Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Century

1/17/17 ... that was the day that the last of my grandmother's 8 children were born.
1/17/17 ... that last baby had another birthday ... one hundred years later.
Babe Ruth held by her mother in 1917. My grandfather is to the right of her, great-grandparents
behind him; all my aunts & uncles and my Dad, the boy at the far right - 11 years old.

At Sunday's 100th birthday celebration in Chatham
On Sunday, January 15th, 2017, Ruth Wellwood Nagle had a party that was attended by well over two hundred people. I was honoured to get to talk about Ruth and I shared the top ten things that I have learned from her ... the things that have influenced my life and that I will keep forever.

#1 When someone invites you to go somewhere. GO.

Or else they will stop asking you. Ruth is even down to specifics with that. She says they will ask you three times and then they just won't think of you anymore.

When I invited Ruth if to Newfoundland, each time it was an immediate 'YES!' ... never a hesitation, never a 'let me think about it' or 'I'll have to check the date.' That kind of attitude has led her on many adventures, and that advice, which I have taken to heart, has done the same for me.

#2 Don't get sad, get busy.

She told me that that was the best advice she was ever given. When she was a teenager, she was moping around the house with a broken heart because a fella had dumped her. Her mother told her 'Don't get sad. Get busy.' Ruth said that all through her life, it had served her well; that when things were troubling her she would just delve into some project or do something that kept her hands and head busy and it got it through it. 

Sewing always rejuvenated her
#3 Have a passion.

Ruth's life has been defined by two major passions – bridge and sewing. Playing bridge has kept her mind sharp, led all kinds of friends into her life and as she says 'brought her many, many pleasant hours'.

Sewing had been a big part of her life from back when she sewed her children's clothes. She said that even at 98 and 99, when she thought that she was too tired, she would go to her sewing machine and 'come alive'.

#4 Share that passion.

Ruth shared her passion of bridge with countless people over the years as she taught within different groups and also individually. She was teaching and playing right up to two months ago when her eyesight suddenly started failing. She said that she stepped away because she didn't want to 'slow people down'. For her, bridge is a very serious endeavour, not for chatting and entertainment. I had some large print playing cards sent from Amazon and she told me today that she's going to get back to playing bridge next week, after all the busy-ness of her birthday.

The fruits of her labours with sewing has touched people far and wide. Many of us are graced with her beautiful handiwork. Most meaningful is her involvement with creating quilts for the children of Africa for the Canadian Food For Children project.

Some of the 1000 quilts that made their way to the children of Africa
#5 Have a goal.

Determination, perseverance and focus after having set a goal have been a big part of Ruth's spirit. When she was in 80's, she decided that she would give all her children, nieces and nephews, handmade quilts. On her 87th birthday she had 35 ready to be distributed. On Sunday, after celebrating her 100th birthday, she had one for each of her 11 grandchildren. 

When asked at 90, how many quilts she had made for the children in Africa, she didn't know, so she started counting from then on. As it approached her 98th birthday, she had 700. She made her goal 1000 and sure enough, she hit that. She says that she is continuing but needs some help sewing because of her eyesight and put out a call for a volunteer on Sunday.

Ruth at her beloved lake spot at Erieau
When she broke her hip at 98, she used her deep desire to get to the trailer at the lake as motivation to do her physio daily. When she broke the other hip fourteen months later, again she had the lake as motivation. Indeed, just three weeks after the break, she was at our family reunion. She and I still got to have our traditional camp out at her trailer in August.

The party on Sunday was motivating as well. She told me that it was a lot of pressure staying alive until her 100th ... she said that she didn't want to disappoint anyone as people seemed to be really counting on it. That aim left her no time to lay in bed being concerned that she had a stroke on Christmas Day.

Mummering in Newfoundland at 92
Ruth's first cod she caught at 92
#6 Keep having adventures.

Ruth got her first bicycle after she retired. She then proceeded to go on bicycle trips to New York, Niagra-on-the-Lake, Montreal, Florida and Holland when she was in her seventies.  Besides numerous trips to Florida,she travelled to Newfoundland three times, Ireland, Costa Rica, Jerusalem, Yugoslavia and Europe. Settling into the airstream at Erieau was an adventure that she says added 10 years to her life.

Daughters, daughter-in-law, nieces and
friend ... all part of Ruth's circle.

#7 Keep making your circle bigger.

While many people, by the time they are one hundred, have outlived most of their friends, Ruth's circle continues to expand. She has friends of every age, from so many different connections – the lake, church, bridge. The room was filled with all of Ruth's friends who continue to enjoy her spirit and her company.

#8 Live in the present.

I know elderly people who say 'All of my friends are gone. I'm so bored and lonely.' Even though they are mentally sharp, they talk more about 'back then' ... when things were better, their lives were fuller. I have never had a single conversation with Ruth where she has said that. She will talk about the past if I bring it up and ask specific questions, but otherwise it is always about now or what's coming up. She is always more interested in what is going on in other people's lives than she is in talking about her own.
Ruth's published biography at 98 and second
published story of her own mother in the anthology
'My Mother's Keeper'

#9 There is no such thing as being “Too Old”.

Ruth's first motorcycle ride at 93

If one is healthy, it is never too late. Ruth 'mummered' and was screeched in as an Honourary Newfoundlander at 92; she bought into a place at the lake at 93; she rode her first motorcycle at 93; she bought a new car at 94; she published a book at 98; she rode an ATV for the first time at 99. She doesn't stop to think is she could or if she should ... if she thinks she wants to do it, she just does.
Many an hour spent walking the beach.

#10 Dont' be afraid of aging.

A cousin of Ruth and my dad told me when he was 84 and we were dealing with my father's dementia, that as you get old, you will either have 'from the neck up or the neck down – you can't have both'. Meaning, that either your brain goes and your body is okay, or your brain is sharp but your body isn't. Well, Ruth, at 100 is sharp pretty darn sharp on both counts. A few weeks ago she asked what she should do to optimize her health and was told walking was the best thing she could do. So out she went, twice a day for 20 minutes. She's far from done looking after herself.

All of those ingredients are intertwined to create a full and rich life ... each one overlapping into the other.
Ruth Nagle at 100

For Ruth there is another ingredient that is her foundation ... faith. Her faith has sustained her through the inevitable ups and downs of one hundred years. Her faith has given her comfort, hope, trust and acceptance. And gratitude. I know that she doesn't take any of it for granted – her family, her friends, her health or her longevity.

I asked her last week, what advice she would give to someone – what has served her through her century of living. She said “Just work through one day a time. And know sometimes it IS work. That's about it.'

A few years ago, during one of our 'talk-well-into-the-night' sleepovers, Ruth gave me the most meaningful compliment that I have ever received. She said to me: “You live your life well.” I said “Thank you. I like living. I am going to LIVE until I die.” She said, “Me too!” “Let's both do that then.” I said and ever since that has been her mantra. I hear her tell people that and it warms my heart and makes me smile.

She is definitely doing that full on, inspiring so many along the way.

Ruth at 96 years with Adam about 96 hours
Ruth the eldest family member at 100 with my daughter Alyssa, and her daughter Courtney, who is the youngest
at 8 months with the quilt that Ruth gave her when she was born. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THIS, I Know For Sure

Tonight our topic at our WINGS gathering is "THIS, I know for sure ... " I already had things that I wanted to share. This wasn't on the radar, but apparently it was meant to be. It is something that I truly believe and have fully known for a very long time.

I know that you will keep being presented with the same lesson until you learn it.

Sometimes the lesson is deep and it takes us awhile to even figure out we're supposed to be learning something. Sometimes it's ridiculously obvious.

Last year, after sixteen years of no issues, a raccoon got into my cabin and created havoc. The mess was disgusting and disheartening. I threw away the mattress and cushions and bedding and quilts. I scrubbed and disinfected every inch of the place. And I thought, 'I need to make sure I secure this place better in the fall.' 

I forgot. It never crossed my mind again.

I thought I noticed the other day that the door to the cabin was open. My eyes aren't that great anymore. The bridge to the cabin had once again floated away and getting there is do-able, just not as easy, so I chose to put it out of my mind.

No need to open the door to know there was trouble ... it was already open.

I made my way over there this weekend. I didn't even have to open the door to know there was trouble, because yes, the door WAS open. Both doors.

I wasn't even shocked or upset, just totally resigned to the fact that I am a fool. An 89 cent lock would have have totally avoided it.

This time he really did a number on it. He must have decided that he needed to ensure that the message sunk in this time. Why else would a creature go all around the perimeter of a building and rip out the insulation. It's not edible. It's not a nesting substance. Nothing smells good tucked inside it. The muddy clawing marks every two feet are very strange ... lots of them. Where was the mud coming from, you'd think his hands would have been clean by then. Very, very strange in a creepy sort of way.

I would have liked to observe his technique. Was he doing it from hanging on the edge and throwing it down? Probably not as the pictures weren't knocked off. But there's not enough room on the 4 inch ledge for a fat, old, lumbering coon and how could he get around the rafters? And how did he scale the wall to begin with?

I sure like to know what this was all about
He knocked down pretty well everything on the edge, smashing my flow blue plate and blue and white teapots. He broke the pitcher my sister made me in 1972 and destroyed the turquoise glass oil lamp that my mother gave me for a shower gift in 1974. It still had the cinnamon scented oil in it that took me back to the memories of our first apartment. 

So ... the lesson:
Remember stuff. Act on it. But remember that you don't remember very well anymore, so write it down. No ... better yet - DO IT NOW. Do it while it's fresh in your mind.

And believe me. It's fresh.
He forgot to toss down a couple pieces of insulation.
And muddy mess at equal intervals all around the perimeter... at the rafters, so how did he do that
This must have taken him awhile.  He pulled the eyes out of the poor bunny - that's wasn't cool.
Same deal as last year but added in the insulation for good measure.
The torquoise oil lamp from my mom.
Some nice china pieces for my glass cases.
That a lot of work for him and a lot of work for me.
Here we go again.
Everything out. And this time I get to scrub the walls.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Sweet Sixteen

I'm pumped! I can feel it ... this year is going to be a good one.

My word of the year is 'CREATE' ... CRE8 ... no negotiation. 
I am ready, willing and able. I'm hungry to get to it.

I did my usual 'review' of my goals for 2015 and I laughed out loud. Giving myself marks in each of the seven categories, I mostly got 0. I did get a 3/10 for writing. That was my word for last year and I felt pretty good about it. I only got 3 because I was very specific in what I wanted to achieve, like writing 50 blog posts. I did 9, the same as 2014. I couldn't even manage to up it by one. I could have given myself extra points for trying and actually doing ANYTHING compared to the others. The one that pulled the year out of the fire from being a total wash out was 'FINANCIAL' - I got 10/10. That is because I wrote: 'Oh hell. I give up.' 

This list is one that I actually have transferred year after year with very little editing or amendments to it. It should be entitled 'Things STILL Not Done'. Or 'What is the MATTER With You - Loser'. That's sort of how I feel every single year when I come to the realization that once again, I have not moved forward in the direction I expected myself to be going. 

This morning there was no 'boo-hoo, I-failed-miserably-I-have-to-do-better-next-year'. There was no great introspective examination of WHY I failed once again to accomplish these things that actually are pretty important to me and are actually very do-able. They are not over reaching and unattainable at all. 

I was working my way down the list ... Photos; Creativity; Business - etc.  Zero. Zero. Zero. One after another. The most pathetic showing yet. I was about to feel discouraged when I came to #7 and was able to give myself a 10. It out shone everything else. I AM a success! FINANCIAL: 'Oh hell. I give up.' I have. I did. I had totally forgotten that I wrote that. I know that I have felt that, I just didn't remember being so honest. 
Kind of proof that this year is going to be more colourful & creative.
  I was drawn to very vibrant and artful daily journals for 2016.
I always choose the same style for consistency, 
but these just jumped right into my hand.

I will do the list again this year. It's tradition. I will write down specific expectations again. I sort of need that. Although, considering that I actually don't act on one thing, a sane person would have to wonder why.

What is at the very top of my list this year, with great enthusiasm and joy rather than expectation, is my word 'CREATE'. This past year I did not get to my studio to work one single day. Not one. My studio is in my own house, just upstairs and I never showed up once. I missed it. I'm anxious to get back to it; to revive that very important part of my soul. I'm excited!

Sweet '16! The year is just hours old and I can already feel a turn towards the lighter, towards the joy of living an artful and creative life.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Arrrrrghhhh. I am frustrated with myself. I have gone and got myself into a dangerous situation. I should know better. I thought that I was totally cured but it turns out it may have just been a precarious remission.

I have not created much this year. Yes, the book I published is techncially a creation and that took most of my time and focus as I scaled that curve to produce it. I am talking about creating with my hands. I mean, showing up in my studio and getting lost in the decades of 'stuff' that I have accumulated. I have not gone into my studio all year and it's only upstairs. The Stonetown Arts Show is what motivated me to finally get moving.

It actually hangs in a window where the light goes through it. In it there is glass & china & sea glass & other little treasures.
For years I have been wanting to make some 'glass cases'. About ten years ago, a dear friend out in Newfoundland made me one for our home out there. Because I love it so much, I asked him years ago if he minded if I made some for here in Ontario. He assured me that it was fine, that in fact he had seen a version somewhere so it wasn't his totally orginal idea.

That has been a creative mission for me for years but one that I have never acted on. Every time I broke something, I would keep the glass or china for the project. I had a huge bin of it - some really pretty pieces. But what did I do this spring when I was determined to edit and purge? Yep, I tossed it all out, convinced that it was just one of four dozen other ideas that I won't live long enough to accomplish. I was pretty proud of myself for letting it go.

And then came the desire to make something different for the show, and I thought about how these window cases delight me and decided that I would tackle that.

This one isn't hung yet either but you can see the light through it. I am happy that it has found a home already.
You can't really see it because of the light, but the frame is done in antique white chaulk paint.
After days and days of figuring out how I was going to make the frame and get the glass in, and a number of failed attempts, I finally got 'er done. Since I had released all my 'already broken' glass, my only option was to go on a hunt for more and do the breaking myself.

Enter the danger.

It is not that glass shatters and there are a million tiny little shards. It is not the fact that I don't wear gloves because I just don't. It's not that I have to pick up all the sharp pieces and transfer them into storage containers and then carefully sandwich them in the frame.

It is the fact that ... all too often already ... I can not make myself bring the hammer down. It's poised; I'm ready; I'm excited to see what the pieces turn out like. And then I freeze. I say 'I can't ... this is too pretty. This would make a good candle holder.” Most EVERYTHING would make a good candle holder in my eyes – little bowls, mugs, wine glasses, vases. This is just my first foray into breakage and out of fifteen things that I have carefully chosen for their colour and design, I have 'saved' ten of them.

And so ... here I am. Determined to down-size, to purge, to dung, to pare down and make space; to release things and see the odd bit of emptiness around here. And what am I doing? I am bringing all these things into my home with the good intention of them becoming fodder for my creations and they turn themselves into candle holders right before my eyes. Hence, there goes the space and any hope of profit. And then I will have to go shopping again and I know exactly what is going to happen.

This is very, very dangerous. Oh no.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Why

Why did you do this book? Or, 'How did you come up with the idea for this book?' Those are two questions that are coming up and I'm sure will continue to come up.

My initial response in my head is 'I don't know.' I think it goes there because it has been such a natural thing, like it was always there; that it was meant to be, so it takes a lot of effort to go any deeper.

The way that it has come together and the end result is so remarkable for me it is like I have had no part in it at all. It is as if the finished product was just handed to me like a gift. It's similar to a birth in that way. The gestation, which in fact was almost a full term pregnancy, and the challenge of the process was forgotten immediately after I took one look at that baby and held it in my hands.

The 'seed' obviously fell into fertile soil with the strength of my word 'write' this year and my written goal and vision I intended to manifest to 'publish' a book. The epithany though was something that had no deep thought behind it. It fell like the word 'write'. “You don't have to do it all yourself. You've got cool friends.”

I have old friends and new ones who I have met through WINGS and various other connections, including cyberspace. They are women who are open and receptive to challenges, women who welcome opporunity and growth. They are women who say 'YES!' first and then figure out how they are going to do it. MY kind of women.

But ... why 'mothers'? Why not 'Cool Places I've Been'; 'Cool Things That I Have Done' or a dozen of fun or meaningful topics that we have touched on over the years. I think that it was driven by something deep in my subconcious.I did not make up a list of subjects – there was just the one that presented itself with such clarity that I would not have considered second guessing it.

Next month is the 35th anniversary of my mother's passing. On our shared birthday last month, I turned the same age that she was when she died. I am, at this moment, living what would have been her last days on earth. That has been on my mind a lot for awhile now. I have intended for the past few years to write down her story for my children. I certainly never intended to publish it.

Would she approve of the story that I've written; the fact that I shared something that I never have spoken of? In fact when my close friend who lived next door to me at 12 years old and through our teens, read the story and said, 'I never knew.' I never once talked about it.

All these years I would have said 'It's no big deal. It's the way it was.' And yet my children have said 'You never talk about your mother. We don't know anything about her.' Apparently, subconciously, it was a big deal. In keeping that part hidden, I was silencing her entire life unintentionally. I wasn't even talking about all the wonderful things because the other was a crust on top and I didn't even know it.

Would she approve? Yes. I am totally confident that she would. I have had a number of signs. A rainbow the night of the launch to the authors at the very moment I was ready to hand out the books is just one. I know full well that she pleased that I recognized, acknowledged and gave voice to the remarkable, amazing woman that she was. I believe that she would be grateful that I could I could empathize with her tragic and difficult journey and could recognize the vulnerbility of the human spirit, as well as its resliance.

It is all so deep that it is no small wonder that I haven't been able to address the 'why'.

I have a radio interview about the book on Wednesday, the day before the launch. I know that he will ask me that question and I am definitely not going to go into all that. I am still going to have to come up with an easier and less personal 'WHY?'

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Writing It

I write letters to dead people. Yeah, I know. I'm weird. Sometimes I haven't even met them. It's a way to get something out of my head; it's already over-stuffed. I've never got a letter back but I kind of suspect that I've had a response at times.

Three years ago, I wrote to my mother, apologizing to her. I said I would 'fix it' sooner than later, but of course, as often happens, it turned into more 'later than sooner'.

This was the letter:

September 4, 2012

Dear Mom:
I hope you can forgive me. I have done you such a huge disservice – unintentionally of course.

One of the kids and I were talking and somehow the subject came to you. They said something about my mother being a ... what? I can't exactly recall but it was something like a 'wacko'. I immediately set that record straight – that you, in fact were an incredible, amazing, awesome woman. That sadly, the heartbreak that you lived through crushed your soul by the sheer weight of it, but for the longest time you stood your ground. You were a good, GOOD woman.

They were surprised to hear that. They said that they really knew nothing of you; that I hadn't spoken of you. That surprised me. Thirty two years without you and I still carry you so close to my heart. I guess that I haven't given voice to that. I really, really need to right that sooner than later.

It would be such a travesty, such a shame, such a lie for my children to think of you as anything less than the remarkable woman you were.

I'll fix it.
Evelyn Elaine

My Mom left us thirty-five years ago this fall. At the time, I knew she was youngish, but she didn't seem near as youngish as she does now that I am the same age. I was born on her birthday and this one that I just had was the last one that she was to reach. It was interesting that it fell this year on the day of the week that I was born, Civic Holiday Monday.

The signifigance of this age being her last on earth and a few other things – like perhaps my 'word of the year', led me to the idea of publishing an anthology of mother stories written by my friends.
I can't unveil the book until all the authors have seen it.

On Tuesday we had our 'Book Launch'. I cannot even begin to explain how incredible, moving and memorable it was. Eighteen of the twenty five authors gathered to celebrate the birth of the book and to share their journeys with the writing process. It was everything I imagined it would be and more.

We had gone completely around the circle and I was just about to hand out the books when another friend popped in to say that there was a beautiful rainbow right beside the house. That was particularly strange as it hadn't rained. Actually, I suppose it wasn't strange at all.

Stamp of Approval
We all rushed out to see it, oohing and ahhing over the syncronicity. It lasted no more than a minute. We deemed it a stamp of approval.

Very soon, the book will be launched to the public. It wasn't something that I orginally thought about, but we have been approached by many who have expressed a desire to read it. If it moves anyone to think of their mothers and take the time to write down their stories, it will have served an even greater purpose than to celebrate and honour the remarkable women in our lives.

Volume 2 is in the works, as is one for Grandmother and Fathers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Letter to the Editor

I don't do controversy. I also avoid conflict. I figure that there are enough people in this world who quite willingly look after both those areas, so I choose to steer clear. It's just the way I roll.

That's not to say that I don't have an opinion and will gladly offer it if asked. And if I am in a discussion and I disagree about the topic, I can voice that quite comfortably. It's just that I don't go throwing out a line, fishing for it.

There's a topic that has been in the news and around the Internet a lot lately. Both sides are passionate and vocal. Both sides of course, think that they are right. I've been quiet about my thoughts in that forum but anyone who knows me, knows that I most definitely do have an opinion.

I just came across a copy of a 'Letter to the Editor' that I wrote about 15 years ago. Those were the days when everyone read the daily newspaper and a 'Letter to the Editor' was about as public as you could get. Although I had written several acknowledgements over the years, the last thing that I would ever do was put myself out there, giving my actual opinion in a public forum. And a controversial opinion? Never. Ever.

Until my Mother got involved.

She had been dead for twenty years, but she was still a very influential woman in my head. With this, she got into my conscience and picked at it. Actually, she did more than pick; she poked and prodded and kept me up at night. I argued, insisting that she knows me. She KNOWS that I would NOT do controversy, and would NOT address anything publicly. But oh no, she wouldn't let up. She gave me her voice and her words.

I have a feeling that the fact that I have come across it now, after all these years, at this time when it is once again a hot topic is perhaps her doing. She's thinking that her own personal message still needs to be heard.

 So Ma, here it is:


To the Editor:
A headline in the Beacon Herald on May 9 said: "Vaccine Critics Hinder Fight Against Disease". 'Critics maintain benefits of vaccination have been overblown and risks are under-estimated.'

It's too bad they can't talk to my Mother.

She could tell them how it was before immunization was universally available in this country.  She could tell them how it felt to have someone pry the body of your two year old daughter from your arms. She could tell them what it was like to take a picture of your two month old son and try to make his casket look like a bassinet - like he was just 'sleeping' because it was the only photograph that you had.

She could tell them how it felt to lose two children within five days from whooping cough and pneumonia; what it feels like to bury your baby on Christmas Eve and wake up on Christmas morning with one child when you had three a few days earlier.

She could tell them of a lifetime of sadness and frustration that she lost her children to something that became preventable so soon after.

She could not have told them the number of times that she had said "If only ..." but she definitely could tell them how grateful and relieved she was when the vaccine became available for her other children.

She would think that the statement that "benefits of vaccination have been overblown" did not come from someone who lived during the time when it was all too common for children to suffer permanent disabilities or to die. And she would wonder why there has to be a 'quiet public relations campaign' from the health professionals who have worked so hard and been successful in eradicating these diseases. She would have been angry and disgusted and frightened.

I know that she would acknowledge that there is a small risk, but she could show them that the cold, hard reality of no immunization is chiseled in stone.

If they could talk to my Mother she would point out that while many of the concerns are unproven and speculative, the effect of no immunization can be proven indeed - with the picture of her 'sleeping' baby and her broken heart.

Evelyn Scott
RR 7, St.Marys 

Keith Austin 

Lenore Mary

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Apparently I have a little problem - in a couple areas. Firstly, it's fairly evident that I should be looking into a 12 step program for journal junkies. Secondly, I should perhaps also look into my inability to understand the words 'simple, simplicity, simplify'.

It's a documented fact that I am unwittingly captured by journals - by their size, colour, feel and not actual need.  It is also a fact that I am a perpetual, habitual list maker and organizer/documentor of most movements of my life.

I spied a sweet little planner in the colours that I am presently drawn to, with "Live Simply" on it. That is my mission, my mantra. I opened it to have an peek and it said "Take me to the Sea." It's a sign! I am meant to have it. 

I was filling out birthdays and events and I thought 'Didn't I just do that?' Yes ... I did, I have a 2015 planner that I use every day.

Do I need two? Is that going to make my life more simple?

Hmmmm ... I think not.

Now I have to figure out what I can use it for so I am not having to duplicate things.  Perhaps a spot to document my progress in the Journal Rehab Program.