plant was convalescing quite nicely (a few – including my old ivy – having been fortified with plant food and some new soil).  I reminded my son (whose job it is to water the plants) not to forget them and “to please send me a photo of the spider plant upstairs as I am especially anxious to see how it’s coming along”.

I’m still waiting for the photo.

Perhaps it’s time for another visit…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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My Temporary Career as a Nurse

Mom and Her ‘Personal’ Nurse

I always struggle between admiration, envy and horror when I hear 15-year-old kids in Grade 10 telling me that they have chosen ‘x’ or ‘y’ as their career path. After all, how can anyone that young be expected to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives? I still cringe when I recall how I blundered into my own profession. Having been accepted into forestry (which I entered mostly because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but ‘loved nature’ in a vague sort of way), I ended up in education instead. I didn’t make this choice with any noble intentions: it was only because many of my closest friends had gone into education and – if I may be perfectly honest – I was terrified of venturing out into the world alone. I grabbed onto their shirttails and held on for dear life.

It would take many years but eventually, I did find my own little niche. It didn’t involve teaching in a classroom – I have come to think of those kinds of educators as the gods and goddesses of the education system – and let’s face it, not all of us measure up to that kind of lofty standard. Instead, for most of my career, I worked in adult education, industriously occupied in the background where I have always liked to be, quietly making my mark by training teachers and parents, writing creative grant proposals that would ensure ‘one more year’ of funding and promoting the importance of adult and family literacy.

Since I retired, I have not missed the office politics but I have missed that feeling of being valued, needed and respected. We all tend to define ourselves by ‘what we do’ to make a living and I haven’t really had a lot to say about myself since I left my career behind.

Not that I haven’t had things to do, mind you: as my Mom and my stepfather declined drastically over the past few years, my sister and I have found ourselves playing the role of caregivers (my sister, who lives in the same town as Mom, has carried the lion’s share of this responsibility). This has included everything from emptying their home and distributing their belongings; to managing their finances; to taking them to doctors’ appointments; to calming them down when they’re afraid. Thankfully, my sister and I compliment one another very well: she’s best in a crisis (and by ‘crisis’, I mean that blood is flying); whereas I am best in the situations which involve much waiting and what my sister would define as insufferable tedium.

This past winter, Mom and I happened to be chatting in her room when a caregiver came to stand in Mom’s door to ask if I had gotten the notice about ‘Mom and Charlie having Covid’. I stared at her in some confusion. No, I had not gotten the call. There was indeed an outbreak in the building but since everyone – including designated family caregivers – was vaccinated, we had been allowed to come and go provided we follow the proper protocols.

Long visits with an invalid being my specialty, my sister and I agreed that I would come and take care of Mom until she was better. Every day thereafter, I stopped at Mom’s door to carefully don not just a mask, but gloves, a face shield, and a long, plastic (very hot) gown. The first time I did this, I hadn’t been wearing all that awful PPE for more than five minutes when I added doctors, nurses and every other caregiver in between to my Personal List of Gods and Goddesses (well, they were kind of already on that list but I gave them all a gold star for good measure).

Mom was lucky.  She didn’t feel too sick – just really under the weather – and somehow, I didn’t get Covid either, nor did I bring it home to my sister or my brother-in-law. But the caregivers were (as they have tended to be for two and a half years now) stretched thin. I was very glad that my being there meant we didn’t have to call on them too much.

Now here’s the sweet part of the story: at some point, Mom, whose dementia is still very moderate, looked at me in absolute admiration and awe as she declared, “I don’t know how you managed to get them to hire you to take care of me this week, Patti, but I couldn’t have asked for a better nurse!” She kept telling me how professional I looked; how much I had been cut out to be a nurse. To this day, she still believes that I was hired to be her personal nurse that week.

Honestly, it kind of went to my head.

If I could go back to age 20, I likely would become a geriatric caregiver. I have learned that it’s a job I would love, even if the patient weren’t my mother, and despite the inevitable downsides of being a nurse, like say, losing a patient. It hurts my heart to say that my stepfather didn’t survive that week: eight days after he and Mom were diagnosed, Covid quietly took him in the middle of the night.

Losing him was a rough go on all of us. But I guess any good nurse would tell me that losing a patient goes with the territory…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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Be Careful What You Brag About

Maggie, aka ‘Her Majesty’

Some of the best advice I ever got as a new mother was from an older woman who advised me ‘never, ever, to tell stories about my children to friends and colleagues’. Relatives were okay, she told me, as long as they were clearly showing signs of being interested but even that, she warned, was ‘stepping on shaky ground’. “No one wants to hear you bragging about your perfect kids.” She told me bluntly. “It just makes them feel inadequate – or on the defensive – about their own kids.” She didn’t warn me that whichever family member I would boast about would eventually prove me wrong.

She let me figure that one out for myself.

With the advent of social media, it has become impossible not to see – on a daily basis – how much better your friends’ grandchildren are doing; how wonderful their married life is; how well behaved their dog is compared to your own, how… Well, I’m sure you get the picture.

The point is, I should have known better. But despite all the great advice I received about the downfalls of boasting about one’s family members, I have previously boasted, on this very blog, about my cat Maggie. Specifically, I extolled her virtues as being perhaps the only Buddhist cat on the planet. While I had watched her watching other cats hunt, never had I seen her lift so much as a paw in the direction of another living creature. Not even a ladybug. If you check out my last post on Maggie, you will see the proof.

She is getting on in years – she turned twelve this past June – and she’s become a little…shall we say… self-assured at this stage of her life. I wonder if perhaps she was sparing me the pain of seeing her true nature until now, but as she and I grow comfortably old together, she has very much become her ‘own cat’, so to speak.

My first clue that she might no longer be a Buddhist were the feathers on the lawn near the bushes where she regally spends her days (she never leaves the yard anymore). So convinced was I of her Buddhist tendencies that I honestly couldn’t imagine how the feathers got there. Shortly after I found the feathers, my husband spotted a wounded bird hopping about in our neighbours’ garden. We both tried to find it. I believe that my husband’s plan was to put it out of its misery if it were too far gone. My plan was to lovingly bring it into the house and nurture it back to health. Maggie being a Buddhist meant this would be a lovely and easily achievable plan: perhaps even educational. We couldn’t find the poor bird, however, and we both reluctantly went on with our day (well I know I was reluctant. I probably shouldn’t speak for my husband).

Later that same day, sitting in my living room, my gaze was drawn to a multitude of black birds that have been descending onto our lawn every evening to eat whatever insects are out at that time of the day. I noted with interest that several of the birds were just a few feet away from Maggie’s little hidey-hole in the bushes. I couldn’t see her – she is well hidden when she is in there – but I had the time to warmly think what a lovely view she must have, before my precious little Buddhist came crashing out of the bushes to pounce neatly on one of the hapless birds.

In horror, I raced out of the house toward the scene of the crime. Mercifully, there seemed to be no blood and as soon as Maggie saw me lumbering toward her, she dropped the poor bird, who made a swift exit on wings that still seemed to be working just fine. Maggie didn’t seem angry with me; just a little confused; as I swiftly picked her up and pulled one lone black feather out of her mouth before grimly (but lovingly) marching her into the house.

I swear, Maggie strutted like a lioness for three days after…

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n.b. I do know that cats are an invasive species and I strongly support spaying and neutering all cats – especially the feral ones. I have also started ensuring that Maggie is not allowed out at the birds’ key feeding times, which are very easy to identify here in the country. And she is never allowed out at night, when her nocturnal hunting would be in full overdrive.

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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On Writing…With Confidence

Source of photo: P Moore Wilson

I recall with so much clarity the first writing contest I ever entered. I was in Grade 5 and I just knew that I was meant to be a writer. All my teachers said that I had talent. All my friends loved to hear my fanciful stories.

My entry was entitled To be There…and Back (and no, I had not yet read Lord of the Rings, or even The Hobbit, so I had not plagiarised the title, although plagiarism is nonetheless a theme of this post).

My story was about a little girl who gets pulled into the world of Mer People. She falls in love with a prince and has to choose between remaining a human but losing her one true love, or losing her legs forever and growing a fish tail, knowing she will ever be in physical pain because of her choice. Yes, I’m sure this must sound oddly familiar, although I swear my eleven-year-old plagiarism was purely unintentional. There were no Disney movies about little mermaids back in the early seventies when I wrote this story, but being an avid reader, I had indeed read – nay, devoured – Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (and pretty much everything else he wrote).

I didn’t win the contest of course, and when I saw the imaginative, clever titles of the stories that did win – ever so much better than my own – I resolved to put my dream of writing on the back burner and find another career path. The thing is, much of my career did involve writing: grant proposals, action plans, strategic plans, training manuals, etc. And I loved every second I was writing: even the technical stuff.

Having put my dream of becoming a ‘real writer’ firmly behind me all those years ago, becoming a blog writer wasn’t even something I had thought of. I have no idea what prompted me to start a blog back in early 2018. Once I did begin, however, I couldn’t have stopped writing if I wanted to: the stories simply poured out of me. I never did gain a huge readership but the people reading my entries encouraged me; gave me confidence; buoyed me up. And in return, I gained so much as I read their blog posts and connected with like-minded writers.

Eventually, I began shyly – proudly – referring to myself as ‘a writer’. I even printed up some little business cards (which all my family members have dutifully – and lovingly – put on their fridge doors). Honestly, I glowed with pride every time I published a new post.

There were a few challenges, of course. I tended to use a lot of adjectives. I always struggled with my titles. And my endings. I tried and tried, to absolutely no avail, to write fiction worthy of my favourite author, Stephen King. I reluctantly came to acknowledge that fiction will likely never be my ‘thing’. These weren’t so much obstacles, however, as fun puzzles to be solved. I was nonetheless writing. And oh, I was enjoying the process.

Then I committed the cardinal sin of any new writer. I started counting the ‘likes’ (or more accurately, the lack thereof). I started watching for my favourite bloggers’ comments – or wondering what their silence meant. I especially began noticing all the bloggers who were publishing their work. Worst of all, I met (gasp) a few published local writers. I read, with some awe, their books. With a growing sense of failure, I wondered why I hadn’t yet managed to do the same.

And suddenly, being a moderately successful blogger just didn’t seem ambitious enough.

For two years, I crept away from the blog I loved writing and I tried to be a ‘serious’ writer. For two years, I tried to write a ‘publishable book’. My computer files are now full of a great number of hopeful (but mediocre) starts under the sad heading of ‘potential books I hope to publish’. For two years, I became focussed on becoming ‘known as a writer’ rather than on just…writing. This is such a shame because the thing is: I truly love writing. Writing is my happy place. Writing is how I stay in touch with my spirit. Writing is how I figure life out.

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As usual, I struggled a lot with how best to end this. I knew that ‘ambition’ was the main theme. I knew I had let ambition rob me of something I love. I found it supremely ironic that this should happen to me, of all people, because I have never been particularly ambitious (driven to put food on the table, yes). But then I remembered that little girl who wrote a bad and inadvertently-plagiarised story of Mer People. And suddenly, I understood: that little girl was ambitious. She did intend to become a writer. But she let her first setback become not just an obstacle, but a wall.

She gave up before she had even left the starting block.

The nice thing about getting older is that you get to go back and take those earlier versions of yourself by the hand and lovingly guide them in a better direction. I am holding her hand now.

And we sit together at this computer screen, our fingers poised to just…write.

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com